There’s a book on Amazon.com with 2,149 1* comments. (At the time of writing.) On Amazon.co.uk it has only 437 1* comments. Only! Ha! Can we just take a minute to imagine how the author feels about those stats. I’ve had a few 1*comments and they used to hurt me, like hammer blows to bare feet. But if I had that much scorn poured on one of my writing projects would I wonder about giving up writing? Before we get too carried away in a tidal wave of sympathy for the ‘poor’ author, please, read on to give the stats their proper context.
The title in question is also #1 bestseller on both sides of the pond. On Amazon.com it has over 26,000 comments (5,000+ on AmazonUK). That is a lot of feedback. It also signifies a hell of a lot of downloads, if normal ratios of comments to downloads of my books is anything to go by. I check the charts fairly often when I’m procrastinating and I’ve never seen another book with so many comments. I wonder if anyone else has. I’d be interested to know. This author’s publishers must wake up and pinch themselves every morning with those sorts of figures. Can you guess what the book is? (Clue one: The title of this blog-post is an anagram of the title of the book. Clue two: the photo (a bit cryptic). If you can’t work it out or can’t be bothered to try, the answer is at the bottom of the page.)
In one of my less serious bouts of contemplation I thought about trying to write a book with the sole purpose of garnering as many 1* comments as possible; I wanted to write a book that has a consistent Amazon average rating of 1*. I thought it would be such fun to put something out there masquerading as something serious and inspiring a frenzy of negativity and vitriol. Every 1* comment would make me laugh at my little joke. I thought about the ‘ingredients’ I would need to include to give the book the best chance of disappointing readers. How about this for a speculative list?
- Price it high.
- Don’t have it proofread. (In fact go out of my way to make clumsy mistakes that would have even the most benign readers reaching for their keyboards.)
- List it under the wrong genre. (Contemporary romantic fiction? See next.)
- Include a great deal of swearing. (See previous.)
- Make the plot deliberately confusing.
- End the book halfway through the story (maybe include a hundred blank pages) and invite readers to purchase part two separately. (Price it even higher.)
- Include lots of bad and unnecessary sex. (Maybe with animals or the dead, for starters.)
- Shockingly bad formatting.
- Make the dialogue really clunky and long winded.
(Before any smart arse out there comes back with, ‘But you’ve already written a book that meets these criteria. It’s called insert book title of mine here, I like to think that because I’ve beaten you to it you won’t be so funny.)
Why would I want to do something like this? Well, apart from being my idea of fun, I would also be testing a theory. I believe that prospective downloaders of ebooks are drawn to books that have low ratings. I’m not saying that we buy them, but if I see a book with an overall rating of three stars and it’s had dozens of reviews, I’m usually going to check out some of those comments. I want to know why this book is regarded as so substandardly shite. Done cleverly this could turn into a hook to get readers to part with a bit of cash. (It would need to be done very cleverly, obviously, to get people to pay for something that everyone condemns.) The old adage, there’s no such thing as bad publicity springs to mind.
My latest writing project is going fairly well. I’m 30,000 words in. From its inception I found the story difficult to pigeonhole genre-wise. (What should I list it under when the time comes to self-publish?) And if I was mildly confused then I’m positively bewildered now. It’s part utopian, part dystopian, part love story, part western, part political, part contemporary fiction. And I’m only on chapter five. What it isn’t and doesn’t look like being is part crime, part mystery, part thriller, which is my usual line of writing country. Still, I’m enjoying myself. I might try to fit an alien invasion in there somewhere for a full house. In for a penny and all that. Hey, maybe I’m writing that really substandardly shite book I was thinking of. The subconscious works in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.
I just learned something. My WordPress stats tell me that someone from Lesotho viewed my blog today. Lewhereo? I’d never heard of it. Now I know it’s a landlocked country in Africa that gained independence from the UK in 1966. (If whoever you are reads this, please get in touch. I’m totally intrigued to know who you are and what you are doing there.)
(Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Did you get the picture clue for an extra point?)