How'd that happen
Yes, Commander Kos. We are doing your
bidding right away.
Thank You for Hating My Book
By KATHA POLLITT
Published: July 12, 2006
ACTUALLY, this is good,” my editor said when my book got panned. “It’s a long review by a well-known person. It’s on a good page. It’s even got a caricature of you.”
True, the drawing made me look like a demented chicken — a fat demented chicken — but as he explained, art meant space and space meant respect and respect meant attention. As my former husband put it, quoting Dr. Johnson as is his wont, “I would rather be attacked than unnoticed.” Even in the 18th century, it seems, there was no such thing as bad publicity.
Unless, of course, it’s your own. In the days that followed, I discovered something interesting about my writer friends. Here I had thought of them as anxious and sensitive, taking to their beds, or the phone, or both, when professional setbacks came their way. How often had I had the conversation about the culture editor with a grudge dating back to the reign of Tiberius, the clueless reviewer, the publicist who stops returning your phone calls and the publisher who suggests you consider another line of work?
But that was them. My bad review was something else again: my writer friends thought it was great. It was an opportunity, a platform, a megaphone, a lemon about to be transmuted into the most ambrosial lemonade. The very things that made it bad made it good: its frivolity displayed my depth, its confusion threw into relief my steely logic, its snark showed all too clearly who the real wit was.
“Yes, it was pretty negative, and your arms looked like tree stumps,” said one friend, helpfully. “But so what? That just means you’re a star!”
“All the review did was tell the world you have a new book out,” said another friend. “It’s attention. Just watch your Amazon numbers soar.” I reminded her that she hadn’t been so cheerful when her novel was panned by that Romanian diplomat. “Oh, that,” she explained. “That was different.” Her bad review was written by an ignorant nobody. My bad review was written by a mini-celebrity. The reviewer’s semi-fame would enhance my own. Gee, I suggested, maybe I should be sending her flowers.
Of course, like every writer, I had been obsessively monitoring the sales ranking on my Amazon.com page since well before publication, ignoring the advice of my friend the historian. (“Don’t look at Amazon, whatever you do! After they dredged up that Welsh farmer to review my book, it was like watching Enron stock implode.”) By judiciously purchasing one book an hour — something I was going to do anyway, I have free shipping and a lot of relatives — I had managed to raise my rating from 101,333 at 2:25 on June 17 to 6,679 at midnight — a staggering advance of 94,636 places at a cost of only $110.60.
Apparently there is such a thing as bad publicity, and that’s bad publicity that people don’t know about. That problem though, I could fix. I wrote up an e-mail message describing my new book, with a comical lament about my bad review and a link so people could read it for themselves, and I sent it off to my entire address book. Then, just to get the ball rolling I ordered a copy for a friend of my father’s who lives in Hawaii and one for a Legal Aid lawyer I’d met on the train. Sure enough, by the end of the day I had advanced to 1,314. If you take out Dan Brown, I was practically a best seller.
And all it took was $256.68 — and a really bad review.
Dear Ms. Pollitt,
Your recent success was not accidental, but a byproduct of some internecine warfare among the blogofascists attacking someone who had broken our demanding group think.
We ceaselessly mocked the rather clueless review from Ms. Cox incessently and dug up the review of her book. We are mystified why she was assigned to review your book. but since she was, the blogfascist command struck hard and fast.
All Hail Kos.
posted by Steve @ 12:18:00 AM