Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Abominable Seaman - Not All Publicity is Good Publicity

On Friday I recommended Big Al's Books and Pals review blog here because Al had kindly reviewed my book, Three Sisters. Yesterday his blog went viral with more than 50,000 hits in just a few hours. Coincidence? Well, yes.

A few days earlier Al had given quite a nice 2* review to a self-published book called The Greek Seaman - he thought the story was good but the grammar and spelling made it difficult to read and he suspected many readers wouldn't be able to finish the book.

Jaqueline Howett, the author of The Greek Seaman, responded robustly in the comments section of Al's blog, insisting that the reviewer should have downloaded the 'emergency copy' of the book that was available on Smashwords, and eventually resorting to Fuck Off! (twice). After receiving a few emails and comments from the author last week, Al wrote a post called A Word on Negative Reviews. He also left a comment on his review of The Greek Seaman illustrating the sort of language he found difficult to read in her book:
"She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs."

"Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance."
But the attacks continued: "Look AL, I'm not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine."

It's interesting to track her reaction - which is unpleasant, confrontational and ungrammatical - and just as instructive to see the reaction from readers and other self-published authors, some of whom take the opportunity to try to get a few sales for their books by putting the boot in to JH. One typical response was on Twitter where a self-published author linked to the blog, calling JH's comments 'the most abominable behaviour you'll ever see from an author'. Misguided, yes. Entertaining, yes. Ungrammatical, yes. But abominable?

It's also rather sweet to see other book review bloggers weigh in. Many of them have had similar abuse from other authors via email. A reviewer and editor with a popular blog, Red Adept, has said previously that she has had death threats and vehemently abusive emails from self-published authors for giving their books 'only' three star reviews on her blog, or for declining to write a review for a book that she had been unable to finish.

From reading JH's blog, it seems that she has travelled all over the world and had an interesting life, including a career as a artist. She is in the middle of a shit storm of her own making, fuelled by Twitter (yes, I linked to it, too) but hopefully she has someone at home telling her to step away from the computer and let it pass. At least she has her art.

Al has closed the comments now but you can see what all the fuss is about here.

p.s. The internet traffic to Big Al's Books and Pals has been so impressive that I'm considering abandoning my musings on vomit in Shoreditch and other subjects of scant interest to international readers in order to write a series of in-depth articles on this blog entitled 'I Knew Al Before He Was Famous', 'Big Al is My Pal' and 'Fuck Off!'


TC said...

2 things really stood out for me in the comments that followed Al's review.

1) Before resorting to expletives the author's comments only provided more examples of poor spelling which made Al's review look like it was probably on the nose regarding typos.

2) It was a shame to see how many reviewers commented that they will not read self-pub'd/indie (won't even get into that argument) authors because of people like the author and their response to a review that wasn't that bad.

Fortunately so far I haven't had any author reactions like that!

Andrew Biss said...

Yikes! What a train wreck. I agree with what a lot of the others on the blog have said, in that it’s kind of funny but also kind of sad. I almost feel sorry for Jacqueline Howett, but it’s difficult to feel too much sympathy when she shows so little humanity (if any) in all of her comments. Still, I suppose there’s a human being under there somewhere, so I can't help feeling a bit bad for her.

I have to go and rest my upper body now…all that rubbernecking given me a crick in my neck!

Andrew Biss said...

Opps, sorry for the Howett! I meant: "has" given me a crick...

MuMuGB said...

Thanks for this story...it was a boring Tuesday until I read the comments!

Helen Smith said...

Oh dear - while yesterday's comments on Al's blog were hugely entertaining as JH slung insults at anyone who criticised her writing style, today it's gone very sour.

If you go to Amazon.com and look at the readers' reviews on her book there are now 50+ 1* reviews from people who clearly haven't bought or read the book but just want to attack her because she's an internet sensation.

Andrew Biss said...

Goodness, that’s a lot of Fuck Offs! to dish out.

Actually, it’s kind of frightening to see what can happen when something goes viral like that did. I bet that number on Amazon will likely climb a lot higher, too.