Friday, 25 May 2012

On Bad Reviews

Perlentaucher just alerted my attention to a piece in trade mag Buchreport drawing on an item in Harvard Business Manager, which seems to go back to a study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business released last year. They say that positive book reviews (in the New York Times) are good for sales but negative reviews are only bad for established writers' sales and in fact raise the profile of lesser-known authors, resulting in increased book sales:
For well-known books, negative publicity resulted in less likelihood of purchase, whether participants reported their preferences right away or after a delay. However, for unknown books, the negative publicity did not affect the likelihood of purchase after a delay.
"This suggests that whereas the negative impression fades over time, increased awareness may remain, which can actually boost the chances that a product will be purchased."
Hooray! That makes me feel much better. My problem was that I'd originally started this blog as a vehicle for my unbridled enthusiasm for German books. And what with it being about loving German books, I didn't much feel like slating titles. Also, not being much of a masochist, if I don't enjoy a book I usually stop reading it, so a sensible review is generally out of the question. Plus, like most people, I do want to be liked and my usual method is to be nice in general and hope people don't think I'm a total bitch. That kind of precludes being nasty about people's books - especially because I live in Berlin and do actually come across people whose books I read in the most unexpected situations.

But over time, I have actually totted up a few negative reviews here on love german books. Sometimes a novel is flavour of the month and I think people would like to know more about it, sometimes books win prizes or are particularly pertinent to my blog, sometimes I think books are almost good and deserve a bit of attention but the review comes out nastier than I'd planned. And sometimes I'm just feeling bitchy and some book has aroused my ire.

And I'd been feeling very, very bad about that for two reasons: firstly, there have been occasional indications getting back to me on the grapevine that publishers have taken my word and not bothered considering a book for translation based on a negative review here. OK, publishers rarely consider books for translation in the first place, so it's not like I bombed Hiroshima or anything. But, you know, I still feel like I killed someone's puppy. And secondly, it happens totally often that I meet writers at parties who I've written something negative about (and often forgotten all about it), and they either say to me, "Oh, you write that blog where you said my book was insipid and boring and I read really badly at an event," or they don't say anything and I spend the entire conversation worrying about what I might have written about their book. That's where a smartphone would come in handy, I guess, combined with an app to put authors' faces to books I've been rude about.

So now I have a new empirical weapon in my charm arsenal: increased sales. Because obviously love german books is totally the equivalent to the New York Times, right?
I'm raising your profiles here, writers I don't like! Be grateful.

1 comment:

Edward H. Carpenter said...

Hi there!

As an author, I'm not particularly worried about bad reviews - not all books are written for all people.

And some books (even a few popular ones) are quite frankly very badly written in their entirety.

Keep writing honest reviews - everyone should thank you for it, even the authors!

By the way, my first short-fiction to be translated to German is going to be released soon, and I'm curious to know if you solicit submissions for review on this blog, and if so, how I might arrange to send you a copy.

Also, any advice you might have on getting e-books promoted to a German audience would be much appreciated. I am very familiar with the US market, but Germany is very new ground for me!

Thank you so much, and have a great day!