9) Be prepared to be part of a big game hunt. And you’re not the hunter.
Some time ago I published a book called Billy: Messenger of Powers. The book was a young adult fantasy, full of adventure, with settings that ranged from a normal high school, to an asteroid in outer space inhabited by a very irritable space scorpion, to the secret undersea living quarters of a mermaid, to the bowels of the earth itself. I wrote it as a present to my wife, who loved Harry Potter and had been asking me for years to write something in that vein — particularly since most of the work I had been doing was in the horror genre and she really wanted me to write something where the main point wasn’t someone trying to escape being “whacked” in some interesting way.
I wrote Billy, and had a blast. It was almost immediately picked up for publication by a small press, but I retained the rights to the e-versions and the audiobook version. In advance of the publication, I designed and put up a website, and with a marketing budget of about $200 I began my campaign. I sent out press releases, put bumper stickers on cars, stuck business cards in people’s doors…any way I could get the word out.
It seemed to work. Within a few months, the website (without the book being published yet) had already had over 250,000 hits. Then I published the book in e-format with amazon.com and smashwords.com. On amazon.com, the book quickly moved up several of the bestseller lists in the children’s literature fields. On smashwords.com, it shot to the top of the “Highest Reviewed” list, and was also one of the best-sellers in the Young Adult and Children’s books sections.
And then, out of nowhere, negative reviews popped up on Amazon next to every one of my books. I use the term “review” loosely: they were more attacks on my person, claiming that the positive feedback that had been garnered was the result of my having “sock puppet” identities that I used to boost my ratings. The person threatened to have Amazon look up the IP addresses of the positive reviews to verify they all came from me.
Apparently, this person made good on his promise. Because soon thereafter Amazon investigated…and the negative “reviews” were (all but one) suddenly withdrawn. This was not the end, however. A few days later I received an email from a fan who had become a friend, notifying me that a “review” with strikingly similar vitriolic verbiage had surfaced elsewhere on the ‘net.
I had the unpleasant feeling of knowing that I now had an enemy — one who was cowardly, who attacked in secret and without warning, and who apparently didn’t like something about me. Perhaps it was my face (I have a face made for radio and burlap sacks of the heavy-duty variety). Perhaps it was that my shoes were screwed on too tight. Maybe (just perhaps) it was because I was selling more books than this person.
For whatever reason, though, I had a new sensation: a bullseye on my forehead and a sign stuck to my back that said “public person…attack at your convenience.”
When you enter the world of writing, you are entering a world that is full of wonderful, generous, intelligent people. But, like any fantasy setting, there is always a troll or two hunching in the background, hoping to take a bite out of you at any opportunity.
CONTINUE TO PART 10