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Industry News: Controversial Robert Jordan Book Debuts at No 1 on NYT List

January 19, 2013

Robert Jordan

Last week we spoke about the negative reviews Robert Jordan’s posthumous A Memory of Light got on Amazon, solely because of the decision taken by his widow Harriet McDougal’s decision to delay release of the e-book until April. McDougal said her decision was made because she didn’t want e-book sales to siphon off hardcover sales because she wanted this book, like the others in the Wheel of Time series to hit number 1. Others think she didn’t want e-book sales to siphon off hardcover sales because the hardcover costs $34.99 (but is easily available at heavy discounts).

As of the writing of this blog post, there were 272 one-star reviews (out of 715 total reviews). The average review was 3.3 stars out of 5, which is pretty good, considering more than a third of the reviews are the lowest possible.

In other words, it ain’t cheatin’ if you don’t get caught.

And basically, Harriett McDougal got away with it. In spite of the overwhelming number of negative reviews, the book is number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Last week, we talked about how the one-star reviews were widely posted by people who hadn’t read the book and how that may or may not be appropriate. This week, it appears that all the one-star reviews did nothing to dampen sales of the book.

Does that mean that on-line reviews don’t matter? It is an indication that all the hoopla about fake reviews and one-star reviews by people objecting to something other than the content or physical construction of the book aren’t that big a deal?

Sure. If you’re Robert Jordan and your books is the finale of a popular series you can get away with it. If you’re Stephen King, you can get away with it. Or JK Rowling, or even the estate of Robert B. Parker. Those people transcend the label of writer and are really more of a brand. Last week, when more than half of the reviews for Jordan’s book were one-star, it easily survived. You and I probably aren’t that lucky.

Then again, you and I probably wouldn’t get 272 one-star reviews, either. But for us, ten one-star reviews could be damaging. And for us, publication decisions aren’t likely to be made based on our spouse’s wishes. Someone at the publisher is more likely to make that decision, making any one-star reviews based on price or availability (or another writer’s fake one-star reviews) especially troubling.

For most of us, online reviews count.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. judichesley permalink
    January 19, 2013 7:39 am

    Or! People who buy books can read, and they read the reviews and saw that they weren’t about the book, but instead about the price. Don’t underestimate your own audience. People go by more than the star. The false reviews by people dissing the CONTENT are different from dissing the PRICE. It’s apples and oranges.

  2. Suzanna Crean permalink
    January 19, 2013 10:19 am

    I see nothing wrong in what she did. A writer or his rep has the right to make a decision about how the book is published…and making money is the name of the game. You sell it where you can make the most.

    Wouldn’t you do the same thing?

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