In the past couple months I've posted a few times about things authors shouldn't do like respond before you understand the situation, be pushy on Twitter, and send dunning letters to book bloggers. I have another regrettable tale of misdeeds today, only this time the author was the lesser of the problems.
Self-published authors need to be forward to get attention; that's a basic fact of marketing. But they don't always pick the right technique or venue. Take, for example, David Eckhof. He'd recently self-published a humorous political novel via Amazon, and while looking for ways to promote it, he hit upon the idea of leaving cards in a local Waterstones bookstore near similar titles.
Naturally the booksellers in the store didn't appreciate the idea, so after they removed the cards they sent him an email telling him so. Normally the story would stop here, and it would be a story that would hardly be worth a mention. But what caught my eye with this story was what the Waterstones booksellers did next.
According to The Guardian (and confirmed by a Waterstones spokesman), one or more of the Waterstones staff retaliated. A couple negative and trolling reviews were posted on the books listing on Amazon.co.uk. David connected the reviews with Waterstones bookseller, and after complaining to Waterstones the review was removed. A couple more troll reviews were posted, but after David complained to Waterstones they too were removed.
And in case you were wondering, at least part of this story has been confirmed by Waterstones:
"If the leaflets had just been about his book, then obviously they would still have been looked for and removed and we'd put it down to an over-enthusiastic new author. But including the encouragement to use a major competitor is just rude and surely obviously inappropriate, which is what prompted a polite email to the author asking him not to use our shops in such a way," said the spokesman.
"Unfortunately, it subsequently emerged that staff at the shop had taken matters into their own hands and indulged in some completely inappropriate behaviour, as pointed out to us by the author. We took action to identify those involved and have the offending material removed, and dealt with the situation accordingly, and of course we are sorry that members of our staff acted in such a fashion."
So what we have here is an author who was overly-enthusiastic and booksellers who were vindictive. Whiel there are misdeeds all around, I would think the author was the lesser actor.
The thing is, I have had authors leave spam comments on this blog before which promote their books. These comments were spam because they were unrelated to the post in question, but I've never gone beyond simply deleting them. Seeking out the author's book in order to punish them would obviously have been inappropriate, so I never did.
But clearly someone at Waterstones didn't think so, because here we are. According to David, Waterstones did apologize and offer to carry his novel on their ebook site by way of apology. the ebook is up, but David has not seen a boost in sales.
image by Martin Pettitt