Chuck Wendig, whose novel Aftermath, set in the new Star Wars canonical universe, was just released, has made a lengthy blog post about various reactions to it and interviews he’s done about it. Buried toward the end of this post is an interesting nugget concerning Amazon reviews.
One of the more controversial aspects of the new Star Wars sequel movies is the way that the Star Wars “Expanded Universe,” formerly considered to be the next-best thing to the Star Wars universe’s canonical future, has been relegated to non-canonical status to make room for the new sequel trilogy. This has upset a lot of fans who were heavily invested in the dozens of books published in that setting. (Which some might see as kind of funny, in a way, given that it was already a fictitious universe, but fans love what they love, and this means the story being told in those books was brought to an abrupt and unceremonious end.)
Wendig makes this observation concerning Aftermath’s reviews on Amazon:
And at Amazon, the book seems to have collected an astonishing number of one-star reviews — many of them arriving en masse, in a row, the first couple days of release. Obviously, some of that is simply that people don’t like the book. That happens with every book release.
Others have suggested that there may be a campaign by some Legends fangroups to “raid” the book’s reviews to tank its ranking with these one-star reviews — an interesting tactic that does indeed tank its actual review score, but not its sales ranking given that Amazon algorithms are interested not in the quality of the reviews but rather the attention that the reviews and the book get. (Meaning, a passel of negative reviews actually elevates the book’s overall sales ranking. Which in turn garners it more sales. Amazon reps have been clear with me on this point: buyers buy books with reviews, period. Not good reviews, not bad reviews. But rather: quantity of reviews impress buyers to make purchases. So, leaving a ton of bad reviews actually increases the book’s sales. Ironic, and not likely what anyone supporting such a campaign intends.)
Well, that’s interesting. Jeff Bezos famously refused to remove negative reviews from Amazon because he felt all reviews helped people make up their minds. “We don’t make money when we sell things, we make money when we help people make purchase decisions,” he said. But this is the first time I’ve seen it made explicit that even bad reviews sell more books.
This casts a whole new light on all the one-star “nuclear option” campaigns of years gone by. Are they not only slacktivism, but actually counterproductive slacktivism? Was Paul Carr wrong to slam them? Perhaps Authors United founder Douglas Preston should have gloried in all the one-star reviews he got after he complained about his readers’ “sense of entitlement,” as they actually might have helped him to sell more books.
If that’s true, the fan furor over the junking of the Expanded Universe might have been one of the best things that could have happened to Wendig, at least as far as sales of this book go—and future targets of one-star campaigns also have more sales to look forward to.
Speaking of the Star Wars “Expanded Universe,” you still have just a little over one day to snag the Star Wars radio drama trilogy from the Humble Bundle. As I said a couple of weeks ago, getting all three titles for just $15 is a steal, even leaving aside all the other Star Wars audiobooks included in the bundle. Don’t miss out!
The bad reviews kinda go hand in hand with this quip:
“There’s only one thing worse than being talked about — and that’s not being talked about.”
— Oscar Wilde
And perhaps with this one too:
“Better to be despised than forgotten.”
— Unknown wise person