Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dr. Phil McGraw is stranger than fiction.

First of all, let me reassure any of you who may be wondering--no, this blog is not destined to become "all Love Smart, all the time." It's just that...well, you be the judge.

You will recall that in my most recent post, I lamented, among other things, the sudden disappearance from Amazon of a review of Dr. Phil's Love Smart by "John Smith" of New York, New York. The single-star review, titled "A nice layout but little else," went up on Dec. 7, the day after the book's official publication, and was taken down six days later. I reproduce its salient points here (using ellipses to indicate where I've cut material that, in my estimation, added nothing to the overall force of the review):

The book has a nice cover and font layout but nothing else that you would not find in any other book written by real experts on the subject. Dr. Phil again writes a book that he is not fully qualified to write about. First he writes a book about weight loss although by his own admission he is clearly overweight, then one on raising a family, though he has been divorced...and now a book on the dating game.

The book gives you the same rehashed philosophies about feeling good about yourself... In fact if you read "Life Strategies," and I recommend that you do since it is a fine book, you will get the sum and substance of Dr. Phil. The rest are just derivatives of [that] book.

One famous movie director once said that it is possible to have a great opening box office week for a mediocre film if you relentlessly promote it. That said, with the relentless marketing this book is sure to make a lot of people rich not the least Dr. Phil...

...Maybe John Gray should write a book about losing weight or Dr. Stephen Covey should write a book about the dating game. If Dr. Phil can do it, why can't they?
You get the gist of it. Our pal John Smith is not particularly high on Love Smart. And he can't just be dismissed as an inveterate McGraw-hater, either, since he confesses his admiration for Life Strategies.

Tonight at around 9 p.m., the following five-star, two-sentence review appeared on the Love Smart page, under the heading "Excellent Book! Period!":
This book is a keeper and will definitely improve your dating game routine as well as your relationships. Highly recommended!
The review's author? "John Smith" of New York, New York.

Now, I suppose this could all be coincidence. "John Smith" might as well be John Doe, and New York is a big, big place. However, I'd think that to any reasonable person, at this point two questions would suggest themselves.

1. What the hell is going on here? And,
2. Whatever it Amazon in on it?

Tell you what, folks. We're gonna find out....

**UPDATE, December 15!** This morning, now, we have a searing review from Douglas Barton of Bluffton, SC. Mr. Barton is not just a "real name" reviewer, but a "top 1000" reviewer--actually No. 700--having logged some 179 reviews that generated 2,088 helpful reader votes. Some highlights from his review, which he titles "Lovesick": "Say what you will about Dr. Phil, his survival instinct is as finely tuned as ever..." "...if there wasn't such a huge audience for this shameless type of 'warm and fuzzy' psycho-analyzing then charlatains [!] like Dr. Phil wouldn't exist..." "...sheer pandering that amounts to little more than a virtual hugfest..." And, perhaps my favorite line, "Obviously Dr. Phil thinks very little of women and by releasing pablum [sic] such as this finds them an easy mark..." Wow. Tell us how you really feel... I applaud Mr. Barton for his chutzpah, but I give it one day, folks. If that long. We'll see....


Anonymous said...

I think you're a little naive Steve. Everybody pretty much knows you can't put much stock in any online ratings or rankings because of the mask of anonymity, multiple votes etc. But, I guess anything that reminds people of that isn't a bad thing.

Steve Salerno said...

I grant you that. But remember that my gripe is not so much with the system of cyberspace marketing (which I agree is ripe for manipulation and fraud) but with the folks in Dr. Phil's camp, who seem more than willing to abuse that system--and in ways that, to my mind, clearly demonstrate their contempt for the very people who buy these books. In addition, I'm not too pleased with Amazon for (at best) allowing this and (at worst) facilitating it, and I'm going to make every effort to find out exactly how this kind of stuff comes about, who's minding the store, etc. It strikes me as totally unfair to allow an individual celebrity author this kind of leverage in the book-selling marketplace. For example, I think there's no question--none--that Amazon's selection of spotlight reviews for SHAM has done a certain amount of damage to my book. Meanwhile, I think there's no question that Dr. Phil's glowing spotlight review has helped HIS book. If all that came about fair and square, that's one thing. But if the process was rigged...?