Tuesday, January 03, 2006

SHAMeless in Seattle.

Having devoted so much verbiage lately to complaining about Amazon's ostensible partiality toward Dr. Phil, I figure it's about time to switch gears. So let's talk about Amazon's seeming inclination to diss me and SHAM.

Alert readers long ago noticed that both of Amazon's Spotlight Reviews for SHAM are highly critical--this, even though the average reader rating for the book is almost 4 stars. Now, one would think the Spotlight Reviews would be representative of the Amazon community's overall appraisal of a book. At the very least, you might expect those reviews to be even-handed--one for, one agin. My publisher, Crown, a division of Random House, has contacted Amazon on this point a number of times since Amazon selected its two Spotlight Reviews for SHAM (very early in the going); we always get the same answer about the esoteric formulas Amazon invokes in deciding which reviews are worthy of becoming Spotlights. In the end, Amazon refuses to make any changes.... Interesting, though, that in Dr. Phil's case, it didn't take any esoteric formulas for Amazon to immediately elevate fellow self-help author Barbara Rose's glowing 5-star review of Love Smart to Spotlight status: It debuted as a regular review on Jan. 1, and became a Spotlight Review the next day, despite having received just a single feedback vote.

But right now I have a more pointed ax to grind. Yesterday Amazon posted a scathing (albeit impressively literate and, for the most part, well-thought-out) 1-star review of SHAM by "real name" reviewer "J. Arch" of Santa Barbara, CA. Curious, I took a look at J. Arch's other reviews, and I noticed that they make reference to his career as a screenwriter. It occurred to me that J. Arch is Jeff Arch, who wrote Sleepless in Seattle--and who appears on page 78 of SHAM as a glowing endorser of Tony Robbins' Date With Destiny seminars (he is featured, by the way, in Robbins' own publicity materials). This is dirty pool, folks. When I write reviews of self-help books--something I do from time to time--I always make clear that I have a horse in the race, so to speak. For Arch to write his arch review of SHAM as though he were a disinterested party, just another face in the crowd having a visceral reaction to the book, is as bogus as if I were to write a vicious review of Dr. Phil's book and simply sign it "Steve S. of Eastern PA," or some such... What's all the more galling, in light of this, is the tone of Arch's review: He makes it sound like he's a total babe-in-the-woods when it comes to the land of self-help--why, he's never even seen a single episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil!--and golly-gee, he just can't understand why somebody like me would be so darn mean to all these good people, yanno...? I'm presently taking such matters up with Amazon, and I'll let you know what, if anything, happens.

I've hesitated to say what I'm about to say, because--as a seasoned journalist--I never wanted to make it appear that I'm jumping to conclusions, or reacting with personal pique to something that is strictly professional. But folks, this whole Amazon thing stinks to high heaven.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve,
Funny you should mention, "stinks to high heaven" in your blog. Sounds as though our most gracious host believes in a higher power. OH MY!
On a more serious note, why bite the hand that feeds you? I'm referring to Amazon. And to answer your next question, I am in no way connected with Amazon.
And most importantly, we all create circumstances from a deep level within our being, in order to learn from them. What we're all trying to learn is what works for us and what doesn't. We're learning what choices are good for us. We're testing our ideals and learning how to implement them.
Anyone out there willing to engage with me in a friendly debate with Mr. Salerno what HE believes is his ideal being tested?

Anonymous said...

What I'd like to know is if it's only Amazon, or if B&N online is equally SHAMeless. If it's just Amazon, I'd advise you to contact Jeff Bezos himself and see what he has to say for himself and his company. Perhaps the person in charge of the self-help portion of the website has an agenda and is implementing it at Amazon's and its customers' expense.

Steve Salerno said...

For the record, I've initiated contact with Bezos' office. We'll see what happens.