Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Your window into a delightful little review for The Pow-errrrr.

UPDATE, Thursday, Aug. 26. Currently curious about why I seem to have been bumped from the Big 3 reviews (known in the past as "spotlight reviews"). Trying to figure out Amazon's rationale and metrics. My review has received 102 votes as of this writing, 68 of them positive. That's a positive ranking of about 67%...but more importantlyI would thinkit's 68 votes. One of the reviews by which I've been supplanted has just 2 votes, total...but they're both positive, for a 100% helpful rating. Can that really be Amazon's thinking here?

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UPDATE, Wednesday, Aug. 25
. I must say, there's quite a nice little dialog (multilog? or maybe I should just say "conversation") developing in the comments section of my review of The Pow-errrrr. I recommend it to those of you who want to hear some voices we don't normally hear on SHAMblog...as well as some credible (or at least plausibly deniable) defenses of Byrne and New Age thinking.

Give it a chance, please. The latest comments are probably more thoughtful and intriguing than the older ones, which were mostly knee-jerk attacks on, or defenses of, me.

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An amusing (at least to me) thought occurs. Since this "new" book is in every respect a sequel to The Secret, which shouldn't really have needed a sequel, why not just call it...The Sequet?

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The last time I got this involved in Amazon and its practices was during the roll-out for Dr. Phil's Love Smart (which, come to think of it, might be instructive reading for SHAMblog newbies). I took my share of flak for that,
too, with people, including a few SHAMbloggers, accusing me of being paranoid and small-minded, and of getting pathologically obsessed over minutiae.

Naturally, I decided to do the same thing here.

Kidding aside, I think it's instructive to analyze
some of these things; there are insights to be gained not just into New Age writing, but the realm's marketing tactics and partisans. So, boys and girls, let's take a closer look at the reviewer who has just supplanted me in the top spot among "most helpful" reviews for The Pow-errrrr: one Melissa King.

I invite you to read the three reviews written to date by Ms. King. They are all 5-star plugs. From oldest to latest, they are titled, respectively, "YOUR WINDOW INTO PROSPERITY," "YOUR PATHWAY TO CUSTOMER HAPPINESS," and "A NEW WINDOW INTO PROSPERITY." I don't know about you, but I sense a theme. All three reviews open with some variant of the line that starts her review of The Pow-errrrr: "[So-and-so] has been a long-time favorite author of mine," which is interesting in Byrne's case because to the best of my knowledge, her mainstream authorship is limited to precisely one book (and its slapdash derivatives) prior to The Pow-errrrr, that book being, of course, 2007's The Secret. ("A long time"?) In both the current review and her earlier review of Louise Hay's book, King follows that opening line by thanking the author for helping her "have an inner confidence" in a concept that essentially (if not explicitly) reduces to the Law of Attraction. She's big on the word delightful, which she uses in all three reviews; in two of the three reviews she writes the phrase "delightful book" or "delightful little book." In all three reviews she recommends another book, Serendipitously Rich, "which was written by Madeleine Kay, along with a foreword by Joe Vitale (a star in "The Secret" movie)." In all three reviews she opines that Kay's book will put you on a "path of change." There are many other language overlaps as well, if not in precise wording then certainly in tone and intended substance.

Maybe somebody in our vast listening audience knows more than I do about the internal (incestuous?) relationships here (Byrne/Kay/King/Vitale?); if so, by all means enlighten us. For now, my point is that many of these gusheries are boilerplate cut-and-pastes, no doubt submitted by a rotating cast of shills, paid or unpaid.

Once again, caveat emptor...delightfully, of course.

P.S. And just out of curiosity, why does Melissa King's bio point you to a web page that's entirely about a Tony Robbins wannabe named Tommy Newberry...?

23 comments:

NormDPlume said...

Steve:

Many of the True Believers of The Secret really, really want it to be true. They have some sort of euphoria from pretending in The Secret or The Power.

When you show up - like Dutchess, the cat from the movie "Babe" who told the pig, truthfully, about Babe's real place in the food chain - and logically destroy their beliefs, they fight back. Byrne fans have turned the Amazon reviews into a logic-free zone. And your review is shunned as "not helpful" by the True Believers.

FWIW, I marked your review as helpful. And now my email box has all sorts of suggestions about books I might want to buy: James Randi; Penn and Teller...

Never "misunderestimate" the power of nonsensical hope from the True Believers, or the d3esire of Amazon to make a buck.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I've known one of the Metamarketing slap & tickle brigade for many years, and can assure you that the incestuous relationships to which you allude are core to the brigade's collective business plan... indeed, their shared mission statement.

Connie is infinitely more equipped to provide you with details (and I suspect she'll jump in pretty quickly here), but the bottom line is that these folks bring new meaning to the musketeers' "all for one and one for all" credo. Of course, it's more accurate to say "all for one and one for one." And if there's an extra buck to be made, you can bet your petootie that Amazon & B&N will have their fingers in the pie.

I need some more metaphors to mix in here. I'll see if I can attract some...

Jim said...

Don't forget to check out Melissa King's ListMania! list. A bunch of self help books on the same theme with an anomalous book on LAN switching technology at the end. One of these things is not like the others! Kind of makes me wonder if this is a carefully selected list of books she has read or a list that was thrown together haphazardly.

Steve Salerno said...

We SHAMbloggers should write a collaborative book, decidedly Brooklyn-tinged in overall tone and flavor (in homage to my hometown), illustrated with a photo of all of us grabbing our crotches, and call it "Attract This!"

Cosmic Connie said...

Oh, Steve, you cynic. As it happens, Ms. Kay's book DID put me on a path of change. It added color to my life. Or at least to my blog. Briefly, anyway.
http://tinyurl.com/26yjk8e

Joe Vitale will shill for anything if he thinks there's something in it (money, in most cases) for him. I'm sure Ms. Kay's book was but a blip on his nonstop enthusiastic-promotion schedule.

As for publisher Louise Hay, Joe, like many in the biz, has long been an admirer of this woman whom I like to refer to as the Dowager Queen of the New Wage. He met her a couple of years ago and blogged about it (he seemed kind of disappointed that she wasn't very familiar with his work). I suspect Joe would like to join Louise's stable of New-Wage authors but I don't have any hard facts about that at present.

Frankly, your guess is as good as mine about Melissa King/Tommy Newberry. Maybe Tommy doesn't have his own Amazon account and is borrowing from "Melissa." But gee, that doesn't seem very appropriate for America's Number One Success Coach. Maybe "Melissa" is making real money from Tommy every time someone follows the link on her Amazon page. Still, it seems weird.

Or maybe Melissa King is a completely made-up name. That sounds more plausible.

I looked at Tommy's site and saw that he appears to be an Atlanta-area hustledork.
http://www.tommynewberry.com/tommy-newberry.php

Here's his fee schedule:
http://www.tommynewberry.com/fee-schedule.php

It's all eye-rolling stuff to be sure, but it's also pretty obvious that someone (besides us) is watching those reviews of The Pow-errrr pretty closely.

roger o'keefe said...

This is really good stuff, Steve, clever and wickedly insightful. This is where you're at your best, rather than branching off into general social commentary in my opinion, as you do now and then. Hard for me to believe these people manage to make a living this way let alone make a killing. More proof of the old Barnum line.

John said...

For now, my point is that many of these gusheries are boilerplate cut-and-pastes, no doubt submitted by a rotating cast of shills, paid or unpaid.

The going rate for a professional, "objective" book review is less than hundred bucks. Heck, the professional reviewer will even post it on amazon on a day of your choosing.

Best Regards,
John

Steve Salerno said...

John: Very true, and very sad. I've been lucky enough to write reviews for several "high-paying" markets, which means I bank somewhere between $500 and $1500. But I've done maybe a half-dozen such pieces, total, in 25 years of freelancing. Alas, I've also done a few reviews at the level you describe.

Almost makes you question the meaning and veracity of the word "professional."

Duff said...

Repeat after me: there is no cartel, there is no cartel, there is no cartel...

Do this 1000 times and your next book will be a bestseller, I guarantee!

Steve Salerno said...

Duff: That's funny. (And sad.) Thanks for dropping by.

Cosmic Connie said...

Duff and Steve: And if repeating "There is no cartel" doesn't work, you can always go back and watch The Secret seven times in a row, or more, so your brain will be permanently transformed.

http://shambook.blogspot.com/2006/09/watch-it-just-onceand-her-pl-is.html

With a transformed brain, there's no telling what you can accomplish.

Cosmic Connie said...

Another trip down Memory Lane (from back in the days before I discovered SHAMblog)...

This appears to be your very first post about The Secret, Steve. You pretty much had it pegged from the beginning.

http://shambook.blogspot.com/2006/01/secret-to-their-success.html

Steve Salerno said...

CosCon: I'd totally forgotten about that "totally transformed brain" bit. What a crack-up! But...whaddya mean, "pretty much"? ;)

Cosmic Connie said...

Okay, Steve, you TOTALLY had The Secret pegged from the beginning. :-)

BTW, I joined in the Amazon conversation with "Melissa King":

http://tinyurl.com/264a8rd

Steve Salerno said...

Well, I could be mistaken, but I believe I end my first day among Rhonda's "spotlight reviews" with the largest overall number of "most helpful" votes (59), albeit not the best percentage of helpful votes.

But that's something, at least. I will sleep better tonight (meaning five hours, perhaps, instead of the usual three).

Voltaire said...

Maybe Steve really has discovered a Universal Law Of Attraction (TM), where if you try to debunk something silly you attract all kinds of scorn by the True Believers. How about a book about that called The Secret Power?

Anonymous said...

voltaire - hilarious!

Anonymous said...

"The Secret Power" - xxxcellent!

Ha ha ha ha!

Steve Salerno said...

The Powerful Secret?

Followed by...?

Cosmic Connie said...

A few years back I was seriously thinking of penning a satirical work called "The Sequin," which would be designed like The Secret -- right down to that faux-ancient logo -- but this momentous tome would present a series of revelations of Forbidden Knowledge gleaned from that bit of costume bling that Rhonda wears on her forehead to make her look all spiritual and stuff. But I got sidetracked. I still might do it, though. You read it here first. (That is, unless you read it on my blog first. http://tinyurl.com/22vtr92 )

Many years ago I conceived and began designing and writing teasers about an erotic punctuation guide called The Comma Sutra. Well, someone beat me to press on *that* one. Lesson learned: She who hesitates eventually gets to see her brilliant ideas executed anyway. In any case I expect royalties.

Anonymous said...

The Sequin, LOL, Connie. Love it!

Barbara

Dimension Skipper said...

Just substitute the phrase "self-help guru" for "social media guru" and this current Noise To Signal cartoon by Rob Cottingham maybe illustrates the thought process of many of these SHAM gurus and how they think things work?... If only the consumer response was as insightful as that of the human resources person.

:-)

Voltaire said...

Well, if you want to keep writing books, what you do is get a Thesaurus and start generating more titles based on words similar to the words "Power" and "Secret". For example, the next title should be "The Hidden Secret", followed by "The Hidden Revelation".

Make sure you only vary one word at a time in order to maximize the number of books you can squeeze out of your writing colon; you won't make as much money if you write "The Hidden Joule" as the next book in the series.

By the way, has anyone seen this great YouTube video sendup of The Secret?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et_jG58qg1k