Monday, July 02, 2007

A few days ago I was browsing in my friendly neighborhood bookstore and stumbled across this book... mostly because the author's last name put his book near the spot where my book would have been, if the name Byrnes had been on the shelf. Uh... they were sold out, no doubt. Yeah... sold out...

Anyway, the book is about a gay romance in 1920s New York, and since that is part of the plot of one of my works-in-progress, I was intrigued. The deal was sealed, though, when I read the review from The New York Times printed on the book jacket:

The New York Times Book Review
The most exciting book about New York in the 1920s to be written in years! Not simply a novel about the swanky, secret underside of old Broadway, but real literature—heart stopping and soul stirring above the rest!
Hmmm, I thought, thinking -- as I tend to do -- in italics. If it's that good, I'd better buy it.

And so I did.

Last night, I opened it up, and forced myself to struggle through the first 30 pages of some of the most poorly-written crap I've read since--- Wait. No, not going there. Let's just say that if The Times thought Heyday deserved a rave review, then we're about two weeks away from seeing Queerty on the Op-Ed page.

Curious about the review, today I searched the Times website and found... nothing. Then I turned to the publisher's (using the term loosely) website and found this page, which reads in part:

HOW IT WORKS: As one of our ghostwriting and self publishing services, Arbor
Books buys an ad that will in part be supported by those authors wishing to
participate. It's called co-op advertising. The limit is 12 books to a full
page. Some ads may be smaller and therefore contain fewer books. You can get
started with a sale-generating $1,500 ad. All layout is handled by Arbor Books
and included in the price.

WHAT THE AD WILL LOOK LIKE: Publishing a novel or autobiography? Write a blurb that will get your book the attention it deserves! Your book cover will appear with a blurb of your choice (limit: 40-45 words on a 1/12-page ad). Then you can use that blurb as an endorsement for your book (on front and/or back cover) like this:

"Whatever you want to say that describes your book and we can help you write it..."
The New York Times Book Review
And it's not just The Times. They are selling co-op advertising in The Times, Publishers Weekly, and several other publications, and claiming the blurbs in the ads are the same as a review.

I appreciate the eagerness these self-published writers must feel, but this is clearly unethical, and free of any gray area. If the book hadn't cost me a mere $13, I'd be marching over to my neighborhood bookstore at this very moment. Instead, I've got to say that this practice smacks of consumer fraud. If Arbor Books or author Michael Viktor Butler don't like that, they can deal with me about it.

Oh, and you know how I make every effort not to speak ill of another writer on this blog? I'm breaking the rule in this case. Any halfwit knows that an advertising blurb isn't a review, and to purposefully mislead consumers to promote your poorly-written dreck is beneath my contempt.

I have already complained to my only connection at The Times, who admittedly has nothing to do with the Book Review. Still, I've started the ball rolling, and if anything can be done to stop this practice at Arbor Books, I'll be a willing partner in the effort.

And hopefully, this will also be the last we ever hear of Michael Viktor Butler and any other writers involved in this deplorable scam.