There is an old saying amongst authors that you are ‘only as good as your last book’. I think that most of us would agree that there is a lot of truth in this. That said, I have had the experience of having a book savaged by a critic which then went on to win a major award. In this business there is very little that is fixed and opinions amongst critics do, and always have, differed. What has changed is that now the opinions on books by members of the public are also widely broadcast, on the Internet. It’s great that people can express themselves on Amazon or on one of the many sites that exist to encourage discussion and debate. Great, but sometimes for an author, daunting.
On January 7th 2010 my new İkmen book ‘Death by Design’ will be published in the UK. The plot is based around the shady world of counterfeit luxury goods and, for the first time ever, it sees İkmen operating, in part, outside Turkey. This reflects and is meant to reflect the reality of the ‘knock-off’ trade which is now international. My point being that criminal organisations are no longer limited in either their actions, their geographical locations or their demographical make-up. Some people want money and power and some of those are willing to go anywhere, do anything and, figuratively, get into bed with anyone, in order to achieve their ambitions. It is an alarming development which, though hardly new, is now that much more efficient due, in large part, to the Internet. Worldwide communication is now instant. Long gone are the days when you had to book a telephone call from İstanbul to London at least two hours in advance. And that is a good thing – or not.
I’ve always looked forward to the publication of all my books. Not only do I get paid but I also get to find out what other people think about what I have done. Looking at reviews in the national press was always and continues to be both exciting and a little worrying. Now however, one must or rather could, look on the net as well. Reviews of best selling books are everywhere ranging in tone from the slavishly sycophantic through to the viscerally vicious. Reviews of books like mine are also pretty common too. In his ‘The Lost People of Amazon’ blog back in November, Colin made some very good and very sensible observations on just this phenomenon. Some people will genuinely not ‘get’ my book and that is fine – what will they make of İkmen outside Turkey for instance? But some will vent their bitter spleen and there is nothing any of us can do about it.
I have heard that some authors do sometimes respond to bad reader reviews. But I am not and will never be one of them. Why? Well, I have this friend who runs a small hotel in Turkey. This place no longer has a physical guest book but does invite comment on its website. Most of these are very complimentary. One a few years ago, however was not. The guest clearly didn’t ‘get’ the place at all. My friend who was upset by this, very gently expressed sorrow and tried to explain. What developed from this was, to my way of thinking, a case of stalking. Every day brought another tirade of abuse which went on for over a year. Personally I would have informed the authorities, but my friend is a gentle soul and would not have wanted to get this erstwhile ‘guest’ into trouble.
So I may or may not read reviews of ‘Death by Design’ but then again I might possibly just stick my fingers in my ears and sing ‘La! La! La! La! La!’