“A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.” When Danielle Steele said this, she might have added, “…but some people like cake that’s been sat upon.”
Bad reviews are not fun to write. (Except for reviews of incredibly awful horror films, which can be a joy to write.) When an author puts heart and soul into the writing of a story or book, who wants to burst balloons with nasty, negative comments? However, books that are sloppily edited tend to insult the person paying for them and invite scathing, angry invective.
Recently, FCEtier wrote a music review that, while not awful, wasn’t good. It wasn’t a recommendation to buy, no matter how far the imagination can be stretched. The publicist who sent the CD got back to him within a few days, thanked him profusely, and asked if he’d like to review more of the PR firm’s clients. I thought this was a freak occurrence until I wrote a lukewarm review of a CD that wasn’t all that great (in my opinion). Since musical tastes differ widely, I did not pan the CD, but I didn’t praise it either. The publicist immediately got back to me with review offers and copious thanks.
The only conclusion I could imagine is that just getting the CD, DVD, or book (although authors seem a little more sensitive) noticed was a coup. It’s not praise they are seeking, it’s attention.
Back to Danielle Steele and horror films…(no, I don’t think she’s been in any). Horror films are immune to bad reviews (at least the low budget, independent ones are). There are so many fans of truly bad horror, that revealing that a movie was made for thirty-five cents using the employees of a freak show and a script that was never completed (and missing a few pages) is a guarantee that it will get a bigger audience. “Oh, this movie sounds awful, it must be hilarious,” and “I love bad movies,” are phrases commonly heard in connection with such productions. They benefit from anything that gets their titles out there.
No matter how much a reviewer hates a title, there are going to be people that see the review as news. A review reading “Joe Blow’s Current Tour Sucks,” is bound to have some people saying, “Oh, look, Honey, Joe Blow is touring again.” Brendan Behan is widely quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary,” but when it comes to the arts, even an obituary will start those cash registers cha-chinging.
Danielle Steele may have felt stung by bad reviews, but the crumbs of her cake reached more readers because of them. And, no matter how bad the reviews are, loyal fans will blame them on bad reviewers who obviously don’t know what they’re writing about. And, in many cases, we don’t.