Day Two in My Holy Quest for Ebook Reviews
I’d learned all I could from Booger. It was time to expand my efforts. But where to go from here?
I finally decided on a course of action. I’d call the president of our local writer’s club for advice.
The club was named Scribblers (their tag line was, “Yes, We Really Are Writers”). I found the president’s number on their website. Edmund Emerson Erkyl the Third answered on the first ring.
“Mr. Erkyl, this is Richard Freeland. I was wondering…how do writer’s get reviews for their books?”
There was silence on the other end. Then, “I, ah, can’t tell you that unless you’re a member of the club. Otherwise,” an embarrassed laugh, “I’d have to kill you.”
“I was planning on joining, just been busy. You know, writing and stuff.”
Another pause. “I see.”
Desperate, I continued. “But I have my credit card right here. Your dues are…?”
Erkyl told me how much the dues were, and I paid right there, online. A few minutes later he was back on the line.
“Your card was actually good,” he said, sounding somewhat amazed. “Welcome to the Scribblers! Now what was it you wanted to know?”
“Reviews? And how to get some.”
I could hear him breathing on the other end. “Reviews, huh? Just how much do you want them?”
“Lots. I hear they’re the Holy…”
“Grail. Yes, yes. I’ve heard that, too. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. You can’t get anywhere without reviews. Good reviews are worth their weight in gold. The life blood for an indie author. Reviews mean everything in making sales and carving out a niche in the indie jungle. Nothing is more important…well, maybe writing a passably readable book.”
Another pause. “Now listen carefully. This is very important. I can tell you how to get reviews, lots of them – and 5 star, too! But you must never – and I mean never – tell anyone who is not a fellow companion in ink, a brother Scribbler, what I reveal to you tonight.”
“Cross your heart and hope to die.”
“On your mother’s grave…”
“And, for the love of God, don’t let it out who spilled the beans…”
“But I’m a member of the cult…I mean, club…now.”
“Well…a man can never be too careful.”
It was past midnight when I drove slowly into the dark parking lot of an abandoned light industrial park in backwater Dahlonega. One lonely street light sputtered and flickered at the far corner, barely illuminating a row of decrepit metal buildings adorned with graffiti. Reluctantly, I left my car and walked somewhat timidly to the middle building and knocked on the battered steel door, using the code Erkyl had given me.
A head-high slot set in the door slid sideways, and I found myself staring into a pair of red-rimmed eyes.
“What want?” a man’s voice said. The voice had a Russian accent and smelled of onions.
“Uh, I was sent here by Mr. Edmund Emerson Erkyl the Third, to meet a, uh, Mr. Tickofferov.”
The slot slammed shut, and the door cracked open. “This way.”
I followed the man down a darkened corridor, noting how his wide shoulders brushed the walls to either side. We came to another door at the end of the hallway and the big man opened it and motioned me inside.
I found myself in a plush, spacious office. The carpet was made from some kind of fur. Expensive looking paintings adorned the walls. A huge mahogany desk squatted at the far end of the office, and another man, impossibly larger than the first one, rose from a leather chair to greet me.
His buzz-cut, gray speckled hair almost brushed the ceiling. Tiny, crafty eyes twinkled in a face seemingly carved from granite. He stomped around the desk and took my hand in his catcher’s mitt sized paw and shook.
“Ah, Rickard Freeland. Good to meet you. Erkyl has told much about you.”
“I haven’t even met…”
He waved a negligent hand. “No matter. Come, sit!” He motioned me to a chair in front of the desk. “Sit, and tell Uncle Tickofferov how can serve you.”
I cleared my throat. “Well…Erkyl said you could help me get reviews for my new book.”
Tickofferov tapped a sausage-thick finger on the desk top. “Reviews easy. You want, Tickofferov can get.” He grinned, exposing stained teeth. “No problem – if you have money!”
I remembered what I’d learned from Booger. “I can’t pay for reviews.”
Tickofferov looked shocked. “Pay for reviews? No, no, not how works. I line up thousands of comrades to read book. They read for love of reading, with understanding they review book after reading. You pay readers nothing. You pay Tickofferov for supplying readers. Service rendered!”
“Well…” I pretended to study on his proposition, but I was starting to get excited. “How many reviews could I get with this?”
“Maybe can get, oh, thousand reviews…”
“For ten thousand dollars.”
I was stunned speechless.
Tickofferov took my silence for encouragement. “You like, eh? Thousand legitimate reviews. From real readers. No money to them, Tickofferov organization get all.”
“Mr. Tickofferov. Sir. That…that’s a…fair…price, I’m sure. But I can’t really afford that kind of money. You see, I write fiction to make money, not spend it.”
Tickofferov stared at me, then burst into laughter. He slapped the desktop so hard I almost wet my pants. “You write fiction…to make money? Ha! That funniest thing I ever heard! Write fiction book to make money! You are funny man, Rickard! I like you!”
I fidgeted a little under his probing gaze. “But still, I can’t pay your price, Mr. Tickofferov. Sir.”
He waved that off. “Nonsense. I set you up on installment plan.” He opened a drawer, took out a contract and a pen.
“This is standard contract we give all Scribblers. Just sign on dotted line.”
Squirming, I shot a glance at the door. “Ah, Mr. Tickofferov. Sir. I…I believe I’ll pass…”
His scowl was a dark thunderhead. “Pass? You want reviews, you sign contract.” He leaned toward me. “Now.”
In for a penny, in for ten thousand dollars. I swallowed, took the pen in shaking fingers and scrawled my name where indicated.
Tickofferov laughed. “See. Not so bad.” Then, a little shrug. “Oh, forgot to mention. Interest on loan is 5o percent.”
I felt my eyes threatening to bug out. “Fifty…but what…what if I can’t pay…”
He waved that off. “No worry, Rickard. If you don’t meet payment, I send colleagues to…encourage you.” His easy, loose lipped smile never reached his eyes.
I staggered to my feet, and Tickofferov rose also. We shook again, and, well shaken, I turned to the door.
Just as I touched the knob the Russian spoke again. “Oh, Rickard? Missing payment is no-no. You don’t want to tick off Tickofferov.”
Back at home, I shoved the impending feelings of doom deep inside my psyche and consoled myself by thinking of all the reviews that would be pouring onto my author page any day now. A thousand of them. At $10.00 a review.
Ten thousand dollars. And interest.
No matter. I’d have reviews, dang it! Legitimate reviews!
The Russian had said I’d start to see reviews within the week. The wait was intolerable, and, in between working on a few short stories, blog posts and my new novel, I paced the floor. My emotions ranged from the highest elation to stark terror over what I’d committed myself to. Overall, however, I was euphoric. I’d have reviews! My indie career was off to a bang-up start!
On the seventh day, I eagerly brought up my book page for The 5.
I glared at the page. One freaking review. It was 5 star, sure, but…one?
Okay. Okay. Don’t panic. There will be more, dear God, please let there be more!!!
My gaze flitted over the review. “Nice job of writing. Story good. Scared pants off me. Plot terrifying. Almost frightening as Freeland’s plot is what happens to author who does not make monthly payments to good man who loans him money. Think concrete overshoes involved in that one.”
It was signed “Tick”.
To give the Russian credit, reviews did start to trickle in over the next few weeks. Most ranged from 4 to 5 stars. Most were also written in almost unintelligible English. Some were written in Russian. Oh, well. I had reviews!
I counted them. Four hundred and seventy five. And growing! Happy, happy!
Then I did the math. Twenty one dollars a review, so far. Not counting interest.
Then I looked at real sales. Four books since I’d visited Tickofferov.
Still good, still good…I’m selling books, selling, selling…I repeated that mantra as I poured myself a straight tequila and slugged it down.
The next morning, reading my email, I found a message from Amazon.
“Dear Mr. Freeland. Our unfailable algorithms have noticed an abrupt increase in the reviews for your recent novel. Most look as if they were written by a boatload of dyslectic illiterates on crack. We have noticed this phenomenon with other authors and, consequently, we have removed all the reviews for said novel. You now must start from scratch. Good luck with your indie career, we are here for you. Your friendly geeks at Amazon.”
I grabbed the bottle of tequila, curled up in bed and pulled the covers over my head.
(Read Day Three in my Quest for Ebook Reviews, wherein I take dark and drastic measures to obtain reviews)