So there was this movie…

INSURGENT coverHere’s what happened.

In 2007 I published a book titled Republic.  And then, in early 2008, I started working on drafts for its sequel, titled Insurgent. I put out some podcast, posted chapters here on the blog, but then due to life (and loss of job) I stalled out for a few years. In 2011 I got back to itstarting with the release of the first of six “episodes” — short novellas — in December 2011.

A few months after that, a woman named Veronica Roth published a book called InsurgentBut I looked at it and figured it wasn’t a problem. Her book was young adult. Mine wasn’t. Totally different genre and audience.  And everything was fine. Insurgent wasn’t making a lot of money, but it did okay.

But then, there was this movie, based off the first book in Veronica Roth’s trilogy, Divergent. After that came out, there was a noticeable uptick in my sales. Not huge, but did see maybe 10% more sales than I had been.

But then came the reviews. The reviews of her book, posted on mine.  And the really bad ones, where people penalize my book with a 1 start review because they didn’t read the book description.

Here’s one:

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What heroine was that? It might have been Rebecca Mays? Or Valerie Murphy? Or Karen Greenfield? Those were the three most prominent female characters in the novel, none of whom spent the entire book running to or away from danger. This is a review of the wrong book.

Oh and here’s one:

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Wrong book again. And apparently it’s my book’s fault you ordered the wrong book and had to return it.

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Yeah, given that the second chapter opens with Valerie in solitary confinement, that’s probably not such a good thing…

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The first movie! Eureka!

Believe it or not, Republic was optioned for a movie, though it never got any funding and never went anywhere. There was no first movie for this reader to watch.

Before you think I’m just whining, let me make it clear. Every author gets one star reviews. I’ve been called an idiot in some reviews. I’ve received reviews which said things like “this wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read.”  But those are peppered in with what are now thousands of reviews of my overall body of work which show people a broad range of opinions.

But except for my first, no work of mine has a large proportion of one and two star reviews on Amazon. And here’s the rub. It’s a fact that reviews effect sales. Amazon pushes books to the top of searches which have a higher star ranking.  Yes, readers can look at these reviews and conclude that the reviewers didn’t know what they were doing.  But that’s only if they see the book in search or in recommendations in the first place, which they won’t if I keep getting these reviews.

What do I do? Do I change the title of my book? I’d published sections of Insurgent here on the blog years before Veronica Roth published her trilogy. And titles can’t be copyrighted, so there’s no legal issue. But as it stands, when Veronica Roth’s next movie — Insurgent — is released, I’m going to get creamed.

I’m seriously debating a change in title. But that has drawbacks too, significant ones. What are you thoughts?


  1. Robert "Goat" Beveridge

    If a review is of a different title, if the review is not of a product (aka the “I ordered this as a gift and have no opinion” reviews, “I ordered the wrong title” is just a variation on the theme; “reviews” that talk about the shipping process or are obviously “reviewing” a third-party seller rather than the product), or if it is blatantly obvious that the reviewer has not consumed the product (when bloggers attack!), you are entirely within your rights to report the review as inappropriate; as of last time I did so, Amazon gives you a selection of checkboxes for why you think it’s inappropriate, plus an “other” for the write-in candidate. I don’t believe most of the choices are valid, honestly; the above two issues are the only reasons I would ever vote a review inappropriate–but I make it a matter of course to do so whenever I see those issues (unless it’s a case where there are twenty or thirty invalid reviews for every valid one… when bloggers attack!, and in that case it is almost always some sort of political nastiness). No author deserves to have a rating dragged down by a bunch of “this is my fault, so I’m giving YOUR book one star” reviews. (OTOH, they don’t deserve to be inflated by a bunch of “this is a gift, five stars!” reviews. If you truly have no opinion, give the book three stars, the gentleman’s C. As far as I’m concerned, this is also the only valid rating an author to give his or her own work at Goodreads.)

    User-content-driven review sites–like Amazon–suffer from the same problem as political systems; they rely on, and presuppose, an informed populace. Such a thing rarely exists. If it did, a lot more people would understand what reviews are inappropiate, and would take the ten seconds to report inappropriate reviews. (Of course, they would also cultivate a culture that isn’t “five stars good, four stars bad”, like certain top-10 Amazon reviewers I won’t name, but that’s another rant.)

    (It would also help if Amazon notified you that your review was being pulled and why, so maybe people could learn from their mistakes, but that is also another rant)

  2. Charles

    Your comments are right on. I’m thinking I just need to brace myself for the responses 🙂

  3. Montie Burchett

    OK, I’ve finished “Republic” and “Insurgent”, both were excellent reads. I have to say though that I was anxious to find the third volume “Fractured”. Since the second book was copyrighted in 2012 I thought surely it would be published by 2014. Damn, no such luck.

    I happened upon “Republic” while it was on sale for 99 cents and thought “Why not?” I soon learned that it was a lucky find, you are an excellent storyteller. I quickly found “Insurgent” after finishing it, since you like to leave kind of cliffhanger endings, which was also the case with the second book, hence my desire to get my hands on the third volume of the series. Any projection on the publishing date for “Fractured”?

    As an aside, you might consider a title change on book three. Since you experienced some consumer confusion over “Insurgent”. “Fractured” seems to be an immensely popular book title (including one by another of my favorite authors) and will no doubt lead to similar confusion…that is, if it were to be published anytime soon (hint, hint).

  4. Charles

    You’re probably right about book 3’s title. I don’t really have any strong feelings about that one, I’ll research titles when it’s time to publish. As far as when: it will be Spring 2015 or slightly earlier.

  5. Charlie Shinn

    I read both Republic and Insurgent. I found them both to be excellent, as retired military I could identify with the soldiers in your story on both sides. I also recognized many individuals I had served with over the years. I am eagerly anticipating the release of Fractured. Once it is out it will most certainly be on my read immediately list!

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