My Book is Getting the WORST Reviews (except one)

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First off, on twitter, someone named Naomi Klein called my book “Gross”. I looked her up on wikipedia. Turns out we have a lot in common. She wrote some books (see below picture). She also “spent much of her teenage years in shopping malls.” So did I! And she has a lot more twitter followers than me.

(Naomi Klein, in the glory days before calling me “Gross”)

I emailed her and asked her if she had actually read the book. She wrote back and was honest. “No,” she said, “but the jacket copy is gross”. Fine. I like that honesty. A lot of people judge books by their covers and then trash it to their 100,000 followers on twitter. At least she’s honest about it. I’m not being bitter. I really do appreciate her honesty in her response. I would’ve ignored me. (Or, you can follow me on twitter)

Then I figured, I might as well use this to my advantage. I tweeted out very loudly “Oh, I see, Naomi Klein judges books by their covers.” I figured a “twitter war” would be sort of like a west coast – east coast rap war. Biggie vs Tupac. Maybe Naomi Klein and I would both end up in drive-by shootings at the end of it all. And my book would sell through the roof afterwards. But she was honest again. “Keep to investing in the apocalypse. I’m not going to get in a tweet war”. Ok, honest again.

(I even look like Tupac a little)

Lets veer over to Amazon, where the reviews are horrific. Except for one made by a big fan.

One reviewer said:

Almost as poorly written as his blog…”

That really hurt. I work hard on my blog.

Then he says, “…where he meanders from topic to topic with little apparent rhyme or reason…”

Well…ok. I guess that is true about my blog. How can you go from My New Year’s Resolution in 1995, to 10 Unusual Things I Didn’t Know About Google and not think I’m meandering, with no real clue as to what I’m doing with this blog.

Another reviewer said:

“This book was a great disappointment to me, and I suggest you not waste your money buying it, or your time reading it”

The book is $9. You can buy breakfast with that money instead of buying my book. Food is a necessity. Some people have told me the book has helped them make money during this Japanese crisis. You can sort of see how based on my post, “Was Greece Nuked?” which has some of the ideas of the book in there. But, point taken.

(I’d rather eat this breakfast than buy my book also)

For the guy who wrote that review, please write me. I will give you two choices: I will send you all my other books for free. Or I will refund your $9. With 5 two dollar bills (I’ll throw in an extra dollar because time is money and I can tell from your review you read the book).

Uh oh, then I got a good review. A REALLY good review. But with a twist.

The review was complimentary throughout. Here’s a taste:

“ Altucher is one of those cutting edge authors whom I admire because he is constantly thinking outside of the box, as in: “what box”?

WOW! Thanks!

Only one problem. The reviewer was my wife. Ouch! And I didn’t know she was going to do it. Claudia, at least do it under a fake name! Haven’t I taught you anything?

“I hated seeing all the negative reviews,” she said, embarrassed.

So one of the heroes in the League of Extraordinarily Negative Reviewers did a little google search on “Claudia Azula” and of course found out she was my wife. I have never googled a reviewer before but I guess in the cutthroat field of Amazon reviewing that’s the sort of thing that happens.  Even worse: he noticed the book was dedicated to Claudia. He totally busted her. I say this, because one guy commented on her review: “busted!…LOL!”

Because its funny. For those not in the publishing field (not in the “biz” as we say), “LOL” is short for “laughing out loud”. If anyone not in the biz was lurking on that thread he would’ve said “laughing out loud” but he knew that anyone in the dark underbelly of “replied-to comments underneath reviews” would know what “LOL” was.

Someone pointed out that Claudia should’ve disclosed her relationship to the author. This was a very big no-no, Claudia!  My 15 years of reputation building were SEVERELY damaged by this action. So Claudia tried to make up for it by posting the returns anyone would’ve made if they followed the advice of my prior book. They were pretty good and she did her research. Again, without telling me she was going to do it.

But you can’t dig yourself out of a grave filled with shit, Claudia! Its still a grave. As one guy pointed out, “you should just delete this whole thread.” Because to add embarrassment upon embarrassment, I started responding in the thread.

As the joke says, “the teacher said, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right. And two positives don’t make a negative.’ And someone in the back of the class said, ‘yeah, right.’ “

Publishing is an ugly, ugly business. I wrote about it here in Why I Write Books Even Though I’ve Lost Money on Every Book I’ve Ever Written. And its even uglier now. Bookstores are going bankrupt. Publishers are so locked in internal political battles to save their turf that they don’t even see that the entire ship is sinking. My favorite fiction writers are writing for finance magazines. My favorite finance writers are, well, resorting to blogging.

So we have “Gross”. “Meandering”. “Busted.”  Sometimes I look at these and think I should just close myself in a tiny box and keep the lid closed. I could hide from all of the comments and reviews until the storm passes. But even Claudia said: “What box”?

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  • Anonymous

    I don’t know what I was googling last week that resulted in finding your blog, but I am so glad I found it. I think it was the Steve Jobs post, but whatever it was, I was hooked. The first night I started reading your posts I was up until at least 1am by the time I read the post where you said I should get up early. I kept reading; I didn’t think you would mind.

    Yes, the blog is “meandering” but I think a much better word is unpredictable, and that’s awesome. There’s a lot of great stuff here – I actually created a note in evernote called altucher so I have a place to copy/paste your ideas, lists, reading suggestions, etc. I never posted a comment before, but I had to here because this post exemplifies why I like the blog so much. I’m a father/entrepreneur/trader/angel investor – it’s like this blog was tailor made for me. Maybe you already mentioned them in a post I haven’t read yet, but what blogs you read regularly?

    Holy crap, it’s after 1am again.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Go to sleep!

  • http://profiles.google.com/generationwise Tim Olsen

    Thanks, James! It’s an honor to know that you’ve heard of my book. I still can’t believe it’s been in print this long. I’ve long been a fan of yours and have to say that you are the most interesting writer on the Street.

    Right now, I’m a senior in college (LSU in Baton Rouge, LA) and will be graduating in May but I write a weekly investing blog for Gen Y at http://www.genwiseinvestor.com. I’ve also written a second book on investing strategies for Gen Y but have had a tough time with publishers since the publishing market is so rough right now. At the very least, I hope to promote the importance of finance and investing to teens and Gen Y and develop a type of educational program that schools could use to better teach students the basics. I’m going to work hard to make it coincide with a full-time job, though!

  • Beaumcl

    James,(if that is your real name), I think your blog is very poorly written and you don’t post enough blogs.

  • Jew

    It is Jew versus Jew!!!!
    Three strikes, bitches!!!!

  • Dawn

    Awwww! Hahahahahaha!

  • Leonardtj1

    I am in agreement with you! It is great to.
    See honor and commitment to the one you love!

    • Anonymous

      And to be honest!

  • Dave

    I personally think that your blog is awesome. Yes, it does cover a lot of topics, but that is why I like it. Each day of life covers a lot of topics.

    It has taken me 43 years to realize this, but when you challenge what someone holds as an absolute truth – buying a home can be a mistake, or college may be a waste of money – they lash out. Most people do not want to hear new ideas, they simply want to have their ideas confirmed.

    Thanks for all that you do… you keep it interesting.

  • Steve

    James, I found your blog a few days ago when I read “Why I am Never Going to Own a Home Again”. You wrote things I had been saying for years. I have since read some of your other posts and I really enjoy your perspective.

  • LockedChaos

    I like your blog…………………….
    Haven’t read any of your books
    You’ve got cool hair and a sly wit
    Me, I’m nothing

  • Gor

    Don’t take it personally, Naomi Klein is an idiot, whose books appeal to stupid shallow people who pretned to be smart, shes a “democratic socialist” hahahahah

    When are people going to realize that just because you write books doesnt mean you are intelligent, it just means you own a word processor

  • http://twitter.com/ki11tank John TenBrock

    James, sometimes your blog is like watching a train *of honesty* wreck that you just don’t want to look away from, but I suppose that’s part of the reason I read it from time to time.

  • Anonymous

    I just started reading your blog, but I have to agree with the other reviewers, especially your wife.
    I probably will continue to read it for awhile just to see why you have any followers.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ha. There’s no good reason.

  • http://profiles.google.com/leron.culbreath Edward Leron Culbreath

    There’s only one blog that I like as much as yours: http://www.violentacres.com, and she doesn’t post anymore. Since I found your blog, I feel giddy every time I see an unread article notification in my Google Reader. I (probably 3 days ago) decided to stop posting your entries to my facebook page, because I noticed that I was posting EVERY SINGLE ONE. Keep up the outstanding work! The negative reviews make me want to buy your book!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ed, I just checked out violentacres. Great stuff. I can’t believe she “ran out of stories”. I hope she starts blogging again but I guess its been a year. Do you like penelopetrunk’s blog?

  • IndyHomeResource

    What Box? The top one on my feed burner. Your blog gets an A for ingenuity, well stated opinions and interesting writing. It has created ‘phantom pains': I find myself wondering about the deleted first and last paragraphs.
    Love that your wife lovingly supports you.
    Hey, for the rest of you, not as ingenious and refreshingly clever as Altucher: go to college, buy a home.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ha, I like that. “phantom pains”. Maybe I should keep phantom posts around that have the first and last parags before I screw with them.

  • PaulinKansasCity

    i liked it James

    • PaulinKansasCity

      If I could make a request; my fav is the Warren Buffett book; i loved the originality of it and it is a great everyman book as well; your internet newsletter I really enjoyed and learned from; so your next project (haha) would be something along those lines; some undiscovered country that is out there in the securities world. You have a good nose for this sort of stuff!

  • Concrete Dovetail

    My favorite amazon review (this was for the soundtrack to the movie Return of the Living Dead):

    “I am a grandmother, over 60 years old, and wanted music for a night with friends on Hallowe’en at my house. I liked the Monster Mash album–light vintage lyrics for a fun evening. I am not into gore and blood at Hallowe’en, and did not even open The Return of the Living Dead–the album cover was enough for me to make a quick decision. I will make sure my kids do not want it and I will return it. I like rhythms–anything from Carmina Burana to Bob Marley and reggae; with a dose of Mozart, bluegrass or folk. NO GORE even though the music might be great–it’s not for this grandma.”

    Some people out there were inspired to give angry responses. For example: “Grandma, you and your close-minded approach to the film’s soundtrack is beyond absurd. In case you haven’t figured it out, there is NO GORE in any music album. Pathetic. You give grandmas everywhere a bad name. Now, please go and kick a bucket.”

  • Agent Scully

    Hi James, I stumbled across your blog after a repost/review of “Why I am Never Going to Own a Home Again” on SF Gate. That was a good piece, thank you. I haven’t read much of your other stuff, but I aim to.

    As for Naomi Klein’s “gross” review of you book, I’ll have to step up in her defense. If you step away from yourself for a second, it’s easy to understand that your book’s title purports to explain how to make money off other people’s misery. If that’s not gross, I don’t know what is. I suppose it’s perfectly acceptable behavior by today’s standards, but it’s the main reason the world is rapidly coming apart at the seams.

    You seem like a smart guy. I think you ought to pick up a copy of Ms. Klein’s excellent book The Shock Doctrine. It is well-researched and thought-provoking and probably the most ground-breaking book on political economy written in the last 50 years. Yes, it is polarizing and disruptive and the predatory investor class can’t stand it. Milton Friedman rolled over in his grave. But it is difficult to refute her thesis and impossible to ignore the story. Hell, it might even make you bail out of the investment world and play poker full time again. At least there is some nobility in that!

    Cheers,

    CBF

    • http://profiles.google.com/scaredofpandas Joseph McClellan

      I think the title is a little tongue-in-cheek, especially when you read the book and consider its premise: every week, the media tries to scare us with some new big threat, and a prudent investor can see through the farce and make a little money. But it’s never _really_ the apocalypse. Fiction writers have toyed with this theme in the past (see Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear”)… so why can’t a non-fiction author get in on the action?

  • Sooz

    Let me tell you something, my friend,J.A..
    You have raised the bar so high that it really doesn’t matter what a neg. critic think/write/say!!! Your greatest ‘GIFTS’ are for all of us that appreciate it and we do..very much!
    Sincerely…Grateful!!

    • Sooz

      Total bonus that your ‘SHADY’ wife..((LOL))..brought all this on!
      You are aperfect match!!!!
      :))

  • Sooz

    Can I dbl click on the ‘like’ feature?
    WTH..
    I’m doing it anyway..and I must admit(guilty supporting my fave friends)I’ve never dbl clicked(LIAR..I AM) but I’m going to do it to support that ‘Shady’ wife of yours..:))

  • Greek

    Are there people out checking the reviewers in the internet?
    That’s a sick world indeed!!!

  • Roman

    Alt, online anonymity lets people project their insecurities and traumas onto people that they envy writings . I haven’t read your book, but if it’s written like your blog, it’s brilliant. I’d say your blog is one of the best examples of online writing that reflects on the human condition.

  • Roman

    Alt, online anonymity lets people project their insecurities and traumas onto people that they envy writings . I haven’t read your book, but if it’s written like your blog, it’s brilliant. I’d say your blog is one of the best examples of online writing that reflects on the human condition.

  • JtotheA

    You are in good company.

    Guy Kawasaki’s latest book has a stack of negative reviews as well at amazon.

    More importantly, and more telling, DC Comics has shut down the comments for their reviews due to the harsh criticism and personal attacks that developed from the earth shattering and all important question from humanity’s existence put forth in the latest comic: who is faster, the flash or superman?

    Maybe critics will write a book one day and show us all how it’s done. Possible, but not probable.

  • Joanielevine

    I Love your blog and your wife’s, please keep writing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks for blogging!!!!!!!!!

  • Matt.M

    SORRY, BUT CAN SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THIS BOOK IS CALLED?

  • Maxplotzli

    Uh, Downtowntrader, “hip”? Ur obv like Methuselah old. Lolz. ;)

  • Lori

    this is a non-issue as everyone on amazon knows 5-star reviews are written by friends and family. next time, claudia, just give it 4 stars! the 4-star review is the new 5-star review; all 5-star reviews are discarded.

  • http://isomorphismes.tumblr.com isomorphisms

    Phuk dat. Your meandering is very effective. I don’t know if it’s planned but it works.

    It’s easier to say something negative than something positive. I don’t know if that’s the reason negative reviews dominate but it could be.

  • http://www.therecklessoptimist.com anthonymclean

    I absolutely LOVE your transparency and humour in this post! (No I did not spell humour wrong- I’m Canadian!) I spend so much time covering up failures and embarrassments and yet you post yours for the world to see! Very refreshing.

  • John

    Hi from Toronto. I went to University with Klein (University of Toronto). And *ahem* I could tell you some fairly *gross* things about Mz ‘no logo’. Nevermind she is ALL about self promotion and ‘logo’ (branding) but she had a knack for ‘jumping the gun’ when she worked on the campus paper and was responsible for all kinds of *gross* mistakes on it. Naomi …people in glass houses…. you know?

    take it from one who knows.

    • John

      oh and I say she was gross not because of some cover but because of CONTENT –which actually matters.

      (keep up the great work James)

  • http://www.facebook.com/folami.morris Folami Morris

    I love your attitude. You took this all in stride. I’ve been complaining about the one woman who gave my book a two on goodreads, when I’m pretty positive she didn’t even read it. Your approach is much better than mine.

  • Scratch

    I love the irony in this post.

    At the beginning she called you disgusting and in the end you proved it.

    Well done.

  • JonHammsSlimJim

    Just caught this site after googling “Shady negative reviewers” after my book was rated from a good one to a bad one by the same person by the time I started getting more reviews in.

    Think I’ll check your’s out … *funny* ways to advertise your book. I have my way of doing so too :). Good luck with the book; seems like it’s doing fine.