Today I received what was officially my first negative email from a reader. "It was inevitable," is one of my husband's favorite expressions, and it probably applies here.
Anyway, this particular reader was quite upset. It seems that he bought my book on Amazon, but had actually intended to buy "The Odyssey" by Homer. The letter essentially accused me of: setting up an elaborate con to trick readers into thinking my book is "The Odyssey;" plagiarizing the poet Homer by stealing his title and (this especially upset the letter-writer) brazenly using (attributed) quotes from "The Odyssey" to precede each chapter of my book; and all in all writing a bleeping bleep book about a bleeping cat that bleeped bleep and wasn't fit for the letter writer to bleep his bleep with.
It ended by expressing the apparently sincere hope that both I and my bleeping cat would die soon and spend eternity rotting in hell. This last part is a direct quote that I am not embellishing.
Well, I have a general life policy that goes something like this: It never pays to pick a fight with anyone who's crazier than you are. So I promptly deleted the email and planned to be done with the whole bleeping thing.
But it occurs to me that what I actually have here is what some might call "a teachable moment." Yes, it's true that, technically speaking, the book the reader intended to buy wasn't "Homer's Odyssey," but "The Odyssey" by Homer. It's also true that Amazon undoubtedly would have cheerfully exchanged the item for him had he contacted customer service when he discovered his error. That may be my best defense, but responding thusly feels very much like begging the question.
So, because I like to be service-y, and because I have every desire to save my immortal soul from the fiery pits of hell (not to mention Homer's kitty soul!), I thought that this might be a good opportunity to enumerate for other hapless Amazon consumers the ways to discern that my book, "Homer's Odyssey" is about a cat named Homer, and is not "The Odyssey" by Homer, which features no cats, although there is a pretty awesome small scene with a dog.
Ways to Tell on Amazon That "Homer's Odyssey" is About a Cat, And is by Gwen Cooper, And is Not "The Odyssey" by Homer the Greek Poet:
1. At the top of my book's Amazon page, it clearly states: "Author: Gwen Cooper."
2. The subtitle of my book is "A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat." "Feline" means "cat." "Cat" also means "cat."
3. On the cover of my book is a large and prominent picture of a cat.
4. Directly below the book cover is an Amazon video of me, Gwen Cooper, talking about and interacting with Homer, my cat.
5. Below that is a box that says "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Purchased..." It is followed by a list of five other books about cats.
6. Following that is a clearly labeled and bolded heading that reads: Product Description. In three paragraphs, it describes a book about a cat.
7. Following that is a personal essay I wrote exclusively for Amazon, in which I describe my experience living with a cat and writing a book about said cat. It is accompanied by a photo of me with my cat (Homer! He looks so cute there!).
8. After the essay and the book's publisher/ISBN number info is a list of "Tags Customers Associate With This Product." The most frequently checked tag is "cats." Other tags include "blind cats," "pets," "animal rescue," and "SPCA."
9. Following the tags are 137 customer reviews, many of which feature headings like, "Not Just Another Cat Book," "Beautiful Story About a Beautiful Cat," and "Enjoyable Read For Cat Lovers."
10. And, at the very bottom of the page is the list of Discussions in Related Forums, with subject headings such as "cats," "Wellness Food for cats," etc.
If my letter writer is reading this blog, I think the question you should probably be asking yourself right now is "How did I misread those signs???"
Truth be told, the level of vitriol in the email was a bit disturbing. But if one can't laugh about such things, how can one get through life?
As a reward of sorts for those of you patient and good-humored enough to read this thing all the way to the end, here's a "family portrait" of Laurence, Homer, and me, enjoying a very summery Memorial Day Weekend Saturday:
From my family to yours, have a "paw-some" holiday weekend!!!