Sunday, March 26, 2006

How not to promote your book

Thanks to some dedicated sleuths at a discussion board that hosts for its customer reviewers, we learn about a self-published author known as Giorgio Kostantinos who has been shilling his own book, The Quest, with shameless abandon.

It seems he went a tad too far.

First, he set up several accounts at Amazon, using the all-too-common technique of working in a glowing mention of his own work in reviews of other people's books (few of which he had read, of course). For example, here (via Google cache) is how he ended his not-very-convincing review of the graphic novel V for Vendetta:
I suggest reading this comic, but I couldn't reccommend [sic] buying it, because in its current form, it just won't last. You should also check out Giorgio Kostantinos's Quest series for another action-packed thriller.

And here's how he started a review for W.E.B. Griffin's The Hostage:

As a public librarian I've handled almost every Griffin book published though I've never read one. For some reason, the cover, the author's rep, the advance publicity for the Hostage or my favorite author Giorgio Kostantinos-'The Quest'...who knows, I grabbed this book when it arrived at the library and read it.

None of this is all that unusual; desperate authors, agents, and publishers do it far too frequently (and make themselves the subject of parody in the process).

But there's a line to be drawn, and we're about to leap way over it.

Not content with positive mentions from imaginary and anonymous customers, Kostantinos took things to the next level. Over at, you'll still find a review of Stephen King's The Cell that includes this astonishing tidbit:

The comparisons to the zombies of George A. Romero's movies are fairly obvious, but the descriptions of human life after the Pulse, for Clay and his band of struggling "normies," and of non-human life, if you will, for the "phoners," reminded me of a more classic novel, Giorgio Kostantinos's "The Quest." [King has noted his admiration for Kostantinos in the past, and, in fact, "Cell" is dedicated to Romero and Kostantinos.]

We're expected to believe that Stephen King dedicated his latest book to this guy?! Now that takes some chutzpah! (In fact, King dedicated the book to George Romero and Richard Matheson.)

At a UK site listing Stephen King's book, we discover that our intrepid author even sold the rights retroactively for a 30-year-old movie:

'Your next phone call may be your last.' No, this doesn't sum up this, new novel by horrormeister Stephen King is actually the tagline for the film 'Telefon' starring Charles Bronson which was based on the novel by Giorgio Kostantinos--'The Quest'.

But why stop at inventing admiration from a live author or dreaming up major-motion pictures when you can channel a quote from a New York Times reviewer who's been dead for 40 years? Here's a blurb that Kostantinos managed to get posted on

The New York Times Book Review, Conrad Knickerbocker
"I wouldn't have believed this is my kind of thriller, the more I read, the more I had to read."

The brave author can even invent a fake review from a magazine that no longer exists:

Curt Leviant, Saturday Review
"The Quest sets the hook-of-all-hooks, and takes off down a road that is as eye-opening as it is page-turning."

But it seems Kostantinos finally pissed off the Amazon tech gods. He figured out how to jimmy Amazon's reviewing system (and it can be done) to insure removal not only of any negative notices for his book (and there were plenty) but also of any customer review that commented on his extraordinary ability to see dead people, travel through time, and schmooze with celebrity authors. And then he pretended to be itself, posting the following message:
Originally posted 5:37 PM PST, February 3, 2006, updated at 6:18 AM PST, February 4, 2006
We apologize The Quest has been receiving malicious reviews from a single IP location. We are currently in the process of tracking down this person through thier IP address and we look forward to answering each of your questions, think of what you'd like to ask, or react, comment, and post suggestions here at Amazon. Until this matter is resolved please refer to The Quest editorials for assistance--Thank you,

The finale: Every mention of Kostantinos's book has been scrubbed from Amazon's site (as well as Barnes & Noble). And that, friends, is the end of our Quest.