Arts Desk

Interview with a Vampire Author: The Paid Review Guy Speaks

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Last week, I wrote a post on local author John F. Ferrer, who had placed a Craigslist ad offering to pay people to review his vampire book The Immortal Ones. I was opposed to the idea of compensating people for such work, because that might impel them to offer false praise that could mislead consumers. There was some debate about my post both online and at the dinner table with my wife, so it got me wondering about what kind of a guy Ferrer is, and what he would have to say about the matter. After some back-and-forth e-mails, I ended up meeting with him to find out.

A self-admitted fan of Twilight, Anne Rice, and The Lost Boys. Ferrer doesn’t look the part of a vampire author. He wasn’t dressed in all black, none of his teeth were filed into fangs, and he didn’t have his keys on a casket-shaped keychain. Instead, he looks like your average office worker with a striped tie and dark slacks, which is not surprising: His day job is at the IRS on an assignment from Booz Allen Hamilton. The Immortal Ones was written late at night and during downtime at the office over the past year. He published the book this summer through CreateSpace, an online publishing service. This is his first book and the only writing he has done since taking a creative writing class in college, but he has says this project was on his bucket list, right next to skydiving and climbing a mountain.

We had a wide-ranging conversation about his work, his promotional methods, and the morality of his promotion approach. This is a portion of that interview.

What was the response to your Craigslist ad?

It helped, because a lot of people responded–30 or 40. It was pretty overwhelming actually, because I only had books and money for four people to review it. I gave everybody else who responded that I didn’t pick a free copy of my eBook as a gesture for contacting me. What I wanted to get out of it, I did. I got this interview. I got publicity. Not necessarily flattering publicity, but publicity.

How’d you hear about the blog post?

An acquaintance, who reads the WCP a lot, forwarded it to me with a note, “Hey, this guy is talking a lot of shit about you.” So I read it and you really did take some shots, but I’m pretty thick-skinned. What I did like is that you had links to my site and my sales page. I got more visitors to my website out of it, so thanks. I didn’t want to go there as far as that Craigslist ad, but what else can I do other than run into the street and scream, “Read my book! Read my book!”

There was recently a case where a firm in California, who paid people to write positive reviews about their client’s games on iTunes, was sued for unfair business practices. And they lost.

Then it’s a good thing I took the ad down (laughs). Your argument was sound, because when you put money in someone’s face, it entices them to write something nice. The people I did get to review my book did ask me, “What if I don’t like it?” and I told them to just say it.

But honestly, do you feel that if someone offered you money for a review that you would be more, less, or equally inclined to write them a good review?

Probably more inclined. That’s probably an avenue I won’t explore again. But my main goal was achieved: getting people to read it. Now I’m going to explore other avenues to get people to read it. Some people have self-published books and sold thousands of copies, so I just haven’t found the avenue that works best for me.

What are your next steps for the book?

I have a few people who are trying to organize a book-release party and I’m involved with that in terms of developing posters and getting people to come. Basically, just trying to arouse curiosity, especially here in D.C., because the book takes place here and I mention a lot of local places. I definitely want to establish a footing in this city. If it goes beyond that, that’s great, but I hope the residents can appreciate a vampire story set in D.C.

I read recently that vampire-related entertainment made $7 billion last year? Were you hoping to get a slice of that pie when you conceived this novel?

Was I hoping for that kind of cash payout? Sure, that would be great. But thinking realistically, I knew what I would be competing with. Plus, it’s a self-published novel and I know that self-publishing has that stigma. People think, “Oh, it’s self-published? It probably sucks.” Really, I just wanted to create the story, put it out there, and see what people say. If it goes anywhere, then that’s terrific. Maybe one day it will. I’m the kind of guy who likes to hope. Sometimes I’ll shoot for the stars and to a lot of people it might seem stupid–and sometimes I do stupid things to make it happen–but I’m the kind of guy who likes to follow the trail, maybe do stupid things along the way, but learn from it. I want to be able to be able to look back and say, “At least I tried it.”

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