Good news: you can succeed as a bad writer, apparently

According to an article in The Economist, negative publicity is fine for an unknown author. In Better to be reviled than ignored, we are informed that:

In a study published in Marketing Science, [Alan Sorensen] found that well-known authors who earned glowing reviews for a new book could expect to sell 42% more copies, whereas a negative review caused sales to drop by 15%. For unknown authors, however, it did not matter whether a book was panned or lauded. Simply being reviewed in the Times bumped up sales by a third.

This strikes me as an example of completely pointless research. What are we expected to do with it? All writers should strive to improve, but this article could, I imagine, encourage some to adopt a rather cavalier attitude.

I suppose the good news is that if you’re lucky enough to have your book reviewed by The Times, and it is then demolished because the reviewer completely disagrees with your pet theory, you will at least have managed to have brought your theory to the attention of a lot of other people. But if it’s panned because it is badly written, or the plot is flawed, I imply can’t see anyone rushing out to buy it when they could buy novels by well-known authors in ASDA’s supermarket for £1.

People always say that any publicity is good publicity, but I don’t believe that is actually true in general, and certainly not for the writer.