In criminal court cases you typically have to have 4 things to get a conviction. You need a victim, a suspect, motive and evidence. If you have those 4 things, a guilty verdict is the usual result. Now this is not a criminal case but this blog post is about Nick Johnson’s sin against me by leaving a nasty 1-star review of my book despite the fact that he hadn’t even read it when he wrote the review. In this case I was the victim, Nick is the suspect, Nick’s personal dislike of me was his motive, and the evidence is that Amazon’s sales report shows me that he never downloaded the book when he said he did. I’ll cover this all in detail.
This all started when I was looking over my book reviews and noticed I had a 1-star review from someone. The review was made on November 7th and simply said, “Just terrible.” No mention of why this person thought it was terrible. So I decided to click on the Amazon Customer link associated with the review. When I did, a familiar icon popped up. Then it occurred to me, that’s the same icon that Nick Johnson (Twitter handle @pastornick) uses. It also said the customer was a missionary in Mexico, which Nick is. So it was pretty obvious that it was Nick that left the review.
Here’s evidence of that. Note the date the review was left (November 7th) as that’s important.
Nick had a personal problem with me over disagreements on Twitter and said that I insulted him. So it was pretty clear to me that Nick left the bad review just as a vindictive attempt to spite me.
I called him out on it and he admitted to being the one that left the review. He said he actually did read the book and just didn’t like it and that’s why he left the bad review and told me I was a bad writer with thin skin. I had my doubts that he ever read it.
The main reason I initially believed he was lying is because it didn’t make sense that someone who dislikes me on a personal level would even be interested in reading a fictional novel written by me.
This belief was further bolstered when Nick admitted that he doesn’t even like Christian fiction, which is shown in this screenshot.
So right there you can see him admitting he doesn’t like Christian fiction. Why would you read a book, from an author you dislike personally, in a genre you don’t even care for? You wouldn’t! He’ll say he has a lost family member that’s a cop and he thought maybe the family member would like it and hear the gospel and so he read it for that reason. Weak. If you knew Nick’s disdain for JD Hall and anyone who associates with him you’d know that he’d never recommend a book by one of JD’s associates to a lost family member or anyone else. Especially if he only picked the book up after I insulted him. Who would recommend a book to a family member after being supposedly insulted by the author? (By the way, I never threatened to contact his mission if he didn’t delete his review. Someone in the Pulpit Bunker suggested that it might be a good idea since he was sinning against me. I agreed that it might be of interest to his mission board to know he is lying and in unrepentant sin against another believer but I never contacted his mission and never encouraged others to do so. It has never been about the review, it was about his sin against me. The review was simply the tangible and rotten fruit of that sin. I did urge him to delete the review because it was made under sinister circumstances given that 1) he dislikes me personally and 2) he dislikes the genre of the book. He was in no position to leave a fair and unbiased review of my book even if he had read it. Regardless, I did not contact his mission board and never asked anyone else to do so on my behalf as he claims. I did send a generic tweet that I had tagged Nick in, and asked someone to retweet it so that he would see it (because he wouldn’t have seen my tweet even if I tagged him because he had me blocked). But that’s it, I never asked anyone to harass him. Here’s a screenshot of that.
Here’s the screenshot of Nick saying that he only picked the book up after I supposedly insulted him on Twitter. If this was a criminal court proceeding, this is what the prosecutor would present as a little something called “Motive.”
So after a few public tweets back and forth (which Nick later deleted) we had a private conversation.
Here’s the conversation on Twitter, I added some words to it to point out some lies and other things, but those are the only edits I made, and I can provide the original screenshots to anyone who’s interested. (sorry for the pic sizes, you might need to right click, select View Image, and then left click the image when your cursor changes to a magnifying glass to enlarge the picture.)
So my intention was to leave it at that. Nick changed his review from 1 star to 3 stars and actually did explain what it was about the book he didn’t like. I still didn’t believe he had read the book at the time of the 1 star review (November 7th) but at the time I didn’t think I had any way to prove it so I decided to let it go for the time being, plus he did provide enough detail to make me believe that it was at least possible that he had skimmed through enough pages to be able to justify himself and actually provide reasons that he didn’t like the book. Now take note of the date of the above Twitter conversation (December 15th) because that’s going to be important.
It was still bothering me, however, that Nick had smeared my reputation on Twitter under the lie that he had read my book so I decided to dig a little further and I pulled up my Amazon sales report to see if it could shed any light on the matter. Boy did it! In a twitter conversation that I’ll provide screenshots of below, Nick said he believes he read the book in late October or early November to coincide with his 1 star review on November 7th.
Here’s where Nick is caught in his lie. Here’s the incontrovertible proof: the Amazon sales report did not show that a single Kindle Unlimited user (which is how Nick claimed he read the book) had read any portion of the book anywhere near the time he said he did. In fact, the first Kindle Unlimited user to EVER download ANY portion of the book was on December 16th. Amazon’s sales reports are very detailed for Kindle Unlimited sales and will even show me how many pages of my book were read that day, as authors get paid per page turned instead of the book as a whole if the customer is reading the book through Kindle Unlimited.
Nick’s defense is going to be that there’s no possible way he could’ve known any details about my book on the 15th if my reports didn’t show any pages read until the 16th. That’s his big defense. That’s what he’s hanging his hat on to defend himself.
There are a few plausible explanations for this. The most obvious one is that you can download a free sample of the book which won’t show on the sales report at all. I can’t recall the exact details about the book that Nick mentioned on Twitter before he either deleted the tweets or made his account private, but I’m 95% certain the details he provided could have been learned from the free preview alone. If Nick or one of his Twitter followers would like to dig those old tweets up and try to prove that he provided details that AREN’T available in the free sample I invite them to try, but I won’t hold my breath. Wouldn’t matter even if they did, because there are still other plausible explanations.
Another strong possibility is that Amazon doesn’t report pages read on a minute-by-minute basis and instead gathers all pages read for a full day and reports them the next day. This makes the most sense as it would be a lot of extra tedious work for Amazon to credit me with pages read at noon if the customer then reads additional pages a couple of hours later. Makes more sense to wait until that day is finished and then report them. In fact, Amazon’s website seems to confirm this is the case as shown in this screenshot…
Another possible explanation is that the book was downloaded in a different time zone and thus reported the pages read on the 16th even though Nick did provide a few details in the late evening of the 15th in my time zone. If Nick had a VPN active when he downloaded the book, this possibility becomes even stronger, and Nick stated he uses a VPN at times (which will be documented later in the article).
Another possible explanation is that he gathered details about the book from others who already had the book such as @RevAaronDavis who also had disagreements with me on Twitter but did enjoy the book. Note that I am not accusing Aaron Davis of conspiring against me or anything, as he seems like an honest guy, I’m just noting the possibility that details could have been shared between he and Nick in passing conversation.
I also saw other Twitter users who are friends of Nick’s asking what the name of my book was on December 15th and I made traditional, non-K.U. sales of the book that day, before and after that day, and it’s possible that people who purchased the book traditionally may have fed him a few details.
Another possible explanation is that he somehow pirated the book and that’s why it doesn’t show that he downloaded it when he said he did. (Please note I am not accusing him of pirating it but merely listing it as a possible explanation even though I agree it’s an unlikely one).
All of these are possible explanations. However, what Nick doesn’t have an explanation for is how Amazon completely failed to report that he downloaded the book in late October or early November when he says he downloaded it.
Here’s the screenshot from my sales report that shows NO Kindle Unlimited user read ANY pages of my book when Nick says he did.
So after discovering incontrovertible proof that Nick had NOT yet read my book at the time of his nasty 1-star review, I once again reached out to him to have a private conversation about it and give him a chance to own up to his sin against me and make amends. Instead, Nick chose to double down and then reported me to Amazon as supposedly bullying him into removing his review. He’s unable to provide ANY evidence that he downloaded the book when he said he did such as the standard e-mail Amazon will send when you purchase or download a book. I’ve posted screenshots of that conversation below (it’s long). Before you read it, note that he accuses me of asking friends to give favorable reviews of my book, which I never have done and never will do (unless they actually read it and enjoyed it), and I defy him to provide proof of such an unmerited accusation. Also note that there are a couple of book spoilers in this conversation but they’re all from very early in the book (like the part of the book you could read in the free sample). This conversation took place December 31st.
So let’s once again cover the facts very quickly.
- Nick left a 1-star review on November 7th
- Nick was called out about it on December 15th
- Conveniently, “someone” hurriedly read a sizable portion of the book in a single day which was reported by Amazon on Dec. 16th.
- Nick stated he read the book late Oct. or early Nov. through Kindle Unlimited.
- Amazon sales reports show I had no Kindle Unlimited downloads from ANYONE until December 16th.
Imagine Nick was a suspect in a murder. The investigators discover that Nick had a clear motive to commit the murder as he had publicly admitted that he did not like the victim. Nick’s alibi was that he was at the gym at the time of the murder. The investigator asks, “Great, I know the owners of that gym, they keep meticulous records and have video cameras aimed at the doors. If you were at that gym, there will definitely be evidence that you were there and this will eliminate you as the suspect.” After the investigator leaves, Nick hurriedly signs up as a member at the gym he claimed he was at that night. The investigator goes to the gym a couple of days later and they have no record of him being there at the time of the murder. Nick’s face doesn’t appear on their video cameras. The owners of the gym look through their books and don’t see that a Nick Johnson had ever even been a member until after he was asked for his whereabouts that night. The investigator returns to Nick and says, “Nick, did you sign in when you went to the gym the night of the murder?” Nick says, “Yes, I did, around 8:30 P.M.” The investigator says, “Well, there’s no record that you signed in that night, the cameras never showed you walk through the door, there’s no record that you were ever a member there before the murder, and you can’t provide a receipt or bank statement that showed you ever paid membership dues at the gym prior to the murder. Care to explain that?” Nick says, “Well, no. I can’t explain that, but I can tell you what the gym looks like inside! Isn’t that enough proof for you?” I imagine the jury wouldn’t deliberate too long before they returned their guilty verdict.
I want to re-iterate that this was never about a bad review. I can handle a bad review if the author actually read the book and is leaving his unbiased and honest opinion. But that was not the case here. This was a case of a person who disliked me personally and saw his chance to spite me and took it. I’ve shown the proof of it. As I told Nick already, I’ve already forgiven him for what he did, but even though I’ve forgiven him I still have a right to defend my reputation since he persists in these lies that he read my book before leaving his 1-star review and that I tried to bully him into changing his review when he was only leaving honest feedback. I think any objective observer will clearly know that Nick lied after viewing what I’ve presented. Those who wish to dismiss me simply because I’m associated with JD Hall are being willfully ignorant. That’s about all there is to it.
I can hear my trolls and detractors already. They’ll say I have nothing to complain about because my book sales weren’t exactly thriving anyway and will probably also sneak a personal jab in about me being a bad author or having thin skin. For one, that’s beside the point, a lie is a lie and sin is sin. Two, most authors start slow. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame had her book rejected by multiple publishers before she hit it big. Hugh Howey, the most successful indie author of the last decade, started his career with a single book he wrote in his spare time that languished for quite some time before it went viral. If anything, a fraudulent 1-star review is most harmful to an unknown indie author like me who doesn’t have many reviews good or bad yet.
Regardless if my book is ever a smashing success, it’s still something I’m proud of and the gospel is clearly presented in it. But Nick still sinned against me by lying and leaving a bad review that could have hurt my potential sales (and still could if Amazon suspends me). Just as if he had simply stolen a single dollar bill out of my pocket while I wasn’t looking, sin is sin. I’m sure my detractors will also say that my reputation has been damaged from my own doing. That may or may not be true, but if it is, at least it was from MY decisions and actions and not something that is based on a bald faced lie from someone else. If people choose to think ill of me from something I’ve actually said or done that’s fine and fair, but if they think ill of me because someone told them lies about me, that’s another matter altogether.
Before I end this post, I want to mention that I never contacted Nick’s mission board and I don’t intend to at this time. I did initially consider it but after examining my own heart I realized that it wouldn’t truly be for the right reasons. If Nick continues to lie to people about me I may change my mind just to put an end to the slander and protect my reputation. Or if Amazon does suspend me I may need to take more drastic measures to get him to admit his lie so that my account will be re-instated (although I’m sure Amazon will realize he lied if they do ANY research into his kindle history of downloaded books). But as things stand now, if I called his mission it would be primarily out of revenge if I did, and that’s not the right reason.
So I’ll end this post the same way I start my book: with a quote from Marcus Aurelius…
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”