Romance finally breaks The Post’s ‘No Self-Published Books’ rule

25 November 2015

From The Washington Post:

It was bound to happen sooner or later: For the first time ever, a self-published book appears on one of The Washington Post’s best-of-the-year lists.

The distinction — bestowed on Alisha Rai’s erotic novel “Serving Pleasure” — marks a small but telling milestone. Long scorned as the “vanity press,” self-publishing now draws hundreds-of-thousands of hopeful authors. The vast majority of the books sell very few copies, but each year produces another rockstar — a EL James or a Hugh Howey — whose stratospheric success fuels more dreams and brings more legitimacy to the platform.

. . . .

“Serving Pleasure” appears on The Post’s list of the year’s best romance fiction, one of several genre lists in Book World’s Best Books of 2015 package. Rai, who works as a lawyer by day, released “Serving Pleasure” through CreateSpace, Amazon’s independent publishing platform. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Our romance reviewer, Sarah MacLean, didn’t think she was doing anything particularly radical by including a self-published book.

“You asked me to choose the five best romances of the year, and I did,” she tells me. “ ‘Serving Pleasure’ is an excellent example of the best of romance.” And MacLean isn’t surprised that the romance genre is the first one to break Book World’s “No Self-Published” rule. For her, it’s just another example of the genre’s progressive and disruptive vitality.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

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How Paid Reviews Work for Indie Authors

25 November 2015

From MediaShift:

Bowker’s most recent analysis of ISBN numbers revealed that 458,564 books were self-published in 2013, an increase of 17 percent over 2012. Occasionally an indie book breaks out of this crowded pack and achieves significant sales or acclaim, but this is still a rare occurrence, given the sheer number of titles, the variability of their quality, and the fact that the traditional sources for advising readers about which books to read are still largely geared toward traditionally published books.

As self-published books continue to proliferate, however, several companies have begun offering paid book reviews to indie authors to help them break out. Traditional review publications now sell reviews to self-published authors. Publisher’s Weekly offers PW Select, which for $149 runs a photo of the book’s cover and a brief synopsis in PW and considers the books for a full review.Kirkus Indie offers “professional, unbiased book reviews for self-publishers” in 7 to 9 weeks for $425. Blue Ink Review specializes in reviews of self-published titles, offering reviews in the same time frame for $395.

Is purchasing such a review worth it? For one Wyoming-based author of three self-published works of fiction, Tamara Linse, the answer is yes.

“I actually have done paid reviews for all three books with PW Select (both before and after it switched over to Booklife), Kirkus, and IndieReader,” Linse said via email. “I’ve definitely gotten some good publicity from it. I got a starred review from Publishers Weekly for ‘How to Be a Man,’ and people stood up and took notice. I’m not sure how much it translated into sales, but since I needed legitimacy as a self-published literary writer, it really helped. It certainly translated into a regular gig where I visit Central Wyoming College every semester and they read my book, as well as an invite to a conference.”

Link to the rest at MediaShift

PG wonders if KDP dings authors for PW and Kirkus reviews.

Disappearing Amazon Reviews: The Facts Behind Amazon’s Review Purges

24 November 2015

From Anne R. Allen:

So what’s this about missing reviews?

Go to any author forum or social media group for writers and you’ll see the plaintive posts:

  • “Help! My Amazon reviews are disappearing.”
  • “Amazon rejected my review because they say I ‘know’ the author. I don’t. All I did was friend her on Facebook!”
  • “Amazon has banned my favorite reviewer because they say he got paid for his reviews. He didn’t. His blog is on a book blog tour. But they don’t pay him a penny.”
  • “I offered to give people a free book if they wrote me a review and now all my reviews are gone!”
  • “I got a nasty note from Amazon accusing me of ‘manipulating reviews’. I’ve never done any such thing. I gave reviewers a gift card to buy the book, but they disclosed that.”

These sad cries from the Amazon jungle can sound pretty over the top. Is this stuff really happening?

In a word, yes. Amazon has been conducting a review purge.

. . . .

What is Considered a “Paid Review”?

The following are considered paid reviews according to people I’ve spoken to who have contacted Amazon on the subject. You can read more at Bookworks from marketing guru Penny Sansevieri, who got her info from an Amazon spokesperson:

1) A review by a book blogger whose blog is part of a paid blog tour, even if the book blogger is not paid. Often only the organizer of the tour gets paid, but the blog review is considered a “paid review,” so it can’t be posted on Amazon. (Although you can post a quote from it in the “editorial review” section.)

2) A review written in exchange for a gift card.
Even if that card is only in the amount of the price of the book. A reviewer could possibly use the card for purchasing something else.

3) A review written in exchange for another review. Review trading is 100% verboten.

4) A review written in expectation of a free book. A review copy must be given before the review is written or the book will be seen as payment for the review.

5) A review by a person you “know” online. Yes, you read that right. This can be someone who has friended you on Facebook, followed you on Twitter, or has done business with you in a way that’s detectable to the Amazon review police.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen

Here’s a link to Anne R. Allen’s books. If you like what an author has written, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.


Author Richard Brittain attacked reviewer with bottle

10 November 2015

From the BBC:

Richard Brittain, a former champion on the TV programme Countdown, travelled from England and used Facebook to find Paige Rolland, 18, at her work.

He admitted assaulting Miss Rolland with a bottle to her severe injury on 3 October 2014 at Asda, Glenrothes.

. . . .

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard Brittain uploaded part of a published book of his called The World Rose onto a website called Wattpad, where people can read and critique literature written by others.

Miss Rolland read the excerpt of Brittain’s book and left comments about it.

. . . .

Procurator fiscal depute Harry Findlay said: “The complainer had read some of that material and gave feedback of what she thought to be the merits or otherwise of the book.

“The feedback was negative. What followed were comments made by the accused which give an indication that he was displeased.”

In October last year, Brittain went to the Asda store Miss Rolland worked in after she began her shift.

Mr Findlay said: “He went to the alcohol aisle and picked up a bottle of wine, he then went to the aisle where the complainer was working.

“He approached her from behind, she was kneeling down collecting cereal from the bottom shelf of the aisle.

“While doing so, the accused approached without warning, any provocation or words and he struck the complainer on the back of the head with the bottle.

“One blow. It made contact and the wound bled immediately and she had a moment of unconsciousness.”

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Middlebrow? What’s so shameful about writing a book and hoping it sells?

6 November 2015

From The Guardian:

Reading the recent Sydney Review of Books essay, Could Not Put It Down, it’s difficult to work out who its author, Beth Driscoll, intended to insult the most: readers for liking middlebrow books, writers for having the temerity to write them, or publishers for bowing to the demons of commerce by printing them.

Throughout history, writers, musicians and artists have created works of art to keep the wolf from the door and satisfy their paymasters. Without that commercial imperative, there would be no Michelangelo, Mozart, Shakespeare or Dickens. What is so shameful about writing a book and hoping it sells well?

The answer is simple: nothing.

Driscoll’s essay uses three recent publications by Australian female authors who to her mind typify “middlebrow” fiction. Middlebrow is such a loaded term. Condescending, definitely. But to whom exactly? She begins her attack by talking about the way these three books – The Landing by Susan Johnson, The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop, and Relativity by Antonia Hayes – are packaged. The images of women or children on their covers have been deliberately chosen, she asserts, to appeal to the middlebrow readership.

Who are women. Because statistically, about 85% of books are bought by women, mostly between the ages of 40 and 65. True as that is, there is an implied criticism that these book-buying middle-aged women have the audacity to read diversely. As if, as readers, we should sustain ourselves on a diet of literary foie gras, staving off cravings for the occasional newspaper-wrapped fish’n’chips or a comforting, nourishing stew.

. . . .

Recent figures show that sales of literary fiction are in decline. Bestselling Australian authors such as Liane Moriarty, Kate Morton and Michael Robotham provide the financial cushion that allows publishers to invest in lesser-known writers they believe in. Literary writers are beneficiaries of these middlebrow successes as much as anyone.

That the publisher chooses to package a book to maximise its appeal to as broad a market as possible is business knowhow. The author has nothing to do with it.

Driscoll’s further assertion that “it is not just critics but also readers who notice this packaging” is nonsense. Literary critics often make decisions about what to review long before the book is published. Critics cannot afford to judge a book by its cover because often, well, there isn’t one yet. Their decision is more likely made from the quality of the blurb in the publisher’s catalogue some six months earlier and the existing reputation of the author.

. . . .

Simplicity also factors into Driscoll’s definition of middlebrow. But literary or commercial, writers write with an overriding desire to get their message through. Simplicity is an art form, impenetrability is plain (or not so plain) poor writing.

Winning a major literary prize gives writers a sales boost, but by Driscoll’s measure a book’s literary worth diminishes as its popularity rises. As Stephanie Bishop questions in her stinging response to Driscoll: “Why would a large readership mean a lack of prestige?” Driscoll is determined to demean the reader for liking a book and the author for having written a book readers like. Middlebrow perhaps, but surely there is a middle ground, too?

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG says twits are universal and twitdom knows no boundaries. The lengthier the education, the greater the capacity for twitness.

A larger issue is, “Why does anyone pay twits to write anything?”

If twits had no one upon which to look down, would twits exist?

Movie-like Ratings for Books are Here

2 November 2015

From Branton’s Place:

My Book Cave’s grand opening starts today and goes through November 30th, with many events and prizes, including exclusive ebooks by bestselling authors. By signing up, you’ll see their unique My Book Cave rating system in action through daily emails that feature a variety of hand-picked books, which you can then purchase from your favorite retailer. No more being shocked or let down at unexpected content! Find new authors who write on your comfort level, and get a feel for how the free and deeply discounted ebook process works for the reader.

. . . .

Subscribers also select the genres they like to read and the My Book Cave ratings they’re interested in, choosing their heat, violence, and language comfort levels. Then they sit back and let My Book Cave do the rest. Every day subscribers receive email updates telling them about great books in their chosen genres that are 50% off or more. Most books sell for $2.99 or less, and some are temporarily free.

“These aren’t throwaway books; they are books our editorial staff have evaluated to be of top reading quality,” says Shawn Baxter, website creator and part-owner. “Understand, there is no membership fee for this, or any fees whatsoever. And we plan to never have any subscriber fees with our business model.”

. . . .

 “There are a few other sites that try to rate books,” says Catia Shattuck, one of the editors involved in development. “But only My Book Cave does it in enough detail that readers have a clear idea of what they will receive before they read the book.”

. . . .

 “I’m so excited about My Book Cave,” says avid reader, Pat Andrews. “I love romance, but too many times I’ve picked up an ebook, only to be shocked at the content. It got so I started reading only Christian romances or inspirational novels. Now that I can choose how much sex and violence I want, I can read more books by mainstream authors. Movies are rated, why not books?”

Link to the rest at Branton’s Place and thanks to Teyla for the tip.

The woman who wrote 31,014 Amazon book reviews and upended the Internet, dead at 63

1 November 2015

From The Washington Post:

Harriet Klausner never read a book she didn’t like.

Literally. “If a book doesn’t hold my interest by page 50, I’ll stop reading,” she told the Wall Street Journal in 2005.

But Klausner liked most of the books she encountered, and she said so, with gusto. Most of the 31,014 reviews she wrote for Amazon — the most from any one user on the site — sounded like this one:

“Readers will feel an adrenaline surge throughout Dr. John Benedict’s twisting and at times shocking hospital suspense; while also looking forward to the sequel,” she said of a medical thrilled titled “Adrenaline” (judging by Klausner’s typical writing style, the pun in the review was completely intentional). As she almost always did, Klausner gave the book four stars.

They were the last stars Klausner ever gave out. The former librarian, self-appointed star Amazon book critic and frequent subject of scrutiny and celebration died this month at age 63.

. . . .

Regardless, it’s a story about the Internet, where democracy and mediocrity go hand in hand and powerful communities can form around topics as obscure as one lady with a (disputed) love of books.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Guy for the tip.

Amazon reviews hijacked by causes, conspiracies, rage

1 November 2015

From The Seattle Times:

Most book authors know they need to endure critics, even comments that may be malicious and personal.

But the venom that runs through more than three dozen reviews on of Scarlett Lewis’ latest book are particularly scathing.

“This Scarlet Lewis person is a real sick human being,” writes one reviewer named Kevin.

“Scarlett Lewis is a fraud and a sellout to all of humanity,” writes another, anonymously.

“Scarlett Lewis is a lying traitor,” writes a reviewer named David Weiss.

Those reviews might suggest that Lewis is a polemic politician, treasonous spy or scurrilous financier. She’s none of these. Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old boy who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School three years ago.

She wrote “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness” to describe her journey after the massacre and help others choose love and forgiveness instead of anger and resentment in their darkest moments.

The rage in those reviews is fueled by the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook shootings were a hoax, perpetuated by the government to push for tougher gun-control laws.

Link to the rest at The Seattle Times and thanks to Amy for the tip.

When It’s OK to Ignore Feedback

27 October 2015

From The Harvard Business Review:

If we never listen to feedback, we’ll never improve. That’s certainly true, but in a world where everyone has an opinion (whether it’s about Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe or Ellen Pao’s leadership style), who should you actually listen to?

Over the past several months, I’ve appeared on more than 130 podcasts to promote my new book, Stand Out. Most of the queries are the same, but when someone recently asked me about the role of feedback in my life — a question I’d never received before — my own answer surprised me. “I try not to listen to feedback,” I told him. “Most of it is either useless or destructive.”

Of course I can point to useful pieces of feedback I’ve received over the years: my friend Eric the TV producer counseling me on how to present myself onscreen, or my former client Andrea suggesting a better way to do email introductions.

As my business has grown and my visibility has increased, I have received a steady stream of feedback. And for the sake of my own sanity — and accomplishing the goals that are most important to me — I’ve generally decided to tune out other people’s suggestions and advice. Here are the strategies I use to determine when to ignore feedback.

. . . .

When it’s exactly what you’re going for. Just the other day, I got an email from a disgruntled reader who was unsubscribing from my email list. “I enjoy your work,” she began. But she found my emails “overly familiar,” which I’m guessing is a critique of my decision to open them with a greeting of “Hi there!” and occasionally include pictures of Beyonce. Indeed, those aren’t choices that most business authors would make—which is exactly why I’m making them. In the marketing and branding world, it’s standard-issue advice that “If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one.” But the harder-to-swallow corollary is that in appealing to some people a great deal, you’re going to alienate others. Clearly this woman wasn’t a fan of my approach, and that’s perfectly OK. It simply means she’s not my target audience, and her unsubscribing—which would be easy to take as a rebuke or rejection—can instead be taken as feedback that my goal of being a different kind of business thinker is working.

. . . .

When it’s ad hominem. Especially on the Internet, where people don’t have to look you in the eye when they render their verdict, it’s easy for people to be snarky or snide in their commentary. It isn’t that your facts are wrong, it’s that you’re stupid. It isn’t that they disagree with your strategy, it’s that you’re ugly. (One Twitter user recently sniped about my haircut.) Is it possible there’s a grain of solid critique inside their schoolyard rhetoric? Maybe. But—per the policy of only listening to feedback when it comes from more than one person—you can safely ignore the overt haters. If they have a point, you’ll hear it eventually from someone else, in a form that’s more professional, respectful, and less damaging to your psyche.

Link to the rest at Harvard Business Review

Amazon Wants New Customer Reviews System To Be More Helpful And Gain Your Trust: Here’s How

21 October 2015

From Tech Times:

Amazon is testing a complete overhaul of its review system, creating a machine-learning platform in an attempt to show new and more helpful reviews to users.

The new system is currently being rolled out, and while it may not make much of a difference initially, as it goes it will start sorting reviews, giving more value to newer ones and those made by verified Amazon customers.

“The system will learn what reviews are most helpful to customers…and it improves over time,” said Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law. “It’s all meant to make customer reviews more useful.”

Basically, instead of rating an item based on an average of all reviews, reviews that are given more value will make more of a difference in how the item is rated overall. This should help prevent companies from posting fake reviews in an attempt to raise the overall rating of their products, and it should help users be able to make more informed decisions, being able to rely on ratings as being up-to-date.

. . . .

“The enhanced system will use a machine-learned model to give more weight to newer, more helpful reviews from Amazon customers. The system will continue to learn which reviews are most helpful to customers and improve the experience over time,” said an Amazon spokesperson.

This change should also help combat the issue of companies making changes to their products without reflecting the changes on Amazon. With this new system, changes should be much more noticeable to shoppers when they are trying to buy a product.

Link to the rest at Tech Times and thanks to Barb for the tip.

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