Linkspam, 3/1/13 Edition

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. And I give absolutely no fucks.

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March 1, 2013

Threeasfour Fall 2013

Threeasfour Fall 2013, or: Always Match Your Lipstick to Your Dress. ALWAYS.

Finally, the last link this week is going to lead into some commentary on my part because I Have Opinions: Social Media and Review Crews: A Q&A with Susan Mallery.

The post describes a program wherein an author, Mallery, has a box of 200 books from her publisher. She decides to put together a “Review Crew” of people who will get the book, write a review of it somewhere and by doing so get themselves an advance copy of her next book–which they will also have an obligation to review somewhere. They apparently had thousands of people interested in doing this.

The purpose of this is to deliberately manipulate the rankings at Amazon and Barnes & Noble–Mallery comes right out and says this. I get that publishers aren’t doing as much as they used to with regards to publicity and promotion and it falls to authors to fill in the gap. I get that the more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to pop up on users’ pages while they browse Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I even get that the first week of sales is incredibly important when it comes to contract negotiations and future publications. I get all this.

But this still feels wrong to me. It’s using the unpaid labor of fans to move product. I do not love anything enough to stick a giant magnet on the side of my car advertising it for free. It’s using readers’ passion for the books and their desire to have a personal connection with the author to make money and I find that deeply disturbing.

Also, the idea of having a special cadre of “cheerleaders” who do things like have the car magnet and hand out bookmarks and compete to win prizes just makes my skin crawl, especially since there seems to be an audition process (seriously: look at how much unpaid work the head “cheerleaders” have done in past years). What a genius way to find out who your biggest fans are and then to get them to work for you for free. Because, yo, those prizes are totally a tax write-off in the United States (schedule C deduction for supplies) so they are a dollar for dollar reduction of self-employment liability and federal income tax (thanks to my awesome accountant for the wording!).

Other things I find disturbing: the implicit threat in the repeated mentions of how many thousands of people want to participate in this program (so if you don’t follow through or maybe say something unappreciated, you don’t get invited back?), the way they don’t even suggest that folks posting reviews disclose they received the book for free in exchange for the review, the idea that professional reviewers and bloggers aren’t “real” readers, and finally the pooh-poohing of concerns in the comment section about how the reviews at Amazon and Barnes & Noble are already so polluted that what’s a little bit more pollution for readers to wade through. How does contributing more noise do anything but obscure the signal even more? Meoskop has a lot more to say about this signal-noise ratio, in fact.

Excellent tweeps helped me clarify my thinking on this–many thanks to you! I knew something felt hinky, but until I had some folks to talk about this with, I wasn’t sure what that something was. Twitter is the best!


I have no idea who this is, but this was seriously me after I went and looked to see what the heck Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series was about. (via)

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