Author & Publisher Strategies

Reviews are still king

As long as you don’t handle negative reviews the way Alice Hoffman did, they remain the most effective way to reach and engage potential buyers, eclipsing Twitter and Facebook, according to Ad Age‘s Abbey Klaasen. Reviews offer fully explained reactions to products purchased by real customers in contast to the fragmentary telegraphic conclusions posted to Twitter and other social messaging sites.

The challenge for companies is finding a way to listen effectively to buyers when they write reviews on blogs and at commerce sites. Here are the four “right ways to user reviews,” from the article:

  • Embrace the feedback — find a way to actually listen and digest the customer’s ideas inside your company.
  • Tout your customers’ favorites — they can tell other customers better than you can.
  • Incorporate customer service (yes, use reviews to identify problems and solve them for customers).
  • Don’t stop there — let reviews grow into communities.

All of these ideas are critical to publishing success, as well.

Author & Publisher Strategies

How not to handle bad reviews, ever

Reviewers are the bane of writers’ existences, even when they are good reviewers they find something not to like about one’s work. So, it’s a good idea to engage the smart ones who want to be in dialogue with writers and ignore the bad reviewers and their bad reviews. Don’t do what Alice Hoffman did, according to AlleyCat.

Hoffman tweeted today in response to a Boston Globe review she did not like: “Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman [the freelancer who wrote the review]?”

She went on to tweet the reviewer’s email address and phone number and commented in another tweet that The New York Times Co. is selling The Boston Globe because it read its reviews and decided they were bad.  It looks petulant and is a losing proposition, because the argument moves away from the question of the book reviewed to the credentials of the reviewer.

Non-reviewers (that would be ordinary readers who have the guts to write and publish their opinion about a book) are often idiotic, but so are professional reviewers, even when they are established writers. Attacking an “amateur” reviewer is attacking the principle widely held that everyone is entitled to their opinion and now has the right to publish it. I write “widely held,” because Andrew Keen has written extensively about how amateurs ruin culture. Some people agree with Keen, though he forgets that all art begins as amateur endeavor.

No great book is universally welcomed as an accomplishment of genius. And reviewers have every right to dislike a book they took the time to read, because they are proxies for the reader, who must judge the review—and the book—for themselves.

It’s always easier to write a negative review than it is to write the book that received a poor review. Why, then, should the writer who put so much into the book rise to respond to a critic who spent a day or two with the book? Constructive engagement can add to the perceived worth of a book, but a vehement response like Hoffman’s is only going to take time away from positive promotion of her book.

The Reading World

Blog payola: Book and device reviews may be under FTC scrutiny

Robert Nagle, writing at TeleRead, has a hypothetical question for book reviewers after reading about the growing concern among bloggers that the Federal Trade Commission may soon seek to regulate blogger compensation by the companies they write about:

Hypothetical Ethical question: You are a  book reviewer for a well-known blog.  Amazon offers to send you a free Kindle loaded with  300 bestsellers (by certain publishers who paid Amazon for the privilege). According to Amazon’s offer, you could keep  Kindle on the condition that you  publish a minimum of 1 review a month  (positive or negative) on their blog for the next 12 months.  Should you accept this offer?

I’ve answered at length over at this blog, and encourage you to join the discussion.

Having recently launched a Blogger Advisory Council for Lenovo (I am the independent moderator of the community, for which I am compensated on a contract basis), I think complete transparency is essential in this day of citizen reviewing and that any pay for performance terms are unacceptable. The bloggers who receive PCs from Lenovo are not required to blog at all, though they are free to blog, whatever their opinion about the PCs, if they disclose their relationship with the company. Disclosure is mandatory.

I’ve been deeply involved in this debate for a long time.