By now the New York Times article about a “pay for customer reviews” service that I blogged about yesterday has filtered through the online writing and publishing world, so here are some more responses:
At Self Publishing Review which offers a “pay for review service” similarly to Kirkus (where you pay, but get a thorough review that is not guaranteed to be good), Henry Baum wonders whether the extreme profit and money orientation of some indie writers is not at the root of issues like paying for dishonest reviews and also blames the “get rich quick” mentality peddled by Joe Konrath (who to my knowledge never paid for reviews) and John Locke. As for me, I’m wondering whether Henry Baum is not Paul Jessup (who has nothing to say on this latest scandal yet) in disguise.
At Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig agrees that the behaviour of John Locke and others who pay for reviews is a little scummy, but that it doesn’t really concern him. He also cautions authors other against bringing out the pitchforks, because mobs armed with torches and pitchforks never changed anything. I actually agree with his last point. But the biggest culprits of pitchwork wielding mob behaviour are not found in the indie community.
At Salon, Erin Keane writes that indie writers should uphold community standards and come down hard on stuff like paying for reviews. Otherwise, readers might start to believe that assertions like Sue Grafton’s recent complaint that indie authors are lazy do have a point.
Of course, plenty of people already believe that most four and five star reviews on indie books are from friends and family or otherwise fake. This is also the point that K.W. Jeter makes in his take on the whole issue.
K.W. Jeter also goes a bit into John Locke’s supposed marketing and sales tactics and wonders how well Locke’s infamous “Why I love Joe Paterno and my Mom post” actually worked. The post still is online BTW, if you want to read it again, though the URL has changed.
Like I said in the previous post, I actually had a blogpost go viral last year and it did diddly squat for sales. Now my viral post was not exactly a carefully designed loyalty transfer post, it was just something that struck a chord through no fault of my own.
Can loyalty transfer work? I guess it can. I have bought books based on author’s clever comments on favourite TV shows, comics or a dozen other things online. I’ve also not bought books because the author has trashed a book or film or TV show I loved online, so it works both ways.
The strangest thing about all this is that until John Locke started extolling his loyalty transfer post about Joe Paterno as the way to make sales, I had never heard of Joe Paterno. Indeed, my first reaction to that post was “Who the fuck is Joe Paterno?” By the time the scandal hit, Joe Paterno was “the guy from that John Locke post” to me.
During the discussion about John Locke`s marketing methods, I joked that I would have to write my John Locke copycat loyalty transfer post about Otto Rehhagel or Thomas Schaaf, which would be a massive problem, because neither is all that well known outside Germany. Never mind that I don’t think that Werder Bremen fans will necessarily enjoy my books, though the editor who bought two of the previously published stories in Heartache and Murder in the Family is a huge Werder fan.
However, the real takeaway from the whole “loyalty transfer” concept is be interesting and blog about something other than yourself or your books once in a while. It doesn’t really matter whether that something other is Joe Paterno or Werder Bremen or Misfits or Game of Thrones or something else entirely.
For example, I would probably never have started watching Criminal Minds, if not for Elizabeth Bear’s recaps, which made a show of which I’d only seen one or two episodes seem a lot more interesting than it had looked on screen. Now how many fans of Criminal Minds went the other way round and found Elizabeth Bear’s blog via her Criminal Minds recaps and went on to buy her books? On the other hand, I always skip over Elizabeth Bear’s rockclimbing posts, because I have zero interest in rockclimbing. But how many rockclimbing enthusiasts have found her blog via those posts?
So in short, loyalty transfer can work on a person by person basis, though it’s not a magic bullet. And your enthusiasm should be genuine rather than faked just in order to drum up interest in your books.