Lunch is on me

An Open Letter to the NY Times:

In a recent article — The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy by David Streitfeld –, you insinuate quite strongly that the 4- and 5-star reviews one finds for self-published authors on sites like Amazon cannot be trusted to accurately represent the work or the writer’s talent because there are companies out there that sell favorable reviews and, due to the possibility of a potential relationship between the Reviewer and the “Reviewee”, these reviews should be ignored or mistrusted.

Are there writers, like John Locke, who admit to purchasing reviews? Yes.

Do they perhaps help lift sales? Some would say yeah, they could.

Is this a well-known aspect of Marketing 101 that those at the Times are well aware of? Of course.

Does the fact that a company like this could exist and do business negate every single review a self-published author has ever gotten? It damn well shouldn’t.

Let me ask you this, NY Times:

How many times have your Reviewers had lunch with someone from a Big 6 Publisher right before receiving the free review copy of Star Author’s next book? Or even after a favorable review ran? How many times have your Reviewers received Thank You notes from Legacy Publishers for good reviews? Or birthday cards? Holiday cards? Phone calls? Gift baskets stuffed with expensive trinkets as a gesture of their appreciation?

How many times have those at the NY Times found themselves mingling at parties with those from Traditional Publishing? And how many NY Times Reviewers found their reviews edited by Higher Ups in order to cast a kinder, more ecstatic light on Star Author’s new opus?

More importantly, how many self-published books has the NY Times officially reviewed?

If none, why not?

If you’re going to write an article all but suggesting the reviews a self-published book receives should be discounted because of the potential for some kind of nefarious collusion between the Reviewer and the Reviewed, please be aware this may — and should — bring into question the veracity of your own Reviewers and the often cozy relationship you hold and have held for years with those obviously feeling most threatened by self-published authors: the Big 6.

So remember that the next time Mr. Publisher gulps down the last of his chardonnay, whips out his Black Amex, smiles, and says “Lunch is on me”.

Big 6 babies

Self-published authors are making gains. Ebooks are now a solid 20% of book sales on Amazon. Money is being made hand over fist and, let’s face it, it’s no longer flying by default into the pockets of Legacy Publishing.

And the Big 6 are now officially running scared.

How do I know?

Check out this article in today’s NY Times.

It’s about a company, now defunct, that sold glowing reviews to self-published authors including John Locke. And about how these glowing reviews drove sales even though the reviews were bought and paid for and written by people who admitted to having never read the book. And it’s sorta about how this is a common practice with self-published authors.

But it’s actually more than that. A lot more.

It’s really about the veracity of online reviews in general. And, more specifically, online reviews for self-published books.

So, that 5-star review your new release just got? The one from someone you don’t know and have never heard of? The one that, like, totally, completely made your week and lifted you out of your funk and drove you to write five more chapters for your next book?

The NY Times — which refuses to review self-published work, by the way — claims it was bought and paid for and not to be trusted. And so now potential readers will doubt it. And they should (says the Times).

How devastating could this be for self-pubbed authors like me? For people who DON’T use services like that — ’cause they do exist — because, frankly, self-pubbed authors like me don’t sell enough books to afford it?

Very.

It could be cataclysmic.

Needless to say there was no mention of the cozy relationship between Big Publishing and the NY Times. No doubting the veracity of the Times reviews for Big Name Author’s latest work. No questioning at all the quiet need for a publication like the Times to kneecap self-publishing by throwing doubt over one of the industry’s — not just self-publishing, but the INDUSTRY’S — most powerful marketing tools.

Nope, we self-pubbers evidently can’t get an honest review. They need to be purchased with cold, hard cash.

Well, fuck ’em.

My Martuk has 14 reviews on Amazon, many of them 5-stars, that I treasure. A couple are from friends, a couple more are from beta readers, and a few more are from fellow authors. The rest are strangers. And ALL of them have read the book. If it’s someone I know, I refuse to let them offer anything unless they’ve read it cover-to-virtual-cover. Why? Because it’s a damn good book. I’m confident about that.

Wounded King has three reviews. One fellow author, one beta reader, one reviewer I don’t know. All read the book.

The Elder. No reviews. Not yet. It’s new.

That the NY Times now wants potential readers to look at that feedback and those thoughts with suspicion just sickens and infuriates me.

But it also tells me the Big 6 are scared. Really scared. And if all they’ve got are cheap tactics like this, they should be.

Now I’m off to work on the sequel to Martuk. Seems like the best way to piss ’em off is to keep writing and self-publishing.

And to keep getting honest reviews from grateful Readers who will never be bought and paid for.

“holy mother of sweet jesus!”

Here’s an excerpt from a review a month or so ago for Martuk … The Holy

” … let me just tell you about how I felt after reading this book. First of all my thighs hurt, literally, from having been clenching my muscles. My head is still spinning, almost like I’m just coming down from a psychedelic acid trip (at least that’s what I imagine a psychedelic acid trip to be like. Anyone?). I can’t stop rethinking the details, finding more symbolism in the archetypal characters. I could have totally done without the gore and the graphically violent scenes (not for the meek), but then I’d be reading a totally different book, wouldn’t I? I’m pretty sure my heartbeat is still not entirely back to its normal pace … ”

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