Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News: Astroturfing or Reader Word of Mouth

Penguin Tests Social Reading Rewards ProgramPenguin has launched a program to drive more reviews and online discussion of their books. Through “First to Read”, a reader can gain access to advanced reader copies. The program is run on a rewards system (or gamification) wherein points are earned for activities.

Members may earn points by engaging on the Program Site in a number of ways, including but not limited to visiting the site, requesting advance galleys, reading excerpts or advance galleys, writing reviews, sharing content about the books featured on the site on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and participating in surveys.  Should you be selected and given access to download a galley, you are not required to review the book. However, members who participate on the site improve their chances of having access to future Rewards.

I joined but there was no indication how many “points” you would need to make sure you could get a copy. There were only 15 available for Julie Garwood’s Hot Shot but 50 copies of Tara Sue Me’s The Dominant. First to Read

“So a street team who promises to go out and talk about your books, sharing their enthusiasm, can be invaluable. Street teams are generally paid back with promotional materials and a higher level of access to the author (who is, of course, deeply grateful for the help)!” Beyond Her Book


Communities that quickly become fast friends. For every mission completed, members receive points. At certain key point levels, members win awesome rewards from the author. The rewards are a way for the author to express her appreciation for the member’s hard work and passion on her behalf.” Beyond Her Book

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this:

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Patricia Eimer
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 07:35:26

    Okay I sort of want some monkeys now.

  2. cleo
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 08:17:58

    Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

  3. Ellen
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 09:00:27

    Why stop at one?

  4. Lada
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 10:29:46

    Ilona Andrews blogged recently about street teams and why they don’t use them. They seem fishy to me and I think we’ve seen how zealous fans can be used to attack those who post less than raving reviews to skewing poll results meant just for fun. The street team idea seems just to add fuel to that fire.

    I think maintaining a good website and maybe some light interaction via twitter and fb should be enough for fans. I would rather authors spend their time writing their next book.

  5. Darlynne
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 10:53:32

    This is a perfect day to be surrounded by monkeys. Anything that makes me look or feel mellow and well-adjusted is full of win.

  6. Willaful
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 11:19:50

    @cleo: And a green dress. But not a real green dress, that’s cruel!

  7. Willaful
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 11:23:08

    Street teams rub me the wrong way because the concept of signing on in advance to love anything an author produces seems so utterly contrary to the whole point of reviewing. And they absolutely should disclose per the FTC — isn’t that situation pretty much exactly what the FTC regulation is for?

    I’m a little staggered to realize there are so many of them.

  8. Karenmc
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 11:27:42

    I’d rather have a team of monkeys squirting dijon ketchup into a K-car than be part of a street team (which brings to mind junior high girl cliques).

  9. Stephanie Scott
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 12:29:11

    So many things are clicking into place now. I’m thinking of the various Goodreads review blow-ups and blog piracy oopsies that degenerated into full-blown controversies because of loyal fans defending an author/blogger despite wrongdoing. That loyalty can turn mob-mentality. Not to say all street teams are like that. I’m wondering how regulated that can be online.

  10. MaryK
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 15:01:40


    the concept of signing on in advance to love anything an author produces seems so utterly contrary to the whole point of reviewing

    Yes. I couldn’t figure out why street teams bother me. This is why. It’s not organic squeeing; it’s canned squeeing.

    Isn’t the Penguin program turning ARCs into a kind of payment? Some people say reviewers are compensated with free books, and this seems to bear that out. I dunno. It seems a lot like street teams with the rewards for advertising books.

  11. Janet W
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 15:25:25

    How is what Penguin is proposing not a street team by another name? Not for a specific author but for a publishing house? I think Penguin might do better to lower their prices and not perpetuate annoyances like the Sylvia Day trilogy that became a quintet .. not to mention selling digital books for more than paper. I have no problem with enthusiasm, not at all but maybe I’m missing some subtle nuance that would help me distinguish the Penguin program from a street team.

  12. Maili
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 19:45:44

    Huh. I kind of want to see a film remake of The Warriors with romance readers and authors in street teams defending their turfs. Maybe with a touch of West Side Story with some singing songs like “A Kilted Highlander in Love is the best! Down with the rest! You know why, gruagaichean? He has a claymore that lasts all night!” I’m with the Iron Seas gang if it were to exist.

  13. Kaetrin
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 21:22:54

    @Willaful: Yes, you put your finger on my discomfort with them.

  14. Beth
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 22:23:50

    I want a monkey!

  15. Beth
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 22:24:45

    @Janet W: Bingo!

  16. Fraud Omnibus Edition (Book 4) Street Teams: The Fraudster-author’s Indie Publishing Secret Weapon | A Witch Rants
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 11:46:19

    […] Dear Author blog, “Thursday New: Astroturfing or Reader Word of Mouth” – discusses the members receiving points for completed tasks (may explain why they are seen reporting back to their commanders like good little soldiers on some Facebook accounts): […]

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