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

Wednesday Midday Links: Google Gives the Finger to China

There were a couple of very interesting tidbits of information from Publishers Lunch today (registration required). The first is that Liz Sheier is moving to Barnes and Noble to be its “editorial director” and it appears that BN will be pursuing exclusive digital publishing agreements like Amazon has for the Kindle.

The second is that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is on the verge of collapse. It’s Irish investors were funded largely by the Anglo Irish Bank which is now owned by the Irish taxpayers. It sounds like a horrible ugly mess.

Booksneeze is a Thomas Nelson company that is oriented in creating grassroots buzz for books by offering free copies to bloggers in exchange for “an honest review”. According to the guidelines for reviews, Thomas Nelson wants to hear from bloggers even if the book doesn’t work for them:

If you didn’t enjoy a certain novel, well that’s great as well! Of course we want every title to be a home run with readers, but when they aren’t we want to know why. The only way we can continue to bring our readers consistent and quality fiction is to receive honest and unbiased feedback from them. We’re not asking for positive reviews in return for free review materials. We’re simply asking for complete objectivity.

I’ve heard there are some authors are demanding that positive reviews be republished around the web at various social media sites or   authors requiring that no 3 star review or below be posted until after the publication of a book. I hope bloggers know that there are plenty of books to review out there not to be strapped down by these ridiculous requests from authors or publishers.

Google has announced that it will stop filtering search results in China and may withdraw from the China market altogether. Part of the reason was because Google has been the target of very sophisticated hacking from the Chinese and second, filtering apparently doesn’t fit in with Google’s philosophy:

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech.

Google has launched a file storage system that allows files up to 250 MB in size to be uploaded and stored in Google’s cloud. The idea is to eliminate the need for peripheral storage devices. I love dropbox because of its synching capabilities but third party applications (referenced in the link to TechCrunch) have already been released that address those deficits.

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. Shayera
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 13:22:15

    Very sad to hear about Harcourt. Their books are generally excellent. And internet friend to many, Ron Hogan has just started working for them.

  2. Saranna DeWylde
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 13:36:58

    That’s sad that a publisher should have to make that statement.

    And cookies to Google.

  3. Tara Marie
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 14:17:23

    Our school uses Harcourt for textbooks, workbooks and testing, so I was curious to read the Harcourt article, but received this message… “The page you requested is available only to paying members of Publishers Marketplace.” I’ll do some hunting for additional info.

    I’m always bothered by anything that has “author demanding…” when it concerns reviews and bloggers. I guess it is what it is.

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    Jan 13, 2010 @ 14:23:02

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  5. Seressia
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:00:42

    @Tara Marie:

    I'm always bothered by anything that has “author demanding…” when it concerns reviews and bloggers. I guess it is what it is.

    I’m always bothered too, especially when it doesn’t specify which authors. Statements like that make all of us look bad. I’ve never asked for a review to be pulled, even inaccurate ones, and I don’t plan to start. Consumers have the right to an opinion on the goods and services they consume.

  6. Jane
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:16:42

    @Seressia Ah, and see here, I thought I was being sensitive by not pointing fingers.

  7. Anion
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:26:47

    Dittoing Seressia. I’ve never heard of an author making such a demand, would never make such a demand myself, and would be shocked and ashamed to hear one of my friends or an author I admire make such a demand.

    So while I understand your thinking, Jane, to me seeing just “I’ve heard authors are making these demands” makes it sound very widespread, and makes me feel as though we’re all sort of eyed askance.

    Maybe instead of naming names–which I totally see you not wanting to do–you could say “a few authors” or “one or two authors” or “a few authors not in this community” or something?

    Or heck, maybe I should just suck it up. You’re not writing articles to protect my widdle feewings. :)

    Just for the record, though, I would never do that and neither would anyone I know.

  8. Jane
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:39:35

    I’ve added linkage for you folks. I’ve had personal email requests similar to Mrs. Giggles but I won’t name names as I think personal outing of such would be inappropriate.

  9. seressia
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:49:26

    Jane it could be that I’m feeling sensitive today! (no, no apparent reason). I know you didn’t say all authors, but it’s sorta how it reads.

    If my book doesn’t blow someone’s skirt up, that’s cool. Blogging about it, that’s cool too. Telling your friends, no prob. Launching a campaign against it might be a bit extreme, though. (not saying anyone has done this, just an example)

    When I go to Amazon or other sites, I see how many people have reviewed my books and how many stars it’s averaging. That’s it. I don’t have time for much else. And I’m certainly not going to demand that reviews get taken down or try to get my buds to go post fake reviews or ratings or argue with readers. I don’t get that.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve spent 25 years in retail with 10 of that in a corporate environment. Maybe I just think that’s a huge waste of time and energy that could be spent on writing another book.

    (That’s totally different from RT, Publisher’s Weekly, DA and SBTB, if I should be so lucky.)

  10. Jane
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:54:12

    @seressia No, I understand yours and @Anion and @TaraMarie’s point. I guess it’s a tough call as to what to put in. Maybe I shouldn’t have put it in at all, but when I was reading those goodreads reviews and how grateful people were for the opportunity to review this unpublished manuscript (I mean, let’s not even get into the nitty gritty of the craziness there) that they would accept a free book with restrictions on reviews because I feel like that is diminishes the value of the word of mouth that people rely on these social networks for. I’m probably overly sensitive to that as well.

    So, in sum, I appreciate the critique of the post. I really do.

  11. seressia
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 16:07:01

    Just read the linkage. Good effing grief.

    Geez, if you have to put restrictions on a review request, why bother? I agree-it totally devalues the review. I wouldn’t agree to review under those conditions. Just…no.

    And on a side note– why would an unpublished author send her book around to reviewers instead of publishers? How does that work? I’m starting to feel like an old fogey with my concept of how things should be done. Time to go play in traffic…

  12. Anion
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 17:06:34

    Thanks Jane! Like Seressia, possibly I’m a bit oversensitive today (perhaps it’s that damn Mercury retrograde!) but I admit, given the bad behavior of so many authors lately and the way I think it’s damaging writer/reader relationships, I appreciate the clarification.


    And on a side note- why would an unpublished author send her book around to reviewers instead of publishers? How does that work? I'm starting to feel like an old fogey with my concept of how things should be done. Time to go play in traffic…

    This is part of the wrong-headed philosophy that says if you can create buzz for the book, agents and/or editors will care and thus be more likely to offer representation/acquire the book. It’s based in large part on the propaganda of self-publishing, and in pretty much zero part on the realities of publishing. It’s an attempt to bypass the process we all have to undergo and shortcut your way into a publishing contract.

    Case in point, a few years ago an aspiring writer decided it would be fun to have various friends email the acquiring editor who had her ms, or leave comments on her blog, encouraging her to buy the book. (Miss Snark covered the story–as did a lot of other people–on 9/16/06, if you want to look it up; I won’t mention the unfortunate writer’s name or the name of the editor or house here.) Again, the idea being that if said editor saw how “large” an “audience” the book already had, she’d snap it up as a certain moneymaker.

    It backfired. BADLY. The editor was furious and the poor writer took a lot of crap for it. And, surprisingly, her book was NOT picked up.

    What the writer sending out her ms for review doesn’t understand is, agents and/or editors don’t care what other people think, unless those other people are also publishing professionals. They certainly aren’t going to care about the opinion of a reviewer who’s been hamstrung into giving a book a decent review, and personally? Were I an agent or editor, googling that book or that author and discovering the author not only sent random copies of her ms to random people but also thought doing so gave her the authority to censor and make demands upon reviewers would make me seriously doubt that the author in question would be someone I wanted to work with, or who was even capable of being worked with. What are they going to do when you start requesting revisions?

    Putting quotes from random people*, whether they’re impartial reviewers, friends, or your mother, in query letters is a bad idea (again, unless the friend/mother in question happens to be Stephen King or Charlaine Harris or someone like that). Those quotes do not belong in query letters, and your unpublished ms is not an ARC. This is a bad, bad idea all around. Do not do this.

    Sorry, I’ll stop ranting. Oh, but very excited to see Liz Scheier’s new job!

    (*Just to clarify, I mean no disrespect at all to the Goodreads reviewer, or to imply she’s not a good reviewer, or smart or clever, or has good taste, or anything of that nature, so please don’t take this as any sort of comment on her. It’s not meant to be.)

  13. Anion
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 17:14:25

    Oh, and by the way, Jane, I totally agree that it diminishes the community and the value of the opinions given on places like Goodreads if writers think they can dictate what is and is not said about their books. It makes the opinions of everyone on those sites, and any others like it or like this one or anywhere else, suspect.

    (Again, not to imply the person who reviewed the ms on Goodreads didn’t give her honest opinion; I believe she did and is an honest person. Stuff like this just gets right up my nose [gee, can you tell?].)

  14. Mike Briggs
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 20:39:21

    I’ll have to try this “review restriction” technique out on my boss.

    “Hey boss, this year I’d like to give you some guidelines about my annual performance review. I want you to provide an honest critique of my performance, of course, but marking anything less than a 3 out of 5 would be totally unacceptable. Also, while I don’t object to a limited number of corrective criticisms, those will need to remain just between us. When you submit the evaluation to HR, you’ll need to redact everything that’s not completely positive. After all, HR may actually share that information with other employers, and I need to protect my reputation.”

    Yeah, that sounds like an entirely reasonable set of expectations. If my boss objects, I’ll mention that authors expect reviewers to operate under similar restrictions. Why should he be any different?

    Seriously though, I can’t imagine an author being that blatant (or that dumb). None of the authors I know would ever try to commit social suicide in such a spectacular fashion. Wow.

  15. Maine
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 03:11:21

    Hmm, that link to Mrs. Giggles blog is unfortunately right. Reviews to authors (published and self-published) such as high star rating around the circles (amazon/goodreads/shelfari) which is getting out of control. I don’t mind people raving about a book except some reasons for pimping – that gets on nerves. Okay, thanks for the rec, but stop shoving how good it is with ratings in my face. It’s most obvious on Amazon (which is why I take certain reviews for a grain of salt there) where you could read the forum boards and comments from the review from author and their friends bringing down the 3-below ratings. Or blasting people who actually criticizes the pace, writing, characterization, etc with good reasons. *This is especially strong in two certain Amazon forums*

    But, yeah, I’d say all those things Mrs. Giggles covered. Not a whole lot of authors are like this, but there are already a few growing in numbers. This thing is disastrous, why bother doing it? Which is why I appreciate authors accepting the criticism and work better by it. Props to those authors!

  16. DS
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 10:10:34

    WSJ a few months ago did a report on “grade inflation” on the internet. (No subscription needed to view it.)

    One of the Web’s little secrets is that when consumers write online reviews, they tend to leave positive ratings: The average grade for things online is about 4.3 stars out of five.

    That’s why I always read the negative reviews first and I sharply discount glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon or other collective review sites, especially if the reviewer lists a website or blog as either nickname or at the bottom of the review.

  17. Patricia Briggs
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 12:43:02


    Sometime ago, a reviewer said that one of the reasons professional reviews in magazines tend to be more positive than negative, is that most reviewers want to review a book they like. Which means that as they pick through the piles of books that get sent in for review — they tend to try for the ones that appeal to them. Go figure.

    I think that reviews on bookselling sites tend to be extreme. Hate it or Love it. If you feel “meh” about a book, how likely are you to go to the effort of writing a review? And most people try to find books that they like before they read it — which accounts for some of the skew toward the positive. I made all that up, of course, without real data — but it works for me.

    SO when I, as a reader, am going out to pick up books — I tend not to pay so much attention to individual reviews, but to the resultant star rating (as long as there are about 20 reviews) or upon websites like this one, Ms Giggles, or Smart Bitches who don’t mind reading a book they don’t like and analyzing why they don’t like it. But mostly, I read the synopsis, the excerpt (when it is on line) or a random few pages to see if I like the voice. Or maybe it just has a pretty cover . . .

    I don’t know about the romance genre, but I know at SF Conventions new writers are being told (mostly by other beginning authors!)that they need to blog, blog, blog. Push and push. Network. Do the publicity work because the publishers won’t (which is correct).

    They are trying their best to follow that advice — because it seems like it is something they can do and we all like to feel in control of our lives. And writers, all of us, are control freaks: it’s part of why we enjoy writing.

    Having been in the business for years, I think that’s very poor advice. Good advice is — write good books. Learn from your mistakes and write better ones. Read good books and figure out why you liked it. Read bad books and figure out what didn’t work.

    For publicity — write short stores (if you can) and get them out in magazines and (better) anthologies. Jane says make samples available on your website (I agree), but published stuff (e or paper) will allow your work to be found by more people. Show readers what you can do — and make what you do better all the time.

    All that the Publicize! crusade does for new writers is annoy readers — and reviewers like Ms Giggles. And if they do succeed, it can backfire.

    I know of one SF author who publicized the heck out of her first book. She managed to turn it into a national genre bestseller (because she hit so many SF Conventions). It was a first book. It was even a good first book. However, people picked it up thinking they were going to get a book capable of creating the mass hysteria it caused — and got a first book, instead. So they didn’t buy the second. Instead of gradually growing her audience –she killed it. She ruined her career. She was undeniably talented, so I hope she is still writing (under a different name).

    So, it’s not that they are behaving badly on their own — it’s because they get together and tell each other it’s a good idea. In moderation, it might even help. But anything that annoys readers/reviewer/booksellers should be avoided!

    Patty Briggs (now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system, I’m going to go ride a horse)

  18. Industry News: 1/15/2010 | RWA-WF
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 21:21:55

    […] Another Dear Author post passed on news from Publishers Marketplace: …Liz Sheier is moving to Barnes and Noble to be its “editorial director” and it appears that BN will be pursuing exclusive digital publishing agreements like Amazon has for the Kindle. […]

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