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

Monday Midday RoundUp: The Brave New World of Reviews

Publishers Weekly has posted a special online issue devoted to virality and books. It’s very much directed toward the trade and focuses on what publishers and industry folks can do to “harness” the internet, including blogging themselves.

Publishing Trends has a multi-part series focused on the new world of book reviews online. I don’t know that I am being too bold or boastful to say that the romance blogs that offer reviews do as good of a job as any Publishers’ Weekly or Romantic Times’ review of a romance book.

"I see promising signs of creative and intellectual life everywhere I turn these days," says Mark Sarvas, editor of The Elegant Variation and also a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review and the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I think we’re already at the point where the quality of what’s available online matches all but the best print publications." Jane Ciabattari, NBCC President, agrees: "There is no dearth of passion, no lack of book coverage. I suspect the best approach for publishers is to find individuals with finely honed critical voices and keep them well supplied with advance galleys." What else can publishers do, and where are book reviews headed?

This is a pretty interesting series although some of the sections were too short for me to gain valuable insight.

Kassia Kroszer blogs over at Romancing the Blog that publishers should start thinking of readers instead of Amazon in determining when to release an ebook and at what price.

The FTC has decided that in order to adequately protect consumers, bloggers must start disclosing payments, whether cash or freebies, for reviews. The specific text has been revised as follows:

For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution.

Endorsers also may be liable for statements made in the course of their

The FTC Guide gives an example of when disclosure must be made:

Example 8: A consumer who regularly purchases a particular brand of dog food decides one day to purchase a new, more expensive brand made by the same manufacturer. She writes in her personal blog that the change in diet has made her dog’s fur noticeably softer and shinier, and that in her opinion, the new food definitely is worth the extra money. This posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume that rather than purchase the dog food with her own money, the consumer gets it for free because the store routinely tracks her purchases and its computer has generated a coupon for a free trial bag of this new brand. Again, her posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume now that the consumer joins a network marketing program under which she periodically receives various products about which she can write reviews if she wants to do so. If she receives a free bag of the new dog food through this program, her positive review would be considered an endorsement under the Guides.

The guide references “positive” reviews more than once. Certainly a negative review wouldn’t be construed as an endorsement. In the future, all C reviews and below will have the disclaimer: The FTC made me do it. I would link to the Guide, but it has been taken down for some reason.

Forgot to add this link. Bookslut interviewed Ron Charles at the Washington Post. Recall that Ron Charles won the RWA Veritas award for one blog post. Charles indicated that all of the reviews they’ve ever received at the Post has contained these words, either at the beginning or the end: "Well if you like this kind of crap, you’ll like this-"

Charles indicates that they are trying but really cannot find someone who can review romances intelligently at the Post.

“We keep trying. We have had a little more luck with Historical Romance, it’s more like Historical Fiction. Sometimes we do find someone who is sympathetic and can review it from the point of view of people who do like and do know something about it.”

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. Maili
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 10:19:17

    A pdf copy of the revised guides here (right-click to save if your browser tends to freeze when you clicked on a pdf link):

    Doesn’t work. Arse. Trying again —

  2. Jane
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 10:20:53

    @Maili The link is broken. They’ve removed it.

  3. Shandy
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 10:44:08

    They worked fine for me.
    I’ve been following your discussion on twitter and personally I think this is just stupid. I know why they’re doing it but what a pain. My question is how is this going to affect the bigger Review sites like Coffee Time, FAR, etc? Not to mention the ebook authors who look to reviews since they can’t really afford other forms of promotion?

  4. joanne
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 11:01:50

    The FTC has decided that in order to adequately protect consumers, bloggers must start disclosing payments, whether cash or freebies, for reviews.

    Call me cynical but history tells me that a tax bill can’t be far behind.

  5. Jane
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 11:04:52

    @joanne: Tax bill? you are already supposed to account for any gifts/income.

  6. joanne
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 11:17:58

    Tax bill? you are already supposed to account for any gifts/income.

    Absolutely, but: who is and who isn’t and who counts what as a gift and/or income?

    There’s also bound to be someone who wants to be the legislator getting their 15 minutes in the spotlight.

    It was just a thought, not an indictment.

  7. XandraG
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 11:45:52

    Breaking News, FTC fears that Someone On The Internet May Be Wrong(ed).

    I understand what they are likely trying to stop–the use of corporate shills for astroturf-y (fake grassroots) marketing campaigns disguised as individual opinion, but this won’t stop it from happening. All they’ll do is outsource the “individual” homegrown opinion-marketing to freelance opinion bloggers/SEO writers operating out of other countries.

  8. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 12:02:21

    Charles indicates that they are trying but really cannot find someone who can review romances intelligently at the Post.

    Honestly? I guess tapping one (or more) of the “name” bloggers that cover romance on the internet hasn’t occurred to them? *rolls eyes*

  9. RStewie
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 13:37:12

    It sounds to me like The Washington Post’s reviews are not reviews I’ll be reading, seeing as to how I DO like “this crap” and am “sympathetic” to Romance.

  10. Karen Scott
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 15:33:27

    Thank God I’m a Brit.

  11. Erotic Horizon
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 16:11:40

    Karen I could not agree with you more… but remember we have “Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008” – which although not enforced to the blogging community and operate on a honesty basis…

    It is still there…

    I wonder how the FTC will deal with overseas bloggers who actually are paid by US pubs and marketeers.


  12. StephS
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 18:23:18

    OK, Ron Charles complains that he can’t find a sympathetic romance reviewer but later in the interview regarding how they decide which books to review he says, “But your practical question was about what happens when the 150 books come in, on these carts. Our book reviewer manager brings them up, makes the first cut, taking out a lot of self-published books, romance, weird science fiction from publishers we've never heard of, textbooks, political tracts by different groups that are more like pamphlets or statements. A lot of stuff goes immediately before we even get to it.” So he and his book reviewer manager are already lumping romance with “weird science fiction”. That doesn’t really give the impression that he or his paper is taking the Romance genre too seriously to begin with. Wonder why they can’t find a reviewer?

  13. azteclady
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 20:31:08

    @Karen Scott: :sob: :sad: now what am I gonna do? :sad: :sob:

  14. kirsten saell
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 21:24:51

    You know what I find sad? The fact that people like Kassia Kroszer and a bajillion others still have to talk about ebook prices.

    I think the only way publishers will wake up is if readers who prefer the ebook don’t cave and pay $9.99 for an ebook that’s $5.99 in mm. And don’t cave and pay $5.99 for print instead, either.

    But DO email the publisher and tell them that you will not be purchasing the book in any format until your preferred one is offered at a reasonable price.

    Because as long as they can make up those lost ebook sales (which don’t matter one fig to them) with paper sales, they haven’t lost anything, have they?

  15. Kaetrin
    Oct 06, 2009 @ 00:07:55

    There seem to be plenty of great romance reviewers in blogland – why doesn’t the Washington Post just ask Jane to do it? Or, Sarah from SBTB or Jessica from RRR, or Keishon, or Tumperkin, or – well, you get the picture. I don’t think they’re looking very hard.

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