4 New Covers (McGarry, Metcalf, O’Brien, Rossi)

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Considering Buying Amazon Reader Reviews? FARK, NO!

I follow a popular publishing blog, which often links to other interesting posts around the Internet. I don’t read every article, but I scan it every day, and came across this worrying piece yesterday: Paid Reviews: Why Authors Should NEVER Buy Amazon Reader Reviews.

How could I have a problem with that? I don’t. I totally agree with the title: you should NEVER buy Amazon reader reviews, or Goodreads reader reviews. (I think Kirkus offers paid reviews to self-published authors, but Kirkus doesn’t guarantee a biased, 5-star, all-positive review.)

-Misleading to those who read the reviews
-Gaming the system
-Disrespectful of the website & its readers
-Undermines your book’s worth (that it can’t gain positive reviews on its own without you BRIBING people to review it positively)
-Money better spent elsewhere

Anyway, with a title like the article’s I expected to see my list of reasons reflected. Instead was something else entirely:

It can also draw the ire of the vigilantes who hang out in the Amazon fora, Goodreads, and BookLikes, who are some of the nastiest cyberbullies on the ‘Net. To them, an accusation equals guilt and you are never allowed to prove your innocence. These are people who learned their ethics from the Salem witch trials.

This goes to show that you can agree with someone about something, but still DISAGREE with their reasons for coming to that conclusion.

I generally haven’t had negative experiences on Booklikes and Goodreads, because I stick to my own sections – my friends. I don’t troll reviews looking for someone to tell they’re wrong. (Someone did that to one of my reviews recently. After I blocked her, she returned – under another account – to my review, claiming she’d “won” the argument because I’d blocked her. Uh, NO – her returning just goes to prove that my gut-instinct blocking of her was completely justified.)

As for the fora, I only visited a few threads, and don’t go there anymore because of people like the article’s author – people who see nothing wrong with BUYING reviews (if they’ve vetted the reviewer) but don’t want to be called out for it. In other words, they have no problem BEING unethical, but they don’t want other people to KNOW about their unethical activities.

She also wrote (TRIGGER WARNING: Racism):

The reviewers at those journals are trained and vetted professionals writing for well known magazines that have a reputation to uphold – not a bunch of guys in a cafe in Sri Lanka stringing together a few words for five bucks.

“Those journals” refers to Kirkus et al that I mentioned earlier. Her sentence here insinuates that unless reviewers are “trained” and published by trade publications and magazines, any other review is invalid. Because heaven forbid regular readers and customers share their honest, unpaid opinions.

And the part referencing Sri Lanka just seems racist. Because she thinks reviews written by white people are the only ones that matter? (Remember when Authors United displayed their racism? Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. If you want people to take you seriously, leave your racism out of it.)

If you believe, truly BELIEVE, that your work is excellent and awesome, there’s no need to stoop to purchasing reviews – because readers will discover the awesomeness for themselves, and you can keep your money. If you wish to spend money promoting your work, instead consider hiring a publicist, or purchasing ad space on blogs. (Not THIS blog – I don’t sell ad space. I’m happy to promote a book for free, if I actually have any interest in the book.) Or you can post ARCs or finished copies to reviewers, and spend your money on postage or the books – NOT reviews.)

If you find yourself considering purchasing a review, ask yourself why. Could your reasons be achieved through other means? Do you really have so little faith in your own work? Do you really disrespect the website and its readers that much?

If you truly believe there’s nothing wrong with purchasing reviews, why would you worry about other people finding out? If you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong, why do you care what other people think?

If you worry about other people discovering that you’ve bought reviews, then that’s probably a very good sign that you shouldn’t buy reviews – because you, yourself, know it’s unethical. Otherwise you’d have no problem with being “caught” doing it.

The author’s fear-mongering says more about her than she realises.

P.S. In this post, I’ve written as though authors have bought biased or POSITIVE reviews. That’s because these unscrupulous authors aren’t going to pay for an honest or NEGATIVE review – they’re paying for a certain outcome, guaranteed.

19th May 2015 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Darynda Jones
Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, Book 8)
Macmillan St. Martin’s (US: 19th May 2015); Hachette Little, Brown Piatkus (UK: 19th May 2015)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Charley Davidson has enough going on without having to worry about twelve hellhounds hot on her trail. She is, after all, incredibly pregnant and feeling like she could pop at any moment. But, just her luck, twelve deadly beasts from hell have chosen this time to escape onto our plane, and they’ve made Charley their target. And so she takes refuge at the only place she thinks they can’t get to her: the grounds of an abandoned convent. Of course, if hellhounds aren’t enough, Charley also has a new case to hold her attention: the decades-old murder of a newly-vowed nun she keeps seeing in the shadows of the convent. Add to that the still unsolved murder of her father, the strange behaviour of her husband, and Charley’s tendency to attract the, shall we say, undead, and she has her hands full…but also tied. While the angry hellhounds can’t traverse the consecrated soil, they can lurk just beyond its borders like evil sentries, so Charley has been forbidden from leaving the sacred grounds. Luckily, she has her loyal team with her, and they’re a scrappy bunch who won’t let a few thirsty hellhounds deter them. While the team scours the prophesies, searching for clues on the Twelve, for a way to kill them or at least send them back to hell, Charley just wants answers and is powerless to get them. But the mass of friends they’ve accrued helps. They convince her even more that everyone in her recent life has somehow been drawn to her, as though they were a part of a bigger picture all along. Their presence is comforting. But the good feelings don’t last for long because Charley is about to get the surprise of her crazy, mixed-up, supernatural life…

Tiffany Schmidt
Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family, Book 1)
Bloomsbury (US: 19th May 2015)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

In Penelope Landlow’s world, almost anything can be bought or sold. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families controlling the black market for organ transplants. Because of an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily, Penny is considered too “delicate” to handle the family business, or even to step foot outside their estate. All Penelope has ever wanted is independence – until she’s suddenly thrust into the dangerous world all alone, forced to stay one step ahead of her family’s enemies. As she struggles to survive the power plays of rival crime families, she learns dreams come with casualties, betrayal hurts worse than bruises, and there’s nothing she won’t risk for the people she loves.

Francesca Zappia
Made You Up
HarperCollins Greenwillow (US & CA: 19th May 2015)
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Alex fights a daily battle to figure out what is real and what is not. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8 Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. Can she trust herself? Can we trust her?

Aggressions, Micro-aggressions, and the Power of Thanks

TRIGGER WARNING: References to racism, sexism, and victim-blaming (with details at the links).

I’ve read four books in a row, and haven’t reviewed any of them. Not even a brief sentence. (Well, except for a spoiler I posted on Goodreads – behind a spoiler-tag, of course – that made me side-eye.) I rated the books: two of them 4 stars, and two of them 3 stars, so nothing terrible. Yet I have no motivation to review any of them.

Reading recently about other bloggers trying to keep blogging fun and identifying troublesome aspects, I checked my archives. I wondered if maybe it’s been one year since #HaleNo and the Blogger Blackout, but no – it’s only been seven months.

Author-blogger relations weren’t great in January, when some authors seemed to feel that people who questioned a particular crowd-funding campaign as a business model simply didn’t value an artist’s time or money.

Relations worsened in February, when an author and her colleagues collaborated on a bingo card listing their pet peeves when it comes to reviews and reviewers. (The authors were right to point out homophobia and racism, but to have those issues on the same card as trivial matters such as lists star rating in precise fractions and Reviewer expresses opinions only in gif form puts the complaints on seemingly equal footing, and that’s not fair.)

In March, a male author said sexist things, and then said those who called out his sexism are fools and assholes. But that wasn’t against bloggers as much as it was against girls and women in general. (This doesn’t make it better – it makes it WORSE.) And in late April, an author made a racist Tweet, and her apology was more of a fauxpology. (Again, not blogger-specific, but still awful.)

And that’s just in the YA community. There is also A.R., whose complaints involve her wanting to strip Amazon reviewers of their privacy and thus endanger them, people who dare use the Was this review helpful? Yes / No buttons on Amazon, and probably countless other things.

What triggered me writing this post was reading a report on a YA lit fest. I have nothing against the bloggers in question, though I haven’t encountered the brutal parts of Goodreads that they have. And about those who purposely write mean reviews to get attention – who are these people, and have they stated this motivation, or are people just surmising?

But what really bothered me was the glamorous and not so glamorous truths about being a writer panel. Namely, the authors’ list of things they don’t like bloggers saying:

They don’t like it when bloggers say that the author isn’t a good writer. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot that SOME (not all) authors don’t like bloggers saying – namely anything “negative”.

They don’t understand why bloggers say that the protagonist isn’t likable. They feel like unlikable people are more interesting. A character can be interesting whether they’re “likable” or not. So again, this comes across as a complaint against “negativity”.

Authors don’t like it when bloggers/reviews say the book was, “okay.” For them, that is worse than saying it was bad. I still can’t wrap my head around this one, but I’m not an author. “Your book was shite” seems way worse than “Your book was OK” to me. Are these authors saying they would prefer a one-star review than a three-star review? Because that’s what three stars mean – OK. This is not just tone-policing; it’s review-policing. It’s basically saying, “If you’re going to review my book, only use superlatives to describe it.”

I won’t paint all authors with the same brush – not even just the authors on that panel. ONE of the authors listed early on in the article is associated with the infamous petition that campaigned to strip Amazon reviewers of their pseudonymity – and thus endanger them. I wasn’t at the panel and haven’t read a transcript, so I can’t verify which author said what but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear confirmation.

But sometimes the things I take too personally are the micro-aggressions, often passive in nature. If you follow authors’ Facebook Pages or Profiles, you’ve likely seen the graphics about How to support an author, and even more specifically How to support an indie author. (Though the “indie” part seems redundant, because indie authors don’t require special treatment different from other authors as far as I know.)

I’m a blogger; I’m on social media. I promote books via various methods: sharing cover art, pre-order links, monthly release info, daily release info, and even reviews. I do all of this WITHOUT being asked. WITHOUT being prompted. WITHOUT being bribed with a contest entry. I do this because I CARE about authors and I CARE about books. No guarantee that any of my promotions result in book sales, but I try.

And then I see these how to support an author graphics, and my teeth grind. The authors probably don’t intend it, but by posting/sharing these graphics they’re basically saying, “Whatever you’re doing now is not enough. Your time and efforts and even money in supporting my books and my career are not enough.” Again, that may not be their intention, but that’s how it comes across.

I don’t expect to be paid for my efforts. I don’t expect Shares or ReTweets, Likes or Favourites. I know better than to expect ANYTHING, really. But when an author manages to personally acknowledge my efforts in some way, it means a lot. Hearing “thank you”, or “thanks”, or even “thx” makes me feel better, that my efforts aren’t in vain, that the author actually appreciates my contributions whether they lead to book sales or not.

But maybe the biggest appreciation of all is NOT posting/sharing those how to support an author graphics. I’m not the person you need to tell how to support you. Tell your family and friends, who don’t know much about the book industry. But pushing these graphics in public to all your readers is a micro-aggression, and completely ignores the time, efforts, and money of those who already do support you.

This Tweet implies that the relationship between authors and reviewers should be mutually beneficial. Sometimes, it seems like only the authors benefit from the relationship. I don’t alert authors of my reviews, but I do link them in when I promote their books via my other methods. Giving thanks goes a lot towards giving back, and it means way more than you may realise.

For those already sending thank-you notes, your time and effort sending them are very much appreciated.

And if thanking, Liking, Favouriting, Sharing, or ReTweeting isn’t your thing – hopefully this post has educated you about a passive micro-aggression to which you may have been previously unaware.

Thank you for reading.

17th May 2015 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher
Never, Never: Part Two (Never Never, Book 2)
Hoover Ink (US: 17th May 2015)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA)

Silas races against time as more truths unravel, while others twist tighter together. And now, the stakes are higher as Silas’ control slips and others begin to point fingers. Charlie is in trouble and he must be the one to bridge the chasm between their past and their present. Because somewhere between I love yous and Never Nevers and Never Agains, a truth they can’t imagine, beckons to be found.

12 New Covers (Armstrong, Cox, Ewing, Fitzpatrick, Reisz, Savage, Vincent)

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12th May 2015 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Chris Beckett
Mother of Eden (Dark Eden, Book 2)
Random House Broadway (US & CA: 12th May 2015)
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Civilisation has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden. Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them. Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favoured children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all. When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no inkling that she will become a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s fabled ring on her own finger – or that in this role, powerful and powerless all at once, she will try to change the course of Eden’s history.

Fierce Reads
Fierce Reads: Kisses and Curses (Anthology)
Macmillan (US: 12th May 2015)
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With standalone short stories from a handpicked set of FR authors, this collection will often feature characters or worlds from existing Fierce Reads titles. Extended, personal introductions from each author. Wide range of genres and subject matter. Authors include: Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, Ann Aguirre, Anna Banks & Emmy Laybourne, Courtney Alameda, Gennifer Albin, Jessica Brody, Katie Finn, Nikki Kelly, Jennifer Mathieu, Lish McBride, Caragh M. O’Brien, Marie Rutkoski, Lindsay Smith.

Saundra Mitchell
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US: 12th May 2015)
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When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out – even visit the Grey Man. Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls. Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?

Eve Silver
Push (The Game, Book 2)
HarperCollins Katherine Tegen (US & CA: 12th May 2015)
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Miki Jones lives life by her own strict set of rules, to keep control, to keep the gray fog of grief at bay. Then she’s pulled into the Game, where she – and her team – will die unless she follows a new set of rules: those set by the mysterious Committee. But rules don’t guarantee safety. People are dying. The rules are unraveling. And Miki knows she’s being watched, uncertain if it’s the Drau or someone – something – else. Forced to make impossible choices, Miki begins to see the Committee in a glaring new light. And through it all, she wishes she could confide in her best friend, Carly – about the Game and her feelings for Jackson – but that would put everyone she loves in danger. And Carly isn’t speaking to her anyway. Then the boundary between the Game and Miki’s real life is breached, threatening her friends and family directly. And there’s nothing in the rules that can save them now.

Amy Tintera
Rebel (Reboot, Book 2)
HarperCollins HarperTeen (US & CA: 12th May 2015)
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Wren Connolly thought she’d left her human side behind when she rebooted five years ago as Wren 178. Then Callum 22 came along and changed everything. Now that they have finally escaped HARC, Wren and Callum are ready for a peaceful life on the Reboot reservation. But Micah 163, the leader of the reservation, has darker plans in mind – he has been building a Reboot army with plans to kill all humans. Callum wants to stay and stop him. Wren wants nothing more than to leave all the fighting behind. With Micah on one side, HARC on the other, and Wren and Callum at odds in the middle, there’s only one option left. It’s time for Reboots to become rebels.

Carol Lynch Williams
Signed, Skye Harper
Simon & Schuster Paula Wiseman (US, UK, & CA: 12th May 2015)
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Life is just fine for fourteen-year-old Winston. She loves her dog, Thelma, and although she never knew her dad, and her mom left ten years ago in search of Hollywood fame, Winston has family with Nanny, who isn’t old at all! But a “just fine” life gets a lot more exciting when a letter arrives from Skye Harper, aka Judith Fletcher, aka Winston’s mother. She needs help, and Nanny says the best way to give it is to take a cross-country road trip – in a “borrowed” motor home – to go find Mama once and for all. Winston’s not so sure about this plan, but with a cute stowaway named Steve along for company and an adventure on the horizon, this is sure to be a summer to remember.