MJ Rose, who’s an author and expert of long standing on publishing, self-publishing and publicity, sent out a link today to a ‘service’ I won’t dignify by naming. Here’s a screen capture from their webpage:
Obviously, this is fraud. Worse, it cuts at the heart of this new indie-published world some of us are trying to help create.
One of the big reasons indie books are so often seen as the ‘also-rans’ and ‘not-good-enough-to-be-really-published’ segment of the book world is the lack of a gatekeeper system that readers trust. People aren’t sure yet how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Traditional book reviews don’t apply and the new system – reader reviews – is still an unknown quantity.
My experience with reader reviews has been mostly positive. They’re like recommendations from a friend – not always intellectual critiques like traditional reviews but honest visceral reactions. They’re direct and sincere and that’s all to the good, as far as I’m concerned.
But they’re still an unknown and as long as numbers of readers have questions about them, they’ll hesitate to take the plunge into this huge world of new authors and ideas. It won’t matter that publishers spend the overwhelming portion of their resources on long-established writers and celebrities, so that that new serious writers are actually better off publishing themselves these days; reader suspicion will linger. We really need a ‘rottentomatoes.com’ for books but, until that happens, we have Amazon’s system and this circumvention of it is a real problem for both authors and readers.
‘Mindbenders’ has attracted 34 reviews so far. Two were written by old friends, one by Smitty before we got serious; the rest of the reviewers were strangers to me when they posted. I’ve given away copies of the book in exchange for an honest review but I’ve never paid (nor would I) for one.
I don’t really have a problem with the people writing these reviews – they’re trying to make a living with a very limited skillset, if you go by their ads. But I am distressed by the writers who pay them.
I have no greater dream than to make a living from my writing. We all want commercial success. But this kind of gamesplay is just another example of the materialism that’s consumed this country, the kind of thinking that says ‘You’re only as good as your sales” and “If you can get away with it, it’s just fine.”
I want my books to sell but I want them to sell because people care about them, get excited about them, tell their friends about them. I want to know that, whatever success I have, I’ve earned.
A book is a reflection of the writer’s soul. I’ve always said I didn’t need any outside force to dictate morality to me, as long as I had a mirror to face in the morning.