Barnes and Noble

Author Alleges B&N Plays with Bestseller Lists; Facebook and Sexism; Van Gogh’s Ear

An author I don’t know recently posted something on Goodreads about how she thinks B&N might be playing around with books on bestseller lists.

Barnes and Noble appear to be manipulating their Nook bestseller list. They seem to have issue with either self published books or books containing erotic content, or both, and they don’t want them being too visible on their site. From what we can gather, there seems to be an artificial wall in their rankings, somewhere around #125, and any books they deem unworthy cannot rank higher, no matter how many copies they sell. My two titles are both currently affected by this, as are Cassia Leo’s USA today best selling Shattered Hearts books, and several other works.

These are very strong allegations and I have no comment. I rarely bother to check my ranks or numbers on B&N because most of my sales come from other web sites where e-books are sold. But I have been thinking about something new, a brand new web site where I can sell my own books, set my own prices, and deal with my own clients/readers with my own brand of customer service. It’s the author working as a businessperson in these changing times. I encourage all authors to start considering this. I think it’s the only way to go in the future.

Frankly, I’ve been doing this brand of customer service all along with my indie books. I think I’ve even posted about this before. I get e-mails all the time from readers about issues they have with web sites where e-books are sold and I just deal with the complaints myself. It’s easier than dealing with some of these web sites that really don’t give a damn, I wind up with happier clients/readers, and I get to sleep better at night knowing I did my job well. I encourage readers to contact me about these things. It’s part of my job.

As for bestseller lists, I’ve posted about those before, too. Though I know nothing about how B&N does things, I do know I’ve never been able to figure out how a book that can be number one on a bestseller list (not on B&N) doesn’t outsell books that never made these so-called bestseller lists. This has happened to me more than once. The numbers don’t add up anywhere.

We’re living in interesting times. You can read the blog post in full here.

Women, Action & the Media

There’s a new facebook page titled, Women, Action & the Media that seems to be centered around  sexism and things like hate speech. I haven’t clicked “like” yet because I’m not sure if men are allowed to join. But here’s something from a recent update.

Facebook has already been a leader on the internet in addressing hate speech on its service. We believe that this is the foundation for an effective working collaboration designed to confront gender-based hate speech effectively. Our mutual intent is to create safe spaces, both on and off-line. We see this as a vital and essential component to the valuable work that Facebook is doing to address cyber-bulling, harassment and real harm.

It seems very facebook oriented, and geared toward promoting facebook as much as it is geared toward promoting the cause. And that’s because all this started on facebook. I find this ironic since so much of the hate speech we see these days happens on facebook. And so many fake accounts and fake identities exist it’s hard to trust anything on facebook at all. I’ve always maintained that if everyone on facebook was forced to join with their real name and real identity we’d see less of these issues. But then again, more than half the people using facebook would disappear and social media stock would crash.

In this article facebook admits something may have been wrong.

Women’s groups have complained to Facebook about misogynous content in the past, but pressure on the company escalated last week when a collective led by Women, Action and the Media; Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project; and Soraya Chemaly, a writer and activist, published an open letter asking Facebook executives to “ban gender-based hate speech on your site.”

At least they seem to be doing something about it. I’m sure the fact that a few large advertisers like Nissan said they would back out if something wasn’t done helped give them a little nudge.

Facebook is also that social media web site where anyone can report gay content of the purest kind, and gay members of facebook have their accounts shut down without an explanation or warning. It’s also a web site where someone can report you and your content and facebook will put up a warning each time someone wants to check out your web site. You don’t have to actually do anything wrong either. In other words, facebook doesn’t believe in the good old fashioned American concept of innocent until proven guilty. I think everyone in Cupertino was absent from school the day they discussed this. With facebook you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. And only if you can get one of those organic facebots out in Cupertino to actually acknowledge you.

I know this sounds like a positive thing. But I know social media well, and what worries me is how many innocent groups and users will be targeted now. I despise anything associated with hate speech, abuse, or rape culture. However, I do know there are a lot of nasty corrupt people on facebook who use issues like this to hurt innocent people. And, things can often be distorted or misinterpreted by those who don’t understand. I had a book released with rough sex between vampires and several people thought it was BDSM, because they didn’t know the difference between rough sex, fictional sex with vampires, and the actual BDSM lifestyle (there’s a huge difference between rough sex and BDSM). So this new concept on facebook should be interesting. And my advice to everyone on facebook would be to watch every single thing you say from now on, because freedom of speech as a concept is becoming less important as each day passes.

For those who might be interested, here’s a link.

Van Gogh’s Ear

This is one of those things I have always loved. Van Gogh’s Ear is an annual anthology that celebrates the arts in a very unusual way. If I ever win the lottery, it’s the kind of thing I could spend the rest of my life doing.

Founded by Ian Ayres, Van Gogh’s Ear: Best World Poetry, Prose & Art is an annual anthology series devoted to publishing powerful works by major voices and innovative new talents from around the globe. The goal of Van Gogh’s Ear is to make each volume a real eye-opener that stirs people’s emotions and ignites their imaginations. Experimental work is warmly embraced. Taboos extremely encouraged.

Although I’ve never actually submitted something to them, I’ve always been tempted. I like the part where they say taboos are encouraged. It’s hard to define great art because all art is so subjective, but I’ve always believed things like this help distinguish art from commercialism.

You can check them out here.

Is the B&N Nook Doomed?

Earlier today I read an article about ten things that will disappear within a year, and one of them was the B&N Nook. The others were interesting, too, like Volvo and Martha Stewart’s magazine. In fact two of the products on the doomed list were print magazines.

In any even, this article about the Nook is interesting. It’s doesn’t say the Nook will disappear within a year, but it doesn’t have very high hopes for it either.

The Nook, which is currently having some modicum of success and showing nice growth but is far from profitable, is based on the Android operating system. Google’s Android operating system. I predict that over the course of the next two years that we’ll see Microsoft .bgChannel, .bgRealtimeChannel, .bgRevision { display: none; } /quotes/zigman/20493/quotes/nls/msftMSFT-0.09% convince the Nook guys to try a hybrid Android/Windows operating system or that they’ll convince the Nook guys to ditch Android entirely for Microsoft’s Windows 8 for tablets.

I used to post a lot more about my e-readers (Kobo products). But I’ve stopped posting about dedicated e-readers now basically because I don’t use them much anymore. They’ve been sitting on top of the hutch in my dining room for months now and I’m not even sure if they have a charge.

I use my mini iPad and my iPhone to read almost everything now. It’s more convenient, and that’s the only reason why.  It’s interesting how it seems like only yesterday everyone was talking about their e-readers.

You can read more here about the Nook.

Guys in Sweat Pants; Anthony Romero; "Queer" Book Bashing at Barnes & Noble

I like to post as much LGBT content here as I can, and a new web site that’s about to be launched called “Guys in Sweat Pants,” is something I’ve been following for a while on social media.

From what I gather, Anthony Romero, someone I’ve posted about before, is part of this site and I became a fan of his writing through a reader of mine. I’m hoping we see more of his writing in the future.

Right now you can check it out on tumblr, here. And follow them at Twitter with the address below.

All these guys will be on the site when we officially launch on Feb 7th (@guysnsweatpants)

You can also check out the main web site that will be launched here on February 7, 2012.

For those who might be faint of heart…or underage…this is adult content and you have been warned. From what I’ve seen it’s mostly explicit photos of men, as they say, in sweat pants.

Gay Book Gets Bashed by Barnes & Noble Reviewer

I hesitated to post about this for several reasons. One, I’ve always boasted about how superior the book reviews seem to be over at Barnes & Noble, and I’ve never actually had this problem with them myself…with my own books. I guess I can forget about that now.

Two, I don’t know this author and I know nothing about the book and I don’t like posting anything about anyone without a little knowledge. But I read about this on facebook and checked out the links before I actually decided to post about it.

Three, I don’t like it when authors complain about book reviews, at least not in a general sense. And sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between what is a valid complaint and what is not. In this case, I think it’s valid and the review should be removed. It’s not just a slur on the author or book, it’s a slur on the entire LGBT community as a whole. Any gay person who does not take offense to this would make me wonder.

And four, because this gay bashing book review only reinforces how much I despise the word “queer” and will never, ever embrace it in my own life. To me, it’s as offensive as the N word. As you can see the way this review was worded, the reviewer seemed to take pride in using the word “queer.” And words are powerful.

Here’s the one star gay bashing review, and here’s a link to Barnes & Noble where you can see it yourself:

Minus stars. I wish bn would put these disgusting, nasty queer books in place where normal decent ppl wont be offended by them when they are shopping.

So now normal decent people leave hateful reviews. I didn’t know that was normal or decent.

In any event, I think this qualifies as gay bashing, and it does NOT qualify as a book review. There’s nothing even remotely mentioned about the book. Just one star and a vicious comment about all books with gay material. But more than that, the review has been up since last September and from what I’ve gathered on social media the author has been asking Barnes & Noble to remove it because it is gay bashing. Evidently, Barnes & Noble doesn’t seem to agree, because the review is still up there.

This really isn’t something new. I’ve had people accuse me of promoting the “gay agenda” in reviews and I never even gave that a second thought. Because guess what? You’re damn right. I am promoting the gay agenda. And I’m going to keep promoting it for as long as I have a right to free speech.

More About Vetting Reviews…

This week I’ve read a few interesting pieces about how to find helpful reviews when shopping for books. One in particular discussed how one self-published author has been allegedly writing hundreds of false reviews with different identities and leaving them on Amazon and Goodreads. No links or names in this post. I did some fact checking and all I could come up with were opinions and hearsay. I’m a proud American: I believe we are all innocent until proven guilty.

I read another post about how retail web sites don’t categorize e-books the way they should. In other words, readers will often purchase an e-book thinking they are getting a non-erotic romance and they wind up with a highly erotic romance. I once purchased what I thought was a highly erotic romance and wound up with the equivalent of Daisy-Jane Goes Fly Fishing. The most erotic thing about that book was the category in which it had been listed.

As a reader, what these articles proved to me is that it’s not easy to vet book reviews anywhere. I even found trouble with RoseMarie Terenzio’s, “Fairytale Interrupted,” because some readers actually left one star reviews based on the fact that they were mad about not getting a bio about John Kennedy, Jr. It’s clearly stated, from People Magazine to the smallest retail web site, that Ms. Terenzio’s book is a memoir about HER life, not John Kennedy’s life. And yet people slammed her in reviews for this. Which makes it all the more difficult to decide whether or not to purchase the book. I did buy it and I read it; I left a five star review because it was an excellent memoir…about ROSEMARIE’S LIFE.

I’ll admit that most of the books I read are based on recommendations from friends or relatives. I trust their judgment and I’m rarely disappointed. I also read books that have been recommended by publications like People Magazine and Time Magazine. I trust them, too. Most of the time I’m not disappointed.

But no one I know in the “real world” has ever left a review on goodreads, amazon, or any other online web site. They belong to book clubs that meet weekly. They are voracious readers. But none of them have ever left a review online. I know at least fifteen other people who have read and loved RoseMarie Terenzio’s memoir, and none have bothered to read or write book reviews. They all heard about the book through word of mouth.

Which makes shopping for books even more difficult sometimes. Although the Internet is growing day by day, the majority of people in the “real world” only use the Internet as a resource for basic information. I’ve personally learned never to believe any political information on the Internet unless it comes from a proven reliable source or I’ve triple checked to make sure it is accurate.

But, unlike my friends, I do spend a great deal of time on the Internet. And once in a while I come across a book that looks interesting and I need to check it out. I always go to amazon and then to goodreads first. I often do searches to see if there are any online professional reviews. If the book is erotic in nature, I don’t always worry about the number of reviews written. People who read erotic romance are discreet and they don’t all leave reviews, especially with their names.

And then after I’ve done all this, I always do one final check. I go over to either Barnes & Noble or Kobo and check out the reviews left there. Unfortunately, many books aren’t on these web sites. But those books I’ve checked that have been there tend to have slightly different reviews than amazon or goodreads. The bad reviews seem less vicious; the good reviews seem less contrived. I don’t know why this is or if it means anything significant. But I do think it’s a good way to vet books and reviews if you’re not sure about making a purchase.

So the next time you want to get a good overall view about a certain book, don’t forget to check out the reviews on Barnes & Noble and Kobo, too. If you’re like me, you’ll find it more than interesting to see the marked differences of opinion. And then, in the end, sometimes you just have to take a chance and go for it even if you’re not sure. Most of the time you can tell whether or not you’ll like the writing by the free excerpt, and that always counts for something.

Publishing News…

I received an intersting e-mail from a friend who follows the publishing industry very closely. I thought it was very good news, so I’m posting it anonymously below.

Today’s post brought a very exciting offer from Barnes and Noble. As many of you knowFictionwise was recently purchased by B&N for something on the order of 15M. Lovely number for being one of the first ebook distributors on the block. Barnes and Noble has decided to catch up, and is launching their own ebookstore THIS year. All content available at FW will also be available at B&N when they’re new site launches.

As many of you know, B&N is also testing the new $50K bookbinding machines in their brick and mortar stores. To have manufacturing capabilities in the actual stores is revolutionary, we know – and a step ahead of what Amazon can ever do, considering the customer can pick up the actual book, leaf through it, and order a copy to be printed, bound and chopped in the next five minutes. Lets hope our ebook distribution agreement makes us first to upload our POD content when they start accepting it.Very exciting times in the publishing industry, folks. Ebooks just went MAINSTREAM!! !OXOX