book reviewers

Sean Hayes Apologizes; What Is a Book Blogger? A Book "Influencer?"

Sean Hayes Apologizes

I love when LGBT people with high profiles back me up this way. I’ve often posted about how I’m not fond of National Coming Out Day, and how coming out is such a personal thing no one should ever feel pressured about it. And now actor, Sean Hayes, from Will and Grace, made a few recent comments about how difficult it was for him to come out, and why he didn’t do it sooner.

“I was so young,” Hayes said. “It made me go back in the closet [with the media] because I was so overwhelmed at 26 or 27. I didn’t want the responsibility, I didn’t know how to handle the responsibility of speaking for the gay community. I always felt like I owed them a huge apology for coming out too late. Some people in the gay community were very upset with me for not coming out on their terms. They don’t stop to think about what’s going on in somebody’s personal life, and the struggles that they’re having. It was all very scary. We got death threats. It was a really rough time for me, but I was also having the time of my life.”

For me, that’s heart wrenching. If I were in the room with Hayes when he said that I would need a box of tissues. But that’s not all. It gets even deeper when Hayes talks about how gay news organizations like The Advocate slammed him for not coming out sooner. And what really bothers me the most about this is that those who scream for tolerance the loudest always seem to be the most intolerant. I don’t think Hayes owes anyone an apology.

In any event, I hope Hayes knows how much good he did for the LGBT community. And this is the absolute truth: I sometimes post about getting letters and e-mails from closeted gay men who can’t come out…or aren’t ready to come out. One of these people lives a truly closeted life because of his religion/culture, his family circumstances, and his background. And he’s recently been telling me that he has been watching old reruns of Will and Grace and it’s helping him a lot. So the things actors like Sean Hayes did for the LGBT community continue to evolve in many different ways so many years later.

You can read the full article here.


What Is a Book Blogger?

Someone asked me this question a few weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to post about it for a while. First, I looked all over for one set definition of what a book blogger is and couldn’t come up with anything definitive. In fact, the places where I’m linking today even state they don’t know the definition and it’s only their opinion. So it’s important to keep in mind not all things have set definitions, at least not at this point.

This web site discusses what book blogging means to her. She makes no claim to define book blogging:

When I began book blogging six years ago, I had no idea just how much of a community there was out there. Suddenly I found myself among likeminded people—people with a passion for books and writing—for talking about those books and other bookish tidbits. While we share in our love for books, our experiences with those books can vary widely. It gives me the chance to hear a different perspective, think a little differently, and branch out to try something new.

This next web site talks about something more definitive, and yet makes no claims to give a set definition of a book blogger. They’ve also created a book blogging directory, which is discussed with what I thought was a very open-minded approach.

So, what do we all think? Is an author a book blogger, or do they need to at least be chatting about other people’s books as well as their own to qualify? What about other types of bloggers who occasionally talk books? What about blogs that are attached to bookstores? Often there are reviews amongst their posts, but really the aim is to try to get people to buy from the store.

I find that interesting because I don’t consider myself a book blogger, not with this blog. I’m an author and I present information about my books to readers. I also review books on occasion here. I often discuss books I like. But I keep this blog more focused on pop culture, LGBT issues, and publishing in a general sense.

I even discovered there is a book blogger week, and this web site gives the most definitive answer of what a book blogger is that I’ve found so far.

Let’s step back, first, and ask, what is a book blogger? The answer is simple: it’s someone who blogs about books. About the books they love, the books they like, the books they hate. It’s someone who usually does it all on their own time: the reading, the writing, the posting, the commenting, the (insert all the stuff it takes beyond reading and posting to be a blogger).

But then what’s the difference between a book review site and a book blogger?

I won’t even try to define that because I think it’s vague at best. But I have always considered book review site more geared toward criticism…good and bad…than actual book discussion. But even then there’s a certain amount of book discussion on book review blogs, so it gets even more confusing.

A Book “Influencer?”

Now this was something I’d never seen before: a book influencer. And the blogger I’m linking to here asks the question, “What’s the Difference Between an Influencer and a Book Reviewer?”

I’m not exactly sure where or when the term Influencer originated. But in the publishing world Influencer is often used to refer to a reader who signs up to help in the promotion of a book in exchange for a free copy of that book. The author puts together a list of interested Influencers (a limited number), along with their addresses. The publisher then sends the book to those people (usually a couple weeks before the release).

The piece goes on to state that influencers are fans of the author, their goal is to promote the author and the book, and they do it in a variety of ways that may or may not include a book review. Then the term “Launch Team” is mentioned, which is a group of influencers who are strictly out to promote the author. I take this to be the same thing as a Street Team, but don’t quote me on that.

Essentially the terms are synonymous, except that an author may choose to keep a Launch Team ongoing via a Facebook Group or Email Loop.

Ultimately, this means that when you…the reader…see your favorite author on facebook getting tons of comments and photos posted to his or her timeline there is a good chance they aren’t coming from actual facebook friends or fans, at least no in the literal sense of fandom. There’s a good chance they are coming from influencers and teams of people who are only interested in promoting the author as much as they can so they can receive something in return. I don’t do this. Whatever you see on my timeline is coming from people that I didn’t solicit with gifts and free books. But it is common nowadays with many authors, and it’s getting easier to spot the more I see it. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it because in most cases the influencers are fans in a twisted ethical sense. But I do wonder what would happen if the authors who do this didn’t offer the influencers anything in return. In an offhanded way it reminds me of circus people who plant shills in audiences.

But this is a very honest article and I found it highly informative, especially the part where the author discusses the difference between a book reviewer and an influencer. She’s up front and totally honest, and I think this is one set definition we can trust.

In other words, a Book Reviewer’s goal is to help the reader make wise reading choices. An Influencer’s goal is to help the author with promotion.

As an author and a blogger it’s often hard to get into topics like this because one of my goals as an author is to promote my books and my publishers, and the other as a blogger is to provide honest objective information to readers with regard to any topic. Sometimes I’m not that objective. But when I do post about things like this I tend to lean more toward being a blogger than an author and I also tend to piss a few people off (other authors). A lot of authors don’t want you to know they have influencers or launch/street teams. Some of these authors are so promotion oriented they will cut your throat to sell a book that may or may not be a very good book. But in the spirit of full disclosure, as a blogger, I think it’s important for readers to know these things, and to understand what these terms mean so they can decide for themselves.


Ann Rule Sues Biased Book Reviewer; African to Behead Gays

Ann Rule Sues Biased Book Reviewer

Authors are not particularly litigious about anything. I’ve seen three cases of blatant theft where unknown authors have stolen romance books just this summer alone and put them up on Amazon for sale, and so far I have not heard one single case where the authors who were allegedly plagiarized have brought suit against one single thief. Authors don’t usually think that way.

And the last thing we ever see is an author file suit against a book reviewer, especially a well known author like Ann Rule. But Rule seems to feel strongly about this, and for highly valid reasons.

In this article, it states the review was written by a freelance writer named Rick Swart for Seattle Weekly.

Titled “Ann Rule’s Sloppy Storytelling,” the Weekly’s cover story also contained “other inflammatory comments, including ‘evil,’ ‘sociopath,’ ‘bunch of lies’ and ‘straight out slander,’ ” Rule’s July 18 complaint alleges.

But, the interesting part is that the book Swart reviewed so poorly, “Heart Full of Lies,” was closely connected to him personally and he failed to disclose this to his readers and his publisher. Swart, the book reviewer, was engaged to a woman named Lyisa Northon who was on trial for killing her husband in 2000. This woman who killed her husband, Northon, claims she was abused by him. Ann Rule’s book, “Heart of Lies,” was based on this murder case, and the book claimed Northon was a sociopath interested in getting insurance money from the husband she murdered.

Northon later sued Rule for defamation, but a federal judge tossed out the case in 2007 and ordered Northon to pay more than $60,000 for Rule’s legal fees after an unsuccessful appeal.

Clearly, Northon is far more litigious than Rule, which always tends to be the case.

The publication, Seattle Weekly, was owned by different people at the time, and also at the time, the editor of the publication wrote a public letter two weeks after the book review was published stating that the Seattle Weekly did NOT know the book reviewer, Swart, and Northon, were engaged to be married. So the paper did try to disclose everything…although after the fact. And I think this next quote is extremely important to understand…for authors and all those who call themselves book reviewers.

Bremner said Tuesday the newspaper’s actions haven’t gone far enough.

“It’s appreciated, but it doesn’t suffice,” she said. “That headline’s still out there — it’s all over the Web. You can still find this article on (the Weekly’s) site. It just doesn’t go so far as to say it was false.”

Twenty years ago the magnitude of something like this wouldn’t have sparked a lawsuit by any author. It would have been buried in the archives of Seattle Weekly and only a handful of people would have seen it. But nowadays, when dubious book reviewers write defamatory reviews they are out on the Internet for all the world to see thanks to search engines and they never disappear. Never. They will always be there. Even if the book reviewer is eaten in a shark attack, they will always be there.

First, I think this brings up the topic of full book reviewer disclosure, which I mentioned in a post about BEA 2013. From my comments:

It’s a good piece about objectivity and disclosure…in part. I take the above paragraph to mean that if the reviewer is reviewing an erotic romance novel and he or she doesn’t like erotic romance as a rule, he or she should disclose this up front…or at least somewhere within the review. I’ve read more than a few bad book reviews for erotic romances and I’ve always appreciated when the reviewer makes this disclosure up front. This way I know where the reviewer is coming from, so to speak.

The good thing about all this is that I think we’re reaching a point where Wilbur and Orville Wright are going to be turning things over to the aviation professionals, so to speak. In other words, all book reviewers (including me) are going to be more professional than ever as more authors become more litigious and online readership begins to lose the Wild West appeal.  
Writing serious book reviews is no longer a hobby. And it’s becoming more important than ever to disclose certain information that might make a book reviewer bias. And I think book reviewers everywhere (including me) are going to be held more accountable, as cases like this lawsuit with Ann Rule continue to happen. In other words, if I decide to review Courtney Milan’s newest release, I’m going to tell you up front that I think romance novels that have book covers with women in long flowing gowns are typically the worst forms of literature ever written. I might love Milan’s novel and review it well. You never know. But I’m still going to disclose that I’m biased anyway…whether I like the book or not. That’s called being an honest, responsible book reviewer.

I’ve set up google alerts for this case, and I’m going to follow it and see how it unfolds. Many times cases like this really do depend on the judge. And if this comes before a judge who is in any way familiar with some of the sleazy practices that have been happening in book reviewing all over the universe in the past ten years, I have a feeling Rule might have a case. In any event, I’m glad she’s decided to sue. I’m not particularly litigious myself. I once gave a tenant back his entire security deposit in spite of the way he left an apartment, just to keep from going to court. However, sometimes you just can’t take the easy way out and forget about it. And if Rule were to win a case like this, it would set higher standards for book reviewers everywhere (including me).

African to Behead Gays

In a chilling duo of articles I read over the weekend, it seems the African President, Robert Mugabe, thinks that gays are worse than pigs and he wants them beheaded. The idiot also thinks homosexuality is something that is a “practice,” and it’s not an equal right. But it gets even better: he’s waiting for two men to procreate.

“If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads,” Mugabe said emphasising that he would ruthlessly deal with homosexuality.

On top of all this, he thinks that he’s going to uplift the status of women, get this, by encouraging them to have more babies.

In this article, he claims that countries like the US are threatening to stop AID if he doesn’t accept “the practice of homosexuality.” First, someone should inform him we don’t “practice” homosexuality. We are born that way.

“This thing (homosexuality) seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed. Imagine this son born out of an African father, (US President Barrack) Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that.”

According to the article to which I’ve linked above, Mugabe gave this speech about gays being worse than pigs before thousands of supporters who cheered him on. I don’t know what the overall feeling is about gays in Zimbabwe, but I do know that he’s been referred to as a dictator, not a president.

I think someone should tell President Mugabe the story of Marie Antoinette.

On the same day, her hair was cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart, wearing a plain white dress. At 12:15 p.m., two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, she was beheaded at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde).[131][132] Her last words were “Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it”, to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing the scaffold. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery, rue d’Anjou, (which was closed the following year).

 
 

Are Some Reviews an Abuse of Power?


Imagine you’re driving down the road on a warm spring morning without a care in the world. The top is down, you’re thinking about that bag of Dove you’re going to dig into at noon, and you’re going 50 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Then you hear that ominous sound and you look into the rear view mirror. There’s a cop with flashing lights signaling you to pull over. When you glance down and see that you are going 50 mph, you hit the signal and pull over. You know you’re screwed, you should have been paying attention to this, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Imagine this now. The cop who pulled you over just found out his son is gay, the son is working part time doing drag shows on Sunday afternoons, and he’s going to the prom with the captain of the football team. The cop knows now that all the money he spent on baseball camp, little league, and tickets to football games that he hoped would make his son a man was a complete waste of time. To top this off, the cop’s ex-wife just broke off her engagement and he will have to continue paying alimony for the next five years.

You lower the window, without saying a word. You expect a small lecture about speeding, you know you’re going to get this ticket, and you’re even ready to apologize to the cop for not paying attention. You know you should have been paying attention to the rules of the road and there’s no way out of it but to remain silent and suck it up.

But instead of giving you a lecture and a ticket, the cop yanks you out of the car, grabs you by the throat, and shoves you up against the hood. He screams and curses, belittles and demeans you, and continues to shove you around. He even kicks you a few times and twists your arm. There are no witnesses, and this time nothing is on camera. What he does to you is an abuse of power and there’s nothing you can do about it. You know you can’t fight back because he will only make it worse for you. In this case, it will always be his word against yours because he has the power and you did, indeed, break the law.

The best you can do is hope this cop calms down and leaves you alone. You know this kind of abuse of power happens all the time and you don’t want to get into more trouble than you already are. This guy has the ability to ruin your life and he knows it. No matter what happens, it will always be his word against yours. You can’t even tell another cop because you know that all cops stick together and one will never question the motives or actions of another. What the cop does to you is traumatic and will leave scars for the rest of your life. But he didn’t actually cause any major physical harm and you know you can learn how to live with the psychological harm.

I know this is a dramatic example. But I also know it happens. It happened to me once when I was speeding and there was nothing I could do about it at the time. I paid the ticket and kept my mouth shut.

And while it might be considered too strong to compare a book reviewer who abuses her power to a cop who abuses his power, the psychological damage…the damage that can’t be seen…hurts just as much in some cases.

Imagine this: You’re a self-published author who is learning more about writing and publishing every day. You feel confident enough to self-publish a novel and to your surprise it actually hits a few bestseller lists on Amazon. You now know you made a few mistakes and you’re going to fix all this in your next book. You’ve read reviews that are both good and bad and you’ve tried to learn from both the good and bad. In fact, some of the bad reviews on Amazon helped you learn more than the good reviews. Most authors will agree that this happens more often than not with bad reviews.

You’re feeling good about being a published author and thinking about the next book you’re going to self-publish on Amazon. And then one morning you wake up and find you have a google alert that says one of the most prominent online book reviewers decided to read and review your book. This lady has power, big time. People take her word as gold. At first, you’re excited. You know how important a book review can be from this particular reviewer and you can’t wait to read it. But when you click to the web site, you find that your book wasn’t just given a bad review, it was ripped apart from page to page, line by line. You wonder why this happened and what would motivate someone with this kind of power to go after a small self-published author in such a way. You can live with a bad review, just like you could have lived with getting a ticket for speeding.

You know you should expect both good and bad reviews. This is part of being a published author; it’s inevitable. But a review that rips out your soul and leaves you stripped of your dignity is almost more than you can handle. This review was so venomous, not to mention catty, that the book reviewer actually listed, in public, examples of what she thought you did wrong each time. Most of this is debatable. A lot of it was twisted and turned around. And in the end you know there is nothing you can do. You can’t rant about how unfair the review was because you’ll be labelled a disgruntled author, and we all know how everyone hates that. Some even love to see when it happens. They can’t wait to see an author melt down and rant.

What I’ve discussed above doesn’t happen often. Most book reviewers are reliable sources where readers can gain excellent information. But I have seen it happen a few times. To be clear, I’m not talking about bad reviews. Unfortunately, I have seen authors melt down over a bad review without good reason. But good book reviewers are important. They have a right to post an opinion and comment about a book, good or bad. Readers need this now more than ever. But whenever I see an overly detailed bad review that not only has the potential to harm an author’s career but also cause serious psychological damage, I have to wonder about the reviewer’s motivation. And then I have to wonder whether or not this was an abuse of power that was intended to garner attention and help build the reviewers online platform.

As a reader, I rely on the ethics and moral character of a book reviewer. I respect them for having the courage to stand behind their negative and positive reviews. However, there are no limits to which a book reviewer can go on the Internet as long as she follows the law and doesn’t actually come out and defame the author. And if the book reviewer knows the law well enough, this kind of knowledge might even be considered more abuse of power.

And it begs the question: Are some reviews an abuse of power? I honestly don’t know the answer to this question because I don’t see it happen very often. And while it is an important question, I don’t believe it’s important enough to pursue. The only thing that is important is for readers to learn how to vet book reviewers. In other words, if you see a book reviewer who might be abusing her power and attacking authors because of a personal agenda, most likely the rest of her reviews will be questionable at best. This is why vetting book reviewers nowadays is so important. And it’s not that hard to do. You just have to go back and read previous reviews to see how good and bad reviews were handled. If something strikes you as odd and it doesn’t make sense, it’s most likely not reliable information and you should look elsewhere to find out about the book you’re planning to buy.

Book Review for ALL ABOUT YVES…Reviews with Personalities, Bookcovers.com


I’d like to thank the folks over at bookcovers.com for giving ALL ABOUT YVES such a nice review, especially Daisiemae, the reviewer. I would have done this sooner, only I hadn’t heard about it yet.

Here’s the link. And check out their other reviews, too. It’s a very neat, clean web site, and simple to navigate. This is one of my main objectives when I’m surfing the net for fast book reviews and ratings.