Paid Book Reviews

A Hugh Howey Post; Blogger Confronts Fox News on Nudity



A Hugh Howey Post

When it comes to things like this I’m often caught in a rough spot being a published author and a self-published author who also blogs regularly. In other words, this blog isn’t just here for me to concentrate on my published books and to try to persuade you to buy them. I do post information about my books here often, and I hope people buy them, but I also blog about a variety of topics, from pop culture to LGBT issues, to publishing. 

So in cases like this, with regard to the paid book review issue that’s been going on with Hugh Howey and a few other well known self-published authors, the best I can do is remain completely objective and link to information out there without forming an opinion. You can read more about this in a previous post I wrote last week, here.

Since then, there’s been another post by ZonAlert naming Howey and another self-pubbed author I never heard of. And I’ve also read several blog posts by people who are supporting Hugh Howey in particular. This one I’m linking to now is interesting because there’s a huge photo of Hugh Howey sitting with a group of what appear to be happy, friendly Amish people (the author of the post writes Amish Sci-Fi Books). I’ll have to ask my good Amish buddy I posted about once here, if they are Amish. As a side note, since my Amish friend wrote that guest post, I have kept up my correspondence with him almost daily and we’ve become very good cyberfriends. He’s a fascinating man, and he’s helped break my stereotypical images of the Amish. Unfortunately, you won’t see me posing in photos with him any time soon…or anyone Amish. I have too much respect for him to exploit him that way.

In any event, this is the post about Hugh Howey, with the photo of Howey socializing with the Amish.

He (Howey) is paying me off because he is changing the publishing industry, challenging the status quo, creating a wake for other authors to follow, and completely revolutionizing the relationship between author and reader.
 
Now I know that there are people who are on a witch hunt for so-called “fake” reviews. I hate to even use the term “witch hunt”, because as bad as the Salem Witch Trials were, at least you knew the names of the accusers, you knew what they believed,and what criteria they used to declare someone a “witch.” No one was hiding in the shadows in Salem… at least the principle accusers and judges were not. The accusers were up on the stand too, and they’ve been judged by posterity and found wanting.
 
Blogger Confronts Fox News on Nudity
 
Speaking of blogging, this is the kind of story all bloggers love to hear. There is a week long series of events at Brown University called “Nudity in the Upspace.” The entire event focuses on body image. It’s not smutty or dirty. It’s designed to help people feel better about their bodies, and to show that nudity is natural. I’ve posted about that, too, and how I’ve been to many nude beaches over the years and after the first five minutes of being nude you don’t even realize it anymore because it feels so normal. But when a blogger at Brown University found out Fox News was coming to report on “Nudity in the Upspace,” she decided to turn the tables on the reporter and film him instead to make sure he wouldn’t turn his report into anything sensational or tasteless…because that’s been done before. 
 
The Brown U blogger, Cara Newlon, made this statement on BlogDailyHerald:
 
Full disclosure: I’m not an expert on Nudity in the Upspace or nude events. I’ve never been to SexPowerGod, and I’m probably going to pass on Nudity in the Upspace this year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with its mission statement, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t defend my home, my school, when it comes under attack for the third time by Bill O’Reilly and his team of “Fair and Balanced” reporters.
 
The Fox News reporter, Jesse Watters, said this:
 
“If there’s a naked event on a college campus,” Watters said, “I want to investigate it.”
 
You can read more in BlogDailyHerald. There’s a video where Jesse Watters talks about nudity. But he doesn’t take off his pants.
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Matt Bomer In Time; Foot Cream Kills HIV; Paid Reviews

Matt Bomer In Time

For those who’ve been disheartened by Matt Bomer not getting the part of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, I recently came across the film, In Time, where Bomer plays an interesting character that basically sets the stage for the rest of the film.

It is the year 2169 and humanity had been genetically engineered to be born with a digital clock, bearing a year’s worth of time, on their forearm. At the age of 25 a person stops aging, but their clock begins counting down; when it reaches zero, that person “times out” and dies. Time has been turned into the universal currency; one can give time for products or services, as well as transfer it to others. The country is divided into time zones based on the wealth of its population. The film focuses on two time zones: Dayton is poor, with a populace that has learned indifference to the timed-out bodies on its streets; and New Greenwich, the wealthiest zone where inhabitants enjoy the benefits of their immortality and wealth, but are constantly surrounded by bodyguards and spend their time worried about accidental death.

You can read more here at Wiki.

I’m not the biggest fan of this genre, however, this film is excellent. The concept will make you stop and think about how you’ve always thought about time. And Bomer is great as always. His part is small, but you can’t stop thinking about what he did throughout the entire film. Of course Justin Timberlake holds his own, too. I feel a little guilty, as if I’m betraying the gay guy here, because I do like Matt Bomer. But Timberlake is the man of which all dreams are made.

Foot Cream Kills HIV

Whenever I see something like this I like to post about it because it creates a continued sense of hope that one day, hopefully in our lifetimes, there will be an end to HIV/AIDS. Now there’s evidence that a common foot cream might be beneficial to those with HIV.

In a study performed at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, not only does the drug Ciclopirox completely eradicate infectious HIV from cell cultures, but unlike today’s most cutting-edge antiviral treatments, the virus doesn’t bounce back when the drug is withheld. This means it may not require a lifetime of use to keep HIV at bay.

If this is accurate, it’s highly significant for anyone who is HIV positive and is now taking HIV meds. HIV is looked upon as a chronic illness, and in order to keep the virus at bay expensive drugs that have multiple side effects have to be taken daily. It’s a very difficult lifestyle that requires constant blood work and monitoring, not to mention discipline. And if they can come up with something to keep the virus at bay millions of lives will be vastly improved.

Paid Reviews

There are some very strong opinions on the web about authors paying for book reviews. And a few things I didn’t know…like google can penalize you if you get caught buying reviews for your books or any product you’re hocking to the public. This article covers all businesses on the web that depend on reviews. But from what I hear, it includes authors, too.

Google states that they have methods in place to automatically remove reviews that they believe may have violated their guidelines. They also pre-apologize because they know they might incorrectly remove some perfectly valid reviews.

I can just hear the free speech zealots harping on that one.

In this next article the blogger is adamant about authors who pay for reviews. Adamant to the point of stating it as bluntly as possible so there’s no misunderstanding.

Paying for reviews is stupid from a marketing perspective. As an author the only feedback you should care about is honest feedback. And you’ll never know if you’re getting honest feedback when you pay for that feedback. Even if you don’t insist on a positive review, not all reviewers going to tell you what they really think. They’re too afraid of how you’ll react or they’re afraid others won’t pay them for the same. There are ethical paid reviewers out there. But you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. And you can’t improve your product or your marketing strategy based on a bunch of bullshit.

I actually posted about this dude in August 2012. He started out with the best of intentions trying to market and promote authors. However, he found out there’s an easier way to make a buck.

Suddenly it hit him. Instead of trying to cajole others to review a client’s work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted — that it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to that effect.
       

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50.
 
 
I don’t see the paid for book review issue disappearing. It’s part of our culture now, and unfortunately retail web sites promote the behavior. I just wish they would be a little more discreet about it, is all. I’ve discussed this with other authors I know in private and we all agree that when you see a book being released by a relatively unknown author and the very next day after the release that same relatively unknown author has over fifty five star reviews on Amazon something’s rotten in Denmark and it’s not the cheese. And no matter how many times they swear on their moms, dads, kids, and dead dogs, that they aren’t buying reviews, once the red flag is up there’s no turning back.
 
I’d like to see the FTC getting more involved.  
 
 
 
 
 


Matt Damon Emmy; Unethical Authors Zone Alert; Gay Russian Sex



Matt Damon Emmy

No, Matt Damon didn’t win an Emmy Award for Behind the Candelabra this year, but Michael Douglas, his co-star, did win one for his portrayal of Liberace.

“This is a two hander,” Douglas said, in reference to his co-star Matt Damon. “And Matt, you’re only as good as your other hand. You’re magnificent, and the only reason I’m standing here is because of you. You really deserve half of this. So … you want the bottom or the top?”

I thought that was both generous and honest. Damon was equally as good, and he had to play the part of someone twenty years younger, which was amazing to watch. I’m still not thrilled that straight white men who rule the world get all the important parts in Hollywood, including the parts where they portray gay men. Especially since Matt Bomer was overlooked for the part of Christian Grey in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. But the fact is both Douglas and Damon were good in the film. It just would have been even nicer if they’d managed to leave out the funny-ha-ha gay jokes and innuendos during promotion and after the film.

They kissed.

They aren’t gay.

We get it.

And we don’t care.

Unethical Authors Zone Alert

Update: In an unrelated article to book publishing, the NY Attorney General is fed up with fake reviews.

New York’s attorney general revealed the results of a yearlong investigation into the business of fake reviews. Eric T. Schneiderman announced Monday that 19 companies that engaged in the practice will stop and pay fines between $2,500 and $100,000, for a total of more than $350,000 in penalties.

Yesterday when I posted about Kirkus and authors paying for book reviews, I had no idea this web site even existed until later in the day. The blog is called Amazon Alert, and the web address is Zonealert. From what I gather in a general sense, they are investigating book reviews on Amazon.

Anything written in this blog is the opinion of the blog creators. Our posts are not meant to defame, harass or personally attack any individual or company. However, as journalists, we intend to report what we’ve encountered while investigating fake reviews since 2010. Our promise to readers is that we won’t post anything without careful research and double-checking the facts.

I have little to say on this topic, because I know very little about it. I don’t pay for reviews, never did pay for reviews, and never will pay for reviews. I get them the old fashioned way: I wait for people to buy my books, read my books, and leave reviews. However, according to a recent post on this zone alert, several authors with fairly high profiles have allegedly engaged in the practice of paying for reviews, and on quite a grand scale. I’m not talking about one Kirkus review now.

According to zone alert:

In a rather odd turn, Hugh Howey, who was merely listed here as a review buyer in the official September 12 Fiverr Report on Melissa Foster but made no other mention of, has gone on a weeks’ long tirade professing his innocence. Bizarre behavior for someone who is supposedly innocent, especially as he’s using his ongoing tirade as a promotional vehicle to get family, friends, and other supporters to flood Amazon with favorable reviews.

I once posted about Howey here, and a rant post he wrote about his experiences with a young woman at one of those book events we hear about all the time. Howey is a self-published author who is represented by the Nelson Literary Agency, a literary agency based out west somewhere that runs an e-publishing service for its self-published clients.

Zone alert, according to the same post I’ve linked to above, is working on a book deal right now that will get more deeply involved in the investigations they’ve made about paid solicited book reviews and “the dark side of publishing.”

The acquisition editor writes in the acceptance letter: “I’m as appalled by this behavior as you are and I congratulate you on your dedication to revealing truth. Your photocopies of emails between authors and [the company you worked at], particularly the brazen nature of M. Foster’s emails, leaves no doubt they knew what they were doing was wrong.”

As journalist Linda Ellerbee used to say, “And so it goes”

And as I’ve predicted before, I think this is the beginning of the end of the lawless old wild west of the Internet.

Gay Russian Sex

In this article, the practices of gay sex in Russia are examined.

“In the toilet a young lad came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Let’s get acquainted,'” Klimov later recalled. The man’s name was Volodya. He invited Klimov to the Lenin Museum.

“He bought the tickets with his money, and we went straight to the men’s toilet.”

I know that sounds highly irregular and superficial on the surface. However the article goes into far more detail about cruising in Europe and even offers explanations as to why this happens. And, as in most cases with articles of this nature, the comment thread is just as interesting.

Frankly, I don’t see how much of it differs from the US. Cruising is, and always has been, part of gay culture everywhere. I think that will change, though. 

Ryan Field Books; Paid Book Reviews; Finding Beta Readers



Ryan Field Books Facebook

On facebook, I have an author page that’s been around for at least the last five years. However, I’ve personally been on facebook for almost as long as facebook has been around with my own name, and in that time I’ve built up a list of friends who are a cross between readers, family, and friends from all parts of the world.

So when I use facebook, it’s not only just for book promotion. Facebook for me is also a social outlet that I enjoy daily. And what happens as a result of this is the author page, Ryan Field Books, usually suffers and my own personal facebook account is where you’ll find me. And, I accept all friend requests unlike some people because I do think of that account as a place for readers, too. Frankly, I never got the concept of “Do you know this person?” on facebook. Part of the reason I’m on facebook it to meet new people, and not just stick to those I already know. It’s social media. Isn’t that the basic point of it? I’m supposed to turn people away just because I don’t know them? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?

The reason I’m posting about this now is because I checked out my author page late last night for the first time in months and found messages and comments left by readers who were thoughtful enough to take the time to do that. And I felt awful about not knowing this, and even worse because one of my biggest pet peeves about authors and social media is when the author is too grand and mighty to actually communicate and socialize with readers in any capacity. I see readers leaving comments on author status updates all the time and when the author never replies I get a little put off by that. I personally think it’s important to at least take the time to say something once in a while.

So I will try to start updating that author page, and I will keep up with things more frequently now. But if you did try to reach me on the author page and you didn’t get a response, please understand that was just me being absent minded and I always reply to everyone who contacts me. I would actually like to delete that author page, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea either.

Paid Book Reviews

I know I’ve posted about paid book reviews before here somewhere, but for those who don’t know what I’m talking about I’ll explain it again. This basically falls under the category of “Everyone says you should do this,” and authors are always being told that reviews are the most important way to promote their books. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read this advice. And in the quest for book reviews some authors pay outside sources to read their books and review them.

I’m only going to link to one place right now, because some of the places where you can buy these book reviews are questionable at best. This link seems reputable. Although I’m not an expert on paid book reviews, I do know that Kirkus seems to have a good reputation in the field. But it’s not without pitfalls either, as this author notes in this blog post titled, “Kirkus Reviews: Is it Worth the Money?”

Not only was I starry-eyed, but I was also impatient. Instead of paying $425.00 for a review that might take 9 weeks, I decided to fork over the extra money and paid $575.00 for the 4-6 week review.

Once the review was published, however, nobody saw it. It got tucked away three or four layers deep into the Kirkus labyrinth of thousands of reviews, and you wouldn’t find it unless you searched for it specifically.

I’ve personally never paid for one single book review in my life, and at this point I don’t intend to do that. I’m not being holier than thou; I just prefer unsolicited reviews all the time. I also write some highly erotic gay romances, and most people tend to be discreet about leaving reviews for books of that nature. In other words, I get e-mails in private from someone who writes middle grade books telling me how much he loves my books, but I don’t expect him to review one of my books on his middle grade web site. Or for that matter, to review one of my books on Amazon with his real name. And that’s part of what comes with choosing to write anything highly erotic…and gay. No complaints. Everything about the genre deals with discretion and privacy…even what I post here on this blog. I self-censor all the time.

I’m also too damn cheap to pay Kirkus $575.00. I’d rather have this, or this instead.  And when I think as a business person, and I think about how many books need to be sold in order to make a paid review from Kirkus worthwhile, the numbers simply don’t add up unless you’re writing something mainstream with the potential to attract hundreds of thousands of people. Even in that case, I have a literary agent friend who advises his newer clients against paying that much for book reviews from anyone, and then he tells his authors to focus on social media and unsolicited reviews from readers. He’s a great agent and good friend and I trust him completely.

But the general point of this post is to show that paid book reviews are not uncommon, they aren’t unethical, and authors and publishers have been doing this for many years, both large and small. Of course there are a few questionable web sites out there that will review books for a fee (one for five bucks a book), but I think it’s safe to say that you’ll know them when you see them. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Finding Beta Readers

This is something one of my authors who contributed to The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance asked me about a month ago and I was at a loss. I know there are tons of beta readers out there, but I’ve never personally had one so I couldn’t name anyone specific. But I think beta readers are great, and when I saw this article I figured I’d link to it for those who are looking for beta readers, or even those who don’t know what betas are.

Don’t ask family or friends; their critiques are worthless. Are you part of any writing groups? You should be! Go join a few now for your next novel. I have a group of awesome friends online who have been invaluable beta readers for me. For now, go to Goodreads and find an author who writes the same kind of stuff as you. Look at the people who’ve reviewed his stuff, and consider if their reviews are accurate and insightful. Message 5 of them and ask them if they would read and critique your work. But really, fellow authors are the best because they can point out tangles in your structure and help you fix them better than readers can.

Whatever you do, don’t ever pay for a beta reader. The author who asked me about beta readers mentioned a company that will read and critique your book for a fee of $200.00 and I think that’s just insane. There are more than a few readers out there who would be willing to read your work and critique it for free. They love doing this, they are usually the best critics, and you’ll get an outside opinion that’s objective and more reliable than you can get anywhere else. In most cases, the beta reader is going to be the same type of reader who will be reviewing your book when it’s published.