Amazon Modifies Its TOS to Prohibit Incentivized Reviews

On October 3 Amazon posted a notice of an update to their customer reviews. This mainly addressed the problem of incentivized reviews that has been a topic of much sometimes heated discussion lately.

From Amazon’s TOS:

Promotions and Commercial Solicitations
In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:

Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative’s, close friend’s, business associate’s, or employer’s) products or services.
Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your competitors’ products or services.
Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.
Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.
Posting advertisements or solicitations, including URLs with referrer tags or affiliate codes.
The only exceptions are:

You may post content requested by Amazon (such as Customer Reviews of products you purchased on Amazon or received through the Vine program, and answers requested through Questions and Answers). In those cases, your content must comply with any additional guidelines specified by Amazon.
You may post an answer to a question asked through the Questions and Answers feature (but not a question itself) regarding products or services for which you have a financial or close personal connection to the brand, seller, author, or artist, but only if you clearly and conspicuously disclose the connection (e.g., “I represent the brand for this product.”). We automatically label some answers from sellers or manufacturers, in which case additional disclosure is not necessary.
You may post content other than Customer Reviews and Questions and Answers regarding products or services for which you have a financial or close personal connection to the brand, seller, author, or artist, but only if you clearly and conspicuously disclose the connection (e.g., “I was paid for this post.”). However, no brand or business may participate in the Community in a way (including by advertising, special offers, or any other “call to action”) that diverts Amazon customers to another non-Amazon website, service, application, or channel for the purpose of conducting marketing or sales transactions. Content posted through brand, seller, author, or artist accounts regarding their own products or services does not require additional labeling.
Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

For more information and examples, read About Promotional Content.

There is a lot of discussion many places about the disclosure on reviews and, yes, you still need it. Please note that not only will it not save your Amazon reviews but it will make customers distrust any review you post. And any author who encourages this.

Like this one.

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Then she sort of leaves it up to the reviewer:

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I know she has been evacuated because of the hurricane so hopefully when she returns home (may it be in one piece) she will find her misplaced good judgement.

Add the disclaimer. If you lose a review on Amazon, it’s just words. If you don’t disclose and people find out you’ve been receiving books you review for free, well, you might lose their trust and that is something  a lot more important than any review.

 

Bills defend consumers’ right to leave bad reviews

Sorry I’ve been neglecting this blog but real life has been keeping me busy. Some days too damn busy. I seem to remember a group of authors and author wannabees yelping in delight when they found any article online about bills or petitions or anything that would curtail the ability of people to leave a critical review.

Here is an article in The Detroit News about just the opposite.

 

Analysis of 7 million Amazon reviews: customers who receive free or discounted item much more likely to write positive review

[reblogged from ReviewMeta]

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If you’ve read reviews on Amazon within the last few years, you’ve surely noticed a disclaimer at the bottom of many that look like this:

“I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest, unbiased review”

 

At ReviewMeta, we call these “Incentivized Reviews”.

Consumers have growing distrust and even disdain for incentivized reviews, especially when it seems every single one is a glowing 5-star review.  We wanted to confirm or deny this seemingly anecdotal opinion, so we analyzed 7 million reviews.

After looking at over 7 million reviews, here’s what we see

We found that reviews containing language that would indicate the reviewer received the item for free or at a discount in exchange for a review (incentivized reviews) on average rate the product .38 stars higher than reviews that did not contain this disclosure (non-incentivized reviews).

Non-Incentivized:

5,071,232 reviews (70%), 4.36 average rating

stars-nic-1

 

for more follow this link

Homosexuality, Religion, and Reviews

Sigh. Dear Readers, not sure how this will be interpreted but I am sure that since I’m wading in I accept that I might get a face full of blowback and, unlike the author of the moment, I will not engage in rhetoric guaranteed to fan the flames of what is at the moment a very small fire.

On June 7 Eric Shaw Quinn released a new book, The Prince’s Psalm. It is a new, and for some, a highly controversial interpretation, of the Biblical story of David and Jonathan of Israel. “1 Samuel 18:1 & 3: “And it came to pass… that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.”

David not only slew Goliath, he won the heart of Prince Jonathan, heir to the throne of Israel. They were star-crossed warrior lovers whose passionate affair changed history and gave rise to the nation of Israel, a legacy that has endured for 3,000 years. Their epic love story stands at the center of a religious tradition that shaped the world.

But Jonathan and David were also two men torn between duty and tradition, driven by their undeniably passionate and physical love for one another. Who were they beyond the historical facts given in the Bible? What were they like—as men? This modern-day novel tells the story of Israel’s first king and the man who captured his heart.”  -Amazon.

On June 10 there were two 5 star reviews, on June 13 two 1 star reviews appeared, one of which was by a very confused woman who ordered an ebook version by mistake. This one was subsequently removed for very valid reasons. The other was by a woman who seems to believe, amongst other things, that there were NO GAY characters in the Bible.

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Now, to me, this person probably won’t ever be caught reading a M/M romance and probably thinks no one in her circle of family, friends, and acquaintance is gay but she is not actively saying anyone not hetero should die in the fire of hell she just wants to, well, probably she’d like to believe there are no gay characters in real life either but right now as long as they aren’t two guys from the Bible stories she has been raised with she’ll be okay.

Bless her heart.

Now sometime on the 16th a number of reviews appeared and I’m guessing this might’ve been the first or one of the first.

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Is nothing sacred anymore? No, not a lot. I always saw that Bible verse as David dissing his wife for leaving and praising Jonathan for being his brother and staying with him but not maybe there is another way to look at it. But that is a discussion that I’m not having here and now.

This review seems to be, again, more about the challenge to a long held belief than about rabid anti-gay speech.

Also on the 16th we see nine 5 star reviews. Nine out seventeen, ten if you count the 1 star on the same day. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?. Wonder no more.

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Wow. Religious intolerance. Gay bashing. ISIS. But wait- it gets better.

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Religious terrorists.  Where have I seen this kind of inflammatory rhetoric before?

Screenshot (359)Oh yes,  Anne Rice, the woman who wants to know the name of every reviewer who doesn’t give her books a glowing review.

Let’s look at the third review which was posted on the 18th.

Okay, this reviewer has a definite bias but I can’t decide if he  abhors homosexuality because of his religious beliefs or if he’s just a homophobe using religion as an excuse.  I’m trying hard to see where terrorism rears its ugly head but honestly I don’t, while none of these three   are going to embrace a different view soon or at all, I do believe Quinn would have this kind of review even if he made Jonathan into Johanna or if he made David into Davina. When you reinvent any part of the Bible- watch out. Someone isn’t going to like it and they may call you names. You are toying with their religion, you have taken a cattle prod to their sacred cow.

Also on the 16th Quinn’s friend and Dinner Party co-host, Christopher Rice, posted this on FB:

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Sorry for the weird break but Christopher, like his mother, writes one long wall of text. In between the release of TPP and the 16th there was Orlando. Rice writes that this isn’t about “a handful of hateful book  reviews from people who haven’t read the book” but this post is attached to discussion of those reviews. So we will leave Orlando, hate crimes, and assault weapons out of this. This is about book reviews.

On the 16th a 1 star review, nine 5 star reviews, and two FB posts, one by Quinn and one by Rice appeared. Both Quinn and Rice have a right to feel as much anger, fear, and betrayal as they want. But if it is not about a handful of reviews, what is this?

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Note to Sarah MacDonald- Amazon frowns on you using other family member’s accounts to do this sort of thing. This sort of thing being a downvoting campaign. Because 3 reviews out of 17 tanks the book with a 4.3 out of 5 rating.

Yesterday Quinn posted this probably after the third 1 star went live:

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If this is about hate speech and hate crimes then there is no need to upvote those 5 star reviews. Has Quinn and Rice succeeded in making a difference? Are their posts shining a big old spotlight on homophobia?

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No. I did see a lot of “gonna downvote and report those haterz” and a lot  of  “gonna buy this book now” and “gonna give it 5 stars”. Let’s dwell on Laura’s insightful comment for a moment, yes, somewhere Quinn admits he is “trying to make a living” with this book as with his other work. And, hey, everyone has got to make a living. Let’s move on, sorry that my point is taking the long route.

There were a few comments from those who realize that you can’t expect universal acclaim when wielding that cattle prod.

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Can’t argue with Stacy, she got it right.

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He’s right, the target audience will see these reviews for what they are.

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And right again.

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Nope, because, Sabrina, you can deliberately or accidentally turn off the AVP symbol. And since you so conveniently brought that up, let’s look at these reviews.

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Author M J Rose writes that most helpful of all reviews, the one that could be posted to almost any book on anything and, look, no AVP.

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Screenshot (369)Four 5 star reviews without an AVP and one of them admits he hasn’t read the book. Are these not “fake” reviews? Or is that only reserved for 1 star reviews that might be written by conservative religious believers who might or might not have a problem with homosexuality? Where is the outrage for these reviews?

Oh, wait. I know the answer to this. Anne Rice has preached this gospel. Only 1 star reviews are fake. There is nothing wrong with a 5 star review if you haven’t read the book.

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Look familiar? I couldn’t find the ss with Rice saying a fake 5 star is acceptable because it doesn’t hurt the author. It’s on another laptop and inaccessible for now.

Look, reporting and downvoting will accomplish what?  Nothing, nothing at all. It won’t change anyone’s mind. It won’t promote any positive position.  There were a number of negative comments posted on those reviews, but only one that advanced an argument in favor of Quinn’s interpretation.

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I’m going to try to wrap this up now. I tried to see in those reviews what Quinn wanted me to see but I didn’t. I saw in Christopher Rice’s FB post the outrage, but not in Quinn’s numerous posts.  Instead I found the echo of Anne Rice’s complaints about 1 and 2 star reviews. I found the same lack of understanding that Amazon does not require you to read the book before you review it. I saw  the same thing we’ve all seen before, the rush to buy a book, down vote and report critical reviews, upvote the positive reviews and leave a review, any kind of review as long as it’s 5 stars because the author, the poor author, has found a new way to sell a few more copies of his book.

Letting My Bitch Flag Fly

Self published authors have a hard time finding bloggers that will review them and here is a shining example of why that is.

Dear author, the everyone is talking about,  first I have to address a couple issues with your book. “”What is this?” I asked with in-trepidation.”  In-trepidation?  No. Please see the definitions below and choose wisely (hint:  choose the second).

Simple Definition of intrepid

  • : feeling no fear : very bold or brave

Simple Definition of trepidation

  • : a feeling of fear that causes you to hesitate because you think something bad or unpleasant is going to happen

Then there is this sentence,  “Do I make you feel things you’ve never felt before?” , I am positive that there are a few talented writers out there that could make this line work but I am equally positive that you aren’t one of them. You can’t even write a decent non-apology.

And now let us speak about that non-apology, it starts out innocently enough, “Dear Authors, Readers, and Bloggers alike, I do want to clear up some misconceptions about all of the things that have been circulating around on social media recently:” And then it rapidly slides down Mount Whatthefuck,  ” I’m sorry that you either didn’t enjoy Quinn or simply refuse to read this series due to the latest events that have transpired on social media. I appreciate your true and honest feedback, I truly do.”  I suspect that the honest feedback you’ve been getting since your little FB plea has been far, far too honest and if you really appreciate honest feedback than I wouldn’t be writing this.

People have misconstrued my words on a post that was screen shot and then circulated.First of all,
I did not call this particular blogger a bitch. I said “flag that bitch” – it’s a colloquial term – as in “flag that review” – and it was in NO way shape or form meant to demean that particular blogger. One cannot “flag” a person on Goodreads – they can, however, flag “reviews”. Hence : “Flag that review”” Umm, no. Why no? Let us look at a screenshot.

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You refer to “some blogger”, then “flag that bitch”. then “People LIKE her review”. Blogger, bitch, her, c’mon do you really think anyone believes you meant the review and not the person?

“I absolutely feel horrid that this blogger thought I had called her that name. For that being taken out of context, I apologize. I would never want to take a hurtful jab at anyone or hurt their feelings. I would never call or think to call anyone, let alone a blogger a bitch. Anyone who knows me, has NEVER seen, read, nor heard me call a person a profanity on any public or personal thread, period. So yes – I screwed up – because Flag that bitch sounds bad any which way you spin it.”  Yes, you certainly did screw up and nothing was taken out of context. And here we see the first mention of another problem:  the dreaded “anybody who knows me” denial and innocence excuse.

“People who know me – know my heart and soul – and they know I was not coming from a bad place when I posted my request. Believe me when I say I have had my fair share of poor reviews – and I had never before taken action or offense to them over the past two years that I have been writing.” You weren’t coming from a bad place? So, you were filled with joy and love when you called on your fans to “flag that bitch”?

“Yes – I had disagreed with this bloggers review. Just as it is this bloggers right for her to have her own opinion of my book – I felt I had a right to my opinion about her review. Why is that so wrong? Why must I be afraid to not voice my own opinion when readers so clearly can?” Why, oh why, can’t I call the bitch a bitch, you cry. How about because the bitch, uh, reviewer isn’t trying to sell her opinion. You, however, are trying to sell this piece of crap.

“I felt that one particular blogger was making a mockery of me and of my story – This blogger clearly went out of her way to find (in my eyes) demeaning gif’s to compliment each of her derogatory paragraphs in-between. It was my interpretation – just as it was your interpretation that her review was fantastic.” Bless your heart, you can’t count either. There were three gifs, three. Here is the review, please have someone count the paragraphs for you. I guess demeaning is open to interpretation, be happy that none of them were of a pigeon shitting on a book.

“I want to be as open and candid as possible in this situation, because it is only fair for you to see my intentions, and my mistakes for being a human, as well as my remorse. I am woman enough to admit when I am wrong – I most certainly ran on emotions – and afterwards had a smack me in the head moment – because in that moment of emotionalism, I was NOT thinking. I should have contacted that reviewer.” Got news for you, you still aren’t thinking. Contact the reviewer, are you insane? It’s either insane or jaw-dropping stupid. Remember only one of you is trying to sell something. And the reviewer is entitled to her opinion.

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“All of the comments thereafter that ensued on this bloggers thread both on Facebook and on Goodreads were distasteful, unprofessional, and frankly I was taken aback. It was to my understanding that there were certain guidelines for one to follow when reviewing books with Sullivan + Partners. I was under the impression bloggers were to first and foremost supposed to communicate with them if they felt the book was under a 3 star read before posting a review. This did not happen.” You do realize you are insulting people again? I think your understanding had less to do with reality and more to do with wishful thinking. And I wonder what Sullivan + Partners think of you right now.

“All of the bloggers that have been working with Sullivan + Partners have been so incredible and professional, even the negative reviews had been so professionally crafted. So I was shocked and taken aback by this particular review, because of the cartoonish tone which was full of satire, and snippets that were taken out of context. Again, this was my own interpretation.” I have some bad news for you, even in context your writing is not all that good. And you really need to familiarize yourself with the idiom “out of context”. You don’t seem to know what it means. And you keep subtly and not so subtly harping on the “unprofessionalism” of the reviewer, I thought you were apologizing?

“I had placed all bloggers working with Sullivan on a pedestal, because even the 2 – 3 star reviews were of quality caliber and objective. When I saw this particular review I had thought surely this reviewer didn’t come from Sullivan.” She read your crappy book, she gets to say it is crappy. Her writing is much better than yours. Much better. Light years better. And she uses the correct words, you need to consult a dictionary. Often.

“Yes – I had asked some of my team members to flag that review – because honestly – it was one of the first reviews I felt was malicious, demeaning, and full of derision, and it hurt. I do have feelings, we all have feelings. However, it may not have been the way you would have handled this situation, but at that particular moment in time, it was my way of handling it – right or wrong -” Call me crazy but I’m not really seeing an apology anywhere in this rambling mess  of “it’s everybody’s fault but mine”. Right or wrong? As incredible as it is to me this isn’t your first book  and you claim to have had 2 star reviews before so you just decided that you wanted to be the latest snowflake to meltdown? It’s a pretty mild review.

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“I’m terribly sorry all these bloggers felt “I took the cake” – as well as jumped to the worst conclusions about me and my character. As I said, if you knew the entire story – both sides of the coin – I don’t believe you would be feeling this way toward me. There is nothing I can do to change your view point of me, and for that I am saddened. I truly am.” If there’s another side to the story then let’s hear it but so far all I’m seeing is excuses. Get to the point.

“I strive very hard to keep all drama off my pages – as well avoiding all forms of gossip, calling people names, publicly calling people out, or having malicious intent to down others. I have been nothing but supportive of readers, authors and bloggers alike.” This is my first encounter with you and you are presenting yourself as a whining entitled snowflake. Good first impression.

“We all sin and fall short of the Glory of God, do we not? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Why is it okay for both readers and bloggers alike to now trash me – publicly circulating only half the story – all the while “judging” me and running me down? The anger and derisiveness those people are exuding has been far worse.”  If there is another side of the story, get to it. But just because you didn’t like that review is not the other side of the story, it is your excuse for very bad behavior. I heard you didn’t just post a call to arms on FB but you also posted this on Goodreads:

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You commented then deleted those comments on reviews on GR you didn’t like,  and you were trying to mess with the book database. That is a very big no-no. GR isn’t going to be forgiving. Then you posted this in response to a fan who tried to talk you off the edge:

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What’s with the whole real life/fiction thing? She didn’t like your writing. Stop trying to make it something else. And, um, “Fuck that”? What happened to striving not to name call? What happened to keeping it drama free? Honey, you are the 600 lb drama llama of the internet right now.

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“I have always taught my children there are 2 sides to every coin and to not make a decision on judging until they know the entire story from both sides. I truly feel that if people knew me  – they would have seen this in a different light. I’m just astounded that others who were NOT involved – have chimed in the way they have – quick to judge, and quick to trash me, and my character when they know nothing about me, or the entire situation. Nor do those people know my heart or just how giving of a person I am, nor do they know how much sleep I have lost over this debacle.” We know that you melted down like any other snowflake, asked your fans to flag a review that did not violate GR’s TOS, called reviewers trolls, reviewed your own book and made snotty remarks about readers/reviewers that didn’t like your book, tried to alter the book database, and made this rambling hot mess of excuses and tried to pass it off as an apology. Your character is thinner than the ones in your book.

BTW, people have the right to rate your book however they like and why would anyone recommend your book now? You’ve attacked one reviewer then proceeded to spew over all the one stars. What will you do to the next person who doesn’t like your book?

“Nobody knows how much another person is going through at any given moment in their live. The things within peoples personal life can sometimes stretch a persons ability to deal with certain matters and situations which would normally have been brushed off with ease. This was one of those cases. It is hard for me to believe that nobody has never been short-tempered before, or reacted to something rashly when their mental and physical limits have been stretched so very thin. I am most certain those people would want to have grace and forgiveness displayed to them, and I’m am doubly certain they wouldn’t want one of their most weakest moments spread to all four corners of social media either.”  Well, if you flop it out there people are gonna talk. Forgiveness is granted to those who ask but you haven’t asked.  It wasn’t a weak moment, once you got started you didn’t seem to know when to quit, or maybe you didn’t want to quit.

“I only wish this person who felt they needed to screen shot a post that was meant for my team – to have come to me personally and had a one on one discussion with me – asking me to explain myself – it would have been the right and professional thing to do, no?” Why is it everybody but you has to be professional? You are the author, sort of, when are you going to be professional? Will it be any time in this decade?

“This entire scenario deeply saddens me, and the outpouring of judgement without asking me my side, is even sadder. I felt I needed to explain my side to you, because I am not “that” author. I am simply not. I may be unfiltered at times, but my heart is genuine, and I would even go so far as to give those who dislike me the shirt off my back.”  What side? Did anybody see her side? “Nobody knows how much another person is going through at any given moment in their live. The things within peoples personal life can sometimes stretch a persons ability to deal with certain matters and situations which would normally have been brushed off with ease.” That isn’t your side and it’s a pretty bad piece of writing.

“Now that you have heard the other side of the coin, there will still be people who will hold no grace or forgiveness in their heart. This saddens me as well. Those people will be content to remain angry and “quick to judge” and I cannot fix that or change their mind about me or my character no matter what I do or say.”  You cannot change their minds because you have done nothing to show you are sorry for your actions.

“I had a new reader contact me last night. Instead of trashing me publicly, she approached me via messenger to clear the air and her conscious. I so very much appreciated that. She wanted to discuss this with me before passing her own judgement on the situation. I gave her the above letter you just read – and this was her response.”  And now you will try to show people the correct, according to you, way to handle their unhappiness with your actions. Here’s the thing, once you put it out in public you don’t have control of the situation anymore.

“READER RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE LETTER

Thank you for responding. And I appreciate you explaining. I see your point; however, it wouldn’t be my way to handle the situation, it was your way and that’s your right.

I certainly understand “things we all go through” as my husband has stage 4 cancer. He is the love of my life and we have been married for 35 years. I am a 54 year old high school registrar, my husband is a teacher. As I said I have always been a reader. It’s my escape to another world and

gives me peace and enjoyment. I had just finished your book this morning and immediately preordered book 2 which I understand to be out on 4/19. I will read it at MD Anderson Cancer Hospital for yet another day of treatment for my husband. For you see even though I didn’t care for your post I am still a fan, a new fan of your work, and I will continue to read your books.

MY RESPONSE:

well, now your making me cry. lol. I am sorry about your husband, and I will most certainly say a prayer for him.

It just saddens me that people just assume I’m calling others a name such as that, and jumping the gun. – when I did not.

Thank you for your kind words – they mean a lot to me right now. Stay strong. xoxo

HER FINAL RESPONSE:

I’m sorry I assumed too much. I saw the post and felt you called the blogger a bitch. I was disappointed because I loved your book so much! If nothing else I got to speak with you and now I know you’re a caring person, a Mom and someone that prays!

Keep writing! You have true talent! God bless”

And we get to see you as a caring, praying mom. Is that reserved only for those that contact you using your approved methods? And what has this to do with making an apology?

“AND  THIS  ABOVE is why I write. This is what moves me.  This brought literal tears to my eyes, because I care about other people, what they are going through, and I care about their pain. I told her I would pray for her and her husband, and I have and will continue to do so. Somewhere inside I am outraged by your using God in your petty and outrageous actions against those reviewers who didn’t like your book and/or your actions.

“It’s not about money for me, it’s about connecting with readers who are needing an escape from the realities of life and their own pain even if it’s for a few hours. This is my character , this is the real me, and this new reader  touched me on a very deep level. THIS is what it’s  all about for me. It’s about connecting with readers and touching their lives in a positive way.” It’s good it’s not about money because I think you tanked this turkey.

“I am only sorry and disheartened your first impression of me was in a negative light. I by no means meant anyone any ill will, harm, or malice. I had acquired all of the participating blogger names to add into the acknowledgement section of both my paperback books and digital books, thank all of you for taking time out of your busy ARC schedule to read for me. All of those blogger names will still remain in my books no matter what you think of me, or my books, because I am still appreciative of the time you took from your busy schedule to even read the first book.”  Ye-ah, you certainly appreciated all over the place. I would hate to see what you do when you aren’t appreciative.

In the book the heroine packed her vibrator when she went on the run in a national park. The author posted this picture on GR along with making remarks 2, 4, and 6 in the conversation that followed.

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For someone who claims to avoid name calling and drama you  certainly couldn’t prove it by your actions. Let’s take one last look at those actions:

You took offense at a 2 star review and asked your followers to flag it.

You left a review of your book which was basically a way to diss any one star review.

You posted some not very drama-free comments in various places.

You tried to alter the GR book database.

You wrote this “apology” wherein you explained how good and righteous you are and all those reviewers who didn’t like your book aren’t. An apology isn’t about you, you, you.

Your “apology” is rated

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Manifesto- I’m Not Impressed

The more I think about Harris’ puff piece, the more irritated I get. Couldn’t she have put just a little effort into this?  Let’s start.

“In a world in which the internet, with its forums and discussion groups, has blurred the line between readers and writers almost to invisibility, the relationship between one and the other now seems increasingly difficult – audience participation in the creation of art is considered by many to be not only legitimate, but desirable.” JH

I don’t think the internet has blurred the line, I think inexperience and eagerness has blurred the line. Inexperience, on the part of authors especially. Far too many authors use the internet in a way that invites fans, casual readers, bloggers, any passing stranger to view their private lives and opinions. When you know all about someone’s kids, their malfunctioning furnace, their contributions to a candidate’s presidential campaign, their homophobia, the conversation they had with their agent/publisher/editor,  where and what they had for dinner, then the line has more than blurred.

Readers/reviewers/fans aren’t to blame for this, this rests squarely on the authors. A number of the more outrageously behaving authors, Harris included, seem to believe that anything goes on social media. Not if you don’t want those blurred lines. I’m firmly of the opinion that authors, for the most part, should have an author account/page and a private one.

The author page should be friendly but professional. The private one where the author connects with only their trusted friends and not anyone connected to their profession is where they can vent their opinions and frustrations. Not saying an author can’t share a little of their private life with their readers but far, far too many authors share far, far too much.

I don’t need to know an author’s views on hot button topics like religion, abortion, or politics. I really, really don’t want to listen to an author complain about their fans, those are the people supporting them, and all too often authors seem to think that buying their book(s) is not enough. How many times have you read an author urging their fans to leave them (only) positive reviews? How many times have you seen authors asking their fans to join their street teams or review teams?

Part of this is because authors now, even if traditionally published, are responsible for all or most of their own promotion. And once again (most) authors are inexperienced. Authors, who thought they would only have to write the book and someone else would sell it for them or it would magically sell itself are finding that the writing might be not the hardest part of the process. Self published authors complain about this all the time, what did they think was going to happen?

Is the relationship between reader and author increasingly difficult? Only if you are an author like Harris, or Annie Rice, or any number of overly entitled self published ones. You want to vent about how much you don’t like us? How we don’t know how to read your book? Why we aren’t leaving you glowing reviews? How dare we dislike your latest release because of what you did with the main characters? Do it where we don’t see it. In private. To a few trusted friends.

Please leave us with the illusion that you are the truly wonderful person we like to think you are. Nora Roberts- looking right at you.

Now we tackle the audience participation part- are you crazy? What the hell. I can’t quite figure this out. Is Harris talking about reviews and discussions that complain bitterly when a book doesn’t go where a certain group of readers think it should? Like the whole Charlaine Harris/ Sookie Stackhouse finale fracas all over the net?  Aside from the threats of violence directed at Harris, something that readers should abhor and denounce, it was certainly interesting to watch a very large group of people get a rude awakening. Charlaine went where she was always going and all those discussions all over the net didn’t change her mind.

Audience participation? Only if the author wants it or encourages it and then they can’t or shouldn’t complain about what happens.

“Both on and offline, everyone has an opinion. And everyone has a platform from which to disseminate their opinions. Much of the time, this is a good thing. It allows a potential dialogue to exist between readers and creators. It allows readers to get in touch with the authors of work they have enjoyed. It allows writers to understand where and how they might have gone wrong, and how they can improve and grow. However, this breaking-down of barriers has also created a false sense of entitlement, giving some readers the impression that artists and writers not only inhabit a privileged world, in which there are no bills to pay and in which time is infinitely flexible, but that they also exist primarily to serve the public, to be available night and day, and to cater for the personal needs of everyone who contacts them.” – JH

Oh look, Harris and I agree on something, everyone does have an opinion, dialogue is good, readers and authors talk, everybody learns something, and then we part ways. Harris now speaks of “some” readers. At this point I want to break readers up into three groups- readers like myself who know quite a bit about the process of producing a book, the readers who just like to read and maybe leave a comment occasionally on an author’s page, and the reader who Harris has chosen to talk about.

“Some readers”, I checked my Websters’ and one definition of some is a fairly large amount or number. Oh, really? I suspect that Harris is taking one of her all too frequent swipes at readers who do not hang on and agree with her every word. Let’s do something that would make Harris’ head explode, let’s adjust the text- just a little.

“This breaking down of barriers has not, in some cases, educated readers and authors enough, there are those from both groups that have a false sense of entitlement, giving some authors and readers the impression that artists, writers, and readers inhabit a privileged world, in which there are no bills to pay and in which time is infinitely flexible, they also exist to primarily serve the public or the writer, depending on who is doing the thinking,  to be available night and day, and to cater to the personal needs of every writer or reader who contacts them.”  There, all better now.

Yes, “some” readers think this way but so do “some” writers. I suspect Harris is one because if she weren’t then she might be more interested in producing a commissioned piece that speaks to the problems created by both sides and not just the ones she wants to bitch about.

Do you remember this blog from September? The one where an author gave instructions on what to do for a “free” book. Yeah. Well, Joanne, I hate to burst that pretty little bubble you are floating around in but readers have lives. too.  They have jobs and bills and not enough time in their day just like any artist or author. They don’t have the time to write and post reviews everywhere, they don’t have time to post their reading progress everywhere, they might have precious little time to even just read a few pages a day, they might have had to budget carefully to buy your newest book because money is tight but they want to support you and to find out that some authors feel that just buying that book isn’t enough isn’t helping the reader/author relationship. “Some readers”, Joanne, don’t have the luxury of being your unpaid publicity machine.

Don’t complain about the problem, fix it. Set boundaries and rules, not just for readers but for writers, for yourself. Follow them.

“This is partly due to the fact that there are so many more writers than there were fifty years ago. The rise of self-publishing, e-books and fanfiction means that far more people are now able to identify as writers. And although this is a good thing in many ways, it does also help perpetuate the idea that anyone can write a book, and that the people who actually do so are simply luckier, wealthier, or blessed with more spare time than those who do not.” JH

“Some” of the people who think this way are writers, or they think they are.

“The truth is, not everyone can – or should – be a writer, in the same way that not everyone can or should be an accountant, or a ballet dancer, teacher, pilot, soldier, or marathon runner. The same combination of aptitude, experience and acquired skills apply to being a writer as to any other job. We would never think of telling a doctor that we were thinking of taking up medicine when we retired. We would never expect a plumber to work for free – or a plasterer, for publicity. We would never expect to hear the word “privilege” of a teacher who has spent their career working hard to earn a living. We would never expect a lawyer who has paid to go through law school to tutor aspiring lawyers for free.” -JH

I agree that not everybody who thinks they can write should write. I agree that you need  talent, training, and experience because that’s how you become successful in any field. And then I’m going to disagree again. Because sometimes doing a job for free or for the publicity is beneficial to the person doing it. I know someone who paid for the privilege of being on a board of directors. It was expected, it is necessary for his position.

I don’t expect authors to write for free but that is a judgement call that they might have to make. There are discussions between SPAs all over about free books. Should they, shouldn’t they?  With the explosion of self publishing I believe that a free book is a good way to find readers. And here is a whole discussion for another time but authors expecting to make a living writing nowadays are authors who haven’t done their research.

“And yet, and yet, these demands are made of writers all the time. Perhaps it’s because the value of writing is such a difficult thing to quantify. Everyone dreams. Not everyone gets to dream for a living. But are we writers expecting too much? Can we keep artistic control, whilst expecting to earn a living? And, in a world in which the consumer increasingly calls the shots, can we still hope for a relationship with our readers that transcends that of mere supply and demand?”– JH

No, they are not. If you don’t want to offer a piece of work for free- don’t. Sometimes though it can work to your advantage. I’ve been self-employed for 25 yrs. Sometimes the money doesn’t flow freely. Sometimes people think you should work for free or next to nothing, sometimes they think anybody can do it. So what? I venture that everybody in any profession encounters some for of this carp. Writers, artists, aren’t that special.

Are writers expecting too much? They are if they think like you do. Can you retain artistic control? Well, Joanne, that is between you and your publisher. I love that you think consumers call the shots. We buy books. We buy books that we enjoy. We buy books from authors we like. The beauty of writing is the writer can almost always find someone who will read their book. The question is can they find enough readers to make their work profitable.

If you want a “relationship” with readers then by all means have one. Set the rules, set the boundaries. Is someone going to complain about your work ? Absolutely. There will always be complaints, you’re complaining right now.

“Not long ago, I was involved in the debate around an app called CleanReader, which contained an algorithm that picked out and replaced “offensive words” in e-books with “acceptable substitutes.” Thus, “breasts” becomes “chest,” “bitch” becomes “witch” and any kind of profanity is reduced to a series of American euphemisms, making nonsense of the text, its rhythms, style and meaning. Writers rallied round to combat the distribution of this app, which was swiftly withdrawn from sale. But the designers of the app, a Christian couple from Idaho, wrote to me several times to protest that readers, having paid for my books, should have the right to change my words if they disapproved of them. Readers are consumers, they said. Therefore, just as a person ordering a salad in a restaurant should have the right to ask the chef for a different dressing, readers should also have the choice to enjoy a story without being exposed to language they deem offensive, or ideas that challenge their perceptions. After all, they said; isn’t that why writers exist in the first place? Are they not there primarily to serve the needs of the public, and does it not make sense that they should take those needs into account?” -JH

Joanne, bless your heart, let this go. This couple is earnestly bat shit. They probably only read the Bible and tracts published by certain Christian publishers. If someone is that afraid of words on paper then you just have to realize that nothing is going to help them. Let. It. Go. They. Are. Bat. Shit. Crazy.

“Well, of course our readers do have a choice. And of course, we writers owe them a great deal. But a novel isn’t a salad with interchangeable ingredients. Nor is the reader entitled to order from a menu. As writers, we are always grateful when a reader chooses one of our books. We hope that they will enjoy it. And most writers value feedback and dialogue with their readers. But ultimately, a reader’s role is different to that of a writer. And a writer’s role is to try to convey a series of ideas as honestly and as well as we possibly can, with minimal interference, and most of all, without being distracted by heckling from the audience.” -JH

Readers have the choice to read your books or not. The only thing you owe readers is a well written book. You owe readers and yourself to be professional in your interactions with them. Thank you for being grateful, it just doesn’t sound that way. Yes, Miss Obvious, a reader’s role is different from that of a writer. Duh.  If your book is already published no one can interfere of heckle. If you are writing a book and you can’t handle your social pages then get an assistant and let them. No one is standing next to you barking orders in your ear while you write. No one can interfere with your writing unless you let them.

“The fact is that the writer cannot please everyone all of the time. We shouldn’t even try – fiction, by its nature, should present a challenge. Books allow us to see the world in different ways; to experience things we might never encounter – or wish to – outside the world of fiction. Fiction is not by its nature a design for living, nor an imaginary comfort zone. Although it can be both those things, its range goes much further than comfort or escapism. Fiction is often uncomfortable; often unexpected.  Most importantly, fiction is not democratic. It is, at best, a benign dictatorship, in which there can be an infinite number of followers with any number of different ideas, but only ever one leader. Like all good leaders, the writer can (and should) take advice from time to time, but where the actual work is concerned, they, and no-one else, must take final responsibility.” -JH

Obvious. Obvious. Obvious. Obvious. Yes. Not necessarily. Mostly obvious (for another time). Obvious. Yes, take advice but if the writer is the one taking the responsibility then the author is the one setting boundaries with readers and the author is the one who either allows or doesn’t interference and “heckling”, a word that is not the best choice for a writer in this setting.

“I love my readers. I love their enthusiasm, their willingness to engage. I enjoy our conversations on Twitter and at festivals. I love their diversity, and the fact that they all see different things in my books, according to what’s important to them, and according to what they have experienced. Without readers, writers would have no context; no audience; no voice. But that doesn’t mean we’re employees, writing books to order. We, too, have a choice. We choose what kind of relationship we want to have with our readers – whether to interact online, go to festivals, give interviews, tour abroad, teach pro bono creative writing sessions or even live in seclusion, without talking to anyone. Writers are as diverse as readers themselves, and all of them have their own way of operating. What may work for one author may be hopelessly inappropriate for another. But whatever our methods of working, the relationship between a writer and their readers should be based on mutual respect, along with a shared understanding of books, their nature and their importance.” -JH

I question your love  for your readers because this whole piece so far has been one long negative description of “some” readers. Remember, some is a fairly large amount or number. And I realized something writing this, you shouldn’t be grateful for just your readers, you should be grateful for all readers. But I suspect you won’t be able to figure out why and won’t even try. I suspect your gratitude has very narrow dimensions.

I’ve read some of your opinions and that whole mutual respect thing? Mutual means shared and I sort of get the feeling you want to dictate my side of mutual. You don’t get to do that. This goes right back to appreciating all readers, appreciating their love of books, yours or someone else’s. All this lovely, lovely talk about gratitude and appreciation is negated by the next paragraph.

“On the internet I’ve seen a growing number of sites and blogs enumerating what readers expect of writers. Requests for increased diversity, increased awareness of current issues, requests for time and attention, gratis copies of books for review, interviews and guest blog posts – or simply demands to work faster. Readers have numerous spaces in which to discuss author behaviour, to analyse their politics, lifestyle and beliefs – sometimes, in extreme cases, to urge other readers to boycott the work of those authors whose themes are seen as too controversial, or whose ideas do not coincide with their own. Authors are expected to respect these reader spaces, whatever the nature of the discussion. To comment on a bad review – or even to be seen to notice it – is to risk being labelled an “author behaving badly”. Authors whose work is deemed to have problematic content are expected to analyse the cause – and in some cases, to apologize. There is an increasing call for trigger warnings; profanity warnings; age guidelines – in order to help the reader choose amidst a bewildering number of books. The demands on authors are numerous; often even daunting.” – JH

This is the “Where I will complain about all the drawbacks of being a public person and how I can’t be a bitch when I want without someone complaining about it, and why won’t these people do as I want. Also, the book world is changing and readers want things I don’t want to write, don’t want to do, don’t want to acknowledge” paragraph. Awww. We get it. Your job description has changed and you don’t like it.  Deal, oh whiny one, deal.

Not everything applies to you, not everything is about you. If you don’t want your behavior discussed, be professional. Don’t discuss politics on your business pages, use your private one. Don’t be Laurell K Hamilton. If you don’t want it talked about, don’t put it out there. Why is this so hard to understand? A boycott? So what? No one is asking for the book to be banned.

Yes, a lot of readers prefer authors not to comment on and in certain discussions because they perceive you as having a majority of the power and it is hard to argue with that. Also, some readers feel that the author pops up in an effort to change or direct the discussion into author approved channels. Go complain in private. And if you don’t want something discussed in public, don’t make it public.

Why do you want to comment on your “bad” reviews? In public. Yeah. You don’t want to comment on the review, you want to comment on the reviewer.

Don’t be EL James who has ducked, evaded, blocked, and generally been a spoiled brat about the abuse in her books. You don’t agree, you don’t want to be in endless discussions, you want it all to go away. Make a statement. Set rules and boundaries and then follow them. If readers think you got it wrong and you don’t, say their POV never occurred to you but you’re glad they are having a relevant and productive discussion but you don’t have anything to add.  Thank them for their interest in your work. Move on.

Yes, the book industry is changing, if you don’t want to set trigger warnings, age guidelines, etc, then delegate.  If this now is truly part and parcel of what a trad. pub. author must do, then do it or stop writing. Things change, things evolve. We are not required to like all of them, or any of them.

“But do readers ever ask themselves what authors want of them? Do authors ever ask themselves what they want of their readers? –JH

I would hope you want me to buy your book. I suspect you want me to shut up.

“I think that for most authors, it comes down to two deceptively simple things.

The first and most prosaic is: we want to make a living. This fact is at the same time obvious, and fiercely contested, not least by many authors, who rightly see their work as something more than just a means of paying the rent.

That’s because, many authors find it hard to talk about money. It’s considered vulgar for artists to care about where the next meal is coming from. And many authors are driven to write: would probably write whether or not they had an audience; or whether they were ever published or paid, just for the joy of writing. This is at the same time their strength, and also their downfall; with the exception of a canny few who treat art as a business, writers are often reluctant to think of their work as just another product. We do not like to think of our books as units, to be bought and sold. And yet, to the publishing industry, that’s exactly what they are; the product of thousands of hours of work: of editing; copy-editing; design; marketing; proof-reading; promotion. Publishers spend most of their time thinking about the readers – the consumers of our work – but for an author, thinking about the readers (or, even worse, the pay-check) while trying to write a novel is like thinking about the drop when performing a high-wire act; dangerous, counterproductive, and likely to lead to failure.” -JH

If you wish to continue to foster the ridiculous idea that writers cannot be expected to think about money because it’s somehow wrong to consider the electric bill or the next meal then that is your problem, not mine. If you decide you are going to make your living writing, first don’t give up your day job until you can make your living writing and second, if you can’t bring yourself to consider the monetary side of your writing then your chances of making money are low and you have no one to blame but yourself. Your dumb self.

But if, as Samuel Johnson maintains, no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money, there must be a lot of blockheads in the writing community. I’ll admit I’m one myself. Nevertheless, however much we may cling to society’s romanticized views of art for art’s sake, authors and illustrators need to pay their bills like everyone else.” -JH

You want to help the reader/author relationship? Disabuse authors of the notion that talking about money is something dirty.

“That’s where the readers come in. Many readers seem to believe that authors are earning millions. The reality is that most authors earn rather less than the minimum wage, and when touring, attending festivals, blogging, giving interviews, holding readings, writing guest posts for bloggers, too often give their work for free. That’s why it’s important for readers to show appreciation for the work of the authors we love; firstly by buying their books (as opposed to downloading them illegally); by borrowing them from libraries (because authors are paid for borrowed books, a sum which, though small, adds up and can often provide a welcome annual windfall); and most importantly, by supporting their work; by attending festivals and readings, by writing reviews and joining in discussion groups, and generally promoting awareness of their writing, and of books in general.” -JH

Many readers aren’t quite as dumb as you seem to think. We know what the financial reality of writing really is. There are numerous articles on the incomes of authors, both traditional and otherwise. We read. I would think you would advise new authors to read these articles, too, but I see it’s not going to happen.

Yes, I knew buying that book wasn’t enough. We must now provide unpaid support and promotion. We write reviews, but you were just complaining about the ones you didn’t like. We have discussions but you want to set your own guidelines on what we discuss. You want good reviews, discussions only on approved topics, and attendance at festivals and readings.

“Because what authors really want (and money provides this, to some extent) is validation of their work. We write because we want you to care; because we hope you’re listening – that we can make a connection, somehow; that we can prove we are not alone.

Because stories – even fairy stories – are never just entertainment. Stories are more important than that. They help us understand who we are. They teach us empathy and respect for other cultures, other ideas. They help us articulate concepts that cannot otherwise be expressed. Stories help us communicate; they help eliminate boundaries; they teach us different ways in which to see the world around us. Their value may be intangible, but it is no less real for that. And stories bring us together – readers and writers everywhere – exploring our human experience and sharing it with others.” -JH

If you want to know you are not alone, go on the internet. There we are. 24/7 somebody is awake and willing to talk. There is a catch, they might not agree with everything you say.

Stories are important and they do allow us insight into other cultures, that call for diversity you found to be  onerous previously is not a call for you to provide it, but it is a call for you to support it. Oh, wait, that’s another thing you might have to add to your schedule. A little support for another author.

“So this is my manifesto, my promise to you, the reader. From you, I ask that you take it in good faith, respond in kind, and understand that, whatever I do, I do for the sake of something we both value – otherwise we wouldn’t be here.” -JH

“We” are here because of posts such as yours. Where you demand much of your readers, dismiss the majority as rather dim-witted, and totally ignore any author responsibility in the difficult relationship between author and reader. You want to improve our relationship? Start educating new authors. Stop complaining about readers talking about whatever you have chosen to make public. Stop bemoaning about the evolving requirements of your job, yes, it is a job. Stop with the “you must do more for me so I can earn more” carp, recognize that for some of your readers that book is a huge investment and then calling on them to spend more by going to signings and other events so you can earn more is not being grateful, it’s being selfish. Start acting like a professional, whatever you don’t want public keep private.

I find your manifesto very one-sided, you never once call on your fellow authors to step up, you never once address what you can do to make the reader/author relationship better. Sure, you post a series of “I”s where you promise to do your job writing-wise, but that seems to be all you are promising. What else can you do? What else will you do?

There are “some” very successful and not so successful authors who don’t have the problems with readers that you do. Why? Because, Joanne, they have the smarts not to act like you do.

Practicing My Positivity- Lacey Crowe Style

Yesterday I reblogged K J Charles and linked to Scarlet’s blog on BL wherein an author, Lacey Crowe, blogged about only positive reviews and remarks. Spread the joy around.  Well, I’m gonna give it a shot, just for you Lacey.

Turns out Lacey is an editor and reviewer besides being an author.

 

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This gives me pause because what happens when a total disaster is submitted? Does she say anything relevant or pass it by with a polite but useless to the author thanks-but-no-thanks?

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I applaud the sentiment while wondering how she handles the reality. The reality being most books don’t rise to the lofty heights she seems to be looking for and some books read like they were written by someone who slept through their English classes and dashed off their baby, uh, book while drunk. Then there are those authors who are confident they are the next Dickens or Steinbeck or have written a groundbreaking book like the world has never seen and desperately needs.

How is Lacey going to handle all these authors in a positive manner? And is a positive manner really helpful in some of these cases? These are relevant questions but right now I’m going to practice my positivity.

Let’s look at a review of Lacey’s book, here’s one from Amazon:

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And here is the same review, same reviewer on  Goodreads:

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A glowing review. It just leaves out a couple pertinent details. But first I’m renaming Paul. He is now Paul the Positive Pigeon. Paul is here, and he says:

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“Poo-poo”

Oh-oh. When Paul the Positive Pigeon poos instead of coos there is trouble in River City. What has Paul found? Look at that screenshot that is titled “What We do”.  We. Lacey has a partner. Uh-oh. Could it be?

Why, yes, it positively is.

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Here they are on their BBR&E site.

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Here they are performing together.

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Here they are- married. That’s right, not only business but life partners. Now go back to that review, “This one, however, was well worth my time and money.” Uh, Jason, your  wife made you buy a copy? Somehow I doubt that.

Whoops, that wasn’t so positive. How about this, I’m positive that omitting your business and personal relationship in such a positive review will not be looked on by others with positivity. I’m also positive that Amazon does not allow these reviews. I am further positive that this kind of positivity will arouse feelings of resentment and envy in other authors who have not stooped to doing this because they follow the rules for any number of really positive reasons and they could use another 5 star review but they won’t step over that line like you did. This behavior is neither professional nor positive.

I’m also positive that you can learn something from Lacey and Jason even if it is only what not to do.