Did you miss the blog and Tweet-splosion about the Avon AAR interview?
I have to say, Avon, that was not your finest PR moment. But moreover: what a missed opportunity.
This part in particular was a massive wiff:
May Chen: In my opinion, the online world still doesn’t have much impact on sales as, anecdotally, I’ve seen books get horrible online reviews but have done well. As far as I know, we still don’t include online reviews on our books, but that can certainly change if we see them start making a difference. Right now, the best endorsements for us still seem to be from NYT bestselling authors and from major traditional print reviewers.
Lucia Macro: Do the consumers recognize the source of the quote? I’m not sure that the vast majority of readers recognize all the online sites. When checking their rankings I’m often surprised at how little traffic they really get.
…However, we aren’t seeing that any review driven website has the power to “make” a book.
Good gravy, why the hell would you want us to?
Here’s what you need to know about online communities, particularly review type blogs which are, essentially, online communities with different interests, tones, issues of import, and styles. We’re not big enough to “make” a book. And we shouldn’t be, because we’re very niche-specific, and have widely varying tastes.
And moreover, I don’t know of many of us who are receptive to the push that creates a “made” book or who would want to create one ourselves. I personally respond better to genuine endorsement, even and including genuine and direct email from authors and publicists, than I do to a full-on blanket marketing campaign. Why? Because I don’t know what’s motivating the push to “make” a book – and I always suspect it’s not quality, and the approach isn’t authentic. Most of the time, when I’ve tried a “made” book after a blanket campaign, I haven’t enjoyed it. Kresley Cole’s back-to-back releases last year are about the only exception, and even then, I was irritated by the method that made the two books virtually indistinguishable from one another.
I respond to authenticity, and it’s very difficult to be authentic on a corporate level – which is why online communities and the methods through which we communicate, like blogs and Twitter, are key. And communicate is the key element there: it’s a conversation. It’s not just you telling us what’s good.
To say that reviews don’t affect sales, and online communities don’t do much in terms of promotion of books seems to indicate a lack of understanding of how our communities work, and what we can do. And now that we’re talking, I want to discuss the ideal relationship between online reviewers and publishers.
First: we don’t work for you. And I surely do not think you work for me. I greatly appreciate review copies, but have never asked to be added to your lists. Most of the time, I was asked if I wanted some, then later told by a few publishers that I didn’t do enough for them and have subsequently been removed from lists.
That’s fine. I’ll keep reading what I want, whether it’s an ARC or a book I pay for. This is my hobby. This is not my full time job. I honestly wonder if I ought to buy books exclusively instead of getting review copies, because expectations seem wedded to the ARCs, and I’d prefer to read without them.
I understand that folks might not know what to do with us. We’re difficult to control, and often ornery, but very passionate about romance. Originally I started this entry by asking myself what the ideal response would have been to those questions at AAR, or what the optimal relationship would be if I could define it.
I can’t answer that question, because I don’t honestly know if you understand us, how we work, what we do, and why we do it. (Honestly, if you’d like to know more, or want to ask how we can work together better, feel free to ask me. I’m in New York, as are a few other romance review bloggers, and if you’d like me to show up and bring in noise, funk, and a bullet point presentation with flashy Power Point about “Who Are These Crazy Blog Reviewers?” I am happy to do so. Seriously. I fear no sales meeting, nor any marketing sub-committee).
The part about being difficult to control is only made more alarming, I’m sure, by the fact that we can’t be quantified either. We don’t fit any established paradigm, pie chart, or business parameter. I’m not sure how much sales power we have, and I absolutely do not want to know. I dislike looking at my own statistics. Gives me verbile dysfunction.
But here’s the thing: blogging and online reviewing is not about profit, and it’s not about me, and it’s not about one author or one publisher or one subgenre. It’s not even about one blog – we’re a community across several sites, and we can’t take readers away from one another.
Online review communities are about the conversation. Consider the Law of Publishing in Bad Economy According to Jaye Wells: “Any book that sells is good for all of us.”
We’re talking about books across publishers, across subgenres, and looking at everything, from the top of the rankings to the midlist to someone brand spanking new. That conversation, that “trust network” (TM Kassia Krozser), is what drives new media marketing, and users searching for new ways to connect and converse will push technology development for better platforms on which to reach one another. We may not sell books to the numbers you’d like, but we are creating sales. But like I said, sales are not our goal. The conversation is what we’re after. That certainly doesn’t fit a business model, but in terms of marketing, it’s the best model we’ve got.
I hope you’ll listen to us and join in. And if in the meantime you think we’re not worth your attention, that’s fine. I’m still going to keep doing what I’m doing.