Thursday, October 1, 2009

Avoid mutual ass-kissing in reviews and blurbs

First, a note: I will soon be publishing a book about self-publishing. I've read most of the other books on the subject, and I've reviewed both good ones and bad ones on this blog.

I thought about refraining from reviewing books that compete with mine because it might seem somewhat tacky.

On the other hand, (1) I've paid for the books, (2) I am entitled to have and to publish my opinions, (3) I may be in a better position than other reviewers to analyze these books, and (4) if I don't publish my reviews, the authors may never learn what they did wrong.

So -- at least for a while -- I will continue to review books that may compete with mine. The other authors, of course, can say whatever they want to about my books.
. . . . . . . . . .

Everybody -- especially creative people -- likes to receive compliments.

The book business uses reviews and blurbs (short positive comments, frequently from somebody more famous than the author) to imply quality and credibility to build sales.

While it's not possible to control what reviewers say, it is possible to control whom you ask to write a review or a blurb.

I've noticed a disturbing tendency to you kiss my ass and I'll kiss your ass relationships where authors write glowing words about each other's work.

Sometimes an editor or a business associate of an author praises a book online or on paper.

Some authors seem to write more as blurbs and forewords than they write as actual books.

Here are a couple of offenders who really piss me off:

(#1) Helen Gallagher wrote an ugly, sloppy, padded, inaccurate and poorly edited book titled Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!

It was published by vanity press Virtual Book Worm (I've complained about them before.)

A Five-Star review on Amazon says, "Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way offers fabulous, practical tips for writers. I had the opportunity to meet the author. She is a great advocate for fellow writers. This book is a 'must have' if you want to complete your writing project, launch it, and market your work."

The reviewer is Marguerite O'Connor. Marguerite is an author and funeral director and teaches bereavement counseling. Even more depressing than that is the fact that Marguerite's book received a Five-Star review from Helen.

And by the way, Marguerite O'Connor is also the editor of Helen's poorly edited book. Helen is a decent writer, but from the evidence I've seen, Marguerite is a terrible editor.

I don't know if it is the fault of the writer or editor that the book has major errors such as claiming that Amazon owns POD-printer Lightning Source, or that "everyone" is hyphenated as "eve-ryone," and "avenues" is hyphenated as "ave-nues."

I'm not sure who to blame for the sentence "They work is not cheap and it shouldn't be," or that "ten" is printed instead of "10," or that the book has terrible justification.

I don't know which lady is at fault for one of the worst indexes I've ever seen. Readers really don't need separate listings for both "distributors" and "Distributors," or "marketing" and "Marketing," or "publishers" and "Publishers," or "small press," "small presses" and "Small Presses."

I don't know who is at fault for underlining Ebook readers in the index, or both underlining and italicizing wait on the page before the introduction.

I'm not sure who is responsible for the bad advice to use .jpg or .gif images in a book instead of higher-resolution .tif images.

I do know that an editor should not allow a book to contain both "bestseller" and "best-seller."

I'm pretty darn sure that Helen is responsible for selecting the ugly, blurry and irrelevant collage on the cover. It's also poorly printed on the title page so it assaults readers twice. It was done by Helen's sister, Peg Miller. Peg is also credited with the ugly cover design, so she apparently also gets the blame for the too-long bars above and below her collage, bad justification on the back cover, and improper spacing after two of the bullets on the back cover.

(And, as long as I'm bitching about the cover) The cover proclaims that Helen is “author of Computer Ease.” While that first book may be a fine book, it did not win the Nobel Prize for literature and is in a field unrelated to the second book. If the likely reaction to a writing credit is “BFD,” “Who cares,” or “So what,” find something else to put in the space that may help you to sell some books.

Neither Helen, nor Peg nor Marguerite is to blame for the ugly thick squiggle of glue that runs down the left side of the title page. That's the fault of the printer. My copy of the book should have been recycled, not sold.

Marguerite says she had the "opportunity to meet the author."

Helen says, "I thank her for editing my work softly, on lavender paper."

I have no idea why the paper color was significant, but I do know that this book needed more than "soft" editing" and that an editor should do more than "meet the author" of a book she's editing.

(#2) Avoid using blurbs from people who have a business interest in the book.

Shel Horowitz’s Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers has a blurb from John Harnish, special products director at Infinity Publishing.

Harnish praises Shel and says, "...selling more books is what successful marketing is all about..."

However, Harnish is in the business of selling Shel's books, because Infinity has co-published an edition.

That’s a conflict of interest, and tacky.

Shel has mini-reviews in the back of his book, plugging books written by some of the blurbers who praise him in the front of his book.

Fern Reiss calls Shel's book "a brilliant potpourri..." Shel calls Fern "an extremely gifted writer."

Dan Poynter says of Shel's book: " this book now..." Shel says of Dan's book: "If you read just one book before deciding to publish, make it this one."

There are similar exchanges of back-patting and brown-nosing between Shel and John Kremer, Shel and Marilyn Ross, and Shel and T. J. Walker.

Tit-for-tat is tacky.

Shel wants to be known as an "expert on frugal, ethical and effective marketing."

Shel writes well and he seems to be an expert on book marketing. I don't doubt the truth of the endorsements of him or by him -- but his work is marred by the appearance of sleazy deal-making.

Mutual ass-kissing may be frugal marketing. But I don't think it's ethical, or effective.


  1. I've noticed that some people seem to write most of the forewords and blurbs in books about self-publishing, but I never realized how sleazy the whole system is. Thanks for exposing it.

  2. An editor writing a review for a book she edited?

    That should be illegal.

    It's certainly immoral.