Monday, July 7, 2014

"Top Consumer Reviews" is still incompetent and still full of shit and may be corrupt

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Reviews of products and services are useful, powerful and time-honored adjuncts to commerce.
  • Consumer Reports magazine has been publishing reviews by professional testers since 1936.
  • Reviews by amateurs on can make a book or other product become a bestseller -- or doom it.
  • According to Amberly Dressler, managing editor of Website Magazine, "Consumers are making their own decisions less and less, relying on the reviews of their fellow users to determine where to spend their dollars."
Sadly, the Internet requires no qualifications or testing for reviewers.
  • Some reviewers have not used the products they endorse or condemn. 
  • Some reviewers are corrupt "sock puppets." Authors and others can even buy phony reviews.
  • Some reviewers seem to know absolutely nothing about the field they are advising about.
That seems to be the case with reviews of self-publishing services provided by Top Consumer Reviews that I complained about last October. and has not improved.

The website brags that: "We take pride in the service we provide for you, and treat our responsibilities very seriously . . . .  Our expert reviewers . . . .  bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise covering a broad range of skills. Some of their backgrounds include successful careers in: Banking, Education, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Health care, Homemaking, Insurance, Investment portfolios, Management, Military, Sales, Software development, Transportation"

Notably absent from the list are experts with experience in publishing or writing.

More: "Although the makeup of our company is diverse, we all share one common goal: to bring you the best information on the top products available, in a format that's as easy to use as possible. After visiting our website, we hope you feel that we've met that challenge!"

I certainly don't.

More: Every item we review is meticulously researched so that we can provide the best information for you. We don't stop there. We also investigate the companies that offer these products as well . . . . we strive to deliver current, factual, correct information,

Not necessarily so.

More: "Ratings are subjective and are the sole opinion of"

It would be better if the reviewers got opinions from people with more knowledge of self-publishing, especially customers of the self-publishing companies.
  • The selection of companies shows fundamental ignorance.
  • Ignoring CreateSpace and ebooks is negligent.
  • Saying that "Outskirts Press sets the standard by which all self publishing companies should be judged and clearly earns our highest rating" shows such a high level of naivety (and maybe dishonesty) that I can't rely on any review the company publishes.
Furthermore, the site carries an ad for Outskirts that creates revenue for Top Consumer Reviews when people click on it, and other links to Outskirts that apparently generate "affiliate marketing" income.

The site tells prospective authors that "Outskirts Press allows authors to keep 100% of the royalties from the sale of their books. This incredible feature sets this program above the rest of the self-publishing services." Saying that Outskirts pays 100% author royalties, with no explanation, is misleading, meaningless and can hurt both competitors and authors. I asked Top Consumer Reviews for an explanation but received no response.

100% of what? Royalty calculation in the self-publishing business is notoriously fuzzy. It's like Hollywood contracts that promise to pay a percentage of the "net profit," but the studios inflate the costs of making the movie so there is no profit left to distribute.

The Outskirts Press website says, "You receive 100% of your author royalties." The site does not show how the percentage is calculated or what is deducted before you get 100%

Author John H. Hohn complained online that "Outskirts Press priced my book at too high for the market and paid me less than $.37 royalty on each."

The Outskirts Press web page shown below brags of "High Royalties" but the examples shown range from about 26% to about 14% -- FAR less than 100%.

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The review of Outskirts on reads like an ad, not an article (e.g., "With superior services, upfront pricing, and honest business practices, they are dedicated to ensuring the success of their authors.") The opinions offered by the reviewer contradict opinions posted online by unhappy Outskirts customers:
  • "I have had nothing but troubles and delay since last February in getting my children's storybook published by Outskirts Press. They have changed representatives on me three times and there is no coordination between them so each time it's like starting over. The colorizer(s) were terrible so I finally decided to use the colored images I sent in instead which they are "cleaning" up but which I am still having to pay the colorization fee for. And it seem that they have been just sitting on it and that nothing has been done. They tell me that they are finally sending the images for proofing tomorrow but I'm not counting on it. I will appreciate it if you have any negative information about Outskirts Press that you could share with me because I'm really beginning to think they are bogus and just taking my money which was close to $3,000.00."
  • "My cause for breach of contract and damages is because of consistent disregard, for whatever reason, the promise of 10 to 13 weeks for production that has extended into 9 months of deliberate delays.  I have no idea as to why this deliberate posture was taken. . . I was deprived of 8 to 9 months of having my book marketable and available to the public, therefore my reasoning for the suit being at $7,500.00. To complicate the association it was difficult to communicate as in phoning only voice-mail would come up with no response, Outskirts Press had no physical office address just a box number at a UPS station."
  • "I am a very disappointed client of Outskirts. It's such an incompetent company operated by incompetent people. When they uploaded my manuscript onto a galley book, spaces between sentences were deleted, strange things such as half parentheses ")", a numeric "1" after a comma showed up and they made a two-people dialogue into one person's, deleted indentations, printed one sentence in a bold letters, and about more than a dozen headings under "Chapter Numbers" were left aligned. Is there any way I can get some money back? I told them I am backing out, and the supervisor says she will be working directly with me from now on, but I can't trust her."
  • "I have had some scathing reviews due to the errors that were left in my book after I paid a small fortune for editing with the Outskirts editing team. I was so excited when my book was first released, but after a few family members pointed out the mistakes left behind, I can't describe the restraint it took for me not to explode. I tried to reason with my so-called marketing representative, but she simply hid behind the "fine print" they give you after they receive payment from you. It would have cost me another small fortune to revise the book, and I am still in debt from publishing it in the first place. The marketing representative simply would not assume any responsibility for mistakes that Outskirts made. Outskirts made me feel paranoid about not getting their editing service, but when I did it was as if I had no editing at all."
Despite many tales of woe, tells us that "Outskirts Press is an excellent self-publishing service. . . . Outskirts Press sets the standard by which all self publishing companies should be judged and clearly earns our highest rating."

So, is inept, irresponsible or dishonest? I think the answer is "all three."

The company offers this cop-out: "We do not guarantee . . .  that the . . . information provided for each product [is] current and/or correct."

In other words, do not trust anything that says. That's excellent advice.

By the way, the ranking of self pubcos (with inept Outskirts at the top and highly regarded CreateSpace missing) that was online today (below) is unchanged from October of last year. The ignorant fools who operate the website have learned nothing!

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