11.16.2006

A New Nitwit!

Remember the guy who wasn't sure if he was willing to send a manuscript to an agent cause she might not dispose of it safely? He was pretty sure a five pound return mailer was the only safe course of action, even though it meant said agent had to stand in line at the post office.

I thought of that purse-lipped, deeply suspicious gent when I read this.


Anyone with an ounce of brains or experience on either side of the pr equation can tell you the email this dame got was a FORM LETTER. Those kinds of offers are as old as dirt and twice as boring.



Here's a MAJOR clue for everyone who gets "free books". Publicists pull up a list marked "fiction outlets" or "romance outlets" or "true crime outlets in Romance, Arkansas" from their ten thousand name data base and they send a form email. Or a book. Or an offer. Sometimes all three.

They are ecstatic if 10% of the places they send books even mention them, let alone say something akin to "you should buy this". The idea that a reviewer or a blogger cares about keeping a publisher happy demonstrates a very skewed idea of how publishing works. Talk to any publicist in any publishing company. They're pretty sure their job is to keep reviewers happy.

I don't know any publisher EVER who stopped sending books to a newspaper for a bad review. Michiko Kakutani sure isn't worried about that.

I think it's pretty funny that Kim Bofo thinks she can be bought for a hundred dollar gift certificate and other people can be too.

(She's right about one thing though--I'm both cheap and easy. Send over Against the Day, and I WILL discuss it. You can even save yourself the cost of a gift certificate.)

The fact that I bought the last book I raved about doesn't mean comments about the books I didn't buy myself are less objective. I've never traded cash for a Jack Reacher novel; the Merc buys them for me. I pay to be a member. Sort out the objectivity there.

What about when the author is your friend and gives you a copy? Or you buy a copy of your friend's book at Amazon?

Confuzzled?

Miss Snark will step in to save the day: How about we just read what you have to say. If you look and sound like a shill for crap, we'll only assume you've been paid off rather than you're a bad writer or an idiot with no taste. You can make the same assumption about me.

44 comments:

Bernita said...

Ah, the neo-Puritans strike again.

Zany Mom said...

In a prior instance of nitwittery, I was told to send along a sase if I wanted my ms back (and was led to believe that I should want it back -- don't ask!).

I placed the ms in a SAS Box and stuck it in a Priority Mail Envelope.

To a total newbie it seemed a reasonable thing to do. Though in hindsight it screamed, "Reject Me! My posage-paid box awaits!"

Believe me, next time I'll let you shred it for kitty litter. ;)

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Miss Snark. I think making an agent or editor stand in line with a 5 lb package is ridiculously unkind, unprofessional and a waste of time and money. HOWEVER, receiving a rejection on the back of someone else's rejected ms page (complete with LNAME and TITLE) is the height of bad taste and unprofessionalism. If the only way to guarantee that an agent understands an author's idea of "recycle" is to have the ms shipped back to you so it can be properly recycled (in a recycle bin) then get in line.

Do I sound bitter? Well, I am. My agent just sold my ms. in a good deal, a 3 book deal, to a big NY publisher. My career goal used to be make the NYTB list. Now it's to become so big I can name the agent who did this, without fear of being dropped by my publisher.

Am I the only author who objects to having rejections sent out to authors on the back of ms. pages? Just think about the pages of your rejected darlings going out to other aspiring writers with rejections on the back.

Kelley Bell said...

I am preparing to write my first review on a freebie sent from a publisher.

As an amateur with ego, I want to do it right, so I read that post, and an interview with Maude Newton, in which she defends book bashing as a responsible form of critique.

Neither advice sat well with this optimistic lit chick, so I thank you Miss Snark, for leading us out of the darkness once again.

Anonymous said...

This person is ridiculous.

I never assume any book reviewer is "peddling something to keep a publisher happy." If they were on the publisher's payroll, then, yes. But when they write for a newspaper or post on their own blog...?

type, monkey, type said...

Golly. Does she not realize she can accept a free book and write a bad review? Does she get THAT excited by free books? Doesn't she have any reviewer ethics?

As for the contest (which she is participating in, whether she knows it or not, by mentioning it and posting the link on her blog), if she didn't like the book, I would think the very small chance of winning a hundred bucks would NOT be incentive to mention the contest on her blog--if she had any reviewer ethics. I think the publisher did it right by making the "prize" just a token thank you rather than, say, a cruise or a new Jag or something.

I think the marketing idea is awesome. It's MARKETING! All they want people to do is visit their website. Big deal.

BitchySmurf said...

Yeah that Thirtheenth Tale online contest. That was what made it a bestseller. Not that B&N picked it for it's new book club.

Bernita said...

How do I get on that list for free books?

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of a book blogger before. I think she is overwhelmed by a sense of her own importance.

sherryd said...

The most suspicious writers (I use the term loosely) are inmates. They are convinced the agent/editor/publisher is going to be so impressed with their story that they'll slap their own name on it and sell it for big bucks. Inmates are not someone you want to insult by telling them their writing sucks big time, so a form reject and original, hand-written (often in pencil) ms is returned. I speak from sad experience.

lady t said...

Kim mentioned the campaign for The Thirteenth Tale,where bloggers were encouraged to promote the book and win a specially bound edition of the book as a prize. I reviewed TTT during the summer before the campaign got started and didn't sign up for it afterwards.

I had requested an ARC from one of the S&S publicists,due to my interest in the book(had read about it at several websites)and was happy to give it a promotional push because I actually liked the book. Having worked in a bookstore for a long time,I know that it's standard practice to hand out ARCs to anyone who might help sell the book. Kim seems very naive to me-does she think that all professional book reviewers buy the books they write about? Getting a free copy is not a big deal. If the publishers were paying folks to write only positive reviews,that would be one thing but giving away free copies in hopes of getting some positive blog PR? Not a big scandal there.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm misreading this, but I think the (usually brilliant) Miss Snark is wrong on this one. I'm a professional movie critic, and i get tons of free DVDs in the mail. No problem, and the blogger says in that article that she takes the free books. However, if a publicist offered me a bribe, even in the form of a lottery ticket (which is what that is), I'd have to reject it and contact my editor about not doing the review. It doesn't matter if I give the movie a good or bad review. I think the blogger is correct in that something like this creates the appearance of inpropriety, and that's good enough to make it a no-no.

BuffySquirrel said...

Yes, you can get a free book and write a bad review, but the principle of reciprocity makes it less likely than if you paid for the book. Look at all the kerfuffle about how drug studies funded by the pharmaceutical companies consistently return more positive reports than independent studies. Bias doesn't need to be conscious to be bias.

Still, I wouldn't mind being on the free book list myself...

writtenwyrdd said...

"Am I the only author who objects to having rejections sent out to authors on the back of ms. pages? Just think about the pages of your rejected darlings going out to other aspiring writers with rejections on the back."

Okay, now THAT was horribly, horribly wrong. I don't think anyone said that this was okay. It isn't, by any stretch of the imagination. Proper recycling doesn't mean reuse, it means to the dump with other office paper to be pulped and made into gin labels or something.

Lee Child said...

You never traded cash for a Jack Reacher novel?

I'm devastated.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the jury for a book award. Some books I buy out of my own pocket, some I get from friends or the library, and some I get for free from the publisher or author.

And I...I...*whispers* treat them all the same. I don't note which ones I got gratis and which I had to shell out moolah for. Silly me. I thought all that mattered was the quality of the book, not how I got it.

But then, I never studied journalistic ethics. Oh, wait. That might be because they don't apply here. Whew.

Aconite

litagent said...

Sorry to be off-topic, but to Anonymous who is irritated that he/she received a rejection letter on the back of another writer's manuscript page --

Is there, just maybe, the possibility that the letter was printed on the page BY ACCIDENT? It seems to me that it's not a stretch it imagine an errant page getting picked up with a stack of paper and put into the printer. On the other hand, if it was deliberate, why not still give the publisher the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps he so strongly believes in recycling and saving trees that he reuses all paper that comes into his office. (I used to give manuscript paper to my kids to color on, until my daughter presented my mother with a lovely picture that had some rather raw language on the other side. She couldn't read, but my mother could.) My point is, it seems like you are angry about the rejection, rather than the form. You sold you book. Get past it.

Miss Snark said...

Miss Snark confesses freely to throwing herself on Jack Reacher novels at the Merc. She's traded blood and abrasions to wrest them from the grip of the deceptively small but fierce Grandmother Snark.

She'll stop at once.

well..maybe just one more.

December Quinn said...

Wow...I send copies of my books to review blogs I like and respect all the time. I kinda thought most people did, and that while book bloggers might buy a large portion of their books, getting them free happened a lot too (especially in the ebook world). I've never expected that because I've made comments and exchanged some friendly emails with them, that they won't savage my book if they hate it, either.


But I guess I can go ahead and cancel my planned "mention my book on your blog" contest that I thought was a neat idea... :sheepish

Anonymous said...

Look, I mean obviously review copies are standard practice for book reviewers, and it seems like this blogger's being a little, um, over-ethical in mentioning that she got a review copy, but the hundred bucks for mentioning the book sounds straight-up scuzzy.

It wasn't a contest for the bloggers--if I read the email right, they just got the money for a mention. I'm pretty sure any newspaper/magazine's ethics policies would require returning the cash.

Anonymous said...

litagent --

Do you imagine I have never received a rejection before? I have. Several. I accepted that fact that I hadn't achieved the level of craft necessary for an offer of representation and worked on that, and will continue to work on getting better. I'm driven toward excellence.

Could this agent have made a mistake such as a stray piece of manuscript in the printer? I hope so. And I could overlook that, but how do you ask?

But, what if it wasn't a mistake and this is the agent's idea of recycling? It's a noble idea but it somehow defies client confidentiality--not technically, but it's wrong. Further, I am aware of who submitted to this agent, what manuscript they'd sent this agent, and I assume it's rejected. And if not rejected, then it's one of this agent's clients.

A writer's idea of recycling is what writtenwyrd said-- grind it down to pulp for gin labels. You can even use it for toilet paper. I wouldn't mind if the pages were used for some 5-year old to color on, but then again, agents don't have the time to read the pages of their scrap paper to make sure it's age appropriate.

It's unprofessional and this agent has rejected other authors this way, as well. It's discussed on the private message boards of aspiring writers, who wouldn't dare air their gripe out loud for fear they'll end up on that dreaded "reject no matter what" list that agents claim to have.

Anonymous said...

Uuhh, Miss Snark, what is a "Merc"?

This is not impertinence or a joke question, I really do not know (translation: please doan' shoot me with the Snarkler gun, please...).
Not only am I not in US but English is not my first language (as should be obvious from my accent).

Or is this not an American thing but rather a Publishing World Word only known by the initiates?

Nitwittingly (but in an innocent sort of way) yours,
AlmostWriter

Miss Snark said...

Merc= the Mercantile Library here in New York. It's heaven on earth. You may quote me on that.


They don't pay me to say that either... I pay them cause they're worth not only the price of membership, they're worth twice that.

tlh said...

I've been meaning to thank you for posting about the Jack Reacher novels, by the way. I clued in a friend who is now devouring them. I think he just finished the third or fourth one, and I actually know what to buy him for Christmas this year. So thanks!

How do you get onto whatever list that means you get free books, anyway?

Stacy said...

I read the comments trail for the post, and I think that there is some confusion among book bloggers; they seem to think that mentioning a free book on their blog will make the book a hit (WTF?), and that accepting freebies without telling the world about it amounts to payola.

I agree that the contest is severely creepy, but why should they feel compelled to say they got the book free? They are under no obligation to like it, and if someone's opinion can be bought for the cost of a book, fercrissake, then they really need to enroll in self-esteem classes.

Kim said...

I sweat out each and every review I've ever recieved because the last thing I expect is someone to make nice even if they think my book sucks. Knock wood, the whole suck-thing has never happened, but I'm always glass-half-empty when it comes to reviews. That way, when it's good, I can be happy. And if it's not so good... well we won't go there. I don't know if every other author feels that way, but I do. And I've never offered money... hmmm...

S. W. Vaughn said...

I read Miss Snark's post.

I clicked the link and read the book blogger's post.

I became confused.

Came back and read Miss Snark's post again.

It's all clear now. Thank you -- I was afraid, for a moment, that marketing books had suddenly become a bad thing to do. :-)

Lee Child said...

Miss S, if I knew your secret identity I'd be happy to send you a copy of each new Reacher book, hot off the press, suitably inscribed, with a second copy for Grandmother S, to save both her abrasions and yours.

Miss Snark said...

we sell pay per view rights to those brawls, and it funds the gin-of-the-month club!!

Anonymous said...

"My career goal used to be make the NYTB list. Now it's to become so big I can name the agent who did this, without fear of being dropped by my publisher."

"It's discussed on the private message boards of aspiring writers, who wouldn't dare air their gripe out loud for fear they'll end up on that dreaded "reject no matter what" list that agents claim to have."

Is it really necessary to live in this much fear of an agent? It's not like the gripe is that you were rejected. You were rejected ON THE BACK OF SOMEONE ELSE'S MANUSCRIPT. It's unprofessional and disrespectful. Does anyone here send their query letters on the back of old invoices? Didn't think so.

We have a responsibility to speak up about bad behavior on the part of industry professionals. Isn't that what Writer Beware, Preditors and Editors, and the 20 Worst Agents list are all about? Granted, this isn't in the same league as the scam artists, but others should still be warned.

Anonymous said...

It's a blog, not some all important lit magazine...and anyone can blog, regardless of degree or experience or whatever...good grief...I too do reviews and free stuff shows up all the time! It has never meant that I won't give an honest crit...if it sucks, it still sucks free! Nitwit.

Tattieheid said...

Surely if she feels that strongly about receiving any kind of financial incentive for pushing books she should take the Amazon link off her blogg. Presumably she gets a commission if anyone buys a book through that link.


:)

Anonymous said...

Here's a novel idea: if she'd review the book truthfully then no one can doubt her motivations. If she liked it, we can decide to believe her or not. If she hated it, we can decide to believe her or not. Be honest. How's that for ethical?

--E said...

In a world where thousands send "retainer fees" to "agents", or think that Publish America is a real publisher, it doesn't seem at all strange to me that a blogging reviewer thinks blogs have strong impact in promoting a book. People are naive in many ways.

I think the S&S offer is odious. It says specifically promote the book--they don't want bloggers to merely "mention" or "give a review, good or bad." "Promote" means tout the book. The blogger who drives the most readers to enter the contest for the leather-bound edition will win the $100 and more books.

While a blogger could in theory say, "Hey everyone, this book sucks, but if you all enter the sweepstakes for the leather-bound edition, I can win cash," that's clearly not the intent of the S&S marketers who came up with this plan. S&S is asking bloggers to shill. It is an attempt to astroturf a grass-roots word of mouth.

I would like to think that most blogging reviewers would review a book honestly, regardless of source. I also like to think that most blogging reviewers would (a) see through this scheme, and (b) make fun of it. But to judge by the responses on this thread, plenty of people see nothing wrong with becoming a marketing shill for free (free, because the $100 isn't guaranteed).

Is KimBofo a little naive and self-important? Yeah. Is she wrong to think that bloggers should be upfront about the source of books? I don't know. There are plenty of naive folks who would be so excited by getting a free book that they're ready to like it. They're going to be reading it in the best frame of mind, not the most critical.

Fortunately, the test of any blogging reviewer is like the test of an agent--what does their track record look like? If they never give a negative review, I suspect them highly (unless they state up front that they simply won't post reviews for books they don't like).

(Word verification: ndfddle. I guess that's what Nr did while Rm brnd.)

Maria said...

To the anon that received a reject on the back of a manuscript--yeah, it's unprofessional and over the top, but retaliation? Why bother? Most writers are going to get one rejection from that agent and move on without sending another query to him/her. I know I wouldn't be tempted to send another manuscript or query. Maybe she thought the page was from your manuscript--ran out of paper, it was handy and she thought it was yours anyway so she quickly printed the reject on it.

Unprofessionalism (if it wasn't a mistake) catches up to people. The agent will eventually lose business because that unprofessional behavior will show up in other ways--like when dealing with an editor that person probably cuts corners too. If the agent does it enough, it will catch up to him/her.

If you sang to the world about said agent, whether you were a successful author or not, yeah, it would just sound bitter. And unprofessional. I don't think you really want to go there.

And I do wish you the best of luck on your books!!! Good for you!

Take the happiness, leave the baggage!!!

writtenwyrdd said...

s.w. vaughn said what I was thinking. The Snarkiness level can get a bit high now and then, but overall I can't find anything to argue with when Miss Snark makes a (pointed) point.

I couldn't figure out why anyone would find it an ethical issue. People are given freebies to review; it's a part of everyday business practices. Why was that such a shock?

Joelle said...

I blog about books. I only write about the books I like 'cause I don't want to write mean things (awwww...ain't that sweet...I know, I know, but that's me). If you send me your free book (please do!) and I like it, I'll write about it. If I don't mum's the word. Now that's a deal publishers might like. I especially like YA humor, just so you know.

janice b said...

"Lee Child said...
Miss S, if I knew your secret identity I'd be happy to send you a copy of each new Reacher book, hot off the press, suitably inscribed, with a second copy for Grandmother S, to save both her abrasions and yours."

Lee- Since Miss S obviously wants to remain anonymous, I'd be thrilled to receive a copy of the new Reacher book in her place. I'm reading "The Enemy" right now (on page 294) and looking forward to reading more. Unfortuantely, I blame you for my fatigue the past few days. I'm staying up late reading your work. Ah--the draw and downfall of a great thriller.
janice

mata said...

I particularly liked the comment that thanked her for her "inciteful" comment. Something Freudian about that.

Richard Lewis said...

Well, heck, I wasn't aware of kimbofo's existence until now, and just sent her an email asking her if she wouldn't mind a free copy of my forthcoming novel to review.

Since I live on a remote tropical island (well, not so remote to tourists) I only have the Internet available to me to do personal PR work -- no bookstores to do readings, no local TV stations to do interviews.

I did this with my first novel last year, contacting book bloggers, and it was a partial success. Plenty ignored me, a couple give me less than glowing reviews, although I did get one great review in a major national magazine because the blogger turned out to be a reviewer there too.

randomsome1 said...

I think it's pretty funny that Kim Bofo thinks she can be bought for a hundred dollar gift certificate and other people can be too.

You mean people can't? Could've fooled me.

I'll read ARCs, yeah, and I'll give feedback/promote the book if I decide I like it--but I do that because I want to. (The fact that I mock and pick more than promote is beside the point.) So when the publisher starts bringing "prizes" into things, then it starts to feel like a payoff, an "I'll scratch your back . . ." deal. But then again, an offer like that would feel too much like one of those blinking ads at the top of a web page, and I'd probably turn my nose up at it.

Random (who does NOT want to click here to receive a free X-box, thxmuch)

shawna said...

Do you think the blogger realizes that she DID promote the book and contest by mentioning them by name and linking to them?

In fact, it made me curious enough that I checked out the website, and the excerpt is intriguing. Don't think she'd like that, hmm?

SAND STORM said...

Lee I am the real Miss Snark I'll finally come out and admit it. I can be reached at my other blog, just click name.
I just finished Without Fail (I know a little behind) but a great read.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that receiving free books somehow makes you inclined to like the books better. If you're a professional reviewer, you often have no choice but to review a lot of books you would never even pick up of your own accord, because your editors want you to. If I actually had to pay for those books, I would have a much harder time being objective when they just aren't to my personal taste. As it is, my biggest ethical concern is how to dispose of them once I'm done with them and never want to see them again. (The ones I love, on the other hand, I hold on to and soon forget I received them free.)

I guess it's different with book bloggers, in that nobody's telling them what to review. For instance, if a millionaire POD author offered me $100 to review his unreadable book (that'll be the day!), and I were dumb enough to suggest it to my bosses, they would veto the idea. Bloggers don't have that oversight, so I suppose ethical issues could theoretically come into play. All the same, if the blogger's a known shill, he/she will lose readers fast.