K.I.P.P. or Keep It Professional People

 professionalism (the dictionary project)

 

This week’s Author CEO is going to be different. Not only will I be writing with my business hat on, but I will be topping it with my reviewer’s hat, as well as sliding in my opinion.

This past weekend, I was sent a post. The post, which appeared on Amazon Alert ( http://htl.li/p5FwS ) “exposed” prominent self-published authors who purchased their reviews from Fiverr.  The author was self-proclaimed as someone who was employed in the marketing department for the organization, a former marketing executive and had worked with authors in acquiring sock puppet reviews.  When I first read the article, my initial thought was HOLY COW, BATMAN! Some of the names the author revealed blew my mind.  I sent the post to both book reviewer and author friends to see what they thought.

I then set out to really break down the article .  One of the first things that stood out to me was that the author of the article wrote it anonymously-only identifying him/herself as a marketing person for Fiverr.  Let me give an example of how this looks. Let’s say that I write a post on mismanagement of hospital operating rooms.  I can tell my readers that I am Director of Surgical Services for Rush University Medical Center, but because I am open as to my background, my readers know that this isn’t the case and that I don’t have the authority nor the expertise to write on this subject. Now, if I write that post anonymously, my readers have no way to vet my credentials or that I am an expert on this information.  They take it at face value. The same concept applies here. While the author identifies him/herself as a marketing professional with Fiverr, without a name, we are unable to confirm this writer’s credentials or that the author has the authority to write on this subject. For all we know, this author could simply be another author with a jealous streak, a blogger with an agenda or someone who is bored and writing in his/her parents’ basement.

It didn’t take long for my book reviewer friends to chime in. One of the top comments came from Deanna Fisher with Dee’s Book Blog. Dee is an expert on the workings, language and culture of Amazon and Goodreads.  Dee noticed that while the author QUOTES Melissa Foster emails, neither screen shots or copies of the emails with reference to Melissa’s email address and dates are given.  Nor are they given for any other author mentioned in this post. As someone who has stated that they had access to these emails and interactions with the authors, enough to give specific quotes, are we not to supposed to question that they would have kept these emails to give such details as to the content of the conversation within them?  I can tell readers of this post that I am a 6 foot, buxom blonde. Unless one has seen a picture of me, one would be unable to confirm if this is true. As readers of the post, are we supposed to be gullible and accept the word of an anonymous author simply based on what is being said to us?  That is a really dangerous path to go on, if we are. Are those who do, straddled with their own agenda for blindly believing allegations which cannot be confirmed?

Please don’t get me wrong. Do I believe that sock puppet reviews exist? Yes, I do, but before I head in blindly and follow an allegation of a sock puppet review, I want to confirm that the person making the allegation has the authority and material to make the allegation. Anyone can make allegations behind a black curtain. After all, we are not discussing the leaking of NSA secrets nor are we protecting a corporate whistle blower.  Should we not demand more from our “sources” (or at least minimally a name) before blindly following them or are we an industry of sheep?

So, it is time to put on my business hat.

Any one remotely familiar with The Author CEO knows that one of my key phrases is…DON’T RESPOND TO DRIVE BY REVIEWERS. It reflects only on the reviewer UNTIL the author responds. I realized that, while that remains my saying in regards to book reviews, hughhoweymedthis was a special circumstance that demanded a response, but a professional one.  As I was perusing the websites and such of those identified in the post to assess their responses to it, I came across Hugh Howey’s post ( http://bit.ly/19AdyE4 ). Now, as I stated earlier, when I saw his name on it, my mouth dropped. Let’s face it, Hugh Howey has no reason to purchase book reviews. Even in my little rural library consortium, his books are in every one of the libraries, some with multiple copies. Last I heard, he has a movie deal in the works for his last release and even other authors acknowledge Hugh’s success with great admiration for what a down to earth guy he is. Just sayin’!  I thought Hugh had the most professional and most selfless response.   His concern wasn’t for him. He recognized that this wasn’t going to affect him. His concern was for his fellow authors who might not have that luxury. His concern was for the industry where this type of behavior now seems to be rampant. HOWEVER, He didn’t use his post as an attack of the aforementioned post, but more as a reflection of the industry today.

Hugh had a great paragraph in his post on this subject:

You can clock me speeding down the road and give me a ticket, but how can anyone who drives a vehicle prove that they never speed, not ever? This is the classic recipe for a witchhunt. Anyone can accuse, and the only defense is to profess innocence, which is what the guilty and innocent do in equal measure. I find that it’s quite fitting that I’m sitting here in Boston, just a stone’s throw from Salem, thinking about these things.

So, on that note, readers, there are times when such “atrocities” need to be addressed.  When the allegations are so egregious as to question one’s ethics or morals as an author, a professional or that as human being then it must be responded to. Weigh the severity though…is this a single drive by reviewer with an agenda of their own or something much more systemic? One demands a response while one doesn’t. Respond to every drive by reviewer and one gets the reputation for being thin skinned and the boy/girl who cries wolf. Save the big guns for when it really matters.

Here are some tips when this type of post is to be written:

1)      Remain professional at any cost. If need be, write out a post(s) where you rip the person a new rear-end, call them every name in the book and what you would do if you ever met them down a dark alley. Now, tear that/those up and write your professional post. If need be, have several people read it to ensure it is professional.

2)      Respond to the situation. Don’t make it personal and don’t attack the poster. Responding personally brings you down to the same level that the original poster is on.

3)      Encourage responders on your blog to keep it professional as well. Remember, your commenters can affect your brand almost as much as you do. Do you want unprofessional commenters to tear down or put chinks in everything that you worked to obtain?

Remember the old acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)? Well, here is a new one to remember!

K-Keep

I-It

P-Professional

P-People

 

naomiism 4

 

You will be happy you did!

 

 

Comment here!

Comments

  1. Catriona Troth says:

    Naomi, thank you for this. In the last few days, I have seen things popping up in different forums that have caused me a great deal of concern: sincere, honest, intelligent people of integrity – both readers/reviewers AND authors – expressing genuine fear that something they say or do online will provoke a backlash of personal attacks from the other ‘side.’

    We live in a world were we have a completely unprecedented opportunity for authors to interact directly with their readers – an astonishing privilege for us writers and something that ought to be fun for readers too. But I am horribly afraid that the appalling behaviour of a tiny minority is going to ruin that for everyone.

    So I agree with completely: Keep It Professional People.

    • I agree, Catriona. This article had such the dealings of a witch hunt that people, including authors(!), were so willing to jump on that I felt that it demanded a response.

      There are going to be people who have their own agendas/biases for jumping in blindly and not verifying sources. We can’t control those individuals, but we can demand more for ourselves and the industry (when it is appropriate AND in an appropriate manner), call such posters on their behavior. Will there be negative reactions? Sure will. BUT, with each time, Indie authors take a stand against this type of behavior, more people will learn to look deeper into such posts and the drive for posting them.

  2. Hi Naomi, and thank you for your well-thought response.

    As one of the authors named for ‘faking’ awards (not reviews), my initial reaction was: WTH? I paid entrance fees like any other author, won some, lost some. If these are FAKE awards, that’s news to me.

    It’s also news to the panelists who contacted me privately (after somehow seeing the article) who said they loved my book and were happy to vote for it to win.

    I’m baffled by this site and sites like it, who refer to themselves as ‘investigative journalists’ but share no confirmed proof sources or interviews (my college journalism professors would laugh in their face if they tried to present this as ‘real’). Sadly, many people read opinion pieces full of allegations and believe it to be true — whatever is on the internet must be true, right?

    Regardless, my only response directly to the site was a comment (still not approved) that thanked them for the additional publicity and sales. All publicity is good publicity, right? I also thanked them for sending some readers my way, one of whom is a childhood sexual abuse survivor also, and said he benefited greatly from my book (and I have that email as proof if anyone is interested).

    🙂 Hugs, Naomi.

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