How positive reviews for self-publishing services and products are easily obtained without being genuine and neither an outright lie:
Beyond that related directly to a book—editing, cover design—the major plus points of an actual publishing deal are:
The relationship is symbiotic: it’s no good having a book in a store if no one knows about it and equally useless if no one can get hold of the book they keep seeing raved about.
The internet, by definition, covers the first with bells on; ones that peal so loudly, it can be easy to think the chimes extend on into the second.
In reality, though, that the internet overcomes the first hurdle with ease does nothing to help with the second; if anything, it opens the floodgates, making the latter a harder challenge due to the abundance of competition.
So it’s no surprise to find press-packs/releases offered self-publishing authors.
Real publishing houses have long established connections, know who to contact to get a book the attention it needs. They don’t use these routes with disregard or without due consideration; to do so would risk the relationship’s future.
It’s really quite something, then, to see such a service offered without any concern for the book’s content or quality, the only stipulation being the payment of a fee.
Who on earth in the press is willing recipient to an endless flow of such material?
One offer for the press pack service came with a number of glowing reviews. Based on those it might appear every Tom, Dick and Sally, so making it more than worth the cost.
Only thing: given the above question, it sounded too good to be true.
Whether it was or not was easy to put to the test.
Logically the reviewers would now be known authors, who if not established would certainly be in the realms of ‘growing reputation’.
Of ten reviewers searched only three were found to have any social media presence linking them to writing books.
Of those three, only two were still self-publishing.
The remaining two were contacted directly and asked if they’d mind confirming the validity of their reviews.
One didn’t simply not answer, they went so far as to instantly block the route the inquiry came from.
The one kind enough to reply said that when signing up for the service they were offered a discount so long as they provided a quotable review on receipt of the package.
It, they said, was nicely put together and they’d reflected this in the review. However, at that point it had only been sent to them for approval (and the review). As for what happened when it was released to the press – nothing. In that respect they thought it a waste of money.
The way the reviews were presented was hardly a lie, while at the same time a long way from the truth any potential purchaser would be looking for.
The cost of the service ran into the hundreds of dollars.
Another example is a more personal tale going back to when very first trying to figure out the most straightforward way to format (covered in Part 1 of this series).
A site belonging to a self-publishing author promised to have figured out the way. At the time the Smashwords guide was one-hundred-and-seventeen pages long. There were so many things to be learned about the entire process that the idea of having to read a small novel just on the subject of formatting was horrendous.
The relief felt for finding the post, therefore, immense.
The article started by talking about all the headache figuring it out had caused; and used some handy visual aids to illustrate.
Unable to believe how much grief it was going to save, I was overcome with gratitude; this lovely person didn’t have to solve all my problems, but for whatever beautiful reason motivating them, they were going to.
I had to fight an almost insatiable urge to scroll straight to the bottom to thank them for their magnanimousness there and then.
When finally getting there, plenty comments of the type I’d wanted to scroll down in a frenzy to leave were already present. The post I’d found truly was golden.
Unfortunately, by the time the process of formatting and uploading The Medusa Protocol was complete, I’d come to learn that all the advice given in the ‘golden post’ was in fact, well . . .
Flawed at the most fundamental level in that at the time formatting required actual formatting to be successful, not the ‘surface’ formatting most people are accustomed to (hitting enter to place spaces between an address and the date on a letter, as example).
Therefore, anyone following the advice was guaranteed to encounter the problems the post claimed to solve.
So, how to explain all the glowing testimonies left in comments at the end?
With the ‘press pack’ reviews in mind, it was easy to see when knowing what to read for.
They’d been left at the time of reading (a result of the same impulse I’d felt), not after the advice had been put into any sense of action.
The comment I left on that visit explained why the advice wouldn’t work. It received a disgruntled reply from the self-publishing site owner, while the comments disabled so meaning no more could be left.
The reply pointed out that the advice was in fact six years old, so of course it no longer worked.
A perfectly reasonable response perhaps, bar one major point: the age of some of the comments – only a matter of months; and on each the site owner had commented back how glad they were to have been a help.
One recent grateful comment leaver said they were a teacher and that the information would be invaluable for their class.
Even there the site owner took the plaudits without showing the slightest hint of care for what they replied to me as being obvious.
- The fact it was six years old doesn’t mean it once worked; on the contrary – formatting has got easier, not harder. The further back gone, the greater the need to understand full formatting not just ‘surface’. Ironically, given recent changes, the advice would probably work today.
- There are a number of reasons why the site owner might think it beneficial to write the post and leave it up; those, though, are not the focus of this one; here the intention is to show how positive reviews and comments can be received when not deserved.
Coming soon/Next: The Great Book Review Swindle.
Previously in this series:
Poetry relating to writing/self-publishing:
- How to Give Good Blog
- Murder on the Orient Express
- The Anti-Net
- Buck Rogers and the Invasion of the Twitter Bots
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan.