How Crown Publishing Group Makes Good

Media, be it large conglomerates or itty bitty blogs, tends to focus on the negative. Numbers prove over and over that bad things - such as yesterday's blog post about my experience with Crown's Blogging for Books program - garner far more attention than happy stories. This isn't always a bad thing, though, especially when we're trying to draw attention to a wrong we'd like to be fixed. Frequently, though, the good news gets buried on page 6 news under the ads for septic cleaners. Today I'd like to feature the good news front and center.

In this particular case, I'm very happy to say that you all managed to garner some attention yesterday. I received some wonderful communications from the folks at Crown and they have been extremely willing to clarify and make changes where needed.

First and foremost: the conditions for cross-posting reviews on commercial book selling websites, as well as Facebook and Twitter. The folks at Crown inform me that these actions are "absolutely optional" for the reviewer, despite presentation otherwise. They assure me that they are going to review that portion of the website and make certain that this is "crystal clear" to the reviewer.

As to the unfortunate choice of wording to describe bloggers - evil warlord book hoarding blogger - I've been assured that this attempt at snark is being removed. I'm probably more forgiving than most here given the number of times I've had my own snark boomerang back on me. Ouch. It hurts. But a good mea culpa goes a long way in my book. I'm good.

And this brings us to the Klout Score. Ah, Klout, you antiquated technological trickery. While the folks at Crown acknowledge the imperfection of Klout, they also lament the lack of any substitute (for more on the flaws of Klout, read here). And sadly, they're correct. There are several programs designed to measure online presence like Klout does - Kred and Peer Index being two - but neither of them do any better than Klout (which is to say, lousy). Short of Crown dedicating an entire division of employees to researching each individual blogger, there simply is no other program available. Personally, I would argue for a points-earned by reviews system ala Penguin's First to Read Program which seems to even the playing field a bit more, but I'm just a piano player in this whorehouse.

Regardless, I'm certainly heartened by Crown's willingness to work with their loyal reviewers. The changes and clarifications are being implemented even as I type and I would encourage all bloggers to take a look at the program to ensure you like what you see.

Whether you participate in programs like Blogging for Books or not, it seems like a good time to reiterate for those who are new to the book reviewing game, that the quality of your book blog is never, ever predicated on the recency of the books you review. Reviewing an advance copy of a book is neither here nor there. As a reader - who has already blown through 63 books this year, the vast majority recommended by YOU - I am always drawn to blogs where the reviews are thoughtful, complete (and a little humor is never amiss), even if the books being reviewed are last year's releases. This is vastly preferable to a mindless blurb about some new release.

So continue to be mindful of the conditions under which you accept a book for review. If you feel uncomfortable, don't accept it. There's nothing shameful in that...it's called having ethics. And since you're not paid to do this thing you love so very much, all you have is your ethical standards. Don't give those up. Not for a blog tour, not to snag some author interview, not to drive up your blog traffic, not for a higher Klout Score (HA!)....not for anything. Always go with your gut feeling. If the conditions for reviewing a book feel wrong to you, they are wrong. With time, patience, and an unfailing adherence to your ethical standards you'll end up earning a lot of respect from your peers.

And now we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming....where did I put that damned review....






35 comments:

  1. Glad to hear they're making changes; I saw there was a big kerfuffle on Twitter yesterday (we were traveling, so I missed most of it). It's interesting to hear that the cross-posting is apparently optional. I KNOW that in earlier iterations of the program it was absolutely required.

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    1. I've heard that and find it very interesting to compare the earlier version that's been in place for their Christian book blogging program with what they are trying to implement here. I've spoken with quite a few bloggers who were active participants in the old program and to a person they disliked the program. Yet no one ever spoke up, which in itself is interesting. I think it's hard to rock the boat (I get that...I hate rocking the boat, all evidence to the contrary, lol).

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  2. Thanks for this update! I can kinda understand Crown's perspective, in ways, even though I think it was implemented so SO poorly. It's great that they're listening and improving based on the community's feelings.

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    1. I hope people keep telling them what they need to improve, Monika. They've been good about listening and I do believe they would extend that courtesy to all of you!

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  3. Kudos to you for standing up for what you believe, and kudos to Crown Publishing for responding and making changes! As a new book blogger, I greatly appreciate your insight in this post! I feel a bit better for having signed up for this program now...

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    1. Go with what feels right, Lori. I hope the program works well for you, but if there's something you don't like about it, shoot them an email and I'd be willing to bet that they'll address your concerns.

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  4. I wonder if your Klout rating went up. Smirk. I got an email saying mine did. I've no idea why.

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    1. No...I'm being punished for bad behavior. They docked me 10 Klout points for mouthing off. Damn.

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  5. Well done you- thanks for fighting the fight for all of us. I agree there are instances of people who ask for and get books with no intention of reviewing them but one would think better record keeping on the publisher's part could fix that.

    Also, "warlords"?! So, not only were they slamming us as a tribe but they're sexist pigs to boot. At best, I'm a war diva and lord to no one.

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    1. Ha - War Diva sounds like a good hashtag to me. It might stick. ;)

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  6. Wow! Change in action! Makes me feel super powerful. What else can we Twitter bomb the hell out of and make change for the better?

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    1. Twitter bomb, *snort*....I could give you Anne Rice's twitter handle, but you don't want to do my dirty work for me. That woman plays for keeps, I tell you.

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  7. I've been part of the Blogging for Books program for years and I've never had a problem. I've never had complaints about my review (which may be long or short depending on the book. Many review programs or blog tour groups ask for (or encourage in various ways) cross-posting. I almost always cross post to Goodreads, but I do it as a teaser, using one or two lines from my review with a link to my blog. Amazon won't let me do that, but I do post there too. I don't know if the fine print has changed; frankly I didn't read it and don't plan to change my reviews. If they want to cut me, so be it; the library has lots of books, and there are lots of publishers out there that will provide me with more review copies than I have time to read.

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  8. I'm *still* struggling to write my review for this program. I have been since I first got the book... it's especially hard because the book is just meh. But yes, I do want to take a shower with lye. A whole lot. But yay for reform!

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  9. I do want to update and say that I'm posting my review with them now and under retailer link the text is this:
    "OPTIONAL: Please post your review on your favorite retailer’s web site and copy and paste the link to the review here."
    I KNOW it wasn't always that way. But good start.

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  10. I love that Crown listened to you. That shows something. Way to go.

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  11. It sucks that it had to come to this for them to respond, but I guess whatever it takes. I'm personally thrilled at the "epic Twitter" dialogue you caused. Your Klout score must be through the roof! I also appreciate your deeper message here, that people need to stay true to who they are, as there is little to no money involved here. I could rattle off a list of reviewers who constantly post reviews on ARCs that are nothing more than fluffy promo blurbs, ethics be damned. We wouldn't want to upset the author. There is nothing honest about them, and I would never consider their "opinion" when choosing my next book. But they have to live with themselves.

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  12. I would think publishers might be interested in the quality of the reviews written, rather than in the online "presence" of the reviewer. But I guess I'm old-fashioned in that regard. Or don't have enough Klout. Or both.....

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  13. I'm glad that they've done some changes but I disagree that Klout is the only way to assess bloggers online presence. What if someone has a high Klout score because they live tweet Game of Thrones? Are those followers going to care if you review the latest Margaret Atwood? Probably not. Looking at a Klout number is a lazy way of researching. By going to the blogger's blog, looking at their twitter, etc. you get an idea of the quality of the content. Call me a curmudgeon but I'm still not thrilled by this Blogging for Books. But as you say, bloggers got to ask themselves if it's worth it.

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    1. I'm with you, Chris. I still think it's a lazy indicator, but whatevs.

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    2. I think the use of a Klout as a measure is both lazy and indicative of what this program cares about -- building "buzz" through social channels rather than with the quality of reviews or the blog they are being featured on.

      As of about 9:30 p.m. on 6/1, the site hasn't changed the wording about posting on retail sites; it still reads as if that is required to participate. That, to me, indicates that they don't actually care about our blogs, just the other channels they think that book people are going to talk about books on. The whole thing just makes me angry.

      Not to be too harsh, but I really don't think Crown has done anything to fundamentally address the concerns raised by bloggers other than removing the obviously inconsiderate language about "book hoarding bloggers."

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    3. Kim - thank you for that important update....I haven't been to the site this weekend. Personally, it doesn't much matter what Crown does at this point short of scrapping the program altogether and starting anew...I will not be participating. I won't presume to tell other bloggers what to do here, but most that I know will not be messing around with this kind of crap. Crown will end up with what they cultivate: newer bloggers who don't know any better but also don't have a large audience. How does that help Crown? I don't get it.

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  14. Huzzah! Being listened to is a good thing. Thoughtful, responsive tweaks from Crown are great. Will I be there Blogging for Books? Hell no, but good for others who will get to be part of positive changes to this particular program.

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    1. I won't be there, either, Andi. But I hope the changes benefit the bloggers who do participate.

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  15. I think it's pretty great that they are listening. You don't see that in a big companies a whole lot ;) Kudos to you for getting this particular ball rolling!

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    1. I think they want to listen to you guys. If you do participate, or want to participate, and have issues I think you can feel confident that an email to them will be at the very least responded to. And you're right - that's a good thing.

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  16. You have more Klout than you thought! Glad to hear the program will be a little more "blogger friendly"(even though it's still not something I would participate in).

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    1. Well it certainly wasn't me, ha ha....it was everyone else who spoke up in tandem. :) And I do hope it works for them, even if it's something that still isn't my kind of thing. And I'm with you and Andi...I won't be participating regardless.

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  17. I missed out on much of this as it was happening, but I just want to say that I love you for the last two paragraphs. Bravo times a million.

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    1. I'd like to open up some dialog about this whole reviewing thing and what it has turned into --- but I'm probably opening up a can of vipers if I do. You can probably see why I'm hesitant. I get a little discouraged when I see how much book reviewing has turned into book blurbing. I'd actually like to hone the craft a bit instead of reinforcing what print/professional reviewers have been saying about us for years. Ah well...can't get everything we want I suppose.

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    2. I would love to see this conversation. I've started to get pretty frustrated by the fact that there are cases when I can clearly tell when a blogger hasn't read a book (because I've read it), but has instead just twisted a blurb around to have a post that "counts" as a review.

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  18. Wow, this was fun. =)

    Even though I'm not currently blogging, I can't seem to quit the community. I still love reading and commenting on blogs, and love that a group of pissed off readers can change the publishing world - even if it's just a small part of it. Kudos!

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    1. HA - your comment made me laugh because you hit the nail on the head. Okay, I'll admit it: sometimes it is fun to stir the pot a little bit. Tee hee. :)

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  19. Someone has to ruffle their feathers! Like minded people get the job done! OBSERVER

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  20. Someone has to ruffle their feathers! Like minded people get the job done! OBSERVER

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Fire away!