Friday, July 1, 2011

Amazon: Review My Book and I'll Promote You!

Emily Witt from the New York Observer published an interesting tidbit recently about how Amazon has taken to bartering for book reviews. Per her article:

"The Observer
has now learned how Amazon is looking to revolutionize the process of getting author blurbs: provide a review for a book on an Amazon imprint and Amazon will give the reviewer — and his or her book — extra promotion as a thank you."
(Emily Witt, New York Observer, 6/28/11)

I read this and frankly found myself torn. On the one hand I admire Amazon for trashing all the conventions of traditional publishing. They are the publishing world's equivalent to Sherman's March through Atlanta (check your Civil War history, it wasn't pretty). Normally, reviews requests are sent out to "independent" and respected reviewers, people with some clout and some cache who, if they like your tome, will give a valued thumbs-up and thus help book sales. Publishers, of course, have their friends who they like to send review copies to, and these friends, in turn, give objective reviews (cough, cough). How much of the traditional review process is really objective? How much "I'll scratch yours if you scratch mine" is really going on under the covers? I'm sure Random House would object to anything tawdry going on, as would the other big six publishers (or any publisher).

But, I found myself wondering, is Amazon really doing anything unethical by asking for reviews and then promising payback if such is given? Aren't they just putting into to cold light of dawn what is going on between publishers and reviewers already? This is perhaps a very traditional move by the nontraditional Amazon! The only downside to this is that reviewers will be more likely to give positive nods if they know they will get positive promotion back by Amazon for their own books. Once again, how different is this from what already happens?

I know, there are people who actually have integrity out there and take objective stands when it comes to their reviews. I have friends who do reviews. I do them for
Kirkus Reviews and Kirkus Discoveries (though some might dispute this as book reviewing). The point however, is that the dust this Amazon "offer" is generating is perhaps a bit disingenuous. Mutual back scratching is a part of self-promotion and it is no different in publishing or in used car sales.

Though I wish the publishing industry had the auto sales equivalent of the Car Fax!

What do you think?

No comments: