Monday, May 20, 2013
Book Review Mafia? Justin Bieber's Monkey; Feminists and Transphobia
Is there a book review mafia?
A friend of mine thinks there is. I'm not so sure.
Tony and I went to dinner with two writer friends in Manayunk this past Saturday night (it's a very nice place in a section of Philadelphia), and one of these two writers went into a rant about the book review mafia during dinner that left my ears ringing. One thing I don't like to do when I'm not working is talk about work...especially book reviews, especially on weekends. Thankfully, my friend stopped talking about this and we moved on to other topics.
But I couldn't help thinking about what he'd said about a book review mafia later that night. I've never heard the term before...and I'm not sure it even exists because I did searches and found nothing. But I found the concept interesting, as a reader and a writer.
If there is such a thing as the book review mafia, it's nothing like this, where an author fakes his/her own good reviews. What my friend was talking about was when groups of authors or readers or publishers get together and leave tons of stellar five star reviews for recently released books in order to mislead readers into thinking the books are wonderful, and to sell more books and garner positive publicity. In other words, a small circle of friends/writers/fans who are in collusion with each other.
My friend writes in the YA genre, but he claims this practice is not exclusive to any one genre in particular. It can happen across the board in any genre, and in self-publishing. From my personal experience, I've always found book reviews to be balanced, and never one-sided. I have five star reviews and one star reviews. It's always been that way with me, and it's like that with most books and authors. There are even one star reviews for The Great Gatsby. And that makes sense because not everyone is going to love every single book out there.
A few weeks ago I spotted a link on Twitter for a book review web site where authors can pay something like 25.00 to hire readers for good reviews. This isn't anything new. Sleazy authors have been doing this on Fivver and other web sites for a longtime. I'm not going to link to this quasi review site I saw because I don't want to promote them. But it did make me wonder about whether or not it is feasible for a book to be released by a fairly small author in a relatively small genre and receive tons of excellent five star reviews the very next day. That I have seen before. Most bigger books by bigger publishers don't get those kinds of reviews the very next day. And when I see this happen with a small author no one really knows about except for a few hundred facebook friends, it does make me wonder sometimes.
But I guess anything can happen, and anything is possible. I'm going to be looking for more info about this for future posts. But I'm not going to dwell on it. The hard part is this isn't something we like to think exists. And my writer friend was not talking about reviews left early for recently released books. I've had authors send me books to read on occasion...it really doesn't happen more than a few times a year...and I've read their books and left reviews a few days after the books were released. I usually leave good reviews because I loved the books. But that's nothing new either. Publishers, authors, and even agents have been sending pre-release arcs to reviewers for a long time. What my friend was talking about was seeing a book in a small genre released on September 1st and on September 2nd over fifty five star stellar reviews turn up overnight...and not one negative review. Maybe they all did purchase and read the book in one night? Who knows? Like I said, anything can happen. But most of us aren't stupid either.
This sort of thing might work in the short term for overly ambitious new authors who don't know much about publishing, but I can't help wondering about what happens in the long term. If there is a review mafia, and there are groups of people working behind the scenes and colluding to give books five star stellar reviews the day the books are released, how far can it go? Sooner or later someone always figures out the Emperor is wearing no clothes.
Justin Bieber's Monkey
Earlier this spring I posted about Justin Bieber's little monkey, Molly, and an issue Bieber had to deal with in Germany. You can read that here.
Evidently, Bieber grew tired of the monkey and it's now become a citizen of Germany.
But at midnight last night, something horrible happened to fun-loving rule-breaking Original Gangsta Mally: Mally became German. The four weeks that the Germans had given Bieber to clear his monkey paperwork have expired, he still owes Germany thousands of Euros, and Mally is no longer a citizen of Bieber nation. Instead, Mally has now become a subject of the Federal Republic of Germany.
I don't know how horrible that is. I love Germany, Tony used to spend a lot of time in Germany for business when he worked in corporate sales, and we've both agreed more than once we could live in Germany full time and love it. I also love working with my German publishers so much I stop everything to write for them and to be in their books. In fact, we love German cars so much we're on our fourth Mercedes in twenty years. So I think Justin Bieber's little monkey is better off in Germany where I'm sure she'll receive a lot more care and love than she's been getting. My grandmother had a monkey like this years ago. I was just a kid and I still remember how much attention and love that little monkey needed.
Feminists and Transphobia
In scoping out links for information with the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia I've been learning something new almost every single day. I never actually considered how feminists react to transgenders. But this article is eye-opening.
The Twitter hashtag #RadFem2013 is littered with a small but acerbically aggressive sect of online feminists who have hijacked radical strands of feminism, rooted in challenging patriarchal structures and oppression, as a means to belittle, condemn, and berate members of the trans community. They contend that because trans women were born male, that they are not women. They actively exclude trans women from feminist spaces. They demonize trans women as female impostors and violently libelously label them as supporters of “corrective rape.” They harass trans women online and often publish the full names and addresses of trans women in online spaces. And yet, while they are perhaps the most visible perpetrators of transphobia within feminism, they are not the only ones.
It's an interesting article, and you can read more here. I don't know enough about this to comment, but I do know that I often see those who scream inequality the loudest usually tend to be the least tolerant of others. Which is both ironic and sad, because when one thing cancels out another it's hard to take them seriously.