Monday, August 06, 2012

How Not To Get A Review

I had an intrepid creator contact me this weekend about his new comic. It was very polite and positive without being obviously hyperbolic. Kind of a simple, "Here's my new comic. It'd be great if you could review it." Sure, I'll give it a shot, I thought.

I don't get many review copies of books. My site's traffic is pretty low, and I don't do all that good of job on reviews, so I try to be obliging towards folks if they approach me nicely.

He included a link he said would direct me to a PDF of his book. I clicked it and went to a web page, not the PDF directly. And the web page was actually part of his online store where I had to purchase the comic for zero dollars. Once I purchased it, I was sent an email with a link to another web page with the actual download link to the file. Except it wasn't actually a PDF, but an ePub document. And once I opened it, it was locked down to the point where I couldn't even resize the page on my screen -- meaning that I could never see the bottom 1/5 of every page.

Needless to say, I won't be reviewing this comic.

As it stands, I jumped through WAAAY more hoops than I should've needed to. From his original message, I had to link to the web, go through a purchase process, jump back to my email, jump back to the web, and finally jump to Adobe Digital Editions before even seeing the comic. And it only went that quickly because I already had ADE installed -- if I had never seen/heard/used that program before, I would've had to go through several other steps to install that since, unlike Adobe Acrobat Reader, it does not normally come installed on anyone's computer.

Even setting that aside, ADE is not really a good choice for reading documents. It was designed more with publishers in mind, not readers, so the reading interface is, for Adobe, uncharacteristically clunky and very difficult to use for an allegedly simple reading platform. It's got lots of DRM features built in for publishers, so they can expire books remotely and such, so big name publishers like to use it to prevent leaked/pirated copies of their books, but I've actively skipped over many books I could've read in advance simply because it really sucks as a reader.

Then, we've got this whole issue of having to buy the comic. I get that it's free, but seeing that shopping cart set-up is going to turn me off. Do I need to set up an account? Will I need to submit a credit card info? I don't want to have to go through that rigmarole to do you a favor.

Which is what a review is. If you're Marvel or DC, yes, you're bigger than I am, and my dinky little site isn't going to generate appreciably that much more traffic for you. But I do have some audience built up and, unless you've garnered a name for yourself working for large publishers like that, there's a good chance that my review will reach a significant number of people that are beyond you right now. Which means you need my help more than I need yours. I'm not hurting for content here, but you're hurting for an audience.

I have plenty to do as it is. I've been keeping really busy the past year or two, and I don't see things letting up any time soon. So, frankly, I don't have time to spend screwing around deciphering what your comic is. I only went as far as I did in the case above because I knew where I was going the whole time. I knew as soon as I hit that first web page that the creator screwed up by calling it a PDF, when it obviously wasn't. But that's because I do this type of thing for a living, and I'm used to it.

But that just meant I could navigate things quickly. Had I needed to actually read through everything to try to follow along, I would've quit much earlier on. I don't have time to mess with that. If you want me to review your comic, fine, but don't make it harder and longer for me than is really necessary. How about, "Here's a link to my comic" which then links directly to an actual PDF of the comic? One click and done.

Seriously, when you're trying to coax a review out of someone, you want to put as few hurdles between them and your work as possible. You want to make it as easy as possible for a potential reviewer to see your work. The more roadblocks you put up, the more likely someone's going to stop giving a damn. Even if the comic winds up being fantastic, you've already started the reviewer down the wrong path because you put them in a bad mood before they even read the first page with all the clicks and directions and downloads and installs and whatever.

You're not paying people to read your books and, odds are, it's not going to be the best thing they've ever read. Possibly not even the best thing they've read today. So make it as easy and painless for them as possible. Most reviewers probably would've stopped caring way before I did here.

Also, it's 2012. Don't use Comic Sans in your comic. I mean, seriously.

3 comments:

Ethan said...

Ha! That last line really brought the point home =)

I've had lots of experience with this as well, except from the creator's standpoint. When my site first went up, cross-browser compatibility was a major issue/concern, and each designer only seemed to make it worse (after endless empty promises that they knew what they were doing). It took a while before I finally found good enough designers who not only understood how to program with Wordpress, but worked to help ME understand it slightly better, even in layman's terms.

Perhaps this creator is burdened with an awful programmer? Or maybe he/she really just doesn't get Web 2.0?

Danny J Quick said...

Wow! Thanks for this post! I am hoping to get you to rewiew my book one day and now I know to make it as easy as possible. I'll probably attach the .PDF in the email so that if you decide to read it, you can just do it. Great post!

Martin Wisse said...

Another good trick to put reviewers off I read about from a reviewer friend of mine: watermark your digital document in such a way that it completely makes unreadable the book you're supposed to review...