Because I want to support authors, even if I don’t publish them, I recently bought this fabulous fine art photography book: PORCH DOGS.
BelleBooks knows the photographer, because we published Nell Dickerson’s first book, GONE. That book contained not only photographs, but also a short story by the fabulous Civil War novelist, Shelby Foote. GONE was a hybrid and we sell Southern fiction. GONE was a fit for us, but PORCH DOGS was/is a different animal and needed to be published by a company with broad distribution in the art book market. We applauded Nell every step of the way (encouraged her to go after art book publishers first) and even saw early versions of the book. BUT, we are simply cheerleaders of the project and not involved.
Fast forward to publication of PORCH DOGS. Several of us who know Nell, bought copies and left reviews. Amazon has taken them down. Why? Because they’ve determined that the “several of us” have linked accounts. Amazon is on a mission to police the integrity of their reviews. Multiple reviews (3) from “linked” accounts are apparently suspect even if three (3) hardback copies of the book were bought and one of the accounts has no points in common with the other two. The reviews weren’t written at the same time. We do give each other gifts so our addresses would probably be in the address list for each account. And yes, Deb Smith and I know each other very well. We did publish Nell’s first book, if not this book.
Now, this policed review mission can be a good thing. Compared to Barnes & Noble, which leaves up the most insanely inappropriate and off topic reviews (i.e. “Hey, Jody. Meet me in the chatroom.), Amazon doesn’t have a lot of garbage reviews up. Yay for Amazon.
On the flip side, honest reviews are sometimes taken down. As a result, this lovely, charming book has no reviews now. Outrage! (That’s a little dramatic, but . . . ) Authors rely on word of mouth. That gentle buzz from friend to friend (not to be confused with social media) is critcal. Authentic reviews give readers the confidence to plunk down hard-earned cash. Study after study has shown that engagement about the book is key to sales conversion. Having a discussion, a meaty review, pointing out the one thing that stays with you when you close a cover, those are the things that make readers take action. Tweeting “Buy my/this book.” doesn’t have the same effect.
I want folks to know what a charming book this is, so, I’m doing a review. Right here! (Where it won’t be deleted.)
Nell Dickerson is not only an architect and someone who’s worked as a set designer in Hollywood, but she’s also passionate about preserving the culture of the South. Porches and dogs are an indelible component of our DNA in the South. Nell sweated in 100 degree weather to get many of these pictures. She cajoled families who’d never seen her to let her have a snap or two. Temple Grandin, the famous autistic veterinarian, says, “PORCH DOGS is one of the most endearing books on dogs I have seen in a long while.” Robert Hicks wrote the foreword. Terry Kay says, “Spending time turning its pages is a bit like taking a quiet and sweet journey to places of memory that rest comfortably in one’s soul.”
All of this is true. So many dogs in this book are old souls, and you can feel how rooted they are to their people and their place. Just like human Southerners. I remember my mother and father sitting out “of an evening” (as we call it in the South). They’d watch us play in the twilight and call us home for bed. Usually with a dog beside them.
Anyone who ever sat on a porch and misses that time when life slowed down long enough to allow us a well-used porch will want this book. There are some actual words to read as you go along, but not so many that you can’t get through the book in a reasonable sitting. Some captions cause a smile and others a tug at the heart. My dog-loving friends are getting this as a gift this year. I love when a chunk of my Christmas shopping is done by May!
As a reader, do you leave reviews? If you don’t, why not? Are you intimidated by the little blank box? Hate to say, “Ditto” when others have posted first? Authors need you, now more than ever. So let’s talk about reviews. If you read them. If you write them. If they terrify you (readers and authors!).