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Well, actually that’s not quite right. He just decided to remove a link to a five star review of one of his Mr Monk books from his blog. Apparently, the more a writer spends on advertising with Affaire De Coeur, the better their review. What a total scam if that’s true.

I have removed the positive review that MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY received from Affaire de Coeur from this blog because I don’t want to lend the sham publication the slightest shred of credibility.

I’ve just discovered that their advertising director, Bonny Kirby, co-owns the disgraced Light Sword Publishing company with Linda Daly (a court recently fined Kirby and Daly thousands of dollars for defrauding authors). This explains why Light Sword titles consistently got positive reviews from Affaire De Coeur and why Daly was the subject of a cover story. No reputable magazine would review books published by their advertising director…or feature her partners on the cover. It’s a sleazy, unethical conflict-of-interest.

I also learned that advertisers get positive reviews and articles written about them depending on the amount of page space they purchase. That, too, is sleazy and unethical.

I’m notifying my publisher that I don’t want the review quoted on my covers nor do I want any of my books sent to the magazine. They aren’t a legitimate publication. They are sleaze bags.

Harsh huh? I totally agree with him though. I hate that ADC is a (mostly) romancentric review site, because this will do nothing to improve the image of the genre to outsiders. Not that I particularly care, but I hear there are people out there who actually give a shit.

I wonder how many romance authors would have done something similar? Pulled a link to a glowing review because they weren’t happy with the source?

Whenever I see an author quote Harriet Klausner’s review of their book, I cringe like crazy. I’ve never understood why anybody would proudly put up one of her reviews on their site. As far as I’m concerned, she has no credibility, and if I was an author, the last thing I’d want is to advertise the fact that she reviewed my book. *Shudder*

Good on Goldberg for sticking to his principles.

(Although, the cynic in me thinks it’s pretty easy to be principled when you’re already a successful author. *g*)


Lee has also very rightly taken a pop at Romantic Times for their policy of getting publishers to pay for ads in exchange for reviews. I’ve always thought this was a dodgy way of doing things, conflict of interest and all, but I guess since nobody’s complained, they’ve just carried on.

Goldberg lists some of the codes of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists that govern the relationship between editorial and advertising content:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know. Journalists should:

— Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

He goes on to list the guidelines for publications produced by the Mystery Writers of America:

The reporter or author of editorial content in the newsletter must avoid any conflicts of interest, real or perceived, with regard to the subject of his articles. All potential conflicts should be disclosed (eg: an author interviewing his own publisher or editor).

– The reporter or author of editorial content in the newsletter should refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment related to the articles they are writing (eg: free travel and registration at a conference in return for the article).

Editorial impartiality and integrity should never be compromised by the relationship and the chapter should retain editorial control of ALL content. Selection of editorial topics, treatment of issues, interpretation and other editorial decisions must NOT be determined by advertisers.

Advertisers and potential advertisers must never receive favorable editorial treatment because of their economic value to the newsletter.

Lee has included lots more guidelines, but it seems to me that both Affaire De Coeur and Romantic Times are in breach of quite a number of them already.

I wonder how long it will be before there is a demand for RT and ADC to stop taking money in exchange for positive reviews? Or at the very least, disclose the fact that the reviews have been paid for?


  • Karmyn
    July 28
    11:34 am

    Goldberg can be a total douche about some things, but he seems to be right about this. Books should be reviewed on their own merits, not on how much money somebody paid for advertising with the reviewers.
    I never thought I would agree with Lee Goldberg about anything.


  • I know lots of authors who bought ads from RT and got less than stellar reviews. Now, as to reviewing AT ALL, that’s a different story I suppose.

    I just know that the book that got a 1 from RT (lowest possible rating) was my best-selling book ever. So it’s all about the perspective.


  • It’s been a long standing ‘understanding’ with RT that in order for a small press author to get a review they have to buy an ad. RT started this process when they were beseiged with review requests from small presses.

    I can say that buying an RT ad doesn’t guarantee a GOOD review – they gave me a 1 on a book that sold like crazy. 🙂 I turned it around and used “RT thinks I’m #1!”


  • This is quite disturbing. I’ve complained before about RT because as J.C. and Julie pointed out, we’ve always had to buy into some sort of advertisement in order to be “considered” for a review.

    But, I hadn’t heard the same about AdC.

    Ironically, both magazines began publication within months of one another. I guess it shouldn’t be such a shock they have similar business practices.

    Thank you for the information regarding Light Sword Publishing and its affiliation with Ms. Kirby. Until I read this I was willing to enter into an advertising agreement with AdC. Now after having been promised a contract for nearly a month, I’m glad I haven’t received it. I’ll put my advertising dollars somewhere else.

    Thank you for your timely post(s).



  • Mara
    July 28
    3:59 pm

    I’ve heard people make complaints about RT before. I think it’s just that RT doesn’t give a flip, one way or the other.


  • Oh yeah, everyone complains about RT’s buy a review practices. And then we buy in to an ad. I think more people complain that you CAN’T buy a good review. The bigger sting is when you pay so damn much for them to proclaim that you suck. (Said the girl who just put in for another ad, lol.)



  • I have never understood why the number of stars is the focusof the AdC problems. Having to advertise to get reviews, to get ‘reviewers pick’ and allowing advertisers to write unedited ‘content’ (i.e. most of the magazine) is bad enough to annoy me.

    I mean, I know a girl who slept with the professor. He slept with her and then failed her anyway–does that make him ethical?


  • I’m confused. I really like Goldberg. In the interest of full disclosure I must say that he gave me a very lengthy interview for some research I’m doing. This may or may not sway my opinion of him.

    But RT reviewed Rock Star, it was a good review. I know I didn’t pay them, and I’m pretty damned sure Genesis didn’t either considering that they’ve barely paid me. Genesis is definitely a small press, so I wonder what the deal is.

    I’ve heard others make this accusation before, and was befuddled by it. Maybe their ‘pay to play’ policy is selective?


  • Carol Stacy
    July 28
    9:13 pm

    Hi Karen,

    Just want to clarify something that is a HUGE misconception.

    “Lee has also very rightly taken a pop at Romantic Times for their policy of getting publishers to pay for ads in exchange for reviews. I’ve always thought this was a dodgy way of doing things, conflict of interest and all, but I guess since nobody’s complained, they’ve just carried on.”

    I am troubled to be lumped into the same category as Affaire de Coeur. Our staff of 45 dedicated reviewers work very hard to bring our readers honest, albeit subjective, opinions of the books they are sent for review. Our reviewers do not know which books are advertised and which are not. They simply get the book in the mail, read it and send us a review via email. The review gets edited in-house and sent to print.

    We review over 250-300 books in every issue of RT BOOKreviews and we include ALL of the mainstream published print books REGARDLESS of advertising. (I could only wish we have 250-300 ads per issue).

    However, because of the thousands of e-books and small press books that are submitted to us each month for review, we do have a policy in place which guarantees a review for any e-book/small press book advertised in RT BOOKreviews. However, after the advertised e-books/small press books have been assigned to an issue for review — and if we have room for more — we will then randomly select other UNADVERTISED e-book/small press books we have in the office to make up the quota of e-book/small press books we allow for each issue, which is about 30 books.

    There is simply no way for us to to review all of the e-books/small press books that are submitted or, even at the very least, know which books, of the thousands submitted, to select for review.

    So we enacted a policy, which we feel is fair to authors and publishers and ultimately serves the reader. That policy is that we will guarantee a review for ALL ADVERTISED E-BOOKS and SMALL PRESS BOOKS as a way for us to determine which e-books and small press books will make it into the magazine. It’s a way for us to plan the issues ahead and to know what our number of e-books and small press books will be for the issues.

    THIS POLICY HAS NO INFLUENCE ON THE RATING THE BOOK WILL RECEIVE. We make that very clear to the authors (and publishers) who advertise for the sole purpose of getting their book(s) reviewed in RT. We also reserve the right to refuse covering books that we feel are outside of our readership’s interest so even if you advertise your book it may not get reviewed because of the nature of the content.

    Also this policy has NOTHING TO DO WITH traditionally published print books i.e all the major publishers like Harlequin, Putnam, Kensington, Harper/Avon, St. Martin’s, Simon & Schuster etc. They all get reviewed regardless of advertising. These books constitute approx. 200-250 books a month. They have NOTHING TO DO WITH ADVERTISING.

    This policy only applies to about 20-30 (e-books/small press books) a month, if that many, and was only put in place as a fair way for us to determine which e-books/small press books (out of the thousands we receive) would appear in the magazine.

    It’s impossible for us to go through all of the e-books/small press books we receive to even try to make a guess as to which books should be reviewed.

    Guaranteeing a review for e-books and small press books that are advertised in our magazine helps us zero in on a random sampling of e-books/small press books in the market and also gives exposure to the books being advertised. In fact, our readers look for reviews of advertised books because if an ad catches their eye then they want to know what the reviewer said about the book.

    When we enacted this policy e-books were in its infancy. Perhaps we need to find a better way of selecting which e-books/small press books should go into each issue.

    If anyone has any suggestions I am happy to consider them. But for now we do not have the staff to go through the thousands of e-books and small press books that come in. How would you determine which 30 e-books/small press books to include in each issue? What do you feel would be a fair way of doing this?

    If anyone took the time to correlate reviews to ads you would clearly see that one has nothing to do with the other — except for what I have explained above for e-book/small press policy.

    As I said, I’m open to your comments and suggestions.

    Carol Stacy
    Publisher of Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine

    P.S.: If anyone wants to review for us you can email me directly cstacy@romantictimes.com. Perhaps if you were part of the process you would better understand it.


  • shirley
    July 28
    10:06 pm

    It’s very nice of you, Carol, to clarify. However, it doesn’t really change the fact that RT wants authors/publishers to buy ad space and so they tie the possibility of a review to it.

    I thought money was supposed to flow to the author. And I agree with Goldberg here. If you’re saying one must pay to get play, it’s unethical. Folks should by ads in your mag because it nets them more exposure or because you mag has a good rep. Not because you won’t review them if they don’t.


  • That policy is that we will guarantee a review for ALL ADVERTISED E-BOOKS and SMALL PRESS BOOKS as a way for us to determine which e-books and small press books will make it into the magazine.

    This past year, I have personally paid into 5 RT ads where a group of us authors each put in a book, or we were all part of an anthology. Each time our publisher told us that Paying For An Ad Would NOT Guarantee Us A Review. Sure enough, they were right. Of one ad where 6 of us individually bought in, only 3 books were reviewed. And in another ad for 5 books, not all got reviewed. We discovered the anthologies, where all included authors paid for one book ad, gave us the better chance at being reviewed.


  • Shayne
    July 28
    11:10 pm

    It also gets RT in trouble on the reverse side. You can advertise your gay or lesbian stuff, but RT won’t review it.

    I knew a few authors who were PO’d because they paid for ads then were told the work wouldn’t be reviewed because it was that gay stuff.

    Or did RT change that policy yet? Just curious.


  • When we enacted this policy e-books were in its infancy. Perhaps we need to find a better way of selecting which e-books/small press books should go into each issue.

    Well, you could consider a first come, first serve basis, and then whichever publisher gets their books reviewed goes to the back of the queue.

    Or you could just randomly select the books you want to review, you could divide them into sub-genres and work it that way. What could be fairer than that?

    I usually don’t find myself agreeing with Shirley too often, (hopefully this will not become a regular thing) but it still seems like an unfair system when e-presses have to pay to get a review, whilst traditional presses, don’t.

    And seeing as we’re on the subject of conflict of interest, wouldn’t it be easier to not take money from those authors/publishers whose books contain subject matters that RT/RT’s readers may object to?

    It’s like you’re saying, no we wont review you, because our readers will object to the content in your book, but if you give us money, we’ll promote your book to those same readers who would have objected.

    There’s an ethics argument somewhere in there methinks.


  • Carol wrote: “So we enacted a policy, which we feel is fair to authors and publishers and ultimately serves the reader. That policy is that we will guarantee a review for ALL ADVERTISED E-BOOKS and SMALL PRESS BOOKS as a way for us to determine which e-books and small press books will make it into the magazine. It’s a way for us to plan the issues ahead and to know what our number of e-books and small press books will be for the issues.”

    Your decision to you review ebooks or small press titles shouldn’t be tied to whether or not the author or publisher takes out an ad (ie pays you to be reviewed). It’s an untenable conflict of interest and a highly unethical practice. Would you accept it if Publishers Weekly or the New York Times had the same policy? Of course not. And it would create a justifiable uproar inside publishing circles and among readers as well.

    Whether or not buying an ad guarantees a positive review, e it undeniably creates the *perception* that coverage and praise in R.T. can be bought (while praise may not be bought, coverage certainly is…without a payment to the magazine in the form of an ad, the book most likely won’t get reviewed).

    You say this policy “serves the reader.” How so? You aren’t reviewing ebooks and small press titles on their merits or interest to readers, rather you make the selection based on who has bought an ad. Do you indicate to your readers which ebooks and small press titles were reviewed because an advertisement was purchased and which ebooks and small press titles were reviewed without payment of any kind? No, you don’t. Why? Because if you did, readers would questions the credibility of the “bought” reviews…and perhaps all the other reviews you publish. But that kind of disclosure is the ethical thing to do, would truly be “serving the reader” and would explain why other, and perhaps better, ebooks and small press titles *aren’t* being reviewed.

    The solution to this ethical problem and clear conflict of interest is simple: Review e-books and small press titles on editorial principle and/or available space in the magazine, NOT on the basis of who has or hasn’t written RT a check…or don’t review them at all.



  • Fair to whom? What is most important is what is fair to the readers, of the magazine and of the books. That would be to select the small press books that are of the highest quality or are otherwise of note, merit or interest.

    Selecting based on money is fair to those who want the money, and those who have plenty to spread around. It doesn’t have much to do with anything else IMHO. On this issue AdC is merely more egregious (giving more obvious and pointless favors to advertisers at the expense of readers, like putting their snapshot-like photos across the whole cover), not a different issue entirely.


  • p.s. One gay romance from a large press was reviewed, once. But it seems the policy against MM is otherwise still in place? Exceptions make the rules seem even more arbitrary.


  • I will admit that the two ads I have been a part of have done noticibly little for the sales of those two titles. With their stand on M/M novels and the fact that the little guys have to pay to play, I must confess I’ll take my ad money and spend it elsewhere.


  • […] By Jane • Jul 28th, 2008 • Category: Letters of Opinion, Misc • • Karen Scott links to a post by Lee Goldberg who linked to a post here at Dear Author. Certainly that is some kind of […]

  • Shayne
    July 29
    4:10 am

    Ahhh, one gay romance, how progressive of RT. Thanks for answering, Em.

    I highly doubt Carol Stacy will understand why some of us consider RT ad/review methods unethical. It makes for a nice discussion between all of us of the in and outs of unethical.

    Not to be cynical or anything, I wish you luck on getting any understanding out of RT.


  • Anon76
    July 29
    2:39 pm

    While I think it’s time for RT to review this policy due to the large volume of ebooks now available, I can’t agree with Veinglory when she suggests the books be chosen based on “the highest quality or are otherwise of note, merit or interest.”

    Say for instance, highest quality. The only way for RT to determine that is to read every book submitted, which is exactly what they don’t have the staff for.

    And what guidelines would be set to determine books of note, merit or interest? Every author feels his/her book falls into one of these categories. LOL

    This is a difficult issue, but one RT needs to look into due to the growth of the ebook industry.

    Perhaps they could institute a lottery system. As ebooks come in each month, they are assigned the next number in line, like at the DMV. Then they could use a different random number table each month (which are readily available as statisticians have used them for years) to choose the titles to be reviewed. These tables are REALLY random so the number 1 could appear after the number 740.

    This way, there would be no link to advertising dollars what-so-ever.


  • Why can’t they choose the small press books like they choose the large press ones? I highly doubt they review every single one of them either–they or the reviewers must pick and choose? Nor do they write an article on every potential topic. If they can’t exercise enough judgement, or don’t have enough expertise, to select books their readership will be interested in or like–what are they doing running a magazine? A lottery system would be swamped by those that produce the most content, not the content of most interest to the readership.


  • Anon76
    July 29
    8:50 pm

    I am going on Carol Stacey’s word when she states that they review every book from the big pubs, based on genre, of course.

    And I still don’t understand why the lottery system wouldn’t be a workable solution. As it stands now, if you have the money to purchase an ad, you will get a review. In what way does that weed to find the most interesting books to the readership?

    Again, we are dealing with a volume issue here, and they have a handle on it with the major pubs…just do them all. But e-books and small press? Not so easy to choose who to review and who not to. Remember, they don’t only receive these books from reputable and established companies, but from every fly-by-night who opens a website and puts a cart up.

    To me the issue here is to find a fair and equitable way to review these other books without relying on the “buy an Ad” thing. And a lottery would still work. There are not many authors out there that can pump out a book a month, and with the random number tables it wouldn’t matter anyway. Luck would be much more involved than volume output.


  • I just know as a reviewer how many self- and small published books are terrible. And I love both models of publishing, I am just realistic. Also it would mean supporting NCP et al whenever their ballot came up.

    They should be able to use their judgment and knowledge fo the readership rather than anything arbitrary or irrelevant, I think. If they can’t do that, like every other book review mag outside of romance does, what good are they?

    Also if they use their judgement, said readership can write and and ask for more or less or whatever they fancy with some hope of being heard.

    As for reviewing all large press books, convenient how there is enough space. One assumes all the large press romance books not reviewed were not sent and the large presses just show self-restraint and leave room for each other. Somehow I doubt it. But that’s me, congenitally suspicious.


  • Shoshona
    July 30
    1:16 am

    Carol said:

    “Guaranteeing a review for e-books and small press books that are advertised in our magazine helps us zero in on a random sampling of e-books/small press books in the market”

    I wonder if she knows that “random” doesn’t mean “people who give us money”. It’s like a prostitute saying, “I have commited no crime, I am just really promiscuous and randomly choose partners, all of whom happen to pay me.”


  • Dera Williams
    July 30
    8:45 am

    Karen said: Apparently, the more a writer spends on advertising with Affaire De Coeur, the better their review. What a total scam if that’s true.
    It is not true and it is unfortunate you didn’t check the facts before putting this on a public forum.


  • It is not true and it is unfortunate you didn’t check the facts before putting this on a public forum

    This didn’t actually originate from my blog, but if anybody from ADC wants to step up and explain exactly what does happen, I, and many others would sure be interested.

    As a reviewer at ADC, it’s quite possible that you may not be privvy to all the machinations of the higher-ups at ADC, so I think I’d be more convinced if the heart-felt defence, came from one of them.


  • If I can dig up my back issues I could run a correlation, but I suspect I threw them out. If anyone wants to send me 10 recent issues I can run the correlation their between stars on reviews and pages of advertising purchased. Because it wouldn’t have to be deliberate. All it would take is the reviewers knowing who is advertising and an institutional bias towards them–they would nudge the rating upwards unconsciously.

    I don’t think this is a money for stars scandal, just an ongoing failure to separate the church and state of publishing (advertising and content). It happens all the time but that doesn’t make it a good thing. The magazine just wants money to flow to them from any and all sources, the readers and authors however benefit when the gross flow of money comes from them (both directly through cover price and indirectly from advertising supported by their interest in the product, not the authors interested in appearing in a glossy magazine even if they make a loss on it)–a ‘pull economy’ funded by readers maximises the chance the magazine will provide them with accurate information.

    And the authors have been very involved in disrupting this process, every time they choose to pay to advertise a specific book and are perfectly happy not to see a real return on that investment in the form of increased sales(perhaps fine if you are self-publishing, otherwise not much different from paying for cover art or other publishing expenses IMHO).

    And as for paying for an ad to get a review? Paying for reviews in intrinsically a bad idea, no matter how it is done for the very reason that it leads to the conclusions showing in this blog and Lee’s blog–even if it doesn’t actually corrupt the reviewer (although as a review I have suspicions that it would). Paying for an ad to get a review is paying for a review–just like paying the ‘printer’ to have a hard copy of you book is paying to be published and should not be part of a commercial publishing model.

    That is my 5c, because 2 just isn’t enough.


  • Scarlet
    July 30
    4:40 pm

    B-If anyone wants to send me 10 recent issues I can run the correlation their between stars on reviews and pages of advertising purchased. Because it wouldn’t have to be deliberate. All it would take is the reviewers knowing who is advertising and an institutional bias towards them–they would nudge the rating upwards unconsciously.

    Ahhh, there’s the rub. The reviewer would have to KNOW which publishers or authors were advertising, wouldn’t they? Speaking from years of revieweing for various sites, I have NEVER been privvy to who was advertising not have I been asked to give a favorable review. Too bad no one botheres to check the facts before they trash reputations in a public forum- no matter the publication or website.

    Just my two-cents, for what it is worth.


  • Scarlet
    July 30
    4:44 pm

    “resources at AdC have indicated that Veinglory applied for a position as a reviewer and was rejected. Could that be the source of her animosity and inaccurate reporting?”

    Maybe her envy is getting in the way of her objectivity.


  • Scarlet, I would love to know where you quoted that from (nothing on this blog that I can see?). All I ever got from AdC on the issue was a ‘thanks for applying’ and then no response. If I was in fact rejected that would be nice to know, and also the reasons for it.

    But as they have not, to date, told me I am a sucky reviewer or that I have been actively rejected (rather than lost in the mail) my opinions are just based on thinking AdC is a sucky magazine. I think I can say with full sincerity that I don’t harbor a deep and corrosive envy for those blessed with the opportunity to review for AdC. But maybe I am just in denial.


  • Maybe her envy is getting in the way of her objectivity.

    That has to be one of the lamest lines in Romanceland, and you had to go and use it on this blog.

    That, Miss Scarlet, makes you my Fucktard of The Week.

    And before you continue to insert your foot further into your mouth, you better navigate this blog a little bit more. That way, when I’m forced to call you a jumped-up cock later, you’ll know it’s just par for the course for me, and nothing personal. Ok?


    As you were.


  • Lauren Calder
    July 30
    5:44 pm

    ok, normally I don’t do things like this but I feel as a reviewer for AdC, I have been insulted.

    I have never been paid for a review. I am not told who pays for advertising and I am not told how to write my reviews or what my opinion should be.

    I do know that those particular reviewers who were not on the up and up are no longer reviewing for AdC.

    I do know that any business would be hard pressed to succeed without advertising.

    If this particular reviewer had her palm greased (which is against company policy) to give Goldberg his 5 stars, I doubt she will be reviewing much longer, at least not with AdC. If she didn’t get paid, someone has a serious slander issue and a possible lawsuit pending against him.

    And if the reviewer was paid as Goldberg claims, I’m not sure I quite understand Goldberg’s point. Is he upset because he found out his publisher has to pay someone to get him good reviews?
    Or that he doesn’t believe his publisher should pay for any advertising for his books at all because his name should carry its own weight and sell millions of books?

    Since my curiosity was pushed, I looked to see if his book was advertised. It was not. I looked. I didn’t even see Obsidian advertised in the issue at all.

    I did, however, go through three AdC magazines to see if there appeared to be any truth to the man’s accusations.

    This is what I found:

    From what appears to be advertising (since I am far from expert on the idiosyncrasies of advertising/some may not be paid advertising but had a book cover on it) I mean … really … if it received a five star shouldn’t it have a picture of the book cover on it? I don’t know. I’m just a reviewer.
    Out of the 3 magazines that I checked
    Berkeley, Tor, Kensington, Zebra, Medallion, Cerridwen, Parker, Harlequin, Griffin, Changeling all appeared to have advertising

    4 books had 5 stars
    5 books had 4 1/2 stars
    6 books had 4 stars
    1 book had 3 1/2 stars
    1 book had 3 stars
    2 books had 0 stars
    a handful of books had no reviews although there were advertisements

    Well, people are going to believe what they want. My reviews are exactly that. Mine and no one else’s. And I don’t get paid for it but I do love the books I receive and try my best to be objective even though it really is subjective to each particular person’s tastes.

    Lauren Calder


  • I am not sure anyone is saying the reviewer was paid/bribed by the author/publisher. If they did that would clearly be utterly incorrect. I don’t know but I rather doubt that reviewers are paid at all other than by getting the book.

    Payment is being exchanged in some cases (e.g. some small press books) with the magazine staff (not reviewers) for getting a book reviewed, for getting a picture of the cover put with the review and so forth–which is spelled out on their advertising webpage. I think everyone agrees this is the case and disagrees only as to whether it is ethical/okay etc.

    It is a step too far to suggest reviewers were paid at all, or bribed to give higher star reviews. I certainly don’t think any such thing is occurring.

    In fact I don’t think anyone here has nasty motives, myself included. There is a disagreement about what is appropriate to do for money, and by whom. Hardly an uncommon issue in any business.


  • Lauren,

    If you read my blog post, then you would know what my issues are. But to summarize:

    I don’t think the five-star review of MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY was the result of my publisher taking out an ad (they didn’t). I am sure the reviewer genuinely liked my book.

    The reason I have refused to acknowledge the praise, or allow the blurb to be used in any advertising or promotion for my book, is because I don’t want to be associated in any way with a magazine with such horrendous ethical standards (which is practically no ethical standards whatsoever). I don’t want to lend them any professional credibility or implied endorsement that might come from being associated with me or my book. It’s a matter of principle for me.

    I don’t begrudge the magazine for having advertisements — no magazine can survive without them.

    What I find objectionable and highly unethical is that the magazine offers publishers and authors reviews, articles and interviews in exchange for buying advertising. It isn’t a rumor that they are dong this, it is a fact, one confirmed by their advertising director Bonny Kirby in comments on Writer Beware and in the description of the various advertising packages/services offered to publishers (as detailed on the Affaire de Coeur website):

    “To compliment your ad and review we also offer interviews or articles. If you would like an interview let us know 3 months in advance so it will go in the same issue as your review and ad. We accept articles at any time, we need articles 3 months in advance. All articles must receive approval on subject matter.”

    “We will not accept submissions less than three months prior to the date of publication unless it is associated with an ad. We do not review books after publication unless it is done in association with an ad”

    In other words, if you buy an advertisement with Affaire de Coeur, they will “compliment” it with articles and reviews.

    And, as Bonny Kirby herself wrote on Writer Beware:

    “Any books that show up for review after the 3 month deadline, like the one that is discussed here has to have special treatment all the way through the process. This does in fact require an ad to expedite it.”

    So they will gladly review your book after publication, or if you submit it late, if you will buy an ad. There’s clearly a connection between buying ads and getting coverage. They aren’t even subtle about it.

    Reviews that appear as a direct result of paid advertising should be clearly labeled as such, whether the reviewer in question knew the review was purchased or not. That is a basic tenet of ethical journalism (see the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which are adopted by virtually all reputable magazines and newspapers).

    There should be NO RELATION between editorial and advertising content…and if there is, it should be CLEARLY DISCLOSED on the articles, reviews, etc. that were bought. A high school journalism student could tell you that.

    What I find abhorrent and highly unethical is that the magazine also published reviews, cover stories, and articles about books published by Light Sword, a company co-owned by their advertising director. It is not my opinion, it is a fact. It is also an egregious and outrageous conflict of interest and should have been disclosed in the reviews, articles and cover stories…it was not. And that’s shameful.

    If you visit my site, you will see a link to the EREC blog which studied a recent issue and saw a direct correlation betweens ads purchases and space devoted to those advertisers’ books in the magazine:

    “Light Sword Publishing
    * 3 pages of advertising
    * 6.5 pages of content (3 being an article that is clearly self-promotional, aimed at authors not readers and available for free on their website)
    * 1.5 pages of book review space

    Medallion Press
    * 2.5 pages of advertising
    * 2.5 pages of book review space

    * 0.25 pages of advertising
    * 0.75 pages of book review space

    * 0.25 pages of advertising
    * 0.75 pages of book review space

    Torquere Press
    * 1 page of advertising.”

    Light Sword books, authors, and editors weren’t featured in the magazine on the basic of merit, or their interest to the readership, or their newsworthiness, but because the advertising director had a personal, financial interest in the publishing company. That is a huge disservice to the magazine’s readership, an extreme example of conflict of interest, and it reflects negatively on everyone associated with the publication.

    I don’t blame you for being pissed off, Lauren. But I’m not the one who cast shame and doubt on your objectivity as a reviewer …it is the highly unethical practices of your employer that have done so.



  • Veinglory,

    I have to ask… if you think Affaire de Coeur is a sucky magazine, why would you want to review books for them??



  • Karen wrote: “hat, Miss Scarlet, makes you my Fucktard of The Week”

    You must be a regular reader of my brother Tod’s blog…



  • I applied to be a reviewer back around June of 2007 when they posted a call for reviewers on their new forum. Quite a few months later (in November) I subscribed and saw my first issue and my opinion changed somewhat (and I posted the quick break down on content that you quoted).

    I think that, until quite recently, I still would have reviewed gay romance for them because my interest in raising the profile of the sub-genre was slightly higher than my disapproval of their practices. Right at the moment, not so much.

    As a reviewer I have made plenty of stupid mistakes, including reviewing for a website that charged money for “expedited” reviews. But I do think it is well past time to draw a line in the sand about both paying magazines for reviews, and the degree to which small press romance writers are paying for their own book-specific advertising. (Yog’s Law etc)


  • You must be a regular reader of my brother Tod’s blog…

    Only for the past three years. *g*


  • QuizzicalMind
    September 2
    6:25 pm

    I’m a ‘proof in the pudding’ kind of person. What I want to know is why Bonny Kirby and/or other AdC types haven’t ponied up wiith the information to clear this up.


  • Because, apparently, she’s a convicted criminal.

    Victoria Strauss at Writers Beware, and a number of other bloggers, are reporting that they have court documents indicating that, according to the National Criminal database, Kirby is currently serving ten years’ probation for committing dozens of crimes in Texas, including writing bad checks and third degree felony theft. This certainly explains her flexible ethics…and the defrauding of authors at Lightsword, a company she co-owned.



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