Monday, October 27, 2008

Affaire de Coeur vs. Lee Goldberg, Update--veinglory

On July 21, 2008, or there-abouts, author Lee Goldberg deleted a review of one of his books by an Affaire de Coeur reviewer. The basis for this was the association (now severed?) with LightSword Publishing, who had been extensively and positively featured in the magazine. And because "advertisers get positive reviews and articles written about them depending on the amount of page space they purchase." Mr. Goldberg covers Romantic Times' assertion that bought reviews are not rated any higher than free ones but concludes "Whether that's true or not, the practice is highly unethical and creates an unacceptable conflict of interest. It's shameful. Advertising should never have any influence over editorial content. That's a basic tenet of ethical journalism." Making it clear that it is the buying of reviews at all that he objects to--even if the favorability of the review is unaffected.

I had previously commented on the open policy the magazine to allow advertisers to provide content for the magazine (apparently to be printed 'as is' based on some of the articles I have read) and in order to have cover art shown with reviews and appear on the cover. And to guarantee reviews for books by advertising publishers or authors. There is nothing to suggest that purchasing advertising effects the rating of a book. On might argue that if AdC doesn't run negative reviews any review is "positive" review. However, a quick scan of the latest issue shows reviews that lean positive (average rating=4.1/5) but certainly do cover the full scale with some of the lower scores relating to books by advertising publishers. (p.s. I am pretty confused about the AdC review that got 5.5/5 stars. Typo?) I would consider Mr. Goldberg's initial statement correct only if the word "positive" was removed--but the post in full establishes that whether the bought review is positive or not is not the key aspect of his objection.

I could quibble about the exact correctness of several of Mr. Goldberg's statements but in blogging and comment he made the main thrust of his objection quite clear. And when Ms Snead wrote: "It came out that there are some magazines and web site where authors have to pay for reviews ... We have never done that." Um. Well, Mr. Goldberg clarified in his comment: "What I said is that AdC will review books and publish editorial content in exchange for the purchase of an advertisement. In other words, reviews can be bought." Of the two statements the latter is more correct (with reference to AdC's own advertising pdf brochure): "To compliment your ad and review we also offer interviews and articles. If you would like to have an interview let us know 3 months in advance so it can appear in the same issue as your review and ad" (emphasis added).

Why am I bringing this all up again. Well, because the good folks at Affaire de Coeur, have and I do not think it an apt last word. In the most recent issue of Affaire de Coeur, Louise Snead (Editor in Cheif) called all authors and publishers who had ever been reviewed by the magazine "cowardly" and "disinterested in the truth" for not stepping forward to declare "Goldberg's opinions were false". In a full page rant Ms Snead characterised Mr. Goldbergs words as (let me count the ways): unverified hearsay, untrue, slanderous, lies, false, unfounded, unresearched, and careless. She persists with making a straw man out of Mr. Goldberg's complaint by focusing on the money-for-stars aspect that is not true, and also not the point. Whereas in her own words the accusation that "we sold reviews vis a vis ads", if I am parsing that right, is factually correct.

Ms. Snead seem not to realise that the palpable lack of support for her position has less to do with widespread inability to comprehends basic facts or simpering cowardice, and more to do with the fact that her position is not strong. Paying for ads does get you reviews with the magazine. No amount of pointing to sites who do worse, or accusations of slander, will obscure that. She might have spent a little of her page space in outlining and defending the practise, rather than reprinting large sections from her blog--with a side order of editorial spleen and torschlusspanik. Because if the magazine is to have this kind of 'you are with me or you are a yellow-bellied moron' tone I may not be the only one not renewing. (And given the use of my own name in some of the blog comments I must say that spreading hearsay of dubious accuracy is apparently sometimes considered good for the AdC goose even when it is slander for the Goldberg gander.)

For me, Karmyn, first comment on the same post, sums the whole thing up: "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."

p.s. The magazine has a quarter page advertising their blog--in which they have not replaced the default 'about' page. Meanwhile they continue to have this blog with one different post. Will the real AdC blog please stand up?


ggymeta said...

I visited that one link where she starts off griping about how anonymous authors blogging are wrong and evil, then goes on about how a named author blogged and was wrong and evil. 0_o?

Then I clicked on comments. I wasn't going to comment here because I have nothing substantial to add except sarcasm. Feel free to delete, I wont me offended ^_^

Wow. First up, Adrian Powell just took himself completely out of the running by stating, rather late in the convo: [...] because I don’t have the facts. I strongly feel that you shouldn't enter into any sort of eDrama without the proper accouterments. If you don't have the facts, sit down and have a glass of SainT-FU until you GET ALL THE FACTS. This way you can actually help the side you want to help, and not just look like a texting turdlet with nothing substantial to add except your name and what you do.

[no dissing intended, I'm sure he's a nice person, but man--he really just gummed up the works]

Ms Snead characterised Mr. Goldbergs words as (let me count the ways): unverified hearsay, untrue, slanderous, lies, false, unfounded, unresearched, and careless Jinkies, she forgot to drag out the other dwarfs - dopey, grumpy, sleepy, and sneazy. She built a nice scarcrow, but again--no dice. The facts are simple and Mr. Goldberg spelled them out. She can get angry all she wants, it doesn't change reality.

PS you get points for using the word torschlusspanik in a blog entry! ((^_^)) I just want people to stop using the word nom-de-plume.

Lee Goldberg said...

I haven't seen Sneed's article, nor the one Bonnie Kirby wrote earlier, that dealt with the issues I raised. Apparently, AdC isn't available at many newsstands and bookstores in Los Angeles (at least not the ones that I frequent). If someone could scan & email me the articles, I would appreciate it (my email is leegoldbrg AT Note the missing "e" in my name, it's not an error).

As I said, I haven't seen the articles, but I'm sure that neither Kirby nor Sneed addresses the unethical relationship between AdC and Light Sword...nor the huge amount of favorable coverage given to Light Sword and its books. I don't blame them. It's indefensible.

I'm guessing that one big reason that publishers haven't rallied in defense of Sneed is that they have little respect for the magazine and are disgusted by the conflicts-of-interest. I'm making that assumption based on the tons of emails I've received from authors and editors thanking me for taking a stand and exposing Sneed's highly unethical editorial practices.

I am not surprised that Sneed and Kirby are using the magazine to present their side of the story or that I am depicted as the anti-Christ. It makes sense. They don't think that there is anything wrong with their ads-in-exchange-for-reviews policy or that their advertising director co-owns a publishing company that defrauds authors and has been heavily promoted in cover stories, features, and five-star reviews in the magazine. In their view, the only wrong here was that someone dared to call them on it.


December/Stacia said...

I will say, though, that at least they are publishing even the negative comments.

I still think what they're doing is unethical and totally wrong, of course; this isn't a defense of them or their policies in any way.

Anonymous said...

I just pulled this interesting posting off of Goldberg's blog. It also appears on the Absolute Write Water Cooler and is followed there by a post from Victoria Strauss who confirms that she too has the documents referenced by this author. I am only posting here what is pertient to the AdC debacle. If you want to view all that's contained in the original posting, go read it on Goldberg's pages or at the Water Cooler.

"Here is some new information about Linda Daly, Bonny Kirby, and Light Sword Publishing. This all comes via an officer of the court in Michigan and is a matter of public record in Michigan and in Texas. . .

(deleted portion)

. . . Additionally, I am in receipt of court records from the state of Texas regarding one Bonny Lorraine Kirby--the self-same Kirby who is the former Vice President of Light Sword Publishing and the Advertising Director at Affaire de Coueur. According to the National Criminal database, Ms Kirby is currently serving ten years' probation for half a dozen theft offenses, all occurring in Texas. They range from misdemeanor bad checks to 3rd degree felony theft. Kirby's probation is due to end in 2012. Kirby has now left the state of Texas and is purportedly living in Arkansas.

Make no mistake about it, this is the same Bonny Kirby who arranged for reviews and articles about Light Sword titles to be prominently placed (as in 'on the cover') in Affaire De Coueur Magazine during the time that she was VP at LSP. She is the same Bonny Kirby who reportedly wrote a NSF check to the Michigan attorney who was hired to defend Light Sword Publishing and its principles in the lawsuit so richly discussed in these pages. The check was dishonored.

Authorities in Texas are going forward in their attempts to recover assets from Ms Kirby."