Revisiting those “Street Teams”

I think I stirred something up recently (on a popular romance blog), something that’s been dormant for a while. If it hadn’t been about 3:30am at the time I did it, I wouldn’t have publicly said what I did!

Look. I know so-called author “Street Teams” are becoming more and more and more common, and in the past few years I’ve been watching in utter dismay as author after author after author – many of them favourites of mine – have fallen and started their own squads.

Street teams are gangs of fans who get a few perks from favourite authors in exchange for rabidly promoting the author’s books online. (Okay, that’s Trumpesque-level inflammatory language, but you get the idea!)

I am still totally, utterly opposed to them.

Maybe I’m one of only a few, but I don’t use the fact I read hundreds of review books – given to me for free by publishers – as an excuse to wax poetic about something. I’ve given scathing reviews to books from – e.g. – Harlequin – and have survived to continue being sent their review copies.

However, there’s that extra step when I review. There’s the buffer of an ARC website between author and reader. I very rarely review books sent to me directly by authors, and when I do, I’m honest (mostly; there’re a few authors I no longer accept books from because I know I won’t enjoy them enough to give a good review, but would feel obliged to).

When, a few years ago, I made a personal status update on Goodreads (not even a review!) about “street teams”, and a certain Highland romance author sicked/sicced (pick your version of English!) her “team” on me as retaliation… Well, does that not say it all about these private little groups authors use to push their books online? I suffered through days of abuse from the author’s fans, and yet I cannot mention it online without getting in trouble.

I think readers have a right to know if an author cannot separate herself (or himself) from their books.

Authors: NEVER read reviews of your books. Just don’t. Dancers receive scathing reviews and never retaliate. Actors receive those reviews, too. Painters. Shopkeepers!

I lost all interest in the TV show Murdoch Mysteries after seeing one of the producers carrying on at fans online. It was one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever witnessed.

There’s a café in Queanbeyan I will never set foot in again, because the manager stalks TripAdvisor reviewers, attacks them, and then rants about poor reviews to his customers. I’ve seen him do it many times.

If you are in one of these author “street teams”, the chances of you being honest about a book are pretty much ZERO. Why risk being kicked out of the gang, and being thanked in an author’s acknowledgements, and being included in exclusive, private Facebook groups, by saying anything remotely not-positive?

Worse – and unlike people who receive ARCs from publishers – “street team” members NEVER disclose their connection to the author when writing relentless five-star reviews. The best way to pick them is because they so often start with the sentence: ‘AUTHOR’S NAME has done it again!!’ You’ll find multiple almost identically-worded reviews in a row on any website – all five stars.

The integrity of book reviews is falling and falling. I don’t blame people for saying they no longer use reviews as an indication whether or not to buy a book. And a huge part of the blame for that needs to be placed on these gangs.

So, yes. I said something online the other day, because I was pretty angry an aggressive author – who I later discovered had written a bunch of blog posts in response to me, implying I was ignorant about the publishing industry (snort – who knew I had that much power?) – was being promoted yet again.

I do regret saying what I did. But what I said was true.

2 thoughts on “Revisiting those “Street Teams”

  1. Well Sonya, I may not always agree with the WAY you say it, but I often agree with what you have to say. In addition to your, and my, objections to ST’s there is the publicists’ continued efforts to have you promote new releases even before you have had a chance to read them. I may accept the book for review but I will not do those blog tours to just promote. In order to give honest reviews and continue being a credible blogger you can’t be everyone’s “fan girl”.

    1. The first time I was asked to do a “blog tour” I said yes, because I had no idea what it was! It was for a box-set of books, so multiple authors, and I think it was more work to do that than to just read the books! I wasn’t even sure what I was meant to do… Now I don’t say yes to that sort of thing very often.

      There are some great authors who keep sending me their books even though I’m not always 100% positive. I respect them much more than these authors who need fangirls to validate them. I’ve been in positions where I’ve had newspaper reviews in the past (as a ballet dancer). You simply DO NOT respond to reviews, negative or positive.

      When I moderated at a book convention recently, I warned the organisers: I’m not always positive about books! Someone there might not love me!
      However, it all worked out fine. 🙂

      You read the rough version of my post. I’ve edited it a bit, as it’s about 5am here and I’m not on top of my game at the moment! 😀 😀

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