7/22/08

Hornet's Nest #2: Blog Sponsors

Do I have a responsibility to my blog readership to ensure that all sponsors of this blog and the LDS Fiction blog uphold what is traditionally defined as LDS standards? (Read original question here.)

The whole idea of sponsorship came about because I wanted this to be an interactive blog. I wanted you to ask questions. I wanted to answer them. And I wanted discussion.

Hard as it is for most of you to believe, just because I'm "the publisher" doesn't mean that my opinion is always correct. Or best. Or whatever. To be healthy, a company needs to grow and evolve—we need to learn from you how to better meet your needs and expectations, while teaching you to meet our needs and expectations. That can't happen unless there is dialog, give and take, sharing.

And you guys weren't sharing!

So I started to provide contests and prizes to trick information out of you. And it worked. You started commenting. And your comments are generally thoughtful and often helpful to us. Your comments here have sometimes been discussed in corporate meetings and in meetings with other publishers. They have impacted company policies and procedures.

It was great. Except I had to pay for the prizes. And my prize budget got cut. Then eliminated. So I had the bright idea, what if I sold advertising? But that sounded so crass. Ergo, the comment contest with prizes provided by authors and publishers.

And it was heaven. Until yesterday when someone pointed out a potential problem. Not that I'm saying one of this month's sponsors is a problem. We'll deal with that when we get to hornet's nest #5. I'm just trying to sort and sift ideas here.

On the one hand, by accepting a sponsor, I recognize that in the minds of some readers, on some level, I am giving tacit approval or endorsement to that book. I suppose that if I knew a book were highly offensive to a majority of my audience that I wouldn't accept it for sponsorship. For example, I don't think I'd let George R. R. Martin sponsor this blog even if he were LDS. Not even if he offered me lots of money. However, I'd put Stephenie Meyer on here in a heartbeat. (Not that she's asked, but one can dream.) Orson Scott Card? Gray area for me. In think many of his books are wonderful. Others are surprisingly offensive to some LDS readers.

On the other hand, can I really be expected to read and approve every offer of sponsorship? I don't have time to do that. First, I'd have to have sponsors volunteer, then hunt down a copy of their book or ask them to send it to me (which would mean they'd have to donate TWO copies of their book to the cause), then find the time to read it, then think of every possible way someone might be offended by the book and decide if that risk too great. And I'd have to do it within a monthly deadline for this blog and a weekly deadline for the LDS Fiction blog. Honestly—sometimes I don't have a sponsor locked until the day of the posting. I read fast, but not that fast.

Also, maybe I'd be offended by something that 99% of you wouldn't even notice. Or vice versa. Nope. Don't want to do that for the blogs—I have to do enough of that type of juggling in my day job. (You would not believe some of the things our pre-readers think might be offensive to the general LDS population.)

And if sponsorship of my blog equates with my endorsement, well, we've got a problem because I'd be more likely to turn down a sponsor for using the word "lighted" instead of "lit" than I would be to turn it down because they used the "d" word once.

So. What do I do, folks? Do I put a giant disclaimer on the sponsor page, like the radio stations do when they run an editorial, and trust you guys to have a little common sense and think for yourselves? Or do I only accept sponsorships from books I've read and know are squeaky clean? Or do I dump sponsorships altogether?

What does it mean to you when you see a book on my sidebar? Help me here. I need some pros and cons. Some feedback.

8 comments:

Marcia Mickelson said...

I think that the sponsorship idea is a graeat one. It's beneficial for everyone- readers, authors, and the blog owner.

I also don't think that because you have a sponsored book on your blog that are you endorsing it.

You couldn't possibly study each of those books enough to know whether you will endorse it or not. Nobody can expect that of you.

It is up to us, the blog readers, to decide if we want that book or not. If we do win it and find it offensive, then just throw it away or give it to a thrift store.

Rebecca Talley said...

When my husband was bishop he could no longer make comments at the PTA meetings because people couldn't separate him from his calling. Whatever he said suddenly became church policy even though it was his own personal opinion. So I can see your dilemma.

However, we do have brains and the freedom to make choices. I appreciate comments and reviews so I can take that into consideration when I want to purchase a book. And, what's offensive to one may not be offensive to another (though in this market I think it's safe to assume some things will be offensive to the majority of readers).

I also think that LDS fiction does mean a book should adhere to certain standards. LDS authors in other markets do not have to adhere to the same standards, that's their choice, but "LDS fiction" should communicate to potential readers that they're purchasing a book that adheres to LDS standards. How to do that? I don't think that you can shoulder that, there's far too many books for you to read to do that and I don't think it's your responsibility to decide for us what to read.

I think that people should leave comments if they find a book offensive and, as you pointed out, leave specific comments as to why it was offensive so we can then make a more informed decision.

I think the problem with this particular book is that it's advertised as LDS fiction as opposed to fiction written by an LDS author. I also think if readers take the time to investigate books and author websites they will be able to determine whether or not a book is LDS or national in nature.

I think the sponsorship idea is fabulous. It allows us as authors to get our books out there and get people thinking about and talking about our books.

Sorry for the long comment.

Becky said...

Although the altrustic side of me would hope that the books in your side block were up to the LDS standard, I readily accept the fact that you are not able to read them all. I never felt there was an implied endorsement of them by this blog; rather I recognized it as the marketing tool that is is.

Annette Lyon said...

The sponsorships are a great idea, and you should keep them.

I disagree that LDS fiction necessarily has to have specific standards. That's definitely the case with most LDS publishers, but in the case of the book that sparked the discussion, I imagine (since I haven't read it--just what I've heard about it) that much of the world in it wouldn't make sense to someone who isn't LDS. It's a book written by and for LDS people, but with content that a good chunk of LDS people will find offensive.

On the other hand, there will be others who won't find it offensive, and this book is obviously targeted at them. Which makes it LDS fiction. Just not the kind you'll find from the big LDS publishers.

I figure that about the only thing you could really do is to put a disclaimer that says you don't endorse the sponsored books.

RBS said...

We have all been given the gift of choice, just because I see a book on a sidebar that does not mean I will automatically run out and buy it. I have my own thought process and although my own writing skills are rough around the edges, I am quite discerning (and a bit of a snob) when it comes to the books I choose to share my time with. So, that being said, stick as many books as you wish on the sidebar. that may expose me to some that I otherwise might not have been aware of, but it doesn't mean they will become part of my personal library.

Anonymous said...

Ly Here:

LDSP, Just so you know, I'd be more likely to turn down a sponsor for using the word "Then" instead of "Than" than I would be to turn it down because the used the "d" word once.

:)

I'd be more likely to turn down a sponsor for using the word "lighted" instead of "lit" then I would be to turn it down because they used the "d" word once.

Oh, and about the actual topic at hand, yes.

Yes to putting a notice up that a book is by an LDS author but not published by an LDS press.

Yes to putting a notice up that a book is by an LDS author but not written for an LDS audience.

Yes to putting a notice up that a book is by an LDS author but the subject matter may be offensive to some LDS authors.

Yes to finding a few more discriminating notices beyond the goofy ones I just suggested.

And yes to developing a few different disclaimer notices, once you get feedback from us people in the trenches, that will help future readers be somewhat informed going into the big purchase.

Ly

Rebecca Talley said...

Ly,

When are you going to sign in with your real identity? Inquiring minds want to know!

Anonymous said...

Rebecca:

Ly is my identity.

Ly