A Cautionary Twitter Tale

My honeymoon with Twitter is over . Before yesterday I followed interesting people and even acquired a following. I had fun chats with all sorts of writers. I saw the Twitter field in two camps, those who endlessly promoted their latest titles and asked me to visit their website and like their FB fan page, with no interest in reciprocation. Then there are those who actually speak eloquently about writng and writers in 160 characters, share great links and have terrific blogs with insightful posts.
My focus was on finding indie authors, especially women’s fiction writers. So when I “met” the owner of a review site on Twitter, I asked her why they didn’t review women’s fiction. She said her site was new and she was still getting things together. Did I want to participate?
I wrote my first book reviews for Border’s, the original store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, way back in the 80s. In the 90s I was on staff at RT Book Review. You can still find my reviews on their website. In the 00s I switched to Publishers Weekly for, among other reasons, better pay. I’ve reviewed here and there on the web. Sometime in the 00s I even had my own site called What I’m Reading. I interviewed dozens of authors, and in all, wrote hundreds of reviews. Even my first couple dozen tweets were attempts to write reviews in 160 characters.
So I said yes. I sent in my first review, and waited for Sunday when it would go live. Twitter, I was burned.
My 300 word review was cluttered with at least a dozen bright yellow links (with two underlines as well) that didn’t have anything to do with the review, the reviewer, the author being reviewed, or her title. Words like “money” and “cash” and “debt” where highlighted instead. I clicked on one and an ad popped up. Whoa. I didn’t consent to ads inserted into my reviews. It had never happened to me before.
I wrote the website owner and asked for the review to be removed, and informed her I would not be writing for her site anymore. And then I deleted every mention I had made of this website from my tweets. Then ensued a flurry of email from the site owner claiming innocence, it was all a mistake, I’m sorry, can we still be friends. I said no. Then she got nasty, saying I had “trashed” her on Twitter. Suddenly, I’m the bad guy. Geez.
Lest you think I’m a complete idiot, I checked out the site and had several conversations, public and private, with the site owner before agreeing to write for her. All seemed fine. But that’s because she can turn those ads on and off. Now that I put up a fuss, the ads are off. But they were in the review for most of the day yesterday.
For all her apologies about “not knowing” this would happen, this person had a contract with an ad bot of some sort that she allowed to come in and blast anything she posted. She had not disclosed this to me. If she had, I would not have agreed to write for her. When I checked out the site prior to accepting her review offer (BTW I was writing for free and I bought my own copy of the book) I didn’t see anything like those obnoxious ads in the reviews I checked out.
This person is claiming to be a newbie, that it was all a mistake and while that may be true, what is also true is that she did not disclose important information to me that would negatively affect my writing and obscure the message I sought to convey about a great book by a wonderful author.
My son is in IT and I asked him what I could do. He said “Don’t give people your content.” Yes, I know people steal content all the time. But I don’t have to hand it to them on a silver platter.


  1. She had a good thing and she blew it with her deception. I’m sorry this went the way it did. I have become suspicious of any unsolicited emails I get about writing or contributing content. Sigh.


  2. Honestly this may have been a genuine error on the website owner’s behalf (I think we have both had situations where we had to reinstall WordPress because someone has hacked their way into the underlying code). But there is a bigger point here I think and that’s why give away content, and what will you get in return? Generally what I see is where two parties want to share their audiences, often through guest posting. (You introduce your friend to your audience, and they do the same.)

    Moreover I don’t know that this has much to do with ‘Twitter’ per se. If you met her at a dinner party, would you have titled this blog entry “A Cautionary Dinner Party Tale”? lol

    At any rate I hope you will continue to review books and continue to use Twitter. Don’t let one bad egg spoil your experience.


  3. She was just trying to make money on the web. Her fatal flaw was to not be honest with me from the start. I would never have agreed to that. She admitted that she’d signed a contract for the ads. And John, I can’t quit Twitter! Love it too much. Also plan to still review indie women’s fiction authors, here, on my site, where I have control of content.


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