Opening Night - shelisrael.com

Shel Israel inContext

Opening Night

Opening night

In just over 24 hours, Lethal Generosity has generated 35 reader reviews on Amazon. So far, there have been four or five four-star rankings and all the rest received the top five star rank.

These reviews matter a great deal to me, particularly as a self-publisher. They, this blog and my conversational Facebook stream are essentially my marketing program. It is the same strategy that I recommend to much larger organizations in my new book.

What’s the big deal about Amazon reviews?

I liken them to opening night on Broadway in the not-so-distant past, when newspaper and broadcast reviewer would sit in a couple of reserved rows. When the final curtain fell, they would rush from the theaters to a bank of pay phones, where they would call in their stories and thus very often determine the fate of new plays that had been the work and dreams of writers and their teams for lengthy periods of time.

While professional critics still exist, their ability to determine the fate of a creative work is less today than it has been at any point in my lifetime.

Now everyone is the reviewer. Every person who reads, watches or listen to a creative effort can influence other people. Instead of rushing to a bank of phones, we hold and carry them.

What remains the same is that early reviews matter most. The first comments seem to set a theme and take a collective pulse. Almost every author is extremely sensitive to what is said in reviews and I am certainly no exception.

In my view, the only way to get a book, song or other creative work to succeed is to get others to say you are great. And these others are more concerned in telling their friends when something is great—or not, than they are to promoting the author’s success.

For this book, there is special irony. Lethal Generosity is very much about getting others to say your business, brand or product is great. It argues that this is done more by treating customers well than by getting marketers to intrude upon them.

These 30 reviews and the others that I hope will come are not an addendum to my marketing program they are my marketing program, and based on what I have read so far, the queasiness that anyone behind a product feels at launch is subsiding: I still don’t know just how well my book will sell, but these early reviews give me some reasonable assurance that my book will be respected as a quality addition to the ongoing discussion of technology’s impact on the relationships between buyers and sellers.

I have to admit that there is a little bit of a cheat in these early reviews, but I would argue that it is the same sort of cheat that marketing departments could use and in so doing, gain credibility with customers and prospects.

My marketing began more than a year ago on Facebook, where I started a closed Lethal Generosity Group. More than 300 people who saw interview notes and early chapter drafts of this book joined me. They gave me feedback some of which displayed the toughest forms of love. They pushed back on early title selections, argued against the relevance of some content I wanted and were a source of more than a third of the content that is in the finished book.

In short, this Group helped me write a better book. They also were the first people I offered free review copies to. I told them they could write whatever they want wherever they wanted but it would do me the most good on Amazon—where most reviews so far have appeared.

So many of the reviews that have come out so far, came from people who volunteered to be part of the project before the book was released. Does this tilt the result to favorable?

Perhaps it moves the needle a little bit in that direction. Perhaps people who joined my Group and do not like the book are remaining publically silent. There may be some cases of that going on, but my guess is that most reviewers are championing Lethal Generosity, because they want to help spreads words that they believe in.

At least I hope that is the case.

This transparent use of social media that I have developed is often called crowd sourcing. That is not exactly true. Crowd wisdom seems to work when thousands of people with diverse perspectives are polled. I am asking a much smaller group, and they are not entirely diverse: They share with me an interest in technology’s impact on business and life in general.

In short I have tried to be lethally generous with my Lethal Generosity Group in the same way I propose that brands be generous, collaborative and transparent with their customers.

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