PR: What Not to Do: Insulting Those You Want to Help You

Note to aspiring web writers: if you want me to mention your website, especially with a link, then don’t be an ass. I got a press release from someone who will go unnamed who thought the following approaches were the right way to go:

1. Making outrageous claims. We’re “one of the only, if not the only, dedicated graphic novel review websites.”

2. Asking you to take too much on faith. The reviewer is anonymous, although claiming to be a professional reviewer and graphic novel creator. How are we supposed to trust him or her? How are we to evaluate their biases? Did they get published through someone or just through enough money around to call themselves “professional”? We can’t tell.

3. Having the wrong motives. The anonymity is “in order not to alienate potential employers, while also maintaining complete autonomy and impartiality.” That ordering is very telling, don’t you think? The first priority isn’t ticking off anyone who might hire them, which is completely the wrong approach for writing good, useful reviews.

Speaking of motives, the site was launched because when the reviewer’s own graphic novel was published, “I was very surprised to discover that there’s limited graphic novel review resources, online and in print.” Ah. You didn’t get coverage, so there must be a gap. Couldn’t be that your book didn’t look like it was worth talking about, could it? Dunno, we can’t judge because Anonymous refuses to say. Occam’s Razor suggests sour grapes, though.

4. Launching with too little content. Right now, the site (which uses a standard blog template, which looks unprofessional) has all of one review. And it’s of a superhero event collection, which calls into question just how Anonymous defines “graphic novels”, as well as his claim to be providing something different. Superhero story reviews are a glut on the net.

5. Insulting the competition. Oh, wait, it turns out that there *are* other review sites (see #1), only he thinks they suck. “What few online graphic novel reviews that exist are usually amateur and would never get within a millions miles of print.” It’s always funny when someone makes a stupid typo when calling other people amateur, isn’t it?

6. Thinking you can change the world. “Graphic novels are finally going to get the attention they deserve.” Whatever would they have done without you?

Now, given all this, why would I want to publicize their efforts? Especially since, with one review and no track record, it could easily fall apart in a month. If you want to be recognized, spend more time on doing the work than making claims to try and make yourself feel special.

24 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Insulting Those You Want to Help You”

  1. Brian Saner Lamken Says:

    Sidney Mellon returned at last?

  2. Johanna Says:

    Or Jess Lemon, in a younger generation.

  3. Alan Coil Says:

    “I got a press release from someone who will go unnamed…”

    Does this mean you know who the anonymous reviewer is? Or is it just from someone you don’t wish to mention at this time?

    Doesn’t really matter. The person will reveal themselves soon enough.

  4. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I found the site. The first review is of the collected Secret Invasion comics? Wait a minute; didn’t s/he say in his press release he was distinguishing between comics and graphic novels? Maybe I’m being over analytical here, but if the intention is to give ‘true’ graphic novels their due, then why not review a ‘true’ graphic novel and not a collection. Why not start out with Blankets, To Hell, Dramacon, etc. You know something that was planned and published as a book length work. S/he uses the analogy that graphic novels are like DVD collections of TV shows. I would disagree; a graphic novel is like a movie. I felt this first review invalidated everything s/he claimed the site was supposed to represent.

    As far as the review itself goes, I’ve read better written, better structured, and significantly more insightful reviews on the internet. Can’t see where this review was that distinctive from the hundred of other reviews of the series. I might give her/him a couple more chances to dazzle me, but if the quality doesn’t pick up soon. I won’t be back.

  5. Johanna Says:

    No, I don’t know who the person is, Alan, nor did he/she sign the press release.

  6. ADD Says:

    I got that press release, too. I guess he sent it to all the graphic novel review sites. Go figure.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, that seems an odd choice of audience.

    I should also add that I have my suspicions as to whom this may be, based on their provided job descriptions, but I could be wrong.

  8. Brian Saner Lamken Says:

    Or Jess Lemon, in a younger generation.

    I have no idea who that is (to quote Temperance Brennan), but then I didn’t have an Internet connection for about five years.

  9. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    I would like to apologize to everyone for my new site.

    PS — You all still suck.

  10. Don MacPherson Says:

    I received the same e-mail and was thinking of writing a critical essay as well. You beat me to the punch. :)

    Now that I see yours, though, I realize the approach I had planned would have been flawed. I like how you blast the anonymous critic/creator without providing any link or publicity. Perfect.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Back in 2003, Heidi MacDonald, then writing for Comicon’s Pulse, started running savage reviews by a supposed intern new to comics named Jess Lemon. Only such a person never existed. Last month, Heidi explained: “Jess Lemon was a work of fiction, and I never ever said she was a real person. I said she wasn’t me or Jen, which is TRUE.”

    Don, I’m sure you would have done a better job. :)

  12. Thom Says:

    “Graphic novels are finally going to get the attention they deserve.”

    Haven’t people been saying this since the late 80’s?

  13. Jennifer de Guzman Says:

    I received this email, too — so maybe it went out to publishers, too. I thought it was annoying, and I am not inclined to send review copies or pay attention to an anonymous reviewer with an admitted conflict of interest and no accountability. If anything is amateur, that is.

  14. Johanna Says:

    Oooh, accountability, that’s an excellent point I didn’t really touch on. Sometimes worrying what people will think is a good thing that keeps conversation civilized.

  15. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    I don’t get it, I thought Jess Lemon was Douglas Wolk, not a fictional construct. Did Doug write those in character?

    I’m going to write all my reviews from now on as five different characters: Kevin the Intern, Captain Reviewer, Mr. Poodles, John Gielgud’s character from Arthur and John Gielgud’s character from Brideshead Revisited.

  16. Johanna Says:

    All at once? That’s quite a roundtable!

    I only have two reviewing personas: me, and me after a glass of wine.

  17. Thom Says:

    I need to get into this reviewing business so I can have a pseudonym…something like.. Pappy Longbottoms.

    “Captain Reviewer”
    This would inspire nothing but confidence. I mean, you have to be good at reviewing if you make it to *captain* right?!

  18. Alan Coil Says:

    Johanna, that’s funny!

    Go to the site. Do a Right Click (Alt Click) on the page. Click on View Page Info. Click on More. Click on View Cookies.

    If you look at the Cookies list, you’ll see a lot of familiar sites listed. One of them is a person type name, but that doesn’t mean it is that person. But the list of other Cookies sure is a clue as to where the site came from.

  19. david brothers Says:

    That’s actually just a list of sites you’ve visited, rather than some kind of inside info on the creator of the blog.

  20. Ed Sizemore Says:


    Only professional reviewers get pseudonyms. Us amateurs have to us our real name. It’s a union thing ;-)

  21. Alan Coil Says:

    david brothers–

    That doesn’t seem to be so. I’ve never been to at least 3 of those sites. And with the number of sites I visit every week, there should be many, many more. If I go to another Blogger site, I get a completely different list. For instance, there is no cookie for Comics Worth Reading.

  22. Johanna Says:

    I’m with David. I don’t think that means what you think it means. For one thing, cookies are stored with the user. I don’t know why a site would have a list of cookies.

  23. Alan Coil Says:

    Okay, as I’m not very computer literate, I’ll concede that I may be reading more into it than what it is.

    This site lists 9 cookies, with one being from

  24. Johanna Says:

    Update: Apparently the poor reaction had an effect. There have been no other reviews posted at the site since the first one.




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