where the writers are
Taking The Red Room's Temperature

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from The Red Room management, a solicitation to offer opinions as to why there had been such an anemic response to The Red Room CEO Ivory Madison's offer to allow members to buy books for 40% off - - if we pay $45 for the privilege (the price went up to $95 after September 8, 2012 - - yesterday). This seems an attempt, based on Ms. Madison's e-mail, to add mounds of additional books to The Red Room bookstore.  

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image via edupics.com

I'm afraid a measure of frustration had been building on my part - while my blog's readership has been growing tremendously over the last year (thank you one and all), I had an axe to grind and, although I didn't intend to, I unloaded on Huntington Sharp, The Red Room senior editor. My complaints were thus:

  • I had paid the $250 for Premium Membership, and to date have not sold a single book here
  • I was finding it hard to sustain conversations with other members of this website
  • I couldn't find my books in the bookstore
  • I claimed that The Red Room was doing little or nothing to help me promote my books or my blog

Huntington's response:

  • Sorry you're not enjoying the Premium experience
  • We did feature one of your books (I didn't know that and was never notified)
  • We are currently featuring one of your blog posts (didn't know it, wasn't notified)
  • Maybe you should interact proactively with other members.

On Huntington's last point, I was guilty of my own complaint - I occasionally read posts, but don't always comment. My resolve is to read more and to comment more (note that since then I've read and commented on a number of posts and have received no comments in return)

But I don't want to make today's post about me - - 

As I've taken some time to go through The Red Room's many places of visitation, several things occured to me:

  • The Red Room does offer quite a lot, to members, to authors, known and unknown
  • Management continually modifies things, modernizes, makes things more efficient for the members
  • Even with (actually, because of) what The Red Room offers, it's near-impossible to keep abreast of all that potentially affects us as members and authors.
  • As with any ambitious website, The Red Room, while offering much to all members, leans toward already recognized authors.

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image via booksonthenightstand.com

 

And so I'm offering, via this post, the following suggestions to all of you who already read my posts, to you other friends here at The Red Room, and to The Red Room management:

  • Management needs to be aware that members and authors don't have time to fully explore what's offered here and should at the very least notify members and/or authors when something of theirs is featured.
  • The Red Room has great deals on all books through offers such as the $45/$95 one mentioned, and members should explore those and buy them then they find something worthy.
  • Most importantly, members should be more proactive in exploring the works of  lesser-known authors here, should read these and review them - for better or worse. Find new bloggers, and red their posts. Be proactive in seeking recognition for struggling writers you think worthy. It's your - and their - website as well as that of the more recognized writers.

Please! Even if you don't reply back to me regarding my concerns with The Red Room, think about them, pass them on to your friends here, and let management know what can make things more relevant for you. Clearly, The Red Room has concerns of their own, or I wouldn't have received the e-mail that launched this whole thing of mine.

Comments
17 Comment count
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Bob, Sorry I that I have not

Bob,

Sorry I that I have not previously read any of your posts, but this one caught my eye.

I am not an author, but a regular member of Red Room, trying to build an audience through my blog, hopefully gain knowledge and insight from reading other blogs.

I can't comment on all of your points since they don't specifically apply to me, but I will agree that if your book (or in my case, blog) is featured, you have no way of knowing unless you are scrolling around Red Room frequently.

I also agree that interaction with others, through reading and commenting on blog posts is a great way to build rapport with others.

The site can be cumbersome to navigate. I like scrolling through and clicking on blogs that look interesting, but then I have to go back to the first page and begin again, and again. Sometimes I don't have time for all of the clicking. I preferred the older format of blogs in a news feed format. I also notice sometimes people accidently post the same blog four or five times in a row, and that makes navigating difficult for the rest of us.

Thanks for posting honestly. I will be reading more of your posts in the future.

Annette

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Hey Bob,

I read you regularly and sometimes post comments. I try not to comment too much on others' posts, as I tend to prattle on about me.

I agree with some of Annette's comments about navigation. All that clicking gets wearisome and the search functions don't always return the results I desire. For example, with many sites and Google, I can re-visit previous searches without trouble; they're there in my history. Not so on Red Room. In the plus column, the shortcomings on navigation helps me - or forces me - explore the Red Room more but the result is that I view it more as a social destination, to post thoughts and read others' thoughts, rather than a business destination. 

Much of the Red Room's design seems to enforce that notion. Your home page is about you, and I like that, because it's less 'business friendly' and more 'writer friendly'. 

The next aspect is simply time. I want to read more and I want to read more of Red Room's authors - but first I read their posts and then I read their comments to other posts, and then I read the others' post, and then I read that writer's bio and previous posts, and subscribe to them, and then I read their comments on others' posts and I look for other new posts - oops, time is up. It's a matter of so much to read and so much to do compressed in a finite state of time. 

Last, I like supporting my local independent bookstores and printed books. While I love the Red Room concept of authors supporting authors, it's secondary to supporting bookstores and books. It's a tough call.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head. Hope they make sense and help the dialogue.  

Cheers

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I agree with the others here

I agree with the others here Bob. The navigation is a pain in the ass. Member blogs get lost along the way. You find yourself trying to be clever with the clicking. I am not. I am sure I have left numerous comments on your blogs. I like what you have to say. Maybe you would like what I have to say. I don't know. Whatever. Honest writing never goes unread. Your blog is honest and straight up and I like you for that. m

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Thanks

Annette and Michael, I'm relieved that I'm not the only one who sees RR as something of a navigational labyrinth; both your comments in that regard dovetail with mine - and of course, time spent is always a factor. Apparently we RR members aren't the Internet type with a ten-second attention span, as we do stick around to read extended posts and reviews. Still, we can't spend all day here, can we?

Michael, your point that RR is for you more of a social destination, not a business destination, is pertinent - for you and I imagine a large portion of the RR membership. But I suspect Annette and I would agree that for writers concerned about the business end of what we write, it's hard to separate social and business.

I do accept your point of supporting local print bookstores over the Net versions, but we writers/business people can't afford to exclude the digital world when thinking of selling books.

I challenged Huntington to do more to make RR more of a sub-midlist-writer-friendly business locale; I hope he takes the challenge, as RR is perfectly situated to do that. However, with Ivory's desire to add scads more books to the RR bookstore, we struggling writers can expect to be buried under that avalanche - - unless RR is more proactive on the discovery and promotion of we struggling writers.

Annette, thanks for joining my blog family. I'll certainly return the favor.

Michael, thanks as always for your comments - I can always feel your presence here.

Huntington, I hope you're lurking here somewhere - and heeding these comments.

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More thanks

Straight-up, Mary. I do read your comments, and I think I've commented back. Sorry I haven't been as comment-worthy on your site. Will make amends.

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Hi Bob: Your blog post caught

Hi Bob:

Your blog post caught my eye too while I was scrolling about--I like to either "connect" or "bookmark" sites I enjoy. I have read some of your postings but didn't leave any comments but you have a straight-forward and honest way of talking. I agree with Michael, Annette and Mary on the navigation part. I find after I've read someone's postings, it brings me back to the beginning and I have to scroll and search for where I stopped. I find I spend a lot of time navigating and am glad you and the others brought it up. I thought it was me as I'm not a techie person. I enjoy reading the many blogs but find I run out of time very quickly. Must say though, it's very inspiring to read so many different viewpoints. Don't give up your blog posts!

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p.s. Bob, the Hemingway quote

p.s. Bob, the Hemingway quote you use is marvellous. Apt is not sufficient a word. m

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And Yet more

Judee, good to meet you here. It seems we're on to something that needs to be fixed. And no way I'm gonna give up posting!

Mary, I used the quote because if a couple of things - in writing critique classes, people can get awfully nit-picky when the idea is: When is the writinggood enough? (Admittedly a dangerous question)

And second, I can always find similar nits with the canons of literature, which has led me to parallel Papa's comment thusly: There's never been a perfect novel or short story.

 

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Thank you!!

Bob, everyone on the Red Room team has read this post and the comments closely. We all truly appreciate that you took the time to give your wish-list for ways we could be better. We take all constructive critcism seriously and welcome as much as you want to give us. (I appreciate as well the kind things you wrote about what we're doing right!)

I agree with every single one of your and your commenters' points. Each of them—from improved navigability to finding better ways for lesser-known authors to succeed—is on a to-do list that is way, way longer than one that we could compile from every one of our authors' and members' suggestions. That long list is for making this site the best place for authors to succeed; for readers to browse and buy; for writers of every career ambition and none to meet and enjoy each other's work; and for every visitor to be educated and entertained even if they don't join. If you're frustrated that, even with all the improvements we've made to the site, obvious ones haven't been implemented, think how we feel!

We're working on it. And again, it bears repeating that every suggestion and outright complaint is heard and appreciated for what it is—the desire to improve what has become an important resource and enjoyable place to spend time. The fact that you take the time to do it shows that, in a meaningful way, we've already gone quite some way in doing that. Keep sending them to support@redroom.com—we welcome them, every time, even if we can't implement them right away.

Thank you!

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

 

 

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Thanks...

...a bunch, Huntington. I don't dare speak for everone else, particularly for those who have commented on my post here, but I think RR's onus here is one of grand expectations. 

You the developers and managers have done so much with the site that it's hard not to see that it could do so much more for the fields of literature and writing. 

Thanks again for the reassurances, and I for one will keep exploring RR as I have time. We'll all be looking for even better things here in the future, I'm sure.

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Thanks from Ireland as well,

Thanks from Ireland as well, Huntington. You are always true to your word. Best, m

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Yes, yes, yes, yes....

And, yes....  Many thanks for this post.

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Thanks Barbara

Huntington has been listening attentively and promises good things.

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Bob, one more interesting

Bob, one more interesting tour in Dublin is the James Joyce Audio Walk. Sounds terrific. m

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Thanks again

Mary. My wife is fretting over the weather there...Any suggestions as to what to wear?

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Raincoat, raincoat, raincoat,

Raincoat, raincoat, raincoat, sweaters, wellington boots and a hat! Then again, it is supposed to be nice this weekend - but she can always shed the layerrs! m

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Thanks...

...I'll tell her.