Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Above The Noise: Creating Trust, Value, and Reputation Online Using Digital PR

I am now officially hooked on NetGalley. I love the library system here, but sometimes it just doesn't have what I'm looking for. Enter NetGalley! After finishing Cure, I was eager to to find another nonfiction book. I chose Above the Noise because I'm technically an indie biz owner. In addition to my Etsy shop, I'm an independent editor and English language instructor trying to get myself established. I was looking for something with a little more depth and heavy lifting than your typical "how to be a brand!!" blog post.

Image courtesy Motivational Press, Inc.

Morgan is obviously competent—more than competent: talented—at her job but this book follows Hemingway's iceberg rule to its detriment. In other word: there was enough to demonstrate that Morgan knows what she's talking about it, but not enough that I felt like I walked away learning a whole lot. I've thought about it and decided that there are three parts of that iceberg.

First, I don't think I'm the intended market. Being a ~digital native~ means that I grok the importance of social media, as well as its assorted unspoken rules of etiquette. I don't need someone to drive home the point that I should be on social media, because I already am. But maybe a small business owner ten or fifteen years older than me has never caught on—that's who the target audience feels like in a lot of places.

But even if part of it was "it's not you, it's me," part of it can also be attributed to flaws in the book itself. The second part of Above The Noise's iceberg-y-ness was due to padding and using a lot to say a little. Morgan knows a lot about digital PR but she also has a knack for choosing uninteresting analogies to describe ideas that aren't terribly complicated or difficult to begin with. I definitely skimmed a lot.

I think the final part of this iceberg trifecta is that Morgan is addressing a broad audience. In situations like these, it's the specifics that are helpful, but having a broad audience means you can't really get down to specifics. Like: I don't own a brick-and-mortar shop or have any employees. Trying to get reviews on Yelp or Glassdoor would be a complete waste of time for me, whether for Etsy or for tutoring.

A smart editor would have had her organize her book into multiple sections. One for small, brick-and-mortar businesses, and one for single-owner shows running purely online or out of the home. Maybe differentiate between people offering a service and people offering a product. I don't know! It could have gone lots of ways. But if the book had been organized according to audience, it would have been a lot easier to zero in on the tips relevant to me (blogging, content creation) and skip everything that's useless for me (how to encourage employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor).

The information I could find that was relevant to me was specific and helpful. How often to post new content, how long it should be, how often to post on assorted social media sites...that was golden. But that's all information I could have picked up in a good infographic. A good book should have more tips than can be presented on an infographic.

Putting all that aside, I was simply not impressed with the quality of the book in terms of formatting and professionalism. However, I lay this issue not at Morgan's feet but her publisher's: Motivational Press, Inc. A writer's job is to come up with the book, to write it, and to work with editors to make it even better. I think Morgan held up her end of that bargain; I think it's Motivational Press that failed in their job: to polish everything up and make sure it looks professional and awesome. This ebook had numerous mistakes (misused semi-colons, comma splices) and typos (unclosed brackets or quotation marks)—more than I've seen in any ebook I've read so far, whether self-published, legacy published, or hell, even from Project Gutenberg. Nor was this a particularly long or arduous read!

In a nutshell: quite a few kernels of good information. If the purpose of the book was to establish Morgan as competent and knowledgeable in her field, it was a rousing success. (Would that I earned enough money to enlist her professional services!) But as a lean, punchy, and helpful book, it fell flat. I would be interested in a revised version of this book handled by a different, more professional publisher. As it stands, try to find it on NetGalley or on sale.


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