Thursday, April 8, 2010

A brief history of JERR

A couple of years ago, when I first tried the blog thing, Amber wrote this article to include in our newly launched blog. Sadly, the site I chose changed ownership, didn't bother to tell me about it, and they proceeded to delete my blog. Thanks to Google, I was able to save the articles recently.

Thump! Thump! Thump! this thing on?? Ahem! Welcome to JERR Blogs Too!!! For those of you who don't know, my name is Amber Taylor. I am the co-owner, Business Manager and Feature Coordinator for JERR. I hope this turns out to be an interactive blog that will respectfully push the edge. Not too snarky! LOL! Is that in the dictionary?

JERR has a reputation...some good, some bad. We run a tight ship, but with as much compassion for our reviewers, authors and publishers as possible. When I looked at the profile for this blog, I couldn't help but be amazed by the fact that JERR has been going strong since 2003!! WOW! In June, we will celebrate our five year anniversary! Not an easy feat in this competitive industry. So, since Mireya gave me a forum to ramble on.....I thought it might help as we start this new interactive page in the JERR history to give you some of the past history of where we came from and how we started, leading us to where we are today. For some, this may explain why we do what we do and why some think we're nuts! LOL! Well, we probably are nuts, I think I recall the reviewers considering awarding each other with wooden dildoes...but that's a story for another day. There has been a method to our madness...

JERR began with 4 friends who met on the bulletin boards (they are an archaic form of a and mentored by another very good friend, an author (yes an author) to get us started...She set the high standards that JERR strives to continue to this day. She was able to help us get the connections to get the books we needed and help us out with ethical questions, industry questions etc. We were just readers...who wanted to review because we had built reputations of giving our opinions on books on the boards around the industry and so why not...lets do formal reviews. It'll be fun! LOL! The basic concept was that we were readers...not industry professionals, reviewing books for other readers. This continues to be true today and I'd like to think has set a new standard for review sites. At the time, there were a lot of authors reviewing. To us this seemed to be a conflict as many of the authors were friends, and who wants to give their friend a not so great review. This is the driving force behind all of our policies. The format was the same as it is now, an intro, an article, interview, website review and what they really wanted ...the book reviews. We set our format up to be entertaining as well as informative about issues involved in the industry and topics of all kinds related to erotic romance. We set it up as a newsletter to be the one source out there that came right to the reader. Delivered right to their mailbox every other week--rain or shine--hell or high-water--only our own death would have delayed the issue. And sometimes that is what it felt like. That still holds true today, as we have backups in place that protect the newsletter from suffering should one or more of us be out for a time. JERR is first and foremost a newsletter and we always refer to it as such...the website (though very beautiful and necessary) is an archive and information place...

I joined in the beginning and was asked to take a leadership role right away, Mireya joined shortly after, as a reviewer, but we had to drag her kicking and screaming into! Boy that took a while!! I quickly learned that taking that leadership role would not make me a lot of friends and even loose me a few. Especially as we grew. And boy did we grow! More than we ever thought possible. We grew in leaps and day we were just 20 or 30 then 50 and then...OMG 1000 subscribers. What was once just for fun was becoming a real business. It happened quickly. There was a demand for people who would tell the honest truth about these books. Not in anyway to slam any other review site, they operated completely differently than what we wanted to do. This is an important part of who JERR is. We were determined not to put out reviews that were always positive and authors could count on it...if the book was good we wanted to give it what it deserved, but if the book wasn't.....well the reader had a right to know what they were about to spend their hard earned money on...tactfully!! Now that we were becoming recognized by authors as well as major e-book publishers, we tightened up the reins...we became more and more conscious of the quality and diversity of the product we put out, as well as the challenging ethical issues that easily arise with this type of endeavor. Many times we clashed over those quality or ethical issues. But we kept growing and have always had more books than we could review easily...but we prided ourselves and pushed ourselves on getting them done........and we did. Every I was dotted, every t crossed and the commas....well placed. We spent late hours, long weekends, and neglected our real lives to make it something we were proud to put out.

With our author mentor in the background we grew into our own entity. Running it completely by ourselves. And with success always comes controversy...over the direction we were headed, policies and ultimately who actually had the final say in what. Try as we did to be a democracy, a business has to have a leader to succeed. Thus began a huge debate and consequently a great divide in the then, current management, and ultimately lead to a series of events that broke apart the newsletter and threatened our very existence. If not for the support of Mireya, her cool head and absolutely wonderful advice (plus she ALWAYS told me like it was) I don't think JERR would still be here. I am very proud of our partnership...we keep each other in check. But, we are still here and we are going strong. Mireya devised the current management structure, complete with job descriptions. Jule took over the HUGE task of putting out the newsletter......never bending under the pressure and learned as she went...and we rebuilt. What you see put out today is a stellar newsletter that I am proud to be a part of. Aggie picked up many of my duties when my personal life was falling apart and kept those features coming as well as updating the website....I'll never be able to thank her enough for all her help...she bailed me out more than once. We finally got working on updating the website with those reviews and features and some website tweaking too! When Fran joined the management team she brought skills we desperately needed, in editing, database we ever got along without her I don't know. This is our current management team...who I cannot say enough good things about .
I guess the point here is that we have had a long hard road to get where we are. Our management is as dedicated to JERR as anyone can be with no real payment. We are fanatical about anything that may be perceived as a conflict of interest because we hold our reputation dear and protect it at all costs...its what keeps us here. That isn't to say that we don't have friendships but its how you handle those friendships that counts...At all times we are aware that other opportunities may be presented to us in the form of editing, publishing or PR to become involved in that end of the business. That end and ours doesn't mix...we've all been through it, even me...and I have lived to regret it dearly. Reputations take a long time to build, but only one keystroke to ruin. Not only for the review site, but the reviewer as well. If you loose your credibility, you have nothing in this industry.
JERR stands for fair reviews and practices that make authors and publishers feel safe handing over their books for review.....though some tend to sweat a bit.!! LOL! I think that is one think that makes me most author may fear getting a review from JERR, but still wants it, good or bad. We all know reviews are subjective, just one person's opinion, but feedback, good or bad is always helpful. Especially to new careers. What good does it do to tell an author their book is perfect when it isn't? And don't think that's an easy task either, or something we take lightly because we don't. If a reviewer turns in a review that is not good we make every effort to get a second opinion, make sure it is accurately stated, tactful and not something the author will be offended by, but something they will see as constructive criticism. Most frequently a low rated review has to do with our criteria. We make sure that book meets our criteria. It's not fair to rate a book down based on the expectation that it is a romance with graphic sex included when it's really chick lit, or straight erotica or mainstream romance. Nothing is wrong with any of those genres but our rating system is based on two components. Romance and heat level. If those are lacking it rates the book down, when based on another rating system the book might very well be award winning. We wish we could review all books, but we are still a small operation with only so many reviewers and so much time.

As we approach our fifth anniversary and 3000 subscribers, look at how the industry has changed! JERR is secure in the knowledge that we have tried to change with it. Sometimes this means laxing on some things and tightening up on others. Gone are the days when every book submitted is reviewed. The volume of books we get for review is astounding to me when I think about those 20 or so books we scrounged for in those first issues. Again, we wish we could review every single book request, but in today's market it's just not possible. So we do what we can to continue to put out the best product we can. We hope we entertain you, make you think; give you the information you need about the books, the authors, the publishers and the industry in general.

JERR is the blood, sweat and tears (believe me tears) of many people. Being the only founding member left, I sometimes mourn the loss of those friendships and the empty place left behind, but I love all of our staff and coordinators and especially Mireya for her support and incredibly hard work...through everything....I can think of no one I'd rather be co-owner with.
Move over RT...JERR is here to stay!

Hey, they don't call me Amber the Rambler for nothing.........


Amber said...

After rereading this piece today and just a month away from our 7th aniversery I can't help but continue to be in awe that we are still here and still relevant. We currently have over 6000 subscribers, we have changed some managment staff adding Ro and Heather and loosing Julie, who felt it was time to concentrate on her real life for now. We've restructured and decreased our newsletters to monthly. A move we just had to make to be able to get all the work done. I just wanted to take a minute to thank all the authors, publishers and readers for their support over the years and a special big thanks to our current selfless staff who keep us going. Now, I guess I should start on that 10 year aniversary article....:)