Renegades Dislike Spinach

Author Amy Jo Martin (Wikipedia)

I am not a morning person. My preference is for lunches and dinners, not breakfasts. But the BlogHer 2012 program made Digital Royalty’s Amy Jo Martin sounded like a compelling speaker, so I committed to waking with the roosters and commuted into Manhattan, just so that I could hear all of her 9am keynote speech.

I was glad I did. Ms. Martin’s presentation was electrifying. By 10am, I was energized, not just to attend the rest of that day’s sessions, but to improve my social media presence as well.

Ms. Martin’s description of herself as a “renegade” was very relatable. I’ve been something of a renegade myself, especially in my last two jobs, where I pushed conservative organizations to use online tools to increase transparency and build community. Here was someone who understood! She’d been doing it herself and clearly quite successfully.

When Ms. Martin closed her speech by mentioning she had a new book coming out and would send free copies to bloggers for review, I nearly jumped out of my chair. I was eager to learn more about what she had seen and experienced first-hand in her work. Given my background in campaigns and government, I was also interested to see what lessons might be applicable to those settings. While I’m not doing that work right now, I remain interested in improving the world and see social media as a prime tool for such efforts.

So, I eagerly opened the envelope when my advance uncorrected proof of Renegades Write the Rules arrived in the mail. I quickly began reading . . . and found myself reading very slowly. I thought perhaps it was a mistake, or that the book was just starting slowly, but for me, it never really sped up.

It’s a shame, because I really liked Ms. Martin when I saw her speak in person and interacted with her on Twitter. She has some great insightful gems hidden in the book, but it’s work to spot them amidst the sea of excessive verbiage. The text’s lack of discipline requires the reader to sift and sort for meaningful information which is there, just buried. For example, Ms. Martin makes a good point about the importance of personalizing a brand’s social media presence because customers are more likely to connect with the people behind a brand than its logo. She makes a compelling case for companies developing relationships and a dialogue with customers, rather than pushing messages at them in monologue-fashion.

However, the book reads like an unpolished first draft. The writing is clunky: “The renegade way is an unquenchable spirit of innovation that often springs from an unquenchable thirst for learning.” Beyond that, words are missing and grammar is poor at points (issues that have hopefully been fixed for the corrected proof): “Those you say no to is just as important as who you say yes to.” These aren’t necessary lethal mistakes, but they distract the reader.

Some of the metaphors drag on far too long. For example, in the introduction:

“The good news is that even if you’re late in joining the new frontier called social media, you no longer have to stumble your way through a cracked and dry land to find water. A path has been forged that you can follow. I’m not saying you won’t have to get on your boots and saddle up. You will have to break a sweat and wipe a bit of dust from your eyes. But this can be the ride of your life if you know where you’re going.”

Where was the editor?

Reading Renegades Write the Rules reminded me of my “spinach classes” from graduate school, those classes I didn’t enjoy at the time but figured would be good for me in the long-run. And isn’t that awful to say? Here is a book about a subject that truly interests me as both a communicator and individual who’d like to change the world, and I was bored.

The book’s chapter-level organization could also have been improved. While it was interesting to read about Ms. Martin’s various celebrity clients (most of whom I’d heard of, but none of whom are people I follow on Twitter or elsewhere), the book would have been more useful if each innovation allergy chapter had ended with clear, actionable suggestions for how that client’s experience might be universally applicable.

At bottom, the book was a slog. I would have put it down after the first few pages had I not promised to write a review. When readers are bound by no such promise and are not being paid to read, a book needs to be as compelling as Ms. Martin’s in-person presentation was.

This book does Ms. Martin a disservice. She’s amassed wisdom in a relatively new field that will only become more important. Her publisher should have paired her with a writer as strong as her ideas are, to ensure that all the people currently buying her New York Times best-selling book actually read it.


I have one copy of this book to give away to a reader. If you’re interested, please leave a comment below.


One Response to “Renegades Dislike Spinach”
  1. Mimi Marcus says:

    I suggest that Ms. Martin use Melissa Braunstein’s writing talents to improve her own. I’ve long been a fan of Melissa’s articles on bringing up her daughter. This is the 1st time I’ve read anything serious by her; it’s just as good, if not better. She’s a smart lady.
    Mimi Marcus, Westbury, NY

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