A couple months ago, I used two of my Select days for my newest novel, THE SOLOMON KEY. Over those two days, I sold 1800 free copies, earning me the #4 spot in free action/adventure in the UK. While the 1800 copies was good for me, the promo failed to touch the success other indies typically have on their Select days. Perhaps it was because there were no reviews posted?
Well, I realized last week that my Select days were coming to an end, and I still had three days to use. So I scheduled them over this last weekend. Friday through Sunday. I was going to double or triple the last Select days, I was sure. I scheduled tweets to go out every hour for most of the three days, a practice that I found remarkably effective before (see that blog post). This was it, baby. My sales were going to take off after the free days were over!
A five star review showed up right before I started the promo. That was good. Even though it was a review that would polarize, it was still a nice sign.
And then came a one star review. Ouch. Now my average was three stars. And just in time for my Select weekend. Perfect. Unfortunately, neither review touched the plotline of the story in any way. One loved it, one hated it. One thought it was written well, the other thought it was written poorly. One loves end times reads, the other “A tired, old plot. Armageddon? Again?” If this person - who judging from the three other books they rated (and the stuffed animals) is way outside their genre to begin with - read the book description before downloading, I don’t know why they even bothered to read it. Even though “Armageddon” isn’t part of the story, it could share the same genre. So if this person thought that the plot was tired and old, why would they get it to begin with? And then write a review like they were shocked that I wrote about something they thought was tired and old. “Really?” Yeah, “really.” So they spent the .99 or 2.99 which they stated was, “A waste of money” – though because this obviously wasn’t this person’s genre to begin with, I suspect they grabbed it during the first two Select days and didn’t pay a cent for it – but that’s just a hunch Anyway, the two reviews couldn’t have been composed of more opposite opinions. They canceled each other out, giving the prospective reader no clue what they would really get. Of course, you got the people saying that the negative review was “helpful” to them. Yeah, thanks.
But I was still hopeful.
Until I checked the Amazon UK site.
Two reviews. Both one star. My average rating? Yeah, one star. “Badly written. Tries to emulate Mattew Rielly and Wilbur Smith and fails miserable.” Is it possible to try emulating someone you’ve never read? Anyway, the other review stated that it was “total rubbish and poorly written.” Dear reviewers that feel the need to tell the world how much you hate things, have the common courtesy to spell check your review before telling the world a book you read is written poorly. I’m pretty sure that even in the UK “pf” is not a word, and there is something within the English language known as “punctuation.” I’m sorry my book “gave you a headache.” And I’m sorry that such a headache wasted more of your time by making you write about it.
So here I go, jumping into my Select days with a five star rating and three ones – the majority of reviews by nice people telling the world not to read my trash.
The result? Only 46 copies given away in the UK, 362 in the US. Yeah, the power of negative reviews. However, as I was walking around sure that these kind people had it right, that I do in fact suck as a writer and should be marched before a firing squad for my crime against humanity, I happened to get a review on Goodreads. And it could not have come at a better time. A five star review that started out: “This is not a book for casual readers who don't want a lot of deep and historical facts and information in their story.” And then she goes on to actually talk about the story! (THANK YOU!) And she ends with “While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I would highly recommend it as a must read for those who love history, and are hoping for a better world tomorrow. Not to mention this adventure makes 'The Davinci Code' look like a walk in the park.”
So I thought, yeah, this book isn’t for everyone. And I’m okay with that. Now if only the people it was written for would review it as much as the people who hate it…I might be okay!
So, a big thank you to the kind people out there who destroyed my Select days and would destroy me, too, if they could. Again, I apologize for writing a book that you didn’t like. And I’m sorry you may have spent 2.99 on it, though you probably got it for free, didn’t you? I hope the world produces more writers that think exactly as you do so that you can write more positive reviews in the future.
On a brighter note, my novel PROGENY has a collective 30 ratings with a 5 star average! And the second edition just came out, and there’s a trailer up! And the Select days are coming for that, too… which I’m sure will drop the average down some… but what else can you expect from angry people reading free books?
I have an idea. Shocking, I know. It concerns book reviews. Not reviews that I receive but rather my review of other books. There’s something I may start incorporating into my review process, and I’d like to know what you think.
Almost every other mode of entertainment goes through some kind of rating system that enables the entertained at least a hint of what to expect in terms of what could be considered offensive content. But not novels. Nope. When you crack open the cover of even a great novel, it’s likely you may be taken completely by surprise when that explicit sex scene pops up (whether a good surprise or a bad one is judged by the reaction of each individual reader).
So, my dilemma is this: I work at a school and have somewhat of a “religious” following if you will, even a young one. The last thing that I want is to give 5 stars to a book, praising its artistic quality, and have one of my young or sensitive fans taking it as a recommendation for them. Not if the book is full of sex, language and other things that most people wouldn’t want their children reading. So here’s my idea. When I rate a book that has a ton of language and explicit sexual scenes, rather than giving it fewer stars than the quality of the overall book deserves (in my opinion, of course) or writing a disclaimer a paragraph long, I’m thinking of including a simple key much like the one you see at the top of your TV episodes.
General Audiences, Mature Audiences, etc… And S, L, V, etc…
That way my bases are covered in a rather simplistic way. Yeah, this book was amazing, the writing sound, the plot faultless… (MA: S, V) So people will know that I really liked the book, but for the fans of mine that don’t want to be taken by surprise by certain elements, they’ll know going in to be prepared or to avoid the book altogether (which may help keep negative reviews down for the author, too).
What do you think?
I’ve seen reviews blast books for not disclosing that they contain religious elements or “unpopular” views challenging the party line, and in those cases it seems that the reviewer wants a huge stamp across the front cover stating “WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS A RELIGIOUS THEME THAT YOU MAY NOT AGREE WITH!” I think that’s stupid and highly hypocritical since, if these people had their way in any objective sense, then every book written would have to have a list that revealed every thought and idea within the book that someone might not agree with. Of course they wouldn’t want that. They only want book descriptions to come out and tell them what THEY won’t like about the book. And if there was a warning on the book concerning something THEY did agree with (WARNING: THIS BOOK PROMOTES ATHEISM), they would no doubt be up in arms as to why the book should be made to disclose this.
A friend of mine wrote a book that weighs the pros and cons of the God vs. no God scenarios. The book ends up favoring the belief that there is a God. So the reviewers that are atheists slammed the book, calling it an agenda piece, etc. However, if the author had favored the atheistic view, surely those reviewers would have praised the book, not slammed it. In fact, one of the reviewers that tore it up pretty good had someone else thank him for warning him to stay away from it, saying, “The religious based biased books are annoying. If they are such good Christians, why aren't they tolerant and respectful of other people and their beliefs?” And that just makes me laugh. The guy is saying that the author is somehow intolerant and not respectful of other peoples’ beliefs when the guy has just judged a book HE NEVER EVEN READ because of his intolerance for “religious biased books!” It’s bad when you get reviewers reviewing a book they didn’t read. But I guess that privilege is only reserved for objective, non-biased, and tolerant people!
Anyway, sorry for the mini rant. I just find it humorous the things that some find offensive, demanding THAT material be disclosed to them ahead of time. But again, it’s a completely selfish position that demands the world’s artists must inform them of any “concept” they might find offensive but would cry intolerance if the things they believed were stamped with warnings.
So, I won’t disclose that type of warning in my reviews. Religious, secular, whatever… It’s supposed to be a country free of book burning where everyone is able to make up their own mind about whatever they want. I’ll leave that kind of criticism (when it comes to a novel) to others (and I know that every side of every conflicting idea is guilty of it). I only wish to offer a warning of content, not of concept. And as I said before, every other mode of entertainment, from pornography to TV to movies to video games to music contains this.
It’s either that or I don’t review certain books that some might be offended by (I don’t need a parent coming to me and asking why I recommended that their 15 year old read…..).
Does this make sense to anyone? Good idea, bad?