Payback from Readers. Or Not.

Little do most readers know, that there are two ways they can pay the author for the story that they read. First, there is the obvious: pony up some shekels and pay the old fashioned way. But in this new age of social networks, authors depend more and more on word of mouth to sell their wares. What does that mean? It means that we are very dependent on readers reviewing our books.

Book reviews are funny things, mainly because they are so subjective. How you judge a book isn’t necessarily the way the I might judge it. And what’s even funnier–and I just learned this recently–where you rate it will determine how many stars you should give it. For example, Amazon has a five-star system and Goodreads has one too. But in Amazon’s system, if you give someone a three-star rating, it’s actually a pretty bad rating (fair to poor) whereas in Goodreads it is considered good. Five stars in super good in Goodreads. I guess they are like Facebook in that they don’t believe in negative feedback.

Every time I launch a book, I buy a bunch of copies of books because I know many of my friends and family will want to read it and for some reason can’t find a few bucks to buy their own copy. And I always give them the stipulation that “I am giving you this with the understanding that when you finish it you will write and post an honest review on Amazon.” Of course they agree to do that, and of course, they don’t do it.

Why is it a big issue? Because people don’t buy your books if it’s not reviewed. Even a bad review is better than no review at all. Statistics show that a bad review still results in a 17% increase in sales. I found that interesting. That’s why I don’t get too excited when I get bad reviews. And I get my share. Here are a few:

From If Tomorrow Comes, my end-times novel: “The story would be interesting if it wasn’t basically just propaganda.” (the story is told from the perspective of a Seventh-day Adventist view of end times).

From The Heretic, second book in The Champion series: “story is a good one just found there were too many gaps in the story especially in between the series when years had passed and nothing was written on what happened during those years.” (This woman rated the book a one-star because I had a jump of 12 years between books. Curious.)

From Tom Horn vs. The Warlords of Krupp: “The thing that really keeps me from ranking this book higher is the the author has created in Tom Horn, the main character, a person who obviously posses greater strengths and abilities than even Superman!”

What I find interesting is that the book I get the most criticism in (If Tomorrow Comes) is also one of my best sellers. As they say in the newspaper business, controversy sells. But getting no reviews doesn’t help at all.

So I have made it a personal goal of mine to always review a book if I finish reading it. I know how important it is to me, and I would want them to do the same for me.