Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reviewing the Review System

Tax season is nearly over!  For some reason, this tax season has seemed longer than previous years which makes no sense. But the 15th can't get here soon enough for me.

The first few months of this year have also been interesting ones for me as a writer.  I am, as you will have guessed, a numbers person.  I am the bean counter, number cruncher, boring horn-rimmed glasses person, which you only think about when you hear the words 'tax man'.  So, marketing is not something that comes naturally to me.  It is the one aspect of indie publishing that I am completely ambivalent about because I have (or should say had) no idea where to start.  When I first published my books I, like anyone, googled how to market my indie-published a book.  I got taken to a list of books to read on marketing.  None of them were terribly helpful.  I am not sure when all of the promo sites came into being but about six months ago I joined a group that finally turned on the lights about promoting my books.

One thing that became very clear very quickly is that reviews were imperative as all the promotion sites rely on them quite heavily.  That was when I started reading the reviews not as a potential buyer but as a potential marketer.  Over the last three months, I have come to the conclusion that there is a way to manipulate the review system.  How can a book that is an indie book get nearly 10,000 reviews, and the majority of them are five star reviews and Stephen King's books receive less.  I checked today and the most reviews one of his books has is 8,203.

Once I saw the disparity in the numbers, I started to read the reviews.  The indie book five star reviews are not very long, and many of them are one line reviews such as "this book is awesome". The negative reviews were another matter, and that got me hooked on reading reviews. Yes, I do mean hooked.  I am sure that the writer would not have found them funny, but the amount of time and energy that some people put into their reviews is astonishing and entertaining. What is also astonishing is that a large percentage of these reviewers have studied something about writing.

Then my promotion happened, and I received a number of emails asking if they (the reader) could be in touch with me about my book.  It would appear that a number of people liked my story.  That is always nice to hear, but then it was followed up with the words 'but I did find some errors'. Breaking into a cold sweat I immediately wrote back and asked what page and what paragraph.  Their response was a little slow, they hadn't actually meant a typo error but more a tweaking error.  I found out that there is such a thing as a 'squinting modifier'.  As I grew up on the other side of the pond, I am sure our teachers called it something else. But I have to tell you that those words made me 'squint' and say, "Really?"

I always try to remain open minded, so I asked each of these potential editors to send me a section of what they thought needed 'tweaking'.  The three that wrote me back all had different ideas.  So I decided to do a little research on the people who wanted to help in my literary endeavours.  All of them have been in the writing/publishing world, and all of them are looking for new clients.  I will be the first to admit I do need an editor and have always used an editor for my books.  They don't get published without one, but I want to remain me.  Does that mean my books will sound like me? Yes. Will it be to everyone's liking? No.

And that cured me of needing to read reviews.  I wish many of those reviewers would remember that we read first and foremost because we enjoy it. We read to be entertained, to be enlightened, to be encouraged. We shouldn't read just to write a review.

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