Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Reviews and what to do with a Famous Author who Sucks

I have a serious question to ask:

What should I do when I read a book, written by a somewhat popular/famous indie author, but I hate it because the pacing is sporadic, the word count is obviously padded, and the characters are so flat they all read like the same people?

I’m not being snarky here, by the way. This is an honest question I’ve been grappling with lately.

Here’s why.

A few weeks ago I came across a permafree book by a somewhat well-known indie author (based on number of overall reviews, social following, shares of the book’s free status – all stuff I looked up for research but not something I normally consider when downloading a new book, more on that later). I wanted to read it because I enjoy the genre.

Side note – I didn’t read a single review, just saw there were many and mostly favorable star ratings.

So, I read the book. And I hated it.

I actually had to force myself to finish it. I really wanted to tell this author she needed a serious class in dialogue (free tip: not just words on a page, dialogue should always move the story/characters forward) and the book should have been about 150 less pages.

But, and here’s the real crux of my issue, who the hell am I to tell her how to write when she’s a best-selling indie author?

How can I say those things to someone so obviously doing all the career parts “right”? Someone who has a healthy following of rabid super fans?

Could her other books be better? I mean, she’s got a huge following. Then why make the first in her series free if it isn’t giving her very best work to the reading community?

Too many questions. My head is spinning.

Experts who make 100% of their income from book sales tend to suggest:

- Series is the way to sell
- First book permafree
- Another (unique title) free with sign up to newsletter
- All others $4.99 and under
- Have about 20-50 titles and drop them at the right time for max engagement

Many indie authors aren’t living on their book sales. Probably most. But I’d wager a guess that most of them would love to be.

So how do they do that?

Get more Amazon visibility of course.

So how do they do that?

Nobody seems to know how that works on Amazon other than garnering attraction to a page.

- Following their author page
- Rating their books
- Reviewing their books
- Liking reviews/marking as helpful
- Pre-ordering a book
- Reading all the pages of their Kindle Unlimited book
- Encouraging others to check them out

And probably a bunch of other stuff I haven’t even considered. But here’s the rub where that list is concerned…

Where does an author find that segment of the people? The super fans, people who will do all of that stuff and more? Generally, that’s on social media these days. Or from advertising. But where do we even go to run an ad? Why, social media or Amazon, of course.

And the circle goes round.

Because, with the onslaught of indie publications hitting the market every day, it seems to me that the authors who excel at marketing and promotion are the ones who seem to sell more books. Attract more fans.

These marketing skills are unfortunately independent of good writing the vast majority of the time.

So, knowing all of that, I’ll repeat my question (ish).

As an indie author who wants a larger segment of readers to find and support my work, I desire reviews and all the other stuff in that list up there. Obviously. And I feel that whole reap what you sow mentality.

If I want reviews I need to give reviews. Right?

But if I read a terrible book (flat, lifeless characters, tell and no show, repetition from narrative to dialogue just to pad word count etc.) written by a bigger named indie, the last thing I want to do is review it.

Again, who am I to tell them how to write when their numbers are so obviously better than mine.

Because reviews (AKA: opinions) are subjective. Maybe I didn’t feel anything but someone else did (I’m trying to be open minded here because I don’t imagine everyone reading my work feels like the stories are amazing either).

And then I feel awful for even considering giving a 2 star review because I know how much work went into producing a book. Even a crappy one took time and effort.

But then I feel like it’s my duty to the rest of the reading community to share my honest opinion.

But why?

Because I want people to do the same for my work? Maybe.

Which of course begs the question, does anyone other than an Amazon algorithm care about reviews?

Is it really just about getting them and letting them sit there as another passive (ish) selling tool, or do people honestly read all 247 reviews of a book before deciding to buy?

My money’s on the former.

When I’m going to read a new author or book series, I generally base my desire to read the book on a few factors: the blurb, genre, and the cover.

Sorry for the ‘don’t judge a book’ people but that’s a romantic notion. Everyone bases a book on a cover – be it the front cover art or the back cover copy – that’s how we first learn what might be inside the pages of said book. And, with so many books to choose from, who wants to read something they don’t want to read?

I get drawn in by the awesome marketing and end up in this conundrum when the writing sucks.

So what’s an indie author /reader to do?

Support a fellow indie by rating/reviewing higher than I should, hit a fellow indie by rating/reviewing to what I feel is fair, or simply click away without doing anything?

Do you care about reviews or star ratings when picking up a new book? How do you hear about new books? Would a one or two star rating turn you off to the book, or would you give it a try because the cover and jacket copy drew you in?

So many questions…

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In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

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