readers

How one reader buys her books

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I have a good friend with whom spend a couple of hours every Friday morning. She knows I write science fiction novels but has never read any of them. She is a reader, although she admits to being a very slow reader. Last Friday, she asked me how my writing was going and I told her I had begun editing my next release. There followed a little back and forth, with her asking questions about the process and me answering. She seemed genuinely interested. She’s an intelligent woman with a very well paid job and lives in a large house in the countryside. She’s successful and has the kind of lifestyle I dream about and envy. I’m telling you this so you can get a true picture of her. She’s educated, respected in her field, worldly wise, and wealthy. She’s not some ill educated untermensch.

At some point during the conversation, she asked me, “how are they selling?” I was truthful and told her, “they’re not.” We then discussed the problem of trying to get our brand ‘out there,’ in an over saturated market and I asked her a very important question. I said, “as a reader, how do you approach buying a book when you want to read?”

She told me that she tends to stick to authors she knows she likes, or she’ll listen to recommendations from friends, then she reads reviews. She admitted that she is so overwhelmed with choice and said that she finds searching on sites like Amazon, difficult and time consuming, so she tends not to bother. She said she is so busy that she doesn’t have the time to spend searching online for books she doesn’t know whether she will enjoy. It is much easier and quicker for her to stick to what she knows, or walk into a book shop and browse the shelves.

This was very interesting information and confirmed what I’ve always said. The good stuff is buried under a mountain of trash so huge that readers are put off trying to wade through it to find the good stuff to read. Unless you have a lot of money to spend on advertising experts who can get your name ‘out there,’ you’re wasting your time trying to make money from writing novels.

We talked about the impossibility of getting reviews and I told her about sites like Bookbub, where you can pay a large amount of money to have your book advertised, so long as it has a large number of reviews at 4 star or higher. I asked her, “as a reader who is just looking for a book to read, have you ever heard of Bookbub or similar online sites?”

No, she’s never heard of it, nor any other similar site and I suspect the vast majority of ordinary people haven’t either. This part of the conversation confirmed something else I’ve always believed, that much of what is considered by authors as ‘the right thing to do,’ is done to impress other authors and not readers. Attracting other authors and attracting readers are two totally different worlds and some people get too caught up in the wrong one.

The salient points are that she is a busy working woman with a family, a successful business to run, and a large home to keep. She has neither the time nor the inclination to wade through a mountain of trash to try to find something she might enjoy reading. She is  not aware of advertising tricks, and uses past experience and reviews to influence what she reads.

Another important thing to consider here is that modern life is different to how it was a few decades ago. We don’t read as much now as we did when I was a child. I used to clean houses for a living and of all the homes I went into, no more than 2 out of 10 had any books at all, let alone the shelves of books I remember everyone having in their homes when I was young. People might take a book on holiday to occupy them on the flight or while sitting by the pool, but those two weeks per year are probably the only time they will read anything other than a newspaper, a magazine article about a celebrity scandal, or a facebook meme.

So where does this leave us, as authors?

Truthfully? I think the time of the traditional length novel is dying fast. I think the way forward is 25-35 thousand word novellas, short story collections, 10 thousand word novelettes perhaps. Modern humans don’t have the capacity to stick with an 80 thousand word novel any more. They need instant gratification that they can grab, consume, and discard in a couple of hours. Everything about our modern life is instant, freeze dried, reconstituted, pre packaged, and disposable. From the clothes that fill our closets, the food in our superfast microwave ovens, to the ultra short bland porridge on their digital e-readers.

Those of us who write full length novels with twisting plots, group dynamics, and twists at the end are catering for a dying market. The new breed of weirdo geeky nerds who live in the dark and read science fiction epics of 80 thousand words and more are our customers now. They are few, they are the new ethnic minority, and they are a dying breed.

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Review etiquette

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I have been prompted to write this blog by a number of posts on facebook about reviews.  I’ve been in facebook groups where the subject of reviews has been discussed, and I’ve seen authors posting about reviews they’ve received.  I have received a couple of negative ones myself, so I know how it feels to be on the end of it.  It also gives me the opportunity to comment about etiquette for reviewers.

The job of a reviewer is to give an opinion ABOUT THE STORY, and not about the author.  The review should contain your views about the characters, the story, how it made you feel etc, AND NOTHING MORE.  A review is not the place to insult the author’s intelligence (or perceived lack thereof), their lack of writing skill, and how you feel they were brought up.

Anyone who leaves reviews that contain insults, only makes themselves look bad.  It is obvious that you are doing this because, a) you also have a book you want to sell and you want to make your rival’s book seem worse than yours in the vain hope yours sells better, or b) a friend/family member of yours has a book to sell and you’re  trying to put down his/her rivals books, or c) you know the author from facebook and you took offence to something they said and want to get them back.

The thing is dear, authors talk to each other and those who leave such reviews get well known amongst authors for all the wrong reasons.  Anyone who reads a review that makes disrespectful comments about the author’s lack of education as a child (as appears on a review of one of my books) is not going to believe what the reviewer is saying, and will just assume that the reviewer is a nutjob.

Of course you must be honest, and if you could not get into the book, say so, but say so politely and without insulting the author’s upbringing/parentage/education or anything else.  Reviews have become a thing of ridicule nowadays because of people leaving reviews like this, and customers no longer have a valuable source of information to help them choose whether to make a purchase or not.

I recently saw a conversation on a facebook group where one such reviewer was being discussed.  This chick has become infamous for leaving insulting reviews on her rivals’ books because she also has books to sell, and knows that the only way hers will ever sell is if there are no others available..!  All of the people involved in this conversation were ridiculing her and her books, which apparently are not of the highest quality.

Look m’dear, just be polite when leaving a review.  You don’t have to lie and say you loved it when you didn’t.  All we ask is that you stop leaving such childish insults that only serve to make you look like an idiot, and to bring the whole of the indie publishing world down to a level of embarrassment.  We have enough to cope with  without this silly behaviour from amongst our own ranks.

Grow up..!

Why readers don’t leave reviews

All authors know how frustratingly difficult it is to get genuine reviews that you don’t have to pay for, and which don’t  involve family or friends doing you a favour. I’m talking about genuine reviews from genuine readers here.  Ever since I published my first novel, I’ve wondered why readers don’t leave reviews, so yesterday I decided to ask them.

In my totally unofficial poll on facebook, the answers I received were as follows:

I only review if I like the book.  I only review indie/self published books. I only review if no other reviews say what I want to say.  I didn’t realise you could.  I can’t be bothered.  I do.

The first two of these are fine, I’ve no problems with these at all.  My problem is that if these are true of all readers, then 99% of the people who have read my books, hated them and/or did not realise I self published them.

The third is very odd to me.  Why decide not to review just because someone else thought the same as you?  Surely a product (whatever it is) with multiple reviews saying similar things, would help you to decide whether to buy?  If ten reviews all say they love the book, then other potential readers would be more likely to buy?  Or am I missing something relevant here?

I’m totally surprised to find someone did not realise you could leave a review.  There can’t be many people who don’t buy things on Amazon and other internet sites, and everyone (but everyone) knows Amazon is full of reviews.  If this answer was genuine, then I’m shocked.

The “I can’t be bothered” answer is, well, um, sigh…!  Sometimes, just occasionally, say for instance, when I read that people just can’t be bothered to leave reviews, I fail to find a reason to have much respect for people.  I do however, think this is the actual reason why 99% of people don’t review.

The last answer, the “I do” answer made me laugh, and I’ll tell you why.  The person who said this, told me some time ago that they bought at least a couple of my books.  They never reviewed them.  So, they either haven’t read them yet, or they didn’t buy them at all.  Someone just sharted in public I think..!

So what does this teach us as writers?  It teaches us that people just can’t be bothered to review, unless they are book reviewers or other authors.  Despite most people saying they do read the reviews when deciding whether to purchase an item, they can’t be bothered to leave one themselves.  This doesn’t help us as authors, and there is obviously nothing we can do to encourage people to leave a review, when they just can’t be bothered.

At least we know that there is no need for us to blame our lack of reviews on the quality (or lack thereof) of our work.

Write for Readers – Don’t Write for Writers

Readers and writers are two very different animals.  I know, I’ve been both, and am now just a writer.

What I mean is, as an author, you need to constantly remind yourself who you are writing for.  Hopefully, unless you’re writing ‘how to write’ books, you are writing primarily for people who love to read.  Yes, I know writers also read books, but this blog is about the difference in perception from those who write but also read, from those who read but don’t write.

The vast majority of those who read books, don’t write them, and the way they will engage with, and react to your work, is very different from the way another writer will engage with and react to it.  Your job as an author is to please those who read, not those who write.  Remember that.

Give a writer and a non writer a copy of the same book and ask them to review it.  You will get two totally different approaches.

The writer will comment on your grammar, spelling, the depth (or lack thereof) of your characters, your narrative being too wordy (or not wordy enough), plot holes and continuity errors, lack of attention to detail etc etc etc.  Whilst all this is useful to know so that you can improve your writing in the future, it’s not the be all and end all.

Those who read but don’t write will give you different feedback.  They will say how much they enjoyed it (or didn’t), whether they liked the characters or not, whether the story engaged them or bored them.  They might say how keen they are to read your next book, and they might also point out a few spelling/grammar errors if they’re obvious ones.

See the difference?

An important point to remember is that another writer will always have their editing head on, and will always notice the errors first.  As far as most authors are concerned, simply liking the story or characters is not important.  They are the ones who will say spelling and grammatical errors are deal breakers when it comes to buying a book.  Those who just read and don’t write, tend not to regard the odd spelling mistake or grammar faux pas as the end of the world, enjoying the story is paramount for them.

Another thing worth remembering is that other authors will always regard you as a rival for their customers, and many will enjoy pointing out every little mistake you made, in order to make their own work appear superior to yours, and their knowledge all the greater.  Of course I know not all are so calculating, but many are.  I see so many authors wanting the approval of other writers before they feel worthy of self publishing, and seldom do they realise or remember that it is readers they’re after, and most readers don’t write books.

Of course you should make sure your work is as free from errors as possible, that goes without saying, (or it should), but it’s not more important than creating a story and characters that people will enjoy.  Your first concern is what readers want and stuff other authors’ opinions.

I also see authors spending a lot of time networking on social media with other authors, and I must admit that the vast majority of my twitter followers are other authors.  I fail to understand why they think networking with me is going to help them sell their books, as I’ve no intention of buying 99.9% of them, but still they add me in droves every day.  It is getting difficult to find ordinary readers on social media now, and all of my attempts to find them on twitter have failed.  I have to assume that those who read but don’t write, aren’t on twitter.

It is not important that other authors like you or your work, other than the exchanging of information that does sometimes take place between writers.  Tips on formatting, marketing strategies, the best software for making video trailers and other nuts and bolts stuff is useful, but don’t waste time trying to impress them with your work.  They will never will impressed until you are famous for your writing and they are still trying to make it.  Then they’ll be all over you like a cheap suit.

I’m not trying to put authors against each other, but I am trying to explain perspective.  So many  authors (myself included) have become despondent because other authors don’t seem too impressed with their work, but it is not other authors who will buy it.  Authors will happily review your work, if you give them a free copy, but they don’t often buy it.  Again, I know there are a few who do, so no hate mail please.

99.9% of the population don’t write books and never will, and it is those people whose opinions matter most, those people you should aim to please and those whose affections you should be courting – if you can find them.

But that’s a whole other problem.

2 Day Booklover’s Bash

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It’s that time of the week again; time for the 2 Day Virtual Ebook Fair and Booklover’s Bash.

This facebook event is great for readers and lovers of all book genres.

Read excerpts, chat with authors and have fun.

I’ll be there with my space opera, Floxham Island and would love some support and chat with you all.

Here’s the link to the event.

People make me sick.

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I’ve come to realise something I was hoping to avoid.  People simply will not be persuaded to buy my books.  I don’t know why this should be.

It can’t be because they’re shit; you’d need to read them first to decide whether they’re shit or not and in order to read them, you’d have to buy them.  They’re not shit anyway, they’re fucking brilliant epic space opera adventures; well written with plenty of action and with better spelling and grammar than most books I read.  No they’re not perfect, show me one that is..!

It can’t be that you can’t afford the $1 for the ebook version because you keep boasting over at facebook about the new iphone you’ve bought, the wonderful  holiday you’ve just returned from, the new wheels you’re cruising around in, those cute Jimmy Choo’s you treated yourself to or the £3.50 vanilla late’s you have every day at Starbucks.  Tell me you can’t afford $1 you fucking liar, go on..!

Maybe it’s because I’m not famous.  That is certainly true, I’m not – yet.

Maybe it’s because I don’t bribe you with free kindle’s or Amazon gift cards in return for your purchase.  Again true – I don’t and never will.

I reckon it’s because those of the facebook classes haven’t the ability to write a novel and are jealous that I have and have done so six times already and they don’t want to appear to be happy about it as it would further illustrate their own inability to string more than two intelligible words together.  Well, carry on de-evolving and when you’re back amongst the other slime moulds in the swamp, I’ll still be one of the highest forms of life with a brain that actually works.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m pissed off.