Thursday, 9 October 2014

Polls Apart


As I write this, an ebook publisher and I are swapping emails about my thrillers. The signs are good, since:
a) They like my first book.
b) They wanted to look at all the feedback and reports for the first book.
c) They'd like to look at the second book.
d) They have a positive track record in the genre.
e) They're especially interested in taking on a series (and I'm writing book three, yay!).

This possible passport to publication, as well as being a snub to those who said I couldn't do alliteration, has made me think again about reviews.

Some interesting myths have grown up around online book reviews:
1. The first half dozen or so are usually by friends or stablemates from the same publisher, and consequently ought to be discounted.
2. There is a specific ratio (though not the golden ratio) of good reviews to terrible ones that will give you a clear indication of whether your book is really cutting the mustard.
3. A stinker or two, as well as contributing to the unspecified specific ratio of reviews also shows you have written something so distinctive that it polarises readers.


I recently came across an ebook that has done fabulously well, and I use that word deliberately (unlike all the other times I've used it).

It has sales in the squllions (well, okay, many thousands), driven by word-of-mouth and glowing reviews. It also has some reviews that tell a different story - a tiny proportion of readers who, clearly, got on the wrong book bus.

Here are some of the positive comments:

"The story line was unique."
"I'm very glad I took the chance."
"The characters are well developed."
...You become totally immersed in the lives of the characters..."
"Prepare yourself to laugh..."

By way of contrast here are some of the negative comments - naturally, I've tried to pick out some funny ones:

"The heroin isn't likable at all." (Worthy of an honourable mention for the spelling alone.) 
"I wanted to punch her in the face the whole time!"
"I am at 43% (I am reading on my Kindle) and I am about to give up." 
"I guess sometimes you shouldn't buy a book based on their reviews."
"Painful."
"...Great plot good book and if u want me to spoil it for u just let me know." (How very public spirited of you.)
"I didn't like the fact that they were liberals."
"Not my favorite but also not my least favorite." (Arguably, the same could be applied by the author to the review.)

When you factor in the fact that some reviews are based upon review copies, the only true measure of a book's commercial success is book sales. I wonder how the metrics would look if freebie downloads and their reviews were featured separately?

The more I look into it, the more I gravitate towards the opinion that none of this really matters. However, if the ebook publisher takes me and my thrillers on, rest assured I'll be back here in search of reviews quicker than you can say paraprosdokian.

Wish me luck...and tell me about the best and worst reviews you've ever received.

6 comments:

Chloe said...

Brilliant! Congratulations on the interest from a publisher, make sure you keep us posted about how it all goes. My book is getting good Amazon reviews at the moment and I'm worried people will think they are all from my mum or something unless I get a bad one soon! Can't win!

Derek Thompson said...

Hi, Chloe. I think a book is much more likely to get good reviews if it reaches the right audience. Sone of that is down to presentation and marketing. The really bad review I received for Covenant was a great illustration of unmet expectations!

I hope to find out the ebook publisher's intentions in the next month or so. To be honest, it's a welcome relief to have this problem rather than 'where should I submit to next'!

Kath Morgan said...

I am thrilled (pun intended) for you and your book. Your publication deal with be a hugely welcome affirmation that dogged and professional persistence really does pay. A ray of hope for us all. Let me know if you need a review.

Derek Thompson said...

I'm keeping my everything crossed!

Barbara Walker said...

Congrats to you

Lily Wilson said...

Good luck on having the second book published!