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.