I’ve now given away over 600 copies of Shadow between three major book retailers – Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Where Apple and Kobo customers were during my promotion I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter: giveaway promo’s work, because over 600 people now have my book on their e-reader. (If they haven’t deleted it already. Their loss if they have.)
A friend of mine asked why I didn’t have more reviews after giving away such a number. To be honest I wish I did, but authors whining that they’re not getting enough attention always bores me. It’s already been said but I’ll say it again because so many authors just seem to ignore this fact: 600+ downloads (or however many you’ve had) does not mean 600+ reviews or even readers for that matter. Some people just like loading up their Kindle or Nook with free stuff in case they ever feel like reading it one day. I’ve done it myself, guilty as charged. For those who do give my work a try though, here’s what I remember:
1: I liked Neil Gaiman’s article about how ‘George RR Martin does not work for you.’ One of the things some authors forget is that this idea can work the other way round: your readers are not your bitches. They do not owe you a review that you can use to sell your book. Some of my friends who have read Shadow’s Talent will most likely never leave me an online review. That’s fine. Some of them don’t even read on an ereader or PC, but were kind enough to make the exception for me. The unique thrill of knowing someone read what I wrote is far more important to me anyway. It’s nice when someone drops me a line, via Goodreads or any other channel, but nobody works for me, so I don’t nag.
2: Your readers will take their time. Even if Shadow’s Talent didn’t have a longer than average wordcount, my readers probably all have a longer than average book pile. When someone says ‘I’ll definitely read it’ and then you don’t hear from them for weeks or even months, this does not mean they said those words lightly. Readers have day jobs, kids, house chores, sports training, all the usual stuff that fills up the average human life. Very few dedicate every spare moment they get to reading. As Mark Coker advises in his guides to ebook success: be patient. Patience is not one of my virtues, as just about anyone who knows me will tell you. Especially if I’ve driven them somewhere and we got stuck behind a bus or a caravan. But driving is sometimes just like waiting for a review: impatience solves nothing and nobody will like you if you’re a dick.
3: Not everyone who buys ebooks writes reviews. I’ll be honest, until about 6 months ago I had never posted a review online even for the authors I revere. Some of us just don’t find the time, and sometimes everything we would say about a book has already been said. To those who say words to the effect of ‘I don’t really know how to write a review’ I usually give the same advice: learn on the job. And you don’t have to be a great analyst or have razor sharp wit or style to tell someone what you liked or didn’t like about their work. But we don’t all enjoy reviewing. Simple as that.
4: Sometimes getting no review is better. If someone really hated my work, fine. Can’t please everyone. Especially not a fanbase as diverse and fickle as sci-fi readers. But what would I rather have? The one star troll pissing on my best efforts because he hasn’t discovered the next Arthur C Clarke, or the reader who laughed at my work before deciding to not waste another second on it? I like that line in The Wolf of Wall Street where Belfort’s wife tells him ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity,’ but I’ve never believed that statement is true. There is loads of bad publicity, and if someone who didn’t like your book has spared you their one-star revenge, be thankful.