This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

At Least Somebody's Paying Attention

When I published my first Quill Gordon mystery, The McHenry Inheritance, on Amazon a bit less than two years ago, it went out there on its own. It was the first book by an unknown author, so there was no other book in the series, no reviews, and no recommendations from other writers. The first few thousand people who bought it, and who didn’t know me, were taking a leap of faith.
            The second novel in the series, Wash Her Guilt Away, went up on Amazon last week, and it had some things going for it that the first one didn’t. The first book has already established whatever level of credibility I might have with readers and provided a small base audience for the second one. For example, one reader, who found and read the first book months after it was published, snapped up the second one within 15 minutes of when I posted a link on Facebook, and “liked” it as well.
            But perhaps the best thing going for Wash Her Guilt Away now is the reviews that the first book now has under its belt on Kindle.

The Crowd Paints a Picture

            In past blog posts, I’ve expressed some skepticism about online reviews, and I still believe they have to be read intelligently. A scathing Yelp review of a restaurant, for example, might owe something to the fact that the review’s author was dumped by his girlfriend after dinner there. And of course there are people out there who will do bogus reviews for a fee
            Assuming the reviews are legit, though, once there are enough of them, the crowd has painted a picture that a discerning viewer can interpret. In the case of a book by a hitherto unknown author, I’d put the base number of credible reviews at ten. Contrary to what some people might think, it’s next to impossible to get ten friends to review your book. In fact, it’s hard to get that many even to buy it and read it.
            So hitting a double-digit number of reviews is an indicator that some strangers out there are buying the book; that it was good enough that they read it all the way through; and that they had enough of a feeling about it to put up a public response. Even if the response isn’t entirely positive, those are good things.

Going by the Numbers

            There are 16 reviews of The McHenry Inheritance as of this writing. The average review was 4.1 out of 5 stars, and nobody gave it less than three. If it’s somebody else’s book and I’m the buyer, going by those numbers, I’d be willing to risk $2.99 on a something that sounds good from the dust-jacket blurb.
            Plus those reviews can be used for promotional purposes. The second book has a page of review excerpts (honest, I might add) for the first book on Kindle. Now  the ordinary reader doesn’t know Mountain Mom, Bob from Salt Lake City, or the other four reviewers I quoted. On the other hand, the average reader doesn’t know anything about the book reviewers for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Indianapolis Star or the Orlando Sentinel, whose comments are liberally quoted in the books you see at the book stores.
            More important than who, exactly, is doing the commenting is, as I said earlier, that the book is being read and the comments are there. And if people say the characters are likable, the plot and atmosphere well done, then that’s another bit of reassurance to the customer swiping $2.99 on the credit card. If not, wait for a free-promotion day.