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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Warning: A slightly serious, but also slightly tongue-in-cheek rant to follow. Read or ignore at your own discretion. Also please do NOT vote down any of my reviews as this is not a rant towards them. It is simply a rant to the universe for punishing good behavior. ;)

Background: I gave a bunch of books away for 99 cents a few months ago (over a thousand, actually, due to a problem with getting my Smashwords Distributors to raise the price back up to 2.99). I knew from other posts here that sometimes cheap sales can mean more negative reviews (the theory being that impulse buyers are buying something they would never otherwise read, and therefore don't like it and need to tell others.)  Okay, I heard these warnings but didn't head them. My book had already been out over 3 years and accumulated a four-point-something ranking on Amazon with 22 reviews and only one 2-star--I was safe (or so I thought).

So I received a 2-star review right after the sale ended titled, "After all the positive reviews, I was disappointed...", and thought, well, it's not a "hated it" review and at least the guy was honest (can't please everyone, right?) He also made a point of mentioning that he bought it because it was "cheap" which supports the theory above.

Four weeks later, another 2-star titled, "Very disappointing" -- again, he is entitled to his opinion, and his review was actually somewhat funny. He also added that the book was well-edited, so that was something...

Two days ago I received my 3rd "post-sale" 2-star review. This one was titled, "Only for the undiscerning" -- and pretty much trashed the book, calling it the "pulpiest of pulp fiction." Once again, I said, no problem, and actually joked here about needing to change my genre to scif-romance. Also, I have a nearly 20 positive reviews and have already sold over 4,000 books, so what harm could a few bad reviews generate?

Well, now I see that right after that 3rd bad review hit, my sales ground to a halt (for the first time in 3 years!) I was averaging 4-10 per day, each and every day, and now it's like, zero! Oh what could be causing it? Could it be the three 2-star reviews now showing up at the top of the list when people visit my page. "Could that be it?" I asked myself. Myself answered, "Yes it could."

So my question to my fellow writers and lovers of books is this: how long must I live in this purgatory? Was it really so wrong to give a bunch of books away for cheap? Isn't that supposed to be a "good" thing for the readers? How many more bad reviews am I likely to recieve as a result of this sale? I don't really expect an answer to this, but maybe a "been there too" or "you've sold over 4k books so stop dwelling on a bad week!" or even, "go back to your WIP and forget about it..." Which I will now try to do..

Again, this is not a rant at reviewers, so please don't respond that way, and remember the "slightly tongue-in-cheek" statement above. This is all part of being a writer, and if we can't take it, we need to find something else to do, right? However, it doesn't mean we can't talk about it, or poke fun of it once in a while, especially here in the Writer's Cafe ;)

So, are you in some sort of self-induced purgatory as well? Pull up a chair and tell us your story...

-Joe
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Darn it! I just had a sale. Now I have to take back everything I just wrote. My entire rant is now moot (guess I need to learn to type faster!) ;)

Well, I'm sure it was just a fluke and I bet the purgatory continues tonight and into tomorrow. No end in sight, I tell you!

In the mean time, go ahead and tell us your story.  If no one else want's to listen, I'm here for you!  :)
 

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I am actually addressing the major concern that I gleaned from detailed critical reviews that my book is a little too detailed. Strangely enough, this aspect (detail) is what seems to trigger strong praise as well.

I changed my blurb to state that the book is realistic and uses details to convey time and place. Readers should know what they are buying so I actually appreciate those who have criticized my use of detail. 
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Half-Orc said:
Your purgatory will last until you have a second book out.

The David has spoken.
First off, Hi Philip. I owe you a review of "Falling Star" - great book, btw! Everyone go out and buy a copy. That's just for now. Hopefully my real review won't suck as much. ;)

Now to you, The David.
Easy for you to say, my friend, with your full-time writing lifestyle and flagrant disregard for those of us not so lucky. Let's see how many books you would have out right now if you were writing only 8.3 minutes every other day? Hmmm?

Actually I wish I had 8.3 minutes every other day--that would be sweeeeet! Right now I have to be content with being a one-trick pony. At least most people seem to like the pony and it doesn't eat much...

Anyway, congrats on your prolificness and success-ness, though! ;D
 
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Joe, it seems to me the reviewers gave your story low reviews, not your price. Your theory to me is bogus, about selling at 99c. While I believe selling a novel at 99c or free simply devalues one's work, I don't agree that impulse buyers tend to write negative reviews. In fact, I don't think most readers of ebooks are even aware they can write reviews, judging from many comments I've received directly from local buyers.

I have another theory, actually two: if you write a truly stimulating book, you are bound to receive responses across the board, a love-hate sort of thing. For example, if I read any zombie, vampire, or bodice-ripper books, I doubt I could write good reviews, because I cannot suspend disbelief for those genres. The second theory: if you have your book out there long enough, you are bound to get at least a few negative reviews, that is, one or two stars. Some folks like lima beans some hate them.  8)
 

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The answer to this is to team-write some vampire erotica with some hot lycanthrope on lycanthrope action.

We can photoshop our real life pics to look like sinewy drow with predelictions for bdsm.

You know what time it is after that?  Review time baby, with the five star sauce.
:D
 
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Joseph Rhea said:
Now to you, The David.
Easy for you to say, my friend, with your full-time writing lifestyle and flagrant disregard for those of us not so lucky. Let's see how many books you would have out right now if you were writing only 8.3 minutes every other day? Hmmm?
Love you too, Joseph. You know I will never, ever stop harassing you about that until you finally cave and write one. ;D
 

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The 99 cent price point gets you impulse buys from people who might not normally have bought your book and it's 'out of genre' for them.  Some of them will like it, some won't and maybe that's what happened.  I've done the same--given away thousands of various of my books and not had poor reviews often, but I noticed that I'm more likely to get a low star review from someone who got it free than if they paid $2.99. 

That said, I got my first 1-star review for Daughter of Time yesterday.  Yes, I hate seeing it there, but my husband says it means I've 'arrived' :)

I've experimented with pricing for Daughter of Time and it should be going back to 99 cents again because I'd rather sell more and not worry about those impulse buys. 
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well, based on the continuing worst sales week I have had in 2 years (literally) one might say that I'm still in purgatory. Someday when other better reviews push those new bad ones down the stack, it won't mean a thing. I actually "like" having a broad range of reviews. I think it's just the 3 bad ones in a row that is killing sales. Bad mojo, perhaps, but I think I'll live. ;)

Now, more important news: It seems that the all powerful "gods of the written word" actually heard my plea (or read this silly thread) and have shown me a path out of the darkness (okay, dimness). I received news last night that a certain well-known (and Hugo award-winning) SF author living in the Pacific Northwest is currently reading my little one-trick-pony of a book. No guarantees that he will like it, or feel any desire to associate his name with it (in terms of a review), but just the fact that he asked to read it is very cool to me. I'll let everyone know who he is and what he says as soon as I'm allowed to. Cool beans, huh?

So, take that, bad mojo!
-Joe
 

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Joseph, keep in mind that the tags have been gone from Amazon since last week, and a lot of authors are claiming it's affected their sales.  So it may be just a coincidence that the reviews occurred around the time the tags disappeared.

If you have that many good reviews, I don't see a few 2-stars affecting sales.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
swolf said:
Joseph, keep in mind that the tags have been gone from Amazon since last week, and a lot of authors are claiming it's affected their sales. So it may be just a coincidence that the reviews occurred around the time the tags disappeared.

If you have that many good reviews, I don't see a few 2-stars affecting sales.
You could be right, but quite a few people on this very board have mentioned that their sales stopped for a while after a single negative review. Now that's not scientific, but consider this: When I go to my Amazon page I see a 4.2 rating at the top (that's good) and many, many more 5-stars than anything else (should be good, except that many don't trust 5-star reviews anymore--too many family and friends writing them). However, when I go down to read the reviews, on the right side I see the following:

Most Recent Customer Reviews

2 out of 5 stars Only for the undiscerning
This is the pulpiest of pulp fiction; I barely made it past the halfway mark. And I'm a fan of EE Smith, that should tell you something. Read more
Published 2 days ago

2 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
A few pages into the story and it was obvious that the book is self-published; not that self-publishing is bad, only that a professional publisher would not print the story. Read more
Published 1 month ago

2 out of 5 stars After all the positive reviews, I was disappointed...
I suppose I picked up this book because it got 4+ star reviews, and it was sci-fi, and it was cheap. But while reading it I wondered... Read more
Published 2 months ago

Does that make you want to read the book? It looks overwhelmingly negative to me, and would make me wonder if all the previously positive reviews were somehow faked (including, I guess, the PODBRAM Award I won in 2008) Since I'm an unknown, all a new reader can judge my book on before buying it is other people's reviews. So I am essentially "black-listed" until I get a few halfway positive reviews to bump those new bad ones down the list. Seriously, even I would not shell out $2.99 for a book based on my Amazon page right now.

So I'm dead--dead I say! Feel free to shun and ridicule me. ;)

Now lets stop talking about my purgatory and hear someone else's story... Anyone else feeling shunned this week?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
momilp said:
Good Morning, Joseph,
hang in there, and cool beans :)
Out of curiosity, is GB reading your book?
If you mean, Greg Bear, then no, but he was born the very same year, coincidentally.
Funny story how the book reached this person, actually. I'll tell the tale at a later date...
:)
 

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Joseph Rhea said:
If you mean, Greg Bear, then no, but he was born the very same year, coincidentally.
Funny story how the book reached this person, actually. I'll tell the tale at a later date...
:)
Yes, I meant Greg Bear...
I was going to say WG, just North of the border, but he is younger by a few years.
Well, I hope you'll tell the story soon, or I'll spend hours and hours researching, while I should be writing :)
But, today is sunny in the Northwest, so I am entitled some laziness!
 
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