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I have a rather delicate question.  There is a book that is in the top 250# of Kindle sales.  It has 7 5 star reviews, and 2 one star reviews.  The author has sold 13,000 copies at $2.99.  She has never lowered the price. 

And the writing is j u s t  n o t  t h e r e.  The pacing is frustrating and the character motivations are soft.  She reviewed herself for one of her 5 star reviews. Yet thousands of her books have sold and her ranking remains high, even at a "higher" price. 

I'm not posting this because I'm jealous.  I'm happy for her.  She's a really nice person who was looking for a job. 

I'm just trying to figure out what she's "got" so I can get a little for my book too!
 

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It's hard to say what she has and how it has worked for her. The sad truth is, some really great books don't sell. And some mediocre books fly off the virtual shelves. I've seen this with my own books. Highly reviewed books with multiple award nominations have sat in virtual obscurity while others have sold thousands more copies. All I can suggest is you look at that book's packaging. What does the cover look like? How is the book marketed on the Amazon page? How is it tagged? Etc.

All you can do is show your readers your book's best face, so to speak--make sure the cover is professional and eye-catching, make sure the description is the best it can be. Then your job is to help them find it by any means you have at your disposal.

julie sellers said:
I have a rather delicate question. There is a book that is in the top 250# of Kindle sales. It has 7 5 star reviews, and 2 one star reviews. The author has sold 13,000 copies at $2.99. She has never lowered the price.

And the writing is j u s t n o t t h e r e. The pacing is frustrating and the character motivations are soft. She reviewed herself for one of her 5 star reviews. Yet thousands of her books have sold and her ranking remains high, even at a "higher" price.

I'm not posting this because I'm jealous. I'm happy for her. She's a really nice person who was looking for a job.

I'm just trying to figure out what she's "got" so I can get a little for my book too!
 
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Amazon is recommending her book, and people are buying it. Lots of people can tolerate poor writing, and of course there are people who may like what you dislike, but if there are loads more negative reviews than eventually the book will flag.
 

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There is no - and never has been - a correlation between quality and sales in popular media. Not in movies, not in music and not in books.
Things become successful because they are popular, but popular does not mean it is "good." Sometimes it's just a fad, sometimes it's publicity that makes it sell, sometimes it is an artificially created demand, the list is endless, but quality has usually very little to do with it. Otherwise Mark Twain would still be on the bestseller lists and we would see "Citizen Kane" posters and magazine covers all over the place.
 

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Unfortunately, this is just one of those things that you have to accept as an author. There's no telling why one author will do better than another when the second authors book is superior in every way. A lot of it is down to pure luck, something I don't have, and people will rise meteorically even though their book is in dire need of a full edit, their description has errors in it, and the price is high.

Believe me, I'm looking for that magic ingredient too but I'm yet to find it. I promote until I can't promote anymore, I have reviews, a professional cover, a decently edited book, a damn good story, but I can't sell like some people do.

Although, the one thing I haven't tried is giving myself five stars *snark* Any writer who reviews their own book should be shot on sight.

Chances are she's writing a popular genre and has been selected by amazon for promotion, and she's benefitting from it.

Chin up!

Felicity Heaton
 

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Consumers have all kinds of ways they evaluate books. Quality is not something we can measure and agree upon. We can count typos and spelling errors, but we can't measure quality. It comes down to a simple question. Do readers like it? We can't argue they are wrong. They like it because they say they do.
 

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julie sellers said:
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And the writing is j u s t n o t t h e r e. The pacing is frustrating and the character motivations are soft.
<snip>
The problems you've mentioned (pacing/character motivation) are not something a prospective reader can really judge from a sample. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she's in a popular genre, has a good cover, well-written blurb and an interesting sample. So people buy the book.

The story might fall apart after the first few chapters. But the reader can't know that until after they've already bought the book.
 

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julie, the answer to questions like yours is often luck. Luck can trump all sorts of other factors in life.

Randomness is a major component to luck. That is, being in the right place at the right time can often lead all by itself to success.

Fortunately, some facets of luck can be purposely changed (albeit not all). I did a study into the various facets of luck some years back, if you're interested:

The nature of luck
http://www.jmooneyham.com/cluck.html
 

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julie sellers said:
I have a rather delicate question. There is a book that is in the top 250# of Kindle sales. It has 7 5 star reviews, and 2 one star reviews. The author has sold 13,000 copies at $2.99. She has never lowered the price.

And the writing is j u s t n o t t h e r e. The pacing is frustrating and the character motivations are soft. She reviewed herself for one of her 5 star reviews. Yet thousands of her books have sold and her ranking remains high, even at a "higher" price.

I'm not posting this because I'm jealous. I'm happy for her. She's a really nice person who was looking for a job.

I'm just trying to figure out what she's "got" so I can get a little for my book too!
There's no accounting for taste, poor taste in particular.
 

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Terrence OBrien said:
Consumers have all kinds of ways they evaluate books. Quality is not something we can measure and agree upon. We can count typos and spelling errors, but we can't measure quality. It comes down to a simple question. Do readers like it? We can't argue they are wrong. They like it because they say they do.
Exactly!

I'll give you an example: I love Perry Mason books. I love the attitude toward ethics and law, and battling the forces arrayed against the client (including, sometimes, ethics and law). I don't always remember what happens in one book from another -- they blend together, frankly. BUT Earl Stanley Gardner was NOT a particularly artful writer in terms of how he handled prose. Sometimes it was all disembodied dialog. Sometimes there would be paragraphs of purple prose inserted in the middle of something. The characters were cliched at best. He hid clues, and sometimes confused the readers rather than mystifying them.

But Earl Stanley Gardner knew how to tell a story. And to this day, I would prefer to read a Perry Mason over a whole lot of better writers out there.

Camille
 

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I've found that my definition of "quality" and the public's definition of "worth reading" don't match. Years on the short story circuit didn't prepare me for mass market desires. The audience is different and can be fickle.

That's okay. 

I'll keep writing.  It's what I do.

 

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aaronpolson said:
I've found that my definition of "quality" and the public's definition of "worth reading" don't match. Years on the short story circuit didn't prepare me for mass market desires. The audience is different and can be fickle.

That's okay.

I'll keep writing. It's what I do.
You talk about "the public" as if they are a uniform group. They're not.

We're entering a new era (which is, imho, going to be remarkably like the era before last in publishing) in which "lowest common denominator" doesn't matter so much. We're not going to be selling books which appeal minimally to a lot of people, but rather books which appeal strongly to a smaller number of people.

Our own ideas about quality, and value and the rest, have been warped by the best seller era. Booksellers and distributors like to sell a lot of a few titles, so they push things that literally appeal to the lowest common denominator -- the things which are acceptable to the largest number of people. Things which are well-loved tend to appeal to people in smaller numbers.

Which again, doesn't mean "quality" as we think of it. Perry Mason is well-loved by me.

Camille
 

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Quality writing does last, though, doesn't it? The classics all seem to be extremely well written, though James Joyce still puzzles me. The cream does rise. The problem with this, however, is that the rising in this case usually happens long after the writer is dead.
 

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julie sellers said:
And the writing is j u s t n o t t h e r e. The pacing is frustrating and the character motivations are soft. She reviewed herself for one of her 5 star reviews. Yet thousands of her books have sold and her ranking remains high, even at a "higher" price.
Don't take this the wrong way, but this is something for you to never bother thinking about again. I can point to books too, books with dozens of 4 and 5 star reviews. Ain't no point in it. And consider that someone else may have the same opinion of your book or my book.

I know you were asking if there's some sort of thing you're missing - there isn't. So focus on the things you can control.
 

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tawnytaylor said:
It's hard to say what she has and how it has worked for her. The sad truth is, some really great books don't sell. And some mediocre books fly off the virtual shelves.
What Tawny said. I've read unpublished work on writers forums that was way better than other stuff I've picked up in bookstores. Whether a book is good or bad is so subjective. I've heard people gush about authors whose work I don't enjoy at all while some of my favorite NY authors remain midlisters. If it were up to me C.S. Harris would be selling like Stephen King and Stephany Meyers but obviously everybody doesn't share my tastes. ;)
 

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Can anyone tell me where you can find statistics like how many books a person has sold?  I don't see it on the main book page, unless I'm just somehow missing it.  All I see is their rankings.
 

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Emeline Danvers said:
Can anyone tell me where you can find statistics like how many books a person has sold? I don't see it on the main book page, unless I'm just somehow missing it. All I see is their rankings.
The ranking is all you will ever see. Number of sales is personal information. Not too unlike a salary.
 

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Christopher Bunn said:
Quality writing does last, though, doesn't it? The classics all seem to be extremely well written, though James Joyce still puzzles me. The cream does rise. The problem with this, however, is that the rising in this case usually happens long after the writer is dead.
Literary fiction from writers who become part of the canon and writers who were pioneers in their genre tend to last. All others, not so much.

There are many, many fine genre writers who wrote at a high level whose work will disappear.
 

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I think the topic is something best considered amongst an... ummm... paragragh of writers with cool drinks, while taking in a fine sunset on a lazy sunday afetrnoon. It's something that'll generate hundreds of answeres , but not one of them will exactly fit the bill. Fun to talk about, though. :)
 
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