Love them and hate them, reviews are our lifeblood

Love them and hate them, reviews are our lifeblood

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The ebook revolution has brought about many positive changes: market access, broader selection, bargain prices, tons of free samples…

It’s a cornucopia for the reader patient enough to wade through it all.

Then there are the down sides, most notably a total lack of clarity with respect to quality. Figuring it out from other readers’ reviews is not easy.

Most readers probably don’t realize it, but a three-star review, even when it’s supposed to be a ‘good’ review, can shut someone’s sales right down.

Readers, for the most part, only buy four- and five-star books. It doesn’t matter that the reviewer may have meant “it’s good”, rather than, “it’s great” or “it’s a classic.”

Buyers simply do not exhibit the same nuance as reviewers; a reviewer who thinks he’s complimenting an author with a three-star review is, in fact, hurting that author’s ability to make a living.To some readers, three stars can mean “good”. To others it merely means “okay.”

But in sales terms, none of that matters. On ebook sites, especially market-dominant Amazon, all the data demonstrates the following hierarchy: 1) Five-star or four-and-a-half star books sell well; 2) four-star books sell occasionally; 3) three-and-a-half-star or below books hardly ever sell a copy.

It’s that simple, unfortunately. I’ve had books I’ve worked on for months get an initial “three star” review that was glowing… .and then watched as sales dried up to nothing. I’d almost get a two- or one-star review; at least then some potential readers will assume it was just petulance.

And to top it off, some authors cheat by paying for good reviews.

It all makes online publishing a minefield that can be difficult to navigate, particularly if you’re a loner and a writer, not a salesman.

But it’s worth the time and care. I may never sell millions of books like some authors, but I get them out there and people seem to enjoy them; that’s all that really matters. Lord, it could be easier, though.

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