What makes you decide to buy a particular book?
Is it because it’s the latest release from a favourite author so you are confident it would be money well spent? Are you swayed by the publicity and feel you will miss out if it’s the latest ‘must read’ on everyone’s lips? Do you only read on Kindle for the convenience or are your bookshelves dusty with well-loved and thumbed paperbacks?
I always make my own books available in both formats, and my kindle is usually my bed companion, but there’s nothing like the thrill of holding a physical copy in your hands when it arrives fresh from the printers.
Normally I read for half an hour or so before going to sleep, usually around 5 a.m. as I find the peaceful early hours a good time to catch up with the neglected TBD list and my mind is more focussed. Okay, I admit it – it’s also the time when I catch up with social media as the other side of the world is starting their normal day. Perhaps I was a vampire in a previous life.
As usual my mind is buzzing at this time of the morning and even when I review my posts in the cold light of day they tend to still make sense – at least after my second cup of coffee; before that I’m not nice to know.
I digress. Recently I forgot my Kindle which I had left downstairs on charge, and rather than leave the warmth of my cosy bed, I started to re-read a paperback which happened to be cluttering up my dressing table. It was a well-thumbed copy of ‘Pet Semetary’ by Stephen King, a book I had read it in the long and distant past but had forgotten the story. Probably not the best bed-time reading and although he was a favourite author many years ago, I did find it a little slow paced for modern tastes.
Reverting to my usual Indie author reads the following night I felt irritated by a well-publicised book with glowing reviews. Being an author myself, it has become difficult to read a book without automatically switching into ‘editing mode’ and picking up every minor repetition or typo.
Been there, done that and bought the T-shirt so I do appreciate the work involved in producing a book without the help of editors, publicity machines, formatting experts and all the professionals involved when you have to go it alone. Even though I felt compelled to finish it, I breathed a sigh of relief when it came to an end and I could move onto something else. Although I won’t be leaving a review as it would only warrant a 2*, it did highlight the importance for authors to have a good network of supporters to bump them into the spotlight.
The next book on my Kindle was in a genre I don’t usually read, but was a freebie from an author associate which I received via her newsletter. Despite my initial reservations, it was well constructed and I enjoyed it. A good review is forthcoming which shows the power of networking.
Next up was another author I’d never read before, but for 99p was a cheap price to stock up my bed-time reading. Wow! Was that money well spent or what? It reminded me of one of my favourite books ‘Gunshot Glitter’ by Yasmin Selena Butt, an author who tragically died at a very early age, but whose paperback has pride of place in my collection of signed books by Indie authors. My latest read is on track for a rare 5* rating, which reminds me, I should practice what I preach and submit my reviews.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m a meanie and out of touch with the rating star system. I would prefer to be able to rate out of ten, not five, as many of the books lumped into 4* would be segregated into 6, 7 or 8 in a broader system. To me, a 3 star is fine, a good book, I enjoyed it, whereas the consensus of other reviewers counts that as mediocre or poor. I’m suspicious of a book with a solid mass of 5 star reviews which can indicate more a wealth of loyal friends/supporters than an excellent book. A case in point was one I bought mainly because it was set in a local area I knew well. A sponsored ad and solid reviews but I’m convinced the author had never set foot in the place which was the background to the story. Nothing rang true and it put me off.
For authors just starting out, especially those who self-publish, every review is like gold dust as it helps increase their visibility and spread the word. If you are a famous author with thousands of reviews the odd 1* or 2* makes little difference, but for newbies with only a handful it can be devastating. No one really knows how the Amazon algorithms work, but I have heard a single 1* star can counteract five 5* ratings. Horrendous, and they are usually the first ones prospective readers see. It’s even worse when the lowly review has nothing to do with the book itself but was of the ‘I don’t like romance, and this book is romance,’ or ‘The postman left the parcel out in the rain so it was all wet’ variety.
The hearts, flowers, cover and blurb might have given a clue for the reader who doesn’t like romance; why on earth did they buy it? Usually there’s little the author can do, but readers marking such reviews as unhelpful can push it lower down the list. I might have said this before, but I know some readers don’t feel qualified to write a review. This is one of those occasions where quantity is nearly as useful as quality. ‘Loved it,’ Great book,’ ‘Worth reading’ are all worthwhile as a thank you to the author who spent so much time putting it together for your reading pleasure.
I mentioned two formats but audio is becoming increasingly popular. As well as finishing my latest book ‘Murder of Changes,’ we’re battling to meet our deadline of December for our YouTube audio production of ‘Val’s Tales.’
At least life isn’t boring!
Thanks for reading and see you next week.