Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reviews, Rankings and Returns on Kindle

It's pretty easy to get obsessive about the 3 R's on the Amazon Kindle page of your book. Reviews, Rankings and Returns-- oh my! What do they all mean?

REVIEWS

Every book needs at least 6 reviews to look serious. Once your book goes live, make it your personal mission to get them. Give out ARCs  or free downloads to friends, family, blog followers, Facebook cronies. Do not rest until you have 6 - 10 reviews posted on your Amazon page!

I've heard of sites where you can pay for reviews. Totally unnecessary. Give away some books, call in favors, let a few hints slide--whatever it takes to get those precious initial reviews (which will most likely be positive since they're from people who know you.)

They don't need to be gushing, 5 star lengthy book reports. In fact, brief can be better. When someone mentions they enjoyed your book, a subtle hint is in order, like "Would you mind posting that up on Amazon on my book page? I would really appreciate it." Do that a dozen times and soon you'll have a decent showing.

What about bad reviews? Don't worry, they'll show up eventually. They're like armpits. Everyone has them and they all stink. Especially if your book goes free,  readers who aren't in your demographic and would never have bought it otherwise will download and not like it but of course will post a one-star review-- "I couldn't finish this book. Its boring and do not hole my intrest." (misspelling and grammatical errors included, because the worst reviews are loaded with them)

A couple of bad ones can set back sales for a time. If you see too serious an impact, call up a friend who hasn't posted yet and ask for positive feedback to counteract the evil. Resist the urge to respond to the troll or to leave a comment. Because, after all, you are way too cool and productive and popular to bother with such drivel.

RANKINGS

Watching rankings is like looking for animal shapes in the clouds. You may see a thrilling one but don't count on it to stay. Many things can affect the numbers, like how many times your book is borrowed, or sales in the UK, or sales per hour compared to sales per day.

Rankings are comparative, which means the more books on Kindle, the more competitive it becomes. Selling 100 books a month a couple years ago would get you a 3 or 4 digit ranking. Now it will be more like a 5 digit ranking, simply because hundreds of thousands more Kindle books are published--daily.

Another fantasy is that rankings will continue to rise. High numbers this week, higher next, and on and on until it hits the top 100. No, sorry, that's not how it happens. Please don't let your mood be determined by your ranking, or you will need some serious medication.

RETURNS

Amazon allows returns of ebooks. Nothing to get disturbed about, unless your returns are ridiculously high. And the more books you sell the more likely you'll have higher returns. Sometimes it's because someone meant to borrow the book but accidentally clicked Buy, and they have to fix it. There's a refund. No biggie.

Kindle returns are nothing compared to bookstore returns, when the bookstore can send back unsold books to the distributor for full credit, months after the publisher thought they were sold goods, bought and paid for. Bookstore returns are a travesty of this business that has helped to fuel the rise of ebooks. *excuse my mini-rant*

That's my brief overview of the Three R's on Kindle. I'd love to get your feedback, and hear of any experience or suggestions. 

And oh wait, I forgot the most important R of all-- the READER. Write the best book to enrich the reader's experience, and all the rest will fall into place!

32 comments:

  1. I like your take on the bad reviews! They rarely sound intelligent.
    Confess I do check my rankings. They do bounce around a lot, but when it's happening in the top one hundred of a category, it's fun to watch.
    Don't understand eBook returns though. When you can read the first few pages for free, why on earth would you return an eBook that cost just a couple dollars?

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  2. The Reader is the most important one to me. Without him, the rest are meaningless.

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  3. *snicker* I love the armpit analogy.

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  4. I still do not understand why anyone would bother writing a bad review of a story - what a waste of energy and time! And such negative karma!

    Take care
    x

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  5. Great post! Recently I did a review for someone by request and I have to say they were so professional and polite about it. I posted it on Goodreads, Amazon, and it's going on my blog next week. The author sent me a tweet saying thank you for the review and feedback. He had to look up my twitter handle! I have to say it made me feel special and I hope to do the same for my readers/reviewers when the time comes.

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  6. Enlightening post. I have seen those bad reviews with spelling errors included on several books. My take for a review is that if they can't be serious enough to atleast spell things correctly and give one example of what might be wrong from their opinion, then as a reader I'm wasting my time by reading that review. The reviewer obviously can't be taken seriously.

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  7. Until I met you, I never thought of the entire process of writing and publishing a book. Writers must have tough skin too, I see. I love how helpful your post must be to those who are starting out writing books and want to get them published and reviewed.

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  8. This was a very informative post. You spelled out the process behind reviews and rankings; it really made me think.

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  9. I have a friend who has self published and she would rather have an honest bad review (Ava Donja - fantasy romance novella) than have only high reviews from family and friends (she was so excited at the 2 unrelated reviews, lol).
    I make a point to review. I have this sense of responsibility to warn the reading public about books erroneously ranked with nothing but 5 stars that really are 1 star. It's almost with righteous fury at being duped into reading it. lol -- yes, I take myself too seriously sometimes. Likewise, if I loved something, I have to give the author kudos. I am unlikely, however, to review books that I feel so-so about.

    When I'm deciding to whether to buy a book and there are low reviews, I do read them - but critically. One of my friends got a low review because the reader did not like the 'bad boy' character, so never even finished the book or saw the character arc. If the review is foundationless, I dismiss it.

    I have only once had my review rebutted - obviously by the author. Since then I've noticed when there are comment threads. It's really unprofessional, even when the review is stupid, for the author to argue with it. Let it go.

    Sorry to have written so much. :) Good post.

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    1. Erin, Don't apologize for writing a long comment! It shows that the post really made you think, and I appreciate your feedback about reviews. I feel the same about too many gushing reviews. I think a few less than stellar ones will make potential readers take the book more seriously.

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  10. Fantastic overview! It's funny to think how much work goes into writing a book, polishing that book, getting an agent, finding an editor... and then the real work begins with the marketing aspect. Reviews are important!

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  11. Great post. Going out and getting reviews is something I know I'm bad at.

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  12. Very informative post. Thanks, Karen.

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  13. I'm new to watching those Rs, and found myself glued to them for a time. (=: They shoe holed my tension! :=)
    For sanity and other health considerations, I made up my mind to *not* do that anymore.

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  14. Excellent post, Karen. I'm afraid I'll be a fanatic at checking my reviews and rankings. After all, I jump on the scales every day to weigh so why wouldn't I be? Before I purchase a book, I do read all the reviews--good and bad, but honestly, I think it easy to tell the reviews that sound like hate mail. Some just don't sound honest. I know you said not to respond but I've noticed many authors apologizing to readers who give bad reviews: "Sorry you didn't like my book. Thanks for the feedback." And thanking those for good reviews. I always looked at this as turning the other cheek sorta and figuring I'd do it too when the time comes. :) After reading your post, maybe I should try to be cooler. Ya think?

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    1. Jess, Well, not everyone might agree with me but yes I think it's best for writers to maintain distance about reviews (both good and bad) that are posted on Amazon and Goodreads. I think it is definitely cooler and more professional. Now blog or media reviews are different. Definitely okay there to contact the reviewer or leave a comment to thank them.

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  15. Great post! The armpits comparison cracked me up. I don't plan to self-publish, but I think this information is helpful. Reviews are important. I don't look forward to reading the negative ones. I always cringe when I read them, especially when it is a book I actually liked.

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    1. Sabrina, Regardless of how anyone is published, Amazon Kindle rankings and reviews have power. Amazon isn't just for the self-published. It's the largest bookstore in the world and getting more massive and influential as we speak.

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  16. This is all good to know. I can't even imagine what I might be like when the reviews start coming in ... eek! ;)

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  17. Hey All, Jess at Praise, Prayers and Observations linked to a feature on Understanding Amazon Sales Rankings. Here's the link if anyone wants to check it out. It's a fairly easy to follow explanation.

    http://www.rampant-books.com/mgt_amazon_sales_rank.htm

    Thanks, Jess!

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  18. Karen, I knew very little about the three R's. I'm keeping this post, just so you know, for reference. So informative!

    I understand the cloud analogy in the sky, I'm always watching for animals in the clouds and four leaf clovers in the grass. I guess I shouldn't drive and do those things?

    Great stuff!

    T

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  19. Great advice. I've done my share of reviews for bloggers who have sent me books for my appraisal. I try to be fair and honest, and fortunately I've liked most of the books I've been sent.
    I've heard that paying for a book review from Kirkus Review Magazine can be well worth the money spent.


    Lee
    I've still got a few open spots for the Hijack This Blog! summer promotion.
    Tossing It Out

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  20. Yes to everything you've said!

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  21. Thanks for this, KG! Useful info all the way around.

    "... you are way too cool and popular and productive to bother with such drivel." Aren't we all? :)

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  22. Interesting information. Having never written a book, nor seriously tried to write one, this is all new territory, Karen.

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  23. What a clear, succinct explanation, Karen!

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  24. You've made this a bit clearer Karen. I've heard you need 10 reviews to look serious, but who knows? Hope your sales are great.

    Denise

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  25. I really appreciate the advice. Great post. :)

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  26. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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