Friday, August 20, 2010

A Few Bad Eggs

As I continue to slog through the snows of Wintertide, the world moves on. Sales have slipped recently, but that might be due to the time of year. People appear to buy books starting in November, most likely for gifts, then in winter for something to read in the long, dark months and then again in spring and early summer for taking to the beach. But as late summer/early fall comes around, I suppose people are focused on getting back to school and work. No more time for fantasy adventures until the snow flies.

It might also be that, caught up in pushing book five out, Robin and I have not had time to promote the series. Luckily, others have taken up the slack. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember the reference to the Big Wheel of Momentum. Moses Siregar III is the most recent example that the wheel is moving under its own power.

I was contacted several weeks back by Mr. Siregar who confessed to me that after seeing the (then) six negative reviews for The Crown Conspiracy on Amazon (among the seventy-eight total,) he decided not to read it. He came back to the book later and realized he could read a sample and decide for himself, which he did. He then wrote to say he loved the book and asked if I would be willing to do an interview with him.

The interview was posted a few days ago.

Once upon a time, Robin and I had to beg for bloggers to do a review of my books, or interviews. It’s a whole lot nicer to have them approach me. Mr. Siregar isn’t the first, but his posting comes at a much needed time. With book five on the way, Robin and I should be getting the word out, but are too busy getting the book out.

It disturbs me that a handful of negative comments would so taint a sea of positive reviews. Is it too much to hope for that everyone one given pause by the few dissatisfied customers will eventually come to the same conclusion and each write their own reviews or interviews?

I’m a fantasy author, what do you expect?

5 comments:

  1. Hey Michael, that's Amazon man, and I hate their review system. They don't even moderate the reviews, or do anything to control how products are reviewed. Amazon is one of the biggest evils attached to the industry, in my opinion, because they care nothing about the actual products - they're just focused on getting the products distributed. :-(

    Anyway, as more and more readers discover your work, I'm pretty damn confident that you'll get a s**tload more positive reviews than negative. :-) The BSC Tournament proved just how damn good your work is, after all. :-)

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  2. Michael has a 14:1 ratio of positive to negative reviews on The Crown Conspiracy, which is truly stellar, but I saw from my own experience that the bad apples can make a difference. The sample feature with Kindle books is great, though.

    I agree with Dave that it's an imperfect review system, although at least the playing field is level. On the flip side, I've caught authors writing reviews of their own work under fake accounts.

    It's humbling to realize that no matter how much work I've put into my book(s), someone could come along that hasn't even read the book and write a bad review just to be a troll. That, in turn, could have a real effect. It is scary.

    I guess, "be nice to everyone," is more important than ever.

    It was a pleasure to talk to you, Michael. I look forward to reading the rest of your series.

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  3. Actually I can't fault Amazon. If it wasn't for them, and their willingness to sell books even by unknown, untested authors, I never would have sold out my first printing. It's true that there are a number of problems with the system, but there are with any publishing/distribution system. (Personally I feel there are more—and greater problems—with the traditional bookstore system that allows stores to ship unsold books back at no cost and who sell shelf space to the highest bidder, making it impossible for any but the most successful authors to get their work to the public.) I think Amazon is the most "democratic," in that there are no arbitrary restrictions, no prior evaluations to books limiting their availability. Success and failure is completely in the hands of readers. And while I'm not happy to see negative reviews for my books, I understand they can’t be loved by everyone and both sides should be able to voice their comments.

    Actually the sudden influx of negative reviews I think is more the result of my growing success. My books are clearly reaching a larger audience than ever before with more varied tastes, and those who are holding them to the same high standard as the best in the genre.

    I also feel that a number of the negative reviews suffer from a lack of understanding about what I am doing. When they read Crown, they see a book with typical fantasy elements and classify it into a standard pigeonhole, then judge it based on how well it suits that standard. The problem is that I have created a different hole, but readers aren’t likely to understand this until they get further into the series. While Crown is the first book, it is really only the first chapter in the story, which means they are drawing conclusions after only reading a fraction of the story. Of course, since no one else has ever done this sort of series before (that I know of)—where the main characters history and personalities are revealed over the entire course of the series as if it was one story, but broken into complete plots—they don’t realize their mistake. It only compounds the problem when I have used veteran fantasy reader’s expectations to intentionally mislead them. The easiest way to deceive someone is to provide them with exactly what they expect to see.

    It was a gamble. I knew some sensitive readers would give up after the first book, despite my efforts to make it fun. Still, I felt it was worth it to provide a new and exciting experience for those that did.

    I should also mention that in a few cases those who complained about my writing have legitimate grievances, and I have used these comments to improve the books. Portions of Crown were rewritten (namely Esrahaddon’s dialog, for the second edition, some of which has already been released) and I think the book is the better for it.

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  4. Hmm...I might have to get my hands on the second edition, then, so I can see this rewritten portion!

    Anyway, sorry about the negative reviews. I'm glad Mr. Siregar gave TCC another chance.

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  5. I'm like Micheal about Amazon. I really like the fact that it's just the channel. It's up to the author and the reader to make the connections.

    I've been doing podiobooks and collecting reviews on itunes for a few years now and it's really kind of a badge of honor. You haven't really arrived until somebody cares enough to trash you. :)

    Now, the people who trash it without reading or listening -- unfortunate -- but the problem with free speech is you have to uphold the right of every idiot and his brother to have his say.

    Personally, I think that's a good thing because it makes it easier to identify the idiots. :)

    I'm looking forward to reading Avempartha soon.

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