Reviews and Reviewers; Pricing

I’ve been really fortunate to have many of my books rated highly by readers, and although I’ve made friends with some of my readers, I have never paid, coerced, traded favours, etc to get positive reviews.

I know that negative reviews are inevitable – no matter how good a book, there will be someone who doesn’t like it. The novel may not be their cup of tea, be written in a style they don’t like, have content that upsets them or any number of other things.

I appreciate it when someone takes time out to rate and review my books, even if they have an issue with them. I think, (and if you look at Amazon you can see for yourself), even when the rating isn’t perfect I have often thanked reviewers or explained why I did something, and in a few cases, I’ve altered my books to make things a little clearer.

So it’s frustrating when I get a review that is one star and slags my book and mention incorrect things. (In the case I’m thinking of, my book is written in present tense but they say it’s written in past tense.)

I don’t know why it bothers me so much – maybe it was the parting shot that, ‘there’s a reason it’s free’ that stung and I thought was unnecessary, especially since the reviewer got their fact wrong. With over seventy ratings on Amazon, I have a 4.2 average rating, which I think is great! I know it is inevitable that some readers won’t like it, and I think constructive criticism benefits me as a writer. When one reviewer thought I let Stuart off a little lightly in book five, I added some extra bits to flesh things out and hopefully give more context. It is easy to be myopic, especially when you have spent a lot of time around a set of characters, because after a while you know them intimately and understand so clearly who they are, you forget the reader doesn’t have that same experience.

There is a lot of talk among authors whether you should respond to people reviewing your book. I think if a person has a point they have made or a concern, it is perfectly reasonable to open a dialogue. I like people, am generally a friendly person in real life, and am humbled readers are interested in my books and have taken time to think about them and consider what I’ve presented; I want to honour that time. I was also brought up to show appreciation when someone does you a kindness – to display gratitude, humility and return compliments, so I have an urge to respond when people post a generous review. Some authors are horrified their fellow writers respond and think it’s poor form because it invites difficulties, but others see things similarly to the way I do.

It’s difficult to tread that line. For example, some readers have grumbled about pricing for example, for my five book series that it cost $14, (it’s less than that now). There is a huge disparity in pricing of books, particularly erotica. I’ve seen 25 page ‘books’ that sell for the same price as my 250+ page Lily books, and I recently came across a 170 page Indie erotica book for $7, whilst my 1300+ page compendium of Lily and Stuart is $8.99, discounted a dollar. Some authors argue that selling around the $2.99 price point further reinforces the notion that Indie authors suck, because no self respecting ‘big’ author like Rowling would EVER sell anything that low. I think you need to know your audience a bit, and I hope the audience understand that Indie doesn’t mean you get almost the whole cost of the book.

I tried to price more according to the length of the book, but that caused pricing differences in the same series, so I ended up just pricing all the Lily books $2.99 after the first one, which is free. Unfortunately it is difficult to sell directly to B&N, iBookstore and some other places so I use Lulu for that, and whilst Lulu takes a small cut – usually no more than thirty-five cents – B&N and Kobo in particular take a flat percentage which means that for the $8.99 compendium, I receive less than HALF of that price as revenue. It’s crazy, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Big publishers have this system figured out, and readers expect mainstream to cost more, so I think they are more comfortable with paying extra. They price in marketing and labour, and have infrastructure in place that grinds into motion when a book is released, so their overhead goes to somewhere. The overhead for publishing through Kobo for instance, is basically a vig for the right to be listed on their site, and that’s it.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining – I am trying to give a little insight into what is behind the curtain, some of the moving parts and thoughts that affect an Indie writer, in this case me. I am grateful I am selling books, that most readers seem to like what I write, and I fervently hope to be able to make enough so this is my job, full time. There is a lot a to manage, and a learning curve no doubt, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and I’m already several steps down the road… and excited to see where it all leads.