Judging a Book on Its Own Merits

Can you spare a book review for this man?

Can you spare a book review for this man?

A follower responded to my post: Self-Publishing – There is Trouble Ahead for Everyone!” indicating he was pleased that readers not gatekeepers were judging a book on its own merits. To quote:

“Selling more books is not a matter of assigning gate keepers to tell us what not to buy or what to buy. It is a matter of giving readers the opportunity to find and judge our book on its own merits. Readers will purchase a great story, if they can find it.”

I would love to agree with this comment, and to an extent, I do. But good published authors with a following and a great book find themselves fighting for readers amidst what Google estimates is 129 million different types of books published worldwide, as of 2010. I asked several friends how they select an online book. Here are the top four responses: 1. I choose authors I already read and like. 2. I get recommendations from friends who read the kind of books I read. 3. I go to my favorite genre and look the sales rankings and reviews. 4. I go to my genre and read inside the book, if I like the cover.

Lions and tigers and bears–oh my! Look at your book ranking on Amazon. If you’re not in the top 1,000, no one will find you who isn’t looking for you. Before a reader can judge a book by its own merits, they have to read the book. My #1 suggestion for self-published authors is to spend your time finding unbiased readers coast-to-coast, ask them to review your book, and send them your book free. These should not be relatives and friends. These should be avid readers who will do reviews on Amazon. Be prepared for poor reviews as well as great ones.

Having said that, it is an uphill climb which I have yet to master. In the past two years, I’ve received 22 5-star ratings and 23 4-star ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, and my blog tour. Out of 45 total ratings distributed over four books and three different sales websites I should be thrilled, but I’m not. The kind of novels that get noticed have 45 reviews on one site with a 4.0 and over star rating.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. Through Facebook and my Writer’s Associations, I’ve contacted over 10,000 individuals offering a free novel in exchange for a review. I’ve had 8 positive responses but only 1 actual review so far. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but everything about being an author takes hard work. This is no exception.



5 thoughts on “Judging a Book on Its Own Merits

  1. Hi Bill,

    Another great post. The information provided in your post is most helpful.

    In your top four responses from friends on how they select online books, all unknown authors can forget about number 1. Since an unknown author will not yet have a following.

    Number 3 apparently doesn’t work that well since you already have accumulated 45 great ratings on Amazon, Goodreads over four books.

    And number 4 is only helpful after a potential reader finds your book, which, as you wrote, is practically impossible if a book has a ranking of more than a 1000.

    That leaves number 2: Get recommendations from friends. But out 10,000 people you contacted, only one review resulted from that effort. Everyone is trying to get their books reviewed, therefore book reviewers have huge backlogs.

    Based on the information provided in your post, would it not be better for unknown authors to give books away free on as many eBook retailers sites as possible until you get that magic number of reviews needed as well as the word of mouth recommendations from people who read the free copies? Once the author builds a following, which the author did not have previously, the author can then price the books and all subsequent books at a competitive rate.

    • Great comment, Jim. I’m a member of Kindle Direct Publishing and put my novels on free download 5 days every quarter. In fact Busted – The Odyssey of Holly Bunn is free on Kindle now and until January 30th. I’ve had over 3,000 books downloaded that way. Yes. It works.

      • The problem with being in the KDP Select program is only being able to sell your books on Amazon. Although Amazon has half of the digital book market, the other ebook retailers have the other half.

        I looked at your books on Amazon. Since you have several books with good reviews, I think you should consider getting out of the select program at the end if your 90 day period. Once you are out of that program, you can place your books for sale on the other major eBook retailer’s sites. While Amazon is in 12 countries, Apple, the second larger ebook retailer in the world, is currently in 51 countries and growing.

        The KDP Select program used to be worthwhile, but after the changes Amazon made with the affiliates, in my opinion, that program’s benefits no longer override the benefits of making your ebooks available from all major eBook retailers. You could then offer the first book in your trilogy for free for an extended period of time, until you build that readership.

        I use Smashwords to distribute my ebooks to Apple and the other ebook retailers, with the exception of Amazon, which I do separately. I use the exact same Word document file with only one line changed. If you are interested, I would be happy to explain how I do it.

        When something does not appear to be working, it may be time to try another idea. Your stories are too good not to be given the best possible chance to break out.

        I hope this is helpful. Keep up the great blog posts.

  2. Bill, I try to eventually review every book I read, unless I’m biased against it because the genre or style doesn’t appeal to me in spite of basically good narrative or plot. Note that I’ve read and reviewed every book you’ve written. Readers are doing writers a tremendous favor by reviewing books, especially on Amazon. It only takes a few minutes and it doesn’t cost a dime.

    • Both Pam and I do the same. I don’t insult someone with a 1 or 2 star review. Rather, I tell them privately by email why I have problems with the book. It doesn’t make me friend, but its honest and doesn’t damage them publicly. Pam reviewed your novel a few days ago.

      How is the cruise going? No food illnesses? Apparently I Royal Caribbean cruise has headed back to New Jersey due to 600 people coming down with a virus.

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