Monday, March 25, 2013

Why I Don’t Read Reviews

I’ve had several subjects on my mind for the past couple of months that I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to discuss on this blog, mostly for fear of being viewed as a pessimist, something I cannot imagine actually being.  The subject of reviews keeps resurfacing and it’s time to spill the beans – I do not read reviews. 

Not for books or movies or plays or anything else.  While I appreciate those who take the time to write reviews, it is difficult work and appreciated by many, I don’t ever go more than a sentence or two into one. 

Here’s why. For years, I would watch reviews of movies on television.  The thumbs up or down of Siskel & Ebert were a staple for a long time. There were the opinions of Gene Shalit, the wild-haired, mustachioed Mark Twain look-alike, with whom I found I most identified in taste and humor, presented as a regular spot on the Today show. Film reviews were and still are prominent on television, print and now online. Over time I realized that I rarely shared the opinion of most reviewers, with the exception of Shalit, and had often missed seeing movies in theaters that I ultimately saw on television and loved. 

The same is true nowadays.  I read several reviews of Indie books when I started out as an Indie author, two years ago, often ones I had already read. It was rare that I agreed with the reviewer. I either loved or disliked the books, sometimes in agreement with the overall judgment of the reviewer, but very seldom on the same points. 

Moreover, I found that if I read the reviews before I read the book, I was seeing the book from the standpoint of the reviewer, not my own. I did, more than once, re-read a book after trying to clear out the opinions of a reviewer and see it freshly on my own. 

As I said, for those that wish to have an idea of what they’re getting into ahead of time, the reviews are critical. I’m just not one of those readers.  I truly do thank all those who make an effort to give a review to books on Amazon, and/or blog their reviews. I know the effort is valued by many, many readers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Who Are We Really Talking To?

For some time now I’ve been considering this question about social media. As someone who got into Twitter and Facebook because I’m a writer with a need to promote my books, and as a person who has been in various aspects of business all my life, it became important to me to assess my ROI (return on investment) of time, energy and money.
While our goal should be to reach readers, I’ve realized for some time that writers who tweet and share on Facebook are, in general, talking to other writers. Have you checked out your followers list on Twitter lately? I have and somewhere around 90% are other writers. Sure we sometimes buy each other’s books, but we are definitely not our target audience. They are out there, but we aren’t reaching them. Or if we are, the sheer numbers of Indie books are overwhelming them.
Additionally, I tried an experiment. I belong to a Facebook group of writers who try to support each other in a number of ways, one of which is to tweet book promos for each other. I listed a tweet for my novella, The Great Twitter Adventure, on September 27 of 2012. Many kind people have tweeted and re-tweeted that promo over the months, literally thousands of times. Six months later, I had my first sale – I gifted a friend the book.  I believe that this is a pretty good indication that simply tweeting our book promos out there will never accomplish what we really want – for people to buy and read our books.
So, what to do about this problem? I don’t have an answer to the problem, but as they say recognizing there is a problem is the first step to solving it.
There are only two avenues to reaching readers that I know of – Goodreads and advertising on sites like Kindle Nation Daily, which presumably Kindle readers will access to pick their next book. Thank goodness the competition with free ebooks is dying out. Perhaps soon there will be room for paid books on the world’s overburdened e-readers.
For those who find themselves trying to reach the reading masses, just know that you are not alone in this quest. No matter how an author attempts to present a sunny face, very few are making much at this endeavor.  If you’ve managed to receive a 1099 from Amazon, frame a copy. It will remind you that you ARE getting paid. But, in the meantime, strive to find a unique place among readers while maintaining your friendships with authors.  We do need to talk to each other, for support and companionship, but not to rely on each other to promote our books.
Be creative in your search for readers.  That’s what I intend to do over the rest of 2013. I’ll happily share whatever new things I find.
Don’t be shy. Please share your thoughts on this subject!