Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writers and Readers: A Partnership

I think authors who write Austen re-imaginings would agree when I say that we have the best fans/friends in the book business. Because of the internet and social media, we are able to share our love of the writings of Jane Austen with people from every part of the globe as if they were our next-door neighbors. Because of this, a symbiotic relationship has developed between writer and reader. Readers rely on the author to provide a compelling, well-written story, while authors are dependent on readers, not just for the purchase of our books, but for telling your friends about a story you have enjoyed.

Because self-published authors are so dependent upon Amazon for their sales, we have to pay attention to what drives book sales on their site, and it has an array of metrics to measure a book’s popularity. For example, below the title on the book’s main Amazon page is a “like” button. Apparently, if you get fifty “likes,” your book is more prominently featured on other Amazon pages. The tags near the very bottom of the page will place your book on other Amazon lists. For instance, Mr. Darcy’s Bite has “tags” for paranormal and Gothic, among others. If the book does well, it will appear on these lists, greatly increasing the chance of a reader finding my book.

This is where the reader plays a huge role in helping an Austen author or any author whose books they buy. If everyone who visited a book’s page clicked on the “like” buttons and the “tags,” it would be a bighelp in bringing that book to the attention of other readers. The insert shows exactly what you can do to help your favorite authors.

Even more important than “likes” and “tags” are reviews. Last week, I used a program provided by Amazon to offer my novel, Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, for free download for three days. While contacting the different sites that get the word out about free books, I found that many of them would only take my book if I had six, eight, ten, and in one case, eighteen reviews of four and five stars on Amazon! Yikes! Eighteen stars. That’s a tall order, especially if it's a new title. But these sites insist that most readers will not download a book, even if it is free, if others have not taken the time to review it.

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t review every book I read, and if I would give a book a one or two-star review, I just move along and don’t do anything. But as far as not posting negative reviews, I now hold a minority view. It’s like anything else. If you buy something at the store and you are pleased with your purchase, you usually don’t call the seller or customer service to praise the item. On the other hand, if you are really displeased or disappointed, you might very well make that call or write that letter. This natural inclination drives negative reviews, and the anonymous nature of reviews on Amazon allows people to write some pretty harsh stuff.  Believe me, I know. I keep a box of Kleenex handy in case I get a one-star review. A few bad reviews can kill the sale of a book.

So what am I asking you to do? If you like a book, any book, please consider writing a review on Amazon, or if you don't like Amazon, there are other sites: Goodreads, Shelfari, and Barnes & Noble. If you have the time, I/we would appreciate it if you would go the extra step and click on the “like” button and every tag the author has set up at the bottom of the Amazon page. Because many authors are now self-publishing our own titles or plan to do so in the future, little things make a big difference. Small actions do add up. Thank you for your help.

P.S. My mystery, A Killing in Kensington, is available for free download on 12/4, 12/5 and 12/6 on Kindle.


  1. Is it better for an author to have a bad review written than no review at all?

    1. It depends on the "bad" review. I've had a few constructive two-star reviews (a very few), but the one-stars are almost personal attacks, like "how do I get this book off my Kindle?" Not helpful.

      There are also the reviews that begin, "I don't usually read this genre..." When they start like that, you know you're in trouble.

    2. Mary Simonsen,

      I have taken the time to review, but not the latest book, since I am reading it as I write, so it will be a little while before I review, but I so enjoy your books, of the books I have read. I have taken my positive thoughts a step further, I have contacted you personally via facebook! But I will review your book "Becoming Elizabeth Darcy" as soon as I have read it!
      Yours very truly Sophia

    3. Sophia Elizabeth, I appreciate everything you do as you are a fantastic supporter. Receiving an e-mail from a fan of one of my stories absolutely makes my day!