KDP Select free promo part 3, negative reviews, tags & categories & a little bit more dog news

As you will know if you’ve read my recent blog entries, I’ve done two previous KDP Select free promos and they’ve been wildly successful. They’ve boosted the visibility of The Aunt Sally Team (http://amzn.to/MgZRmW & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf), led to a huge bump in both sales and ranking that lasted several weeks after each promo, and gained me several lovely reviews in the UK, not to mention new readers. As sales had finally tailed off again, I decided to do another promo last week, running for three days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This one has gained me a lowly 39 sales post promo and one very nasty 1 star review (the other 22 reviews were 5 and 4 star) and one public announcement on Twitter, by a total stranger, informing me of her adverse view of my book – how kind of her to let me know along with the rest of the world! Why the other two promos were so successful and this one wasn’t, I have no idea. Perhaps it was timing, doing it at the end of the summer holidays, when people are back at work and school, or perhaps it was because it was timed to run over part of the weekend, which is supposed to be the optimum buying time.

Which brings me to negative reviews. Every writer gets them sooner or later, if they have their work publicly accessible, and indeed other authors say that they can be an almost inevitable consequence of letting your work be downloaded free (in which case, I was very lucky with my first two promos.)  If the review is constructive, then it can be taken on board, no matter how unpleasant it might be receiving it. However, many negative reviews are by people who clearly haven’t read a book and who are being inaccurate or spiteful for reasons of their own. There has been a lot in the news recently about sock puppets, other authors or publishers creating bogus personas to post destructive reviews of rival authors work; but to be honest, and without discounting this, there have always been bad reviews no matter the quality of the book concerned. You can’t please everybody and what appeals to one person will be anathema to another. You even get people slating a book because it wasn’t in a genre they would normally read, and the sense of that is very hard to comprehend.

But don’t let anyone tell you negative reviews don’t hurt. How can they not when you are making the products of personal creativity and hard work available to strangers? Not only that, but bad reviews are destructive in other ways.  I’m pretty sure that the reading public will discount one or two bad reviews amidst several good ones, but I’ve seen perfectly sound books where a 1 star review seems to have sparked several more in the same vein. I won’t review a book at all if I can’t give it at least 3 stars. I know what it’s like to rely on writing to make a living (no matter how small) and to want to please people with your writing, and I know how hurtful negative reviews can be, so I won’t do it to other people.

Leading on from this, it’s very important to pay attention to tags and categories when publishing onto Amazon and other eBook sites. Both these make it easier for readers to find your books, and the more apt the tags and categories, the better they will point to your work. I’ve shifted the categories on both my books. I’d listed one of the categories for The Aunt Sally Team as humour, as it’s written in a slightly tongue-in-cheek style and people who had read it said it made them laugh. But it isn’t out and out snort your coffee over your keyboard humour. Every time I’ve offered the book free, it’s shot to around the top of the humour charts on Amazon UK. But…this is a huge category and you have to sell a lot of books to stay up there once your book goes back on paid. I did manage to reach the #3 slot in paid humour on the UK Amazon site and stayed in the top 10 for quite a long time, but in the long term I was up against authors like Nick Spalding and Terry Pratchett, both of whom have shifted hundreds of thousands of books. Not only that, but one reader, who gave me a 4 star review and was otherwise generous with her comments, did say it hadn’t made her laugh. I’ve now put my book in Contemporary Fiction and Women Authors and Fiction and will monitor how that affects sales and ranking.

Moving on from writing, our Saluki lurcher, Isha, is settling in more and more. she was emaciated when found by the rescue organisation we got her from (Evesham Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue: http://bit.ly/RIl2Bt), but she’s filled out with both flesh and muscle. She’s is so gentle and loving but incredibly playful and can be a handful off the lead, when she wants to play with every dog she meets. After the wet summer here in England, we have beautiful sunny weather, with crisp mornings and warm days, so walking the dogs is a joy. I guess book sales, reviews and all else aside, that’s what makes life worthwhile.



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22 responses to “KDP Select free promo part 3, negative reviews, tags & categories & a little bit more dog news

  1. Flick, so sorry you’ve been experiencing these nasty comments and reviews. It does speak to the person themselves but I know that doesn’t really help. Also, I see exactly what you mean about the effect on sales etc., and that’s a worry. When it is your livelihood, it’s not just a matter of dismissing it so lightly. The mind is a strange thing and I think we’ve all experienced the bad comment that stays in the mind which seems, for a while, to outweigh the hundreds of good comments. There is a great piece in Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Happiness Project’ of how she dealt with, what she considered to be, an unfair review. Ultimately, you know that your work is good and so do many others – including me. Sending good thoughts over to you, as always, Ruth xx

  2. Thank you Ruth for being so understanding. I’m basically a half full rather than half empty person, so these things don’t get me down for long and they usually make me even more determined to keep writing – but it’s necessary (at least from my point of view) to process the experience first, have a jolly good moan and then move forward. I think it was relevant to post about it because others may feel the same way. Most of the authors’ blogs I’ve read dealing with this subject gloss over it and say they shrug it off, but what they say in private is a different matter. I think people should realise it’s okay to feel down about bad reviews and honest to admit it. Do you have a link to the Gretchen Rubin piece?

    Thanks for being positive about my work and supportive of me. this is the nice side of social networking, and for every person who is negative or destructive, there seem to be a hundred who are kind.

  3. Terry Tyler

    Just read this with interest. I think that sometimes when you do a free promotion for a book quite soon (ie, within 3 or 4 months) of doing its first one, it’s less successful simply because many of those who are likely to see the promotional stuff for it (on FB, Twitter, Goodreads, whatever sites you’ve put it on) have already got it! I did a massively successful promotion for You Wish and Nobody’s Fault in April this year – it got me into the paid top 100 with both of them and at numbers 1 & 2 in women’s fiction for several days. I did another promo for Nobody’s Fault only 2 months later and only got about 3,500 downloads, and its highest post-promo position was 3K! It only got as high as about 65 in the free chart. Several people on various FB groups I’m in said they went to download it only to discover they’d already got it from the time before. I have You Wish on free this weekend, however (5 months after the last time – and with more than 4K more Twitter followers), and it’s going much better!

    As far as the bad reviews go, my view on this is not shared by that many people, I know. I will refer you to a blog post of mine called ‘How dare they say I can’t write bum on a wall’, but, to precis that, I think that people have every right to write a bad review of anything they wish to. If you (I mean ‘one’ not ‘you’ – I’m speaking generally!) put your work out on show, you must expect it to be criticised. It is seen by the buying public as a product on sale; if they consider it to be not very good, they have a right to say so. I realise that there are bad reviews and bad reviews; I’ve got 2 for You Wish that call it ‘average teen chick lit’ etc (weird, when the main character is over 40, but that’s another subject!) – that’s okay! They didn’t like it – that’s fine. Who says everyone has to like everything you do? I have one really bad review for Nobody’s Fault – actually, it looks a bit silly sitting there with all the marvellous ones, as Ruth said about yours – but we’re not children! We don’t have to be coaxed and comforted – if someone thinks my book is crap then so be it!
    No, I wouldn’t give a bad review to a writer; I’ll say nothing rather than say something damaging; I think that’s a lot of the problem when people say they can’t get reviews – people are scared to write anything less than a glowing one! I know one author who’s been harangued by a fellow writer for giving her 3 stars! She actually accused her of damaging her career!
    In another case, an editor reviewing a book gave it a one star because the grammar and punctuation were so bad she couldn’t read it – and she had the writer’s friends giving her all sorts of stick!!!!
    What about that writer learning how to write properly before she puts her work on sale?
    Oh dear, I’ve ‘gone on’ more than I intended to! But yes, it’s horrible getting bad reviews. But you WILL get them, now and again – I was gutted by my first one, yes – but I’ve learned to deal with them. I’ve got 4/ 5 altogether (Amazon & Goodreads). They suck. But we live in the real world, not a super encouraging friendly place where everyone loves us and thinks everything we do is great.
    I daresay I’ll get another couple after this free promo – Um, I’ll let you know how I feel about them then…. !!

  4. Interesting response Terry and I would agree with pretty much everything you’ve said about reviews. You will note I’ve also said that constructive negative reviews can be useful and i’m not questioning people’s right to post bad reviews. I do, however, take issue with people who post them out of spite. I’ve been published since 2000 (initially in non fiction by a big American worldwide publisher) so I’m used to bad reviews. Some of the reviews you get from the press and book publication magazines can be very cutting. And I do carefully consider what people say in their reviews (for example, I’ve moved my book’s category out of humour, partly because a customer liked the book but said she didn’t laugh out loud.) I certainly haven’t got used to bad reviews that are inaccurate or done because someone downloaded your book by mistake and didn’t like the genre. I don’t think, being human and if we’re honest, anyone really becomes altogether blase about them anyway. Interestingly, btw, my worst reviews are on Goodreads.

    Regarding free promos, it’s interesting because I did the first two a month apart before I began using Twitter and only posted them on my personal Facebook page, so they had little advertising from me. The third one, with a much larger gap and tweeting the book like mad, has been the least successful. I do wonder if the time of year has something to do with it as many authors i know are saying their sales are down. i would be interested to know how your current promo goes. The Aunt Sally Team got as many downloads this time as last, several thousand, but didn’t get the after promo sales. We’ll see, and do let me know how your current promo pans out. I’m very much looking forward to reading YOU WISH

  5. Terry Tyler

    I’ll certainly let you know – I’ve noticed that since about May it takes less downloads to get higher up the download chart. For instance, in April, when I got to number 1, it was with 8k downloads. Now I have only had 1700 and I’m already at number 19. Also, it seems that the first time you do a free promo you get the huge sales afterwards, the second time less so. Many people presume this is engineered by Amazon’s technology, ie, not giving you the visibility the 2nd time that it does the 1st time. Who knows! I just keep my eye on these things and watch how other people’s do; having said that, I know one person who got 40K downloads the other week, but didn’t even get into the Top 100 afterwards. Maybe it’s purely up to how much the readers want to buy your book, whatever the visibility, at the end of the day!

    No, I don’t think anyone is ever blase about bad reviews, but I can honestly say that mine don’t really bother me for more than about half an hour. Having said that, I’ve hardly got any – maybe they would upset me more if I had! But I don’t get in a stew about the things that people don’t like, that’s what I’m saying, I think. Even in good-ish reviews you can get less than positive comments. Happily, I think I’m confident enough about what I do to just accept them. Usually, I think they’re right, anyway; I’m perfectly capable of being critical about my own work and seeing where it might have been improved, with hindsight! The sniping, venomous reviews are just pathetic; I’ve had a couple of those. Best ignored!

  6. I think it depends on your category and how other books are doing against yours at the time. You can rise in ranking without selling a book if someone else goes down. Categories with lots of books make it harder to get to the top, and some days are easier than others because of how your competitors are selling.

    It’s not a matter of confidence in what I’m doing for me but the fact that i can’t afford to lose sales right now as it’s our only form of income, due to unforeseen circumstances, so it’s actually quite a big deal for me.

    Good luck and hope you top the charts. I’ve never risen higher than 2 in overall kindle free books and 3 in humour/53 in overall kindle books in paid.

    You Wish is next on my list to read, when u’ve finished the Alison Bruce I’m reading 🙂

  7. Good advice. When I did KDP Select, I received a one-star review that actually led to me revamping the whole book (prior to that it was receiving 4 and 5 star reviews). The reviewer actually had valid points, so I went back to the drawing board. As for KDP Select, I’ve decided to no longer do it again. I just don’t see the benefit of taking the book off multiple channels. If you’re still having success with it, though, I say go for it.

  8. James, thanks for that. I think that’s a positive 1 star review and you gained something from it. I might not like getting one of those but it would be useful.

    I’m debating whether to remain on KDP select. I’m writing a sequel to The Aunt Sally Team and i think i might do a promo when that comes out, like have the first book free. It was very profitable doing them till now. Maybe, as Terry says, they diminish in value after the first, but other authors state that they go on being effective. I wasn’t selling on Smashwords and Lulu, so it wasn’t any loss pulling the books, but i think it’s worth another go. And will Amazon continue allowing free promos forever anyway? Much to mull over.Hmm…

  9. That was a nasty review, so similar to one I had by a different person. You can’t please everyone all the time, especially with humour. I enjoyed The Sacred Marriage and have The Aunt Sally Team on my Kindle from your latest promo. Try not to let it niggle you. Reviews phrased like that sound like sour grapes and I don’t think readers pay that much attention to them anyway, judging by a book series which is next to mine on the Amazon pages. The ranking indicates similar sales to mine, and it has either no reviews or 1 or 2 star reviews, and that doesn’t put people off buying them

    I don’t take any notice of 1 star reviews of that ilk. Someone who has to look up “Aunt Sally” is likely to be hard to please.

    I’m not sure I’ll be doing many more free promos in the light of what you say. I’ll see how my current one goes.

  10. Thanks Linda for your lovely message. You are right, and it’s silly as I have a description of the game in the second chapter, where the players find out naturally themselves.

    I’m trying one more free promo in case it’s the time of year that’s putting people off.

    I do hope you enjoy Aunt Sally. It’s a very different book to Sacred Marriage.

  11. PS: Linda, have just downloaded Spiggs Wood 🙂

  12. Oh, that was you! under a different name. I loved Earth Magic.

    • Yes. I decided to publish my romance under a different name in case people who had read my crime downloaded it expecting bodies! I’m glad you loved it.

  13. It’s a lovely book, very insightful and a bit out of the ordinary for the genre, which makes it stand out.

  14. Hi Flick
    You might like to read this article by Elle Lothlorien, a self-pubbed author doing very well and who has thought at lot about Amazon. I met her recently at the RWAus conference in Queensland and have been following her with interest since. She seems very smart and her results are interesting as she writes women’s fiction, which is the field we are in! Hope it’s interesting! (She’s nice too, not that that’s relevant to the issue, but thought I should say so!)

  15. They were on your blog – looked like fingers. Where’s the link? ;)) (for Elle Lothlorien – a LOTR fan?) x

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