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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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writing, tweeting, dogs & tags

This is a mish-mash diary kind of entry

I’m pegging on with the sequel to The Aunt Sally Team (http://amzn.to/MgZRmW & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf). Actually pegging on may not be the right description, as it seems to be pouring out at a rate of around 3000 words a day. I haven’t written this fluently since I was a teenager scribbling on my lap in class at school with my desk lid raised to hide what I was doing. Of course, me being me and being quite a perfectionist, I’m deeply suspicious of anything that’s happening so easily – what’s the catch? it’s bound to be inferior if it’s not causing me grief and sending me into displacement activity. But so far it seems fine.

I’m constantly amazed, while writing, at how characters emerge. I may start off with ideas about who they are and what they do, but they soon put me right and surprise me with facets of their personalities that I’d had no notion existed. And people who were minor suddenly thrust themselves into the limelight and take on a more central role in the book. It’s impossible, while in the midst of crafting a novel, not to relate to your characters as if they are real people.

Meanwhile, to return to the leviathan machinations of Twitter, I tweeted recently of how being part of the community of authors on there is akin to being let loose in a huge library: so many excellent books, like gorgeous offerings in a sweet shop window. Just love it! My Kindle is filled to bursting point with wonderful stuff that I’m looking forward to finding time to read. And very few of those books are published traditionally. Although there are some lemons published by indie authors, I would say that there is a vast body of brilliantly written, engaging, absorbing material that the mainstream publishers were mad not to have snapped up. Their loss – and, to be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to go the trad route now: indie lets you keep a much higher percentage of royalties. The Aunt Sally Team earned more in June than my traditionally published books did in six months in the past.

But it’s not all about writing. We take the dogs down to the Kidneys and Aston’s Eyot once or twice a day to run to their hearts’ content. This is a large green area down by the Thames and is filled with trees and wild flowers and various species of wildlife, including red deer, muntjac deer, buzzards, hawks, red kites, herons and jays. This area features quite largely in The Aunt Sally Team and its sequel (which is what I’m writing now).

Mind you, it’s been a minefield down there lately. One of our dogs (the new one, the Saluki lurcher) has taken to rolling in fox poo (which stinks!) and finding rabbit carcases and, last night, a wing from a dead bird – she carries these trophies off in triumph at great speed till yelled at to drop them. I washed her harness two days ago only to have her roll in unspeakable things again. The joys of nature and dog ownership.

Just a final word, while it’s fresh in my mind. If you have a book on Amazon, tags are important. You can do your own tags and hopefully this will encourage others to also tag your book. The tags section is halfway down the page your book is on. Tags help people find you when they are searching via key words, so they are actually pretty important.

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