It’s been two weeks since I published Hrain, my second science-fiction novel, on Amazon. In that time, I’ve sold a few dozen copies via word of mouth / the initial sales boon that comes from Amazon’s new releases list, plus had over 100 free downloads as part of a Kindle Select promotion. I’ve also had a few thousand page reads from the Kindle Select program, and sold a few random paperbacks. These numbers aren’t huge, but they aren’t zero either.
In all that time, I’ve gotten zero reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. So, I can’t help but wonder…
What do people think of my self-published book?
For unknown indie authors, the waiting period for reviews of a new book is torture. With each day that goes by, you start second-guessing yourself. Do people despise it? Can they not bring themselves to post a negative review? Or, did the book suck so much that they didn’t even finish it?
I try to remind myself that if the book was this bad, I would have wracked up a handful of one-star reviews by now. People usually don’t review things because it takes time, but if you provide them with a horrible enough experience (especially if they paid for it), don’t worry…you will get your reviews!
I try to tell myself it doesn’t matter, and that this is all part of the self-publishing process. I should just keep on writing (I have a sequel to complete, after all).
The thing is…
It’s hard to sell books without reviews.
With Sagitta, I got lucky and got an honest, detailed 5-star review from someone I didn’t know within the first week of releasing it. I think this greatly contributed to that book’s success, selling hundreds of Kindle copies within the first few months. Hrain started off with decent sales, but it’s now been three weeks, and it has undoubtedly been knocked off the new releases list by other authors flooding Amazon with books in time for the holidays. With sales trickling to a stop, I am literally checking my phone every twenty minutes, only to find there’s still no joy…or hate…or anything.
Without social proof, will people even buy a book?
This is my fear. Reviews serve as proof that a product is worth spending your hard-earned money on. In the case of books, there’s also the time factor: people don’t want to waste time reading something that doesn’t fulfill them. Self-published fiction has an additional stigma attached; namely, of being terrible compared to traditionally published novels. Thus, self-published authors who have written a good book (as I hope I have) need reviews to prove this.
Everything I’ve read says that having at least a handful of honest reviews (even if they are bad) is better than having none. Hundreds and thousands of reviews is best of course, but the most critical thing is 5-10 good reviews early on. These tell people that it is OK to go ahead and hit that Add to Cart button.
So what can an author do about it?
There are a few things I probably should have done before putting the book on Amazon. Namely, submitting Advanced Reader / Review Copies (ARCs) to people who read Sagitta. If I had an email list (I don’t because I’m terrible at marketing), this would be easy.
Another way to get ARC reviews is to find people who are specifically looking to do this sort of thing. There are actually services for this, such as Booksprout, which connect readers with authors passing out free books in exchange for reviews.
I’m a little late to the party, but I actually signed up to try to remedy this situation (so far I’ve only had one person download it though). Booksprout also lets you send out copies of books that are already published. If you’re reading this and want to get in on the action, here is a link to my Hrain ARC (late though it is…probably by the time anyone reads this, the ARC promo will be over).
Another approach that desperate self-publishing writers can take is to scour Amazon and Goodreads review pages on similar books, along with searching through various writing blogs online to find people willing to read untested books and post reviews (these people do exist). You don’t need many; heck, even one able-minded reviewer would do wonders. The key is to not succumb to the pressure and ask family and friends to help…they will just leave glowing 5-star reviews that no one will believe. Amazon eventually finds out and deletes these reviews anyway, so let’s not even go down that path.
And thus, here I am, asking you for help.
So, if you’re still with me, let me ask, would you care to read Hrain and let me know what you think? I’m after honest, harsh criticism that will help me get better as a writer (and help potential buyers decide if this book is for them, or not). If you feel inclined, leave me a comment and I’ll set you up with a review copy (or use the above Booksprout link).
I’ll update everyone when some reviews come in (good or bad).
Happy New Year!