When students ask me about reviews, I suggest that they focus on building their readership. Some of your readers will give you a review. Maybe one in a thousand. (And of course, you have no guarantee that it will be a “good” review.)
Build your readership by…
Creating a mailing list;
Asking for readers to review your book in the back matter of your books;
Engaging with readers;
Informing and entertaining readers and prospective readers (blogging);
Advertising your books, so that you get readers and subscribers…
In other words: marketing.
Reviews are a shortcut to sales… maybe
Authors tend to consider reviews a shortcut to sales, but readers aren’t silly. If they see a bunch of fawning 5-star reviews, that’s no guarantee that they will buy your book. And once they buy your book, and don’t like it, here’s every chance that they’ll leave a 1-star review to say that they’re disappointed.
Reviews are meant to be someone’s opinion. Amazon’s review policy is clear. You’ll have to decide whether buying or exchanging reviews is worth it to you.
A new author asked me about writing short stories and self publishing on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. We had a long chat; it was fun. I hope it helped. Some questions came up which writers often ask, so let’s look at them.
1. “I Started a Series, I’m Bored. Do I Have to Continue It?”
No! Start something else. You need to be able to write with some pleasure, otherwise you won’t do it. You may get fresh inspiration within a month or two for your series, after you’ve written other material. Or you may not get back to the series for years.
Nothing you write is ever wasted. I grabbed a short story I got bored with a couple of years ago, and used much of it for another project. You’ll use the material sooner or later, if you keep writing.
Get excited about what you’re writing. Then it won’t seem like work.
This kind of question often relates to erotica, which some writers can write brilliantly. Others can’t. Or they can, but they can’t write in “edgy” sub-genres, which make the most money. Erotica abounds in sub-genres which skate close to the line. “Monster” erotica used to sell well, then Amazon and other retailers lowered the boom on it.
If you’re pushing yourself to write something risky, and are blocking because you’re wondering whether Amazon will look at your ebook and send it back to draft, or whatever, start something new.
Keep writing. Write every day. I’m publishing my writing journal, so you can see that I just keep going.
Boredom is a warning. If your stories are boring you, they’ll bore readers too. 🙂
2. “Help! My Stories Aren’t Selling.”
Firstly, how many stories have you written? If you’ve written fewer than 30, keep going.
You’re not reading to copy anyone. You’re reading to improve your writing, overall, by enhancing your command of language and by absorbing story structure. The best novelists and short story writers understand people too, so read the THE 50 BEST SHORT STORIES OF ALL TIME. You’ll find the stories in short story collections in your library. Older stories are available at Project Gutenberg – here’s Chekhov, for example. I regularly reread his: The Lady With the Dog, it’s wonderful.
Lastly, make some of your stories free. Christmas is coming up, so start writing some Christmas-themed stories now. Write as many as you like. Make at least one permanently free. Your freebie should help to sell your other stories.
3. “A Reviewer Said…”
Don’t read reviews, if you worry about what people say about your material. I recently coached a writer who panics over reviews. I suggested that he ask his wife to screen his reviews. She can then pass on anything she thinks will help him in his writing. We worked a little on his confidence too. 🙂
If you want opinions on your work, get some beta readers for your stories; make sure they’re people who read in your genre. Pay attention to what they say, because it will be useful.
Onward. Writing short stories is amazing for one simple reason: you can make money writing short stories. That hasn’t been possible for decades. If you love to write, write on. 🙂
Write Commercial Fiction
If you’re struggling with your writing, trading your hours for dollars, maybe it’s time you considered something different: write commercial fiction. Once written, your ebooks will sell for years…