Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reviewing & book sales: a closer view

Over the past few months, I've been reviewing the work of indie authors, many of them members or fellow fans of the Mad Genius Club. Despite the incredible talents displayed, the appalling truth is that these authors have received only the most minute fraction of the acclaim they so richly deserve.
Now, for a small fraction of the reading public, acclaim is measured by the number of industry awards received. At one point, this fraction was significantly higher, but through neglect, the awards process for the Hugo fell into the hands of those motivated more by politics than by popularity and reading value. Currently, there is a no-blood-spilled war being waged over the issue, but until the question is resolved, the integrity of the award is lost. Until then, there remains but one sure marker for indie writers, and that is sales figures.
Although it would seem that cash is an intrinsically level playing field, that happens not to be the case. Authors who are in the portfolio of the traditional publishing houses (always excepting Baen) are provided with difficult-to-verify statements of earnings of their royalties, in exchange for being able to take advantage of the publicity and distribution channels the house offers. Admittedly, the marketing done by the publishing house for someone like Stephen King, James Patterson, or the late Tom Clancy is a tremendous advantage for those writers, but those benefits do not accrue to those without celebrity standing. For many tremendously talented writers, the major publishing houses serve primarily in the role of the admissions committee of an exclusive golf club, keeping the less desirable elements out, less they contaminate the elite by their presence.
None of this is new information.
For the indie writer, all of the editing, copy proofing, design, and marketing must be done personally, or else contracted out. Unfortunately, whatever the skill set that makes for a fantastic writer does not necessarily transfer over to make an excellent marketer.
Enter Dorothy Grant.
Former Alaskan bush pilot, military brat, wife to a gentleman of enormously varied pursuits, but most importantly for this blog post: a freaken marketing genius.
Time flies, so let me quickly get to the point: Although I spend my day reviewing books, for the express purpose of making those books more popular, I have ZERO data to support the idea that my reviews have any impact on book sales. The ONLY information I have is that the authors appreciate my reviews, and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA appreciates the fact that reading and reviewing keeps me happy and not whining for her attention. She also appreciates the fact that our fat black Manx cat SugarBelly sits on me while I am working, instead of whining for treats.
Now, in my prior life, I had the great good fortune to be exposed to the wonders of scientific and mathematical proof, with approaches as divergent as single case methodology and multivariate analysis. (Fast forward, fast forward, your eyes are glazing over)
Here's the punchline: since I have NO reason whatsoever to believe that my reviews are having the desired positive impact on the sales of your books, it's time to do research. So: in the future, I will be mixing my POSITIVE reviews with NEGATIVE reviews, done by random selection. The positive reviews will continue to point out how each book has affected me personally, your excellent use of words, and so forth. The negative reviews will be slash and burn attacks, with spoilers without spoiler alerts, and personal attacks on your writing ability, ethics, and your lifestyle choices. I will alert you in advance of each review, without giving you the option to cancel, because the science MUST remain impeccable.
I wish I could give you an example of a negative review, but I haven't written one yet. There are a few tongue-in-cheek reviews I did early on, but those were all positive, even when they intentionally missed the mark by a country mile.
So, to my beloved authors, especially to you of the Mad Genius aggregation, let the research begin!


  1. I got your comment on my blog, thanks. Don't know why you aren't getting updates from mine, unless Blogger is doing its usual thing.

    I'll mention this post to Dorothy and see what she says.

  2. April fools? I hope.
    Laura M

  3. Pat! I'm feeling unloved, here, even though I'm an MGC fan club member, secretive hoyden, and indie-published author.

    If you don't love me because I'm not in KU, then send me an email at callan AT callanprimer DOT com and I'll send you a smashwords coupon. If the lack of love is a lack of interest, well, then, nevermind.

  4. Pat, Dorothy is trying to submit a reply, but somehow her comments are being 'eaten' when she hits Publish. Are you getting them in a 'spam' queue on Blogger? Please check, and let her know.