Something that’s jumped out at me a few times while reading reviews of my books is words to the effect that the reader was “surprised” the book was so good. I’m kind of torn between being cheered that the reader/reviewer did end up enjoying the story, and being a bit dismayed that they were surprised by that outcome.
Side note: Yes, I always read every review I find whether it’s on a blog, Goodreads, Amazon, AllRomance, wherever. I figure it’s a good idea to know what readers did or did not like about the story. Even when I don’t agree with something, I figure there’s something I might have emphasized more to avoid giving an undesired impression of a character, or added in to avoid a misconception. I’m always looking for ways to improve and reading the reviews is one way to do that.
Back to the subject of the post: So, serious question…why is it “surprising”? Is that just a figure of speech, or was the reader truly expecting to be underwhelmed by the story and was thrilled to be proven wrong?
If it’s the latter, then why? Do my blurbs suck? I like the covers and think they’re both eye-catching and appealing as well as fitting for the stories, but maybe that’s just me. Am I doing something wrong, or missing something that I should be doing? Maybe people aren’t expecting it to be good simply because they aren’t hearing any buzz about them? Perhaps promo is lacking in some way?
Because here’s the thing. Judging whether sales have been good or bad is kind of relative, but let’s face it, when your reviews/ratings are overall quite good (excerpts/links to the blog reviews for these two books can be found here and here), but your ranking in Amazon appears rather dismal despite that fact, something is wrong. I can’t help but think the whole “surprising” thing is related to the lack in sales. If a potential buyer isn’t expecting the book to be any good, then they’re not going to purchase it.
To illustrate that last statement, at the time of this writing ’Til Death Do Us Part (released April 4, 2016) had a GoodReads rating of 4.29 (adds/ratings/reviews = 344/73/46). It had an Amazon rating of 4.7 (with 23 reviews), yet the overall rank was 659,505, with a gay romance rank of 9,684). To Love and To Cherish (released November 12, 2016) had a GoodReads rating of 4.57 (adds/ratings/reviews = 59/14/8). It had an Amazon rating of 4.6 (with 5 reviews), yet the overall rank was 422,504, with a gay romance rank of 6,591.
In other words, To Love and To Cherish was released less than a month ago, yet more than 6,500 other gay romance books are selling better. No, they’re not all rated higher, so that’s not the driving factor. I’ve looked, and many of the top selling books have poor to average ratings and reviews. So what gives? What am I doing wrong and/or what are they doing right?
Yes, piracy is a factor in overall sales, but I don’t see how it would make a difference in relative rank, since presumably ebook theft affects us all the same.
For ’Til Death Do Us Part things moved along pretty fast and I didn’t get out ahead on promo, but I did get a number of reviews lined up on popular blogs, so I think it got a fairly decent amount of exposure. With To Love and To Cherish I went with a full promo tour as well as lined up additional reviews on the side.
Should I have gone with a short term blitz instead? Is it simply a matter of getting the right exposure, or is there more to it?
I need to know because this is a LOT of work. I put in a tremendous amount of time writing and reworking those stories to get them just right. I also put in a lot of time arranging promo and reviews, trying to create a presence in social media to gain exposure, and quid-pro-quo time with critique partners and beta readers. I’ve enjoyed every step of this or I wouldn’t do it, but at the same time, it takes away from real life activities. If I’m not going to make more than a couple hundred dollars on something that took me six months to write then I have to ask myself it it’s worth the continued effort. Note, also, that number is gross earnings. Once you factor in my costs I’m in the hole.
I love my stories. I love being able to look at them and say to myself “I created that.” I’m incredibly proud of eliciting comments like “This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read,” and “It kept me turning page after page after page without stopping,” and “What I enjoy about Addison’s stories is her ability to bring the characters to life,” etc.
Basically, if I can’t figure out what to do to make people want to actually buy the books, then I’m going to have to back this down to hobby level. I don’t want people to be “surprised” that the book is good. I want them to expect it.
On that note, I’m going to go out and mow my yard now. Yes, I know it’s December 5th, but it’s currently 50 degrees F, and a bunch of leaves dropped since the last mow so I want to get them mulched in.