The Dark Side of the Web


The vast majority of the time I spend interacting with fans and colleagues on the internet has been an enjoyable experience. I love hearing from those who have read my work, those who respect me enough to ask for my opinion on matters far and wide, or those who have just plain taken me under their wing as part of their circles. I would estimate that well over 90% is either positive or at least constructive.

But alas, social media is still… well… social. So of course every now and again the other 10%-ish comes into play. I’ve addressed some of that experience elsewhere, but I’d like to take this moment to respond to two recent examples here.

“So now that you’ve gotten some negative reviews, how do you feel about them now?”

I must confess that this message confused me at first since I’m not the type of author who frequently checks his product pages on his vendors. I’m available all over the place, and my time just doesn’t permit frequenting all of them for the sake of keeping tabs on my own work.

I mean, I’ve got to sleep sometime.

I’ve written the best material I could given the limitations I have, and I market that work as time and spare income becomes available. Other than that, I’m engaged in social media via Twitter (which is a fairly new development), feeding and spending time with my family, or (of course–always of course) writing. To be able to do any of that, I have to let my offerings stand on their own and hope readers find them worthy of their time.

What makes it easy to keep typing and dreaming is that, according to most of the (albeit, sparse) reviews I’ve seen, the positive feedback I get on this site, and the regular sales of the sequels, a lot of you do.

Apparently somebody else did not. As I’ve long said, it was always bound to happen. No one can please everybody. But since feedback of all types can be useful, I did a quick inspection of my largest source of sales, which at this point is Amazon.

Yep. Both sequels to the Outcasts saga have matching one-star ratings. No reviews, though, which honestly was the most disappointing part of it: if it can’t be positive, at least let it be constructive.

To my messenger, I can only say thanks for the heads-up. I guess.

If I was asked how I felt about it in person, the only answer I’d be able to give would be a frown and a shrug. Since I was asked via personal message and I’m blogging about it, I can be more wordy. I am a writer, after all.

My answer is I’m not sure I need to feel anything about it. Again, not everyone is going to like my work. Since the star ratings had no reviews attached to them, Amazon won’t tell me if they are from a verified buyer. Or even if they’re from more than one verified buyer. (I would think a person would not purchase all three books to a trilogy he or she does not like, but I digress.) I don’t know if my critic was trying to retaliate over a disagreement with one of my opinions–either stated on this website or shared on social media–and it had nothing to do with my work at all. Maybe just trolling. Or maybe anything, really. Without something to react to, it’s hard to have a reaction.

But it does give me the opportunity to say this: reviews and ratings are any author’s lifeblood. If you’re an author yourself, you know that reviews are brutally hard to get, but they’re how people who have never heard of you decide between clicking the “back” or “add to cart” buttons. When an author receives so few ratings, it doesn’t take many negatives to drag the whole thing down. At the time of writing this blog, despite selling quite a few copies of Rise of the Outcasts on Amazon, the only review I’ve got for that book is said one-star rating.

Hey, turns out I’ve only got one rating for that novel on Apple, too. It’s four stars. Which looks quite a bit better to a potential customer.

If you, Dear Reader, are one of the people who have read my work and enjoyed it, please do review it. Or rate it. Or both. You’ll be doing so with my sincere gratitude.

[Edit: Thank you to the alert reader who pointed out that the same situation exists on my Goodreads page. There is apparently a cloned account which is trashing the original user’s ratings. I’ve reached out to Goodreads to investigate. Goodreads and Amazon dance hand-in-hand, so it’s likely related. Thank you again. But, yeah, reviews, folks. We need ’em.]

“Hey, no free book! Really don’t want anything to do with this author or website when you treat your potential readers like this. Grow up.”

I’m pretty sure this message was a response to this blog post. For those who aren’t familiar or don’t feel like clicking, it was an offer I had extended for free copies of Through the Eyes of Outcasts. I had posted it on April 1st, and when interest appeared to be waning, I ended the offer on July 17th. Which means I had been offering this novel free of charge for close to three and a half months. Nearly 1,000 of you downloaded it–which you’d better believe put a huge smile on my face. I hope it gave some enjoyment during what I think we can all agree was a stressful time.

(It’s still a stressful time as I write this. I wish I could say otherwise. Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay healthy.)

It was never intended to be a “perma free” title. That’s why the offer was made here on my blog, rather than priced for free in retail outlets: the offer, as they say, was just between you and me.

Offers end. Just like any other kind of sale. In fact, there’s a paragraph in that blog post which mentions–twice–that the offer was for a limited time. All that happened here was that my potential reader missed it.

I had never removed the page itself for one simple reason: things get shared online. I figured it would be less frustrating for someone who happened across a link to that page to discover the offer had ended rather than be smacked with a “page not found” error. At the very least, they’d be informed that I do entertain the possibility of running such offers again in the future.

Had my messenger not told me to “grow up,” my response would have been to send him the appropriate ebook. As it stands… I don’t feel the need to have anything to do with potential readers who treat authors that way.

As I’ve said before and I suspect I’ll say again, we’re human beings. We do best when we act as such.

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