I published my third novel on Kindle last December, my first KDP Select title. Sales went well, and the downloads on free days were good. I'm not sure the increased exposure of KDP Select is worth not being able to publish on Nook and Smashwords, but that's for another article.
In February a review was posted pointing out two rather minor historical inaccuracies and questioning the plausibility of the heroine – a strong, self-confident woman – in the 1920's. The reviewer ended saying “A good read if the historical inaccuracies won't bother you.” Sales tanked and even free days were disappointing.
The reviewer opined, “Helen is just out of college, on her own, and studying to pass the bar. There's a scene where she confronts Jack's editor with all the astuteness and shrewdness of a well experienced female attorney of today. I found that characterization to be a little off for 1928, when woman had barely obtained the right to vote 8 years previously. Helen is just too modern a woman for the time.”
I couldn't disagree more. Women of the 1920's and 1930's were shattering boundaries and stereotypes in all areas of American society. Those same strong women, and their daughters, became “Rosie the Riveter” and made it possible for our men to fight and win the second world war. My grandmother was one of them. If you don't like strong, intelligent, female characters, you will not like my books.
The historical inaccuracies pointed out were very minor scenes that didn't impact the story. The reviewer wrote, “Ambulance medics hook up an IV before the person who was shot was loaded into the ambulance. Not in 1928, thank you.” *Spoiler Alert* The reference was from a powerful scene where the main character is shot. When the heroine climbs into the ambulance the description said, “Jack was strapped to a gurney with a tube in his arm and a mask over his face.” I have edited the manuscript in preparation for paperback release to say, “Jack was strapped to a gurney, unconscious.”
Again, the reviewer wrote, “The doctor cautions the wounded person they have to be concerned about infection and he'll give him antibiotics. *sigh* Penicillin was discovered in 1928, so at best he would have told him they'd give him sulpha drugs and penicillin, but I doubt it was widely available yet.” The reviewer is correct. The doctor's dialog, “We'll need to keep you in traction for a couple of days and give you some antibiotics as a precaution, but then I think we can put you in a cast and let you go home.” was ahead of it's time by a few years. I have omitted “and give you some antibiotics as a precaution” in the current version.
The two inaccuracies do not impact the plot in any way, but are window dressing in two short scenes. But accuracy is important and I am embarrassed that after all my historical research of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1928, I failed to check the medical procedures of that time more diligently. But it shows the power of a single review to effect book sales, which is my point.
With reviews posted on the product page they have a far greater impact on sales than ever before. You may see a review in the paper, on a blog, or in a magazine, and it may lead you to look at the book. But when you are on the page to buy a book and you see a review right below it, it has impact. It would be as if reviews were posted over the shelves in your local bookstore. That point of sale bump can change someone's decision to buy or not buy. It is why publishers include review blurbs in books and on advertising.
In the case of Amazon reviews, or reviews on any book site from B&N to Smashwords, that impact is huge. People will pass over the official, publisher-approved reviews and look to the customer reviews with much more interest. But unfortunately very few people return to the point of purchase after reading and take the time to write a review. Therefore most of the reviews posted are by true fans gushing over how good their favorite author is, or people with an axe to grind. The customer reviews have a greater impact on sales than is justified, in my opinion, but it is the nature of things.
I am very mindful of the impact of what I write on the books and authors I review. I often decline to review a title I didn't particularly like. I would rather write recommendations of good literature than waste my time writing a bad review. I also often re-post my reviews on Amazon. That is important. In the case of .45 Caliber Jitterbug there are only two reviews. That gives a single review a greater amount of impact. The more reviews posted on a title the less any one review's impact is and more divers opinion is beneficial to someone thinking of purchasing.
I am getting back to reading, and writing reviews here and on other sites, after spending the last few months consumed with caring for my son and promoting the amazing #IndiesUnite4Joshua campaign on IndieGoGo.com. He continues in treatment, but life marches on. The support of my fellow indie authors has been astounding and I will be showcasing some of those authors.
In the meantime, go write a review of a book you read recently. It doesn't need to be long, or detailed, or high literature. You can simply post, “I really liked this.” Just be honest and genuine and share your opinion. In diversity we find balance – in many voices, truth.
Read, write, share.