I got a bad review and the world didn’t end

This week has mostly been about formatting the paperback version of the Secret Notebook. It’s the first time I’ve formatted a real book and, after wrangling with a CreateSpace template, I’m hoping I’m over the worst. I will blog about it at some point, but not until I’m convinced there are no more surprises in store. So because I’m itching to get back to my gutter margins and 300 dpi images (ha!), today’s short blog describes something which happened a couple of weeks ago and didn’t turn out quite the way I expected.

So, the Secret Notebook launched on April 1 and after the initial excitement I crossed my fingers for reviews, since I’ve absorbed from all the articles and blogs I’ve read that these are pretty important. I had a nice review on Amazon UK, but nothing on Amazon US.

A few days later I had a sneaky peek at my book online and there it was, a 2-star review on Amazon US. It was only a line or two, but the reader clearly hadn’t enjoyed the book.

I felt terrible. Had I written a shocker? Would all those people who’d pre-ordered the book fling their Kindles aside in disgust? Yes, I’d had a nice review too from the UK, and yes, I’d had good feedback from beta readers, but was this 2-star review the truth?

I hoped and hoped that someone else would leave a more positive review on Amazon US, but for days the 2-star review sat there on its own. That’s the end of book sales in America, I thought, and there’s nothing I can do but sit on my hands.

But then I noticed something. Sales in America were increasing, and had been since a day after the review appeared. In fact, since that review, Secret Notebook has sold around 30% more copies in America than the UK.

Could it have been something else? Of course it could. Amazon might have promoted the book more heavily in the US at that time, for instance; I have no idea. However, you’d think the review would have put people off. I didn’t change the way I promoted the book; I just kept on with a few tweets a day. So the review is the only thing I know of that was different.

Is there a lesson in this? I’m not sure, but here are some thoughts:

  • Maybe a not-great review is better than no reviews at all
  • Look at all the feedback, not just the negatives (easy to say, I know)
  • ‘Sit tight and wait’ might be the best course of action
  • If you have a data source, keep informed
  • Sometimes what happens won’t seem logical. Perhaps there’s an unknown factor, but all you can do is interpret what you do know

I’m pleased to report that the 2-star review has now been joined by some more positive companions. Long may it continue! And now, back to the gutter. Gutter margins, of course.

The featured image is thumbs down by Elaphurus, shared under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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