Sunday 1 March 2015

An open letter to my readers (or why I just had a meltdown)

This morning I had a dummy spit and I decided to kill off Roxy Parker for good. This afternoon—with two cups of coffee, a gummy bear, and a powerwalk under my belt—I'm a little less maudlin, but I may still need to put down my pen. 

And I'd like to explain why, in less melodramatic terms this time. 

Readers, readers, readers...

I know you're out there because over the past few years I've sold thousands of ebooks (and given away many thousands more). I know you exist because every now and then one of you wonderful people takes a moment to jot me a line and tell me how much you love my work. Occasionally one of you tells me how bad I'm doing and that's fine, too. That's life in the public domain.

What I struggle with, what really brings me down (and brings on a rant like the previous unforgiveable blog), is silence. Your deafening, echoing silence.

Why you need to speak up

Last month I published my ninth book, the sixth in the Ghostwriter Mystery series and my eighth crime novel. I think it's okay, I don't believe it's drivel. I certainly spent more time and money on it than I did any of the others. I had it properly edited by not one but two professionals, at no small cost. I begged the cover designer to come out of semi-retirement (from cover designing) to do the cover, and I spent the usual time cursing aloud as I formatted it for Amazon and then Smashwords, which can take hours at a time.

And then I uploaded it to the intenet, crossed my fingers and felt that familiar jolt of excitement. Would my cherished readers enjoy it more than the last? Would this one be the one that turns everything around?!

A month later, over 150 of you have downloaded it and I am so grateful, honestly I am. I thank you for that. I really, really do! BUT I am yet to record a single review. Not one teeny weeny sentence, like, "Yeah, it was okay" or "Horray, Roxy's back!" or "What the hell does she call this slop?!" 

Worse, no one has even clicked on the star ratings, the easiest job online. It's just a button, you just need to click it a couple of times. But nope. Not so much as half a star.

I know, I know! I shouldn't care, right?! I should stop being so self indulgent and needy and all that. Surely I don't write my novels for a few Amazon stars?! Surely that's not what it's all about?! 

But it kinda is. 

Let me explain why

Writers need feedback, and it's not just because we're such sad sacks, although that's a very big part of it, let's be honest. (Hell we locked ourselves away for six months, neglected the kids and hubbies, not to mention paid work, to hammer the bloody thing out. Be lovely to know if you actually thought it was worth the effort.)

But that's not really why we need those reviews and star ratings on sites like Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble. We need them to survive. It's basic economics, people, and bloody boring, but stay with me if you can. 

Without your reviews and star ratings, it's extremely difficult to kick our careers along. For starters, less people are inclined to download a book that has no favourable reviews, let alone any reviews at all. They mean a lot to readers, you and I both know that. 

On top of that, it's very difficult for a writer to publicise her work when it looks like nobody's reading it. Most of the world's top book review websites and competition platforms REFUSE to even look at our books unless they have received a certain amount of Amazon stars (four) or reviews (usually 10).

Without these sites, publicising our work is so much more difficult. Without PR, sales begin to dwindle and then drop off, royalty checks get smaller and smaller, and eventually we have to return to our (paid) day jobs and have no more time to write novels. It's that simple.

No reviews/stars from you = no more Ghostwriter Mysteries. It's Economics 101.

Then again...

Then there's the courtesy factor. I don't expect everybody to write a review, of course I don't. That really would be self-indulgent twaddle. But some of you, at least a dozen, have written to me in the past, begging me to write another Roxy Parker mystery, and, feeling inspired by this, obliged even, I have dropped my other work and created a new adventure for you. I had fun doing it, I'm not saying it was a sacrifice. But it would still be so lovely if you could tell me what you think, repay the favour, maybe, with a teeny weeny one-line review.

Or, if that's too tricky, half a star would suffice.

I can't emphasise this enough: If you don't take the time, every now and then when you can manage it, to review an author's book or give them a star or two, that author will not be able to write any more books. Nor, I am sorry to say, will she want to. It's a lonely life being a writer. A little feedback makes it all worthwhile.

Happy reading everyone (but remember, there's a human being with feelings and bills behind that book).
xo Christina

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