Episode 30 – Negative Reviews, iBooks and Amazon’s Favor

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In the landmark 30th episode of the Sell More Books Show, Jim and Bryan geared up for the impending March to a Bestseller 2 event, which will be held on Friday, November 7th. Check out the lineup and the two-dozen prizes you can win at http://bit.ly/marchtab2
The tips of the week included how to get into Costco and specialty stores, ways to increase your writing speed, and planning ahead for holiday publicity opportunities. Jim and Bryan also chatted about the Dear Author lawsuit, the Guardian reviewer stalking piece, five marketing mistakes most beginning fiction writers make, why Amazon is doing the world a favor, and several new features for the iBooks platform. Jim also offered up a 60-minute consultation as one of the giveaways for March to a Bestseller.
This week’s Question of the Week: Have you ever approached a reviewer? If so, how did it turn out?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • Ways to win up to two-dozen prizes during MTAB 2
  • How to get your books into Costco
  • Several methods for writing fast, high-quality content
  • Why planning ahead for holidays can help your platform
  • What bloggers should keep in mind when criticizing corporations
  • How to deal with negative reviewers
  • Ways to avoid the biggest marketing mistakes in self-publishing
  • Why Amazon might be doing the world a favor
  • How several new iBooks feature could change the game
  • The rules for the SMBS Steve Scott drinking game
Question of the Week: Have you ever approached a reviewer? If so, how did it turn out?

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  • I have a novella, The Vampire’s Mirror, that I am turning into a series of novellas. They are faster to write, require minimal research, but do require powerful plotting–that takes the time. It hasn’t been a huge seller but has really good reviews. Maybe it will move if it has a few sequels.
    We’ll see how it goes. My Dark Fantasy series is much longer and more layered, so slower to produce.

    • Bryan

      You’ll have to let us know how the novella series goes!

      Good strategy on the negative reviews!

  • So Another Day Another Name was supposed to be a serial but after two months of testing it all the feedback was “nice collection of short stories.” Readers didn’t see the connection at first and said they were not likely to pick up the second book. I had an email exchange with Sean Platt and came to the conclusion it wasn’t worth risking losing readers who might not buy the next serial. If KDP had the ability to buy a season and each time you wrote a new episode it was automatically updated on the kindle I’d try it. I like the idea of serial writing and consuming shorter books and hope this feature would become available.
    Also, on the bad reviews. I had a terrible one in my first book where the guy was calling out friends and family, that the positive reviews could only have come from the people who are close to me. I didn’t mind him saying bad things about my book, but it took a lot of effort not to respond to him saying bad things about my friends and family.
    I have thought about using bad reviews as marketing if they say something particularly witty. I think I’d call it “And this Troll Says.”

    • Bryan

      I like the bad reviews as marketing point :). Yeah, the family and friends thing is pretty terrible. Sorry you had to deal with that.

      I’m not certain KDP is ready for serials yet, until the subscription thing becomes a part of the platform.

  • David Bain

    On Amazon, at least, unless the negative reviews are pervasive, they mostly say as much about the reviewer as they do about the work itself. And commenting on negative reviews generally does not say good things about the author…

    • Bryan

      Agreed, David. Thanks!

  • Google Play does have a books section, and indie authors can submit, but it’s clunky on both the seller and buyer sides. One thing I noticed today, though, is that it recommends books based on what my contacts have +1’d, which is kinda cool, I guess. So, the infrastructure is there, but I agree with Jim that they’d have to up their game to really compete.

    • Bryan

      I’ve never submitted, but the +1 recommendation system is a cool idea. Yeah, some self-published author needs to pitch ’em on a better system :).

  • Ember Casey

    I haven’t responded to any reviews (except for a “Thank you!” if a blogger emails me a link to the review or something– but I never, EVER comment on reviews in “reader spaces” like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Though I might make an exception for a situation like the one you described, Bryan, where the reviewer was getting attacked.) Mostly at this point I don’t even read reviews anymore, just keep an eye on the general rankings of my books. My blood pressure is a lot better these days. 😉

    • Bryan

      Haha, glad your blood pressure has improved ;). I’m trying to do the same!

      Ooh, a Google Play push. Interesting. It’s possible that Amazon and the other platforms will all improve from this. Time will tell :).

      Thanks, Ember!

  • Gillian

    Hi Jim & Bryan I write serials. My books are based on a television series I had written. It got optioned but was never made, I then decided to turn them into a series of novellas. I will be releasing the 4th novel in the series mid November, with the 5th to be released February. I release a new novel every 3 months. It is slowly building up steam. After I made the first novel free, it stayed at #1 on Amazon in its category for 1 month, but that only happened after I released the 3rd novel. So it takes time, it is a slow gradual process and with every book I attract more loyal readers. I market every book differently. Some of the things I try work and some don’t, but it’s a learning process.

    The books may not have a lot of reviews yet, but people are buying them because I receive royalty payments from Amazon every month. Not enough to pay the rent, but it is still something. I know I am only just beginning and I am excited for this journey.

    Thanks for all the great support you guys provide on your show.


    • Bryan

      Very cool, Gillian! Congrats on the success with the permafree. Every little bit helps!

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for contributing!

  • Darren Sapp

    Jim mentioned a service that uploaded his book to ibooks for him. Drastic Digital or something like that. Could we get a link?

    • Perry Constantine


      • Darren Sapp


      • Bryan

        Thanks, Perry!

  • Perry Constantine

    Great show and lots of stuff to respond to.

    I’ve uploaded stuff to iBooks. The irritating thing about them is that you have to download a separate program, iTunes Producer, to upload stuff to iBooks, and iTunes Producer only works on Macs. I’m a Mac user so this isn’t too much of a problem. The first time I tried it, I got the same mysterious errors Bryan mentioned. Can’t remember what I did that fixed it, but since then I haven’t had any problems and have found updating books on iTunes to be a lot faster than KDP.

    On the serial front, the first installment of my Luther Cross occult investigator series came out in September and the second installment is due in December. These are short one-shot stories at 10,000 words a piece and they’re being sold for 99¢. Nothing to report on their success yet since I’ve just started, but I believe in the serial model. January will see the beginning of my superhero serial, called Vanguard. Each episode will be 15,000 words, I’ll be releasing them monthly, and there will be five episodes in the first season (with a prequel episode available for free to mailing list subscribers). I’m planning to make the first one permafree and the other four $2.99. So far, I’ve really been enjoying writing in this format, so I hope it proves successful.

    And now the question of the week. My personal policy is never contact a reviewer—regardless of if the review is positive or negative—unless the reviewer first reaches out to you. If someone will email me a review of one of my books, or Tweet it to me or send it to me on Facebook, then I’ll respond with a simple thanks. The only exception to this rule is if there’s some sort of technical problem with the book. If someone leaves a review that says “I tried to read this book but the text was all screwed up,” then I’d fix it, re-upload it, and respond to the review to let the person know that I’ve fixed that problem. One time, I had the exact problem Bryan was afraid he might get. A book reviewer was interested in my book so I gave him a copy and he emailed me the link to the review when it went live. I read the review and it was pretty negative, although the criticism was definitely justified. I thanked him for his time and went about my day. Then later, I discovered that fans of mine were spamming the review with hateful comments. I immediately sent the reviewer an email. told him I had nothing to do with it and apologized profusely. I also posted a blog entry saying that this kind of behavior is not acceptable and that if people want to help me, they should do so by spreading the word about my books, not by drawing attention to one negative review. The reviewer was very gracious, though, and he’s reviewed every book I’ve written since then, several of them quite positively in fact.

    Sorry for the long comment. Great show as always.

    • Bryan

      No apologies necessary. You’ll have to give us some updates on Luther Cross when you’ve got a few more up there.

      Yeah, iBooks is a pain for PC folks. They’ve gotta fix that. Good work with that reviewer. Impressive that you’ve been able to keep up a good relationship!

      Thanks for the comment!

  • I’m excited to hear about the changes Apple is making. Hopefully Amazon will move in the same direction.

    I’ve never responded to a review on a retailer, but have thanked people for leaving reviews when they tell me on social media or email. I don’t respond to negative reviews – I’ve heard too many horror stories. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and that includes not liking my books.

    • Bryan

      Agreed. Thanks! 🙂

  • Honoree Corder

    I never respond to negative reviews, only to positive reviews with a “Thank you!” or “Thanks for reading and sharing!” I do take feedback well, but I keep my thoughts to myself. Great show!

  • ❤️Marie Long❤️

    iBooks is still a pain to upload books. You have to go through iTunes Producer (which requires a Mac OS) to upload books there. Very unfortunate for non-Mac users. You would think a big multi-billion dollar company like Apple would have the technology and means to pretty much outdo Amazon when it comes to making iBooks/iTunes easier for authors to submit their content. But unfortunately, it seems like their focus is (still) in other places, and it will probably continue to be that way for a longer while.

    As for responding to reviews, I’ve done that before, but it was only to thank the reader for taking the time to read and review the book. I’ve never responded to a reviewer in retaliation/defense over something negative they said that I might not agree with. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    • Bryan

      You can use Draft2Digital or Smashwords to get onto Apple if you’re a PC person, but it’d be nice to have the ability to go direct.