The Good, The Bad, And the Just Plain Ugly: Amazon Reviews…

Amazon reviews, like it or not, are the lifeblood of the indie author. There is sadly no way of getting away from this. It is also why there is so much grief caused by them, and the occasional bout of joy. It is also why some spend so much time, money and energy acquiring fake ones, a practise I abhor. Hell, I don’t even like asking people for reviews to begin with, I’ll be thrice-damned before I resort to paying people to write them…

On the whole, however, the fake paid for reviews and other nastiness on one side, nothing puts a spring in an indie authors stride quite as much as getting a nice review out of the blue. So when someone pays you the compliment of writing an honest, positive review, you’ll find most authors will give thanks, and probably be more inclined to get on with their current WIP. The sun is shining through the clouds, they feel good about it all. The world is a happier place… As it was for me after this review for Passing Place appeared on the UK amazon on Monday…


As for the occasional negative review, well some of these are deliberate hatchet jobs, some are spiteful, and occasionally some are by people who just didn’t get the book, and that last one is fine. No, really it is… Though I personally have never left a bad review for any author, as if I don’t like a book I generally stop reading it, and at the end of the day generally it’s not because a book is bad, it’s just that it didn’t appeal to me. I’m not the audience of the book, it doesn’t need me to trash it, so why would I? Besides, as I say, the occasional review, no matter the motivation of the reviewer, doesn’t generally do an author any harm.


However, recently I got a negative review for A Spider In The Eye, on amazon in its US incarnation, and that really has been harmful, because as I don’t actively solicit reviews and don’t try to cheat the system by paying for reviews, this one-star review has left Spider as a book with 1 star on as its the only review on the US site… And while not everyone pays much attention to the number of stars a book may have, a 1-star book is probably going to be ignored by readers entirely, without ever taking the time to look at it. Basically, I have been hatchetted just as Spider was starting to make traction in the US, by one bad review. Which is the only bad review the novel has ever received, and unlike the UK site which shows both US and UK reviews, the US site doesn’t show reviews from other incarnations of Amazon.


I have sat on this for a couple of weeks because frankly, I don’t know how to respond to this. What I do know is I’ve sold no copies of spider in the US since that review came out, as opposed to the handful I was selling every week previous to that. Given I pay to advertise the book in the US, and it was doing well until this trashing, and even allowing for my liaise de fair attitude of everyone being entitled to their opinion, this review stings.

The review is also tad odd. It clear the reader ‘did not get’ the novel or understand its style. I’m also not sure if they were confusing Queen Victoria’s husband with Prince Philip, or queen Victoria with Elizabeth… As for the maid, that is a joke in the novel where Hannibals ‘name’ for one of his antagonists grows when she is mentioned as his understanding of who and what she is, grows. Most people enjoy that particular joke rather a lot. I know because it is often mentioned by readers as being ‘funny’. But as ‘bookworm’ missed the point on that one I guess he or she can be forgiven for finding that irritating.

Though Hannibal is written with a lot of humour, it is very much a case of British humour, and I am aware that doesn’t always translate across the pond. Maybe the jokes and the narrators, very British, attitude towards royalty that is inherent in Hannibal’s references to Queen Vic don’t cross the Atlantic well, though I have never had an issue with my British humour and American readers before, and frankly I am surprised if that’s generally the case now. I think ultimately ‘bookworm’ just didn’t get the novel. Which is fine. As the only other books they have ever reviewed (all 3 of them) are fantasy, and all the authors they follow write fantasy, I suspect that’s very much the case. And again, they are entitled to there opinion, I have no real problem with it.

What I do have a problem with is just how much it’s hurting me in the US as an indie writer with the first book of a series of novels I have, quite literally, spent years writing. Because it doesn’t matter that the majority of readers loved the first Hannibal novel and that aside this one review had nothing but positive feedback. That 1 star that A Spider In The Eye has on US amazon has killed the book entirely in that market, and all my hard work, all the writing, editing, redrafting, redrafting again, all the publicity, all the paid advertising, everything… has been for nothing right now, because one person didn’t like the book (despite reading the whole thing, and mostly it appears been upset by the ending not tieing everything up in a happy little bow). And if Spider can’t sell in the US because of this review, what chance the sequel when it comes out later this year…

Even getting positive reviews that would solve the issue is now a hundred times harder because with 1 star no one is taking a chance on reading it in the first place…

I am, you might have guessed, not entirely happy about this…

So there you go, the problem with Amazon reviews… in a nutshell.

One final thing, a request really, as I know a fair few of my readers are American, and I had sold a reasonable number of Spider’s in the US up to this point, so maybe your reading this blog post. If so, and you liked it, and amazons weirdly obstructive rules don’t prevent it, please take a moment or two and leave me a review when you have a chance… Trust me, I feel dirty just asking, but in the end, what else can I do.



About Mark Hayes

Writer A messy, complicated sort of entity. Quantum Pagan. Occasional weregoth Knows where his spoon is, do you? #author #steampunk
This entry was posted in amwriting, book reviews, goodreads, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, self-publishing, steampunk, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Good, The Bad, And the Just Plain Ugly: Amazon Reviews…

  1. lynnefisher says:

    I can empathise, Mark – it’s a dirty business!


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