Monday, May 6, 2013

Feedback and Making Changes

So. My debut novel The Unknown Neighbor has been out for over a month now, and I've gotten some feedback on it which seems fairly decent to me. As I write this on Sunday morning, I have:

Five 5-star reviews/ratings.  4 on Amazon.com and 1 on Goodreads.com
Three 4-star reviews/ratings. 2 on Amazon.com and 1 on Amazon.co.uk
No 3-star reviews/ratings.
One 2-star reviews/ratings. On Amazon.com
Three 1-star reviews/ratings. All on Amazon.com

Not a bad spread. It actually tells me something good. People either seem to love it, or they hate it. That tells me I probably got it mostly right. Granted, this could change. The next fifty reviews in a row could be 1-star or they could be 5-star. We'll have to wait and see. (I do have to admit though, I know some of those 5-star reviews I currently have are friends and family. So they are a little biased. Only some though.)

Some of these reviews have pointed out things I was well aware of and held some concerns about myself as I went through the process of releasing it. A couple pointed out things I was not aware of. A lot of what was pointed out are also things I could fix and then re-upload into the book.

Now, while not vehemently, I oppose the idea of making significant changes to a book and uploading a new version just because it's simple and easy in this age of self-publishing. I've seen writers use it as an excuse to release books which are poorly edited (if they were edited at all), in an attempt to cash in on the very idea that they've written a book.

I'm not saying a book should be perfect. We're all people and we all make mistakes. Typo's, wrong words, passive voice. I'm saying for a start, that the concept of using your readers as editors is flawed and wrong, especially when you're trying to charge people for the privilege.

I also feel like it's not fair to the people who purchased the book previously, even if there wasn't an intention of uploading a "fixed" edition to begin with. Now, I suppose, for those who have left bad reviews, it wouldn't be too difficult to get in touch with some of them and offer the new version for free and hope they like it better. The thing is, though, some of them will have a fair beef with having paid for a book which is just plain bad in their eyes, and they aren't going to be willing to accept any olive branch, seeing it as some kind of incentive to try and get them to change or remove their review. Considering some of the views I've seen some authors with, I honestly wouldn't put it past some people to try such a tactic.

How many people here actually get this as a reference for "underhanded"? 

At a certain point, though, when multiple people are pointing out the same things as problems, and they happen to be things you've been concerned about from the beginning, you have to accept that something needs to be done. After all, when you have a ship with a few small leaks, you don't just sit back and let it sink, you patch the holes as best you can to stop the leaks while trying to hide the fact that they were there to begin with. I've looked at my book and I've made a few changes, nothing major. I'm not adding new chapters, deleting massive paragraphs or twisting plots around. 

I've fixed some minor typographical errors, changed some vague bits to be more specific and in a few spots I've gone a little more in-depth to really convey the feeling of the situation the main character finds herself in, as well as attempting to make the pace feel a little quicker than it was and heighten the tension. 

Are these changes going to endear my book to the people who have already given it poor reviews? Probably not. Are these things which should have been in the book from the beginning? Probably, and more. As I've said earlier, though, we all make mistakes, and the first step in correcting a mistake is admitting we've made one. 

I got excited. I had a manuscript that was longer than anything I'd ever written before, that actually stretched to novel length. It had been edited by a professional. It had artwork for a cover with the title and my name across it. I skipped out on Advanced Reader Copies, to collect objective opinions though. I got excited and I may have jumped the gun a little. You know what, live and learn. We can learn okay through examples, books and second-hand experiences, but it's when we actually step out and screw something up ourselves that we really learn something. 

Is my next book going to be perfect? Hell no. At the very least though, I plan on making different mistakes, as these should be ones that I've learned.

~ Shaun

"At least he gets 24-hours notice. That's more than most of us get. All most of us get is "Mind that bus." "What bus?" Splat!"

2 comments:

  1. Haha was just browsing blogger when I landed on this, very funny blog title btw!

    How often do you release new work? I wouldn't rely to heavily on the internet review you get tbh - a lot of people have an opinion, not everyone online has taste. Then again, if you're trying to appeal to a broad audience then maybe thats the way to go...

    Anyway, I wanted to ask, would you be interested in having a chat about promoting your writing on a social media site called Blurtit.com that I’m launching? We’re a Q&A platform – and I’m really keen to get some talented bloggers involved in our community before we roll out to the rest of the world.

    If you’re interested, please email me at kass@blurtit.com and I’ll send you an invite code to have a snoop around the site!

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    Replies
    1. Well, I only have the one book released so far, if all goes well though, my second book could be getting published as early as July or August. Though I plan to be careful and make sure I don't jump the gun again.

      As well, it's all good to not rely on reviews, but it is an unfortunate fact that potential readers do pay attention to them, even if they only look at how many there are. It is also a fact that reviews do affect sales. As my previous post on bad reviews shows.

      As for the rest, I'll drop you a line for more info. Thanks.

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