Storm Force

The small, Scottish, seaside town of Troon appears, on the face of it, to be a pretty unlikely place for a rock festival to take place. If someone proposed to hold it at the end of November, it might seem even less plausible, but that’s what just happened and, not only that, it was a rip-roaring success.

When I first saw the promotional material for WinterStorm XVI back in September via Twitter, I thought it looked like it might be worth a punt. I’d never seen FM live and always meant to. I never got the chance to see Vivian Campbell from Last In Line live as he’d left Dio by the first time I saw them but, again, really wanted to. I’d just seen Toseland live and knew how good he was. A few of the other acts sounded good via some YouTube research and with 14 bands on the bill, and a very reasonable asking price of £50 for the whole weekend, it was a no-brainer.

line-up

Due to illness, my pal couldn’t make the Friday, so I drove down myself. Troon is a nice wee place, and it’s not that hard to get to, but it is a bit off the beaten track as far as rock n roll goes. However, when I eventually got to the venue – The Troon Concert Hall – I was impressed. It looks recently refurbished and it’s bright and clean. The staff were friendly and welcoming and, as soon as I set foot in the place, it just felt right.

What music appeals to someone is entirely subjective, so I’m not going to spend any time talking about the bands I didn’t rate all that highly. I’m not really into slagging bands off. I know what it takes to get to this level, and my negative opinion is neither relevant nor required. There will be plenty of folk there who would choose other bands than I did among their highlights, and that’s fine. I didn’t watch a couple of the acts as they just weren’t my kind of thing but I can say, from the reaction of others, that all of them did a great job of pleasing the folks who were into them. So, I’ll just run you through the bands that really stood out for me.

The King Lot delivered a catchy, upbeat set, full of harmonised vocals and punchy riffs. It also turned out that the frontman, Jason Sweeney, was an old bandmate and friend of an old bandmate and friend of mine! After their set, we had a chat and took a slightly offensive photo to send to our mutual friend. Look out for their charity Xmas single ‘Wings’ in aid of Multiple Sclerosis. It’s catchy and it’s for a good cause.

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The King Lot

Toseland put on a show that definitely got the crowd going. His band is great, and he can belt out a tune, but the drummer – Joe Yoshida – really stands out. They are well worth going to see if you’re into melodic hard rock.

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Toseland

FM were just so good. I love the album ‘Tough It Out’, which I’ve been listening to since the late eighties, and to finally hear some of those songs performed live was special. The vocal performance of Steve Overland was a revelation and I will most definitely be going to see them again.

FM

FM

Mason Hill are a young, up-and-coming, Scottish band, without a record deal as yet, but they have all the ingredients to make them massive: great stage craft, well-written songs, and bags of energy and self-belief. I bought their self-produced EP and it’s superb.

Mason Hill

Mason Hill

Vega were another band I’d never seen and knew only a little about before Winter Storm. They were fantastic. Tight as a gnat’s proverbial and as catchy as you could ever hope for. I bought their latest CD ‘Who We Are’ after the show and it’s brilliant. I’ll be going to see them again.

Vega

Vega

Last In Line were the absolute highlight of the weekend for me. Before they went on I had the rather surreal experience of sitting near the serving hatch for the café in the merchandising/relaxation area as drummer, Vinny Appice, ordered a pie and a coffee. This is a guy who’s played massive stadiums all over the world with Black Sabbath. In Troon. In November. Ordering a pie! Their set blew the roof off, with the biggest crowd of the weekend singing along and roaring their approval throughout. Just awesome.

Last In Line

Last In Line

Top notch musical performances aside, the organisers are to be applauded for the smooth running of the event, the relaxed, friendly atmosphere, where the bands mixed freely with the punters, signing things, chatting and drinking, and the high standard of the facilities. They also chose a great compere in the Scottish rock radio legend Tom Russell, who was funny, charming and enthusiastic. For a first time event, it was nothing short of miraculous how well it went.

It looks like they’ve probably done enough to justify a repeat next year. If that’s the case, I’ll be booking a B&B or hotel next time and making a proper weekend of it. If you like this sort of music, you should be looking out for next year’s event. If it’s even half as good as this one, it’ll be a belter!

Peter Carroll

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It’s A Long Way To The Top

I’ve been into rock music in a serious way since I was about eleven and I’ve always loved live music. However, in recent years, I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer bands live. I won’t pay touts, I don’t like big outdoor gigs much, and I’ve had other commitments. Then, a couple of months ago, I had a bit of an epiphany, and I’m back at gigs. Not by the mega bands of my youth, who rarely play anything smaller than a football stadium and charge half a month’s wages for a ticket: no, I’ve been championing the little guys, the ones who’re trying to make it, and the ones whose star may not be burning quite as bright as it once did. And, I have to tell you, folks, I’m loving it!

I like to check out Classic Rock Magazine’s tracks of the week online … erm … every week … and it was while doing this that I stumbled across a track by a young British band called Illustr8ors. I loved it, and decided to see if they were playing in Scotland any time soon. They were, but as support to another band – Toseland – who I’d not heard of either. I called one of my mates who’s into the same kind of stuff as me, and he agreed to take a punt on going. At £10 a ticket (including fees) it didn’t seem much of a risk. It wasn’t. Both bands put on a great show and, afterwards, I was inclined to put one of Toseland’s albums on my birthday wish list. (I’ll get the Illustr8ors album when it comes out next year).

Illustr8ors

There was something different about this type of gig; something life-affirming and inspiring. These lads were trundling around the UK in a couple of vans, setting up their own gear, in tiny venues, and playing to a couple of hundred punters on a good night. It takes guts and a lot of self-belief to do this. It used to be called ‘paying your dues’ but, in this era of instant gratification and instant stardom via dogshit TV shows like X-Factor, it must be even harder than it used to be. I was inspired, I was ready to find something else to go to. Step up RavenEye.

Last night, I went to Glasgow with the same pal and, again, we only had to shell out £10 each for our tickets. I bought their album, Nova, in advance of the gig and loved it, so I was looking forward to hearing songs from it live. Well, they played an absolute blinder. It has to be one of the best gigs I’ve been to – right up there with some of the rock superstars I’ve seen over the years. If these guys don’t make it big, then there’s no justice in the world.

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Oli Brown and Aaron Spiers from RavenEye ripping it up in Glasgow

After the gig, they manned their own merchandise stall and I bought an EP, which they signed for me. They were friendly, cheery and brilliant with the punters lining up to buy stuff and have their photos taken with them. After that, they’d be loading their van and pin-balling all over the UK until the end of November.

I’ve played in bands, and I know how hard it can be to get set up for a gig, and what it takes to hone a polished live set. I feel good to be helping these lads on their way in my own small way. There are so many hurdles to overcome – declining numbers of venues, pay-to-play policies, local authority curfews and noise abatement, declining CD sales, and poor live attendances. Bands like the three I’ve mentioned here need all the help we can give them.

Music is something much more than economics, though. It’s good for the soul. It lifts your mood, it brings people together in tribes and common purpose, and it stimulates your mind in ways no computer screen ever could. I hope some of you that might also have fallen by the wayside in terms of live music might consider getting out of the house and watching a few of these little guys. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Next up for me? I’m going to a two day event called Winter Storm held in the seaside town of Troon. It’s a line-up festooned with a mixture of new Scottish acts and some 80’s bands like FM and Tygers of Pan Tang; still plying their trade, even though they never reached the giddy heights of stardom that some of their contemporaries did. Oh, and Toseland are there as well. I can’t wait!

And finally, for all those struggling bands out there, remember what your old pal Bon Scott said…

Peter

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Write On

I started writing – in any kind of formal sense – about six years ago. I wrote a novel, which, lo and behold, somebody said they wanted to publish. That was an amazing feeling and all the build up to the launch of my first novel was exciting and new and great. Then I wrote another one, and then another, and again, until now I have six.

My journey toward becoming a writer has been via a steep and slippery learning curve. One of the things I’ve noticed along the way, is that most people who write tend to proclaim how much they love it, how it consumes them, how they would spend every waking moment doing it if they could. The thing is, I’ve struggled with writing for the past six months and it made me question whether I was a proper writer or not.

Realities Cover

I finished my last novel – Stark Realities – in the spring of 2015 and it was published that summer. It was the third installment of a police procedural series. I should point out that I don’t write for a living. Just as well, really, as I’d made very little money from my efforts up to that point. However, all the evidence, advice and received wisdom was that series were the answer to sales, and the more you added to them, the better. I was really hopeful this third installment might help springboard sales from the modest to low levels I’d managed so far, up to something more akin to decent or respectable

When the book came out, my motivation levels to market the hell out of it were sky high. I did all the things I was supposed to. I wrote blogs on my website and as a guest of others; I got local press coverage; I got a couple of excellent reviews from relevant websites; I posted on every Social Media outlet I could; I started an e-newsletter, complete with an exclusive, free, short story to help improve take-up; I did a Goodreads giveaway for the paperback; I revamped all my covers to give them a common branding; I had hundreds of existing four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and every review that appeared for Realities was a four or five star; I was already writing the follow-up.

Newsletter

Sales were … underwhelming.

It was as if someone had stuck a pin in me. What I found most demoralising of all was the aftermath of Amazon promotions. On a few occasions my books were chosen to be included in some promotion or other. Usually, sales surged and the books climbed the rankings. Within days, a few new, positive reviews would appear. I would get excited, thinking this was the breakthrough I’d been waiting for. And then, when the price reverted to normal, and Amazon’s marketing machine moved on to pastures new, sales slumped and the books tumbled back down the rankings.

All of the time I’d been spending marketing the books seemed like a massive waste of time. Nothing I was doing seemed to sustain sales at levels where I would actually make some money from them. In the Spring of 2016 I stopped writing the follow-up to Stark Realities. Ironically, the stark reality was, I couldn’t see the point.

I’m under no illusions about becoming a millionaire, by the way. I don’t even mind if I can’t make enough to call it my proper job. I just wanted it to justify the time I put into it. I wanted to see my efforts rewarded. I’ve got a busy life away from writing: a time-consuming job as an ecologist and a daughter who competes for Team GB at ice-skating. All through the summer, when I was tired or busy, I couldn’t face writing. I stopped posting tweets and Facebook posts. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to blog about. I had no motivation for it at all.

This is when I started to doubt my writing credentials. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that I can write well – enough strangers have said so through their reviews to convince me of that. What I really mean is, that I doubted whether I had the mind-set of a writer. I didn’t seem to love it enough and I didn’t find myself bereft if I went days without adding anything to the new novel. I just didn’t feel like I could call myself a proper writer. I’m sure there are plenty of other writers who’ve been through something similar; it just didn’t seem like it when I went on Twitter or Facebook.

Fast-forward to September 2016 and, in the past month, I’ve added almost 20,000 words to the next Stark novel. It’s been a hard year but I’m glad I’ve battled through that summer hiatus and the lack of motivation. I’m hoping the next novel might actually benefit as a result. In the end, I decided that I’ve come too far with this and put too much time and effort in to just chuck it. I am a writer – even if I’m not as evangelical as some – and I will indeed write on, hoping for that breakthrough moment.

Reminders

 

Peter Carroll

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Killed By Death

Last night Glen Frey, founding member of The Eagles, passed away, aged 67. As a friend commented on Facebook – that’s no age these days. And it isn’t really. Only, he’s the latest in a steady stream of rockers who’ve died around the age of 70 in the past couple of years. Just check out this (far from exhaustive) list of famous musicians who’ve passed since 2014:

Lemmy and Phil Taylor

   Lemmy and Phil Taylor

David Bowie

David Bowie

Chris Squire

Chris Squire

Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce

Andy Fraser

Andy Fraser

Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

All of these guys have died at a relatively young age, and mostly from cancer, but it’s not really so surprising. They lived the rock ‘n’ roll life – smoking, heavy drinking, and industrial-scale drug taking. Only a few of their generation will escape the damage this will have done to their bodies and plough on into serious old age. The sad fact is; the rock ‘n’ roll graveyard is going to be filling up with all our favourite old rockers in the next five to ten years.

However, there’s no point getting down about this. Death is a fact of life. Would it have been better for Lemmy to have been a teetotal, non-smoking, vegan, so he might have lived to be 95? Would it have been better if Bowie continued singing about gnomes and doing mime instead of spawning Ziggy Stardust and Alladin Sane from his drug-addled imagination? Nah, of course not. These were lives lived to the full, with permanent memorials left behind in the form of their music. The world’s cemeteries are full of untended headstones: monuments to anonymity, transience and the ordinary. These guys won’t be forgotten and the music they’ve made is their headstone. That’s something to be celebrated, not mourned.

So, as each of your favourite artists passes on, celebrate, take solace in the music, and remember that rock ‘n’ roll will never die.

I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Lemmy and co and the song that inspired the title of this blog.

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An Open Letter to the DM-ers

Dear Certain Authors,

Imagine you went to a party and someone walked up to you unannounced and said, “Hello, my name is Pete, nice to meet you; I’m an author and I’d be really grateful if you would buy my book. Here’s a link for you to follow to buy it.” They hand over a tablet and wait for you to comply. You’re a bit taken aback and don’t do as they ask but, undeterred, this person takes back the tablet and ploughs on. “No? Ok, well, how about you like my Facebook page, then?” Again, they open the link and hand over the tablet. At which point, you hand them it back and walk away, vowing never to have anything more to do with them.

In the real world, nobody would behave like that unless they were unwell. However, on Twitter, some authors behave like that every day. If you send out auto-DMs to new followers, you are that party-goer. No, really, you are. If you think it’s ok for your first interaction with a person (who knows nothing about you) is to send them an email, generated by a computer, asking them to buy your wares or like your pages, then you’re wrong. It’s not ok. It’s rude and it’s needy and it’s short-sighted.

Do you read spam emails from people you don’t know who are trying to get you to buy meds or sexual services? No? Neither do I, so I wonder what makes authors think their spam is any less annoying? Is it because it is art, dahling? Well, I’m sorry but that’s not reason enough to justify an unsolicited sales pitch and, if I get sent one of those, I unfollow. I’m not alone in this by the way – I’ve had several conversations about this with like-minded tweeps.

You have a profile on Twitter. If someone follows you, you can provide a link on there to something you hope they’ll be interested in. If they don’t bite right away, you’ll just need to try something else; be charming, helpful, friendly, amusing or perhaps even controversial; do something that gets their attention in a positive and engaging manner. If you want a favour, try doing one for someone else first. Chances are they’ll reciprocate and, if they don’t, then move on and try making friends with someone less rude and selfish.

I like Twitter, and I enjoy using it, but I hate auto-DMs. Please, if you have one set up, get rid of it. It’s not helping you sell anything and it’s getting on other people’s nerves. Oh, and those generic, impersonal, auto-DMs that just say thanks for following or suchlike? Totally pointless. We all know you didn’t notice we’d followed and were genuinely grateful, so why pretend you did?

First and foremost, Twitter is a social network, so be sociable, and sales will follow.

Kind regards,

Peter Carroll

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A Bit of a Dog

It’s fair to say that my second novel Pandora’s Pitbull has presented me with some dilemmas. It’s never sold all that well and reviews often seem to be polarised. I’m still hopeful it could do better and the latest instalment of its rehabilitation started today.

I’m a big fan of dystopian TV like The Walking Dead, and films like 28 Days Later, Zombieland and World War Z and the influences of these are in the story. The idea itself came from a scene in my first novel In Many Ways. Originally, I considered calling the book Dawn of the Ned because of this, but the pun is a bit too parochial and might imply a spoof or comedy – a la Shaun of the Dead. Although it does have some black humour in it, it’s not really that kind of book, so I used a line from the novel to create the title. Even now, I’m not sure it works – that author’s self-doubt kicking in again.

PP5

The first cover was stark (sorry!) and aggressive. I thought this would be eye-catching and help it stand out. However, after a while, and some repeated feedback, I decided that it needed to be toned down and we re-designed the cover. I was much happier with this reworking. It still shows the eponymous dog but, it also has a photograph from an electron microscope of a virus in the background, and the graphics were much improved. It made little or no difference to sales as far as I can tell!

PP NEW 2013

Reviews have been mixed! One kind person said it was “Funny and ferocious a very enjoyable read.” Another less favourable review from Australia said “IT IS AWFUL! Even as a Kindle 99cent special it is AWFUL! Have I mentioned IT IS AWFUL?!!!” Overall, though, it’s had fifteen five star reviews versus five one star reviews (and one of those is a diatribe about the cover and pitbulls by someone in the US who didn’t buy it or read it). If three times as many people love it as hate it, it’s got to be worth keeping on trying with it.

UK-map

The latest initiative is to add this map to the book. I think for most readers, it will prove a useful aid to tracking the movements of the various characters across the UK (even the fictional bits!) and I’m hoping it’s a wee bit of added value folks will appreciate. I don’t expect it to kick start a sales avalanche but if it’s appreciated by a few and helps people make sense of what’s going on, then I’ll be happy with that.

If you have read it, and haven’t posted a review yet, please consider doing so. It might help get it noticed. Thanks.

Grrr!

Peter

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Building Bridges

My first novel, In Many Ways, came out four years ago. I sometimes find it hard to believe that I have since written five more, but I have. In that time, I’ve struggled to find the winning formula to kick-start sales to a level that I might consider taking up writing full-time. Marketing the books has become as big a part of my life as writing them – with mixed results.

I’ve tried all sorts of things to get the message out to a wider audience; to let people know the books are there. I have decent numbers of reviews for all of the books in the UK (219 Amazon reviews with 87% of them four or five stars) but I have struggled to find readers and reviewers in the US (17 Amazon reviews with 76% of them four or five stars). My Goodreads ratings are ok – 60 in total and an average of 3.6 out of 5 stars. I’ve had bursts of sales during promotional periods that make me think maybe I’ve cracked it, only to find sales fall back again after they finish. It’s a frustrating business.

I’ve connected with folks through social media and some of them have been very generous in their efforts to promote my stuff to their followers. I’ve joined a few author groupings although I find the levels of cross-promotion variable, and mostly poor. A lot of folk seem to join these collectives full of good intentions but are either not tech savvy enough to work out how to take part, are too self-absorbed to cross-promote others, lose interest after a bit, or find their time taken up elsewhere. I’ve done interviews and appeared on other writer’s blogs or websites – all of those have been highlighted here previously. I don’t consider any of this wasted effort, and I’m always grateful for any kind of leg-up from a fellow writer or a blogger, but I don’t know how effective it is in gaining new readers.

Me and Alan Gray at Kennetpans Distillery. This is one of the locations in Stark Realities.

Me and Alan Gray at Kennetpans Distillery. This is one of the locations in Stark Realities.

My latest attempt to promote my books has involved a partnership with a friend who’s also a talented photographer – Alan Gray. I met Alan because our daughters skated at the same club. One day, while browsing his website, I came across a superb photograph of the Clackmannanshire Bridge. I knew it was perfect for my next book cover as the bridge features prominently in the story. I asked him if he would let me use it and, thankfully, he agreed. We could both see the potential benefits to each other’s business from doing this. We came to an arrangement about payment and usage rights and my publisher, Dave Lyons, set about creating the cover. We used an agency called 99 Designs, who ran a design tender process and, as part of that, we also asked our Facebook and Twitter followers to voice an opinion on the final three options. It was a fun process and got lots of engagement.

Once the book was launched I approached the local press as I always thought it made a good local-interest piece that we were working together in this way. I was right. Two papers have run articles in the past week.

Stirling News Article August 2015

One thing I have noticed since I started working with Alan is the numbers of views my Facebook posts get are up significantly. I only have 209 Likes on my author page; he has 543 for his photography page. My previous record for views was 875, but two posts that Alan helped by cross-promoting exceeded 1000 views, with one of them hitting 1,300. That’s a lot of extra reach I’ve gained from us working together. He tells me that he’s seen an increase in website traffic but no upturn in sales as yet. It remains to be seen how effective this partnership will be for us in terms of increased revenue, but I still think it was a good idea and well worth doing.

Whatever happens, and despite the lack of a big breakthrough, I’ll keep on building bridges with other folks and see where it leads. It’s a lot less lonely working in partnership and I like helping other people out when I can. If you think we might be able to work together to each other’s mutual benefit, please do get in touch.

Peter

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“Stark Realities” becomes a reality!

After many months of toil and heartache, I have finally released the latest Adam Stark novel – the third in the series – Stark Realities.

Many thanks go to Dave Lyons and the team at Raven Crest Books for getting me to publication yet again. Ebook for now, with paperback to follow soon.

Realities Cover

The fantastic photo of the Clackmannanshire Bridge on this cover was taken by Alan Gray.

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Let It Bee

IMG_0640 (2)

My Garden

I have to confess I’m not much of a gardener. Let me re-phrase that. I’m not a gardener. I have a garden and I cut the grass and pull up some of the weeds, but that’s really about the extent of my horticulture. In eight years living here, we’ve never used a single chemical agent on the ground and I am happy to let some nettles and other weeds grow. My neighbours, on the other hand, are suffering from OCGD – Obsessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder. They’re good neighbours by the way – caring, thoughtful and easy-going. I like them and get on fine with them. It’s just that they spray and they trap and they weed and they lay down pellets in order to achieve garden perfection. This can make my garden appear a little wild in comparison. However, today, I decided that I don’t really care whether they approve of my approach or not. I care about wildlife a lot more.

We’d been away for about a week – my daughter won a bronze medal in the British Solo Ice Dance Championships (woo hoo!) and, afterwards, we spent a couple of days in Norfolk on holiday and a day in Lincoln for her to attend a training camp. This meant I returned to a lawn in dire need of a haircut. However, as I was starting to mow, I noticed how many bees were feeding on the clover flowers and how many moths were fleeing the spinning blade of my push-mower. It made me pause and think.

Bees are in big trouble. Unless you’ve been keeping Robinson Crusoe company for the last two years, you’re bound to have heard something about this. We need bees to pollinate our food crops so we can eat things and not die of starvation. Bees need us not to cover our crops in nasty chemicals that bugger up their sense of navigation and prevent them finding their way back to their hives. They also need us to stop suffering from OCGD or turning our gardens into car parks, which reduces the amount of food they can find, which makes them weak and susceptible to parasites. Numbers have been crashing and we need to do stuff that might stop them continuing to die off in such massive numbers.

IMG_0580

A bee with some bee food

Now, at this point, loads of human being type people will probably be sighing, shrugging their shoulders and saying something like, “Yeah, but it’s all about the farming, dude. Nothing I can do will make any difference.” Those human beings are wrong! If everybody with a garden in Britain did a little thing, it would add up to a big thing overall.

I looked at the honey bees and thought about how they like to let their pals know about where the food is. If I chopped all this lot down, they’d come tomorrow and find nothing. The lads that passed on the news would likely get lynched but, more seriously, they would have wasted valuable time and energy coming to my garden for nothing. It’s not as if my neighbours are offering an alternative with their chemicals and non-native flowers the bees find it hard to feed from. And, so, this morning, Bee Island was formed in a sea of shorn grass – well, I say grass, it’s mainly clover, daisies and moss but you get the idea. It’s not big but it is clever.

Bee Island

Bee Island

This newly-formed, island state immediately welcomed what I could only assume was a Scottish bee, given his ginger hair, but this is no exclusive resort. I’ve known some racist b’s in my time but all the bees are welcome here, no matter their colour or racial background.

Jimmy Bee

Jimmy Bee

I’ve also sub-contracted out the pest control to Mr H Hog (he’s also in bother by the way but that’s a whole different, similar, sad story). He came highly recommended and was cheap, as in free.

Hedgehog

Mr H Hog – Pest Control Services

If we all make an effort to do something to help our little hairy friends with the massive tongues (and the spiky ones with less massive tongues too) overcome the scourge of OCGD, then maybe, together, we can make a difference to their chances of survival – and ours.

 

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Reviews – Are They Really All That?

The accepted wisdom in publishing is that reviews are critical to the success of a book. On Amazon in particular, people claim that a host of five star reviews is key to turning your book into a best seller. But is that really the case?

The more I’ve written, and the more I’ve read, the less convinced I’ve become that reviews are really the most important aid to purchase. This is because reviews seem to me to fall into five broad categories:

Gushing

A lot of these are written by friends or relatives. We’ve all got them but some folks go out of their way to encourage it. My mum and my sister posted reviews for a couple of my books and, although they felt they were being sincere and truthful, I asked them to remove them. They were a little hurt, bless ‘em, but I explained that, as well-intentioned as they were, and as grateful as I was for their support, those reviews would not be credible in the eyes of a customer who wasn’t related to me. However, in truth, I’m not sure many people would have noticed or cared that much. Friends and relatives are often the first to review and, although they might not be entirely neutral, it is possible they did really enjoy the book. It’s hardly crime of the century if it’s half a dozen or less. Much more insidious and damaging to the validity of good reviews have been the paid-for and sock puppetry scandals of the last couple of years. Of course, there are genuine gushing reviews and if you have a load of those, well done.  However, I think people’s natural cynicism means they take anything at an extreme with a pinch of condiment.

Dismissive

The majority of one or two star reviews I have ever read are couched in the language of the smart-arse. They rarely influence whether or not I will buy a product. If they’re not written by a smart-arse, then they’re usually written by someone who’s unable to construct a coherent sentence (never mind argument) to justify their rating.

Irrelevant

I received a five star review that read as follows:-

“Got the deliver to me on the first estimated date rather than the last day”

Yeah, brilliant, mate. Very helpful. Well done! Boosted my overall star rating though …

Balanced and well thought out

These are rare and, because of that, unlikely to have as big an influence on potential readers as they should. This is particularly true when a book has hundreds of reviews. Who has the time to trawl through them all to look for one of these? I know I don’t.

Too brief

Since the advent of the automatic prompt to review when readers reach the end of a book on their Kindle, I’ve noticed the length of most reviews has become shorter and shorter. I mean, what can you really decide about a book from sixty reviews that say ‘Good book’, ‘enjoyed it’ or ‘great read’? On Goodreads, people can just add a star rating without any text. I don’t think either of these rating types is likely to influence anyone’s decision making process. I also know that, in my case at least, I never review via that Kindle prompt. I don’t like it. I’ve had no time to consider what I thought of the book let alone formulate a coherent review. I also find it intrusive and distracting as it so often pops up before I’ve had a chance to check out the credits or some other addendum such as bonus chapters of the next book in a series or the like.

 

I’m not saying reviews are irrelevant or worthless – of course they’re not – but, if reviews are not having as big an influence on potential readers as some people would have you believe, what else can you do to convince them to try your book?

Last year I joined Book Bub – as a reader, not as a contributor – and they send me a daily email offering a book deal or two. The more I’ve done this, the less reliant I’ve become on reviews and the more reliant I’ve become on the blurb. If I like the blurb, I’ll take a chance, if I don’t, I won’t. And, let’s be honest, I do judge by the cover – at least in part.

Surely, I’m not alone in prioritising a good blurb and a decent cover over a host of three-word, five star reviews? It’s made me think I should revisit my own book blurbs and covers – make sure they’re working hard enough to sell my books without reviews. Basic stuff but true nonetheless.

Of course, if you have read one of my novels and enjoyed it … you know what to do.

Five Stars

 

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