The Gonzo Journals
January 8th, 2023
I remember many moons ago when I would give a .pdf copy of my first novel to readers in exchange for an Amazon review. We’re talking 2008. It was a pain in the virtual ass to read such a thing, yet they did it. In droves. They also did as they promised and left a review. It’s strange that I’m referring to the year 2008 as the good old days.
I’m not sure where it all went wrong, but I can let my twisted brain run free through the mental forests of my shadowy mind and come up with something much better than reality. For instance, I accidentally awakened a witch who lived in the trunk of an ancient tree who sought revenge on my incompetence. Or most people are assholes. The latter is more believable but my scenario fucking rocks!
I want to give a prime example that encompasses the entire industry and its players. I’m talking about writers, publishers, and readers. No one is safe from this rant, and I expect lots of pissy excuses in the comments section.
When the pandemic began, everyone was freaking out over how we planned to eat, make money, pay our bills, and pass our time. I’m not sure who started it, but my memory recalls Death’s Head Press, a small extreme horror press originally based out of Houston, Texas. Many other small presses followed their lead, and it was an amazing show of passion to calm their readers’ minds.
The deal? They gave away THOUSANDS of books to their fans to quiet the demons running rabid between the ears of extreme horror fans who were already dealing with the frightening uncertainties being dished out by the fearmongering media. I’m not saying that society shouldn’t have been taking the pandemic seriously (I lost several friends due to this virus) but at least there would be something to distract these readers from the horrors playing out on our television and computer screens. All the reader had to promise in return was an honest review. A small price to pay, in my opinion. I guess I was wrong.
Since one of my titles (Extinguished) was being given away, I paid very close attention to the number of reviews as they poured in. Actually, ‘poured’ is a strong world. Trickled, maybe? Dripped? How about ‘pissed’?
After giving away nearly one thousand copies of my $10+ novel absolutely free in the name of good faith, I received ten reviews. The translation of this statistic is that only ONE PERCENT of the people who promised an honest review for the free download came through on their word. W in T actual F?
No, it wasn’t because my book sucked, and people didn’t want to hurt my feelings. The recipients of these freebies failed their end of the bargain for every book and every author offered. I have enough super positive reviews from professionals on this title to convince me it’s a good thing. What I truly believe is that the general public has no fucking clue what a review consists of, how much it means to our business, and how easy it is to fulfill their long overdue promise.
Two simple words would’ve sufficed. Either ‘it’s good’ or ‘it sucked’ would’ve tickled my willy when it came to my Amazon statistics. It didn’t need to be a counter-novel to my work listing every single plot point and its relationship to the human psyche. No, just two simple words.
Three years later, dozens of authors who managed to survive the COVID nightmares known as 2020-2022 are still waiting for tens of thousands of reviews from readers who received a miniscule ‘I love and care about you’ from the indie publishing industry. In that time, many writers have gone on to bigger and better things or given up the craft completely. For those who quit, could it be that this specific community disappointment was the purpose of their departure? I truly hope not.
Regardless, I’ve offered up my best work since then and already have a full year ahead of me in 2023. I still, to this very day, give away copies of my work to less fortunate readers who can’t afford to spend money on anything other than necessities. I even foot the bill for shipping paperbacks. I openly expect nothing in return (but a sudden thousand or so reviews would be a bad ass New Year’s gift). Just sayin’…
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