Pretty please!

So you’ve just finished the last word of the last page of the last chapter of your book on your Kindle, and you’re about to press the off switch and settle back on your sun lounger for a snooze before it’s time for another drink… and then that annoying screen pops up again. ‘Would you recommend this book?’ ‘Review this book now.’ ‘How many stars would you award this book?’ You stab crossly at the ‘close’ buttons, and subside onto your pillows, your mood ruined. Honestly. How needy are authors these days?  It’s not supposed to be homework. Isn’t it enough that you buy their books, without them expecting you to write an essay about them afterwards?

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough just to buy our books. And, much as we don’t want to nag you, the system set up by giants like Amazon means that we need to. It’s not authors who put that begging screen at the end of your Kindle novel, it’s Amazon itself. That’s because it wants to rank all the poor struggling authors out there, like me, who are trying to make some sort of a living by (I hope) entertaining you. Which is difficult when Amazon loves to run free book giveaways and likes to keep prices down to about 99p. Would you work for months on the off chance that someone would spend 99p on your project? Probably not, but I can’t complain about that. For me, as for most writers, getting words out is a sort of compulsion and, if you’d like to buy them, I’m so, so happy that the money is slightly beside the point. Until I have to pay the mortgage at the end of the month, of course, when I thank God for better paid work.

At the moment, Amazon is set up to promote books that get lots of reviews. All bookshops want to move stock, and the stock that moves fastest gets re-ordered. Fair enough. But in a real bookshop, you can browse, pick up this volume or that, and allow yourself to buy on a whim. This book has a beautiful cover? Buy it. This one has an intriguing blurb? In the basket it goes.

But in the virtual world, we are reliant on reviews to guide us. The more reviews a book gets (and the jury is out on whether they have to be positive) the more Amazon will pile copies up right by the virtual till, by recommending the book whenever you browse, in your recommendations, at the top of category lists and in the ‘other people bought’ section too. Books that don’t get so many reviews… well, they get left by the wayside.

While Amazon continues to rank authors on the basis of the reviews they get, when that end screen pops up on your Kindle, do try and just write one word (preferably ‘great’, but I won’t twist your arm), add a sprinkling of stars, and move on to the next read – and try not to blame the poor old author.

Oh, and while you’re here, don’t forget that you can buy Death in Dulwich at the moment for the knock-down price of 99p right here.

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