“You get what you pay for.” My mom used to say this all the time. Usually just before she chose to buy the more expensive brand of whatever she was shopping for. The phrase came back to me recently when thinking about book sales and reviews.
There are hundreds of free ebooks available on any day of the week. I know I peruse them all the time. Authors are regularly encouraged to give their book away in droves as a boost to sales. But I’ve starting wondering what the side effect of this might be. If someone gets a book for free is it actually worthless in their mind? And if considered worthless from the get-go are they more inclined to LEM it?
Personally, I think so. From my own experience I find myself willing to pick up a much wider array of books than I am willing to pay for. I’m willing to chance a lemon on a free book. But I’m also more willing to drop the book, which is always hard for me. I tend to feel haunted if I don’t finish a book.
But I had a new aspect to the question of the possible side effects of the ‘you get what you pay for’ mentality bite me in the ass recently — reviews. I only review books I’ve finished. I might leave a comment, but don’t feel right leaving a rating and review on the piece as a whole if I haven’t actually read it all. It’s an individual decision that not everyone shares and I respect that.
But, here is my hypothesis. Someone gets a book free, considers it of little value since they paid nothing for it, then aren’t willing to put much time into it. If it doesn’t grab them immediately they don’t wait to see if it gets better. This increases the likelihood that they will review the book without finishing it. And you can assume that if they didn’t finish it they didn’t like it, which results in more bad reviews.
I’ll tell you what got me thinking this. Now, before I do, let me add that I’m not calling anyone out or accusing anyone of doing anything wrong. I’m not even talking to or about any individual person. I don’t expect everyone to do things my way and that’s ok.
My book, The Weeping Empress has been on the market for a while now, has garnered 70ish reviews, and I’m thrilled to say has carried well over 4 stars. It hadn’t ever gotten a really bad review. That is until now. It got three within roughly 24 hours! (It was actually 28, but who’s really counting?) Again, I’m not having a go at the reviewers for leaving the reviews. It is the timing of them that I am considering. I doubt that there has been any collusion or conspiracy, but it is notable that so many appeared practically at once.
The last person read the book and genuinely seemed to just dislike it. Everyone likes different things, so fair enough. The other two, though, not only didn’t finish the book, but read very little of it. One wrote an absolutely scathing one star review based on the first two pages (or 1/127th) of the book. The other gave it two stars and stated that he had read the first chapter, didn’t like the word usage, and if he didn’t like it more by the end of the second chapter he was done. Ouch on both counts.
All three were posted on Smashwords and I can’t help be make the connection that last month was the big Smashwords sale in which The Weeping Empress was available for free. I accept and take on myself that if people are reacting in such a way to the beginning of my book there may be something I need to address, but I also can’t help but wonder if its free status didn’t make it easier to discard and disparage.
I, of course, know that there are going to be people who dislike the book. I respect and appreciate that. But what do you think of three within a day of each-other, all within a week and a half of a large free giveaway? Am I making a spurious association? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.