Saturday 26 January 2013

Marmite and Reviews

I write marmite books. For those people unfamiliar with the term, marmite is a yeast-based extract (actually a waste product of the brewing industry) commonly spread on toast. It’s USP has always been “you either love it or hate it”. Personally I can’t stand the stuff.

But I write marmite books. People either love them or hate them – my thrillers anyway. That’s OK. But then friends and neighbours – family, even – want to read them, and inwardly I cringe. I’m not worried about whether they’ll like them or not; everything is subjective and we all have different tastes in reading material. But that in itself is the key. I want people to read my books because that’s the kind of thing they read, not because they know me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the support – more than you or they will ever know – but if people don’t normally read the kind of stuff I write, then they’re not going to like it. It’s dark. It’s nasty. And they’ll be reading the book, looking at me and thinking … well, I don’t really want to know what they’re thinking. I have no excuses. It’s what I write – my characters want me to tell their story and I do, to the best of my ability. The bad bits as well as the good bits. Because without the dark, the light has no real meaning, does it?

I sent Hamelin’s Child off to a big US review blog site about a year ago or more. Now when I send books off for review, I forget about them. I don’t hassle reviewers. If it’s not their cup of tea, that’s fine. I’ve already moved on. In retrospect, sending a marmite book to a general book reviewer is probably not the smartest of moves, but there you go. So I’d totally forgotten about this review until it appeared, and it rather threw me. 3* is fine – and in fact, given the review itself, I’m surprised it got that high. I was a bit down-hearted, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I have no issues. Comment on the review? Never. Maintaining a dignified silence is the only way to go. Brush it under the carpet and forget about it – I’ve had worse and I’m sure I will again.

And then I had a 5* review on amazon – both the US and the UK sites. Somebody had read this blog site review and was intrigued enough to download a sample which they liked so much, they bought the book. They enjoyed the book so much, I not only got a glowing review but a further comment to say they’d read it twice more in the week afterwards.

So what does this prove? That opinions differ, certainly. But that all “advertising” works too. Remember those truly awful television adverts? The ones that are so bad you swear you’d never buy the product on principle? But you remember them. And when you see the product when you’re out and about, you might just be tempted to see what it’s like, if it's really as bad as you thought it might be. It’s the same with a not-so-good review – it’s still exposure. Even on a big site, where lots of book-buyers are going to read how badly-written the reviewer thinks your book is, there will still be people who want to see for themselves – and who turn out to be pleasantly surprised.

The worst thing for the independent writer is obscurity. You’ll never get a good or a bad review if nobody ever sees your product.

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