Why do I write?
Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to that.
There is no specific moment I can recall that explains it. Like most people as a kid I played with toys, I read comic books, I read fantasy and sci-fi novels. And I had ideas. I didn’t really write, not then, but I created stories in my head.
I love Dungeons & Dragons. I had (and have) a lot of the rulebooks and settings. I devoured everything Forgotten Realms when that came out. But surprisingly I’ve played maybe 30 hours total in my entire life. I wanted to play more but it just never happened. Didn’t stop me from having pages of characters and adventures written.
I didn’t create elaborate stories with my toys, I played with them. I read books but didn’t dream of writing my own.
It just happened my sophomore year in high school. During study hall in the library, I grabbed a notebook and just started writing. It was a rambling story with no clear direction but had a starting point. I kept adding to it as I created characters and started basing them around my friends and other people at the school. It never went anywhere but that was the start.
But it wasn’t my first experience. That was a school project in elementary school. We had to create our own book, write and draw. Mine was a fantasy. A classic “attack the tower” kind of thing. I still remember the basics of it to this day almost forty years later.
But no writing from then to high school and no writing from high school to after college. It was then that I started creating characters and concepts for comic books.
I love the ongoing serial nature of comics and that heavily influences my work now. Nothing I create is limited. It’s all designed to be ongoing, no end in sight.
Aside from the few pages written during that time, nothing else came of it. But I always created. That seemed to be non-stop. Always some new idea. Which in a way wasn’t helping. I’d develop something, come up with a new idea and move on.
Almost ten years ago was when the idea of actually writing again came about. I don’t know why, it just happened. I did some fan fiction for G.I. Joe on a popular collector’s website. I had a broad idea and just went with it. Then I started my serial thing that I called Gatewatch, which only lasted a couple weeks. It was on a site I created (and looked horrible) and was a series of short pieces about different characters that took place throughout the day and the published stuff covered about a week. They’d cross each other’s path and so on. Nothing came of it and things fizzled again.
I tried starting various story concepts after that and was still almost endlessly creating but just couldn’t get the groove to start producing. Mostly that was because I don’t like anything that I write. Makes it really hard to get motivated.
That lasted until Amazon launched Kindleworlds and I was able to create G.I. Joe stories and actually get paid for them. That was the catalyst and away I went. The first book I published, The Skeleton Stone, was not the first thing written in that world (those few pages will actually end up in the fourth book in the series). It was an idea that came from playing a game and I started writing it and adapted it to fit into the fantasy world that I’d been creating for awhile.
Now here I am today, still having the problem of too many ideas but I now that I’ve had stuff published it helps me focus a bit more. I’m not the fastest by any means, but I enjoy doing it and want to get my concepts and ideas out there.
That’s why I write. It just kind of happened. I have stories to tell and I want to tell them.
I see this graphic posted quite frequently, or at least some variation. The image changes, as do the numbers that unlock the hidden wonders of Amazon. At least this one has a coherent theme and a sense of pizzazz. Unfortunately, it’s also hogwash.
Now, the importance of reviews can not be expressed or emphasized enough. Think to how you interact with products you’re about to buy on Amazon. Me personally, I read the 1 Star reviews instantly (even before the product description.) I want to know the worst of the product so I can do a personal risk assessment. Without reviews, we’d be buying blind. Let me repeat this: Reviews ARE important, but let’s dispel some common misconceptions.
Myth: After X number of reviews, Amazon includes your book in “also boughts”…
Reality: No. Wrong. Want proof? I have had books with zero reviews appear on multiple also boughts. The Also bought category is not influenced by reviews (or at least nothing I’ve seen quantified.) It is literally based on people’s purchasing decisions and common themes. Buy my book, then buy Twilight, if this happens enough times, I’ll show up in the also bought for Twilight. Reviews be damned. This is about purchasing history. The proof comes from how we can influence these. My fans buy books in both my series, so I see both series in my also boughts. Now that I’ve started using AMS ads targeting people like Robert Kirkman and Max Brooks with my zombie novels, I see them show up in mine and I even showed up in a Walking Dead also bought (short-lived victory, but I got there!)
Myth: After X number of reviews, Amazon highlights the book for spotlight positions…
Reality: No. Wrong. Amazon is not making marketing decisions based on the quantity of reviews. The almighty algorithm is looking at quantity of books being sold. Perhaps the review rating influences this, but it’s not the sole (or even key) decision. This is a case of fame begets fame. You sell 20,000 copies, Amazon will promote you. You have to sell to sell. Frustrating, I know. Amazon does however alert your followers on Amazon or purchasers of your previous books that you’ve released a new book. It’s erratic, not guaranteed, can be months after the release, so do not depend on this. It is nice however when my mom shoots me an email with a screen shot of my book being listed because she buys everything I write. She thinks I’m famous. I perpetuate this lie.
Myth: Reviews can be short, just say, “I liked it.”
Reality: Eh. Kinda false. When was the last time you bought a book because your friend said, “I liked this book.” If you’re going to be short, at least use better descriptors. “I absolutely loved this book.” Okay, now maybe I’ll look at it and leave it in my Amazon cart for three months. Think back to when you went to Amazon and read dozens of reviews with comments under ten words. I’ll give you a moment. You can’t, can you? Because nobody reads these types of reviews. They’re wasted space. Sure, it might lure somebody in to click on your book, “Wow, 200 reviews, this must be amazing.” You get there only to find dozens of one liners. This is starting to look like owed favors and family members trying to do you a solid. In the wake of numerous scams happening on Amazon with reviews, purchased ranks and even authors buying their way onto the USA Today Best Seller chart, appearances matter. Be persistent, but push readers to leave reactions, feedback, hell, I even promote leaving non-5 star reviews (once in a while) to keep things authentic and truthful. It pays off. Watching you what you pay attention to on products, the same goes for your books.
Myth: You don’t need to buy the book to leave a review…
Reality: True, but similar to short reviews. Yes, you can review anything on Amazon regardless of your purchasing. However, unverified reviews (reviews left by people who have not bought your product) are hidden. Their review shows in the total number of reviews, but the actual verbage is hidden unless the customer goes down, clicks on reviews, and then clicks on unverified. That’s a lot of work. To me, the customer, they didn’t buy the book and left a review. Why would I believe a review of a person who didn’t buy the product? I wouldn’t. Yes, again, it helps snag the attention of the customer, “Ohhh, look at all those reviews!” But when you get onto the product page to find almost no reviews are visible (cause how many people truthfully read unverified reviews?) it’s going to start looking shady.
This happens often at the start of a release. You have given out a thousand ARCs and one hundred people have reviewed it. Many have not bought it (some ARC readers are awesome and will also buy your book) so their reviews are not verified. There is a certain forgiveness during launch time that fades quickly. So make sure you continue to promote leaving reviews, but be honest about why they are needed.
Myth: You need X number of reviews for promotions…
Reality: There are many promotional tools out there and many authors utilize “Author Email Promotions.” These are services that will send out your book to their mailing lists. Bookbub is probably the most well-known and coveted. Some are very specific, you need 10 reviews to be eligible. Others are rather ambiguous at best. I only received my Bookbub after I received 40 reviews. Does that mean it’s the magic number? No, but well reviewed books stand a higher chance. Each promotion will state what their needs are. I believe the most I’ve seen is 10 required to promote your book. Of course, more is always better.
There you have it. The floating images with misinformation have been debunked. I think reviews are extremely important (even bad ones.) They are the digital equivalent of your friend recommending a device you need and they have tested. However, we need to have realistic expectations and not imagine that a magical number will open the doors to Nirvana.