Posts Tagged ‘bad reviews’

Amazon Done Good, part 2

February 4, 2013 2 comments

Last week I wrote an article (linked here) where I talked about Amazon’s hunter/ killer strategies when it came to seeking out reviews they felt were unfair. Reviews by authors on other author’s books, for example. Their hope is to kill bogus reviews written influence customers, either positively or negatively. I wondered if there campaign would have some bearing on a series of novellas I wrote that had a few people slam them into the gutter with one star reviews blasting me for asking people to pay $.99 for books that ranged from 15,000 to 32,000 words.

You see I took those seven novellas down last year after I was hit below the belt by the handful of people (handful as in I had a few fingers left over when I counted up the negative reviews I received, even though they went out of their way to post 1 star reviews on multiple books). I’d sold thousands of copies of each, bringing them into the top 10 and top 20 lists in their genres (science fiction), but not that many positive reviews that a few stinkers couldn’t drag the books into the rubbish heap. I compiled the novellas into an omnibus (Vitalis Omnibus) and then later wrote a full novel length sequel to it (Vitalis: Resurrection). I have plans for future Vitalis books as well, but I haven’t had a chance to revisit those yet. I even left the first novella (New Beginnings) on Amazon but set it so that it was free to download. My way of apologizing to people who might think I was trying to screw them over.

Five or Six months later (as in, last week) I got to thinking that maybe a few pricks were sucker punching my books because they wanted to help their books reach the upper ranks on Amazon. One reviewer even commented in his review that there should be enough 1 star reviews to knock my books out of the rankings. Yes, he really said that. I don’t know if that review is still up or not, Amazon has removed several of them already. I received my 4th quarter results from Smashwords and since I’d removed them fro Amazon I never put much thoughts into the novellas. Well they were still on Smashwords, and that meant they were still out there on iTunes, Sony, Diesel, and others. My results weren’t earth shattering but I sold enough of the various books to let me know that no, I wasn’t crazy. People did like them and they weren’t pissed off about the rock bottom price I assigned to them. Especially considering so many other writers ask more for works that are even shorter!.

So now they’re back and I’m excited to see how they’re doing. The results aren’t great yet, after a week, but they’re promising. I’ve seen some action on them. A few sold here and there. A far from the 5000 a month I was selling in April and May of 2012, but I’m patient and I’m happy to get whatever I can out of them. They don’t need to be bestsellers, I just want to know that people don’t really think I’m trying to screw because, damn it, I’m not!

And to my fellow writers out there. Knock that shit off. People read what they want to read. You don’t do anybody any good by trying to beat somebody else down. Try helping instead. I have writers ask me things all the time – a hookup to a cover artist or an editor or tips on how to do something. I help them and I’m happy to help them. They, in turn, come right back and help me when and if the need is there. Good will goes a lot further than bad.

As another example, Gayla Drummond, a writer and blogger in her own right, had some discussion with me on the prior post and that prompted her to hop up on a soapbox and vent her thoughts on the matter (linked here). G.L. Drummond’s site can be found here, by the way, and I’m happy to recommend checking her out. Not just because she’s got a heart of gold and agrees with me, but because she’s an intelligent woman with talent. That will lead to good books every time. Agreeing with me and having a heart of gold also helps, by the way.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Did Amazon Do Something Right?

January 27, 2013 10 comments

I was chatting via email to another writer the other day who was asking for some tips on getting his first book out there. The man was an English Lit professor and here he’s asking me for help with words. I found that ironic. But I shared what few tips I have. It boils down to writing a lot, accepting criticism, writing some more, making sure you find decent editors, and then doing some more writing.

I also touched on the reviewing process (part of the criticism speech) and how bad reviews can sink a book. I mentioned how Amazon is trying hard to eliminate bogus reviews, although they take some good ones along the way. I went on to talk about how my Vitalis series, when I sold them as novellas for $.99 a pop, were butchered by a couple of people that slammed them  in reviews because I was allegedly trying to abuse Amazon’s system and being greedy. Nevermind that the price for buying the Omnibus is the same as it was for buying all seven novella length stories.

I had a possible epiphany while writing that. I took my novellas off sale after the abuse I received for them. Prior to the hateful reviews they were ranked in the top 20 and top 10 in their categories (sci-fi). Was it possible the bad reviews were actually bogus reviews written by other writers? In some cases I even had identical reviews on multiple books from the same person! It got me wondering, with Amazon’s push to eliminate bogus reviews would my novellas possibly stand a chance of being popular again?

With that thought in mind, I’m going to re-release my Vitalis novellas. Book 1, New Beginnings, will remain free. The rest will be $.99. Here are the links if you’d like to check them out – or at least try the first one (it’s free!).

Vitalis books:

Episode 1: New Beginnings

Episode 2: The colony

Episode 3: Parasites

Episode 4: Screamer

Episode 5: Squatter’s Rights

Episode 6: Evolution

Episode 7: Matriarch

or the Vitalis Omnibus (parts 1 – 7)

Vitalis: Resurrection, the novel length sequel

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

What Really Happened on Vitalis

For those not familiar, Vitalis is a world I created in a futuristic science fiction series. It starts out with a crew on a space transport that have a run in with some inter-stellar salvage experts (read: pirates, matey). Things don’t go so well for any of them and the long and short of it is a new world is discovered outside of the Terran Coalition of Systems (aka known space). Sounds pretty cool, right?

I thought so to, and I released them one part after another. The average length was 20,000 words to 30,000 words and I priced them dirt cheap at $.99. Seven parts in all and sales skyrocketed earlier this year. I had a couple of months with over 5,000 sales for the series and people emailed me and tweeted me and Facebooked me to tell me they love them. Life was good!

Then a handful of people took it upon themselves to get upset with the length of the books. They spent $.99 for something hey liked – something they admit sucked them in – and they were pissed off about it. So they wrote essentially the same review on each book and gave them all a rating of 1. This sunk the series practically overnight. The positive feedback to me was great, but since it wasn’t placed on Amazon on the books themselves, it didn’t do any good. Instead the haters down-rated the stories into the abyss. The lower the rating the less interest Amazon’s algorithms have in it – and the less it’s shown to potential buyers. Thus you see the power of reviews and the power of readers.

All those blog posts and other times when I’ve told people how important reviews are to authors like me? Yeah, I meant it. This entire series and a substantial portion of my financial ability to write new stuff has been sabotaged. It had nothing to do with greed on my part, it had to do with getting new stories in people’s hands as quickly as possible. The pricing of $.99 each was actually detrimental to me, rather than a pricing scheme. And the Vitalis Omnibus, which contains all 7 of the stories is longer than the vast majority of published novels out there and half the price – so no, I’m not trying to screw anybody over financially. As a matter of fact, I kind of feel like the exact opposite has happened because of this.

Whining aside, I’ve taken Vitalis parts 2 – 7 off sale. Yep, they aren’t out there anymore. I left New Beginnings up because it’s free and how can you bitch about free? My desire is for people to check it out and enjoy it as a sample of what’s in the Vitalis Omnibus, then they can go and buy that. Sometime next month I plan to release Vitalis: Resurrection, the novel in the Vitalis series. For the record I said novel, not novella, not novelette, and not short story.

My friends and loyal readers, I thank you all for the support an for continuing to read my books. I also beseech you to remember my story when you read a book (no matter who the author is) and please leave a review and a positive rating. Who knows, you might just be helping them make sure their kids can get into college.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Sometimes the Voices Don’t Agree

Almost every writer out there knows about the “voices.” It’s the characters in our heads that demand we tell their story. The problem I’ve discovered, is that those internal voices have something in common – as twisted and screwed up as the characters may be we understand them. They make sense.

Why is that a problem? Because in the real world people don’t make sense. Their voices are sometimes shouting two things at once and those two things can be contradictory. It shocks me because I like to think that my readers are a cut above the average. Science fiction and fantasy are the realm of dreamers and thinkers, after all! But in spite of that occasionally it still happens that someone slips into the wrong line. I have no other explanation for why someone would rate a book 1 star and say of it, “Save yourself some frustration and don’t get sucked in.” Um, as a reader I want to be sucked in. I want to find myself immersed in a story.

I’m counter-complaining about my Vitalis series, by the way. It seems people are still bitching about paying a devastating $.99 for the novellas. Or, as they label them, the ‘chapters’. This is speculation on my part but perhaps they seem like chapters (even though each book consists of well over a dozen clearly labeled chapters) because they got sucked in and read them quickly. I’ve bitched before that this was my intent upon writing them, but it keeps coming back to haunt me.

So this person bought it, read it, got sucked into it, and then got frustrated because he had to buy the next one (for, GASP, another $.99 – and the first one is free, by the way. Or buy the Vitalis Omnibus to avoid the frustration of switching books). Okay, that defies my logic but I’ll entertain the process and continue. So seven novellas later a reader has spent $5.94 for a total of seven books that add up to over 400 pages of science fiction that sucks a reader in. I don’t have one handy at present, but the last Dean Koontz novel I bought (the third Odd Thomas book, though the title escapes me), was not that long and it cost me well over $10. I’ll be the first one to admit I’m no Dean Koontz but there are thousands of other authors out there with books that offer the same ratio of lesser length yet higher cost. Shame on me for offering a discount to my readers! Clearly I deserve a public flogging by way of review and a kick in the pants via a poor rating.

Reviews like this hurt sales. Hurting sales means it’s harder for me to A) stay positive and keep writing for those that enjoy the books and B) be able to afford to write. It’s impossible for me to stop contrary people like the reviewer in question from slamming me, but for those with at least two more active gray cells I ask of you to think clearly before leaving a review on anybody’s work. Consider whether the review makes sense objectively. Where you frustrated about something? Were there other parts that offset it? Would you be just as happy sending the author some feedback to let them know your thoughts rather than trying to screw with his or her livelihood? I speak for many of my fellow writers when I say that we enjoy receiving feedback, even the less than pleasant kind.

With all of that said, I’m working hard on my eighth Vitalis book (Resurrection). Yes, I said book. It will not be a novella. Just yesterday I reached a point that takes it to being longer than even the first Vitalis book (New Beginnings) and I’m only halfway through it. I have a lot more of Vitalis in me to write too, I just hope I can afford to do so.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

Survival Tactics to Long Term Results

December 18, 2011 8 comments

I just happened to browse through a handful of reviews on my books and I came away with a sour taste in my mouth. I’m reasonably certain it’s not a matter of me being defensive either, but rather a lack of understanding.

Case in point: my book, The Lost Girls, has received some crippling reviews on it lately. Not because it’s a bad book, but because it wasn’t what the readers expected. It’s the second book in my Dark Earth series, but it’s not a direct sequel to the first book. So people grab the first book and read it and like it, then go for the second without bothering to read what it’s about. Then they mark it down because it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be. With that said I also learned from these reviews – I’ve marked on The Lost Girls’ page that it is not a direct sequel – although I fear that will receive no more attention than the existing description apparently has.

I’ve got a few schools of thought on this, and most of them are not complimentary. I am also working on a direct sequel to Dark Earth, but I don’t expect to release it until the second quarter of 2012 (if I can hit that date). That’s a short term survival tactic, not part of my long term goal. For example, Dark Earth established the setting, The Lost Girls creates some characters with long term appeal and opportunities. The next book, Traitor, will spend time back on Dark Earth, as will the next book, Wolfgirl. The fourth book (Black Widow) brings it back to the Earth we know and love.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon on the premise that he was in it for the long term. Amazon is designed to be a successful company for a long time, and so far his planning has gone according to his plans. That leads to short time plateaus and losses at times, which worries stockholders, but it remains an amazingly successful company over the long term.

I just found that out yesterday, I’m not ashamed to admit. It made me feel good though because that’s been my strategy as well. I have multiple series of books, though each has only a couple of books in them at the moment. My strategy is to write many more books in each series, so that someday people will have many options to follow settings and characters they enjoy. Dark Earth is one of those series and it’s one I’m very excited about. The first book I wrote on a whim and then later realized it had much more potential. I’m still putting all my pieces in play though, so the long term goal requires some short term tactics to allow me to survive until the logistics are figured out.

In other news, New Beginnings got a short but outstanding review. It’s available only on Amazon right now, but that means if you’re an Amazon Prime member you can borrow it for free! New Beginnings is part of my Vitalis series, another long term series. Right now it’s got two books in it with a third planned in January and a fourth in February or March. There will be many more on the way as well, since this series has so much potential I can’t even begin to write all my ideas down.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at

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