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Month: December 2016

Grimdark vs noblebright

Posted in Heroes

stgeorgeThe words grimdark and noblebright arose as technical terms in the gaming world. There's a certain amount of dispute about the exact definitions there, with a tendency to paint them in black and white terms (such as the slur that noblebright is all about rainbows and unicorns and flawless heroes).

In fiction, by contrast, especially adventure fiction (in which I class things like Westerns and Fantasy) they have come to be used to reflect two different and opposed styles of story. Since there is some dispute about the definitions, it behooves me to offer my own.

GRIMDARK

The notion that the actions of one person can do little to improve this world in decline, that the forces of evil and inertia and temptation will ensure that all of us are doomed. The best we can hope for is a little struggle with morally ambiguous heroes to oppose danger and maybe rescue for a brief time a few others.

NOBLEBRIGHT

The notion that the actions of one person can make a difference, that even if the person is flawed and opposed by strong forces, he can (and wants to) rise to heroic actions that, even if they may cost him his life, improve the lives of others.

Let me explain why I am firmly in the noblebright camp.

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Asking for book reviews

Posted in Just for Writers

book-review

See that illustration? You know what's wrong with it?

Readers don't owe anything to authors, including thanks, and we shouldn't presume that they do if we want them to continue as customers.

At least, that's what I think. And here's why.

Authors often seek recommendations on what to include in the back matter of their books. The potential list is long:

  • Thanking the reader
  • Asking for book reviews
  • Pointing the reader at links for more information about the book they just read
  • Offering the reader a newsletter to subscribe to, for information about books (with perhaps a bonus giveaway)
  • Offering the reader a way to contact the author (sometimes including links to social media)
  • Telling the reader about the next book in a series, or about another book
  • Presenting the first chapter of the next book in a series, or another book

One of these, the “ask for review,” was recently in the news as something that traditional publishers have begun including in the back matter of their books, apparently learning from independent authors.

When I first published my books in 2012 and for a couple of years thereafter, I also asked for reviews in the back matter, just as a standard practice, but I've stopped doing it.

Why would I do that? Don't I want them to leave book reviews?

Let me explain…

Of course, I would like to have more reviews — who wouldn't? But what I would like, even more, is for someone who has just finished a book to be eager to look at and buy my other books. That “bird in the hand” of a satisfied reader is far more important to me than another drop in the review bucket for a potential reader down the line. My customer is a customer first, way ahead of being a member of my marketing team.

I think asking for the review smacks of desperation and comes across as a bit unprofessional. I don't want my reader to start thinking of me that way.

And you know what? It doesn't make any difference to the number of reviews I get, near as I can tell. The review rate seems to be about 1-3% of units sold (I don't do freebies), and that seems to be good across most current and active authors, trad or indie.

Think about what that means… That means that 97-99% of my readers didn't leave a review. And every one of them probably felt a bit uncomfortable about it, if they read the request. Did that make them less likely to buy another book? Who knows?

Here's my take on the psychology of it (aside from the vibe it sends)…

If the person is accustomed to writing reviews, then they'll write one or not, regardless of what I say, just as if it were any other author's book.

But if they're not so accustomed, we're asking them to change their behavior to accommodate us. We're asking for a favor. But that's not the transaction deal our readers make — the deal was, they give us money, and we give them entertainment.

Not everyone wants to learn a new behavior
Not everyone wants to learn a new behavior

It's as though we only published ebooks and asked people who only read print to learn how to use a new format just so they can access our books. That's asking them to change behavior, too.

Unless we are in the “super-cool, new trend” category and we've encountered a techie (and even then), asking people to change their behavior to do us a favor isn't really going to work. And it may embarrass or guilt the recipient, which is not how we want them to think about us.

Better to just thank them, give them the “for more information” and newsletter signup links, and send them on to the “1st chapter of next book” with its link so they can buy the next one while they still like us.

That's more important than a book review any day.