FAQ: “How do you get reviews?”

There is a ratio going around that you’ll get on average one unsolicited review for every thousand books you sell. At this moment of writing, I have 115 reviews on GoodReads and 75+ reviews on Amazon. And I can assure you that I haven’t sold a 1000 books per review, more like 30-50 books. And none of these reviews is bought*.

I did a few giveaways on GoodReads that netted me some reviews, but most of my reviews are from two things:

  • I give away ARCs, which are Advance Review Copies. That means that I send reviewers my books before they are published, so they can post a review when the book is published.
  • I ‘request’ reviews from my readers by posting this message at the end of each book:

Thank you for reading the Amsterdam Assassin Series. 
For an independent author, gaining exposure relies on readers spreading the word, so if you have the time and inclination, please consider leaving a short review wherever you can.

Most readers won’t consider leaving a review, because they are not used to voicing their opinion, or because they don’t see the importance, or just because no one asks them for their opinion. That’s why the message at the end of the book is so powerful – I just remind them gently that I would appreciate if they’d tell others about this book they enjoyed, so others can enjoy the books too. And I’m serious about reminding them gently – don’t push readers into feeling obligated to review your books. And be grateful for every review, whether it’s 20 or 200 words long.


 

*Customer reviews now outnumber professional reviews, but that has also made for some underhanded practices – just as you can buy Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, you can also buy reviews, especially through websites like Fiverr.com which trades in fake reviews that are posted through multiple accounts.

Other loathsome review practices are the ‘quid pro quo’ review circles, where authors buy each other’s books and give each other glowing reviews, and authors creating ‘sock puppet’ accounts to write their own reviews and upvote themselves (and/or downvote their competition. Most of these fake reviews are easy to spot, since they are as formulaic as the books they promote, but it’s still profitable since many readers equate having a lot of reviews with ‘a quality book’.


Excerpt from the new standalone noir, In Pocket:

Around nine-thirty, I entered Small Talk, a luncheonette at the corner of Van Baerlestraat and Willemsparkweg, ordered an espresso and went upstairs to the first floor.
Lilith followed me inside and added a cappuccino to my order. She sat down across from me, took a brush from her shoulder bag and brushed back her damp hair. After dabbing her face with a tissue, she unbuttoned her jeans jacket. Her nipples jabbed the damp fabric of her T-shirt. She shivered and gave me a reproachful look which I ignored. It wasn’t my problem if she didn’t know how to dress for this fickle weather.
“So how many did you take?”
I sipped my espresso. “You didn’t count them?”
“Seven?”
“You’re guessing,” I said. “I told you to observe indirectly, not to let your attention wander.”
Lilith leaned forward, her damp breast touching my jacket. “Could we drop the hostilities?”
I looked into her pleading eyes. “You think I’m being hostile? You blackmail me into instructing you while you have absolutely no aptitude whatsoever for my profession. I’m wasting time I don’t have on this farce, so—considering the circumstances—I think I’m downright congenial.”
“Listen, I’m sorry if I came on like a bitch, but I wouldn’t do this if I wasn’t desperate. Have you never been desperate?”
“Never.”
“Lucky you.” Lilith slouched in her chair, her gaze on the tabletop. “I never had any luck.”
“Spare me your life story. Save it for someone who actually gives a shit.”
I could see she wanted to punch me, but her desire to stay in my good graces apparently got the better of her. She rested her chin in her hands and studied me. “How about yours?”
“My life story?” I snorted. “Nothing to tell.”
“Nothing?” She looked up, tilted her head. “I find that hard to believe.”
I shrugged.
“Why don’t you tell me how you become a pickpocket?”
“How?” I smirked. “I became a pickpocket by sticking my hand in other people’s pockets.”
“You don’t want to tell me?”
I finished my espresso. “See? You can be perceptive, with a little effort.”
“Are you going to be like this all day?”
“What did you expect? That I’d ‘revel’ in teaching you my ‘craft’?”
“I’m sorry if I’m a nuisance.”
“You’re not sorry. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. I’m not an idiot.”
“I mean it.”
“No, you don’t. If you were truly sorry, you’d get up and get out of my life.”
“I can’t. I need this. I need you.”
I shook my head. “I was just the sucker who made a mistake in your vicinity. Now I have to pay for it.”
I got up and she followed me to the counter, where she paid for both our coffees. I didn’t thank her, but led the way to the nearest tram stop. The rain turned into a steady drizzle and I noticed she was still shivering in her thin jacket.
She rubbed her arms. “Where will we go now?”
“Albert Cuyp. You bruise easily?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Why do you ask?”
“Just answer the question.”
“If I’m knocked about I’ll bruise, but I don’t plan on getting caught.”
I shot her a scornful look. “Never heard of ‘collision theft’?”
“You want me to bump into someone and pick his pocket?”
“You bump into the mark. Extracting wallets is my department.”
“Oh. Okay, no problem.”
I scowled. “We’ll see.”

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers


In Pocket now on GoodReads and Amazon.

In PocketIn Pocket by Martyn V. Halm

As the author, of course I cannot rate or review my own work. What I can do is give you, the potential reader, some background information about In Pocket.

About twenty years ago, when I was working on what was to become Reprobate: A Katla Novel, I had a half-finished story on a busker who lived in a delivery van and pretended to be blind in order to rake in more money. As such, Wolfgang was the only one who saw a murder by assassin Katla Sieltjes, who promptly started hunting him down to shut him up.

The story didn’t work and I wrote a new story with Katla as the protagonist, who breaks her rule of never leaving a witness alive when blind busker Bram Merleyn enters her crime scene. Readers of the Amsterdam Assassin Series know what happened after that, so I’m not going to rehash that story.

In the meantime, Wolfgang was still living in his van with his pet rat Gabriel, but he changed from busker to pickpocket, and acquired a heroin addiction (being one of my characters can be very taxing).

I often write on several projects at the same time, and I kept adding to the story of Wolfgang the pickpocket until it reached critical mass, all the pieces fell together, and In Pocket almost wrote itself.

In Pocket is a stand-alone novel, but it has some connections with the Amsterdam Assassin Series beyond the same locations – if you read carefully, you will find cameos from characters that also appear in the series.

I make free e-book review copies available to readers who want to review In Pocket on GoodReads and retailer sites. To get your hands on a free review copy, send an email to katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘review copy In Pocket’ in the subject line.

View all my reviews

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers


REVIEW: How Do You Deal With Negative Reviews?

Can You ‘Deal’ With Negative Reviews?

I don’t ‘deal’ with negative reviews, since there’s nothing to deal with. A negative review is the opinion of a reader, intended to express their feelings about your work to other readers (not, I repeat, not to you, the author, because that is what ‘feedback’ is for). By the way, I make a distinction between a negative review (where the reviewer criticizes the book) and a bad review (where the reviewer criticizes the author).

I read all the reviews I can find. Not because I like to flagellate myself, but I’m interested in the opinions of my readers, even if they don’t contact me directly. Sometimes you can glean information that might help you avoid a scathing review in the future. File that nugget and go on your way.

The one thing you should never, ever do, is try to convince the reviewer that they are erroneous in their opinion. That has about 0.001% of actually succeeding.

You write a book, but you publish a product. If the product is good, then the ratio of negative to positive reviews will be low. If it sucks, the majority of your reviews will suck. You control the product, not the opinion. If you cannot live with the negative reviews, pull the product.

Personally, I don’t want to give a negative reviewer extra power by becoming upset. Reviews are like the weather, you don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s more useful to carry an umbrella than to become angry at the sky for the rain.

There is no book that receives 100% positive reviews. And that is good. Because a book that pleases everyone is probably not worth reading.

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PUBLISHING: How To Set This Book Free On Amazon!

FUNDAMENTALERROR

Amazon doesn’t allow self-publishers to sell their books for free, as loss-leaders, but I have two free stories on Amazon.

Now, I want to set a third story free on Amazon, and I need your help to do that.

Will you help me? It will only take a minute or so. Here’s what you do:

First, copy this Kobo link: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/fundamental-error

Second, follow this link to the page of Fundamental Error on Amazon.com

If you scroll down the Amazon page, you’ll see this under Product Details:

Click on tell us about a lower price and you’ll get a window where it says:
Where did you see this lower price?
Click on ‘Website’ and you’ll get another menu that says:
URL
Price ($)
Shipping cost ($)
Now paste the Kobo url in the URL window
Put 0.00 in price
Put 0.00 in shipping cost
and press Submit Feedback.
That’s it.
I already reported the lower price, but it needs to be reported by several people for Amazon to take action and price match Fundamental Error on Amazon with the free download on Kobo.
I thank you for your help and support.
Sincerely,
Martyn V. Halm

Like to receive a free REVIEW copy of Reprobate?

To get the Amsterdam Assassin Serie noticed among the many books already out there, I offer free copies of Reprobate in exchange for reviews on Goodreads, Scribd, Amazon, Kobo and iTunes.

REPROBATE

Assassin Katla breaks her own rules when confronted with an unusual witness…

Blessed with an almost non-existent conscience, Katla Sieltjes, expert in disguising homicide, views assassination as an intricate and rewarding occupation. Hidden behind her male alter ego Loki, Katla receives anonymous assignments, negotiates the terms with clients through electronic means, all to protect her identity. Her solitary existence satisfies her until she meets a blind musician whose failure to notice a ‘closed’ sign causes him to wander in on Katla’s crime scene. And Katla breaks one of her most important rules – never leave a living witness.

Reprobate is the first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. With authentic details and fast-paced action, featuring an uncompromising heroine and a supporting cast of unusual characters, Reprobate gives a rare glimpse in the local Dutch culture, information on the famous Dutch capital, the narcotics trade, computer hacking, motorcycle gangs, mehndi bridal tattoos, martial arts, the psychology of social engineering, and the brutal effectiveness of disciplined violence.

This e-book now features a glossary.

So, if you want to support me and help me get noticed, send an email to katlasieltjes@yahoo.com with ‘Reprobate Review copy’ in the subject and tell me what e-reader you use and I’ll send you the Reprobate e-book file attached to the email. You can download the file and upload it to your e-reader. Available files are .mobi, for the Amazon Kindle, and .epub for the Nook, Kobo, Sony, iPad and most smartphones with e-reader compatibility.

Thanks to everyone for your support.


Visibility on Amazon: Changing Categories and Keywords, Part 2…

How to Increase the Visibility of Your Book on Amazon, Part 2:

How to find your category on Amazon:

I got some questions on how to find your category, so here are some detailed instructions:

Go to the homepage of Amazon. Do not type anything in the search bar, but tap the ‘All’ and select Kindle Store in the drop down menu. Now you get everything in the Kindle Store with a list on the left that can help you narrow down your search.

Leaving the search bar empty, you go to the second filter option ‘Kindle Store’, where you have a list:

Kindle Devices (34)
Kindle Accessories (466)
Kindle Blogs (4)
Kindle eBooks (2,627,280)
Kindle Magazines (490)
Kindle Newspapers (157)
Kindle Singles (519)
Kindle Worlds (475)

Select Kindle eBooks (2,627,280)

If you scroll down, you’ll find a list in the left bar with:

Kindle eBooks
Arts & Photography (146,000)
Biographies & Memoirs (115,714)
Business & Money (167,153)
Children’s eBooks (136,939)
Comics & Graphic Novels (21,583)
Computers & Technology (46,320)
Cookbooks, Food & Wine (38,428)
Crafts, Hobbies & Home (49,929)
Education & Reference (162,350)
Gay & Lesbian (25,800)
Health, Fitness & Dieting (165,809)
History (145,069)
Humor & Entertainment (72,955)
Literature & Fiction (856,128)
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (148,423)
Nonfiction (1,339,206)
Parenting & Relationships (51,240)
Politics & Social Sciences (183,981)
Professional & Technical (209,018)
Religion & Spirituality (275,450)
Romance (189,206)
Science & Math (156,301)
Science Fiction & Fantasy (161,909)
Self-Help (68,535)
Sports & Outdoors (45,612)
Teen & Young Adult (55,344)
Travel (41,338)
Foreign Languages (554,299)

If you select one of them, you’ll narrow down further.
Select ‘Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (148,423)’ and you get:

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Crime Fiction (33,009)
Mystery (67,450)
Suspense (42,654)
Thrillers (55,928)

Select Mystery (67,450) and you get:

Mystery
African American (700)
British Detectives (3,561)
Collections & Anthologies (4,130)
Cozy (2,982)
Gay & Lesbian (832)
Hard-Boiled (5,786)
Historical (4,790)
International Mystery & Crime (1,626)
Police Procedurals (6,312)
Private Investigators (3,063)
Series (567)
Women Sleuths (11,826)

This is the last selection you can make in this area. So say your protagonist is a female detective, so you select Women Sleuths (11,826)

Now select the first book at the top.

Now scroll down to Product Details and you’ll find:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Police Procedurals
#1 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Women Sleuths
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Women Sleuths

Copy the link you like:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Women Sleuths

And go through the procedure to tell KDP you want your category changed to: Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Women Sleuths

Good luck

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Visibility on Amazon: Changing Categories and Keywords…

How to Increase the Visibility of Your Book on Amazon:

Categories on Amazon seem limited when you try to add them to your ebook in the KDP dashboard. When I tried to categorise the Amsterdam Assassin Series, all I could get was ‘Fiction>Mystery & Thriller>Suspense’ and ‘Fiction>Mystery & Thriller>General’, both categories that have hundreds of thousands of books in them. Which makes your book pretty difficult to get on the first few pages. What you need to do is adjust your category so you’re no longer a small fish a big pool, but the big fish in the small pool. And here is how you do that:

Changing Your Category:
If you go to Amazon Kindle Store and you see all the books available, click down on your category. First you select ‘Kindle e-books’ (2,610,028 books), then click ‘Mystery, Thriller & Suspense’{147,801), and select ‘Suspense’ (42,470). You’ll find that Suspense is divided into different categories that were not visible in the KDP dashboard, namely Ghosts, Horror, Occult, Paranormal, Political, Psychological. By narrowing down to, for instance, ‘Psychological’, despite the fact that Psychological is one of the larger subcategories, you still reduce your competition from 42,470 (Suspense) to 9,723 (Psychological).

(Below the categories, you also see two more selections you’re able to make; ‘Moods & Themes’ and ‘Characters’. We’ll come back to that in a minute, but we come to changing/adding categories to your book.)

First, copy the string that denotes the category you want to be in: ‘Kindle eBooks › Mystery, Thriller & Suspense › Suspense › Psychological’’.

Now, go to your KDP dashboard, where you edit details of your book. If you check your categories, they’ll be different from the Amazon website. Now, what you’ll do is go to the bottom of the page, where in the lower right corner you can click on ‘Contact Us’. That will take you to the ‘What is the problem?’ page.

Choose ‘Publish Your Book’, and ‘Add/Change Categories’. You’ll find that you can choose to contact by telephone or email. Select email and in the subject line you put ‘Category Not Listed’.

Fill in the required tabs: Name and ASIN of the book, and you have a window where you can explain your reason for contacting KDP.

Officially, you can have two categories, but KDP is known for adding categories without removing old ones. So, phrase your question something like this:

Hello,
I’d like to add (Title of your book) to this category: ‘Kindle eBooks › Mystery, Thriller & Suspense › Suspense › Psychological’.
If necessary, you can remove the category: ‘Kindle eBooks › Mystery, Thriller & Suspense › Suspense’.
Cordially, (Your name).

In my case, they didn’t remove categories, but just added the new one.

Keywords:
We also noticed the ‘Moods & Themes’ and ‘Characters’ below the Categories and Subcategories. I asked KDP about them, and they replied that they cannot add them to the category, but both can be added to the seven keywords you’re allowed. For Reprobate, I selected (Characters:) ‘Female Protagonists’ (146) (which counts as one keyword!) and (Moods & Themes) ‘Dark’ (362). If you check both boxes, it reduced the amount of books to… 23 books.

Conclusion, by adding ‘Psychological’ to your category, and adding the words ‘Dark’ and ‘Female Protagonists’ to your keywords, you reduce the competition from 42,470 to 23.

So, to make sure that your book can be found easier by browsers, select a less competitive category and insert a Theme and a Mood into your keywords. One important note on Keywords, don’t put words in your limited keyword section that are already in your book title or description, because they are already in the search facility. So, I shouldn’t put ‘Amsterdam, Assassin, homicide’ in my keywords, because those words are already being used. Instead, my keywords should be ‘dark, female protagonist, police procedural, crime fiction’, or something similar.

Although changing category and keywords will make your book more visible than the standard categories and wrong keywords, take you time to experiment by changing/adding other categories and keywords.

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FAQ: Permafree on Amazon?

One of the great mysteries for beginning writers is how to get books up on Amazon permanently free, or ‘permafree’, because when you publish your book through KDP, you will get a notice that you have to put a price of 0.99 USD or higher on your book.

So, how do you get your books permafree on Amazon?

I have two permafree short stories on Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo, as ‘loss-leaders’ for my Amsterdam Assassin Series.

LOCKEDROOM  MICROCHIPMURDER

 

Here’s how I did it:

To get something to go permafree on Amazon, publish it at USD 0.00 on Kobo and iTunes, publish your book for 99 cents on Amazon and go to your book page. Under the Product Details, you find:

Would you like to give feedback on images or tell us about a lower price?

Click that link and provide the URL to the free book on iTunes/Kobo and the list price (0.00 USD). It helps if people other than the author report the lower price. If you’re a member of KindleBoards, they have a thread where you can post your book and report other people’s books, while they report your books.

That’s how I got Locked Room and Microchip Murder permafree on Amazon.

(If this message was helpful to you, I’d appreciate it if you show your support by downloading my free books)


Stopped Reading REVIEW: The Killing League by Dani Amore

The Killing LeagueThe Killing League by Dani Amore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I managed to get to 29% of the Kindle version of The Killing League until the lack of verisimilitude deflated my suspense of disbelief.

I had high expectations of this book, due to the enticing blurb, but the story failed to deliver. The characters were described to provide a visual image, but I got no sense of their internal emotions beyond what Ms. Amore told me they were feeling. The writing is not unskilled, and some of the descriptions were quite visceral, but when someone fires a gun in a forest and:

The smell of cordite hung in the air around them.

That’s a huge red flag that someone doesn’t know what they’re writing about. Cordite hasn’t been used firearm ammunition since second World War and the triple-based gunpowder that replaced might have a acidic metallic smell that might be picked up by extremely sensitive noses, but only if someone fires boxes of ammunition in a closed space, like a small room or a badly ventilated shooting range. In the open air? No chance that a smell will hang around after firing one round.

Of course, Ms. Amore is probably not the only writer who mistakenly uses cordite with post-WWII ammunition, but there was more to The Killing League that failed to engage me.

The lack of characterization was grating. None of the characters was even faintly interesting. Not the serial killers, who seemed derivative and unoriginal, nor the protagonists Mack and Nicole, who are both bland and superficial.

The pace was sluggish because the writer felt compelled to fill whole scenes with descriptions or explanations that were not necessary for any mildly intelligent reader to figure out for themselves. Dialogue was often pedestrian and interspersed with dragging descriptions:

“Hey Boss!” Antony Toffol, her sous chef, called out as she started inventory on the wine selections.
“Yeah,” she said. He stood with the door to the kitchen open. Nicole smelled the olive oil, garlic, onion, rosemary, shallots, paprika and black pepper that were being used in various incarnations.
“Someone dropped off a card for you,” he said. “It was under the door when I opened up — it’s over on the receptionist table.”
“Okay, thanks,” she said.

I don’t like to ‘force’ myself to read. There are so many books still to be read, that I couldn’t justify wasting my time on this one. Sorry, Ms. Amore, but the second star is merely because the formatting and editing seemed professional. The story itself didn’t rate more than 1 star for me.

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