Readers have vast, sometimes unknown power: they can elevate the mediocre to a meteoric rise, make them successful and famous. They can also destroy a writer’s career well before it ever gets going. Readers have that ability. They may not even realize what unbelievable power they have at first.
Many of the unknown, poor and struggling authors stretch themselves to extraordinary lengths in order to put out a book capable of delighting. Myself, just these past two weeks, I’ve worked from 8am until 10pm, with a writing break squished somewhere in there to squeak toward the culmination of the second book of a series.
There won’t be a third. I hate to break this to you, if you’ve read the most recent release by Damien and I, and you were like ‘yes!’ or even if you eyed the book and were like ‘I’ll wait until the series is done’.
It won’t be.
And here’s why: someone, possibly several someones, read this book and then used their almighty power to bury the book in the dung heap of low reviews. Every one star rating takes something like 10 five star ratings to combat it. For writers like Shirtaloon and Dinniman, this isn’t a problem: they have thousands of rabid followers ready to five star them by now. Aleron Kong has the same. And that matters so much more than you can imagine. And the opposite can be true… let’s imagine for a second those rabid fans, even a fraction of them, were tasked with finding new books in the genre and just throwing shade all over them. It would really only take 3 or 4 low star reviews in order to kill a book. Do these people exist? Nah, of course not.
What kind of monster would try to undercut what’s not even competition? After all, people can read books faster than authors can write them, so having a robust and professional new genre of books is ideal, isn’t it? So psssh, wave off the nagging idea that someone with a lot of money, or even a mid-lister is targeting your books for obliteration. The only person who would do that sort of thing is the type of author who would try to carve out the entire genre for himself and claim ownership over the whole thing… luckily such people don’t exist.
Say for instance I’m a new author. I work hard at my book, I spend most of a year polishing it, I shell out five hundred bucks for the cover, and I promote it with the last of my pocket change, a couple hundred bucks. It sells all right, maybe I make 300 off the pre-order. I’m feeling all right!
And then the first one or two star appears. I don’t have a following to offset this nasty reviewer… and it doesn’t look like they’ve even read the book? The review is incredibly vague, to the point where it’s impossible to believe they made their way through the book and honestly thought it was a pile of dogshit they’d cross the street to avoid.
While I might have plans for a five book series, I can’t fork over a thousand dollars on a loss on the next five books. It doesn’t make sense. I have to cut somewhere. My wife and kid need to eat and go out and have fun sometimes. I can’t keep propping up a cover designer and Facebook’s or Amazon’s algorithms.
I give up. Series over.
Back to Nolan, because while the hypothetical new author is a sad story, I’m here with the real story. Nolan, the real guy with the real wife and the real kid, the real attempt at a writing career.
I want to reiterate, that, if by chance you know someone who’s tanking new authors on purpose, please for the love of all that’s holy, don’t flame people’s art. Approach this person, shame them, tell them to take down whatever spurious and bullshit reviews they’ve written. And if you’re that person, and you’re somehow reading this, I want to let you know that I’ve worked for hundreds of hours. Honed the work for literally thousands of hours over the course of fifteen plus years. I know what ridiculous incoherent drivel looks like. I’ve read some, and I’ve written some. My book ain’t it.
And if you’ve written one star and two star reviews for other reasons, go back and take a look at them. See if the author deserved it. One star means you didn’t get what you paid for. You bought something and were handed something COMPLETELY different. Again, our book ain’t that. It says dark fantasy isekai in the blurb, it’s dark fantasy isekai. Give two stars to something broken, something you bought and immediately didn’t work. Two stars is for oh, okay, this… oh it fell apart.
Three stars for a shitty book, four stars for a passable book, five stars for a book you want to see in sequel or series form.
And spread the word amongst your people: tearing people down is bad for everybody. You have the power to change that. You have the power to wield for good or ill.