Captive Reviews Shine a New Light

My first three novels were commercially published, but they received few reviews and have sold poorly, despite one being an Australian Christian Book of the Year finalist. So I decided I would self-publish my subsequent novels and promote them myself. I now have a total of 10 novels on the market.

Like every self-published author I am quite obsessive about getting reviews, especially on Amazon, as I know that these can make a difference to sales. I even have a spreadsheet on my computer and once a month I neurotically enter the number of Amazon reviews for each of my titles and the average rating (which is a pretty depressing thing to do, as your early reviews, mainly from friends and relatives, are glowing, whereas subsequent reviews inevitably include one-star and two-star dogs that gradually bring your averages down).

But now I suddenly find myself with a new stream of reviews that are among the most important and touching I have ever received. They put everything I have been doing in a new perspective. Amazon is no longer as important.

Maria Kannon - Smashwords Cover Jan 2013I am part of a group of Christian writers, the John 3:16 Marketing Network, whose 300+ members work to help promote one another’s writings. Though based in America, we are pretty international, with a globally diverse membership, including some here in Australia.

Recently the coordinator Lorilyn Roberts announced a new initiative, together with a Florida prison chaplain, Steve Fox, to take members’ books into prison to be read by the inmates, who would then write reviews, as part of a writing and job skills program.

I have recently received the first reviews of two of my thrillers, and they have thrilled me.

Here is Keith, reviewing “The Maria Kannon”:

I enjoyed the book, it had a good story and action. Also it didn’t drag with many pointless details, it just kept flowing.

And Lian (who describes himself as a Brother in Christ):

The main theme was that Christians should always act out of love, never vengeance. And at times some Christians must step up and do what is necessary to stop evil people from continuing evil….All in all a good read for an evening or weekend. I enjoyed it.

Of course, not all the reviews are positive. Here’s Robert:

The author has tried to twin the Japanese way of life and the Korean way of life into one simple life form, and it cannot be done. It is two wholly different life forms involved entirely upon God who in my opinion was not spoken of in a good manner….I have been to Japan myself and I have seen very little in the book to remind me of the Japanese people. I did not enjoy this book…

Coptic Martyr3But then, here’s William, reviewing “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo”:

The author seems to want to get across the importance of the persecution of the Christians around the world….This book was enjoyable. I had to rethink the way I see my faith according to a large view of what it is to be Christian.

Helping prisoners. Seeing people rethink their faith. Just what we as Christians should be doing. Thank you Keith and Lian and William and even Robert. Suddenly the mighty Amazon is no longer so important, as I view my writing endeavours in an altogether different light.

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