Category Archives: independent publishing

Recovering From a Bad Review – When One Person’s Opinion Hurts Your Sales

TL;DR: One bad review is hurting my book sales. I need to make a comeback, so I’m offering free copies of my novel to anyone who will post an honest review on Amazon. To get your free e-book of my LGBT fantasy novel, click here and submit your request!


“Bad reviews happen to everyone.”

I’ve seen this all the time from writing sites and author blogs that try to offer some comfort to authors who have received negative comments on their work on such sites as Amazon. “Don’t take it personal and just move on.” I’ve even seen a few articles that claim bad reviews can be a good thing–that they might have the curious effect of “boosting sales”, or they could contain good advice about what not to do with your next book. For the obviously trollish reviews, the best advice I’ve seen is “just ignore it.” (Removing an inappropriate review from a site like Amazon is notoriously hard, apparently, even if that review violates guidelines.) Obviously, I’ve received negative and mixed reviews before for my unpublished writing. I took what I could from those and moved on, as all the articles have recommended.

But one thing I don’t see these writing sites discussing is what to do when you get a bad review, and have little to no reviews to balance it out. What do you do when one negative review impacts your sales so severely as to cause a virtual flat line? We’re talking about a kiss of financial death here, not just hurt feelings.

I’m in one such position right now. Currently, Amazon is where I’m selling the most units of my first and latest release, Tributaries, which came out just a short month ago. My planning was a bit rushed. It was one of those live-and-learn experiences. I set aside just one short month for promotion before releasing the book. I sent free copies to dozens of blogs, made announcements on all my personal sites, advertised tirelessly on sites like Twitter and Tumblr, launched a Project Wonderful campaign, entered a Halloween book contest, and gave away ten free copies in a promotional raffle. I did manage to get some pre-orders, but naturally, one month is too short a time to generate any real buzz, so when my book came out, it was basically a blank slate. Anyone buying it was taking a risk on me as an unknown author.

What all that meant was that any reviews I received from the incredible diverse (and often unprofessional) reading masses was going to determine my sales. Scary, right? Especially considering the trolls that haunt the internet. But for the most part, I got a handful of mostly good reviews, with one or two mixed reviews tossed in. The problem? Most of my positive feedback was on Goodreads, where people are known to add books to their lists and virtually forget about them. I’m guilty of this myself, having I think over a hundred books on my “to-read” list. And on Amazon, my primary seller? I managed to snag one glowing 5-star review one month after the book’s release. “That’s great!” I thought. Then three days ago, I got a scathing one-star review from a guy who said my book was “pointless” and who apparently didn’t think too much of my books “rare vocabulary.” He even took a shot at the fact that I have a bachelor’s degree, like I was trying to lord that over everyone. Ouch!

And I could’ve ignored this review for what it was–the spiteful opinion of one guy who wasn’t even part of my targeted demographic. This was written by an older white man who has only bothered to review seven other books aside from mine, and only one out of those seven got four stars from him. A picky reader. Certainly not a crime, and it’s not like his review violated guidelines.

But his scathing comments had a huge impact on my sales. The effect was almost immediate. He posted his review on December 17th. You wanna know what my sale chart looks like on Kindle Direct Publishing now?

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Ouch, ouch, ouch! What happened? Can one man’s negative comments really have such a devastating effect on an author?

In my particular case…yes. You see, when you have such a small pool of reviews and a small publishing history to go with it, the fact of the matter is that unless I’m wowing people with tons of stellar reviews, no one is interested. It’s the insane hurdle that new indie writers have to overcome. This man’s one-star rating dropped my book’s average from five-stars to three. Even if I got another five-star rating, I’d only get half-a-star back of what I’d lost. Hardly the kind of thing that boosts confidence in potential customers, right? It’s particularly frustrating as I have a 4.2 star rating on Goodreads (at the time of this post) based on multiple reviews, but most of those who might actually purchase my book only ever see the feedback on Amazon. Talk about skewed perception!

So the question is: how do I come back from this?

The short answer? I honestly have no idea. Right now, all I can think to do is wait and have faith that someone who has already received the book will be kind enough to post a more positive review. What’s excruciating is that, until I get some better ratings to off-set this one bad rating, my sales will continue to look like the one above. I’ve already sent out free copies to tons of people prior to this latest set-back, specifically requesting a review on Amazon. I’d do a free sale if I was enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, but I’m not. If this keeps up, I might have to resort to editing the base price to see if I can encourage more people to try the book. Over a hundred people have purchased it since its release, and I have no idea if any of them will bother to say anything about it–good or bad.

And in the meantime? I guess I can just put my head between my knees and try to breathe. Publishing a book is rough, but it can be even rougher when one person sets out to destroy what little chances you already had. I don’t know that reviewers realize the kind of impact their comments have on writers like me. For me, this isn’t a hobby. I’m trying to make this my livelihood. The thing that hurts the most? It’s most likely that this person doesn’t give a damn about any of that.

…All that said, for the next few weeks only, I’m offering my novel for free to anyone who is willing to post a review on Amazon. This is for an HONEST review, and you don’t have to feel pressured to write something positive just because of my woeful tale. I know my book isn’t perfect, I wrote the original manuscript when I was just 19 for heaven’s sake, and it’s my first attempt at writing a major novel. BUT I’ve also made significant improvements since then, and I’m confident my work isn’t a one-star affair. All you need to do to get your free copy of my book is go to the contact page of my book’s site by clicking here, and submit your request for a copy. After that, I’ll personally send you three formats of it: PDF, MOBI, and EPUB. I realize that any reviews posted on Amazon will have to state that you received the book for free, and that it won’t be a “verified purchase”, but anything is better than what I have right now.

So I implore you. If you like independent books and/or LGBT fiction, then please consider reading my work and posting your feedback on Amazon! Don’t let this one person have the final say on what has taken over six years for me to accomplish!

I’ll be doing this until the end of the first full week of January. (That’s the 10th.) Spread the word about this, even if you feel you can’t read the work yourself! Every little bit helps.

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Cyber Monday Weekend – Tributaries E-book sale!

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This weekend only, get my LGBTQ fantasy romance novel, TRIBUTARIES, for just $1 when you use the coupon code GS67N at Smashwords! Offer ends December 2nd!

Click here to buy the book for yourself and a loved one!

What readers had to say about the book:
“This is a wonderful tale, and I really struggled to put it down. the characters are well-crafted and very likeable. Elmyrin is a strong warrior, and Nyx a shy shapeshifter. They interact in such a unique and easy way that you almost feel they’ve known each other all their lives. The relationship develops organically. I really felt in their world with them. I understood the motivations behind everything they did, and how they felt.” Phoenix Grey

“Tributaries: Eikasia Book One is an epic, intelligent, and original work that leads its reader into an emotional, mental and physical adventure. Montoya creates a lush mythical landscape that surrounds the reader in striking visuals and provides a delicious feast for the mind that satisfies one’s literary appetite from beginning to end. Tributaries will captivate hard core fantasy enthusiasts and action & adventure fiction lovers alike. The storytelling is smart and witty with a razor-edged humor that remains tongue-in–cheek all the while conveying deep thought. There is also a certain level of sexual and intellectual tension between the two main characters that will surely intrigue and excite. Best suited for the more avid reader, multiple plot levels, narratives and inner dialogue take you on a cerebral roller coaster ride filled with great passages and catchy quotes. Unlike many clichéd works which get lost in the shuffle, and gather dust in an occasionally tired genre, Tributaries offers a fresh and exciting boost that will not only capture its reader’s attention, but also their emotions.” – Victoria Janik

The plot summary:

Nyx is a feline shape shifter, lost and alone, host to a fierce and ferocious being that lies deep inside her. She harbors a deadly secret and is running for her life when she is saved by Elmiryn, a cursed warrior on a quest for revenge. The pair quickly become unlikely allies and embark upon a perilous physical and mental journey that will put both their skills and sanity to the test. Ultimately, they form a unique and powerful bond through their shared trials and tribulations. Together they continue onward and follow a path that leads to new and remarkable discoveries of both the worlds around, and within them.

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TRIBUTARIES NOW ON SALE!

My LGBTQ fantasy novel, Tributaries, is now on sale! Regular price is $3.99, but  Amazon seems to want to keep it at 2.99–perhaps due to price matching as I wait for the other retailers to update the price. So get it while that lasts! And please leave a review if you do get it. Reviews are the life blood of a writer’s career.

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Queer Lit, New Zines, and More LGBT Market Musing

So I received my first official review for the new Tributaries e-book, and it was four stars! But interestingly, it was one of those positive reviews that seem to lack…positivity? The reviewer wasn’t mean or discouraging, but her review had a tone of bemusement to it. Like she didn’t inherently “get” the book, and I don’t mean “get” as in a surface understanding, but “get” as in…she just didn’t get it! Apparently the reviewer (who was very kind to read my work when it was clearly something she wouldn’t have read had I not asked her to) was confused by the “lesbian romance” aspect of my story. She said the main characters, Nyx and Elmiryn, made her think of Frodo and Samwise from the Lord of the Rings, two close but otherwise “platonic” friends. I sent her an email thanking her for her honesty, but also included a tongue in cheek YouTube link of the (in)famous TBS LotR spot that poked fun at Frodo and Sam’s relationship.

I can’t really say that it’s because she was “straight” that she didn’t get my work. I’ve received emails from straight readers, some of them women, who remarked on how much they enjoy Eikasia (the name of my fantasy series) and how they’re surprised at how much they relate to Elmiryn and Nyx as people. Not lesbians. PEOPLE!

Fancy that!

So then I wondered, “Was the reviewer somehow expecting more…gayness? Was my story not alternative enough? Did she expect the characters to hem and haw about their homosexuality? For them to go through a ‘coming out’ process? Or did she think lesbian women would have been more romantically aggressive?” Because (with all due respect to the reviewer) I was equally confused by her perception that the story lacked a real sense of lesbian romance. Numerous times, Elmiryn propositions Nyx. Numerous times, Nyx displays a fascination and attraction toward Elmiryn’s body. They are close and physically intimate in a way that two women who only met each other wouldn’t typically allow so soon (if at all).

But the reviewer didn’t see how the characters could be gay! She even felt like the kiss at the end of the book was a surprise. I could only laugh, I was so bewildered.

Which then got me thinking (and worrying) that perhaps I’m at a further disadvantage than I had previously believed. Tributaries is a romance story, and the growing relationship does play an important role in the plot, but the romance is secondary to the fantasy adventure. I actually feel apprehensive telling potential lesbian readers about my book, because I don’t want to lie and say there’s RAGIN’ SEX in it (that doesn’t come for at least two more books, ha!) but I wonder if I don’t say that will they be interested at all?

Recently on this blog, I discussed a very small market for LGBT books and a severe lack of support for lesbian fiction. But maybe the problem is more than that for me? Maybe, it is isn’t just a lack of lesbian fiction, but a lack of queer lit. I don’t want to get too attached to terms, as people seem to have different ideas of what to call these small niche markets, but in this case, I’m talking about stories that just so happen to have central LGBTQIA characters in ordinary stories. Stories where the main focus isn’t how gay or alternative the protagonist is, how they struggle with their identity, or how they struggle with society’s perception of their identity.

To reiterate: We’re talking stories where the characters just so happen to be LGBTQIA. Queer Lit. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Say it with me: QUEER LIT!

And I realize now that I’ve been writing in an even smaller niche than I could have imagined. Nearly ALL of my writing to this day (Eikasia, Kliff’s Edge, and Akumu Love Panic!) fits into this curious little sub-genre. And why is it a sub-genre? Why, when the queer characters in these stories are having the same kind of adventures as such famous characters as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Buffy Summers? How can we make queer lit not a sub-genre of a sub-genre? By publishing more queer lit stories! The problem? Many publishers aren’t interested, and that includes many LGBT publishers.

Then I heard on Twitter of this really cool, amazing project. Vitality!

Vitality Magazine is meant to be a Queer Lit zine that focuses on stories with gay characters. Not erotic vignettes. Not coming-out-stories. Not dramas focusing on the struggle of the gay identity. Just…stories. Such a publication is VITAL in proving to publishers (and even readers) that Queer Lit is worthwhile. That it can be enjoyed by a universal audience if people just gave it a chance.

The goals of Vitality Magazine, as listed on their website–

The heart of Vitality can be broken up into five parts:

  • Positive portrayal of queerness
  • Casual integration of queerness into the lives of our characters
  • Interesting works of art and writing
  • Quality works of art and writing
  • Diversity is wonderful

So pardon the long introduction, but I wanted to share why I think this thing is (personally) so important. Why I pledged $100 to help get this magazine out to the world. And I hope that you support it too, for all that I’ve said. They are currently accepting submissions for their first issue early 2015, and entries must be sent by December 15th. They are accepting fiction, art, poetry, and comics!

If you still aren’t sold, you can give Vitality’s minizine a shot. It’s essentially a sample of what they intend to do!

Visit Vitality Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign!

Visit their official website!

And while you’re at it…

Please check out my new lesbian fantasy romance novel, Tributaries, on Smashwords!

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