I got my first one-star rating the other day.
I logged into Goodreads the other morning. Since I’m a Goodreads author, I have access to an Author Dashboard; I can see the stats pertaining to my book, Out Where the Buses Don’t Run, on the top right of my screen. I noticed there was a new rating for my book. This new rating dropped the approval ratings to a little under three-and-a-half-stars.
Uh-oh. This means I got a bad rating.
I scanned the book page to find the culprit…err…new rating. And there it was: A one-star rating.
I wasn’t angry, which surprised me. I was annoyed, not so much by the one-star rating, but by the astonish lack of context behind the review, other than the “I won this book via a Goodreads giveaway” comment. More on that in a moment.
I understand my anthology of blogs, many of which are pretty edgy and contain the kind of foul language that would make stand-ups like Louis C.K. and Dave Attell nod in approval, isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t have a wide market, but then again, neither does my blog. On the flip side, my blog is read by a lot of people, and it has been in its different incarnations on the other platforms its’ been hosted on. I pride myself on crafting a blog post that’s entertaining and thought-provoking, and Out Where the Buses Don’t Run ascribes to that same ethos. Out Where the Buses Don’t Run was inspired by both bloggers I’ve become very close friends with, as well as pop culture essayists like David Sedaris and Chuck Klosterman, whom I admire greatly. So I wondered why this reader, who won a copy of my book through a Goodreads giveaway, gave me such a shitty rating. Better yet, I wondered why she couldn’t be bothered to write a few sentences why she hated my book so much. Was it my vicious takedown of hipsters? Was my ode to the mixtape as a biographic metaphor simply too self-indulgent for her tastes? Was my imagined look into the sexual deviance of Paul McCartney just too disgusting for her? Maybe. A simple “I HATED THIS BOOK. GUS SANCHEZ SHOULD NEVER WRITE AGAIN!” would have sufficed.
I couldn’t resist looking at her profile, to get a better understanding of her literary tastes. She lists the Harry Potter books as her favorites. The Lemony Snicket books, too. Alright, so she prefers YA.
(She also gave Dan Brown’s books favorable ratings. But not mine. THE FUCK?)
Alright, then, so given that she prefers – and forgive me for the crass generalization – more escapist fantasy fiction, why then would she have opted to enter to win a copy of my book, knowing what she knew about my book? See, just before you throw your hat into a Goodreads book giveaway, you can read a synopsis about the book in question. I’ve entered a few giveaways myself. I wouldn’t enter to win a Dan Brown-style conspiracy thriller, or some Sex and the City-regurgitated chick-lit novel. But a lot of people will enter a giveaway just for the sake of winning something for free.
And therein lays the problem with the giveaway. On the one hand, you want to reach out to as many new readers as possible. It’s one thing if your friends get behind you and buy your book; I’m grateful for the support I’ve gotten from my friends, and for the very nice (I’d even say excellent) reviews I’ve received so far. But I’m not interested in just preaching to the choir. I want to reach out to the unconverted masses. That’s the reason why I ran a Goodreads giveaway, and I was ecstatic that my book, even with its topicality and tone, still managed to attract more than 500 entrants.
On the other hand, just how interested are those entrants in your book? Do they really want to read your book, or do they just want something that’s free? Because one thing that’s nagged me to no end is seeing the same people enter giveaways, no matter what the book. I enter a giveaway because I’m interested in reading that book, period. I created a giveaway because I wanted to reach an audience. I didn’t intend for my book to get into the hands of people who entered a giveaway simply just to win a book. That’s shitty. This giveaway wasn’t free for me, after all; it cost me money – no, it didn’t break the bank – to send five copies of my book via the USPS. Two of those copies went overseas. A mistake I’ll never make again. Sorry, friends in the United Kingdom; if you want a copy of my book, I’ll see about getting you a discounted copy somehow.
(A side note: years ago, I used to get free albums from record companies. Simple task, really; all you had to do was get in touch with any record label’s marketing department, concoct some cockamamie story about how you were the entertainment editor for a local newspaper, and they’d send you free CDs. Why the hell not? That’s what marketing and PR departments did. Except that about 80% of what they sent you was crap. At least I thought it was crap. The only reason why I did that was so I could box them all up and take them down to a few used record shops and get some cash for them. I’d get some grocery money for the ones they’d buy, the rest I’d simply donate to the Salvation Army. Why am I telling you this? Because I can understand the “giveaway” mindset when it comes to certain people. Sure, I don’t mind if it’s something I’m really not all that interested in reading, or listening to, as long as it’s free.
Also, I shouldn’t be a hypocrite when it comes to “free.” You know those free App/Book/Song download cards you get from Starbucks? Yeah, I take those. I download those apps. I’ve downloaded several apps that I’ve been using a lot. Like this one called Sky Guide…man, it’s this sweet astronomy app…anyway.)
I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I did what I set out to do with the giveaway, and that was to “reach out to the unconverted masses.” Too bad this one particular reader rejected my message. The truth is, I’d do another Goodreads giveaway.
I’ll close this post with a message to the woman who gave me a one-star rating: no hard feelings. You won the book, and while it did cost me some dough to send you a copy of my book overseas – the winner of the book hails from Northern Ireland, so maybe some of my humor might have been lost in translation? – I’m glad you read my book. I’m sorry it wasn’t to your liking, but I do ask that you find my book a new home. Perhaps your local library, or a used book store? Or a friend with a more perverse sense of humor?
Out Where the Buses Don’t Run: Seven Years of Rants, Raves, Dirty Jokes, and Bad Ideas From a Small But Loud Corner of the Blogosphere is currently available in both paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon. Get yours today!