Yesterday, Dear Author blogger Sunita raised the idea that self-published genre fiction is creating a market for lemons–an environment where readers have no easy way to identify good books from bad books. If true, the author argues, this would be a very bad thing: if readers have no way to tell good from bad, many will simply quit reading altogether, turning to other media instead.

The argument goes like this: on Amazon, the chief ways to determine whether a book might be good are a) price and b) reviews. Yet both are highly flawed. In other markets, higher prices are usually an indicator of better quality. But with ebooks, you’ll often find a New York-published bestseller priced the exact same as a completely unknown self-published title. Thus price tells us nothing about whether a book is likely to be any good.

Reviews are no better. As evidence of this, Sunita points out that bestselling genre fiction typically has higher ratings than literary classics like The Great Gatsby. Self-published bestsellers have even higher ratings than the classics within their genres. Hugh Howey’s Wool, for instance, is shown to have better ratings than works like Ender’s Game, Cryptonomicon, or Neuromancer. Since the author can’t believe Wool might actually be better, Amazon’s reviews clearly aren’t useful for helping readers find good books, either.

It seems to me the discrepancy in ratings is evidence of a much simpler possibility: there is no problem at all. The system is working perfectly.

If the reviews are better on popular, bestselling genre fiction than on the classics, maybe what that means is.. genre fans enjoy genre fiction more than the general populace enjoys the classics. Classics which, incidentally, are largely recommended through word of mouth and trusted sources like reviewers and critics–who Sunita states are the best ways to discover new writers. Yet reviews are better on self-published bestsellers, whose initial popularity is generated almost entirely through Amazon’s recommendation system. Wouldn’t that mean that Amazon’s recommendation system is better than word of mouth or “trusted sources”?

Well, no. Not for her, anyway. Because she’s making two big mistakes. The first is assuming that her consumer habits are commonplace. I.e., the way she uses reviews doesn’t work well for her, therefore they must not be working for any customers. Yet the amount of people participating in the review system indicates that’s far from universal.

The second mistake is one she actually approaches in the article–and then immediately dismisses: “It’s entirely possible that readers of the Ward and Howey books were more satisfied with their reading experience than readers of the Tartt, Gibson, etc. … I have more trouble with the idea that the Ward and Howey books are better books.”

What is the difference between a “better” book and a book that readers are more satisfied with?

I think that, to many if not most readers, that’s two ways of saying the same thing. For Sunita, however, there is clearly a distinction. That’s because she only seems to recognize one area of quality: a book’s artistic or literary quality. What she’s leaving out is a book’s commercial or entertainment quality. These aren’t exclusionary. I like both. My personal favorite books are the ones that combine literary flair with strong and active plots (including many of the SF titles Sunita listed).

But I think it is beyond clear that most readers care far more about being entertained than being arted at.

Since more people are reading for entertainment than literature, Amazon’s reviews reflect those interests. Since Sunita values the opposite, it’s no wonder the system doesn’t work for her.

You know who it does seem to be working for? The readers. Who choose genre fiction 70% of the time they enter the Kindle store. And who, within those genres, choose self-published fiction as much as 50% of the time. And who leave higher ratings for both genre fiction and self-published titles.

If we’re lobbing lemons into the market, they must taste pretty god damn good.

ETA: Some cool stuff in the comments, particularly from Courtney Milan, who says smart things about the Amazon review system and the way indies interact with it. (At this point, I feel like using “smart” in conjunction with Courtney is getting redundant.) Some interesting replies from Sunita, too.

I’ll say this: it’s weird and somewhat counterintuitive that indie books average higher ratings than trad-published titles. (The main reason for this, as Courtney mentions, is probably that we push more actively for them.) Obviously, that could have implications on reader purchasing behavior–but even so, that would only matter if the books weren’t actually all that good, right? Which ought to result in more negative reviews, which would then balance things out. I’m still confused by the thrust of this post, and think its conclusions are overstated.

28 Responses to If So, Readers Sure Love Their Lemons

  • Terescia says:

    I do love lemons. Salt them, sugar them, I don’t even care.

    The thing is, for me, I want books that tell the kinds of stories I like, and I find more of those by self-published authors these days, niche stories in the romance genre that big trade publishers just don’t bother with because of the size of the market. It’s a great world these days for readers like me, because authors make money writing books that they’d never be able to sell to trade publishers because of market size. If I have to wade through lemons to find them, I’m more than willing.

    However, I think the article author’s point that readers will just abandon the market rather than go to that trouble is seriously flawed. Also, although fanfic readers don’t pay for stories with money, they wade through a lot of less than stellar stuff to find the good stories. I do this still. I love fan fiction and I read droves of it, and some of it’s really bad. But certain stories call to us and we read them regardless, because they fill a need. But talk about a lemon-filled market, and yet, it’s still growing… Look at the number of users on places like AO3 and the like.

    Genre fiction is very much like that. And readers of genre fiction tend to be people who love story above all else. Language lovers tend to read more literary fiction. There’s crossover, of course, and there’s always going to be people who point out how they want their genre fiction to go beyond story and capture them with language, but really, that seems to be a small minority, and I say this because the bestseller lists offer proof of that. Books become bestsellers because lots and lots of people read them and like them enough to tell their friends who tell their friends, and these people read on and recommend, despite the spelling, editing, and grammar issues the article writer mentions.

    Have higher prices ever been a marker of quality in fiction? I paid $25 for a Johanna Lindsey novel years ago (in fact, I paid that for a lot of hardcover books back then). Was it because it was a better book than the other mass market romance out there? No. It was because it was the only format available at the time that I wanted that book and I really wanted that book. The price didn’t signify anything about the quality. If I’d been willing to wait a year, I could have bought the same book for $5.99 at the time, the same price I would’ve paid for a book by a new author I’d never read that might or might not have been totally not to my taste. Price in the book business very rarely ever had anything to do with quality, unless you start talking about special editions.

    Anyway, these were just some thoughts I had after reading that article and your article. Sorry for rambling. :)

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Nah, I like long comments. :)

      Way interesting point about fan fiction and the willingness of fans to put in the time to find what they want. I would find DA’s points far more compelling if there weren’t any routes besides price and reviews to signal quality. But what about reading the dang sample? It seems to me that’s always been a better indicator of whether you are personally likely to enjoy a book than the reviews of strangers!

      By and large, I don’t think price has ever been an indicator of quality in publishing. Except if you think a trad-published book implies higher quality than a self-published book. In that case, for the first few years of ebooks, trad stuff was virtually always priced quite a bit higher than indie material, making them far easier to identify from each other. But the gap has decreased over time, particularly in the last year as the agency pricing agreement went away, and more and more publishers have proven willing to use sale prices and loss leaders that wind up mingling their prices with those of indies.

  • Rico says:

    I think the waters are muddied when these self-anointed “experts” bandy around words like “quality” — as if there some objective standard of quality. Many people like genre fiction, or fiction that is unusual, and so they don’t provide the kind of broad-based market that would motivate the consensus-minded gatekeepers at the mainstream publishing houses to publish those books. What’s more, those gatekeepers often come out of elite schools where a certain canon of very, very conventional literature is taught as being “the best” — regardless of the fact that it doesn’t represent the tastes of most readers. Personally, I don’t read much fiction of any kind at all. I find that mainstream publishers’ fiction, cranked out by the typical MFA writer, while usually well-crafted, is often unadventurous and dull and seldom wanders very far from the clichés of the mainstream. Just because it’s accepted by the institution doesn’t mean it’s better. Think of the painting produced by the Academic painters of France in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Well-trained and talented painters, I’m sure. And yet almost any one of us would rather have a painting by Manet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso, Gauguin, or Matisse than a painting by any of those Academicians. Acceptance by the establishment is no guarantee of “quality,” whatever that elusive phenomenon might be, but you can be sure that those who are allied with the existing system will feel threatened and attack outsiders in the press at every opportunity, all the while bewailing the degradation of culture.

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Right.. the standards of quality held to be true by the traditional industry, including critics, reviewers, etc.? That’s got nothing to do with Amazon’s ratings. Those are only about the reader response to books. If Ulysses has a 3.9 rating, and Shifter Twin Erotica #47 has a 4.9, that doesn’t mean the system is broken. All it means is that readers of shifter erotica have decided that particular title is an awesome representation of the subgenre. If you also like shifter erotica, that rating is going to be highly useful to your decision to buy it.

      This goes far beyond genre, too. You would think we can at least all agree that, when it comes to the basic mechanics of editing, there are hard and fast benchmarks of quality–is the grammar right, is the punctuation in the right place, etc. But readers are showing that even THIS isn’t a universal standard! You can find any number of books that are selling great despite typos up and down every page. I don’t think anyone likes typos, but apparently some other aspect of the book is so compelling that people are willing to overlook the poor quality of the editing. So how much does “quality” matter in editing, really? Obviously, there are people for whom it’s a big deal–but many others don’t seem to care.

      I come from a traditional literary background myself, and there are times when things like this are very challenging to my ideas of what is objectively good. But my standards are just that–my own. I can argue from tradition until I pass out. But that will just make it easier for readers to trample me as they rush to buy what matters to them.

  • Seb says:

    I read the reason traditional books have lower ratings on them is because they cost more. Some people don’t understand, and they are begining to get used to buying cheap self published books on Amazon, and don’t understand why the other books cost more for the same length of book.

    • Ed Robertson says:

      That could be a factor. Hugh made an interesting case for it in the first Author Earnings report. But when others dug into the data, they found that ratings don’t seem to have much if any correlation with price. It was just one look at it, though, so very far from definitive.

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  • David T List says:

    Glad I stumbled across your blog although I don’t quite remember how I got here. You make good points. I’m so glad you took it upon yourself to dismantle her “argument” here. As I’m reading her original, I’m kind of feeling my blood pressure rise.

    “(I tend to think of Rowling as being in a category of her own). … And herein lies the problem with Amazon reviews. They’re only partially about quality.”
    And onward she goes, oblivious to the irony of what she just said.

    I didn’t realize until I saw the ad on your page that you’re the author of White Tree. It was recommended to me by the fussy librarian not long ago (I’m beginning to trust her more and more) but I haven’t started it yet. I think user input (reviews) is the future.

    • Ed Robertson says:

      I think it’s pretty clear that, for many readers looking for new books, reviews have supplanted critics and word of mouth. There’s no reason to think that’s going to reverse. At the same time, it’s possible (probably, even) that there will be subsets of readers who often find themselves out of step with the Amazon consensus. Like the Dear Author blogger, they may well put less and less stock in customer reviews.

      But I think that’s going to wind up a relatively small piece of Amazon’s reading customers. The problems raised in her post simply aren’t real problems for a big majority of readers.

  • Scott says:

    I think that a large part of the ratings equation is price, and also if you feel a connection (through some sort of online interaction) with the author. Indie authors seem to engage their readers more, and people like to support (in this case, with higher-than-perhaps-warranted ratings) other people (read: indie authors) that they feel close to. And then there’s price. I know from my own experience that I’m far more forgiving of a $0.99 or $2.99 book than I would be of a $7.99 “lemon” from anyone. If that $7.99 lemon is from an author that the reviewer doesn’t feel any connection to (most trad published authors), they’re more likely to be critical and leave a critical review. Heck, people will leave a critical review if they don’t like the way Amazon delivered the book, or they don’t like the image on the cover (they don’t even have to read those books to know they don’t like them and leave a negative review) so “docking” a star based on price and what they perceive they got for that price is no big deal. The more you spend, the higher your expectations are – and that’s the way it should be, imo…

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Yeah, you’re totally right about many indies being closer to their readers. It’s very easy to believe that helps contribute to higher star ratings. You make a compelling argument about price, too, but I wonder how many people see it that way. And how does it square with the studies that suggest people place a higher value on things they pay more for?

  • Jens says:

    Great points you made! I know this is unrelated but I just wanted to say Great Job with The Breakers series, I just finished reading the 3 book set and immediately purchased the 4th book. Thanks for what you do, keep it up!

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Thank you! Great to hear you liked them. I’m currently working away on #5 and should have it ready next month, too.

      By the way, before you dive into #4, you might want to pick up Outcome — it’s a (free) novella that takes place early in the series and has some of the same characters as #4.

  • Paul Draker says:

    Once again, Sunita’s self-important ranting displays an embarrassing lack of logical coherence. But boy does it highlight her prejudices.

    I mean, forget what those stupid readers think. Forget what those stupid reviews say, despite the Harvard study that finds Amazon reviews to be just as reliable as “professional” reviews. Because genre fiction just can’t be better than literary fiction. It simply can’t. *huffs and pouts*

    And indie fiction, while we do occasionally deign to review it here at Dear Author, isn’t better than trad pub. WOOL isn’t as good as The Goldfinch. It just isn’t. *stamps foot*

    Cracks me up.

    Everyone is trying so hard to find a zebra–or even some kind of mystical unicorn–to explain away the sound of hoofbeats here, when “horse” is the obvious and more intelligent answer. It’s staring us all in the face.

    Better reviews = more enjoyable books = better books.

    Most readers consider genre fiction to be better books than literary fiction. Period.

    Most readers like the best indie books better than the best trad pub books. Period.

    And if you think about it, that makes perfect sense, too.

    To reach a large audience without big-$ marketing and billboard/co-op, indie books have to be more compelling to compete.

    And the blunting effect of design-by-committee/lets-not-offend-anyone editorial gatekeeping causes manuscripts, no matter how standout they are initially, to revert to the mean before publication. But when the author has final say, and can override editorial suggestions that weaken the story, the diamonds stay diamonds.

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Super interesting point about indie books having to be better to make it among the trad competition. We’ve often got price on our side, which is a huge advantage, but trad books have the pedigree as well as all the marketing backing you mention.

      And yeah, I’m not sure why it’s a problem that Amazon reviews reflect readers’ actual tastes, either. By definition, that means it’s going to work for most people, and thus be resistant to things like a “market for lemons.”

      That may well mean reviews won’t work for certain subsets of readers whose tastes aren’t mainstream.. but Amazon also makes personalized recommendations according to a user’s individual likes and dislikes. Just like Netflix, which she hailed elsewhere in the article.

  • Anonymous says:

    1) You’re assuming that Amazon reviews are genuine, when we all know that they can and have been purchased by the score, either with cash, return of favours, or promotion/solicitation. As far as I’m concerned there is very little integrity in the digital system.

    2) I disagree that literature is just a product. That we should just let the market sort everything out. If popularity with the average readers is the ONLY criteria we have for quality, then universities should stop teaching more difficult texts like Faulkner or Joyce and switch to 50 Shades of whatever crap it’s called, because that would be best literature our society can produce, judging by sales alone. I find that notion as absurd and stupid as all the self-published trash I’ve looked at. Same argument goes for the film department, let’s switch from teaching Fellini to teaching Horny Housewives part 4, since this gets a million more hits. It’s asinine marketplace worship.

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Both of those are fair points. I think many of the concerns about Amazon’s reviews being illegit are overblown, though. I gossip with other indies all day long, watch the bestseller lists and stalk books like a fool, and I dug into the trail of bread crumbs from John Locke’s fake reviews. Are there cheaters? Absolutely. But they’re rare. Most people find it’s easier to play by the rules than to risk their reputation or career on flagrantly unethical behavior.

      At the same time, it has happened and continues to happen. Even so, I think the overwhelming majority of user book reviews are legitimate.

      As for the market vs. literature, I’m not arguing that sales are the one true God. Obviously, in a university setting, you’re going to have different criteria than “what book has sold the best in the last three months.” But the goals of a student attending college are much different than the goals of the average Amazon shopper.

      Both institutions have their place. But just as it would be absurd to use popularity as the only metric for determining what texts to teach to college students, it’s equally absurd to expect Amazon to disregard popularity and consumer satisfaction when that is the cornerstone of their entire existence.

  • Scott says:

    And how does it square with the studies that suggest people place a higher value on things they pay more for?

    I’ve read and heard about studies like that related to my day job (dentistry). I think they are true for some people, but the vast majority of patients place a premium on their out-of-pocket expenses. I’m a pretty good dentist, I think, and I demand high quality from my labs and I don’t use the cheapest lab, but patients jump ship all the time over price in the form of their out-of-pocket layout because they’ve been told (usually by their insurance company) that it will be cheaper for them (but mostly for the insurance company, in truth) to go to the dentists who participate with that insurance (PPO providers). I don’t find that people place all that high a premium on quality. I wish it was true. I’d jack up my fees a bunch and work a lot less hard.

    I think that it probably applies to other things as well. If you find “quality” (however you define it) at a $0.99 price point, or at a $2.99 price point, aren’t you going to be a little less enthusiastic about paying over twice as much for something that isn’t significantly better (by your definition)? I will pay more for Stephen King and Harlan Coben, but I have a hard time paying $7.99 or $9.99 for books by other mainstream authors when I can pay less for an indie published ebook that entertains me just as much…

  • Matt says:

    All this hand wringing over self-pub books amuses me.

    I can’t stand those “Godawful Housewives of [Whatever]” TV shows, so you know what I do? This may shock you, but I … don’t watch them. And I also don’t waste my time trolling their forums and message boards screaming about how awful they are and why people who like watching them should stop watching them and go watch something I consider to be more “quality programming.”

    People who can’t stand self-pub books, like Anon at March 8, 2014 at 4:41 pm, can’t seem to bring themselves to, you know, just ignore them and go read what he enjoys. Instead, he hunts down blogs like yours to let everyone know just how terrible every self-pub book in the whole wide world is.

    Seriously, brah, go read Faulkner or Joyce for the 99th time, and leave me to read awesome stories about alien invasions and zombie apocalypses. What’s so hard for these Lords and Ladies of Quality Books to “get” about that?

    I likes what I likes. I don’t need you telling me what is bad for me.

  • Anonymous says:

    It’s called expressing an opinion. It’s called a discussion. If you don’t like comments with opinions different to yours, then why do you waste your time reading them? Let alone wasting more time responding. You could rather be enjoying yourself reading some more hackneyed zombie crap, nobody’s stopping you.
    I would suggest rereading my comment to understand the point, though, which was a response to what Paul Draker wrote, ie that the best book is the one that sells the most.

  • Readers (gasp) have a different definition of good than elitists who have devoted many years to tuning their literary palates (and in the process, biasing them in favor of the consensus they learned)? The hell you say!

    You see the same thing in plenty of fields. In wine, Yellowtail Shiraz is the most popular red wine in the world. And yet it is universally viewed as just a hair above box wine by everyone in the industry. It’s got a ton of residual sugar, it’s coarse, it’s poorly made. The experts view it as plonk and shake their heads. In music, bands with members who can barely play their instruments and have limited vocal abilities can’t be good, per those who have spent years mastering their craft. By those measurements the Stones, the Clash, Nirvana…none of them ‘deserve’ to be popular, much less considered good. A group of Michelin chefs will undoubtedly sneer at McDonalds or Pizza Hut with all the same righteous indignation as editors might sneer at Patterson or 50 Shades.

    And on and on. It’s human nature.

    It’s the classic argument of the elite, the cognoscenti, who know what is meritorious based on their narrow definition of the term. The problem is there’s always a disconnect between their understanding and that of the swarm. It explains why many trad pubbed books that are “better” don’t sell nearly as well as self-published “crap.” Mainly, because people seem to enjoy the crap more. Sure, it’s a price-driven market, and a certain number will find satisfaction in a $3 novel far easier than in a $10 one, but it’s also more than that.

    Most people aren’t sensitive to things like tautologies because they don’t know what they are, or particularly care. They could give a crap about head hopping. They like adverbs just fine. Adjectives, even more. They don’t care if a trope is fairly common, or something might be a cliche. They’re either unaware of the rules, or blissfully unconcerned by them.

    They. Just. Don’t. Care.

    It took me a while to realize this. I’ll occasionally get a review, usually 1000 words long, by an erudite, obviously frustrated author or academic who takes great pains to describe what a complete hack I am. That’s offset by the scores of five star reviews, usually a few lines, saying my book was awesome and the reader’s buying my entire oeuvre. You can’t and shouldn’t try to please everybody, but I haven’t seen where being better than a certain standard shifts more units. Would that it were so. If anything, it’s like Malcolm Gladwell describes WRT IQ in Outliers, where you only have to be X tall to get on the amusement park ride, and any additional height (intelligence) doesn’t help in any measurable way.

    Put another way, the guy in the bar with the PhD and the copy of Strunk & White doesn’t have nearly the chance with the ladies as the accessible, fun, entertaining guy, especially if he’s got washboard abs (the equivalent of cheap literary thrills).

    You have to be competent enough to tell a story readers want to read. If you can do so with some lyricism, super duper, even better. But it’s pretty obviously that if you can’t, that’s no barrier to selling a lot of books. It’s not so much that readers are stupid, although some, and possibly even many, are, it’s that they don’t care about the literary qualities pedants live and breathe.

    That pisses off the pedants, many of whom work in a small area of New York and are convinced that everything west of the Hudson is barbarian territory where inbreeding and Toddlers & Tiaras are the national pass times. It particularly annoys them when it challenges their hallowed position as gatekeepers – the high priests, learned arbiters of merit. For two reasons: money, and power. They’re used to being perceived as akin to Greek Gods by authors, paid the respect reserved for royalty. And their livelihood depends on the great unwashed deferring to them to decide what’s available to be read, due to their stranglehold on the distribution system.

    When you upset that apple cart, you get a lot of MFAs with ruffled feathers, because suddenly they aren’t relevant to most. And they see the industry consolidating into fewer and fewer mega corporations, meaning fewer jobs for them to try to keep. Of course they have slavishly devoted sycophants who worship their power and knowledge who will go to war for them, fighting for the hearts and minds of the slim percentage of Americans that read.

    Sorry, folks. Can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. H.M. Ward sold 4 million books in the last 18 months, and 99+% of your anointed haven’t. Your determination of what’s meritorious simply isn’t relevant to the majority of readers anymore – certainly not the voracious readers, who can think for themselves. Perhaps to the occasional readers, who might sit through six to twelve books a year, and who don’t have the time or inclination to do any research, your big brand authors are still the go-to choice, but not for those with time on their hands, which is the segment that is active with its reviews and its wallet.

    I don’t think the trad pubs will be going away anytime soon, but if the battle being waged in genres like NA and romance are any indication, indies are going to continue to grow as the preferred choice for millions of readers, who, yes, will review their choices according to how well they enjoyed the books, and not whether it opened with the weather or had too many passive phrases.

    It’s a great time to be an author, ain’t it?

  • Briffer says:

    Strange as it may be all the books I’ve paid a lot of money for on Amazon have been the worst ones I’ve read. For example that excellent Brad Pitt film about Zombies came from what i consider an awful book which i abandoned halfway through.
    I use reader reviews now exclusively to select books which is how i came across the excellent Breakers series.

  • thomas says:

    I came across this after clicking a subscribe link at the end of “outcome”.

    All the comments make me think about an example I always give in this sort of discussion:

    The princess bride. Everyone I’ve ever mentioned it to loved it. It may very well be one of the most universally enjoyed movies, at least for my age group (34). If user reviews had been around when it came out the ratings would have given siskel and ebert a heart attack.

    Does it deserve an oscar? Hell no. Not until they add more categories…

    But what does that matter? It was highly enjoyable, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

    I don’t need to come out of a theater a better person than when I walked in. Same thing goes for after I read the last page of a book. If I finish a book and immediately look for the next in the series–that’s a good book.

  • Jeff says:

    Excellent points. Another point I would make is that only time can truly tell if a work is truly “literary.” The only real difference between works written today and literary classics written decades or centuries ago is that those classics have stood the test of time. They are still lin demand. So who is to say that the genre fiction will not become classics? Most will not, of course, but I highly doubt the authors of those classics sat down one day and said “I think I’ll write a classic now, instead of a current work.”

    By the way, I have read Howey’s Wool, as well as a number of your books. They are all excellent. I also attempted to read Verne’s 20,000 Leagues… I couldn’t make it all the way through — got too bored with it. I read for entertainment and enjoyment. If I get some thought provocation during a read, all the better. If I get all that and actually learn something along the way, I’ve hit the jackpot! In the end, however, the entertainment is my goal.

    I look at it this way: I have been actively involved in theatre for 25 years, but I do not participate in any way in productions of Shakespeare’s plays. Obviously, they are classics and truly wonderful works. While I enjoy watching good productions of these plays, I much more fully enjoy participating in more current works.

    “Good,” “better,” and “literary” are subjective terms that have no direct bearing on the quality of written works, though most of us would agree that some books are simply “bad” and poorly written. I have found that I really enjoy many self-published works. I am truly a fan of yours, Howey, C.L. Bevill, and several other “new” authors. So keep writing them and I’ll keep reading them!

  • Barbara Landry says:

    Are you the Eddie Robertson who lived on Coronation Avenue in Halifax, N. S. when you were young. If so, would you please reply.

  • George B. says:

    Mr. Robertson, I am a huge fan of the “Breakers” series. Out of curiousity, I looked at the Amazon rankings of the books, and I was shocked at how low they were – #15000, #24000, in that range… How can that be?? The books are really terrific – well written, the premise is interesting, I love the characters – I can’t wait for book 5 to come out. But how can they be ranked so low?

    As I understand, it works out to sales of just a handful a day. This is shocking! It’s not right! They should be flying off the shelves, so to speak. I hate to sound like an idiot giving “advice” to someone who no doubt has given this subject a hell of a lot more thought than me, but maybe you are not doing enough to promote them? I am not a writer, so I don’t know what else one would do to promote indie books, but surely there is something??!!! Even I stumbled into the first one by accident, and I generally read a lot of sci-fi genre.

    I wouldn’t bother saying anything if they were just more self-published crap (which, let’s face it, there is plenty of out there), but they are not! They deserve to sell well! So why aren’t they?

    My big fear here is that you’ll give up on this whole writing thing because it doesn’t pay enough, and we won’t see Breakers 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10

    • Ed Robertson says:

      Thanks so much, George. This is one of the coolest sentiments I’ve ever heard about Breakers. :)

      As for my ranks — yeah, it’s totally “publish or perish” in indieland, and it’s been eight months since my last Breakers book. On Amazon, that’s an eternity. #4 and my box set have hung on really, really well despite the delay, though.

      And one of the other reasons I haven’t promoted the series recently – I just published #5 (Cut Off) today! I’ve been saving some of my bullets to give the whole series a push now. Things should look much better very soon. For a whole month or two. :)

      Anyway, I’ve got a pretty good career out of it at the moment, and I absolutely think I’ll get to finish the Breakers series over the next year or so. I really appreciate your note, though – and certainly won’t complain if you want to help spread the word about the books!

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Knifepoint (Breakers Book 3)

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