Philip C. Anderson is a writer. Here, he writes about his current projects, idle thoughts, and events, both in his life and the world-at-large.

Amazon and Keeping the Little Guy Down

I know, I know. Big surprise, right?

People won’t read something unless someone else tells them they should. So what is a potential reader supposed to think when they go to The Demon’s Call on Amazon and there are no reviews there two months after I released the book? “Hmm, he must not be hustling enough, not getting the word out.” And that’s very likely true: I’ve only spent $59 on advertising so far (because it’s only one book—I’m not spending out the ass for one book); however, I’ve also tried to give my book away for free—literally—and people still don’t want it. Which is fine, I tell myself, though it’s mostly a lie. Most books are rarely for everyone.

Now I get it: I’m an unknown with zero name-recognition. But—and here’s the point of this post—if my book had reviews, more people would read it, so the advice I get is to get reviews. Great! So easy! Just print/give away dozens of copies (on my own dime) and get people to accept them, read them, then suggest they consider leaving a review. Because it would be inappropriate to outright ask them, apparently. That would be buying a review, which a huge no-no (despite reviews on Amazon constantly starting off with “I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.” fucking lol). Overall, free copies to review percentage is about twenty percent from what I’ve read. Fine, I could work with that.

But here’s the thing: I got an email back on 3 May, just a few days after I published, from someone who informed me that they’d enjoyed my book and had reviewed it. That excited the hell out of me, and I anxiously awaited having a review on my novel. So soon, I thought. Oh, this is just great. But a week later, with nothing there, I became frustrated and emailed them to find out what happened to their review. They assured me they’d submitted it, and they even sent me a screenshot of Amazon telling them their review had gone live. Imagine their surprise when the link Amazon sent them—which Amazon said led to this person’s review of The Demon’s Call—only led them to an error page on the website.

I’m not here to tell anyone that I deserve reviews or to compel people to read my book, but I have since gotten two more emails from readers telling me they reviewed. Those reviews, for whatever reason, don’t show up on Amazon, either. “Trying to prevent bias” is the most common reason I’ve read online for reviews not being visible (which is why so many reviews start off with some combination of the words “free copy” and “honest review.” Fucking LoL). I can only imagine how many others who haven’t contacted me have reviewed and not gotten through, and I don’t fucking understand why.

The absolute worst part about this is it hurts my sales. People won’t consider books that don’t have reviews. That is the single largest determiner in whether someone reads a book—for most people, someone else must recommend it to them. I have no doubt that if Amazon allowed the reviews readers have posted to show up, I’d have more sales/page reads. But now, nearly two weeks have passed since someone read even a single page on Kindle Unlimited (what a great program that is!), and literally no one has actually bought The Demon’s Call since I added it to the program back on 12 May, which I did in an attempt to entice more readers by lowering the barrier of entry to get inside the gods-damned book (because paying someone six bucks for a review-less book is just too much of a risk).

Did I have a release plan? No. Too much excitement surrounded The Demon’s Call for me; plus, I thought if I just got it out there, people would for sure read it—it just had to get out there first.

Do I know better now? Abso-fucking-lutely. But even when I publish my next book and have pre-orders and pre-release materials, I can’t shake this feeling that it won’t matter—or will at least be severely impact—because of what Amazon has already done to me.

Free copies of The Demon’s Call are floating around out there, but right now, thanks to a combination of factors, I can only sit here, shake my head, and continue through this disillusioned nightmare that is my life.

Life and Its Disappointments

Writing and Its Facets: Editing