Amazon’s Embattled Reviews Make Another Change

Amazon reviews are slowly becoming a digital battleground of the future. Or petering out as one, depending on you ask. However, whether it’s using Amazon reviews to “review bomb” folks whose politics other folks disagree with, or paying a click-farm in China to generate thousands of fake reviews, Amazon’s review system seems almost destined to be at the constant forefront of unscrupulous folks thinking “How can I use this to my advantage/other’s disadvantage?”

With that sort of activity going on (and the almost Hipster-ish dislike for Amazon now that they’ve managed to stand head and shoulders above their rivals), it really shouldn’t have been surprising to me when a long-time fan of my works contacted me to let me know that they were no longer able to post Amazon reviews, and thus they wouldn’t be able to add their review of my latest to Amazon’s page for such.

The reason? Well, Amazon has a new review policy: To leave a review, you have to be a customer in good standing. You can’t have been spamming the site with reviews that are clearly fake, participated in review-bombing, stuff like that. But there’s another new requirement now.

In order to remain “in good standing” you have to be an Amazon customer, having spent at least $50 with them in the last year.

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Shadow of an Empire Brings the Praise

Well readers, Shadow of an Empire has been out now for just over a month, so I thought that, in light of yet another excellent review it picked up last night from Frigid Reviews, it would be timely to go ahead and look at some of the responses to the book thus far from readers! If you have not read Shadow of an Empire yet, this may be the post that hints that you should!

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at some reader feedback for Shadow of an Empire. We’ll be looking at excerpts, but you’ll be able to click the title of each review to get a look at the full text yourself.

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News Blast: Shadow of an Empire, Colony, and Milestones

Welcome to Monday, readers! I know the culture, at least here in the US with it’s workaholic pastimes, is to despise Mondays, but maybe I can make things a little shinier for you at the start of this week. After all, I’ve got a nice news post here for you to read (and then we’re getting Being a Better Writer), with lots of good news about the upcoming weeks that’s sure to excite a good number of you!

The first and most important bit of news? Shadow of an Empire is available for pre-order and releasing June 1st! That’s right, the Fantasy-Western Epic is sweeping onto e-readers and devices everywhere in just under three weeks! Swing by the Amazon page and pre-order your copy now so it arrives ASAP! And share that link; the more people know about Shadow, the better. Redditor? Facebook user? Fanfic socializer? Let people know. Word of mouth is majorly helpful! Also, if you’re an Alpha or Beta Reader, feel free to talk about the book now and tell people all about it! I’d advise not dropping too many spoilers, but I’ve seen your enjoyment for months now, so go share it with others!

Second bit of news? Well, it’s related to that first one. In the coming weeks (date not officially set), I will be doing a Reddit AMA to promote Shadow of an Empire. Yup. For several hours I’ll be answering any and all (within reason) questions there, both to help spread writing knowledge and to talk about—of course—my newest release, as well as what else to expect from me in the coming year and whatever else people bring up. If you have a Reddit account, please come and participate. The more people show, the better off the AMA will be, and the more traction it’ll gather! Check back here for more details as I narrow the date down with Reddit mods!

Third bit of news: Shadow of an Empire‘s preview chapter will be getting updated to the final version tomorrow. There will be a notification of it, the cover art will be included, etc, etc. Following this, chapter two will go up the following Tuesday, and the Tuesday after that, chapter three. The final book, by the way, is thirty-one chapters, so you’re only getting the first little bit as a preview.

Okay, last bit of news (I promise!): Colony is getting its first price-drop. As well as a text update. Okay, don’t go wild, it’s the standard “This book is now X months old” drop I’ve done for my other works. Colony will soon be $5.99 instead of $7.99. In addition, the text will be updated with a number of small corrections and error fixes to promote a smoother reading experience. Those of you who already own Colony should see the update the next time you connect to the web, and those already connected will just, well, have it!

And, last but not least … I didn’t even realize it, but I’ve passed a review milestone! Specifically, an Amazon review milestone: 50 Five-Star reviews! To be more specific, 52 of them! Out of—get this—82 reviews total. That’s right, well over half of the reviews I’ve ever gathered are Five-Star reviews! Huzzah! Now just to keep getting those reviews out in front of readers! Oh, and to keep collecting them. The more reviews a product has, the more people trust what they say.

In any case, that’s the news update! Lots coming in the next few weeks as we move closer to the release of Shadow of an Empire. Don’t forget to pre-order your copy!

Review: Seven-Point Star – A Solid Early Work Despite Some Missteps

Woof! This has been a long time coming. And for that, I owe G.S. Taylor an apology. This review was due a while ago, but with the bronchitis knocking everything back, getting this review out and onto the screen has taken far, far longer than expected. But better late than never, and now at last you, my readers, finally have a chance to take a look at my thoughts on Seven-Point Star, Taylor’s first novel.

So let’s get one thing out of the way first: Seven-Point Star is a fairly solid appearance from a new author, with plenty of strong points to it. If you’re looking for the short, 100% blind, spoiler-free review, that’s it. Seven is a fairly strong first work that, especially at the price, is worth picking up and reading through, especially if you’re the kind of reader that admires the particular strengths it does put on display … or if you just enjoy quick alternate history/fantasy reads.

What are those strengths, you might ask? Well, for the spoiler-free summary, here you go—I found the protagonist to be strongly written, mostly in her perspective and unstable teenage vantage point, and the world itself—what we’re given anyway—is almost like a Sci-Fi-Crystal Fantasy fairy tale in the way it comes across. Both these elements stay pretty solid through the course of Seven-Point Star, and if you’re looking for something that delivers those, well, Seven-Point Star will satisfy your thirst … though you will notice weaknesses that run counter to those strengths. In my personal opinion, however, the strengths are just enough to make up for the weaknesses and carry the title on above average. So you’re still going to get a decent read provided you appreciate the strengths for what they are.

Right, with the short, spoiler-free summary out of the way, let’s get a bit more loose with how much this review gives away—without giving away too much, but I will have to reveal a few general concepts as we dive into the book. Hit the jump for spoiler-town!

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Where Amazon Can Improve for Authors and Readers

Well this post has been a long time in coming.

No, seriously. We’re currently on Topic List IX, right? This post was a considered topic back on topic list VIII. Or maybe it was VII. I only started keeping track of carry-over topics with list number IX.

Point being, this one’s had a while to stew. It wasn’t a proper topic for Being a Better Writer, which meant that it needed to get it’s own posting on a day that wasn’t Monday, and so … well, after a few months of looking for time, here we are.

So, to the task at hand, then: Where Amazon can improve. I’ll warn you now, if you’re one of those readers that bears a solid dislike, or a powerful grudge against Amazon for some reason, this probably isn’t going to be the post for you. Likewise if you’re one of those convinced that the rise of Amazon will be the downfall of all that is holy about books and the publishing industry. See, while no company is perfect, from my perspective Amazon’s entrance into the publishing industry, along with its associated push in favor of ebooks and a more open publishing sphere, is a good one. Not perfect, but good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and that’s where today’s post comes in. See, I’ve been published on Amazon for several years now, and while I do like their service … it’s not perfect. No, far from it. There’s actually quite a bit of room for improvement, quite a few flaws that really could be fixed up to make Amazon’s publishing—and specifically, their Kindle service—not only more appealing, but easier and simpler to use. And I worry that since Amazon has entered a position of dominance as far as indie publishing goes, they’re simply going to do what they have been doing—which is rest on their laurels—rather than really looking to improve their service on both ends. Because as a platform that I sell my products on, I want my readers to have the very best experience. And if Amazon doesn’t improve, well, that leaves it open for someone else to sneak in offering services and advantages that, quite honestly, Amazon should have added years ago.

Right, enough beating around the bush. To put it plainly and simply, Amazon has stagnated. The only reason that they’re still on top is that no one else has come along offering anything better in large enough quantities to entice Amazon’s authors and clientele away. But the truth is, it’s only a matter of time until that does happen. Anyone who’s used Amazon’s Kindle service has undoubtedly looked at it and thought “You know, this would be so much better if …” and inevitably, the someone who thinks that is going to be in a position to do something about it and create something better. At which point a lot of authors might jump ship to the newer, better service.

Customers, too, because what you’re about to look at is not just a collection of what improvements Amazon needs to make for authors. No, customers need improvements as well … and Amazon isn’t delivering them. Again, they’re resting on their laurels, content for the time being to simply do little or nothing to improve their service. And that needs to change.

So, let’s talk about customer improvements first to Amazon’s Kindle and Self-Publishing services. What needs to be improved that’s fallen drastically by the wayside?

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Colony Picks Up Another Favorable Review!

Just a quick heads up, readers, before I dive off into today’s Being a Better Writer post, but Colony has picked up another favorable review. This time from a book reviewer over on Space Battles who goes by the name of Forum Viking! No relation to this viking, in case you were curious. The book was recommended to him by one of his readers on the site, and when I found out about it, I offered a review copy

In any case, Colony ended up collecting a quite favorable review. In particular, it was praised for the way it subverts many of the conventional trappings of its genre, Forum Viking noting how many books that create “similar” cyberpunkish settings tend to follow the examples and tropes set by the larger titles of the genre, while Colony instead places itself in a very different direction, which helps it feel fresh and unique (which is good, because I never set out to write a cyberpunk, lol, I think it just sort stumbled into that territory). They were also impressed by the depth and work put into Pisces (the world that most of the story takes place on), particularly with regards to the tech, culture, and world of the setting, though noting that the story does this without falling into the trap of technobabble. They also liked the action, the characters, and … Well, yeah. They liked the book. In the end, they ended up giving Colony a solid B, which given their review history is a solid grade indeed.

You can check out the review for yourself here if your interested to see what else Forum Viking had to say, and, of course, I recommend picking up a copy of Colony for your very own right afterwards.

Now, time to work on that BaBW post and Jungle 

Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #4

Welcome back, readers, to yet again another Monday Being a Better Writer post that has obviously been relegated to Tuesday. Someday I’ll make enough money from my writing to be able to give up my part-time job, but right now … if they want me on Mondays, they unfortunately have me.

So, this week we’re doing another Micro-Blast! New? Wondering what a “Micro-Blast” is an what it has to do with writing? Thoughts already jumped to something non-writing related already, like those tiny fruit snacks with juice in them?

Okay, maybe I’m just hungry. Anyway, a Micro-Blast is something that usually happens as I near the end of another topic list. This being a real, physical list that I keep on my desk and consult each week to select a topic for the upcoming post. The topics on this list are collected from a variety of sources, usually anything that makes me think “Hey, that would be a good BaBW topic,” but also from readers that write in with questions and requests.

Anyway, these topics can often vary in the amount of effort needed to address them. Sometimes it’s simply a topic where I’d be better suited saying my piece and pointing readers elsewhere, other times it’s just a quick answer that isn’t really deserving of a full break-down on it’s own, but at least merits a paragraph or two, and sometimes it’s just a topic I haven’t done much thought about, and therefore needs more research before I can weigh in one way or another. And then, of course, there are the topics that don’t have any of those issues, and I can write a full post on.

But at the end of a list, what results is often a small collection of leftover topics, a hdgepodge of tiny summaries that, for whatever reason, never got posts on their own.

Micro-Blast BaBW posts are the answer to these small collections of topics. A way to “finish off” each topic list by rapid-fire tackling each remaining issue with a small posting of its own.

So, this said, it’s time to finish off, once and for all, Topic List 8 so that next week, I can start anew with Topic List 9! Which also means you can expect a post later this week asking for suggestions for the list. I’ve got a bundle of my own from the recent LTUE conference, but as always, reader suggestions are a welcome way to add topics.

Anyway, enough rambling! Let’s clear this list!

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