Monday, May 18, 2020

The 5-star Fallacy


Why 'Five Stars' is not a buyer's Guarantee

I’m an author. I tell stories. So here’s a story for you.

Imagine that I’m at a Literary Convention or Crime Fiction Conference and someone comes up to me and says: “Oh, you’re Mike Scantlebury. You know, Mike, I’ve been aware of your books for many years, but I’ve never bought one. I’ve always noticed that you don’t have many 5-star reviews, so I’ve passed. Still, last week, I saw that you’d suddenly gained ten 5-stars on your new book, so I bought it. It’s great, I have to tell you.”

Okay, so what do I say, in this scenario? Do I say, ‘Well, I’m sorry you missed out for so many years. But hey, it’s good news that you’ve finally given me a try. Thanks.’ No, what I actually will say is: “You must be an awfully stupid person, to base your purchases simply on other people’s opinions, and to think that I’d actually be grateful that you’ve finally seen the error of your ways.”

Because that person - THAT person - is going to be the same person who goes to Korea for their holidays, (the South one, the free one) and goes into a restaurant with their family to look for something to eat. They find the menu a bit confusing, so look round, and see a family on another table having a good time, tucking into steaming stew and rice. ‘What are they eating?’ they ask the waiter. ‘It looks good. We’ll have what they’re having.’ “Oh, that,” the waiter says. “That’s curry. It’s very nice.” But the youngest member of the family, being suspicious, says: ‘What kind of curry is it? What’s the meat?’, and the waiter says: “Dog”.

Now, I don’t mean to criticise Korean culture, but the fact is that it’s different to most countries in the West, and here, here in the West, we tend to not eat dog for dinner. In fact, in Britain, you’re more likely to be lynched for killing a dog in a road accident than applying an axe to your Mother-in-law. It’s just our culture. Their’s is different. But on the subject of buying books, there seems to be a culture of precisely that, following others, no matter what. ‘I’ll have what he’s having’, is exactly what book buyers say, all the time. They see 5-star reviews and they assume, ‘That person likes it. Well, I’m bound to like it too’. Why? Why is that? What could possibly make you think that other people’s opinion would match your own? Are you still an impressionable teenager? Remember when your Mother said: ‘Why are you wearing that?’ and you said, “All my friends are wearing these things these days”, and your Mother said, ‘If your friends started jumping off a cliff, would you do that?’

Well, the answer is, if you’re a teenager, ‘Yes’. Yes, you would do what everyone else is doing. But listen, people, you grew up. You started making your own life. You got a job. So, what happened? Did you get the job everyone else was getting? Did you buy the car that everyone else is buying? Did you buy a house because everyone else is becoming a ‘Home Owner’? Did you start eating dog?

The point, of course, is that your Mother was right. There has to be a limit to copying. You can emulate the most popular kid in the class when you’re at school, but it’s a poor philosophy to take into the Adult world. Yet - and yet - most book buyers seem to have done just that. They scan the online book-stores and the only question they are asking themselves is: ‘What is everyone else buying, because THAT is what I want’. How sad. How pathetic. I always imagined that growing up would result in having a mind of my own, and having the freedom to make my own choices. That means that when I see someone walking down the street in a polka-dot dress, I have the maturity to say, ‘On them it looks nice, but I don’t think it’s the right thing for me’, and the same thing follows in the wonderful world of books. Let’s be specific. I was on a train a few years ago, going down to London. On my walk up to the Buffet car to get a coffee, I counted four people reading ’50 Shades of Grey’. Good for them, I thought. But it’s not for me. They’re choosing to read that unbelievable tosh, but it’s not a choice I’d make. I know my own mind.

If only. If only more people would wake up in the morning, brush their teeth, look in the mirror and say, ‘I am a Human Being, not a sheep, and I refuse to follow the flock’. Unfortunately, that’s a rare quality. Because the statistics speak for themselves. A book is awarded 5 stars and its sales go up. People buy what other people are buying. People like what other people like. Let’s face it: most people really are sheep.

Click HERE for Mike's new novel



Saturday, May 16, 2020

More about 'The Reviews Rebellion'

2020 - The Reviews Rebellion comes of age

You might have heard of SEO - but you probably heard wrong.
You may have been told that SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and it’s something that all website owners and bloggers have to do in order to get found. They plant ‘keywords’ in headings and in meta-data, and there’s plenty of people out there who will accept your money and show you how to do it right. If you don’t know what meta-data is, think of a parking-meta, and imagine putting coins in it, over and over and over again.
However, there’s another definition of SEO, and that’s ‘Somebody Else’s Opinion’, and it’s the most poisonous thing on the internet.
You see, the World Wide Web is a wonderful thing and brings knowledge, information and goods into everyone’s living room. Whatever you want, it’s available. Whether it’s facts, cars, soap, books or songs, you can find it with a few clicks and buy it with a few more. Whatever you want, it’s there for you.
Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to know what they want, and have to be told.
They might know they want something to read, and are thinking about an Adventure or a bit of Romance, but which book? This is where SEO comes into its own. You don’t need an opinion when you can always use somebody else’s. All you have to do is browse the web and find out what everyone else is buying, then buy that. Find out what everyone else is talking about, and there’s your topic of conversation. Find out what everyone else is looking like, and there’s your choice of clothes, haircut, suntan and tattoo sorted. Use SEO and you’ll never have to think again.
It might seem outrageous to intrude on your democratic right to make a decision, but SEO rules in the online world. Why? Because it suits the big online shop owners. They need to know how many books, or CD’s, or bottles of perfume they need to produce this month, and there’s no better way of predicting the market than getting the so-called ‘Influencers’ to talk up the products, and Bingo, sales follow the graph. Otherwise, life would be wildly unpredictable. You’d never know what the public was going to like next - which fashion, which tune, dance or smell they were going to start to go for tomorrow. The ‘market’ couldn’t stand for that. So, the easy answer, is to tell people what to buy. It’s pure psychology. Those poor shoppers, dazed and confused, overwhelmed by choice, they’re suckers for an Authority, an authoritative voice, somebody who seems to know what they’re talking about, saying, ‘This book’, ‘That soap’, ‘That holiday’, ‘THAT is the one you want’. Yes, you do. You know you do. Take the advice and stop floundering. It makes the world more safe and predictable. You know you like it.
It might not matter so much in the madcap world of clothes, pop music and careers, but in the small universe of books, it’s completely disastrous. Especially as that arena is still home to a plethora of small producers - the individual writers - and small distributors, the Mom and Pop stores that are the small publishers. Here, SEO is killing diversity, originality and opportunity for new authors. Every new book, every new writer, has to be turned inside out, and examined in all areas by a self-appointed clique of Judges. Their verdicts are delivered in the same way as they do on TV Talent Shows - they award points, (and Points Mean Prizes). In the case of books, it’s Stars that get given, and it’s a matter of economic Life or Death whether you get a Five or a Two. Five means big houses, exotic holidays and a Guest Spot at the Literary Convention. A bunch of Twos means life continues at the school, Library or whatever Coffee Shop or Burger Bar that is willing to give you employment while you work on your new story.
It certainly wouldn’t matter so much if online book-stores like Amazon didn’t determine everything - placement, promotion, publicity and support - by a sliding scale dictated by the number of stars. It’s a ‘Tyranny of the Stars’. Your rating and ranking as an author isn’t decided by the Academy or the Nobel Prize committee in Norway, it’s solely a product of adding up all the little pointy things, looking around, and seeing who’s got most.
Some authors have known for years that this wasn’t helping them. The first ‘Reviews Rebellion’ started in the 1990s, when the internet was still a baby, or, at least, a loud-mouthed teenager. Now, in 2020, the era of the Reviews Refusers has really come of age. More and more writers are quietly declining the offer of a ‘free’ review, (on the understanding that the donation of a free book will result in a written review online). The promise of reviews is now seen as a poison chalice, which comes with too many unpleasant strings attached. Far better for the author to by-pass this deadly system and try and make contact with readers direct. After all, that’s why most people write books - to talk to an audience, NOT to a Jury of judgement makers and opinion formers. “Don’t take ‘Other’ people’s opinions” is a call to arms, a challenge to the existing iniquitous system. It’s time to let go of SEO, stand up and make up your own mind - while you’ve still got one that’s functional.




Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tips for Creative Writers: Writing Crime fiction, part 1

Mike is back in the hot seat, but this time it's a chair, not the settee.
He wants to be comfortable because he has some experience to share. Like with 'Expectations'. No, it's not Great Expectations, but the little expectations that readers have when they pick up a book with the label 'Crime Fiction' on it. They're looking for a Detective? Maybe. Like a cop or a policeman. Or maybe a Private Detective, not a Private Eye or a handsome hero. Whatever, you, the writer need to be thinking like a reader too, aware of what your little story might be looking like, before it even starts telling anyone anything.
Luckily we've got Mike here to explain it all. He can do it much better than me.

Part 1 of the story

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Tips for Creative Writers: "Shrink the Social Media"



Wow, it's the same sofa, Man. Yes, Mike hasn't got up off that chair since the last lesson.
He's so keen to share that he's skipped lunch, dinner and tea, and is living off plain water with a hint of lemon. If he doesn't get a Ginger biscuit in a few minutes, he's just going to keel over with exhaustion. Go, Mike. Go! Give your message and get on out. Raid the fridge

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tips for Creative Writers: "The answer is Yes"





If you like your education like a slap in the face, then this little lesson is for you.

Of course, you'll need to stand back a little, yes back, that's about it. Don't forget we need to keep six feet apart in these troubled times (and try to dodge those flecks of spit - they might be the end of you).

Anyway, author Mike Scantlebury has obviously learned a little bit in the years it took him to amass the dozens of books he's dangling in front of a snoozing public, so would-be authors need to keep their hats on, their masks on their faces, their sunglasses ready and their notebooks open.

I mean, this video is marked 'Entertainment'. Who would possibly lie?










Thursday, February 20, 2020

Alternatives to being cut by Amazon

Amazon? It's 'Ama-zing!'  

What a great start to the day!

As you may know, I am a crime fiction writer. I construct chiller thrillers set around the metropolitan area of Greater Manchester in the North West of England. I’ve been doing it for years, but every day is different. Like today. Before I sat down and started on the latest chapter of my new novel, I just paused, and thought I would have a quick look at my books on Amazon. There’s a lot of them. Maybe over twenty. That’s quite an achievement, but hey, it’s not all down to me - I’ve had a lot of help over the years. Anyway, I was just scrolling down the list and noticed something odd: many Reviews had disappeared. They’d been cut.

Okay, it takes a while to notice that the train is going off the rails and careering down the side of the mountain, so I didn’t want to react straight away and panic. So I looked, and looked again. After a while, the picture became clear. Some books used to have lots of Reviews, but overnight they’d all disappeared. Other Reviews were still there. Why? Why were they saved? Ah, at last I began to see. The ones that were left were the Five Star reviews. All the others - the two stars, three stars, four stars reviews - had simply disappeared. It was like all the Avengers had vanished and only Robert Downey Junior was left. That was what had happened, I just couldn’t see any sign of Thanos. I didn’t know who the evil mastermind was behind the theft.

Now, don’t take this wrong: I’m not complaining. I mean, I could whine about Amazon and how they keep moving the goalposts, but then, it wouldn’t make sense. It’s not the boys and girls at the online shop that are causing problems - it’s the algorithms, right? Something buried deep in the computer has made a decision, and whoops - all over. These things happen. It’s like waking up one day and saying out loud: ‘Alexa, what’s the weather like today?’ and this voice says, ‘I’m not talking to you today’. But No, it’s no good arguing with Alexa, she’s just a robot. Who cut my Reviews? A robot!

However, after a moment’s thought, I realised one special thing: this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me! I mean, I still don’t know what caused it. Amazon, or the computer that runs the whole operation, had said to himself, ‘Hey, this Mike guy has got a jumble of two’s and three’s. Let’s just erase them, they’re getting in the way’. Zap, gone. Game over. Uh, No, actually. Because look at it. Look! The only things left are the 5-star Reviews. So, Mike Scantlebury, Crime Author, has got a shop-front with selves full of thriller novels. ‘Has Mike got any Reviews?’ you ask. Hell, yes. He’s got a bunch of them, and they’re nothing but Fives. High Five, Dudes!

However, it’s an illusion, of course. Sure, the 5-stars are left, but they’re only attached to a proportion of the books. Meanwhile, some of the books have got no Reviews at all! Lower star Reviews removed? Yes, some books lost all the reviews they ever had, and if they were lower down the scale, they simply disappeared. Uh, Mike, why is that a good thing for you? Because, my Friend, a lot of readers are not using a lot of focus when they scan through the books in the store, looking for something to read. They will catch sight of the 5-star Reviews, I guess, and skim over the books with no stars. Well, okay, I lost their attention for those other volumes, but that’s not a worry for me, because if said Reader likes the look of a ’5-star book’ and buys it, they might like it. If they do, they will get to the end and find one useful thing - a big list of all the other books in the series. They liked the one they’ve got? They’ll buy the next one, or the previous one, or the first in the series. Will they notice it hasn’t got any Reviews? Maybe, but not likely. After all, they’re on a mission - find the next one to buy. Why would they stop and examine Reviews? They know what they want!

So thanks, Amazon. You’ve created a pathway through the forest. We know that most readers are overwhelmed by the mass of trees in front of them, so they look for the ’5-stars’ and that’s like a signpost, an arrow pointing one way and it says, ‘Follow this track’. Once they’re on the track, they may become one of my readers. and then I love ‘em. They will get the chance to join my Mailing List and then they’ll find out about all the Special Offers I make available. They’ll find a link to my website and learn all about me and my world, (which isn’t the ‘Manchester’ you read about in the papers). Once they’re in there, in amongst the trees, they’re hardly likely to stray off the path. Amazon has done what it does best, coralled people into being repeat customers and making the bookshop money. Luckily, that’s also beneficial to writers. Well done, Alexa! It’s a great day.







Monday, January 20, 2020

Welcome to the New Pages

Let's talk!


Welcome to 'Publishing is Dead', a New Wave blogging web site devoted to the proposition that Traditional Publishing is in the process of being killed off by the Internet.
Discuss!

Whether you're an author, a reader, or an entrepreneur, our feeling is that you will benefit from New Technology.
The stuffy old duffers in dusty old offices are on their way out.
It's New Wave now.
It's Internet Publishing.
That's the way of the future.

Let's talk about it.

MEANWHILE...………......
This web site is brought to you by magic.

After all, it's a published article.
Let's face it - most authors don't get published.
They languish, they faint, they suffer.
They send off their parcels, strong in hope, girded in faith.
Year after year.

We're here to tell you there is another way.
It's called Internet Publishing.
And it doesn't involve a slap in the face.

Think of this as a Forum, to contribute and discuss.
Let us know what you think.
But above all - move forward.
New Wave publishing is on the up.
It's the way of the future.

This web site is here to say -
Goodbye Traditional Publishing.

(It's dead. Did we mention that?)


Sure, some of the people joining the discussion are writers.
Some have been published (by Traditional Publishers).
Some are still hoping for that honour.
Some have given up, along the way.
Some have resolved to use Internet Publishing, only.
That's what the Forum is all about!

The guy with the face (above) is Mike Scantlebury,
(creator of 'Scanti-Noir').

Mike Scantlebury is an Internet Author.
You can go to Lulu.com and find his books available there.
Click here  for a direct link.

If you want real books, that's the place to go -
(Lulu prints books, for any author.
Highly recommended.)

Mike also has a Mailing List.
Join that and you will regularly get a few chapters free,
to read at your leisure.

For a chance to join,
go to Mike's website on http://www.Salford.me/h


Comments, yeah, comments

If you want to say something about publishers, please think of this as your Forum page.

If you want to say something about this site,
use the form below.

We'll be happy to hear from you.

(If you want a reply, make sure you include your email.
Thanks)





Monday, January 06, 2020

Alternatives to Reviewing Books



Most authors who are trying to sell their books online have fallen victim to an obsession with Reviews. Above all, they dream and salivate over the prospect of that wonderful and longed-for ‘Five Star’ Review. Well, fine, you say. That’s the system, right? And it sells books. Doesn’t it? Aw, listen, guys, haven’t you ever heard of the phrase - ‘Think outside the Box’? Well, the Box is the Review system, and it’s a box with chains around it, and jaws. And spikes inside. And razor wire. It needs to change.

The current system of Reviews creates two problems. One for readers and one for writers. Let’s think about writers, first. If you’re new to getting published - cos maybe you’ve written a novel and you’ve put it up on line by yourself - then you will know that all the advice is to ‘get a few Reviews’. That’s the way you get noticed, they say. It will help you sell books. Sounds fine, but, as a new author, where are you going to get those ‘necessary’ Reviews from? Ah, I’ll ask people, you think. No, Chum. Online book-stores like Amazon are way ahead of you. They don’t allow that.

They have algorithms that will check. A Review appears and it’s by someone with the same name? Why, yes, you say. It was written by my sister. Not allowed! Amazon (and other bookshops are available) will delete it. It’s biased, they will say. Of course your family will think well of you. It’s not ‘genuine’, they say. Okay, so you ask your next door neighbour. That’s banned, too. How do they know? Because they know everything about everybody (of course) and the robots know that you, the author, and that person, the Reviewer, have the same Postcode. Right, banned, (because, after all, the woman next door is not going to insult you in print, are they? They won’t want you dumping on their doorstep. They’ll be biased, (the robots say - as only bots can). So you ask someone from your Writing Group. They know stuff about books, you think. They will give you a fair hearing. They won’t be biased. Anyway, who is going to find out? The bots! They check, and discover, that you the author and that other person, the Reviewer, are Friends on Facebook. No good, say the algorithms. Bias, again. Not allowed. Review posted? Review withdrawn, as only an online book-store can.

Baffling. I mean, you’ve been asked to come up with some Reviews but there seems to be some kind of ‘Rules’ operating here, something that’s hardly ever discussed and certainly not revealed by the website. Ever tried asking Amazon how they decide what’s a ‘good’ Review and what’s not? Good Luck with that! Likely, they won’t answer. More likely, they don’t know. After all, robots have their own rules, don’t they? Also, Big Publishers. Yes, the real killer is that all this discrimination only applies to small publishers and Solo Authors. It doesn’t apply to Traditional Publishers. After all, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, so you have to respect their way of doing things, even if it results in bias. Their favoured method is to cultivate a Mailing List of interested readers, who will agree to review the new titles as they come out. Imagine, a Trad Publisher sends out ‘review’ copies to their fifty ‘friends’ and get fifty five-star reviews. Not biased at all. No, and the online bookshops are quite happy with that. The favourable reviews have been bought with the offer of a free copy and the glow of being involved with a big name in the industry. You try that, as a small-time author, giving out a free book and expecting a review in return. Guess what? Amazon etc, (and all the others), have declared such practice illegal, immoral and harmful for small mammals (but only for small publishers etc, not for the Big Boys).

Still, that’s not the end of your unhappiness. You also have to cope with the behaviour of Readers, I mean real people, those who actually buy books (and pay for them). They’re unbelievable! Try it. Approach an interested reader and say to them, ‘Well, actually, I have been lucky and yes, I did get a Five Star review this week’. What do they say? ‘Oh, I never look at Reviews’, they say. Or, ‘Reviews are only one of the factors I rely on before deciding to buy a book’. Oh, really? The facts are different. As an internet author, I can check my sales regularly. Every day, if I want. So, I can see one of my books sold that many, that day. Then, the next day, so many. Then - Oooh, there’s a spike in sales. What caused that? I look at the online bookshop and see that a few favourable Reviews came in that day. Five Star Reviews? Sales go up, (just as the Gurus said they would). Problem is, you can never find the people who did that. Ask. Ask, ask, and ask again, and the readers you encounter will say, ‘No, not me’. Maybe those people don’t want to admit they’re so easily swayed. Maybe they don’t want to look shallow. But the fact is that I’ve confronted crowds and dared them to admit they buy a book simply because it has good reviews and guess what? Nobody holds their hands up. Those easily persuaded, sheep-like buyers, clearly don’t exist. They’re just imaginary. Real buyers are all really discriminating and make their decisions based on personal preference and their own tastes. They do. Or, at least, they say they do.

I call it ‘The Tyranny of the Stars’. Every writer, every reader, finds their future is in the stars. Sales come from stars. Five Stars, best of all. Well, that’s the way it’s working now, and don’t imagine things are going to get better. Recent experience shows that ‘The Rules’ are getting tighter every year - for small publishers and solo authors, at least. No, the Box won’t get more friendly or more open. Not until some enlightened person picks up an axe and smashes the whole sordid charade with a killer blow.