Monday, August 12, 2013
Trail Guide: Honest Feedback
Here at Hunt to Read, we're trying to pioneer a pretty cool new business idea: give our authors and publishers honest feedback, earn points, and (eventually--probably in another week or two) unlock free books and other perks for your trouble.
The key word in the above paragraph is "honest."
Let me back up; authors and publishers have a complex relationship with ratings and reviews. Authors have a lot of time, effort, and emotional well-being tied up in these books. Publishers also have money, as well as investments in covers and (potentially) blurb copy and other marketing.
Because they have so much invested in the process, all of our listers want to hear nothing more than every aspect of their book is top-notch, from cover to blurb and everything in-between.
But what's absolutely more important is finding out what's wrong with the presentation of our books so that we can improve it. As both an author and publisher, I can learn a lot more from what folks say doesn't work than from a bunch of glowing, if hollow, cover ratings.
It's one of the reasons I had to swallow my pride and redo the cover of Rogue. I thought the old cover was great; I designed it myself, and I thought the "brushed metal" look was suitably cool for an apocalyptic sci-fi novella.
Then the ratings on HTR started coming in. They were just average.
Did it hurt my pride? Sure, a little.
At the same time, I pride myself on being as professional as possible in all aspects of my life, be it this blog, Hunt to Read more generally, or my books. I could pout and try to convince myself that people "didn't get it," but that's not what this site is designed for.
Instead, I took a deep breath, fired up inDesign, and improved that cover to something that looks (dare I say) borderline professional.
The result? Cover ratings are up on the new version, if limited to our group of early adopters. Because (I assume) folks are being honest, they helped me quite a bit. Sales of Rogue, which had stagnated a bit, picked up again with the addition of a shiny new cover.
That's why honest feedback is so important to our writers. If you're taking the time to rate a book and earn the corresponding points, it doesn't hurt to make your feedback your honest opinion. The author won't see your username connected to the rating, and while some folks' egos might initially be bruised if they receive several negative ratings, if their cover truly needs work, or if their blurb is turning potential buyers off, it's much better to know that now so that the author or publisher can fix it, and their work can be enjoyed by more people.
And authors and publishers, by all means, don't take a less-than-glowing cover rating as a
personal attack, unless it's accompanied by a comment that crosses the line, in which case you can always report the alleged abuse to firstname.lastname@example.org. These readers are taking the time and effort to give you something that's incredibly valuable to you: marketing feedback. The least you could do is to respect their honest opinions.
We pride ourselves on the community and civility that Hunt to Read has built over its first six weeks of operation. We want to continue to foster this atmosphere as we move forward; we're absolutely confident that we can do so because we believe in our users. It's possible to be honest without crossing the line into maliciousness, and it's equally possible to take honest ratings and feedback in the spirit that it's intended without seeing it as a personal affront, no matter your level of investment in your work.
And of course, our entreaty for honesty carries over into feedback on the site itself! I'm sure some of our heaviest users can attest to the fact that we accept even the harshest of criticism with as much grace and class as we can muster, and generally try to implement the requested site improvements as quickly as possible. If you have any feedback in that vein, please don't hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
But for now, thank you to all of our users who have provided feedback to our listers; as a proud lister of books on the site, I know your feedback has already helped me out, as I'm sure it also has helped many of our other authors.
Thanks again, and Happy Hunting!
D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.