Thursday, 23 August 2012

Update part 2

I said last time out that apart from the depressing downward trend, one noticeable useful piece of information had emerged. Specifically, one episode has outperformed all the others, and I think I know why.

Let's start with another graph:

This is the number of times each of the first four episodes has been downloaded in each week since the first week of June (week 13 here shouldn't really be here - it's the week we're currently in, and thus only represents about three days' worth of downloads at time of writing). The thing that's of particular interest is that episode 1.4 tops the chart for seven out of the twelve weeks under consideration, and is tied for first in another. The next-best performer, episode 1.1, is best in three weeks (it's not clear from the graph, but it tops the numbers, jointly with 1.2, for week 1).

Now, I don't know how series are normally expected to perform in publishing (and there may not be a current model for series of short stories like the Second Realm). 1.4 is the final episode of the first story arc of the Second Realm, and it may be that final episodes are known to outperform mid-series installments. But that doesn't seem likely to me, particularly given that the first episode of the sequence is the second-best performer. It seems to me that the first episode should be the best performer, because given the choice, a consumer is likely to start with the first episode.

But there's one significant fact about episode 1.4 of The Second Realm which distinguishes it from all the others. It's been reviewed. Now, the review is actually intended to cover the complete first collection (and has been posted to Amazon as such - as you can see from the link above), but it's posted to Smashwords on episode 1.4, so it appears as a review for episode 1.4 to the casual shopper.

Now, the review isn't massively enthusiastic - by the writer's own admission, he's not a member of what I see as my core target audience - but it does give a seal of approval of sorts. It says to a reader 'someone read this and considered it acceptable'. I think that fact alone explains the success of episode 1.4.

The only other review posted on a Second Realm episode is the 2-star, single-paragraph review someone posted on episode 1.2, which seems to be a product of not having read episode 1.1 first (though in fairness to the reviewer, the review was posted before the episodes were clearly numbered). That doesn't appear to have had a negative effect on 1.2 (it still outperforms 1.3, for example).

By this reasoning, and based on a tiny sample - the only sample to which I have access - there's everything gained and nothing lost by asking for reviews. For this reason, when the next Second Realm episode comes out (on Saturday - mark it in your diaries! ;D), there will be a note at the end asking people to consider leaving a review at Smashwords if they've enjoyed the story. We'll see what results.

It is, of course, entirely possible that this will provoke a bunch of people to write reviews saying how irritating it is when an author begs for reviews, but that's probably just me being paranoid.

Does my experience match up to yours? Do reviews make a clear difference?

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