Negative Reviews, Thanking Customers, and Collecting User Data

Yesterday, I got the first bad review of my novella, The Start of the Majestic World.  My friends were consoling me about it, but the funny thing was, it actually made me happy, for two reasons:

  1. Criticism is the only way you can improve as a writer.
  2. It meant somebody actually read the book, and cared enough to review it.

The only thing about it that made me feel bad is that I’m sorry I couldn’t deliver a better experience to that reader.  If somebody takes the trouble to buy and read something I wrote, I want them to enjoy it. So, dear reader, know that I will do better with my next book, thanks in part to your input.

This brings me to my second point, which is that I try to get in touch with and thank all my readers, whether they like the book or not.  Reading a book takes time and costs money, and I appreciate that they are willing to invest both in mine.

But, thanks to the nature of the product, it’s hard to get find out who my readers are, unless they go out of their way to tell me.  This is rare.  When was the last time you wrote to some author to tell them what you thought of their book? Most people never write a review at all, let alone contact the author.

Also, my publisher has a strong policy against collecting user data.  This makes sense, because users hate having their data collected.  They worry that it will be sold, or that they will lose their privacy.  That is totally understandable.  Before I got into making and selling products, I felt the same way.  I hate the idea of some company gathering information on me.

Once I started selling things, I saw the other side of the issue.  That is, when you sell stuff–books, apps, whatever–it’s helpful to know who is buying it and why.  That way, you can figure out what drives sales, and get more people to buy your product.

So, the question is: how to gather that information from your users (readers, in my case) without seeming like a creepy, intrusive, dystopian corporation?


  1. The number of reviews on Amazon for each book is what puts it on the forefront of their advertising. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad. You’re right about getting honest criticism and it does help your writing.

  2. Patrick Prescott is right. I have heard writer’s say that the number of reviews is how Amazon determines which books to promote. I don’t know what the magic number is….I think 50 for big promotions. But every review helps. As I’m writing this I see your Top Posts & Pages sidebar on the right. And AGAIN, thought why would there be giant spikes on semi-truck wheels?

    1. Ha! The eternal mystery, it seems. (Though actually that post was displaced as my most popular ever by the “Jane Got a Gun” review.)

      You are right, every review helps. Thanks again for yours. 🙂

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