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Category: Book Review

According to Amazon, I should dump all my friends

Something odd happened to me earlier this month. One of the developers I work with is creating a video game and wanted to know if I would be a good fit to help him with his game’s character dialogue. To assess this, I sent him a sample excerpt of my latest work in progress. He enjoyed it, and took it upon himself to buy a copy of Portrait of Woman in Ink, completely unsolicited. After finishing the book, he expressed his undying love (okay, moderate enjoyment) for it and asked me to sign on for his video game project. In return for this (apart from monetary compensation ‘n sitch) I asked if he’d be so kind as to post a review of my book that reflected his honest opinion of it.

Sometime after submitting his review, he got a form rejection email from Amazon saying that his review could not be posted. He appealed to the Amazon gods, asking why they chose to keep his review from the public, to which Amazon said, and I quote:

“We cannot post your Customer Review for “Portrait of Woman in Ink – A Tattoo Storybook” to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted.”

My book has a whole seven reviews from its nearly two years in the Amazon marketplace (I know, I know, I need to market more/better), and MOST of them are from people I know. In fact, most of them are from people I know far far better than a guy I’ve worked with for the past 6 months. This rejection leads me to form the following questions:

1) How does Amazon know who I know in personal life based on Amazon account activity? I never did any business with said person over Amazon, and like I said, I’ve only exchanged reciprocal me@mine.com emails with this person a small handful of times.

2) Does this mean that Amazon can infer that anyone I email from my personal email account is someone whose book review cannot be trusted? I email a lot of strangers, especially in my volunteer work with Velma Magazine. If they”re not snooping on my email, does this mean that any time I gift a book blogger a copy of my book in exchange for a feature on his or her blog as a Kindle gift (which is the preferred method nowadays), Amazon is going to reject that review based on the fact that “account activity indicates that you know the author”?

3) If someone who happens to know me in real life legitimately purchases my book and reads it, what difference does it make? Whether they enjoy it or hate it, the fact that they know me should have little to no bearing on their honest review of my work.

4) Why would a review by a individual with a personal connection to me in real life automatically be branded as “advertising, promotional, or misleading”? I have a hard time believing this person’s review contained any content that could be construed as such.

5) Why you gotta spy on me, Amazon? I publish on your platform and order lots of your retail goods and not-so-goods so as to take advantage of the two-day shipping I pay you for with my Amazon Prime membership. People have badmouthed you and I have always defended your awesomeness. WTF Amazon?

So for those of you know me as a close friend, Twitter follower, or anyone I’ve emailed ever, I regret to inform you that if you want to read my next book and give an honest review of it, I will have to sever all personal ties with you and go back to communicating through a middleman like the resistance did on New Caprica, since Amazon is going all Cylon ruler on me.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this? Am I overreacting or is Amazon being all big for its britches?

P.S. The Cylon above is an image from Amazon. So take that.

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Portrait of Woman in Ink on All That’s Written

Oh, hi! You came by to visit me but I’m over on All That’s Written where the lovely author and book blogger Lucy Pireel has done a great review of an advance copy of Portrait of Woman in Ink. Don’t worry, I’ll come back soon.

Check it out HERE, and check out Lucy’s works while you’re at it!

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New book blogger review of Portrait of Woman in Ink

I owe a pimple-circa-freshman-year-of-high-school-sized thank you to the the wonderful ladies over at A Reader’s Review for agreeing to feature Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook on their book review blog. This review particularly means a lot to me because this isn’t the kind of book they typically review on their site, but they found a spot in their literary hearts for a dose of different flavor.

View their beautiful review over HERE and share it with a friend or twelve.

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Portrait of Woman in Ink featured on The Reader’s and Author’s Nook

My newest book Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook got some review love from fellow author and book blogger Andrea Blackstone over at The Reader’s and Author’s Nook. While you’re over there checking out the wonderful review, take a look at all the great content they have over there and find the next book to add to your TBR list!

A huge thanks to book bloggers like these ladies who spread the word about lesser known books like mine. Check out the review here:

http://thereadersandauthorsnook.blogspot.com/2013/10/im-still-here-kelly-hitchcocks-portrait_20.html

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Geektastic KDP Giveaway Stats

Last week, I did another one of those silly book giveaways with the KDP Select program to prepare for the impending release of Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. In total, I gave away 1048 copies of The Redheaded Stepchild around the globe.

Because I am a word nerd who totally geeks out over statistics, here are my geektastic findings from the latest giveaway:

-As you may have drawn from the sharp line on the graph (picture me with one of those presentation wands pointing to the chart HERE), giveaways are most successful on the first day. Why? Because people don’t like spending money, so they will grab up all the free books they can get their hands on, which in the Kindle universe, changes daily.

 – In the free book rankings, The Redheaded Stepchild topped out at #14 in the Coming of Age category, and #18 in the Literary category.

– To my surprise, Friday was a good day to give away a book. Saturday was surprising, too. I figured people would be increasingly ignoring their computers the first 3 days of the giveaway (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and I would see a spike on Monday, but if you’ll refer to the chart HERE (picture me with magic wand again), my hypothesis proved to be wildly incorrect.

– I got a predictable 1-star review out of the giveaway. Am I surprised? Not really. Literary fiction’s not for everyone. The person who negatively reviewed my book would probably do the same to Jane Austen or Charles Dickens for lack of action. Not that I would dare compare myself to Austen or Dickens. I’m far younger and better looking.

Now, I just need to get ready for my next big promotional craziness – the release of PORTRAIT OF WOMAN IN INK!

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What’s in a Review?

I knew the day would come when I got my first bad review for The Redheaded Stepchild. That day happened to come today, which was also my first day back in the office after vacation, and the day that Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos. Blech!

Because I knew this day would come, I’ve done some reading up on how best to deal with negative reviews and how to cope with them. We writers are a sensitive bunch, and it’s hard to not take these kinds of things personally. Luckily for me, my bad review was pretty mild as far as bad reviews go. The guy (or girl, but I’m pretty convinced it was a dude) who wrote the review could have ripped on the writing, on me personally, or on the character’s personal lives, but he/she didn’t. Really, the book just wasn’t the person’s cup of tea.

To be honest, it was actually much less soul-sucking than the “Dear Author, After carefully reviewing your work we find it does not meet our needs at this time. Good luck.” letters I could line a litter box (if I had a cat) with several times over. I know my book’s not going to be for everybody. I’m in good company – all the top selling authors have a few God-awful reviews under their belts. So what am I going to do about it? Not a damn thing. Except listen to Radiohead, eat a whole pint of Blue Bell Orange Dream, look at some pictures of cute baby animals, and move on.

And hey, my bad review sold me two books today. Could be worse right? They say it’s even good to have a few not-so-great reviews. People like balance, and a book with all fantastic reviews is a little misleading. Makes it look like all the author’s friends ganged up and told everyone how much awesome sauce was smeared over the book, not that they’re biased or anything. So, now I can say I don’t know all my Amazon reviewers and they’re not all what you’d consider “mom reviews”. Though my mom didn’t like the book, so that doesn’t apply in my case.

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A splendid 5-star review for The Redheaded Stepchild

Maybe it’s just because I’m a Negative Nancy, but I fully expected my first review from someone I didn’t know to be completely negative. This morning, I woke up to find a link to this review tweeted on the Twitters:

I was only 4 pages into The Redheaded Stepchild by Kelly Hitchcock when I felt my blood pressure ease up and the knot in my stomach dissipate from having read and reviewed a particularly unreadable book of short stories that should have been written in invisible ink. Thank you Kelly, for reminding me that yes, there are amazing writers left in the world.

When I was 70% through it I’d found 4 typos. Ruined the whole thing for me. Nooooo, I’m kidding. There were 4, but this is the kind of writing, that distracts you from the typos instead of the other way around. Hitchcock’s power of observation is phenomenal and she has mastered the art of articulating the minute details of human behavior that most of us perceive only subliminally if at all.

I don’t think I’ve published enough reviews to expose myself as the harsh critic that I am, so you probably don’t realize the magnitude of the compliment I’m bestowing on this writer.

Here are just two examples of the many gems that delighted me:
…”It took him almost a year before he was able to give Katrina a hug, and even that was like watching a walking stick try to hug a caterpillar.”
…”my mother’s car looked as though it had been through menopause twice…”

The Redheaded Stepchild is a beautifully written coming of age story for readers of any age. The characters are multifaceted and well-drawn, the voice refreshingly unique, and the story poignant, hilarious, and horrifying all at once. And, as if the author doesn’t already attack all of our senses with her uncanny eye for detail, she adds a disjointed timeline as she jumps back and forth to the pivotal events that define her protagonist. We are fascinated by this because she does it deftly and because she innately understands that we are all the sum of the best and worst events of our lives, events that have no need to be told in chronological order.

Bravo! Kelly Hitchcock is definitely an author to follow for years to come. I wish I could give this novel 10 stars. Redundantly, I affirm that I am a fan.

I’m just… wow. If I only ever get this one amazingly glowing review for The Redheaded Stepchild, I won’t care, because my work truly touched someone I didn’t know from anyone. Not that I didn’t love my handwritten letter on pansy bordered stationery, but coming from a stranger it’s a different feeling. I really hope I can continue to inspire people with my literary work.

Also, I fully intend to hunt down those 4 typos.

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