The reviews are in

So, my book about my Camino has been in the Amazon Kindle Store for about six months. And sales haven’t dried up. July was a bit dodgy, but other than that, I’ve held my own. It doesn’t take a lot to hold your own in the Kindle Store admittedly. You sell 5 or 6 copies in a day and you can find yourself in the top 10 for your category.

You can select lots of searchable keywords for your book on Amazon, but you can only pick two categories. One of mine is Non-fiction > Health and fitness > Exercise > Walking. This meant that when I first released the book, I could boast that I was the number 36 bestseller on the Amazon fitness chart, which made me laugh a lot.

Originally, the second category I chose was Non-fiction > Travel > Western Europe > Spain and Portugal, which meant I could find myself in the charts just ahead of old editions of the Rough Guide to Alicante. I recently changed this categorisation to Non-fiction > Biography and Autobiography > LGBT and yesterday I found myself at number 8 in the LGBT memoir charts, one ahead of Caitlyn Jenner, meaning I was LITERALLY keeping up with the Kardashians.

It’s given me another statistic to obsessively check. Obsessively. I keep refreshing the sales dashboard on Amazon. Having the internet in my pocket is dangerous. And I’m doing OK. Hundreds of people have now read my book, and most comfortingly, the number of sales have gone up every month for the last four months. It’s not going to make me rich, but I have actually earned some money from it. I get about £150 a month from it, which isn’t nothing. I just need to write another 19 books and I’ll be able to quit my job! I’ve reformatted the eBook and corrected a few typos and made it look a bit more professional in terms of layout etc. I’ve also added 50p to the price. Fingers crossed it doesn’t kill my sales.

As well as my sales stats, the other thing I can obsessively check is the reviews. There are currently 22 reviews on the UK Amazon page for the book. As far as I can make out, 5 of these are written by people who actually know me (thank you!), so 17 strangers have taken time out of their days and written reviews of my book. And by and large, they’re really good reviews. People say really lovely things. One person said it would make a great movie (ARE YOU LISTENING, HOLLYWOOD?) and others praise various other aspects. It gets me very excited to read these. One person only wrote a one-word review. It said “OK”, but most people seem more certain in their opinions than that. There are two very negative reviews there. One is criticising me for not being sufficiently respectful towards the religious aspect of it, and I can’t claim that this book would be a good one for religious people. The other review is full of hatred. After reading it, I couldn’t sleep and I was in a bad mood for three days. He calls me vapid, says the book is rubbish and that it has a clickbaity title (Does it?) and he says he’s delighted he only borrowed it from the Kindle Library and he’s happy he didn’t pay for it. Sucks to be him though, because Amazon pays me when you do that anyway. I really was taken aback at how personally I took the criticism though. I think I need to stop reading reviews, though I can’t imagine I’d be able to stop.

There are only two reviews of the book on the US site (Amazon.com, as opposed to Amazon.co.uk). One is a really nice one written by a friend, the other one is really angry one. It says I’m a terrible writer and only gave me one star. I didn’t take this review as personally as the one from the UK site though. This is because I clicked on this reviewer’s profile and it showed that they had previously given five stars to a book that claimed that the Trump presidency had been prophesied by Jesus. I don’t know if reviews matter, but I do know that while my UK sales have been consistently rising, my US ones have been consistently falling, although both started out around the same level last June.

I don’t sell much from the other Amazon sites. I’ve had a few copies sell on the Canadian, Australian, French, German and Spanish sites, but nothing significant, though one friend did leave a really nice review on the French site. It doesn’t stop me from checking all those sites for reviews all the time though, because in the absence of their own reviews, they default to my US reviews and not my UK ones and my giant ego can’t handle that.

The other place where people can rate and review the book is Goodreads, where a lot of people find it in the first place, as it’s listed in a Goodreads post of Camino books. I currently have 23 ratings and have 3.96 out of five stars. As I boasted on Facebook the other day, this means that I’m currently rated higher than ACTUAL SHAKESPEARE because Romeo and Juliet currently has a rating of 3.74 stars.

There are also three very nice reviews of my book on Goodreads, one from a friend and two from strangers, one of which starts “In the beginning, I didn’t think I was going to like Connor…” There is no way this reviewer, called Ian, thought I would read his review. Reading your own reviews is weird. It’s like eavesdropping on what strangers think about your life.

Does everyone do this? I presume they do. I presume Charles Dickens is up in Heaven eagerly craning his neck to see what edwardcullen4lyf389 thinks of Great Expectations on the Canadian Amazon site.

Anyway, I love this. I really, really do. Bad reviews kill me, and days where I don’t sell any copies kill me, but every single copy sold brings me joy. I feel electric inside just knowing that strangers are reading what I wrote.

People ask me if I do this again. Of course I will. I’m currently assembling and editing my blogposts from September 2011 in preparation for the book of the blog of my years in Hall. And remember the YA novel I was writing? That’s back too. So keep an eye out for news on them. I’m also going to record an audio version of the Camino book.

Most excitingly though, I’ve released my Camino book as an actual paperback. That’s right! If you go onto Amazon right now, you won’t just see the eBook, it’s also for sale as an actual real book! I ordered my own copy and I’ve been stroking it and smelling it all day. (Self-publishing is cruel. You have to pay for your own copy of your own book.) Anyway, it’s a real paper and ink book now, and yes, it’s self-published, but it looks real and I’ve been dancing around my flat all day with it.

Go on. Buy it. Buy it here. Order a copy for your auntie while you’re at it. Christmas is coming. Buy one for all your relatives It’s a real live book! YAAAAY! Buy it.

And thanks to everyone for the reviews and the encouragement. I love you all. Now, buy my book.

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