Would you write honest reviews in return for free books?

A friend of mine mentioned to me today how much she liked my novel Senator, which she had just finished.  So I thanked her and asked her if she’d written a customer review.  The question seemed to baffle her.  She had never considered writing a review.  Why would she do that?  But of course, now that I asked her…

We’ll see if she gets around to it.

In the ebook world, nothing is more important for sales than customer reviews.  But they’re extraordinarily hard to get, in my experience.  And it’s not just my books–I’ve come across lots of books by fairly well-known authors that have just a handful of reviews.

My publisher has a marketing arm called eBook Discovery that just launched a Read and Review Club to try to address this.  If you sign up, you can download certain books for free every couple of weeks, in return for leaving an honest review at Amazon or other eRetailer.  There’s some additional logistics involved, but that’s the basic idea.  I have no idea if this will work, but it doesn’t seem implausible.  I think the key will be to get a sufficient variety of books from authors they don’t publish, so that readers will stay interested.  Why not click the link and give it a try?

By the way, I believe them when they say they want honest reviews–if you hate the book, say so.  They are of the opinion that it’s the number of reviews that matters, not how positive the reviews are.  I’m not quite sure I believe this, but that’s what they say.

“Senator” Free Friday link

Here’s the link for the Free Friday writeup of Senator on Barnes & Noble.

People are already reviewing it, which I think is weird.  As with my previous Free Friday experience, the reviews are bimodal—people either love it or hate it.  Here is a hater who left a comment:

Used the Lord’s name in vain multiple times at the beginning so I read no further.  I don’t recommend this one at all.

Can’t argue with that.  Here are some more favorable comments from Barnes & Noble and elsewhere.  This one is voted the most helpful on Barnes & Noble:

One of Richard Bowker’s best novels — full of characters who are not just interesting but believable. Bowker’s style is clean and spare, but also engaging, vivid, and fast moving. I read this when it first appeared in hardcover, and am glad to see it back in print as an ebook.

And here’s the most helpful review on Amazon:

The beginning of this book put me off. I generally do not care for novels written in the first person, and the first chapters were tedious, another overworked story of the dead mistress whose murder threatens to ruin her high-placed lover. However, once all of the players were identified, I found myself relating to the protagonists and many supporting characters on the same kind of personal level as when I first read Presumed Innocent so many years ago. Bowker creates the flawed hero of the classics, a man driven on the one hand by ambition and on the other,by a sense of honor. Even at the end, the Senator possessed strengths and weaknesses that are not entirely resolved. In other words, he is human. This is not just a fine tuned murder mystery, it is a journey into the very complex issues of guilt and innocence-good and evil. For nearly a quarter century, I was a prosecutor of serious felonies, a position not without personal as well as professional challenges. It was not uncommon for me to sometimes relate to the defendant sitting one chair away at counsel table on a very human level. That did not change the nature of my mission–I was considered a tough prosecutor– but it made me reflect upon the difference between the concept of legal guilt and that of moral evil. This is not a story in which the murderer is arrested, tried and convicted, but its resolution is gratifying. In the past 18 months I have downloaded more than 415 books on my Kindle, and read all but a very few.This is one of the better ones, perhaps when it comes to a political mystery, the very best.

Just one more:

This is one of my favorite Richard Bowker novels — full of characters who are not just interesting but believable. Bowker writes in a clean, spare style that I find engaging and vivid, but also fast moving. I read this when it first appeared in hardcover, and am glad to see it back in print as an ebook.

“Senator” is free at Barnes & Noble!

My novel Senator is one of this week’s Free Friday selections at Barnes & Noble, and I just noticed they’ve already changed the price.  Dover Beach was a Free Friday selection a while back; lots of people downloaded it, and it got lots of reviews, most of which were great.  Some of them were, um, interesting.  If you do download and read Senator, please leave a review, and I hope it’s at the reverential/awestruck end of the spectrum.

Senator final cover

“Replica” is now free in England and Canada!

I seem to have some readers there.

In England, it’s #7 among technothrillers on Amazon.

In Canada, it’s #8.

You still have to pay for it in Australia, alas.

Here’s a nice short review that just appeared on Barnes & Noble:

What a terrific book!  Richard Bowker is one of my new favorite authors!


People sure do like free ebooks

I sold maybe two copies of my novel Replica in July, while charging a measly $4.99.  We dropped the price to $0.00 a couple of days ago.  The result?  800 downloads on Amazon (I don’t have any data on Barnes & Noble).

I don’t have any great insight to offer.  People like free stuff.  I just hope that some of those 800 folks read the book, like it, and leave me a nice review.  And, maybe, buy one of my other fine novels.

“Replica” is now free on Kindle!

Not wanting to be left behind, Amazon has now made Replica free for the Kindle.

It is my considered opinion that people like free stuff.  Replica is currently #236 among all free ebooks on Amazon.  It is #4 among Technothrillers, which is how my publisher classifies the novel, although I’d tend to call it a science fiction thriller.  Anyway, grab your copy now before they run out, and please write a customer review when you’ve read the thing.


“Replica” is now free on Barnes & Noble!

For a limited time, we’re making my novel Replica available for the low low price of free. It’s currently free on Barnes & Noble, and Amazon will presumably follow suit when it gets wind of what’s afoot.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Replica:

“While maintaining a highly readable pulp-fiction style, Bowker takes the narrative through a gripping array of turnabouts, doublecrosses and twists.  Readers will be guessing the story’s outcome until the very end.”

As usual, I would be forever grateful if you left a customer review after downloading and reading the book.  Reviews matter.

“The Portal” is now free on the Nook!

For a limited time only, presumably.  Presumably Amazon will follow suit before long and lower its price to zero, but you should probably go ahead and pay real money for it anyway.


Here’s a recent 5-star customer review from Amazon:

In this new entry in the Young Adult fiction category, Richard Bowker explores questions of our relationship to the world we live in by telling the tale of a young adolescent who discovers a portal to an alternate version of that world. By creating that world as one with underdeveloped technology, he is able to paint a vivid picture of what life might have been like in the mid 18th century in colonial New England (even though the portal is not a time-travel device). His characters are well-drawn, and his descriptions of battle scenes between the New Englanders and the Portuguese soldiers are gripping, especially with regard to the angst his protagonist, Larry Barnes, feels about having killed an enemy. In the end, Larry has to make a choice — one that is surprisingly difficult and thought-provoking and which wouldn’t have been anticipated earlier in the story.

“Summit” is #1 free spy thriller on Amazon

It would be better if people were, you know, actually paying for it.  But I’ll take what I can get!

Here’s the most recent customer review:

Richard Bowker manages to give lots of credibility to the subject of psychics. What is there not to agree in the end? Psychics do exist, even if their lives are depicted more in the dark forces type of books than in a thriller.
Deep thoughtful take on American and Russian ideals, the perceptions and beliefs ingrained in their nationals to infuse a patriotic love, which makes us explore our own psyche and rattles perhaps our own confidence in our righteousness. The same political corruption and power greed exists at all levels, in all countries- and is perfectly delineated in the pages of this book. It is difficult not to love the heroes, and the insertion of a love story makes the read even more enjoyable for female readership. I did enjoy this book till the (perfect) end.

iBooks? My books! ebooks? Free books!

Update: In comments, Jeff provides the magical link to Senator in the iTunes library.  He also reminds me to tell folks to go to the Senator page on Amazon and inform them that you’ve found Senator for a lower price elsewhere.  That’s how a book gets to be free for the Kindle–you can’t just tell Amazon to give it away.

The four novels I have so far released in ebook format are now available on Apple’s iBook store.  Yay!  I don’t know how to link to these guys, but here’s what they look like in iTunes:

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that Senator is free.  That’s right–for a limited time only, it’s available for insanely low price of zero dollars and zero cents.  That’s pretty darn cheap!  At this price, quantities can’t last, so you’d better pick up yours quickly, before Apple runs out.

For those of you who picked up Senator at a higher price, my apologies.  As I noted here, we’ve made some changes to our business model.  I’m using an outside publisher to get my stuff onto sites like iBooks, as well as to goose sales generally.  A standard way to do that is to give a book away and get people hooked so that they’ll buy the others.

Anyway, here is the great (and tragic) Phil Ochs singing his great song “Changes,” just a couple of years before his death.  In a kinder, fairer world, Phil Ochs would have been as long-lived and honored as Dylan.