The number of book reviews matter as much as the number of stars

By John Yunker,

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I found this usability study very interesting and very relevant to writers.

According to the study:

The flipside of this is important to be mindful of: users won’t necessarily consider the product with the highest rating average the best-rated one. Indeed, during our 1:1 usability tests, the subjects often show greater disposition towards some products with 4.5-star averages than some with perfect 5-star ratings due to the number of votes these averages are based on.

For instance, most subjects would pick a sleeping bag with a 4.5-star rating average based on 50 reviews over other sleeping bags with perfect 5-star ratings that were only based on a few reviews – they simply didn’t find the latter to be trustworthy.

So, authors — don’t worry so much if you don’t receive all 5-start ratings. Focus your energy instead of getting as many reviews as you can, because the number of reviews matters as much as the  aggregate rating itself, if not more so.

How to get reviews? Simply ask anyone who tells you they loved your book to “go public” with their admiration, whether on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc. Most non-writers don’t realize how helpful it is to have good reviews on online retail sites, and most are happy to help!

State of the Press: August 2014

By John Yunker,

We send out periodic updates to our authors about what’s new at Ashland Creek Press, and because we have a lot going on this year, I wanted to share some of this news from our State of the Press Address.


First of all, I want to share a few highlights from the past six months:

  • JoeAnn Hart’s novel Float won second prize in the International Rubery Book Award, and first place in fiction.
  • John Colman Wood, whose novel The Names of Things was a Chautauqua award finalist, will be speaking at Chautauqua on August 14.
  • Jean Ryan’s collection Survival Skills was a Lambda Literary Award finalist (general fiction category).
  • Olivia Chadha’s novel Balance of Fragile Things has been adopted as part of the University of California San Diego Muir College Writing Program.

Congratulations to all!

We, along with our authors, continue to promote books long after their publication dates, and these achievements show that book marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and that it’s never too late for new readers to discover a book, no matter when it was published.

The Publishing Landscape and the ACP Store
It’s hard to be a writer or a reader and not know about the Hachette/Amazon dispute and how it’s affecting publishers large and small. We’ve been keeping a close eye on the situation, as are all publishers.

In order to make our books as accessible as they can possibly be, we now offer direct sales of both print and eBooks from our website (you can order directly from any book page on the site). For print books, we offer free US shipping for orders over $50, and our eBooks are available for immediate download and are free of DRM restrictions. Please feel free to let readers know that they have this option to buy online and to support small presses!

Looking Ahead
We launched the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Writing this year. There are two months left before the deadline and we’re excited to have Karen Joy Fowler as our final judge. Her novel We are Completely Beside Ourselves won the PEN Faulkner award and has just been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Feel free to share the award information; the deadline is coming up on September 30.


As always, we’re glad to be doing the work we do as a small press in a rapidly changing landscape, where far more doors are opening than closing for today’s authors (and readers). Stay tuned for our next State of the Press Address, in which we’ll announce what’s coming up in early 2015!


How many books must one sell to become an Amazon bestseller?

By John Yunker,

I used to think that to become a bestselling author you needed to sell millions of books.

And while millions of books will certainly get you on the bestselling list, it turns out you could sell far fewer copies and still make a bestseller list.

How does 325 copies per day sound?

Amazon bestsellers

According to analysis conducted by Publishers Weekly, a book can make Amazon’s daily bestseller list by selling about 300 copies per day. Publishers Weekly arrived at this number by dividing the roughly 1,000 copies per day sold by a given bestselling book across all retailers by 30% — which is the percentage of print books that Amazon sells.

That’s right, Amazon sales account for about 30% (or more) of all print books sold in this country.

Now back to those 300 copies per day. This may not seem like many copies, but if you’re a publisher or published author you know that 300 copies is quite a lot of copies. And that’s why I recommend our book Everyday Book Marketing to authors.

When you’re a writer or small press like us, every book sold is a success story.

And if by chance or persistence or luck (or a combination of all three) you happen to sell 300 or more books per day on Amazon, keep a close eye on the bestseller list.

An interview with Among Animals contributor Rosalie Loewen

By Midge Raymond,

An interview with Among Animals contributor Rosalie Loewen (“The Boto’s Child”)

Q: What inspired “The Boto’s Child”?

A: I wrote this story when my first child was still very young. For me parenting is joyful and rewarding but also frightening and painful; from the birth onward, there is the wrenching process of letting your children go.  As a new parent, I felt intensely aware of how miraculous and impossible each of our lives are in so many ways.  Writing this story was an attempt to come to terms with these diverse aspects of parenting.


Q: The story is set in the Amazon and is so vividly detailed—what sort of research did you do to write this piece?

A: I lived in Brazil for two years. It is such a fabulous welter of color and culture and beauty that no one can live in Brazil and not absorb it. While I lived there I took a trip on the Amazon which serves as the basis for the setting of this story. My family travelled frequently when I was young and my parents always immersed us in the cultural and natural history of a place. This became a habit and I still travel with a field guide and generally trade comfort for immersion.

Q: The narrator believes that “a doctor should be the first to admit how little we understand about the mysteries of life”—and this story is filled with such mysteries. What do you hope readers will think and feel after reading “The Boto’s Child”?

I hope that this story reminds readers that the limitations that we place on our perceived realities are subjective, informed by where we are in both place and time; change either of those and you could be equally convinced of some alternative truth.

Q: Why did you decide to incorporate a Brazilian myth into this story?

A: For me, everything in the natural world is fraught with wonder and fabulousness, from the smallest details: a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, a child growing in the womb, a seed becoming a plant. Myth, religion, folktales, these are universal tools for expressing that wonder and dealing with our limitations of understanding.


Would you like an e-book to go with your print book?

By John Yunker,

I can’t say I’ve ever purchased both a print and digital version of the same book.

But I’ve certainly heard from people who have — and have long yearned for the day when you could get digital and print books bundled together in a reasonably priced package.

In October, for Amazon customers, this day will arrive.

Amazon calls the program Kindle Matchbook, which is an odd title. I keep envisioning Kindling and Matches, which can’t be the intended visual.

You can read the press release here.

In short, Amazon will allow publishers and authors to offer anyone who purchased the print edition of their book a discounted (or free) version of the e-book.  Amazon will cap this additional e-book price at $2.99, and I know publishers will be experimenting with free e-books as a way to spur additional print book sales.

Harper Collins is on board with the program so far, though I’ve read very mixed feedback so far to the program.

Some people like it. Some don’t.

As for us, we’re up for giving it a shot. It will be very interesting to see just how many people want both print and digital versions of books.

Our authors have the option to participate in this service, and most are eager to try it out.

This is a smart move for Amazon, and it will further reinforce the relationships they have built with their customers.