Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Authors Guide to the Almighty 3% Rule

If you've been in business for an extended period of time, you've probably heard about the 3% Rule. If you're an author, you'll definitely want to get a handle on this treasured tool that businesses of all kinds have used as a measuring stick of their success.

As an author I have a bad habit of reading my reviews. I probably shouldn't, but it is what it is. I take my words very seriously and personally, so when I read a review that is singing my praises I feel good. Knowing that my work had struck a chord with a reader means everything to me. Conversely, when I read a review that more or less bashes my work, I take it personally. Yeah, yeah, I know, literature is subjective, to each his own, blah blah blah. I've heard it before and have probably written it even more. But bad reviews are still a bit cutting to me. I didn't work that hard on a book that hundreds loved, just to be told that it wasn't worth $1 by a few. Really? A buck? Who says that? What kind of person---?

Anyway, Back to The 3% Rule.

As an author, indie or otherwise, you need to understand statistics. There's a rule that has rolled into common business practices called the three percent rule. This rule says that out of 100 customers, there will always be an average of 3% who are never happy, never satisfied, inconsiderate, lawsuit happy, etc.

Businesses use the 3% rule to determine when it's okay to let customers go, as in drop them from their mailing list, or to determine if they are doing something wrong. In other words, the closer their customer satisfaction rate is to 97%, the better they are doing. The further away they are from 97% satisfaction, there is a greater chance that they need to make some changes.

How does this apply to authors? Simple. Authors can use this rule to determine if their book is actually a quality product, or if it needs another round of edits, re-write, etc. Also, if you have a quality product, you don't have to take your bad reviews as personally, because you can trust that 3% of your reviews are trash worthy.

This is a statistical fact. Look it up. Good to know, huh? I thought so anyway.

So here's the deal. I took a look at Reunion, did the math, and discovered that out of 79 reviews, 70 were good to great, and nine were okay to bad. Now here's how the math works. To determine the TRUE level of customer satisfaction, you automatically throw out 3% of the bad reviews. That's right. Pitch 'em. Lose 'em. Get 'em out of your head forever. They don't count. They are the same people who live miserable lives, make everyone around them miserable and wouldn't have it any other way. Their bad review is simply a reflection of themselves.

I bet you're feeling good about yourself now, huh? Good. You should.

Anyway, Once you know the true level of dissatisfied customers, you can discover the actual quality of your product or service.

I can feel fairly confident that some of those reviewers simply picked a genre that doesn't fit their interest or got something different then what they expected. In fact, those stats are a pretty good indicator that I did a damn good job.

On a side note, I will mention that of that half of the bad reviews came after I hit The Amazon Top 100, thereby getting a much higher level of exposure. After doing a little investigation, I found that most of the reviewers who gave Reunion bad marks did not have any other reviews to their credit. Not one. They talked about how many books they've read, but they didn't have a single review, except mine.

Do you see me scratching my head? I've chatted with other bestselling indie authors and they had a similar experience. We call those reviewers "The One Hit Wonders" because they hit and run. This happens all too often.

Not sure about you, but that seemed a bit questionable to me. Made me wonder if there are peeps out there seeking indie authors, spying out free, 99¢, and $2.99 books by no name authors and targeting them, to squash the indie movement. Just a thought. But I'm moving on.

WARNING: Never, ever, ever, comment on a bad review that you receive. That is bad form. Remain silent, bite your tongue, and then smile and wave. My #1 rule of author PR:  Stay as far away from drama and negativity as possible. Learn it. Live it. If you get a bad review, bite your tongue; it's comes with the territory.

All to say, the 3% rule is a great tool to help you take an honest look at your work and the value it brings to the ebook market place. If your average customer satisfaction is bordering on the 80% and under, you might want to take a good hard look at what you're doing wrong. And I'll be honest, I do listen to my reviewers, because they can have valid complaints as well as compliments.

No matter which way the wind blows your reader response, I hope the 3% rule helps you get a handle on your quality. And I wish you the very best of success in 2012. If you need any help with your books, check out my author services page. I do a few things that can make your life a bit easier. Also, watch for my soon to be released book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

~Jeff Bennington best selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy


  1. Hi - I shared this. Its encouraging. I plan on publishing my first novel later this year and I'm pretty scared tbh. Its a scary thing to do, lie your imagination out there for all to consume and possibly even spit out right back at you. I have a thin layer so I know I'll be shedding tears over some reviews, no doubt. I will have to remember this advice - thanks! X

    PS: I now have a author blog as well as WordsinSync: X

  2. Great to know Jeff! Thanks! I'll be keeping this in mind for sure and spreading the word to others. Great post!

  3. That's an interesting perspective. It is difficult to try and figure out if reviewers are just bashing for the sake of bashing or if there are valid points to consider. I haven't had anything below one 3 star on Nephilim, and none with my Reed Ferguson'd think I'd feel ecstatic but I wonder if people just think I'm making up the reviews. It's too bad that there is kind of a "game" with reviews, where people are suspect no matter if the reviews are good or bad.
    Thanks for another insightful post.

  4. Great post. It's clear that some reviewers dis books just to draw attention to themselves, especially when the other reviews are largely positive. That 3% love to be contrarians.

  5. This was a very encouraging post to read. I've noticed on sites like Amazon or Ebay no seller EVER has 100%

  6. Wow. I had no idea, but that 3% rule makes a lot of sense. Thanks for such an encouraging post!

  7. Good info, Jeff. Keeping an appropriate perspective on feedback leaves more time and energy to keep on writing. Thanks!

  8. A great post. I think we all suffer from blues with a bad review - it's encouraging to hear a logical analysis.

    I shall try to take your advice and blot my mind to those scumbags who don't appreciate my work - lol. I shall label them 3 percenters from now on

  9. Much appreciated post, Jeff. Knowledge is power, after all. Scary thing is, I think I spend most of my time around the people who make up that other 3%.

  10. Wonderful business advice, Jeff, and I'm taking it to heart and head. I've had to work with some of those 3 percenters and it took me awhile to learn that they would insist on being miserable no matter how much anyone tried to help them or cheer them up. Thank you for sharing this great 3% rule with us.

  11. Thanks for sharing! I've never heard of the 3% rule before, but it makes a lot of sense!

  12. It's always nice to hear that what you innately know (albeit not as clearly) is actually true and there is research to back it up. Will be passing this along. Thank you.

  13. @Shah ~ Glad I could be an encouragement. Come back soon.

    @LJ ~ As reviews start coming in for your rookie book, you'll definitely want to pay attention. Much of the reviewers who take time to analyze your work can truly help you improve/grow as an author. It's the ones who leave 2 sentance, generic bashing that can be tossed to the side.

    @Renee ~ After hitting the top 100, I've met other best selling authors who are actually working with Amazon to nab the "One hit wonders". We have all been hit by them and they strike mostly after a book hits the top 100.

    @Eric ~ Yup. We must keep writing through it all. Thanks for reading.

    @Anonymous. Thanks for visiting. Your comment is appreciated.

    @Jasmine ! You are very welcome.

    @Al ~ Good idea. Still, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    @Chris ~ I'm so sorry to hear that. Perhaps you have already developed an immunity.

    Christina ~ Very true. You are welcome.

    @Brenda ~ You are so very welcome. Wishing you the best on your book.

    @Kelly ~ We want to please 100% of our readers, but I'm not sure that's possible. Thanks for dropping by!

    @Christine ~ I guess the old phrase you can't please everyone is true. Thanks for reading.

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