Thank you for helping me reach three amazing milestone celebrations

Just a quick post this morning to celebrate some more review/ratings milestones over on Amazon. I was so close to posting this yesterday but one of the books was just one off the milestone but hit it overnight. Yay!

And that book is Coming Home to Seashell Cottage which is the fourth and final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, telling Clare’s story. I love all the books in that series for different reasons but this one is my personal favourite. I felt that I’d discovered who I was as a writer when I wrote this one and I love the twists and turns in the story.

Thank you to everyone – especially Jade on Twitter who added in the 1,000th review last night after I posted that I was tantalising close – for helping Coming Home to Seashell Cottage reach the 1,000 reviews/ratings milestone.

This is the second book in the series to reach 1,000 reviews/ratings. Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1) passed that milestone a few weeks back. Book 2 – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – and book 3 – Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – still have a little way to go and are currently at 838 and 826 reviews respectively but I’m hoping that they’ll reach their 1,000 milestones too in the not too distant future.

We’re still in Whitsborough Bay for the next book and it’s The Secret to Happiness which passed the 1,500 milestone yesterday. This was the book which secured me my publishing deal with the amazing Boldwood Books so it will forever be a special book for me. It’s one of the most adventurous I’ve written in that it features three different perspectives, and it’s the only one of my books that is written in third person.

Another huge thank you to everyone who has helped The Secret to Happiness pass the 1,500 milestone. Even the 1-star reviewer who describes it as “absolute pish” and tells me he “didn’t know it was possible to publish something so bad”! How rude!!!!

And finally the hedgehogs have done it again with a goal also achieved yesterday on the five-week anniversary since publication day. The third book in the series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – passed the 1,500 reviews/ratings mark. Woo hoo!

Of all my books, it has the highest average percentage of 5-star ratings with a whopping 83%. I’m so very grateful that everyone has taken this series – and particularly this book – to their hearts. Although I’m massively feeling the pressure with book 4 which I’ve just started writing ready for the 6th January publication date. Hoping I haven’t set the bar too high with book 3!

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review or just to leave a rating. It is such an amazing way of thanking an author if you’ve loved one of their stories, and I personally find it such a motivator to keep writing.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Super celebrations for those hedgehogs

It has been another amazing week in the world of Hedgehog Hollow.

Today, on the 4-week anniversary since the release of book 3 in the series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – the first book is celebrating a major reviews/ratings milestone. It has now passed the 2,000 point on Amazon. Woo hoo those hedgehogs!

But book 3 has hit another amazing number. 1,300 is maybe not a number we’d call a milestone but when we say that 1,300 was achieved in only 4 weeks, my gaster is well and truly flabbered (which auto correct wanted to change to my Easter is blabbered!)

And with over 2,300 reviews, the 2nd book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – is well on its way to a 2,500 milestone.

Meanwhile over on Apple, the hedgehogs have been enjoying more celebrations. I posted to say that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow had been chosen as Apple’s Free Book of the Week in the UK and Ireland as well as being free Romance of the Week in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. That week is over now. Well, I say the week is over but it still is showing as FREE in some territories so, if you’re an Apple user and haven’t already grabbed it, you may still get it for free.

Giving away a book for free may seem a strange thing to do as it obviously brings in zero income for an author and we do have bills to pay. It’s a strategy that can work well when the book is the start of a series as it’s effectively giving readers a free sample. If they like what they try, they’ll hopefully go on and read the other books in the series and, as they’ll be buying those, some income is still generated.

In March last year, the first book in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series – Making Wishes at Bay View – was the Free Book of the Week in the UK and made it to the #1 position, with #3 for Making Wishes at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #23 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (#2, 3 and 5 respectively in the Romance category chart). I hoped similar things would happen for the hedgehogs.

And I’m delighted to say they have…

FINDING LOVE AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW topped the overall chart in UK and Ireland, and the Romance category in both those territories and Australia. Top 6 everywhere else!

It was so lovely seeing it at the top of the overall free chart…

NEW ARRIVALS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW came so close to the top in the UK and I thought at one point that it might just nudge up there… but there was a new E L James released today. The hedgehogs are not going to topple Mr Grey!

I was absolutely delighted to chart in the USA with it being such an enormous market. Apple shows the Top 200 positions but gives no indication of chart positions outside that so it’s such a special moment spotting it visually represented.

A particular thrill was becoming a sandwich in the Apple Books UK chart with Richard Osman and Matt Haig who have two of the biggest selling books of the year. What an honour! I’d bought both paperbacks recently so couldn’t resist recreating the sandwich in my office.

And this was my #2 moment, so very close to the top. As you can see, book 3 was still working its way up the charts at this point. It’s so surreal when I see some of the HUGE names with whom I’m sharing ‘shelf-space’ and also particularly lovely to see a fellow Boldwood author, Diane Saxon in there too…

FAMILY SECRETS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW didn’t chart in Ireland but did well in all the other territories and potentially could still climb higher but I wanted to write this post today as it’s the 4-week anniversary since the release of Family Secrets.

It was particularly great capturing book 2 and 3 today in the Top 5 together:

At one point, books 2 and 3 were Top 5 together while book 1 was top of the free chart so they were all featuring on the home page in the UK. Don’t imagine I’ll see that again!

A huge thank you to all Apple users who’ve made this possible this week and to all the Amazon users who’ve helped achieve those amazing review/ratings numbers.

As I say, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow still appears to be free in most territories for Apple so do check yours out if you haven’t already grabbed it. It’s also still in Prime Reading on Amazon and all my books are in Kindle Unlimited so free if you subscribe to that.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Starry Skies reaches for the skies and achieves a reviews milestone

In the midst of all the excitement of publication day for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, another of my books has achieved an amazing reviews/ratings milestone.

Well done to Tara, Hercules the giant house rabbit, and the amazing Castle Street café – The Chocolate Pot – for passing 1,500 reviews/ratings on Amazon. Woo hoo!

I absolutely love this story. Reviews slowed down post Christmas but they keep coming in and I’m so thrilled it has reached such an epic number.

This book is best enjoyed after reading Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which is a slightly shorter novel set purely in December in the business next door to The Chocolate Pot. Starry Skies itself is set across a whole year from Christmas Eve one year until Christmas Day the next so it’s not purely about Christmas.

Thank you to everyone who has reviewed or rated this book, especially as they’re predominantly positive.

My only 1-star review is from someone who couldn’t download it onto her Kindle. This isn’t actually anything to do with the author and is an issue Amazon could easily resolve but it’s one of those things and at least somebody looking at it could dismiss that particular review if they are influenced by looking at negative reviews.

I do have some readers who didn’t gel with the book or the character and that’s always going to be the case as we don’t all like the same thing. However, I’m delighted that 93% of readers who commented loved it.

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

It’s available as an eBook for Apple, Kindle and Kobo, in large print format, paperback, physical audio, audio download and via streaming services. In the next couple of months, it will also be available as a hardback. You can get the eBook on Kindle here.

Here’s some quotes from 5-star reviews:

Thank you again to everyone for helping Starry Skies at the Chocolate Pot Café reach this fabulous milestone. It makes me soooo happy! And thank you to my amazing editor, Nia, and the team at Boldwood Books for making this possible.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Making Wishes at Bay View makes wishes come true

The first book in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Making Wishes at Bay View, has reached a huge ratings/reviews milestone on Amazon today, passing the 1,000 point. Woo hoo!

This is the sixth of my books to pass the 1k milestone, joining Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, The Secret to Happiness, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. and I still have to pinch myself that this has happened.

Before I joined Boldwood Books, this particular book had somewhere in the region of 30-40 reviews on it and none of my books had reached the 100 point, never mind 1,000!

I’m so chuffed that they’re mainly positive too. Thank you to all the readers and bloggers who have taken the time to share the book love and to pass on their recommendations to friends and family. It makes such a difference.

I’m now watching the remaining books in the series. They’re all way past the 700 point with which I’m delighted.

It looks as though Coming Home to Seashell Cottage – the final book in the series – will make it to 1,000 first. I love all the books for different reasons but this is my personal favourite as I love the many twists and turns in the story. I’m not sure whether it has the most reviews out of the remaining three because more readers loved it or because not all readers have reviewed the previous books, instead rating book 4 with their thoughts on the whole series. Whatever the case, this is a very happy sight…

Thank you again for helping Making Wishes at Bay View achieve this amazing milestone today.

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Celebrating four amazing milestones this week

This week, I’m celebrating four amazing milestones for reviews/ratings on Amazon.

The Secret to Happiness which was the book that secured me my publishing deal with Boldwood Books, released in September 2019, has reached 1,000 ratings/reviews. Woo hoo! I’m thrilled with that.

But there’s more…

Both Hedgehog Hollow books out so far – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2) have hit a whopping 1,500 ratings/reviews. Eek!

I posted a couple of weeks ago about book 2 surpassing the number of reviews for book 1 and this has continued with New Arrivals hitting 1,500 before Finding Love, despite only being released in January this year compared to July last year for book 1.

This still surprises me and I have to assume that readers are joining the series at book 2 and feeling settled enough with the story that they aren’t going back to book 1.

For those who are loving their visits to Hedgehog Hollow, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is out on 4th May but available for pre-order now and I’ve just started to write book 4. This doesn’t have a title yet but will be out in January next year.

But it doesn’t end there…

My final milestone is a whopping 2,000 reviews for Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which was a re-release in August last year, although the title remained the same as before. Oh my goodness! TWO THOUSAND!!!!!

What’s even more special is that these aren’t just huge milestones; they’re milestones full of love for the stories with more than 90% positive reviews/ratings (4 or 5-star) and the majority of them being 5-star.

I’m so grateful to readers and bloggers/reviewers for sharing their kind words and recommending my stories to others. I look at these volumes of reviews and still can’t believe they’re for the characters and plots that I created. I’m so incredibly humbled and thankful xxx

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

One book, one week, one hundred reviews

Oh my goodness! I can’t quite believe what has just happened! New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, the second book in this series set in a fictional hedgehog rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds, only came out on Thursday last week (7th January) and it has just received its 100th review/rating on Amazon.

So that’s one book, one week, one hundred reviews. Eek!

It took me five years for the first of my books to hit the big 100! Granted, most of that time was pre-Boldwood when I was a struggling indie author and, as I’ve often said, Boldwood completely changed my life.

All my other Boldwood releases have steadily (sometimes quickly) gathered reviews and my two Christmas releases have both passed the 1,000 mark but the speed at which the hedgehogs have reached 100 is astonishing. One week?!

And, not only that, but it’s 100 reviews full of love. Two readers have given it a 3-star rating without review (which is classed as a negative rating on Amazon’s scale) but all the others have given 4-star and 5-star.

I know that won’t last – and that isn’t me being negative as the more reviews a book gathers, the more negative ones it will gather as it won’t suit everyone – but I’m certainly going to revel in it for now.

Thank you so much to my amazing editor, Nia. We’ve both been frantically refreshing our screens this afternoon as it was on 99 for a tantalisingly long time and we were really hoping to get to the 100 within the week! Goal achieved!

And, of course, thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed or rated New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow. You have made this author do a happy dance round her office today!

If you haven’t read it, click here to order it on Amazon and I’ve popped the blurb below. It’s also available on Kobo and Apple Books, as a paperback, large print, physical audio, audio download and via streaming services so oodles of ways to read or listen.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow is the second book in the Hedgehog Hollow series and is best enjoyed after reading Book 1 – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

With new arrivals comes new responsibilities…

The sun is shining, wild flowers are blooming and Hedgehog Hollow is officially open for business.

For Samantha, the proud owner of this beautiful rescue centre, life has never been busier. But with an influx of new hogs and hoglets to take care of, not to mention a full-time job and ongoing family issues, can she accept the possibility that she has taken on more than she can handle?

Fortunately, she has the love of her life, Josh, by her side for support and encouragement. But Josh has his own family troubles to deal with. And soon he must decide if he’s ready to do the one thing he swore he’d never do – forgive his father.

For both Samantha and Josh it’s a season of change and for figuring out whether the past can ever truly be forgotten.

Escape back to wonderful Hedgehog Hollow with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for the perfect uplifting read full of love, hope and forgiveness.

The one where Carly’s Cupcakes gets 1,500 reviews

On 17th November I posted about my delight at Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes achieving a whopping 1,000 reviews/ratings on Amazon. I never expected that, just five weeks later, I’d be able to post about another major milestone: 1,500! EEEEEeeeeeeekkkkkkk!!!!!!!!

I am beyond thrilled and cannot thank you all enough for reading and (mainly) loving this heartwarming Christmassy story of family and friendships.

This is just a short post from me (for once!) If you want to read my original post about my journey to reaching 1,000 reviews, you can find it here.

I’m delighted to still have a large proportion (90%) of reviews/ratings at 4-5 star and hope that many more readers will fall in love with Carly’s story over the coming weeks. After all, a Christmas book isn’t just for Christmas. Who wouldn’t want heartwarming escapism all year round, particularly with all the hurt, fear and scary stuff going on right now?

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes is available as an eBook for Apple, Kindle (available here) and Kobo. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, it’s available there too. You can also get a paperback, large print, physical audio, audio download or listen to it through streaming services.

And if you love Carly’s story, why not find out what happens next as her good friend Tara, who runs The Chocolate Pot (the café next door to Carly’s Cupcakes) takes over the reins in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. You can buy this on Kindle here. It’s available in all the same formats as Carly’s Cupcakes.

Both books are currently still only 99p. Absolute bargain. So, go on, treat yourself to both and hunker down with a hot chocolate, a tub of Quality Street and relax…

Big hugs

Jessica xx

CHRISTMAS AT CARLY’S CUPCAKES:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitsborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

STARRY SKIES OVER THE CHOCOLATE POT CAFE:

Cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

The one where I get my first ever 1-star review on Amazon

I’ve done it! After nearly 4.5 years as a published writer with ten books out there, it has finally happened. Today, I received my first ever 1-star review on Amazon for my latest novel The Secret to Happiness.

Screenshot 2019-10-10 at 13.35.14In the writing community, the first 1-star review is often joked about as being the ‘rite of passage’ or it’s said that you’re ‘not a real author’ until you’ve received one. That might all sound very flippant but it’s a way of dealing with the blow of someone telling us that they thought that the novel that we spent months or even years creating with blood, sweat and tears is, quite frankly, a turd. Ouch. It hurts. But it happens.

Every big name from classics like Austen and Dickens to multi-billion contemporary best-sellers like J K Rowling, Stephen King and Dan Brown has 1-star reviews. So that puts me in pretty good company.

I am quite astonished that I’ve ‘survived’ this long without the lowest rating but I will admit that I smarted when I received it today and not for the reason you’d expect…

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One-star reviews happen and, as authors, we need to accept that not everyone is going to love our story (would be a boring world if we all loved the same things). Some readers will come from the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything” school of thought and keep it to themselves whereas others will happily voice their negative opinions and some of those will do it with venom! Which is absolutely their right. Maybe not the venom part but it’s certainly their right to share their opinion.

No, what irked me was that Amazon have changed their rules around reviews. I obviously missed the memo about this and I still believed that it was not possible to just give a rating; words had to accompany it. Not anymore. Now a reader can simply give a rating with no explanation whatsoever and this is difficult to swallow.

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I still have a day job in Human Resources. As an HR Professional, one of my two specialisms is learning and development. I’m therefore all for a bit of (preferably constructive) feedback and I will happily learn from this in my writing career and action it where possible e.g. if a reader has spotted an error. What I can’t do is learn from a 1-star rating with no explanation. And neither can potential readers. I personally don’t make a buying decision based on reviews but there are plenty of readers out there who do and having low ratings without explanations doesn’t help them or the author.

I’ve seen 1-star reviews for other authors along these lines:

Book didn’t appear on my Kindle

Formatting seemed to go funny

Paperback didn’t arrive on time

Not read it yet so can’t rate it

It’s possible that the formatting is down to the author or publisher but not necessarily. The other scenarios above are definitely out of the author’s control and, if a prospective reader is looking at the reviews for a buying decision and the reason for the low-rating is explained as one of the above (or similar), then they can effectively discount that review as it’s not about the story itself.

I’ve also seen 1-star reviews for other authors that state something like:

Absolutely loved it. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Can’t wait for the next

In this case, the reader has clearly misunderstood and clicked on the wrong end of the rating scale. Oops. But, again, a prospective reader looking at reviews as part of their decision-making will see this and be able to discount that 1-star rating too.

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

But when a 1-star rating simply appears without a review, who does this help?

  • It doesn’t help the author because it brings down their ratings and gives them nothing to work with
  • It doesn’t help prospective readers because there’s no information to support the rating and factor into their buying decision
  • And, actually, it doesn’t help the person who left the rating because they haven’t had their rant!

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Image by an_photos from Pixabay

I therefore find myself mystified as to why this system would be introduced by Amazon.

Maybe there is a case for just leaving a rating on certain products. For example, if you ordered a pack of 12 x Bic biros, does that really warrant you having to write a review? They’re mass-produced pens. What more can be said? Either you can write with it or you can’t. But for books, is this really an improvement? I’d suggest not but I’d very much welcome your thoughts.

I’m concerned that it opens the system up for abuse. When someone places a review, their Amazon identifier comes up. Sometimes this is their real name but, more often than not, this is an identity they’ve created for their reviews like glitterunicorn or loves2read. Either way, we have no idea who these people are and the unspoken rule is that we don’t communicate with reviewers, even to thank them, but they do have some form of identity on the system and, if curious, we can see what else they’ve reviewed and maybe take comfort that they never give high ratings for books or they clearly don’t enjoy a certain type of book. However, when they just leave a rating, they’re completely anonymous – we just know the rating and nothing about the source – and this surely opens up the opportunity for an individual with an axe to grind to randomly give a low rating to an author they dislike or even of whom they’re jealous whilst appearing completely invisible on the system.

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On Tuesday, I shared the above tweet to say that 35 of the 36 reviews on Amazon were 5-star. Is it a coincidence that, within two days, an anonymous 1-star rating appeared (bearing in mind it usually takes a couple of days for ratings/reviews to materialise)? Yes, quite possibly. In fact, I hope it is. But I wouldn’t be an author if my mind didn’t work overtime and constantly ask ‘what if…?’ What if someone decided to take me down a peg or two after that tweet? What if someone was sitting there saying, ‘Nearly all 5-star? Well, not anymore. Ha ha ha ha ha!’ I just don’t know. I’d like to think that nobody could be so cruel but we live in a world full of hatred and unkindness exacerbated by keyboard warriors and trolls who don’t think about the impact their words might have on others. Or don’t care.

Can I just emphasise that I’m not upset at receiving a 1-star rating (she writes through the blur of tears before ripping open her second box of tissues for the day). After all, 36 readers disagree. I’m just a bit bewildered by Amazon’s change to allow ratings instead of reviews. Please do pop a comment below and let me know what you think.

Edit: I meant to say something which I put on my FB post about this earlier and that there may well be a whole pile of positives to this change that I’m simply not thinking of because I’m too blinkered by the 1-star review. Huge thanks to Shalini, a prolific reader and reviewer who has been so supportive of my writing for giving another perspective on this. It’s well worth reading her comments for an alternative take (click on the option at the top of this post to see comments).

Jessica xx

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Image by Ka Young Seo from Pixabay