It's important to remember that the stars awarded to a book by an Amazon customer are not supposed to be an objective assessment of how good this book is, but a subjective appreciation -- 5 stars, I loved it; 4 stars, I liked it; 3 stars, it was OK, and so on.
I was very pleased with my two-day promotion of the Kindle edition of The Grand Mirage because a lot of people took notice of the book and thought it looked interesting enough to download. Even if a book is free, you do have to click and then you have another book cluttering up your virtual bookshelf, so I presume most people don't click blindly.
At one point, The Grand Mirage was #6 in the genre historical fiction for free ebooks, with Tale of Two Cities, Scarlet Letter, and two editions of War and Peace ahead of it. This doesn't mean that The Grand Mirage, as entertaining as it is, ranks up there with these classics and I would be the first to tell anyone that if you haven't read Tale of Two Cities, you should read it before you read The Grand Mirage.
The star rankings, at 4 and 4.5, also were in the same range, which again, does not mean that my book, objectively speaking, ranks with these classics. After all, if you gave 5 stars to War and Peace, you'd have to give 1/2 a star to every contemporary work of historical fiction if these were supposed to be objective rankings.
What 5 stars means is that there are readers who really loved it, and that is extremely gratifying to an author. The "worst" review I've gotten on Amazon so far is one I solicited from one of these semi-pro reviewers who have popped up on the Web. He gave The Grand Mirage 3 stars, which meant, as he explains, he thought it was worth reading, but he clearly wasn't wild about it. He added that someone who like historical fiction might want to give it 4 stars.
That's fine. There's some excellent romance and paranormal novels out there that get 5 stars from aficionados of these genres, but I probably wouldn't be able to give that many stars to these books.
As is most assuredly the case with most Amazon authors, and not just indies, some of the reviews on the site were written by friends of mine, who, God bless them, loved my book. They were sympathetically disposed, let's say, but at least each and every one of them used their real name. As a reader, I'm more suspicious of 5-star reviews written by a made-up name or Anonymous.
What thrills me about self-publishing is that readers who enjoy a book like The Grand Mirage now have a chance to read it. And if giving away the book means that more of these people actually get a hold of it, that's great. In the long run, they will talk about it, recommend it, buy my next book and you have created a fan base.