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message 1: by F.R. (new)

F.R. Southerland (frsoutherland) | 6 comments I've heard some authors talk about getting reviews for their books and how they help to boost their sales regardless of whether or not the review is good or bad. It's press in some way. Free promotion.

On the other hand, I've heard authors talk about how, as readers, they don't even pay attention to reviews. They don't let them sway their decision to read a book.

I've never gotten a lot of reviews of my books, even when I've sent requests to dozens of book reviewers and blogs. It's never worked for me. Sales are dismal and it leaves me to wonder: Do reviews really help readers choose whether or not to purchase and read a book? I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing that.


message 2: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) I'm one of those readers who ignores the reviews, or rather, I tend to look for books that either have no reviews or just a few. I do this because there are other folks out there who *do* read reviews and I'd rather boost something good that might not have visibility rather than add my voice to the echoes of "I liked this" on something that's already popular.

However, as an author, I have not seen any evidence that reviews boost sales, but I have seen (and I am echoing what has been said previously by Owen, I believe) that more sales leads to more reviews. My first book had a couple of reviews, maybe five or six in the first year. I did a free promo that managed to catch the right eye and hit the top 100 overall roughly one year after publishing. Within a month, I'd picked up a few more reviews.

Again, as someone else pointed out (and I apologize for not remembering who this time): all the reviews in the world won't do any good if no one finds your book's page to read them.

Sorry I've nothing more firm than that. :)


message 3: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments I might be wrong but I always thought that the more reviews a book had, the more likely it would show in the first pages of a search. True or false? Does anyone know?


message 4: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments I did notice a slight uptick in sales after I made it onto some of the Listopia lists. I get a lot of my book recommendations from those. I haven't been in the game long enough to know if reviews are really selling my books or not.


message 5: by April (new)

April Wilson (aprilwilson) Hi, F.R.

Great question! I've been pondering this very issue myself since I published my first novel about five weeks ago.

I, myself, don't buy books based on reviews. I know that reviews are highly faulty for a variety of reasons, and I do not take them at face value any longer. The hunger for getting reviews has led to a very flawed reviewing system that is often over-inflated. Instead, I buy books based on the free samples that I read.

I have noticed that a lot of authors chase reviews. I'm starting to think that's a mistake. Instead of spending time chasing reviews, I think an author's time might be better spent finding ways to connect with his or her potential readers... you know, people who would love our books.

I'm still trying to work through this issue myself... I'll be interested to hear what others have to say.

April


message 6: by F.R. (new)

F.R. Southerland (frsoutherland) | 6 comments As a reader, I do tend to skim reviews good and bad. And bad reviews have never put me off from reading something. It's actually the opposite because it makes me go "hmm, I wonder if this book is as terrible as this person said".

And I think that might be true. That books with more reviews show up higher on a search.

How likely are people to buy a book if there are no reviews at all?


message 7: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments When I first put a book out I do pass out some free review copies, just to get the reviews going. I find reviews gratifying personally, so I like to have a few. And the reviews also tell me what people do and don't like about the books so I can look at what to watch out for in the next book. But passing out free copies is actually more about connecting and engaging with readers.

I think that having a lot of reviews probably does help move sales along... people will think "well, a zillion other people liked it enough to comment on it, so I probably will like it too". But I can't force people to review my work, so I basically look at other ways to connect with readers and keep myself accessible and my books available.

If you have more than one book out, don't overlook the benefits of handing out free copies. If you give someone a free copy of one and they like it, they very well might buy two or three others, whereas if they hadn't gotten that free copy they might not buy any at all because they hadn't necessarily thought about looking at your stuff all that closely.


message 8: by F.R. (new)

F.R. Southerland (frsoutherland) | 6 comments All interesting and informative answers. I've done the handing out free copies thing, and I have sent off free review copies to places--but that yielded little to no results. I really am very interested in connecting with readers and I've been trying to do that. When I meet people in daily life, I try to work some sort of promotion into it, but I don't want to be like "Hey, I'm a writer and you need to buy my stuff now!". I guess I just don't like bragging about myself for fear of coming off conceited or self-involved.

But that's a topic for another thread, perhaps.

I agree that reviews do help an author see what people like and don't like so they can address those issues in future works. It's helpful.

I guess I'm mostly just struggling with promoting my books in general.


message 9: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Capes | 90 comments I believe Amazon does favour books with high review counts, in terms of its recommendation algorithms etc but I couldn't prove it of course.

I canvas book bloggers for reviews because it helps me to hit the minimum review count many promo sites require before considering your book for a spot in their newsletter. So far, that's been effective for short periods of time. (If I was doing nothing (of course) I'd be selling less) So for me it's not reviews in and of themselves, but reviews as a tool I guess


message 10: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments I like that, thinking of reviews as a tool. I don't have enough on Amazon to get ahead on the lists either, but I figure I can't do anything about that but plow ahead and keep writing.

When it comes down to it, I'm better at writing than promoting so I focus on that part, and look for ways where I can to get the word out.


message 11: by Owen (last edited Aug 08, 2015 12:23AM) (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments My observations suggest that no, reviews are not very important as a sales tool. At some point, reviews might be a decent proxy of sales success, and this may relate to the notion (which I've heard in more than one place, but without substantiation) that Amazon promotes books with more than 50 reviews more heavily. Places like BookBub do consider the number of reviews (and their average value) in deciding which books to promote.

But this is because Bookbub (and Amazon) wants to promote books with a proven track record, and a lot of reviews (given that a low percentage of customers -- something like 1%, maybe -- leave unsolicited reviews) suggests a book has sold well.

It does not say that said book sold well because of those reviews. There is no strong evidence to support that, in general case. Some reviews may help sell some book some of the time. But overall, reviews appear to be a very weak sales tool.


message 12: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4333 comments Mod
F.R. wrote: "Do reviews really help readers choose whether or not to purchase and read a book?"

It really depends on the reader, so sometimes yes, sometimes no. I have seen people say that they pay no attention to reviews. I have seen others say that reviews are the sole thing that helps them decide if they want to buy or not, and then they generally have some criteria they look for. Some say they won't buy a book if it has few reviews. Some will not buy a book if it has too many five star reviews.

I think, in the end, it doesn't strongly matter.

In my experience, the stuff that seems to be selling the best has no reviews and mild ratings.

Of course, I still like getting reviews and appreciate the ones I get, good or bad. But, no, I don't think they're highly important overall.


message 13: by April (new)

April Wilson (aprilwilson) Owen wrote: "... At some point, reviews might be a decent proxy of sales success"

Owen, I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement. For writers, reviews are pretty much the only outward indication of how a book's doing in the marketplace. The public can't tell how many books have sold - the only thing they can see is the number of reviews that have been left. I think the reviews become, as you said, a proxy measuring stick to indicate how a book is doing.

The problem with reviews is that they've become an industry in and of themselves. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a book with a ton of 5-star reviews, and then a significant number of 1-star reviews basically saying, "Did we all read the same book? Are you kidding? It's awful." I think reviews have lost their integrity overall, because of over-inflation.

I see authors chasing reviews as if reviews are the end-all, be-all, when they're not. I think what's far more important than amassing reviews is finding one's readership... finding the natural target audience of one's book.

Amazon has access to sales data (not just purchases, but returns, too), and I would think those data would influence their algorithms more heavily than anything. As for Bookbub, I assume they don't have access to sales data, so they have to go by the only outward measure they can see, which is reviews.... and we know that reviews are often skewed and very misleading.

My view on reviews is just starting to take shape, since I've only had a book out for a little over a month now. What concerns me is the number of mediocre reviews that announce, "I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review." If an author hands his or her book out to a hundred random people, some will love it, some will think it's okay or so-so, and some will hate it. So the author ends up with a mixed bag of reviews. I think it's better if readers search out a book on their own - gravitating toward the type of book they naturally like. Then, the reviews will be higher overall, albeit fewer in number. I'd rather have 10 sincere reviews by the natural audience for my book than 100 randome ones that are all over the map.

April


message 14: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) April wrote: " I can't tell you how many times I've seen a book with a ton of 5-star reviews, and then a significant number of 1-star reviews basically saying, "Did we all read the same book? Are you kidding? It's awful." I think reviews have lost their integrity overall, because of over-inflation."

See, I wouldn't ever think that statement means anything more than the fact that people have different tastes. If you were to take a look at all time popular books, and I'm not just talking about polarizing books like Harry Potter or Fifty Shades, you will see hundreds of examples if the same statement. Just because it shows up on an indie book with ten reviews doesn't make the glowing reviews, especially those that are verified purchases and do not have an FTC mandated disclaimer, any less legitimate.


message 15: by May (new)

May Sage (maysage) | 15 comments When I'm uninspired I browse books on amazon in the genre I want to read by average reviews so I'd say yes, yes they are important.
Three five stars mean nothing but a hundred and fifty? It definitely does.


message 16: by Idav (new)

Idav Kelly (alixe_tiir) | 37 comments From a marketing perspective, reviews are good but maybe not for the reasons that people think.

Reviews themselves don't improve search ranking on Amazon's algorithm much. Amazon is concerned mainly with sales projections. Better selling books rank higher. There's also the matter of how many books you've written; if you have a lot of books, your books tend to rank a slight bit higher because most authors who write more books are projected to sell more of them.

However, reviews aren't entirely obsolete or vacuous - for one thing, they're social proof (aka the 'herd mentality'); if enough bystanders see the reviews, they may consider purchasing the book. Another thing is that most people use their names when writing reviews, which means you can look that name up, find the person, find their interests, find other people who share most of those interests, and market your book at them. You'll find that you suddenly have a targeted demographic. The biggest problem arises when you have a situation where you can't tell who exactly wrote the review because either the name is an obvious farce, or there is very little information to be gleaned from the internet about them.


message 17: by Rian (new)

Rian Nejar (riannejar) Hi F.R.,

The struggle to promote books is a common one; you are in very good company here, I think...the thoughts that follow will probably simply confirm your own.

A reader may hear of a book by word of mouth, or may see it advertised somewhere, or may find it simply by browsing. The title catches the eye, the cover provides intriguing messages, and the blurb (or blurb and the back cover material for a paper book) reinforces interest developed. Before investing any more time (other than impulse buyers), it is usually good to know what others thought of the book.

A flood of reviews may be a put off these days. How many can one peruse; how will one find sincere, diligent reviews among a large number of effusive, glowing, 5-star shout-outs? I've read from another author that he eliminates all the 5-star and 1-star reviews, and reads the rest if they are a reasonable number. Critical reviews are quite possibly more valuable. Review writing is definitely an 'industry' these days.

When one looks at art, there is a wide spectrum of impressions possible, yes? The Scream, the Mona Lisa, and a Vermeer are all unique and distinct, the Vermeer beinbg the most life-like and The Scream the least, and yet all are desired, and sold (if at all) for unimaginable sums of lucre. Yet mastery of the craft, and the art of expression, are very different in all these.

I am sure your writing is distinct in its own way, and will find the audience that resonates with it...I am beginning to accept that continuing to write may be the best possible promotion a new author can do.

cheers,
-rian


message 18: by April (new)

April Wilson (aprilwilson) Rian wrote: "I am beginning to accept that continuing to write may be the best possible promotion a new author can do. "

Absolutely! The best thing an author can do to promote book 1 is to publish book 2, and so forth. It's easy to get sidetracked from writing, but writing good books should always be the main objective.

April


message 19: by Wally (new)


message 20: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
All I know is I'm putting this question to the test with my next release. I'm shooting for 100 reviews to see if it affects anything. (Not trying to threadjack, but I'm still looking for 80 more reviews for Everyone Dies at the End. Let me know if you would like to help my experiment!)


message 21: by F.R. (new)

F.R. Southerland (frsoutherland) | 6 comments Thanks, everyone, for your input. I've already resolved to keep writing because I feel that's probably the best way to get myself out there is to have more than one or even a couple books. But thanks again for all the insight and help.


message 22: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Ekstrom (grammatica1066) | 63 comments The Review system has definitely evolved into an industry, as Rian states above, and one that keeps growing. Like so many of my colleagues here and elsewhere, I fretted and obsessed over the reviews my work received. I worried if there weren't reviews, worried that there were too many 5 star reviews, was horrified by a one-star review. While I obsessed, I didn't write. It's taken a while to reach the ambivalent stage, but I'm finally here. Most of the reviews my work receives are from here at Goodreads - not text reviews, just the stars. I was surprised to find how many there were and how consistent they were - three and four stars, a couple of fives.

What helped me break my dependence on reviews was a chance encounter on a BART train to San Francisco one morning a few years ago that I've never forgotten. A woman sitting across from me had the first edition of "Tallis' Third Thune" - the blue cover. I'd never seen the woman before and I asked how she was enjoying it. She apparently picked up the copy in a used book store when she was browsing with a friend, who recommended the book. It was an "Oh! I read this!" moment. When I asked the commuter about the book she said she hadn't been able to put it down. I told her thank you and went back to my own reading ("Hunger Games"). She realized I was the author when we got off the train (my photo is on the back cover of that edition). She thanked me for my writing and wanted to know what else I'd written.

Now that is my gauge of success.


message 23: by Josephine (new)

Josephine Calabrese (goodreadscomj_calabrese) F.R. wrote: "I've heard some authors talk about getting reviews for their books and how they help to boost their sales regardless of whether or not the review is good or bad. It's press in some way. Free promot..."

F.R. wrote: "I've heard some authors talk about getting reviews for their books and how they help to boost their sales regardless of whether or not the review is good or bad. It's press in some way. Free promot..


."


Hi,

I have rarely read reviews before purchasing a book; I concentrate on the synopsis of the book in my decision as to whether or not I want to purchase a book. But, there are people who do concentrate on book reviews. In my opinion, it's best to have both a good synopsis and book reviews.


message 24: by Denae (new)

Denae Christine (denaechristine) | 167 comments As a reader, I pay a lot of attention to reviews. I don't have enough time to read all the books I want to as it is, and so I'll need some way to narrow down my to-read list. Reviews it is. I read bad reviews and good reviews and try to decide if this is really the book for me. It has definitely kept me from some books I wouldn't have enjoyed.


message 25: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments omg yes reviews validate what i am as a being that exists


message 26: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (last edited Aug 10, 2015 02:55PM) (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
So far I have found getting book reviews much like restaurant pie.

You are sitting at a restaurant, happy and oblivious.
Then someone shows up and sits at a table next to you
They order a piece of pie and it comes.
You start to eye up that piece of pie.
You know that don't really need a piece of pie.
But that pie is right there.
It smells nice, doesn't it?
You are full, you don't need pie.
The crust looks so flaky.
You really don't need the pie though.
You are full.
That ice cream is just melting off the crust isn't it?
You are happy without pie.
Wait, is that cherry filling? Didn't they have a cherry tree outside? Are they from that tree?
You don't need pie. You just wrote about a great salad.
That ice cream has real specs of vanilla bean.
You ate already! Get a grip.
Look at how light and buttery it looks.
What do you mean pie is on sale right now?
You don't need it!

When your pie shows up and you devour it, regardless of what it tastes like.

My point is... actually I forget where I was going with this. Excuse me, I need to go get some pie.


message 27: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments C.B. wrote: "So far I have found getting book reviews much like restaurant pie.

You are sitting at a restaurant, happy and oblivious.
Then someone shows up and sits at a table next to you
They order a piece of..."


Ha,ha! CB. I actually read that the whole way through, expecting a clever, if quirky comparison... and now I want cherry pie!


message 28: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4333 comments Mod
C.B. wrote: "So far I have found getting book reviews much like restaurant pie."

So, reviews are free on Wednesday at Village Inn, now? Cool.


message 29: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Okay, I just got back from getting some restaurant pie and I remembered my point!

Pie is delicious.

...
No wait, the point not about pie!

You don't need reviews as an author, but you see the reviews that others have gotten and they are very tempting. You want to have a taste. You see books that have many reviews and it is easy to covet them. You get a review and you want more. It is easy to dwell on reviews, like many other aspects of writing, and get lost.

Because, even if they are bad reviews, they are still pie, and you want pie.


message 30: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) And I'm reading this right before heading out to the gym. Thanks, CB. It's bad enough I have to pass two donut shops, a bakery, five pizza places, three Greek restaurants, two Mexican places, and a grocery store to get there. (Damn, the gym is just two blocks away. I live in the valley of temptation!!!)


message 31: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Ekstrom (grammatica1066) | 63 comments C.B. wrote: "Okay, I just got back from getting some restaurant pie and I remembered my point!

Pie is delicious.

...
No wait, the point not about pie!

You don't need reviews as an author, but you see the rev..."


Now I want pie. It's my go-to food for writer's block.


message 32: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Christina wrote: "And I'm reading this right before heading out to the gym. Thanks, CB. It's bad enough I have to pass two donut shops, a bakery, five pizza places, three Greek restaurants, two Mexican places, and a..."

Ye, though I walk through the Valley of Temptation, I shall fear no pizza or donuts or spanakopita or . . . Yeah, right! (I think I need to move to your town. I mean, five pizza places! Do you have to negotiate w/ St. Peter to live there? )


message 33: by Jolie (new)

Jolie Mason | 41 comments On Amazon, I believe it figures into exposure. X reviews gets you put on different lists. I'm still struggling with getting them. Most people seem to be paying for them. I just can't do that. It's called struggling writer for a reason. LOL


message 34: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Owen wrote: "I mean, five pizza places! Do you have to negotiate w/ St. Peter to live there? ) "

To be fair, as a New Yorker living in Texas, it's more a case of " Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink."

;)


message 35: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Jolie wrote: "On Amazon, I believe it figures into exposure. X reviews gets you put on different lists. I'm still struggling with getting them. Most people seem to be paying for them. I just can't do that. It's ..."

I've read this quite a bit. It seems murky (like much of the info about Amazon). Does anyone have a documented source for this?

Amazon is pretty cagey about paid reviews. Also, if an author's reviews are far out of line with their sales, that is going to stand out. Reviews act a proxy of sales success when sales data are not available. Amazon does not need a proxy.

I'll offer a note of caution about assuming most people are paying for reviews. I've seen people say that on Amazon any number of times (leaving a comment calling into question how the author got so many positive reviews so quickly.) So I've run some numbers in these cases.

To cite one example, an author got ~50 4 & 5 star reviews (mostly 5 star) in under 10 days, and someone cried foul. This was the 11th book of author's popular series. Based on its sales rank and our experience, that book had likely sold 5,000 or more copies at that point. And since the first buyers are the die-hard fans, getting ~50 positive reviews that quickly was to be expected.

I'm not claiming this never happens, but my glance at the topic suggests that on Amazon, it happens less than some rumors I've heard suggest, and (given how reviews effect sales) I also suspect people who try this are wasting their money. I know that when we have money to spend, it will go towards a BookBub ad.


message 36: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
I don't think I can be blamed for pie... I think that pie needs to be blamed for itself.

I mean seriously, it is a flaky crust filled with decedent fruit. Can't you just see the cold vanilla ice cream melting into the hot succulent fruit?


message 37: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Ekstrom (grammatica1066) | 63 comments C.B. wrote: "I don't think I can be blamed for pie... I think that pie needs to be blamed for itself.

I mean seriously, it is a flaky crust filled with decedent fruit. Can't you just see the cold vanilla ice c..."


Now THAT's writing, C.B.!


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