Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Power of Reviews

Every author dreams of receiving reviews that send swarms of readers into the streets (or to search engines) to purchase their book. I was fortunate enough to receive a five star review this week from Affaire de Coeur Book Reviews for Out of Forgotten Ashes. I'm still quite pleased about it.

But a few of my author friends and I were talking about whether these reviews make much impact. It's pretty obvious that the New York Times reviews do, but what about these smaller review sites? How many readers do they reach? And how many of the folks who do see such a review then go on to purchase the book? One of the other authors contends there is little to no return on "obscure" reviews. I'm sure she's right in some aspects.

The difference is what you do with reviews. Maybe not many people have heard of Affaire de Coeur Book Reviews,  but posting a few lines with a link to the rest on Amazon will change that. Posting it on a website, Facebook, and Twitter will also help. Is there a hard and fast way to track the returns of these moves? I'm sure there is but to be honest, I really don't care. If you post it, someone will read it. If they buy the book, great. If not, maybe some other day they will.  A lovely example happened this week for me as well: my nonfiction book was reviewed in a very specialized newspaper and BAM! I had an email from someone in North Wales telling me they already ordered a copy, and would I "mind signing it when they come to America next fall?" Would I mind?  HAH! Would you? I thought not.

I'm a great believer in serendipity and hard work. Truly one does not exist without the other. The more places I provide for potential readers to see what others have thought of my writing, the greater the odds are that someone at some time will make a purchase. It doesn't have to be today, or tomorrow, or even next week. Books --whether electronic or paper--don't rot all that quickly. It's a steady climb to build readership, and I think reviews are just one more stepping stone up the slope. But it is up to me to make that review as available and visible as I can. 

Guess you know what I'll be doing this weekend...  

**And speaking of the US holiday weekend, let's take more than a moment to reflect upon the reason Memorial Day is observed. Those who gave their lives fighting for our country deserve respect, gratitude, and acknowledgement. Attend a parade or memorial service, thank the veterans you meet, and if possible, make a donation to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund who not only help the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, but those who were severely wounded. 



Big Mike said...

Oh Lord

I hate to disagree with a lady, but when it comes to 5 star reviews from a legit website that has significant circulation, it does in fact affect sales. I've done data based analysis several times and in every case where I received a 4+ there was a noticeable bump.

The only down side is that it was short lived (about a month) because its replaced quickly by other top reviews on that site.

Then there's the unsuspected return from a top review. If you bulletize on your website near the book cover it does have a positive affect (I've experimented with that also). Plus you can use on the Amazon page. So you should be ecstatic when you get one.

I wrote an article that ranks 24 promo avenues (on my website (click the "So you want to write a novel" yellow button top left) and next to awards, 4+ stars provides the 2nd best return on investment.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2011)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I agree with Mike. Reviews matter. After my CTRR review, my book became #1 in Fictionwise for a week.

The reviewer posted the last paragraph on Amazon and that had to be a plus, too.

I'll be reading your series because of word-of-mouth from a friend and coworker. One never knows.

linda_rettstatt said...

I agree, Jude, that it's important what you do with reviews from the more obscure sites. We have to let folks know the review is there. I always post a blurb and the link on my website and on my blog when reviews come in. And I have had readers tell me they bought my book because they saw the review. I like to think, too, that review sites have their own 'followers' who read their reviews, even though their presence may not be obvious. Like lurkers on the loops, they may not say much, but do take in what's posted there.

January Bain said...

Excellant Advice, Jude! Building readership is an upward battle but with work, time, and patience it can happen. I really enjoyed Mike's article also and saved it to a file. Thanks for the insight. best, J.

Jude Johnson said...

Thanks, everyone!

It's taken me all day to get back here (thank you so much Blogger *grr*). I have also saved Mike's article and definitely respect all the free help he provides!

I'll definitely circulate this review, as well as keep an eye out for others. I don't track responses closely (too much potential for discouragement) but I do try to keep the flow of information going. Besides positive reviews, word of mouth is the best marketing tool, in my opinion.


Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...

First of all, I'm thrilled to find this blog. Great and interesting information here!

I have a slightly different take on things - and perhaps because my book is nonfiction, a memoir. Breaking the Code (Sourcebooks) came out on 11/1/11 and is my first book. The audience for my book is baby boomers through the Greatest Generation, and also veterans. That said, what I have seen is that there are those for whom reviews play a very important role in their decision to buy a book. But in my experience, there are far more who don't pay any attention to them at all.

And tracking book sales due to reviews is nearly impossible. I've heard that when you have an interview on NPR, that listeners tend to go right out and buy the book that day, which proved true in our case. That one was easy to track.

But in most cases, people might read a review and put the book on their list to buy. They might think they'll remember the name of the book when they go online later or when they go to the bookstore next Tuesday. Then, they may or may not remember. They might see your name several times before they think, "Hey, I've heard this before. I need to buy that book." There are a thousand scenarios. And guess what? I'm exactly the same in my book buying habits.

My opinion now is that every review matters. In fact, I've learned that the website or blog reviews that some might call "obscure", in actuality have a more focused audience who will not only buy the book, but will be so enthused that they will tell everyone they know about it.

I have the same opinion about blogs with a smaller audience as I do about doing signings at small independent bookstores - never underestimate the power of a small group of people, to generate enthusiasm for your book! ~Karen