Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are Reviews Really Worth the Effort?

It seems like the one scary constant that keeps growing like college costs keep rising every year, is the need for published authors to promote themselves. Promotion, promotion, promotion is the steady mantra. Buy the book, blog, tweet, Facebook, review. . . and the list goes on.

Since I want to do everything I can to support my published friends, I buy their books, but that isn't enough these days. They've never asked me to review their books, but I try to remember to review them on Amazon because I've heard that honest reviews can help them sell more books, but I wonder if they're really useful or even read. I couldn't help but wonder if reviews were really worth the effort. I turned to some publishing professionals to ask their opinion.

Helen Breitwieser agent with Cornerstone Literary: “Yes of course! Lots of enthusiastic reviews will generate interest. A reader who is browsing titles is more likely to linger on a page if the book has a unique cover, an intriguing title, and/or lots of praise. All those elements influence a potential reader's decision to buy a book, especially by a new author.”

Marisa Corvisiero: L. Perkins Literary: “The answer is a resounding YES. I think that many readers buy from Amazon because of the reviews... sort of an assurance that they are buying something worth reading. I'm personally one of them. I've often found myself at B&N looking at a book and waited to get home to check out the review on amazon.”

Michael Braff—editor Del Rey: “I have mixed feelings about Amazon reviews. On the one hand, we have seen some titles that get amazing reviews but don’t really sell, but the inverse is also true, with poorly-reviewed books selling well. Personally, I don’t think that any reviews really sell a book in today’s market: relatively few readers actually read book reviews (there are exceptions, of course, like Romance Times), and I feel like they mostly come off as “white noise” for potential buyers: it is assumed that every book is going to feature some fantastic quotes so they just don’t even register with the reader, like a commercial or a pop-up ad.
But that’s just my personal take. I think that the place where Amazon reviews are especially helpful is actually in the realm of social networking, allowing authors to read exactly what their readers think, and opening up a dialogue between the two. With more and more authors relying on their social connection with fans, this is perhaps the one area where Amazon reviews are indispensable.”

Sue Grimshaw past Borders romance buyer , current editor at Ballantine, Bantam, Dell: “Thinking of when I was on the bookseller end of the biz it always seemed beneficial to have as much exposure to a book - good & bad --- so yes, it builds awareness, and the average consumer does use these suggestions & reviews to make their buying decisions.”


Karalee Long said...

Thanks, Theresa. This Q & A of agents and editors regarding reviews is very helpful.

ML Guida said...

I do believe reviews make an impact on whether a reader will purchase a novel. When leaving a review, I try to be constructive, because personal attacks are not helpful to authors who strive to write better books.

Vince said...

Hi Theresa:

Are Reviews Really Worth the Effort?

That depends on the book, the amount of effort expended and the value of that effort.

There is an opportunity cost of doing anything. Say you own a house free and clear and you rent it for a $500 a month positive cash flow. This might look good but have you considered that you could sell the house and make $800 a month in interest from the proceeds? That $800 is considered an opportunity cost. Amateur investors almost never think of the opportunity cost.

Reviews are not equal. I’m not very impressed when I see 5 reviews on Amazon and they are all 5-star and they are all friends of the author.

I am impressed when a romance has over 100 reviews on Amazon. A lot of people are reading the book.

I think reviews work on the margin. That they may be of little value unless the reader is in doubt whether to buy your book or other books like it. On the margin, good reviews might tip the balance one way or another.

When a reader knows nothing about a subject or genre and only wants to read one book to get an idea of whether she will like it, reviews can be very helpful – especially when there are a great number of reviews.

I think the key to marketing in the future is giving the reader good reasons for ‘having read’ your book. These are reason over and about any enjoyment that could be derived from reading a book. There are at least 1,000,000 free books available for the Kindle. Dozens of new books are offered every day for free.

If readers have good reasons for ‘having read’ your books, then they are more likely to read your books than the free books or other authors books.

“This romance is great. Anyone who is going to visit Venice needs to read it. It will make the trip ten times more enjoyable.”

Marketing efforts that will make people feel that they need to ‘have read your books’ are going to become more important in the digital book age.


Donnell said...

Very helpful, T. Thanks for asking the question!

Donnell said...

Very helpful, T. Thanks for asking the question!

Giles Hash said...

Personally, I do look at reviews before I go pick up a book. And I don't look for five-star or one-star reviews. I ALWAYS look for the two-to-four stars because I find them to be the most hones (probably a personal bias, but still...).

I just don't have time to read a book that most readers don't like. And when I'm looking for a new title, I tend to trust reviewers who appear to know what they're talking about. But I always take it with a grain of salt.

Theresa said...

Hi KaraLee, thanks for stopping by. I always wonder what they think about stuff too, yet forget the questions immediately when they're taking questions at a conference panel.

Mary, I agree that personal attacks have no place --especially in a public forum.

Vince, I agree that MANY reviews (such that can't all be author's friends) is impressive. And very good point that with the explosion of free and self-published books flooding the markets everybody has to work at giving the reader a good reason to choose your book--seems like simple supply and demand economics.

Giles an excellent point--looking at the lower star reviews to see why the book wasn't liked. I wonder if your approach is different with nonfiction books vs fiction books.

Interesting thoughts all! Thanks for participating in this discussion.

Leslie Ann aka LA said...

Hi Guys,
Again, late to the party.

It's an interesting conundrum. I hear on indie romance publishing columns and traditionally pubbed columns that an author got a bad review b/c of some silly punctuation error, or some such. Even a bad review b/c the book wasn't long enough or too long.

People feel they can post anything, and it's sad that a novel's rating can be damaged by THESE kind of reviews.

Yet they are out there and are read.

However, I do read the reviews and often purchase by the star rating. I usually get mad at what I call silly reviews, but they can bring down a book's rating. Especially at the first when few reviews are posted.

Such is life today as an author.

Over all I think we as authors should leave constructive reviews when we like a book. Wouldn't you like to read a review by someone who is also in the trenches?

Then again, I could be wrong...maybe readers don't want to thinking it's a buddy system.

So my little (HA) comment really didn't answer the question either.

~LA of the scribes.