While I'm pottering about in my writing shed, I frequently come across the myth of reviews. Generally it follows the form of "How do I get more reviews for my book?" This question is a symptom of the more pernicious problem - buying into the myth that reviews generate sales.
It's an understandable myth that's been caused by confirmation bias getting passed along as causal relationship. It develops like this:
- You publish a book.
- You don't get many sales.
- You do a little promotional activity
- You get more sales.
- You notice you have more reviews.
- You seek reviews with ARCs, giveaways, pleas at the end of the book.
- You get more sales.
- You notice you get more reviews.
The confirmation bias comes into play because you took an action - requested reviews. You believe that action resulted in more reviews and that those reviews generated the sales.
Here's the thing: If you want more reviews, sell more books. Only people who read the book will review it. If you're seeing more reviews, it means more people are buying your book.
Here's the other thing: When it comes to Amazon reviews - the ones most people seem concerned about - the potential reader who sees those reviews is already on your page. You've done the heavy lifting and it's up to the cover and blurb to get them to sample.
My opinion is that reviews only matter in the edge cases - those situations where the potential reader is either on the fence or is looking for confirmation for the decision they've already made. If you haven't hooked them with both the cover and blurb, the reviews aren't likely to convince somebody to overlook that pair of sins and take a sample. They'll have already clicked 'next.' If they've decided to maybe give it a try, they'll look at reviews to justify their decision. If they've decided they probably should pass, they'll look at reviews to confirm their choice.
There's one other factor at play - the sophistication of the potential reader in navigating the Amazon ecosystem. People who understand the jungle know how the Amazon review game gets played. They tend to go with sample over review in order to make up their minds before they pull money out of their debit accounts.
Just to forestall the argument about Goodreads or Bob's Book Blog or Kirkus or whatever, those are lovely. Getting reviews there by convincing a reader to talk about you is good buzz. I'm not convinced that Kirkus is worth the dosh, but I'm miserly. My point is that nobody's going to review your book if they haven't read it. I know it's common advice to send out ARCs and generate pre-publication buzz and all that, but spending time and energy pursuing Amazon reviews is not likely to pay off anywhere near as handsomely as getting that next book out.
If you're doing anything that stands between you and release day, stop doing that.
I realize this is the minority opinion, but if books with more reviews got more sales, then my book with 700 reviews would have more sales than my newly released title with only 70. While that is, in fact, true, the reality is that the book with hundreds of reviews was released years ago and sells a couple of units a day. It has sold a hundred times more units in its lifetime than the new release, which generated a lot of reviews. The new release - with only 70 reviews - is selling a couple of hundred units a day. It hasn't been around long enough to generate many reviews but it's still selling much faster than the older titles.
I use this handy mantra:
Sales drive reviews.
If you want more reviews,
sell more books.
The best way to sell more books is to release more books for readers to buy and not spending time and effort chasing the review rainbow.
JMO. YMMV.Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
CC BY-SA 2.0 License