My recent post about helping fellow authors by leaving Amazon (and B&N) reviews, prompted a great question from commenter Margo: Does the number of reviews on Amazon actually help an author’s sales or boost his/her rating?
Boosting sales and boosting ratings are related but not the same thing. First, a primer on how Amazon operates (much of this was a revelation to me):
- Amazon is an upward spiral model: the more your book sells, the higher it climbs on the Amazon search results, and in category lists and recommendations (like “also bought” lists)
- Amazon sales rank gives you some idea of how well a book is selling, in its category. Note: this can be wildly different for e-books vs. print, because of the different pools of books it is being compared to. Also, these vary day-to-day, depending on sales for that day (or even that hour). Here are some old (2008) data, to give you a rough idea of what those numbers* mean:
Rank Weekly Sales
1,000 90 copies
10,000 60 copies
100,000 16 copies
300,000 12 copies
500,000 1 copy
1,000,000 1 copy per month
Presumably, a book’s sales rank is related to how much it has sold, and drives the highly desired upward spiral in Amazon-land (i.e. you sell some books, your book rises in the search listings, your book gets more exposure, you sell more books, etc.).
Now, what is the effect of reviews on all of this? Some think even revered print reviews have less relevance today, but others think book reviews still matter. While print reviews (and blog reviews) may be helpful simply because they are free publicity for your book, getting your title in front of more eyeballs, I think it is impossible to know exactly how online reviews such as Amazon affect a book’s sales. Surely lots of positive reviews could help sales, and possibly a devastating negative review could hurt sales, but I think in the world of fiction, most people take the reviews not too seriously. After all, the adventure novel you hate might be just the story for me. I think people take personal recommendations, from friends or like-minded people much more seriously than online book reviews from strangers.
So you probably want good reviews, or at least it can’t hurt. Here’s a cautionary post from Steve Weber (his book Plug your Book! has lots of tips about online book marketing) about who should NOT review your book, namely you or your PR agent. My opinion: if you and your publisher are the only ones reviewing your book, then your book’s not going to do well anyway. However, having people who already know and love your book review early on seems a sensible approach to getting your book on its way.
Weber’s book was published in 2007, which was before the e-book tsunami hit the industry. However his blog has several up-to-date articles about book marketing, including how the Amazon Spotlight reviews are chosen, how to use giveaways at Goodreads to boost reviews, and how authors can add or edit their books catalog details on Amazon.
All of this doesn’t really answer Margo’s question (sorry!), but I stand by my earlier encouragement to review books for authors that you love, to support and encourage them, and maybe even bring them more sales.
What about you, lovely readers? Do you read the online reviews before you purchase? Or have you already decided to buy by the time you click through to Amazon or B&N?
p.s. Come back tomorrow for our very first Guest Post by Rebecca Carlson: Science Fiction for Breakfast !