Independent Author’s Toolbag: Reviews and Book Sales

This post is as much addressed to readers as it is to authors.  Many readers might feel that they are pestered, one might even say harassed, to provide reviews.  Why is that?  Well, it’s simple.  As a reader, when I browse through books on Amazon or B&N, I’ll take a few minutes to glance at what other people said.  Especially if it’s a book from a new or unfamiliar author.  I’ll check what the 5 star raters say and I’ll check what the 1 star raters said.  Why?  Because what irritated someone else about the novel often says more about the author than what someone who loved it might have said.  Also, especially in the era of self-publishing, if I see complaints about poor grammar, awkward sentence structure, or bad plot, I can steer clear.

Apparently, from various market research, ebook sales are highly driven by reviews and ratings.  There are a variety of readers, high consumption readers, who filter by number of reviews.  There is also a prohibition, from Amazon, on ‘reveiw farms’ of authors giving one another incestual reviews.  As an independent author, receiving reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and other locations can be the difference between selling well and not selling at all.  Full reviews at blogs and websites also help to channel some traffic, but the impulse buyers, the ones who need their reading fix, are browsing for their next fix right now… and does your ebook have the reviews to garner their attention?

The other part of this is sales ranking.  Amazon does this most visibly and has the highest volume of ebook sales in the US, so I’ll use it as the primary example.  As an author, you want your sales ranking high for a number of reasons.  The first reason, of course, is high sales means more people buying your book.  This is good for a variety of reasons.  The next reason is that high sales means that your book will appear higher on the lists when someone searches for ebooks in your genre.  That’s less of other people’s stuff that someone has to filter through before they find your work.  paradoxically, this means that in order to sell well… you need to sell well.  However, there are ways to ‘game’ the system.  Amazon tracks sales over time rather than total sales.  The good part about this is that if you can sell even a relatively small number of books in a short period of time, you can books yourself higher on the book sales ranking… which is good, because when a reader sees your book is #23 on some listing versus #230,000, they’re more likely to read what you’re putting out.

How do you do that?  Larry Correia uses a term called a ‘book bomb.’  When an author releases their new book, the author has everyone they know, who’s interested, buy the book around the same time.  The author’s book sales spikes and their book rises up the charts.  How effective is that?  A solid spike can guarantee that other people will see your book.  They might not buy it, but they’ll at least have the opportunity to make the decision… whereas if they never see it, they’re never given the opportunity.  This is an area where networking, developing loyal readers, and communication are essential.  You can seriously help your book sales by organizing loyal readers (also known as herding cats) to get them to buy your stuff.

What does that mean for readers in general?  Well, keep in mind that the authors you read and enjoy don’t just publish out of the goodness of their hearts.  Authors want their works to be appreciated.  We spend thousands and tens of thousands of hours on writing something to entertain you for a day or two.  We also like to eat, so getting paid for it is a nice form of appreciation.  If you really like what someone wrote, post that, write what you liked and didn’t in a review on Amazon or Goodreads or whatever.  A detailed synopsis like your teachers wanted in high school isn’t necessary.  A one liner “I liked this book, author X is my favoritist person EVAR!” isn’t particularly helpful, either.  A couple sentences such as “X writes with strong characters and a vivid setting.  His story hooked me with the first words.  I really enjoyed the dynamic between Character X and Character Y” tells a potential reader much more, without giving away anything that might spoil the read.  Ideally, if you really liked something, you can take five minutes to write three or four sentences about what you liked.  The same goes for something you didn’t like.  If you bought a book and it was the skunkiest piece of drivel you ever stumbled across, post a review about what you didn’t like.  If the author clearly wrote about a subject they didn’t understand, they had “teh worts grammer evar,” or if they wrote a preachy diatribe about some subject in which you disagree… give warning some other folks.  There’s nothing I hate more than spending some of my hard earned money on a book that isn’t worth the time spent in reading it.  And, believe it or not, some authors want that kind of feedback, so we know what to improve upon.

Here’s a link to Larry Correia who wrote a better article on the ‘book bomb’ subject:

http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/book-bomb-variant-today-get-a-good-book-for-a-good-reason/

And he’s apparently doing a book bomb for an author right now as well, so check it out:

http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/next-book-bomb-chuck-dixon-feb-18th/

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Independent Author’s Toolbag: Reviews and Book Sales”

  1. Can be sad, but it is very true. That in the self-published market the number of review can make a big difference on if people will look at a book or not. They see a book with low number of reviews and skip over it since “Hey it has low number of reviews its obviously not popular, therefor not worth it”. Well that my opinion on what people think. I know its partially what I kinda think.

    Well except that I do actually pick out any book that has an interesting cover or title regardless of the number of review and I read the summary the author provides. If I like the summary then I go onto reading the sample (truthfully greatest thing, being able to read the first chapter or so of a book without buying). Had summaries of books I hated, but gave sample a try and ended up loving the book.

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  2. Yeah, I love being able to read part of a book online before I buy it. It reminds me of setting in a library, reading the first few pages of a book before I checked it out as a kid. It’s nice to have that option, to see if it it’ll hook me before I buy.

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