If You Read, Your Voice Matters

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For a long time, there was debate regarding whether reviews lead to sales of movies and books. However, recently,it has become more apparent that is the case. In fact, in one empirical study, “Do online reviews matter? — An empirical investigation of panel data,” by Wenjing Duana,Bin Gu, and Andrew B. Whinston, researchers found that the presence of reviews is influential in driving sales of movies. In fact, early reviews were important in generating buzz, which drives sales.

Put plainly, not only do online reviews matter, they are critical in helping to generate interest in entertainment products. Now, while this was an empirical study of movie reviews, online book reviews have been found to be as important. Interestingly, although there has been some press of late regarding (assholes) who pay for fake reviews, the overall rating of the review isn’t what matters to consumers.

The study summarized it well: “… Consumers do not blindly follow the ratings posted by other users. Instead, they are more likely to read the review and make an independent judgment about the true quality of the movie. However, we find that the number of reviews plays an important role in influencing sales.”

In other words, if you read a book, and write, however briefly, how you feel about it, others will read the review and use it to decide whether they might like it. Simply put, a mediocre review is better than no review, as readers have no information to gauge a book, especially from a new author.

So, does your opinion matter? The answer is, increasingly, yes. While professional reviewers still have a place in art, increasingly, it is the cumulative opinion of ordinary people that drive sales. In my study of the Top 100 authors of all time, it was critical to note that the list of critically acclaimed authors is almost wholly different from the list of best-selling ones. As the Hampton Roads, Virginia, “Daily Press” stated, “Critics of critics say professional reviewers have snooty tastes, applying the same criteria to an Eddie Murphy comedy or Vin Diesel bust-’em-up as they would to a Kurosawa or Fellini film.”

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In my study, I found the same trend with books. In fact, in reading Sci Fi, as I’ve done for my entire life, I’ve been amused that the most critically heralded books are the ones wherein almost nothing interesting happens, or where all the characters are odious. What critics like has little to do with why people read books. This is probably why, for Blockbusters, film goers don’t care about movie reviews. Bad Blockbusters still make money. Similarly, heralded books, like 50 Shades of Suck, sell in the jillions, despite horrendous reviews.

Where reviews matter is for the small books (and films) that depend on word of mouth.

Therefore, for an Indie Publisher, like me, the reviews of readers is tantamount to our life’s blood. If you read the book, but don’t review it, or tell anyone about it, there’s a great chance no one else will buy it. My books are not selling well, for instance, despite the fact that I’ve gotten exactly 1 bad review, from a guy who didn’t read the whole book.

If you’ve read a book from an Independent Publisher and liked it, or sort of liked it, or thought it sucked, take 5 minutes and write about it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Studies have shown it’s the number of (hopefully honest) reviews that matter. You matter. If you’ve read Discovery, Awakening, Emprise, or The Juice and Other Stories, how about giving me a review?

I actually care what you think. Reviews not only drive sales, and word of mouth, they tell me what to keep doing and what to improve upon. Where else can you be as important?

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2 Comments

  1. YEs, reviews are critical, I totally agree with you. That was a bad choice of words – I mean ‘key’. I find reviewing a little difficult, in that I don’t want to be very critical (even when I think the book is boring). I bear in mind the way the author will feel when they read my review, and don’t want to hurt feelings or worse, invite payback. So my reviews are part-honest, part politeness. I think I have left a review for the Stream. Is that the book you wanted reviewed? Because, with the caveats above, I feel I owe it to the society of writers to review as I would be reviewed, so to speak.

    1. Thanks, I do believe you reviewed one of The Stream series. Thank you. I was soliciting anyone who’s read an indie book and hadn’t left any feedback (even if it’s just a number of star on Goodreads).

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