Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about reviews, as well as bemoaning my general lack of them. Conventional wisdom says that the more reviews your book has, the more copies it will sell. Although this may be true, it appears to be circular logic. It seems more plausible that a book has more reviews because it has sold more copies and has more people who are willing to review the book.
But I wanted to conduct a little cursory research on this topic and examined the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for all Kindle Books. It’s important to recognize before examining the list that all of the below books certainly sell thousands of copies a day (a personal friend of mine has a book sitting around position 500 in the below list and it sells over 600 copies a day).
Below is the current number of reviews for the top 20 books:
#1 – 16,334
#2 – 449
#3 – 83
#4 – 762
#5 – 8,854
#6 – 572
#7 – 896
#8 – 122
#9 – 97
#10 – 1,824
#11 – 84
#12 – 277
#13 – 8,542
#14 – 11,661
#15 – 9,340
#16 – 83
#17 – 491
#18 – 69
#19 – 5,526
#20 – 1,101
So what does this tell us?
Not a thing that I can tell. The spread on number of reviews is fairly large, although all the books have at least 60 reviews. When you look at the books sitting at the 21-100 spots, you see some books with a fairly low number of reviews (and I left out the big name books that likely get on the top 100 because of the popularity of the author or previous wildly successful books in the series):
#22 – 35
#29 – 37
#49 – 34
#50 – 43
#69 – 35
#70 – 44
#71 – 28
#77 – 30
#80 – 14
#100 – 24
This made me think that number of reviews may not matter as much as we believe. Then I thought that maybe it was a matter of the number of average stars or rating the book received. After reviewing the list, I saw that nearly all of the books had between a 4 and 5 star average, but not all of them did. #8 on the list had an average rating of 3.6. #30 of 3.5 and the lowest rating on the entire Top 100 list sat at #14 on Bestseller List with an average rating of 3.3. Now I should say this book is part of the Divergent Series and may get negative reviews from rabid fans wanting more, but I think the point still stands.
So, do reviews matter?
To readers they probably do. My father-in-law says he does not even consider buying a book that doesn’t at least have a 4 star average, but he doesn’t necessarily care about the number of reviews. And honestly we all know that reviews are not always fair. Robert Jordan’s final book in his Wheel of Time series had almost 200 one star reviews before it was even released because fans were upset with the delay in putting out the kindle version.
Should reviews matter to authors if they do not necessarily translate into sales?
I say yes. New authors hear from seasoned silverback writers never to read reviews or check their sales. Does anyone really adhere to this advice? I certainly can’t. It’s just too darn exciting that someone would actually pay money for something I made up in my head. I have learned to look at the overall rating of a review and if it is a low one, I do not read it. Although the criticism may be justified in some cases, I simply find that it sucks the energy right out of my creative impulse.
Now the good reviews are another matter.
I think there is a part inside most of us that appreciates the appreciation of others. This is especially true when it comes to something we create ourselves. My grandmother used to love compliments on her cooking — which she richly deserved by the way. When I get superior service at a restaurant I want to thank the cook or leave a good tip. When I see excellence in anything, I want to recognize it. As a matter of fact, it’s hard not to recognize excellence.
In writing, for others to recognize when we have done something special is like fuel for the engine. It is so easy for doubt or lethargy or inertia to seep into the creative process, but positive feedback and recognition has a way of blowing this away. This is especially true when it comes from total strangers who don’t owe you a thing except the truth.
Reviews are a form of recognition, feedback, and appreciation that writers need, especially those who are new and aren’t already convinced of their writing prowess or reinforced by extravagant wealth, multiple Pulitzer Prizes, or legions of fans.
It’s not shallow to need encouragement. It’s human, and its part of the creative process.
Links of Interest:Why Kindle Book Reviews Are So Important to Sales by A Reading Place, Book Reviews–Are They Important? by The Writer’s Guide to Publishing, and How Important Are Book Reviews by Derek Haines.
Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here