The reader’s voice has increasing impact on a book’s fate. Agents and editors admit they keep a watchful eye on reader reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, looking for that surge in popularity that suggests a potential winner, and hoping they can acquire that property in time to develop, package, and sell it.
This growing influence puts more responsibility on the reader. In the developing world of book marketing, the consumer plays a large part. There is no neutral corner with the new shape of on-line retail, particularly at Amazon. The reader must make choices.
Generally there are three ways for a reader to respond to a book.
1. Review and praise the book.
2. Review and pan the book.
3. Do nothing.
Many choose door number three, a choice that on the surface seems simple and harmless. But in fact, non-action may do as much harm to the book’s cause as panning it. On-line book retail involves a world of data and number crunching. When the reader buys a book, that purchase becomes a number for the data bank. If that book registers X number of sales but only Y number of reviews, that too enters the data bank. Even a poor review at least shows the reader was moved enough to make some kind of effort. But a book with a low review to purchase ratio suggests a lack of interest, the kiss of death.
If a book is to succeed, above all else it must be discoverable. To be discovered, it must be visible. It is increasingly evident that flash-in-the-pan marketing methods have limited success. The only consistent means of increasing a book’s visibility is a large pile of good reviews from readers and professional reviewers. And, as always, word of mouth recommendations help out. When I go looking for a good book to read, I don’t want to waste my time with poor choices, so I look for help with my decision.
An example of a once dependable marketing tactic falling by the wayside is the free book. The strategy here is to give the book away for a set period of time. It works because a reader can download books at no cost and stockpile them to read later. The free book’s visibility increases with each download and the potential for more reviews grows. There are websites out there entirely devoted to listing free books. But if you visit one of these sites, you’ll see why this strategy is losing ground. Your free book is one of a huge list of books given away every single day. There are a lot of writers out there.
Readers need a way to choose among all the books available. We need to help each other. That is why a reader review is important. It is a compass that points a way through this mysterious and cluttered terrain. Reviews – and ratings – help us narrow the field. Ratings help to structure a hierarchy for this enormous quantity of books.
So readers, please review that book. By doing so you help bring order to this strange new publishing world, and you’ll be doing other readers (and authors) a service.