Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yes, Reviews Do Matter

I posted this question a while back: do reviews actually matter or are book sales based on something else - co-op space at the front of the store (yes, definitely) and word-of-mouth (also, yes definitely). But I wasn't sure, really, if reviews mattered that much. In fact, I'd spoken to my team at RH, and they weren't sure so much either. No, let me amend that. They were certain that some reviews, such as in People or EW, mattered, as well as some of the other biggies, like O and Elle and the NY Times, but beyond that, no one felt strongly that a magazine review, for example, could make or break a book.

Well, it's been interesting. Because, as of now, reviews for Time of My Life certainly DO seem to have mattered. The book's pre-release sales are very strong, and I can only think this is due to the mentions in this month's magazines: Redbook, Cosmo, Family Circle and Hallmark. But what's interesting is that The Department had similar reviews - in Redbook, Cosmo and Marie Claire - but it didn't seem to sell nearly as well. (And let's hope that I'm not jinxing myself once the book actually comes out!) :) So I'm not really sure what the difference is. Maybe it's that reviews matter but only if it's a universal theme that really appeals to readers. Cancer is a tough sell, and maybe even the most glowing reviews in every magazine (short of perhaps, People, which can completely make or break a book) wouldn't have skyrocketed it to the best-seller list.

Maybe what matters is reviews, yes, but also something intangible - the excitement about a book that then spreads via both reviews and word of mouth and across the blogosphere and onward. I don't know. I'm just sort of rambling, spitting out what I'm thinking. It's sort of baffling, to be honest, and it leaves you both excited and nervous because really, who's to say how a book becomes a BIG book? Authors out there, do you know what I'm talking about? It's almost as if any book could become a big book, and certainly, yours has as much a chance as any, but you have to pinpoint that right mix of what people are looking for, as well as that right mix of publicity and awareness to make readers want to buy it.

Hmmm. It's interesting fodder. At least for me. :) As far as whether or not reviews matter, I'll be honest: I read commercial books, so I do read the reviews in both People and EW, oh, and also in Elle. Other than that - well, maybe in Glamour too - I'm not too easily swayed. What about you guys? (I know that there are some literary types on here who definitely pore over the NY Times Book Review, right?)


Trish said...

I'm completely swayed by People reviews. They usually are right on for me and I buy a lot of books as a result of those reviews.

Glamour not so much, and NYTBR, not so much.

I'm thrilled for you, Allison. TOML is a great book and I plan to post a nice glowy review for you on pub day. Seriously, Ask Allison readers, this gal can write!!!!! (her friend and one-time editor)


S. Krishna said...

As a blog book reviewer, I like to think that we have something to do with helping sales! I know there are few books I've loved and really tried to get the word out about!

Larramie said...

Word of mouth convinces me. And, imho, The Department simply could not hurdle cancer. Now, however, readers are looking to escape and ToML is debuting at the perfect time!

Trish Ryan said...

I think with this book you've tapped into a broader pool of readers who can say, "I've felt that way...I wonder how the story plays out?"

I love the book reviews in the magazines you described--I always have little bits of paper torn out and piled next to my computer so I can look them up on Amazon. It's not so much what the reviewer says, but rather if the story sounds like something I'd like.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not spending much time reading reviews much anymore unless I stumble across them in Entertainment Weekly or The Oregonian. Mostly, the first fiction I'll by is by folks I know personally, who have inspired me like Marc Acito or Jennie Shortridge. They also get written up a lot. So, I would imagine that you have some great synergy going Allison, since this is your second book and you have a great platform AND reviews. I look into my crystal ball and it says...BIG BOOK. :) said...

I enjoy reading the reviews in People and O magazines, and they do influence my buying decisions. Often I'll actually tear the book page out of O mag so that I can remember to look up the books.

I also get the NYT book review via email every Friday and always glance at that to see if anything catches my interest.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Thanks for your insights, guys! And Trish, I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book!