Saturday, February 5, 2011


1. How important are book reviews for selling an author’s book? And does it matter whether the reviews are from professional reviewers or avid readers?

I don’t have a definitive answer for these questions. Instead I’d like to throw this open to discussion: How influenced are you by book reviews? And do you care who has written the reviews?

In answering these questions, we probably first have to ask: Where do you learn about new books? Magazine ads, newspaper reviews, Amazon, other online book sites, Facebook, Twitter?

I’m guessing that where we each learn about new books impacts how important reviews are to whether we buy a specific book.

Also, how do we individually use Amazon if we buy books from Amazon? I buy lots of books on Amazon, but I usually go on the site to buy a specific book. I rarely pay any attention to the other books Amazon recommends to me. Nor do I usually search on Amazon for specific topics.

Notwithstanding all of the above, we probably can all agree that a good review is better than a bad review regardless of who wrote the review. But here’s the thing – I do think who wrote the review should matter.

Let me share this story with you:

In early 2008 my self-published novel MRS. LIEUTENANT was named an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semi-finalist. Amazon gave each of us semi-finalists a page for the book on Amazon and a review from a professional review publication.

The only problem was that the reviewer’s name was not revealed – and in many cases the reviewers appeared not to have read the book (judging from the angry comments by numerous semi-finalists as to how much the reviewer got wrong about their book). Or in my case to really not understand what the book was about.

Thus I had a somewhat negative review by an unnamed person (I suspect a man when my book is really for women) from a professional review publication. Trust me, I could have done without this review.

At the moment MRS. LIEUTENANT has 33 reviews on Amazon but I doubt anyone really reads any of these reviews. If people did read these reviews, they would find an overwhelming number of positive reviews. (Almost all not from people I know; most people I know who read the book didn’t write a review.)

Now it’s your turn to weigh in about what you think of the impact of book reviews.

2. Do virtual book tours sell books?

I’m a huge fan of virtual book tours although I’m not sure these tours sell books.  What they do provide is an effective method of getting your name and your book’s title out to audiences that you may not be in touch with – and you don’t have to leave your computer to do this.

And often, if the website owner does a review of your book rather than (or in addition to) an interview of you for the tour, he/she will offer to also post the review on your book’s Amazon page, thus adding to the number of reviews shown at the top of your book’s Amazon page.

Another important part of a virtual book tour is getting links back to your book author website from your website tour stops.  These links from topic-related websites are valued by search engines, which can help your own website rise in search engine results.

Plus when someone does, for example, search Google on your name and book title, these virtual book tour stops should come up.  Presumably the person searching will be influenced by these search engine results and might even check out one or two reviews of your book on these sites!

© 2011 Miller Mosaic, LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic and she blogs at
Phyllis is also the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT as well as the co-author of FOUR COMEDY SCREENPLAYS and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION.

If you have a question you'd like featured in next month's Ask PZM, please forward it to joylene at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca. Thanks. 


  1. This is interesting and helpful info. Thanks to both of you! I will read some reviews, and put more stock in them if I know and respect the reviewer's opinion. Ultimately, though, I go by my gut feeling.
    Have a great weekend,

  2. Hi Karen. Appreciate your input. I do read reviews on Amazon, but don't necessarily make my decision based on them. I still like word of mouth. Can't say how many times I've read a bad review on an excellent book or a great review on a bad one. It's all personal opinion. But if you recommend a book, I'm more likely to give it a peek.

  3. Very interesting questions. Anything helps if it is well written and has your name on it. If there is a positive review by a well know author same genre - I'm sure this would help.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Carole. Do you find most of your sales come from reviews?

  5. I'm not an author, but I like reading other opinions before I buy a book. The more reviews the better I know if the book is for me. Sure, there are negative comments on books I read that don't make sense, but like you said, you can't please everybody. I also agree with Joylene, I often buy on the recommendation of somebody I know.

    Catherine McDondon

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Catherine. It's always great hearing from readers. Without you, where would we be. Do you prefer reviews over chapter excerpts?

  7. Reading the first chapter helps. But that option isn't always available. As a reader I think I probably rely on reviews more than I realize. If it's bad, I hesitate to pay for the book. They're expensive. And nothing feeling worse than paying for something you end up not liking.


  8. I can honestly say, I have never purchased a book because of a book review. If anything, I go with my gut or word of mouth. Friends and such..

    I like to lurk around books stores, read the blurb on the back, look at the covers etc... Some say you can't judge a book by its cover. Rubbish. If it's done correctly and with taste, it gives you the feel of the story hidden inside. Well, it should anyway.

    I'm hoping to get my hands on your novel someday :) I think I'd like it.

  9. Here's my system. First choice, word of mouth (love FB for that!) because I tend to know the tastes of the person recommending.

    Second choice - Amazon. But I have a weird technique with them. I do this sort of top down, bottom up look at the reviews, unless the book is just overwhelmingly flagged a 4-star or better read by a large majority. I also like to see what the naysayers have written. Sometimes the negatives change my mind about a purchase, more often I look at what's written and think, "Wow, you're an idiot."

    There are some great reviewers on Amazon. I don't follow them, or remember names, but an insightful review can make a difference to me. If I'm on the edge, and the book has viewable pages, that can make the difference.

    Then, too, sometimes i just take a chance. I have found some wonderful reading that way!

  10. Hi Wendy. When we go to the mall, my husband grabs my hand and steers me away from the bookstore. Course, he's the first one in the book section of the thrift shops.

    I like word of mouth too. I read a lot of reviews online, and I think if you look behind the words carefully, you can judge what the reviewer is feeling. Too many of us feel compelled to give a good review when the book is really only mediocre. I had a reviewer turn me down once because she didn't like DW. When she asked if I still wanted her review, I said sure. Some would say that was a mistake, but I think it rang true, so why not use a negative in among so many positives? I'm still not sure.

    Thanks for joining in the conversation, Wendy.

  11. Vicki, you are so right. I watched a movie the other night that was only a 3-Star. "BackYard" It was an outstanding foreign film and I gave it 5 Stars on Netflix. Some people criticize what they don't understand instead of opening their mind. Course, who am I to talk? I didn't like "Dances with Wolves" and walked out of the theatre when they were tormenting the wolf. To me it felt as if the writers got together and said, "The pace is slowing down, we better put in a scene where an animal is torture." Shish.

  12. Joylene, did you ever see the rest of the movie? Dances with Wolves really was a great movie. That particular part was difficult to see but it showed the unbalance in human nature.

  13. Hi Tanya. I did see bits of it later when it came out in DVD. My sons and husband loved the movie. If they're watching it, I get up and go do something during that scene.

    Does anybody have feelings about virtual book tours?

  14. Thanks for sharing that, Carole. If I had to guess I think a few reviews helped my sales. I'll know better with the next book. Yes, the whole process is very exhausting. I think that's why it takes such a deep love for writing and telling stories to persevere.

  15. I've just read all the comments so far and I really appreciate everyone's insights.

    And I just want to say that it really depends, for many works of art, on the reviewer's point of view.

    Before deciding to take a reviewer's recommendation on a book choice, if helps to know that reviewer's particular perspective.

    For example, if the reviewer is known to dislike mystery novels and gives a negative review to a mystery novel, then that is probably a review you can take with a large grain of salt.

    So much is personal opinion -- as well as the mood we are in when we read a particular book. (This is why I often read several books at once. Then I have a book to go with the mood I'm in.)

  16. I'm another one of those don't-read-reviews people. I prefer buying in a bookstore where I can browse, see a cover, check the blurb and skim through the first couple pages. When I shop online it's for something specific that has been recommended to me, or perhaps has been written by a cyberpal. Like you, Phyllis, when I shop online I don't pay any attention to the other recommended books.

    Virtual book tours work for me in that they give me a chance to encounter authors I might not otherwise get to know. I like the interviews. If I enjoy reading the interview I'll usually follow the link to the author's website/blog and explore a bit. Then if I like the style of writing and topics there I'll be more likely to pick up one of their books next time I come across their name in a bookstore.

  17. Hi Phyllis. Thanks again for a fascinating post. I appreciate everyone's point of view, and find such value in alternate perspectives. I'm left rethinking some of my own thoughts. It's a different business with so many avenues for buying books. And I like the idea of taking advantages of anything that introduces me to new authors with inspiring talent. There are definitely some great reviewers out there, and when they write a good review, I have to admit I'm spellbound. But I also like to read excerpts, see the cover, and read the blurb. That and word of mouth is what generally sways me.

  18. Careann, your point about the virtual book tours makes great sense. I was looking at it from the author's perspective, but you're right, it is a great way to meet talented writers. When I hear their stories, it never fails to amaze how much we have in common. Without the VBT I might never know that. What's frightening is: so many great books, so little time.

  19. I truly enjoyed this.

    Book reviews is one of the biggest topics in discussions, and I have such mixed feelings.

    You asked about reviews on Amazon. Do you know why I read reviews on Amazon, for films or books? ONLY to see if there is enough information to give away the plot, so that I can see if it's tragic or happy. But do I base my decision based on a reviewer's personal opinion? No way. They are just that...opinions.

    I hate to think how many wonderful books I'd have missed out on if I'd relied solely on a reviewer's opinion.

    And does it matter to me if it's a professional or reader's opinion? No. Many readers, as you say, might not have 'gotten' the book, and professional opinions are...oh, I don't know...just too clinical?

    Good blog! Truly thought-provoking!

  20. So glad you enjoyed it, Carol. Sharing thought-provoking discussions is the best part of blogging. Have a wonderful weekend.

  21. Great interview, Phyllis! I'm here by way of google alerts. I think a review does influence book buyers. I was looking for a Christmas item and the reviewers were really saying not so great things about a product and I didn't buy it because of that. So I'm thinking this probably works the same way with books. And you are so on the money about virtual book tours. Phyllis has toured with us before and she knows...think of a virtual book tour as an advertisement. Whether someone purchases a book just because they read a fantastic interview with you or whether they loved your guest post, who is to say? But...if you're not familiar with online marketing, that's still the best way to go. Really enjoyed this Phyllis!

  22. Thanks so much for stopping by, Dorothy. Phyllis guest blogs on the 5th day of every month. Hope you can join us again.

  23. I think reviews & VBTs are more important now, especially with ebooks. I've followed a few Vitual Book Tours & hosted one of Pat Bertram's stops last year. It's an interesting way to get to know more about the authors, see a bit of their personality & become familiar with their work. Not sure that I can spare the time to do a VBT myself, might try a scaled down version.

  24. You got it, Dave. But that's what blogging is really all about: supporting each other. I'm sure enjoying sharing all my talented cyberpals with my family and friends. And I know for a fact that they're passing along that information. It's a win-win situation.

  25. I've never purchased a book on Amazon..I know, I'm probably the only one who hasn't. Like Carol, I prefer to go to the book store and browse around. I also like socializing with the staff at the bookstore I frequent.

    I like finding out about new books through blogs and such, but I usually tend to only read the reviews of people I know or if I'm looking to find out about a particular book I've already heard of.

  26. Hi Laura. I do agree that browsing in a bookstore is a treat to savor, but unfortunately I'm outside the city over 68k away, so I need to rely on the internet for buying books. The great part is I usually only have to wait a week before the book is in my box compartment. That is so quick these days. And sometimes I don't get to the city for 2 weeks, and then only to find that they don't have the book I want.


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