Monday, May 23, 2011
The Future of Book Reviews
By Clare Langley-Hawthorne
We've had a number of blog posts about the future of publishing and the rise of the e-book, the impact of social networking, blogs and the plethora of book and author related websites filling our digital world...but one thing that struck me this weekend (as I perused the New York Time's book review online) was the future and influence of the mainstream book reviewer. Now I can't say I have any quantifiable data on the sales impact of a favourable book review in the NYT but I would hazard a guess that 10-15 years ago a good review in a venerable newspaper like the NYT or a great review in Publisher's Weekly (or, heaven help us, Kirkus) would have had a sizable impact on book sales. Today, I'm not so sure...
I do think good newspaper reviews and starred PW reviews encourage publishers to spend additional advertising and marketing money on an author's book - which would certainly help rather than hinder sales - but just how influential are they now? Would a critical mass of favourable Amazon reviews generate greater sales? Would a rave review from a popular online blogger garner more readers? It would be interesting to try and survey authors to see what they thought had the greatest impact on sales. No doubt a bestseller occurs due to the cumulative effect word of mouth and media exposure - but I wonder what role traditional reviewers play in influencing this?
I'm an old fashioned girl so a great NYT book review will get me out there searching for the title (either online or in a brick and mortar store). I will, however, also check out the Amazon reviews and Google the author/title to see what kind of buzz (or not) there is in the blogosphere. If a trusted friend raves about a book then I will also check it out but more often than not, I will hear about a new book from my mother (sadly, I sometimes think only her generation that still reads - my friends usually say they have no time...) who has read the review in The Times, the Financial Times or The Guardian (can you tell my mother is English?). Rarely will a blogger's recommendation be enough, simply because I find it hard to assess the reviewer's credentials and impartiality - of course, we could have another entire blog post in this regard (having heard some professional reviewers question 'amateur' reviewers' ability to meaningfully review!)
What do our TKZ authors think? How do the traditional forms of newspaper or PW reviews impact sales do you think, when compared to say Amazon, Goodreads or online blogs? In a post-Oprah world who do you think is going to become the most influential word on books? How is the whole review thing going to pan out with the dramatic rise in e-book sales (many of which are self-published titles) - and, for all our TKZ readers out there - whose opinion or review matters to you as a reader?