Reading a novel is, for many (myself included), a personal experience.
We get lost in a story, experience pain, loss, anger and victory along with characters that we (hopefully) come to care about, as though they were real. And when that experience ends, we miss our new friends and want their fictional lives to continue. Like, now. With the characters and plot still fresh in our minds we *might* tell a friend about it. You know the one. That rare breed who reads novels as voraciously as you do. And then…
The subject might come up again six months later, when your reader friend finally gets around to reading the novel, but your excitement is waning because you’re still waiting for a sequel that may or may not be on the way. A year passes. Then two. What is taking the author so frikkin’ long to write the next book?! It was amazing. How could there not already be a sequel?
Eventually you decide to take matters into your own hands and e-mail that author. He/she probably won’t reply (I will), but maybe your e-mail will spur them into action.
I get these e-mails. A lot. For Jane Harper. For Refuge. For Flood Rising. I even get them for books that were never meant to have sequels. And my response is always something like this: (Insert book title) needs to sell better before I spend a LOT of time and money writing and publishing a sequel. The best way you can make that happen is to post a review on Amazon.
Seems like a simple thing, too simple to have any real-world effect on sales, but it’s the truth. Here’s why. In the good ol’ days of publishing (10 years ago and earlier), the #1 way books were sold was by word of mouth. That’s still mostly true, but word of mouth has gone digital. Most of my books, around 80% of them, are sold via Amazon. And most people buying books on Amazon are discovering new books and authors thanks to the website’s robust recommendation system. Thanks to Amazon, I’ve found a number of great reads that I would have never discovered on my own.
The engine running the recommendation system is algorithms. And a large part of the fuel that powers those algorithms is reviews. A mountain of computers, somewhere in the world, is breaking down what you look at, buy, and most importantly: review. It then takes all of that information, digests it, and ponders the question: who else might like this book?
Amazon then starts recommending the book to similar readers, and if those people buy and review the book, the net it casts grows wider and wider. The more people post reviews, the more fuel the algorithm engine gets, the further it can take a book.
I know my sales figures. And I know, roughly, how many dedicated readers I have. That number is vastly larger than the number of reviews my books receive. Does that mean the majority of my readers don’t like my books? If that were true, I wouldn’t be able to publish nine books in a year. I think it means that most readers don’t realize how important reviews are to sales these day. It’s the new word of mouth, and the #1 way you can support an author you enjoy, and a book/series you want to see continued.
With the release of Apocalypse Machine, I’ve been paying close attention to the correlation between reviews and sales. There is compelling evidence that they are directly linked. On the days when Apocalypse Machine received 10 reviews, sales jumped. I believe that’s because it was also recommended more. On the days when Apocalypse Machine received no reviews, sales dropped. Amazon algorithms are all about momentum, and a large part of that is reviews, each one adding more fuel to the engine.
So if you love a novel and want to see more people reading it, post a review. That friend you recommended it to? Tell them to post a review, too. If you want to see a series do well enough to justify continuing…post a review! You could also chat it up on Facebook, or Twitter, or by the watercooler. That’s all fantastic. But nothing has more word-spreading power than posting reviews, especially when a large number of people are doing so.
A quick note on reviews. First, I’m not looking for a review handout. If you didn’t like a book, feel free to post a less than flattering review. I read them all, and if the points are valid, I apply them to future books. Second, reviews don’t need to be anything special. No need to feel intimidated by posting. Just say what you thought of the book, even if it’s just a single sentence. Third, this really is your chance to make sure a series is continued. I have received far more e-mails about Jane Harper than the series has reviews. If you want to improve the chances of your favorite series having a long life, post reviews!
And now that I’ve pleaded my case, if you’ve read Apocalypse Machine (or any of my books, or any books by other authors you love), and this blog post, you know what to do. Make with the clicky, and tell the world what you think. And if you haven’t read Apocalypse Machine yet, check out the reviews!