How Book Reviews Influence Book Sales

How Book Reviews Influence Book Sales, guest post by Kaylin McFarren

Determining the actual impact of reviews on book sales can be a bit slippery. A multitude of factors come into play before a decision to purchase is made, many of which are interdependent and act to create a combined affect on book buying behavior. In addition, the trustworthiness of online book reviews is increasingly being called into question. Authors now have the opportunity to pay a third party to write a review, perhaps artificially boosting their review numbers. And although it may be possible to receive legitimate paid reviews, many are disingenuous, with the seediest variety being downright deceptive. This practice reduces the authenticity and reliability of reviews, further muddying its relevance as a buying trigger. However, for the most part, book reviews can be greatly important to authors in that a good review or at least a good soundbite from an honest review is a form of social proof that reassures the reader and helps sell the book. On the other hand, if bad reviews are written, the overall effect can result in greatly reduced sales and can ultimately damage an author’s credibility, eliminating opportunities that might present themselves for contracted sales from reputable publishing houses. How much weight the review snippet holds depends greatly on the publication and how much the reader trusts its curation and editorial judgment. However, there’s a distinct difference between a book review and book criticism. 

How Book Reviews Influence Book Sales, guest post by Kaylin McFarren
Reader reviews, such as those that appear on marketing sites like,, and, can have a strong influence on book buying decisions. While it's not polite to use online retailer reader reviews to plead your case with independent booksellers due to the competition between bookselling retailers, online buyers rely on these highly subjective reviews by readers to help make buying decisions. Book criticism tends to be a longer, deeper, more formal exploration and analysis of the text of the book itself—a piece of book criticism that feels like a work unto itself. A book review is an exercise in which the reviewer presents the perceived pros and cons of the book for the sake of potential readers. While this might include some analysis, a review is generally shorter and less in depth than a critical piece. Someone who frequently reviews books and does it regularly or exclusively for the one publication is considered a book critic—someone who might occasionally be called upon to review a book. Those who consider themselves book critics generally belong to the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring outstanding writing and fostering a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature.
Yet overall, the personal opinions of readers do matter to not only potential readers but also to the authors who write the books they buy. Positive feedback encourages them to write more and improve their craft, while harsh criticism results in damaging not only egos but also the opportunity for great stories to be told.
How Book Reviews Influence Book Sales, guest post by Kaylin McFarren
Kaylin McFarren has received more than forty national literary awards, in addition to a prestigious Golden Heart Award nomination for Flaherty’s Crossing - a book she and her oldest daughter, Kristina McMorris, co-authored in 2008. Prior to embarking on her writing journey and developing the popular Threads action/adventure romance series, she poured her passion for creativity into her work as the director of a fine art gallery in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; she also served as a governor-appointed member of the Oregon Arts Commission. When she’s not traveling or spoiling her pups and three grandsons, she enjoys giving back to her community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently the president of the Soulful Giving Foundation - a non-profit focused on cancer research, care and treatment at hospitals throughout Oregon.

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How Book Reviews Influence Book Sales, guest post by Kaylin McFarren


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