Friday, June 3, 2011

Do Blurbs and Reviews Sell Books?

by Jean Henry Mead

Every writer covets a great review from Publisher’s Weekly but how many readers base their purchases on reviews? Nothing I've written so far has grabbed PW’s attention although my new release, Murder on the Interstate, has earned some good comments, starting with a blurb from bestselling mystery novelist, Carolyn Hart:

“Careen into crime with two intrepid sleuths who outwit terrorists in a fast-paced plot taken from today's headlines. A page turner."

Unfortunately, it didn’t jump start book sales, nor did Lefty Award Winner J. Michael Orenduff's colorful review, which I love:

Murder on the Interstate burns rubber right out of the gate and exceeds the speed limit on every page. With all the car chases, gun shots, screeching breaks, and crashes, the movie version could be the sequel to one of those car-heist action-films. Except for the fact that the protagonists are two women approaching Medicare, and their vehicle is a motorhome. Dana and Sarah are stalwart, clever and funny characters, and author Jean Henry Mead caroms them from one tight situation to another as they weave along the Interstate and into a high stakes mystery.”

I thought, WOW, that ought to stir up interest, but it must have only reminded readers of the tire tracks on the cover. Marilyn Meredith’s great blurb came next:

“Full of surprising twists and turns, Jean Henry Mead has produced an RV adventure with her two senior sleuths in hot pursuit of a murderer, but the tables turn and the two women learn that not only are they in danger but so is our national security. An exciting mystery that will keep you turning pages."

Book sales numbers barely budged. I thought maybe the counter was broken or everyone hated the cover. I received several additional reviews, including one of my favorites from Earl Staggs, who said:

"I don’t expect an amateur sleuth novel to start fast. I expect to spend time getting to know the protagonist, then get a feel for the setting, and maybe get to know another character or two before the story begins to move forward. That doesn’t happen in MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE. Jean Henry Mead kicks it off in high gear and doesn’t slow down. This is the kind of novel I enjoy. . .”

By then I was in the midst of a virtual book tour and Molly’s online review had this to say:

“This was good. REALLY good. REALLY REALLY good. So good, in fact, that I have GOT to go back and get the first two in this series! It was a LOT better than I was expecting. It really gripped me and kept me hanging on, until I was, sadly, on the last page. I couldn't believe the ups and downs and twists and turns it took me on. FANTASTIC!”

Readers didn’t take Molly seriously, so I decided the book’s salvation rested with Kindle and Nook. Murder on the Interstate made its official debut on Kindle today, here, and the UK, and will hopefully be a Nook book soon.

Are readers forsaking print editions for ebooks? How about you? Do you still prefer print or have you joined the ebook revolution?

And do reviews influence your book buying habits? Writers (and publishers) want to know. :)


Marja said...

Wow! Great blurbs. I have to admit that I have bought a few books based on a blurb by a name I'm familiar with, but generally it doesn't influence me if I've never heard of the blurber. Is that a word?

I tend to buy paper books by my favorite authors when they come out. eBooks are a good way to try a new author. However, as time goes by, I find I'm buying more and more ebooks because they're more affordable, you can change the font to a size that's easily readable, and I have to admit that an ereader is gentler on the hands (as in arthritis).

You asked. :)

Coco Ihle said...

Interesting question you raised, Jean. My book just recently came out (in both formats), so if you find answers, I'd certainly like to know. Good post!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I don't know if blurbs impress readers or reviewers all that much. I've had great ones from some outstanding writers. It didn't always make a difference. What seems to matter is the reviews. If you get great reviews from Booklist, PW, LB, NYT Book Review, libraries buy your books.
Readers see them at the library and begin to remember your name.
I don't know what will happen with e-publishing but it's exciting and I hope will provide many new readers.

Jacqueline Seewald
THE TRUTH SLEUTH--new in hardcover
STACY'S SONG-- available in all ebook platforms

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Marja. I think you've coined a new word. I'm also buying more ebooks because my print editions are taking up too much space. And I like being able to travel with a boat load of books in a single case that I can hold in my hand.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I certainly will, Coco. Stay tuned. :)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Jacqueline, I agree, but when you're with a small press and your publisher says, "We've sent out books for review," you don't know where they're going. :)

Kelly Hashway said...

I have a Kindle and love it, but I still read more print books. I like having both options though.

nancyden said...

OH, Jean: that was a scary article. Those reviews / blurbs are truly to die for! I have to say that a good review will make ME buy/read a book. But most importantly, it will make a library buy the book. And libraries still have to fill their shelves, even though they, too, have tight budgets.So all we can do is hope, pray and carry on, right? Cheers, Nancy

Jenny Milchman said...

What I've heard from booksellers is that say a starred review from PW influences *their* decision to buy--but not readers'.

Blurbs I think are a different story from reviews. I do think that when a potential reader sees the name of an author he or she already reads, and that author is raving, it could influence a sale.

But probably not as much as good old WOM, one person saying to another, as we did around the proverbial campfire, You have *got* to read/listen to this...

Congrats on all the authors who loved your latest nonetheless!!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Nancy, I agree with you about libraries and some bestselling authors I've interviewed admit that they check WorldCat regularly to see how many of their books are in which libraries. Thats where your dedicated readers are.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Jenny. You're right about word of mouth advertising. It's better than any PW or NYT review. :)

Miss Good on Paper said...

In all honesty, I wouldn't say that reviews influence me very much unless it's from a very reputable source like The New York Times or written by an author I admire.

Blurbs certainly convince me to buy books, though. And no e-books for me!

Thanks from your newest follower.
-Miss GOP

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Murderous Musings, Miss GOP. It's good to have you join us. I felt the same as you do about ebooks until they started out-selling my print editions. :)

Nancy Naigle said...

Awesome blurbs, and had I seen them they totally would have had me at the checkout line. The thing many of the reviews never hit us--the reader.

I still love books, but I admit that the kindle has stretched my book buying budget and I sure do love that. I buy both (sometimes I even get the same book in multiple formats print/e/audio)

Best wishes with this release. It sounds like a winner to me.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Nancy. I guess that's what blogs are for--to spread the word. :) Enjoy your Kindle.

Anonymous said...

Blurbs rarely influence me, but reviews do, up to a point. Reviews tell me if a story line is something I know I'm going to like, and reviews have definitely influenced me to buy Murder on the Interstate. Mainly word of mouth influences me, but then, that's another version of reviews, isn't it. Great post, Jean!

Lesley Diehl said...

If the blurb or the review is by a reader or author I respect, or I know the individual has similar reading tastes to mine, I take it seriously.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Beth. It's been a pleasure getting to know you through the Mystery We Write Book Tour and I look forward to reading your work.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Lesley, thanks again for the lovely review that you wrote as well. I've got Dumpster Dying on my to-read list and know that I'm going to enjoy it.


Mark W. Danielson said...

The problem with e-books is distribution. Kindle is different from Nook, which is different from iPad, which is different from Amazon, which is different from everything else. Perhaps one day there will be standardization and e-book buyers will have the universal selection they find in book stores.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree, Mark. Readers have been lobbying for years for standarization but it's obviously not going to happen in the foreseeable future. It's currently an electronics race to capture the biggest share of the market. My Christmas Kindle has already been outclassed by the new color Nook, and I'm waiting for my books to be available on it.

Anonymous said...

The only review I've ever gotten that I know influenced a buyer, was one from Library Journal,which caused a bunch of libraries to purchase the book (The Winning Hand) for their collections. Other than that, I've never heard a word. And blurbs? Nothing there,either.

With the stellar reviews and blurbs you've received, Jean, I hope they help you sell a motor home full.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I see my name wasn't given. The previous comment is from me, C.K.Crigger

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Carol. A motorhome full of book sales would be great. And speaking of motorhomes, I was invited to hold a signing party at a large RV resort in southern California, if I ever get back that way. I guess I'll have to plan an RV park tour if the price of diesel ever comes down. (Not that much chance of that.)

Jaden Terrell said...

Jean, I am influenced by blurbs and reviews to some extent. They have to be specific and interesting, though. A review or blurb that says, "Great book!" doesn't even register. The ones you quoted, on the other hand, would tend to make me want to pick up the book.

I think it's partly a matter of getting those reviews and blurbs out there until they reach critical mass and the readers can find them.

Good luck with the new one, Jean. Hope you sell a million!