Wow, I must have free time this weekend. I'm on here twice. (Actually I have about ten minutes, but this has been on my mind.)

I've been hearing a lot about sales numbers lately. How there's bookscan and amazon rankings and book store rankings, but you can't worry about those, they aren't accurate, so don't check them.

I don't have a book out, so I've never really sat around and checked my sales numbers. But I've never really been a numbers guy. I was an English major and an English teacher. I've always been a words guy.

So, I think what will matter to me more will be the reviews. A lot of people say they don't check their reviews, but do check their amazon rankings. I can see myself being the opposite, waiting for a new review to come in and expecting the worst. Jumping on Amazon, but skipping over the sales rank and going to see if anyone else put a review up.

I want to know what people think of the book. I want people to enjoy it. Part of me thinks that I'd rather have most people enjoy it, even if it sells less. A book that sells a ton but everyone hates? That's not cool.

Of course, I can see both sides of the spectrum. Good sales mean more book deals. Another chance to write a better book, to get critical acclaim. Good sales are, of course, important.

But I'd rather be liked, enjoyed. That worries me more than sales.

Maybe I'm an idealist.

What do you think?

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If reviews counted for sales, I should be on the best seller list--except that none of my reviews come for the top magazines or newspapers.

My Shamus nominated novel "Shadow of the Dahlia," was reviewed well but sold far fewer than either of my two Brian Kane novels ... But my publisher advertised my other two books, not so with the prublisher of "Shadow." Maybe there is something to sales lagging behind advertising.

Yes, I love good reviews and good word of mouth. Ideally, I write the best book I can. But I'm more a pragmatist. Give me at least enough sales to pay for my conventions.
The book. In the end, it's all you can really control.
Amazon book rankings are so fluid and dynamic, and so easily manipulated, PLUS they (Amazon) will not reveal how they are calculated. I figure with all that going on, the numbers are worthless to me.

Then again, pure "sales" numbers that I see from many publishers are sort of meaningless, too. One source I read said that approximately 40% of all books sold through conventional distribution (Ingram, Baker & Taylor) get returned within the first six months or so. Since that is an average, I'm sure some titles have only 25% returns, and others much higher. (Of course, that only applies to those publishers who allow returns.)

I guess I'd rather see good comments, whether from Amazon reviewers, independent magazine and ezine reviewers, Midwest Book Review or whatever. Sure, sales numbers are great, but numbers are so easily manipulated. I really hold with Samuel Clemens on this: "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics."

On the other hand, if I don't sell any books and all that happens is that my books get passed around from admiring fan to admiring fan... how could I afford to write any more? If you like the book, BUY books by the author.

Here's my rule of thumb: Purchasing more books is the sincerest form of flattery to an author.

I'm told reviews link to sales. People have told me after we run a review of their book their sales numbers spike. I haven't a clue, and I think as Jack indicates, it's a much larger package than any one thing going to sales anyway. Promotion, reviews, word of mouth...

My first book was all about the reviews anyway. I had the luxury of not worrying about sales because nobody expects a book from an unknown publisher doing no promotion to sell anyway.

If you're fortunate you not only get good reviews, but reviewers who often keen insights that help you think through your work on a different level and then you can take that back and apply it to what you do in the future. I have learned from reviewers and I think ignoring them completely is a mistake. Of course if someone writes a personal attack and doesn't substantiate their issues with reasoning or evidence I completely dismiss what they say (be it about me or anyone else), but the overwhelming majority of the reviews I've had have helped me learn.

Harsh reviews can hurt, sure, but you'll see authors trashed on forums and listservs anyway. Learning to deal with that isn't optional - it's a reality of the business.

End of the day, though, all that really matters is what the readers say. When someone you don't know, who has no reason to say nice things about you, picks up your book and loves it, that's the best feeling in the world.
Oh, another victim of GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). You have my sympathy. Myself, it's the vintage 335. That's why I write.
It does seem I get better sales after a good review. Good reviews are also great tools for promotion. You can add them to your posters, postcards, blogs, website,etc.

I"ve had two so far that I didn't like. The first one crushed me, since I wasn't used to reading something negative about my book. By the time the second came around, I was able to shrug it off. Maybe because by then I had lots of good reviews to make me feel better.

Actually, more rewarding is hearing in person from readers that they enjoyed your book.
Morgan Mandel
Sales. Sorry, but I've had plenty of good reviews. Not such great sales. Like you say, sales mean another book can come out.

Also, I don't think it can be an either/or situation. Great sales means people like your stuff. Most sales, I'm pretty sure, are word of mouth sales. The Da Vinci Code might have been hated by some critics, but then you need to ask yourself which you'd prefer - 5 million readers who like your stuff or ten critics?

Of course, Amazon rankings are pretty much useless - at best they represent something like 5% of sales, much less if you're not front list.
i have to go with steven on this. more sales mean more people are reading and enjoying your book. it's heartbreaking to write a book that gets rave reviews, but very few people find it or read it.
Dave said "I'd rather be liked, enjoyed", but I think both sales and reviews are measures of how much you're liked. Both are inaccurate, but sales are probably better than reviews --although that list that came out recently of the top ten bestselling books that a lot of people never finished, shows it's not a great measure. But it's the best measure we have, because let's face it, how many reviews does any book get? They're always going to only reflect the opinions of a very small number of people. On the other hand, reviews, or reader feedback, has much more impact. A good review, or a reader writing to tell you how great your book was, is a real "up" (and a bad one, a real down). But I think you have to be careful not to be too affected by individual reports. You only have to read the reader reviews on Amazon of your favorite books, to see how widely different people's responses can be. What's important is the majority opinion -- by which I don't mean you should slavishly follow the crowd, but you should consider any repeated criticism carefully.
I love to write.
However, I'm in this for the long-haul and that means sales. Without the money to back up my career choice, I won't be able to sustain it for years.

This isn't a hobby or a popularity contest for me; it's my livelihood (or, will be . . . )

Good reviews are wonderful; good word of mouth -- that personal touch -- is even better because spurs action.


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