I was racking my brain this morning trying to think of something to blog about, when I stumbled across this post by Joe Moore over at The Kill Zone. He’s talking about the pros and cons self publishing (and hey, bravo for even listing any virtues Joe–that’s more than a lot of people bother to do when talking about this issue–usually it’s just denigration galore). In his section talking about the cons, he makes the statement
One of the mainstays of promoting sales is to get your book reviewed by publications such as newspapers and magazines. A self-published book has virtually no chance of being reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, the New York Times book review, USA Today, and similar publications.
That made me blink.
He’s saying that book reviews in these assorted print publications are a major source of generating sales?
My immediate thought was to wonder what he was smoking. Now, I should preface this whole thing by saying I have absolutely no statistical data to back me up. And yes, I can see how having something reviewed in Publishers Weekly would certainly lead to sales, as that’s heavily read by the buyers for bookstores. However, in terms of generating sales to the general public, I have to question the validity of Joe’s argument. Why?
I can say with 100% conviction that I have never in my life bought a book because of a book review I read in any print publication. Wait. No. That’s a lie. I first read about Harry Potter in an issue of TIME or something while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. But that was the only time. I can’t say that I have ever read any book reviews in a print publication. For that matter, other than the twice weekly campus newspaper, which happens to materialize in piles around the office, I can’t remember the last actual print newspaper I read.
Now I know that not everyone is as disconnected from the world of news as I am. Lots of people subscribe to newspapers. But among my generation, I would hazard a guess to say that most of us don’t get our news from print publications. We are creatures of the internet. If it’s not easily Googleable or clickable, we probably didn’t read it. And reading news, even newspapers, online is NOT the same as browsing through the Sunday issue section by section over a pot of French Roast. You don’t just happen across stuff as much by glancing. Unless there happens to be a link on the side or somewhere on the webpage that pulls your attention (and remember, there’s a lot of stuff competing for that attention), then nobody is going to just happen across the book reviews unless they go looking for them.
And other than other industry professionals, who the hell gives a rat’s ass about what a critic says about anything? Reading tastes are far too individual for that to matter beyond something that was shodily edited and is riddled with grammar errors. I don’t know anyone who does more than read the informal Amazon reviews of a book.
So inquiring minds want to know. Have you ever bought a book because of a review you read either in a print publication or in an online newspaper?