Online Book Reviews Do Not Equal Book Sales

Online Book Reviews Do Not Equate Sales 

Without fail, every time I lead a workshop or attend a book festival someone approaches, places a book in my hand and says, “Do me a favor, go online and write a review.”

Reviews solicited in this manner disturb me. Authors should be educated about this process, not desperate to garner reviews.

To confuse the issue, many, many authors, and readers alike, wrongly believe that the individuals writing book reviews have actually purchased the title they are reviewing. This is not always the case.

In the beginning, one could not post without purchasing the book. This however has changed. Take a look at the two most popular on-line booksellers, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Amazon’s review guidelines are puzzling at best. Read the excerpt from their website: Before you can post a review, you’re required to have an account that has successfully been charged for the purchase of a physical or digital item. Free digital downloads don’t qualify. You don’t need to have purchased the product you’re reviewing. There’s a 48-hour waiting period after your first physical order has been completely shipped, or your digital item has been purchased, before you’ll be able to submit your review. If you’ve purchased a digital gift for someone else, the 48-hour waiting period doesn’t begin until the gift has been redeemed.

The contradictory statement, You don’t need to have purchased the product you’re reviewing provides a loophole many authors use. They send emails to friends, family and Facebook acquaintances begging for a “positive review on Amazon.”

The Barnes and Noble’s guidelines read:Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked — or didn’t — with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

This ability to post reviews without purchasing books creates an environment where desperate authors, or less than scrupulous persons, try to manipulate the system. They link reviews to Twitter and Facebook; posts that may in fact lure people to purchase their title.

But wait! When it’s time for royalty checks, how can one determine the number of copies actually sold?

The short answer is, “you can’t.”

Sometimes authors do not solicit reviews. Friends and family members are just “trying to help.” However their “help” creates a disingenuous environment. Imagine for a moment an author scanning the online booksellers and smiling when they locate twenty-five glowing five-star reviews. Now imagine their shock when the royalty check comes.

Dear authors let there be no mistake, a review whether it be good, bad, or indifferent does not mean someone purchased a copy of your book. Remember those free books you give away? What about professional reviewers who receive comp copies? They didn’t purchase your book either.

In closing, while the system of reviewing books may be manipulated, in the end do yourself a favor and do not count reviews as actual book sales.

For more helpful information about navigating the process please purchase a copy of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.

Your favorite Indie Bookseller can purchase the book for you, or book me to lead a workshop. Here is a link.

Ammazon link hardcopy         ebook

Barnes&Noble hardcopy link

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. She leads workshops and provides individual author consultations. Visit her at