How to use book reviews for market research
By: Linda Fulkerson
All authors and writers know the importance of reviews. Especially in today’s market, reviews offer “social proof” – validation that a book is worth a reader’s time. Statistics have shown that the more reviews a book has, the more likely others will buy it, because whether readers love it or hate it, a large number of reviews demonstrates that the book is popular. And humans tend to follow the crowd.
When we get a good review, we get excited and it can boost our spirits and motivate us to write more. A bad review can create doubts as to why we even chose to write in the first place. The truth is, reviews are subjective. They are the opinion of the reviewer. But, if we notice a trend – whether positive or negative – then the reviews can be taken more seriously.
Today’s Tip offers a different way to consider reviews – use reviews for market research.
When you read through your reviews, look for those that discuss specifics – scenes, characters, settings (for fiction writers) – concepts and topics (for nonfiction). What do the reviewers say? Which scenes did they enjoy? Which characters did they find shallow or predictable?
Now, do a search in Amazon.com, GoodReads, ChristianBook, or other online booksellers and make a list of the top ten books within your genre. Read the reviews for those books. Do you see trends in the types of scenes, characters, topics, etc., that readers like best? Dislike the most?
This list of likes and dislikes of your target audience (those who read within the genre you write for) will give you an idea of what to include more of and omit from your writing.
As writers, we’re often told to write our own stories and ignore what is selling. But the hard facts of marketing show that if we don’t produce what readers want, we’ll sell less books. I’m not condoning the “write to the market” concept – write the story that’s in your heart. But as you write it, be aware of what your readership likes most and least, and include some of their favorite stuff and, if you have scenes and concepts that you know your audience dislikes, consider excluding it. Or rewriting it in a way to make it more market-friendly.