Do Bloggers make a difference in sales

Traditional Internet, and Social Media Marketing

A lot of questions have been raised lately on whether book and lit blogs drive any sales, of course they drive some sales, then the question remains now many sales do they actually drive. Its kind of hard to tell. There are ways to know if your review copies are going to bloggers who will drive maximum sales. A lot of factors go into online marketing.

I have been reading a lot of discouraging comments from book publicists lately online. Perhaps the one that struck me the most absurd was from Avalon a subsidiary of Harper Collins. The publicist said it was her belief book blogs were unhelpful due to the fact that Amazon and online sales were still only a small margin of their total sales. The question to ask yourself is, have you ever read about anything online and then went to a store to buy it, or are all your online findings also online purchases?

You have people who strictly buy from online recommendations, but let us focus for a minute on the average buyer and marketing trends, also how the internet, social media and blogs can affect sales when partnered with traditional forms of advertising.

For example lets say you are a new author and have penned a fantastic fiction on the world’s end in 2012. You have a publisher and a publicist and they are using traditional media to sell your book. They have taken ads in all the relevant magazines, even online banners on relevant sites. Let’s go as far to say they have your book trailer on the 2012 movie previews, and you got reviewed in Entertainment Weekly. Your book is doing pretty well, by no means a best seller but you see a continued rise in purchases from week to week. Then it slopes of and maintains a good amount of copies sold weekly in traditional bookstores and online. Your publicist works to find blogs that relevant to your book, ones who have a following for this type of fiction. She doesn’t just send your book to any blogger with little to no following raising their hand wanting a copy. The relevant bloggers who have an audience, be that even if it is small review your book. This carries some amount of street credit. Just because the NY Times likes your book doesn’t mean people always believe it is great. Word of mouth has always been the best form of advertising and in the end book blogging is word of mouth. Bloggers are honest in their opinions and the readers of the blog trust what the blogger puts to them. Is this going to create millions of sales and buy that house in France you always wanted to retire to, probably not, but it is going to breathe life back into a stagnate product and create a social media buzz. Then people begin to talk about your book at their online platforms, just regular people who like to read. Now if the publicist cannot do relevant research on where your book fits and sends it to bloggers whose readers care nothing about this genre, the results will be less than before.

New Marketing Trends

How many of you search online for reviews and information about a product you want to buy? Be it a cell phone, a car, or even a travel charger for your phone. Marketing studies show that the average person first makes the decision online for the product they will buy, or have a good idea of 3 to 4 similar products before walking into the store. The days of the high pressure sales person are done, especially in the generations behind is this tactic is no longer working. People are able to search and make informed decisions on their own to what products they bring into their home. A hypothetical example, Joan wants to buy a new cellphone. She isn’t that great with electronics so she goes online and asks her friends via social networking, what phones are good for me if I want to send email and are easy to use. She is told to look at Blackberry, iPhone, and Palm Pre. She then starts her internet research, she decides she wants a real qwerty keyboard, that narrows it to Palm, and Blackberry. She sets back to her research and realizes the Blackberry doesn’t support wifi and she likes the fun Pandora application on the Pre. Social networking just sold a $300 phone and the advertising was free! Betty wants a new book so she stops by Borders on her way home. She is browsing the fiction section and just cannot decide, she has read all the NY Times best selling list and doesn’t know what to pick up next. She sees a copy of Neil Gaimen’s Neverwhere on the shelf, and the name of the author and the book pop out at her. “I have heard of this somewhere”, she thinks. She reads the back of the cover and takes the book home. She heard of this book while browsing fiction book blogs. Did book bloggers just buy Gaimen that Corvette, no probably not even a cheeseburger, but they created the chance for this author to gain a new fan who will then pass on the word to all her friends what an awesome book she found on the way home from work last week.

Is it worth it?

Do I think book bloggers are going to change the advertising world? No not immediately, but I do think when using the proper outlet for any form of advertising your sales will improve. It is up to the people who hold these review copies to do their research and send the books to relevant blogs and explain what they want and need from the blogger. This is a free form of advertising minus the cost of the book, you are not paying this blogger for the hours it takes to read the book and for the time spent writing the review. Its cheap, its easy, its word of mouth, just do it.

Ways to spot a good blog

You found 10 relevant blogs for your book but only have 4 review copies, how do you possibly narrow down the field. There are quite a few subtle things you can look for.

  1. Is the front page of the blog clean of images, easy to navigate and look pleasing to you?
  2. Does this blogger have his niche or are the reviews all over the place with scattered reviews along with life stories about their dog?
  3. Read a review or two, would you buy a book based on this persons recommendation?

It really is that simple, book bloggers are relevant but I doubt they are going to make you millions, there are good and bad bloggers out there just as in any field and in the end its up to you how much time and research you put in to finding a fit for your product.

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18 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    Good points. I think readers are more likely to put books on a shopping list than go straight to Amazon and buy it. It just seems naive to assume that blog=Amazon. A lot of readers use their local shops. We do like to step out into the sunlight occasionally!

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    Do you think images are a turn-off (your first criterion)? I guess I’m doomed. I have a banner photo and book cover images and my avatar and others.

    I’m also doomed because I’m an eclectic reader (criterion number 2).

    I hope that I’d pass criterion 3.

    You are so right about the fact that online discovery of a book or product does not mean online purchasing. I buy locally if at all possible, even if I’m forced to buy from a chain. I generally like to see and handle a product before purchase.

  3. Gravatar

    The majority of books I read are from review blogs. EW and NY Times review a very small portion of books, mainly ones I don’t want to read.

    And in this economy, word of mouth can do great things for an author and their work. Blogs are all about words of mouth and publishers need to start getting a clue because as more and more turn to on-line over print, these print publications may disappear like the dinosaurs.

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    Beth: I have images on the front of my blog also, book images, a twitter and RSS logo. The important thing is can readers find what they are looking for. Things like awards and stuff not related to your blog and reviews should go on a page. (IMHO)

  5. Gravatar

    I had an author recently on tour with us who came to us because he had appeared on upteen television talk shows and no book sales. I think publicists who believe that offline marketing is the catch all of everything has a few marbles loose. My whole business involves book blogs and yes, they do sell books. 24 billion ordinary people like you and me purchased items last year online and this is during the pre-recession, people were being laid off, Wall Street was about to go bust. There are a lot of publicists out there with the old school mentality, especially those from the publishing houses, but they are slowly wisening up.

  6. Gravatar

    Oops, that figure I just quoted? That was just the Christmas season alone and not for the whole year.

  7. Gravatar

    While I could pass Criterion #1, I’m not sure about the rest. Hopefully I could pass #3.

    However, my blog is small–I just started out in April. I get an average of 20 visitors a day, and a handful of comments. This is steadily increasing, but I wonder if comments–especially ones that say, wow, I’m going to add this to my TBR–are a factor.

  8. Gravatar

    Comments saying they are going to try a book due to your recommendation are awesome, however I think a lot of people read then add it to a to buy list without saying so on the blog.

    You stick to your genre, fiction is a wide range, lots to choose from.

  9. Gravatar

    I don’t think that stories about the blogger’s dog should be a negative factor. Some people write very entertaining stories about their pets/children/life and still persuade me to buy books.

    What you really need to look at is whether the blogger will:
    a) actually read your book and not just collect ARCs
    b) like your book – based on other things they have liked in the past
    c) is able to then write a well written review for it

  10. Gravatar

    This is such a great post, Pam. It amazes me that the conclusion some are drawing from stagnant online sales is that online publicity sources are not effective. That’s like saying, because I don’t walk into my television to order a pizza from this vendor or that vendor, pizza joints shouldn’t advertise on t.v.!

    I’ve spoken with two publicists and an author, recently, all who have raved about the advent of the book blog. It is certainly where I get my book recommendations, which, by the way, I buy at my local indie shop, NOT an online conglomerate. ;)

  11. Gravatar

    Jackie: This is written from a pure marketing perspective. If I have an online business that sells cell phone chargers that is what people want to know about. I keep a seperate blog that if I wanted to I could link from here where I write funny stories that people probably don’t care about :) A publisher sending you a book and a reader need to be able to first and foremost find your articles and reviews and news.

    Pam: I do a bit of both, if I like a blog we feel the same way about a lot of books we have in common then I know I probably am getting really good recs for myself.

  12. Gravatar

    I wonder though if it’s not advantageous for a blog to be somewhat eclectic in it’s posting style.

    For example, if a blogger posts about books as well as television. I see the advantage of having a specialty or niche of focus but I also imagine that variety brings in more viewers. I would also imagine that publicists would like that not only are visitors coming specifically to find information about books when going to a blog but also that they might happen upon impulse or other purchasers via a secondary set of blog readers.

    I’m not advocating for either just that I can see where narrow focus isn’t necessarily an advantage in all cases.

  13. Gravatar

    Absolutely books and television fit in the same entertainment catagory, but which types of shows and books bring in her audience. When the blogger posts about comedy shows and ya books her traffic is higher, its okay to post about LOST but just don’t expect that amount of traffic. A niche can be a a huge thing, fiction in itself is a niche. I never said you need to narrow your focus to one small thing, just see what drives your traffic and build on that as your brand.

  14. Gravatar

    This is a great post and the first one I’ve met that discussed the impact of book blogging on actual book sales. While many indeed still ask sales persons about their recommendations, researching for products online is steadily gaining ground. I myself don’t buy books unless I’ve thoroughly read and re-read about them unless of course I was smitten at first sight. Though the potential customer’s having heard about the book’s plot or of the author certainly helps memory recall and possible sales opportunity for the store.

    One point though, I don’t think anyone who hosts personal blogs not strictly devoted to books (mine included) would need to apologize for not narrowing their fields of interests as this sense of variety only adds to the kind of flavor that you alone [the blogger] can offer your readers. Whether your influence on your readers’ buying habits is significant or not, a book blog which has found its unique voice among the field of thousands, is still worth celebrating.

    I like this blog. Will add this to my blogroll. ^_^

  15. Gravatar

    Thanks! I also agree that no one should signifigantly limit what they post. If they have a strong blog with 100 YA and 300 Chick Lit books then they have an audience for those two things, if they post a random Sci-Fi book how many readers from the genres the blogger has been devoted to will pick it up? Having a book blog is at least my way of sharing my love of reading with others, accpeting ARC’s and ARE’s fall into the category of marketing the book, whether you like the book or not and give an honest review, you should make sure you are able to target with your blog an audience that will appreciate that review. If I can’t I do not accept a title, it’s a waste of time and energy for me and the publisher.

  16. Gravatar

    I like your style. Yes, being direct and honest about his/her own capabilities are what makes or breaks a blogger especially one who intends to stay for the long haul. For established book blogs like this one, it is indeed important for the blogger to be clear with his/her reviewing policies lest he be found a problem rather than a delight.
    But before I veer off from the original topic, I’d like to agree to your point that having a specific audience in mind does help raise the no. of hits. Depending on the style and the readers’ preference, a well-written review, be it positive or negative, certainly increases the chances of sales (I’ve a friend who once bought a book because she got curious why it got a really bad rating), rather than merely relying on the traditional promotional methods (word of mouth may fall under the “traditional” category, but as you said, when it’s coupled with internet & social networking-savvy, it’s a hundred times more effective).

  17. Gravatar

    Belatedly here – excellent article. The look of a blog goes so far and it’s always a shame to read wonderful posts on my reader only to find out cluttered and poorly designed the site is when I go to leave a comment. If I were just stumbling upon blogs, I’d never know how well some are written based on that alone.

  18. Gravatar

    @Christina Even if your blog can’t be designed by a pro, you can have it organized and free of images that may crash browsers.

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