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Do good book reviews always sell books?

discusses the differences between book reviews and feature stories as regards publicity and book sales

Do good book reviews always sell books? This question was posed on the Self Publishing list at Yahoo Groups

My experience is that a good review certainly helps sell books (or other products) but they don’t always sell that many. In fact, when I did a survey of book reviewers ten years ago, I recall Steve Wasserman, LA Times book reviewer writing me and expressing his perspective that ‘no reads what we write and they don’t believe us even when they do.”

My preference for my clients is to aim at feature stories because in my experience they typically result in the sale of more books than book reviews. That’s because instead of a typical book reviewer’s literary description of the book, the characters, the plot and maybe the target audience, instead you get in depth news and human interest, interesting and even galvanizing information about the author, the people he or she writes about or is writing for, helpful advice, and even dramatic personal or social action, and the bottom line is that these articles result in a much more effective personal engagement with the media audience at an emotional level. The bottom line is people are motivated more by feature stories than by book reviews.

So to get this type of coverage you have to pitch this sort of information. The news release you use must have more of the elements that people are interested in.

I’ve a few articles on my web site where I’ve discussed and strategized on this question a few times particularly in the context of writing a news release that gets an author or a publisher publicity that sells books: Here’s the one that identifies some rules for people who want to benefit from these tactics.

Cover letter or news release? Book review or feature story?

But don’t by any means think that publicity is the end all for book sales. It’s valuable for sure. It can be extremely powerful and help you in lots of ways.

Think about it. Realize that it has a role to play in marketing like everything else. And to be realistic about it think about what you do when you read newspapers, watch TV or listen to the radio.

When was the last time you read an article in the paper or in a magazine, that was so good you went to the store, grabbed the phone and dialed a toll free number, or went to the web and made a purchase?

That’s not to say it has no impact down the road. But look at what publicity does to immediate sales and realize that the effect may be attenuated and the type of message published by media (book review vs feature story).

The type of story makes a significant difference in how people respond and act. The galvanizing dramatic personal story captures more interest and attention than a dry, objective description every time.

I also think that feature stories are easier to generate and to get placed than book reviews or product reviews.

It doesn’t matter what the product is. When it comes to getting media coverage, the impact the message has on the hearts and minds of the people who read the article is what matters. And that’s why feature stories are more valuable than book reviews.

Recent case in point. It’s not publishing but it is high tech PR and it still illustrates the principles.

The national coverage feature story article in the paper this week about the Samsung Instinct available for $129 (the first serious Apple iPhone competitor on the market) is going to influence a lot of people when they make buying decisions these next few months.

What a wonderful triumph for the Sprint marketing department and their PR firm. And the phone goes on sale June 20 nationwide. Incredible timing.

But how many other articles will have that level of impact? Can you create a news release and release it to media so that you have an impact like that?

It’s not easy but it is something to aim for.

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 at 6:50 pm In
book publicity, book reviews, book sales