Discussion: Do Reviews Affect Your Book Buying Decisions?

Due to the fact that I’ve had a lot of free time this week, I’ve been thinking about my blog a lot more.  What is the point of reviewing?  Do people read my reviews?  Is having a lot of reviews from book blogs a plus for self-published authors?

Of all of these questions, one really stuck in my mind.  Do reviews affect your book buying decisions?  For example, if you see that a book has a lot of five star reviews on Amazon that sound legitimate and offer reasons for their praise, does it make you more likely to read the book?  Or, if you find that your favourite book blogger has reviewed a book do you go check it out and maybe buy it?

Personally I look at books that interest me and then look at the reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads.  What were some of the pluses?  What were some of the things reviewers didn’t like?  Reviews aren’t the be-all end-all factor in my book buying decisions, but they sure do have some influence.  Another thing I’ve noticed is that if one of my book blogger friends has reviewed a book and I think it sounds cool I am much more likely to go out and buy that book because I become aware of its existence.  Maybe that’s just me.

So my question for you guys is this: Do reviews affect your book buying decisions?  Why or why not?  And if so, to what extent?

34 comments

  1. jennyinneverland

    Absolutely! I read a review one of my blogging friends posted the other week and it sounded so good I actually bought it and am reading it now! When looking at books on Amazon the reviews are the first thing I go to (after reading what it’s about obviously) xx

    • Carrie Slager

      I think it’s especially true for book reviewers, though. We tend to seek out other reviews anyway and (for me at least) the whole community feel of book blogging makes me more likely to buy a book if one of my bookish friends gives it a good review. If I see that someone has given a realistic, coherent review on Amazon I’m more likely to buy the book even if it’s not a stellar review.

  2. Jemima Pett

    Yes, I do read reviews, both on Amazon and on Goodreads. If someone I follow reviews a book and I like what they say I will add it to my to-read list; if I hear of an interesting book and look it up on a buying site I’ll look at the reviews and see what people liked or didn’t like… which may help me if I’m dithering, but won’t stop me buying a book if I like the sound of it. Sometimes people pick out things I don’t have problems with. Sometimes they gush about things I hate. You can tell more than people think by reviews 🙂
    The other thing about reviews – they simply show that someone *has* read the book!

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s sort of like me. I’m more likely to read reviews if I’m somewhat interested in the book and sometimes reviews make me buy the book and sometimes they turn me away from it. Other times I ignore them completely. There seems to be no method to the madness, in other words.

  3. Tammy Sparks

    I take reviews from bloggers into account but that’s only part of what makes me buy a book. I have a few bloggers I really trust and if they gush about something, I’ll probably end up loving it. I do always check Goodreads reviews and if I see lots of 1, 2 or 3 star reviews I may pass it over. This might sound weird but I also really trust the book reviewers for Entertainment Weekly. They are almost always right!

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s funny because if a big name publisher gives a book 5 stars and gushes I usually avoid the book! Not because I hate big name publications but because it seems like their critics hate everything I like. (Same goes for movies.) I’m far more likely to trust my fellow blogging friends, but whatever works for you I suppose.

  4. Grace

    Reviews definitely impact my book-buying decisions. I always read the one-star reviews on Amazon/Goodreads before purchasing a book because I want to know if the book is well-written and edited. Bad editing is one of my pet peeves when reading, so by checking the negative reviews to make sure that the editing wasn’t what people had issues with, I save myself a lot of headaches.

    Most books that I purchase for myself are books that I’ve discovered by reading book blogs.

    • Carrie Slager

      Yes, that’s so true! When it comes to indie books I really do take time to read the reviews first to see if the editing is horrible. If the editing is horrible then my entire experience with the book is going to be coloured by it.

  5. Phillip McCollum

    To a certain extent. A lot of it depends on the type of book and the type of reviews. If it’s about the prose itself, I try to preview the book to confirm. If it’s more about the subject matter, then I typically ignore those as it often means the book wasn’t meant for that particular audience of readers.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s a smart way to think of it. Sometimes content problems that bother other people don’t bother me, but if someone’s criticizing the writing and/or editing then reading an excerpt is definitely the smart thing to do.

    • Carrie Slager

      That seems like a lot of people here, especially ones that read book blogs on a regular basis.

      Alyssa, I would appreciate it if in the future you did not go off-topic with your comments. If you wanted me to join your network you should have sent me an email through my contact form. As it stands, I have no interest in joining your burgeoning network. Thank you for your interest.

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  7. Miranda @ Tempest Books

    Reviews definitely influence my purchase/reading of a particular book. Almost every single book that ends up on my TBR list is because it’s come highly recommended (or at least positively recommended) from a trusted blogger/Goodreads member. It’s honestly rare for me to add a book to my list unless at least one of my Goodreads friends has read it and liked it. I guess I’m just wary of reading books that haven’t come pre-approved as being something I might like. But, at the same time, I certainly don’t want to be one of those people who only reads what others suggest. There are also plenty of times where I read books that I just find interesting or have discovered some other way. But honestly the majority do come from the fact that somebody else has reviewed it and liked it.

    • pandaduh

      I don’t necessarily read what others suggest, but I certainly seek out reviews of a book that sounds interesting before I actually invest in it. I also use reviews to AVOID bad books.

      • Carrie Slager

        That’s the same as me, pandaduh. If I find a book interesting, I do actively seek out reviews for that book to make sure. At the same time, I’m like Miranda in that when a trusted blogging friend really gushes about a book I’m more likely to put it on my TBR list.

  8. pandaduh

    Reviews matter! I won’t bother to read a book if it doesn’t have reviews. I want to know what people are saying about it before I invest a huge amount of time into it.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s a good stance. It’s nice to know what you’re in for rather than taking a chance on the totally unknown. I personally try for unknown books on occasion, but most of the times I prefer books that have a few reviews.

    • J. F

      Reviewers are gold to authors and readers so God bless you for taking time to help us find and write good books. Why gold? Because in this day of selfpubbing and the desire for quality books, we need reviewers. Reviews push authors to improve their craft and, since readers now have the power of what is out there, they have a resource to decide whether to buy or not. Readers before didn’t realize was that the traditional publisher/marketing department decided what made it to the shelves for readers to choose from. Now they do the shopping. So thank you Carrie for your time and patience. Keep up the good work, girl.

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  11. Amy Shojai, CABC

    I generally read the reviews on amazon/good reads, too, and typically take a look at the 1-star to see WHY the person rated it so poorly. Often it has nothing to do with the book so I can discount those, I know authors get bent out of shape over the 1-star reviews but unless that’s all they have, for me that’s not a deal breaker. And if one of my friends gushes about a book, even if I’ve never read a review or heard of it, I’ll likely get the book.

    • Carrie Slager

      Same here. If the one star rating is for something silly like Amazon not shipping the book in a timely fashion, of course I discount those. As for the one star ratings, I don’t think authors should worry about them so much. A one star rating isn’t a dealbreaker for me because I know not everyone likes the same things. Even my closest book-blogging friends and I, who normally have similar tastes in reading, can have wildly different opinions on the same book. It’s totally subjective.

  12. Sandy

    I didn’t realize how much attention reviews got until just recently. This is the second blog I’ve read about reviews. The cover, blurb and excerpt always determined if I would be interested in reading the book.

    • Carrie Slager

      Reviews are a pretty big thing in the publishing industry, especially for self-published authors. I’m a very small review blog compared to many blogs out there and book blogs have a lot more clout than they used to. There are literally millions of us out here in dozens of different countries.

    • Carrie Slager

      That’s like me sometimes. Take Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, for example. It’s not something I would normally have picked up but I kept seeing reviews of it so I gave it a try. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it!

  13. jmdavisauthor

    If the blurb sounds good, I’ll read a few reviews, usually two or three five star and maybe a two star or three star, but my final decision whether or not I will purchase a book depends on the first few pages. I download a sample. If the story doesn’t grab me within five pages, I don’t purchase it. What is at stake for the main character? Do I like the the main character? Do I really care what happens to him/her? Those are three things I want to know in the first few pages.

    • Carrie Slager

      You see, despite my reviewing background I don’t tend to judge books solely on the first pages. The excerpts aren’t necessarily the be all end all for me because I’ve read excerpts with great beginnings and books that turned out to be terrible. I’ve also read books with terrible or mediocre beginnings that I loved. It’s hit-and-miss, really.

      • jmdavisauthor

        Readers like me who make their buying decision based on the first few pages will occasionally get it wrong and pass up good stories, or end up dissatisfied with one I thought would be a good read. Over the years, I’ve tried different approaches. However a reader makes the buy or not buy decision, you are correct, it’s hit or miss.

        I appreciate reviewers who take the time to read books and write reviews. Reviews are vitally important for both readers and authors. Certainly the lifeblood for an author. I can only hope most readers don’t use my approach to making the final buying decision. I’ll be the first to admit my method is not bullet proof.

        Carrie, thank you for your response to my comment to your post. Many bloggers don’t take the time to respond to readers who leave comments. I think I’ll join your 4081 other followers.

        • Carrie Slager

          No problem. I believe firmly in responding to comments, even if I don’t have time to get to them the very first day they’re posted. When I post on other blogs I like to get a response, so it just seems logical that I should do the same for my readers. I’m glad you’re joining my little community; I just hit 600 followers today, actually. 🙂

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