Let me preface this post by saying that I truly do appreciate every blog reviewer that has taken the time to read my works and give their unbiased opinions of what they contain. While I write primarily for myself so that I can see the stories I wish to read, there really is no greater feeling than to have someone come along and say that they liked, or even loved reading it themselves. However, my experience over the past year and a half of being on the market is that blog reviewers have very little actual influence in direct sales. I'll explain after the jump.
During the early months of Spiral X being available, my wife and I kept a spreadsheet of review blogs that we had targeted as potential reviewers. In all, over a hundred requests for review were sent. About a quarter of them actually completed reviews, the same number were sent a copy but never posted a review, and the rest either never responded or did respond and said they couldn't do it (for a variety of reasons). Right off the bat, the odds really do not favor the sales. A 25% success rate might be good enough in Baseball, but elsewhere it doesn't really sit well.
Now, out of the reviews that did come in, the overwhelming majority were favorable or better. A couple were not quite as favorable but only in terms of not liking the material, or even not understanding it to a degree. Still, those are much better overall percentages, and one wonders if that spread would have remained if I had gotten reviews from everyone that had been sent a copy.
Back to the topic at hand though. Direct sales, to me, means any sale that appears within forty-eight hours of a review being posted on a blog. I limit it to just two days because that seems to be the period in which people spread out their blog reading, i.e. if they don't hit them every day, they hit them every other day. In some cases, bloggers take part in weekly efforts such as Follow Friday and whatnot so actual reviews might quickly find themselves buried after two days. So it feels like a good number to hit on.
My records show that between November of 2010 and March of 2011 I had twenty-one Blog Reviews. Now, during this time I saw the most amount of overall sales but in terms of direct sales, there was little to make me believe the reviews were making a difference. I had more success directly talking about my work within the various online communities that I had been a part of for several years prior to this endeavor.
The biggest indicator of this observation is evident in February of 2011. During this month I had eight reviews of Spiral X. One of those was from a blog that had over a thousand followers. Should have had a good month, right? The book sold four copies. Keep in mind that these were good reviews. Only one was less than 4-stars and more than a couple were 5-stars. By all appearances though, this did not matter.
So what can ultimately be gleaned from this? For one, I think I didn't hit my target market with the blogs we got reviews on. As I said, I had better sales when directly engaging with the communities I had long been a part of, which runs heavily into online gaming and geek culture. Ultimately I feel as if the comic book and gaming crowd is my best bet overall to help generate interest and sales.
So what does this mean? Well, it means outside of a few bloggers who were extremely receptive of Spiral X and were quick to get reviews back, I won't be going out of my way to relive the experience with White Rock. My time is limited as it is, and spending hours out of the day walking down a dead end road doesn't really appeal to the logical side of my brain. And again, while I am appreciative of the reviews I did receive for Spiral X, the end result doesn't really match up with the expected outcome.
So the answer to the question, "Do Blog Reviews Matter?", is, for J. J. Westendarp, a "No."