A recurring piece of “advice” for authors, circulated on Twitter but likely other platforms as well, is that “bloggers don’t influence book sales.” I don’t have widespread statistics on whether this is true (Does anyone?), and I’m certainly under no delusion that I, as an individual blogger, am inspiring mass purchases. I admit that very few people come to my blog, read a review, and then prance off to their bookseller of choice to purchase a book I just praised. (Bloggers who have affiliate links might have a little more insight on direct purchases, but they still can’t tell if someone bought a book later because of their review or bought it in-store or bought it but not through the affiliate link.)
However, of course no individual person is going to sell a significant number of books. The real question is whether bloggers in aggregate sell books–or essentially whether the existence of blogs has any marketing value at all. I’m certain they do, and anyone dismissing bloggers out of hand is likely giving up a lot of free publicity.
Think of Bloggers As Word of Mouth Publicity
It might be helpful to start by thinking of bloggers as word of mouth publicity, something which is also difficult to measure–but which most people would say is valuable. Bloggers are, essentially, avid readers and book fans who like to talk about books publicly and recommend them to other people. Again, of course most people aren’t going to hear about a book just once, even from their best and most trusted friend, and then immediately purchase it–but bloggers provide more than one time exposure. When bloggers pick up a book, readers see and here about that book from multiple sources. There’s a marketing theory that suggests that someone needs to hear about a product about five times before they consider buying it. Bloggers do the work of making sure people hear about a book multiple times, which puts it on their radar and makes them more likely to read or purchase it.
Book Bloggers Do More Than Blog
Next, consider that most bloggers aren’t just writing a book review on their blog and calling it a day. They are promoting the review across multiple platforms, often across days or even weeks. A single blogger who reads and review a book could promote it on:
- Their own blog
- Barnes & Noble
- Other review sites
- Other sites
And they might continue to promote the book by mentioning it in subsequent blog posts like lists of favorite books or round-ups. They might even do a giveaway and pay for a copy of the book with their own money to give to another reader.
Bloggers Are Often Book Pushers in Their Day Jobs
Also take into account that a disproportionate number of book bloggers are involved in the book industry in more than just blogging. Many are teachers, library workers, and booksellers. So a blogger who came across a book solely from blogging (i.e. would not have received or read an ARC or other promotional material at work, even if they do work at a library or bookstore) now has the opportunity to recommend the book to students, patrons, and customers.
And Most Book Bloggers Do This Free
And this is all free publicity and marketing for the book. Some bloggers do charge and make some money from blogging (especially if they’re actually more popular on platforms like Bookstagram or Booktube), but the reality is that the vast majority of book bloggers are doing all this work free. If the price of having a single blogger (never mind dozens or even hundreds of them) write thoughtful reviews distributed across multiple platforms and create social media mentions across multiple networks is basically nothing, it seems strange to say that bloggers are irrelevant, don’t influence book sales, and aren’t worth authors’ time.
Yes, of course, things like individual booksellers stocking and hand selling your book and getting an interview on a major television show or getting a movie deal are going to be massive movers for books. But bloggers aren’t exactly doing nothing to market and sell books either, and for an investment of literally $0 (or maybe the cost of a review copy), it’s worth giving them a chance.