Do Book Bloggers Influence Book Sales?

Do Bloggers Influence Book Sales_ (1)

Introduction

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.

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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.

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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
  • Goodreads
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Amazon
  • Other review sites
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • 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.

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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.

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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.

Briana

43 thoughts on “Do Book Bloggers Influence Book Sales?

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      It comes up all the time! I feel like it’s supposed to be advice for authors along the lines of “preorder swag doesn’t increase sales” or “joining Twitter doesn’t sell books,” but I think people are missing that there are benefits from online marketing (like from bloggers!) that can’t necessarily be quantified. (Alternatively, I’ve also seen people basically say, “I don’t know how to market books without bloggers and other influencers,” so opinions on this really vary. Also most books don’t have big marketing budgets, so if you’re not being featured on The Tonight Show or something, I have no idea why you wouldn’t bother with bloggers.)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Papertea and Bookflowers says:

    Yes exactly!! No one should expect to see massive increase after one bloggers review but we get the book talked about and seen by more people. And by the people who are actually interested in that specific kind of book. I dint know how many times I wasn’t interested in a book before because marketing made it sound like something I wouldn’t enjoy and then after reading reviews went out, bought it and loved it.
    Live this post! 💛

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, you start with a couple bloggers, and they get other readers and bloggers to read the book, and suddenly a whole bunch of people have heard about your book!

      I also get most of my reading suggestions from blogging these days. I get that the average reader might not, but that’s where bloggers cross-promoting on Twitter, Instagram, etc. comes in because I think non-blogger readers are more likely to frequent those sites, even if they don’t specifically read blog.

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  2. nen & jen says:

    You’ve summed this up so well! It’s a bit demoralising to have your blogging reduced to ‘nothing’ in terms of contribution toward a book’s sales. I’m not under the impression that each blogger makes a significant impact but I completely agree with you that as an aggregate we would have an impact. Great post Briana! 😀

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! Of course if you have a large marketing budget, that’s going to move books, as well as getting your books stocked in bookstores and whatnot. But to say people posting reviews online and talking up the book on social media does nothing is crazy.

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  3. getkidsintobooks says:

    Great post! I think book bloggers (through their blogs and social media channels) play an important role in raising a book’s profile. I know I’ve certainly decided to read loads of books because I’ve been made aware of them by book bloggers.

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  4. Jules_Writes says:

    I’ve bought plenty of books because I’ve read a fantastic book blogger’s review. I think on the whole I would be very surprised if book bloggers didn’t have a positive effect on sales. Great post.

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  5. louloureads says:

    I often forget to put up my affiliate links, but three people have bought books after clicking links directly from my blog. (I have Foyles not Amazon affiliation, so I’m guessing people outside the UK wouldn’t use it). And I’ve definitely bought books off of people’s blogs – I ended up buying multiple copies of Death in Captivity after reading a single review, because I loved it so much that I gave it as a Christmas gift and will certainly be gifting it again thus year.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s really interesting to know! I feel like I would be honored if even one person bought the book right after reading my review! I think you are probably right that Amazon affiliate links get even more clicks though.

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  6. Stephen Writes says:

    This is an excellent post. I have definitely bought or chosen to read a book due to reviews from other bloggers, and I think they do have a small positive effect on sales. When I love a book, I do like letting others know about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    I saw the title of this post and immediately started considering my own response to the question – then I read the post and you hit on all the things I thought of 😛 Particularly about the aggregate effect and needing to hear about a product multiple times, and the fact that book bloggers often aren’t ‘just’ book bloggers.

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  8. Carol says:

    Interesting discussion! I know I’ve influenced a few people to buy a book! I wish that amazon and book sellers could take a month and do an exit survey upon purchase and ask what influenced them to buy the book! It might be enlightening! I know for sure that I influence other bookstagrammers and bloggers to read books I’ve reviewed because I hear from them. I also know that whenever anyone in my circle of friends/family wants to buy a book they come to me for a rec. so I know that I have some influence….and it you add up all the reviewers who have some influence, I think that’s a significant amount of influence!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Ooh, yeah, an exit survey about why someone chose to buy the book would be really interesting! I’d love to see the results of that!

      Yes, I think bloggers are also good for word of mouth in their “normal” lives because we’re all avid readers!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. DoingDewey says:

    I think the idea of book bloggers as word of mouth publicity makes a lot of sense. I don’t have affiliate links, so I’m primarily aware of family members, friends, and bloggers I know well who have picked up books based on my reviews specifically. I also know that I’ll pick up books specifically on the recommendations of those same groups of people. And I agree that seeing a book a lot makes a difference. I’m definitely more aware of those books everyone seems to be reviewing!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Exactly! And while the “average” person might not read book blogs, they definitely go on social media and sites like Goodreads and Amazon where book bloggers post! If people *don’t* find out about books online these days, I’m not sure where they do.

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  10. whatthelog says:

    I totally agree with everything you’ve said here!! A couple of years ago I did a publishing internship and a publishing degree, and there was definitely a focus on ensuring that ARCs reached bloggers. I feel like it’s often authors who underrate the importance of bloggers, rather than marketing departments/publishers. I wonder why that is!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’ve definitely seen some industry professionals say on Twitter that they wouldn’t know how to market books without bloggers. This is probably particularly true for the large number of books that barely have a marketing budget–leveraging free resources like bloggers is going to be important.

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  11. Stephanie says:

    I know for a fact that bloggers influence sales because I have bought more than one book because of book bloggers. And seeing a book loved by other bloggers I trust, also allows me to further influence people like my mom (who share a VERY similar taste in reading) in my personal life, who will often buy and read a book because I say “oh that looks so good I want to read it, I’ve heard really good things about it!” And that’s just for books that I haven’t read. There have been many books that she has picked up that I’ve read and loved. I find most of my books through my blogging activities these days so that’s 100% influencing some purchases.

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  12. laurensadiew says:

    Totally, I used to pick things in the library that sounded interesting but now literally every book I read is something I’ve picked off of a review or TBR that sounds interesting to me

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! I remember just vaguely wandering around looking for something to catch my eye. Now I mostly get recommendations online from blogs and social media. It’s hard to go into a store and see a book I hadn’t heard something about online previously.

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  13. LisaDay says:

    I agreed with your points. For a free book – I am in it for the books – I talk about it in my blog, on facebook and twitter and sometimes on Instagram, but then also word of mouth, or my other book blog and I just pitched to a newspaper as well. I am the book cheerier. You can’t go wrong with free publicity.

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  14. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Excellent post! Yeah it’s a bit more complicated than bloggers sell x books- but I do notice trends in books spreading by “word of mouth” (I can often spot some books doing the rounds between blogger friends) and I’d definitely argue it influences aggregate sales (especially because bloggers tend to repeatedly talk about favourites). And yeah, a lot of bloggers have jobs where they can push books as well. Plus, there’s the bonus that it’s all free advertising!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! I get people want that big marketing budget or want Oprah to pick them for her book club or whatever, but if that’s not going to happen to you, bloggers can still sell a lot of books! Especially over a long period of time. I’m seeing bloggers talk about books they read and loved in 2012, which obviously aren’t getting a lot of other types of marketing at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

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