Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I learned about print reviews

 By Judith Yates Borger, who never really lost faith in the power of newspapers

Because my emphasis is on epublishing, I hadn't paid a lot of attention to print reviews. That changed this week when my local newspaper, the StarTribune ran a Sunday review of my next book, Whose Hand? A Skeeter Hughes Mystery.

The reviewer, Steve Weinberg, a Columbus, Ohio journalist, said that Whose Hand? is "filled with places and events recognizable to Twin Cities residents."  He added that it's written by "a skilled stylist, and the plot unfolds without flaws of illogic. Far too many mysteries are bedeviled by illogical plot developments." Weinberg, who collects books about journalists, paired his review of Whose Hand? with a review of Killing Kate, by Julie Kramer, whose protagonist is also a reporter. It's unusual, he said, to have two books about two different female journalists released at the same time in the same city. He hailed both books as "first rate."

Whose Hand? is only available right now through Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble nook. It's in pre-order and will be published in paper in mid-August.  But apparently the review moved people who own ereaders to act. By Sunday late afternoon, Whose Hand?'s ranking on Amazon had zoomed up 175,000. My first book, Where's Billie? had gone up 200,000 ranks.  Both books were among the top 9,000 best sellers among Kindle's 750,000 ebooks. 

What's significant here is not so much the ranking but the huge swing in ranking caused by just one review. In a newspaper, no less.

By contrast, Publishers Weekly called Whose Hand?  a "diverting regional mystery with appeal to readers beyond the Twin Cities." I could not see any significant change in my Kindle sales after the Publisher's Weekly review.

I think there are two lessons here. It doesn't take a lot of sales to move an ebook way up the sales list. But more important, we have to pay attention to good, old newspaper coverage. It matters. 

Have you had a similar experience?  Tell us about it.


  1. On the flip side, my Blackthorne, Inc. series still has two books under contract to Five Star, a hard cover only publisher that targets the library market. A good review from Publishers Weekly made a huge difference in library sales, but did very little for sales to the general public, based on Amazon stats.

    As for my indie-published books in the series -- I totally agree that they jump up in the rankings when you can get sales over a short period of time. However, I didn't notice any carryover between print and digital sales.

    Terry's Place

  2. Interesting, but a little puzzling.

  3. Is it puzzling because it's not well explained in the post, or puzzling because the results seem contradictory?

  4. Oops, sorry, Judy. I didn't realize that could be read more than one way. The contradictory results are puzzling.

  5. Congrats on the great review, Judy! Well-deserved, I'm sure. I'll look for your book. It's time I took a break from thrillers and romantic suspense to read a mystery or two, anyway.

  6. Congrats on the impressive write up, Judy. And well-deserved for sure.

  7. As a reader, I've never purchased a book because of a written review . . . unless there was a quote from a review on the cover. Short and sweet.

    As a writer, I think those gloriously long reviews—favorable, without giving away key plot twists—will be interesting . . . assuming I read them. Which, of course, I will.


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