“No reviews, no revenue”

I know some readers find it frustrating when independent authors, such as myself, ask readers of their books to leave reviews on Amazon.com.  They don’t like to be bombarded with such pleas.  I try very hard not to issue such appeals too often:  but reviews are important, as the New York Post explains.

No reviews, no revenue.

That’s the key takeaway from a new study published in Psychological Science, which finds that if two similar products have the same rating, online shoppers will buy the one with more reviews.

. . .

The study concluded that consumers see products with more reviews as being more popular, and they’re more comfortable having what everyone else is having, regardless of quality.

“[When] faced with a choice between two low-scoring products, one with many reviews and one with few, the statistics say we should actually go for the product with few reviews, since there’s more of a chance it’s not really so bad,” wrote researcher Derek Powell of Stanford University, lead author of the report. In other words, when there’s only a handful of reviews, a few bad ones break the curve and bring down the overall rating.

“But participants in our studies did just the opposite: They went for the more popular product, despite the fact that they should’ve been even more certain it was of low quality,” he wrote.

Matt Moog, CEO of PowerReviews, previously conducted a study with Northwestern University that drew from an even larger data pool of 400 million consumers, which also found that the more reviews there are of a product, the more likely it is that a customer will purchase that product. “Around 20 [and running up to 50] is the optimal number of reviews for a product to have to give consumers the confidence that this product has been tried enough by enough people,” he told Moneyish.

. . .

Most online shoppers (97 percent to be exact) say reviews influence their buying decisions, according to Fan & Fuel Digital Marketing Group, which also found that 92 percent of consumers will hesitate to buy something if it has no customer reviews at all.

And 73 percent of shoppers say written reviews make more of an impression on them than the star or number ratings, according to Deloitte.

There’s more at the link.

I guess that shows why writers beg, plead and grovel for reviews!  I always tell people to leave an honest review, too.  If you didn’t like my book(s), feel free to say so, and why;  but if you did like them, please say that, too (and why).  It not only helps me write better in future (and I do take such feedback seriously), but it also helps potential readers assess my books and decide for themselves whether or not they’d like to ‘take a chance’ on a new-to-them author.

Interestingly, even negative reviews can help sell products to people who know what they’re looking for.  For example, one of my wife’s favorite cookbooks was bought because of a one-star review.  The reviewer complained that it was nothing but a selection of the best recipes from four previous cookbooks by the same author.  She felt cheated, because she owned the other books, and would not have bought this one if she’d known that.  My wife, on the other hand, read the review, and realized that by buying one book, she’d get the best parts of four others.  Sold!  Another example;  several readers, of varying political persuasions, have told me that they’ve sometimes bought a book in that field because of negative comments from reviewers of an opposing point of view.  If a left-wing reviewer attacks a right-wing book, a right-wing reader might buy it because of that, and vice versa.  I’ve never done that myself, but it makes sense to me.

So, dear readers;  if you’ve read my book(s), and haven’t yet left a review of it/them on Amazon.com, please do so.  Thanks!



  1. The other day my wife ordered a particular gizmo because it had over a thousand reviews, it's competitor was no where near than.
    She mentioned the number of reviews several times..

  2. My protocol for reviewing an item of interest (not only literature) is to at least skim the official description, then go to "all reviews" to sense the 1-5disreibution, go on to the 1-star reviews and begin to move up the chain to reach the 4-star level (5-star reviews hold slant interest for me, as mindless as so many are). Review any answered questions, and evidence whether or not to buy.
    Some of the "official" item descriptions are useless, but the experience of people who've actually forked over their money often reveal truth.


  3. Per Charlie Stross 50 is the number of reviews that impacts the Amazon algorithms which leads to more sales. Yes, reviews matter for people making decisions should they buy or not. so reviews help Amazon popularity and readers to decide what to buy.

  4. I received a one-star on my last release that actually led to more people buying it. So yes, that does work. Also, I have reviewed your latest, because it was good. And I said so 🙂

  5. Peter, what you mentioned used to be my system for evaluating new movies; if Siskel & Ebert, et.al., hated a movie, I figured that there was a fair chance I'd enjoy it, & this often proved true. Conversely, if they went gaga over the "character development" or "deeper symbolism" of a film, I generally felt quite safe in ignoring it. Not a consistently accurate means of evaluation, but one which was right more often than wrong.
    –Tennessee Budd

  6. One, two, and even three star reviews are frequently worthless. Many of these reviewers never address actual problems with an item, or their review proves they didn't know what the item was for or how to use it.

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