When it comes to online reviews, the more, the merrier

I felt an overwhelming urge to post a review on Amazon today. I’d just finished a thriller, and wanted to give it a mixed report–it had good pacing and kept my interest, but the protagonist was so unlikable that I was rooting for him to fail. 

But in the end, I didn’t post anything. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever posted an online review. Maybe it’s empathy: As an author, I know what it’s like to receive reviews, the good, the bad, and the really ugly. So I feel shy about judging my peers in public. (I’m updating this post because my fellow writers are keeping me honest in the comments: Another reason a writer might not post a review is to avoid alienating other writers, or causing a backlash. You never know when you’re going to bump into the guy you slammed with a 1-star on Amazon.)

But I’m thinking I should change my ways. According to an article in the Economist, it’s the sheer volume of reviews–not whether they’re good or bad–that sells books.  People are much more likely to “click through” and buy a book if it has received lots of reviews, research indicates. Even when that volume includes a healthy slice of unfavorable reviews, the book still sells better. In fact, it’s better to have some negatives–readers mistrust books that have only favorable reviews.

In her MySpace blog, author Deb Baker discussed the importance of her reviews, and issued an appeal for more of them. She’s right on the money. When it comes to reviews in today’s online marketplace, volume counts.

So I’m thinking we should join together and become an army of critics. We could post reviews of all the books we’ve read to get the numbers up. Or we could find a midlist writer who has, say, only 9 reviews, and bump him into the double digits (the threshold for boosting sales).  It doesn’t matter if you liked the book or not. Just post your review.  It would be our own version of crowdsource marketing.

Do you like to post reviews, and do you think writers should post reviews about other books online? Have online reviews played a role in your book’s success?