It never ceases to amaze me how certain books will receive high ratings and reviews, and then other books will receive mixed reviews and wind up outselling the books with the highest ratings.
And I’m not just talking about my own books here. I’ve discussed this with other authors and they’ve all experienced the same thing. If you have over five published books out there there’s bound to be at least one that has received stellar ratings but didn’t do as well in sales as books with mixed reviews have received.
I can’t even begin to explain this. Maybe some books resonate with readers and they can’t wait to rate and review them. In other words, something the author did hit home and it affected the reader in some way. This has happened to me before. When I read Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups in 2001 I was going through a small crisis and the book resonated with me…to the point where it actually made me feel good. And at the time, it was the last thing I expected. I was only reading the book to pass time. But I’ll never forget the wonderful feeling I experienced when I read the last paragraph. And I’ve read this book six times since then and I’ve always experienced the same feeling.
There are very few patterns authors and publishers can follow when it comes to a how a book is going to be received. A few of the books I’ve had released and didn’t have high hopes for actually wound up doing better than I’d imagined they would. There’s one short story I’m still scratching my head about. It was published in an anthology by a print publisher five years ago, the editor of that anthology recommened it to another editor for a “Best Of” anthology two years later, and then I released it as a stand alone short e-book and it’s been on the fictionwise bestseller list since it was released. (Of course the reviews have been extremely mixed.) And when I wrote this story and submitted it, I never thought it would sell well at all. I just figured I was submitting something I normally didn’t do…it was actually more of an experiment.
The only real pattern I’ve noticed over the last twenty years is that you can’t predict anything. And, the books with only the highest ratings never sell quite as well as the books with the mixed ratings. (There will always be fewer ratings for the books with excellent reviews because they didn’t sell as many copies.) If you don’t believe me, check out a few bestselling books on goodreads.com or Amazon.com. Then check out a few books with nothing but five star ratings. It’s interesting to examine. And you start to wonder whether or not readers actually do pay attention to excellent ratings and reviews as much as they pay attention to buzz and hype. I even know some authors who claim the worst reviews help their sales. Go figure!