Do large book reviews result in more book sales?

4 March 2022

Since 2012 the Stella Count has been analysing the number, and length, of book reviews published across twelve Australian publications. These periodicals include regional and national newspapers, magazines, and journals.

Reporting of the counts for the two most recent years — being 2019 and 2020 — has been delayed by COVID imposed restrictions, but they have shown for the first time that reviews of books written by women, has exceeded the fifty percent mark for the first time since the Stella Count commenced.

While on the surface it appears there is finally some parity in book reviews between the genders, being published in the twelve surveyed publications, there is a significant caveat. This comes down to the length of the reviews. While more than half of small and medium sized reviews critiqued the work of women in the 2019 and 2020 period, when it came to large reviews, books by men remained in the majority.

As far as I can tell, the Stella Count only looks at print publications, though I assume these reviews are cross-posted to their online counterparts. While using established periodicals makes for a consistent benchmark to measure comparisons over time, I’m guessing these numbers would be quite different if social media reviews were — somehow — to be included.

The value — and prestige even — of large reviews cannot, and should not, be dismissed, but I wonder what the conversion rate, if you like, of large reviews to book purchases is, compared to small and medium reviews. Research tell us people take more time to assimilate longer articles (consisting of a thousand words or more), than they do shorter, or small and medium, sized write-ups.

This is possibly because large reviews contain more information, and readers perhaps feel better informed if they are making a decision to spend money. If I were making a big purchase, such as a car, I would read as many long-form, in depth articles, about the vehicle I was interested in as I could, but buying a novel would be different.

I tend to read several small book reviews published on social media, and possibly a couple of small to medium periodical articles, before deciding what to do. That way I’m able to get a range of opinions, and quickly, rather than relying on the thoughts of a single reviewer.

Might others of the TL;DR generation agree with me?


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