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Random Thoughts: Bloggers are Consumers Too

There’s quite a bit of uncertainty about just how effective book blogs are in reaching new readers and affecting sales. While some may argue that a blogger’s reach can’t be quantified, others may say there are ways to tell – through blogger affiliate sales or through blogger outclick stats to online stores like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. But as someone who doesn’t keep a close watch on my outclicks or participate in any sales affiliate programs, I can’t weigh in on that discussion.

Common sense dictates that the more people are talking about a particular thing, the more likely word is to spread about it and the more likely more people are going to buy that thing being talked about. They may call that generating buzz. And that, too, can affect sales. Positively or negatively. Yes, even negative buzz can generate sales.

And bloggers do love to buzz about books. So, while there may be no accurate way of pinpointing the source of the buzz and determining it’s effect on sales, there is some fraction that is directly attributable to bloggers. However small or large it may be.

Some also argue that book blogs are mostly read by other bloggers and not readers, thus affecting a blogger’s true reach. And while I haven’t taken a poll of my blog visitors to prove or disprove that statement, I can say with certainty that book bloggers are readers. And most of us don’t fill our shelves with these elusive “free” books that everyone seems to be under the impression we get by the truckload. We actually buy books.

We are consumers. We may be bloggers but we are readers first. And as is the case for most of us, we buy more books than we get for free. So when we visit our friends’ blogs or other blogs in our community, it is more than likely we’ll discover a new book to add to our TBR shelves or add instantly to our collections. And we may be more likely to hit the buy button than other readers as we don’t want to miss out on the next big thing.

We don’t want to be the only blogger not talking about the “hot” book. We don’t want to be the only voice not chiming in on the discussion. We don’t want to be the blogger that can’t choose a team, bemoan a cliffhanger ending or just not yet have gotten the chance to discover that new author. We don’t want to be the blogger not in the know.

And so we’re more likely to click that buy button, stretch our book buying budgets and give up on our book buying bans.

But bloggers don’t just buy for ourselves. We buy for others. We gift books to our friends. We gift books to other bloggers. We gift books, in the form of giveaways, on our blogs. While some of these books may be ones we’ve had on our shelves or ones we received for free, they aren’t always.

As bloggers tend to be incredibly supportive of the authors we love, we tend to buy those authors’ books to support their sales. We buy them to share their books with others. We buy them to show our love for the author, their book, their characters. We buy them so other readers will fall just as much in love, be just as tortured, be just as heartbroken, as we are.

And while bloggers may not be reaching the typical reader directly through our blogs, we are often reaching them indirectly. Whether our knowledge and insight is shared with friends, family, colleagues, book clubs, or even with strangers shopping for books at the bookstore, we are sharing that insight with those typical readers.

They are listening to our suggestions, nudges, pestering. They are relying on our word as someone more knowledgeable about what is good or what is not as good. They’re taking our advice about the latest trends.

And they’re making purchases based on those ideas and suggestions.

Sure, these numbers may not be easily quantifiable. There are no surveys taken at bookstores by consumers as to how they learned about the book. There are no polls taken by online booksellers either. And bloggers aren’t typically broadcasting their affiliate sales figures or outclick stats.

But here’s some food for thought….

Before I became a blogger the number of books I purchased in stores, online or on my eReader, was fairly small. I bought a few books at a time – mostly when I received a gift certificate. And while I had a few books on my TBR pile, I typically only bought books that I knew I could or would read within a few weeks. So, even though I read over a hundred books a year, I only bought around that number.

Since I’ve become a blogger, my purchases have skyrocketed. My TBR pile is ten times the size of the books I have that are marked as read. My purchasing of books has also changed. Instead of just buying the books I can read right now, I  also buy the books I hope to read someday. My five to ten books purchased each month has jumped to an average of around twenty. And those are just books I buy for me. I give away an average of five purchased books a month, if not more.

While not every blogger may have had the same increase in book buying that I have since they started blogging, it’s very likely that there has been an increase. It’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz about a book and not do everything within your power to add that book to your collection. So, by this logic, just by virtue of becoming a book blogger, sales will have increased.

Taking that one step further, think about the size of the book blogging community. It has grown by leaps and bounds. What was once a small community of just a few hundred bloggers is now a community of thousands. So, even without any sales generated from readers of blogs, just making that leap to becoming a book blogger would increase book sales.

And if we go back to the fact that book bloggers talk about books online and they talk about books with their friends and families, even if just an average of ten sales per year are generated because of each book blogger, that would mean an increase in sales into the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of books. But as I don’t know how many book blogs there are, I can’t even ballpark that figure.

Sure, many bloggers may not even have that marginal level of success, but many more will have an even greater success. It’s therefore very possible that this number could be quite low.

So, while book blogs may not be the biggest generator of sales, they do affect sales. And we, as bloggers, do make an impact. We are also not some separate group of individuals that don’t factor into the sales totals. We are very much a part of that large pool of readers that are in fact consumers.

And when thinking about the impact of blogs, it’s important to remember that bloggers aren’t just marketing and promotional vehicles, we are the very readers that figure into those quantifiable book sales figures. And if our impact is to truly be weighed correctly, the purchases we make for ourselves, for our friends and for readers of our blogs, in excess of what we spent before we became book bloggers, needs to be removed from the count in that other group and added to the tally for sales generated from blogging.

Because that, at the minimum, is our quantifiable impact on book sales.

Final thoughts….

Bloggers are consumers, too. We probably purchase more books than most readers. And it’s likely we buy more books than traditional reviewers. And while our blogs may not always reach the typical reader who buys books, they more often than not reach other bloggers that do, and they definitely influence our own decision to purchase.

And if you were to ask any book blogger if their spending on books has increased, remained static, or decreased since they started blogging, the overwhelming majority would say it has increased. Significantly.

So, perhaps the best way to help the industry profit is to entice readers into becoming book bloggers and aim those marketing efforts at this new blogger/reader/consumer instead.

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