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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Do Awards And/Or Nominations Cause You To Buy Novels?

Yesterday I found out my latest novel, Soul's Gate, made the shortlist for the INSPY awards in the spec category. (They have a long list of nominees and then narrow them down to five finalists.) 


I'm honored, but I've often wondered if nominations and awards translate into people reading the nominated and/or winning books.

Fellow Novel Rocketer, Ronie Kendig also made the short list for her excellent novel, Trinity: Military War Dog.

Help me out. Do these nominations make you more apt to read Ronie's or my novel? 


Marketing research says someone needs to hear about an offer three to seven times to act on it. Does an award or nomination counts toward that three to seven number in your life?

For that matter, do reviews on Amazon make you more likely to buy a novel or do they matter? With the wave of false reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, does that make you skeptical of reviews altogether? 

And if awards don't influence you, and you're skeptical of reviews, how do you decide to try a book? Recent stats show Goodreads is one of the most influential sites on the web. Do they influence you? 

But now that Amazon has purchased Goodreads, do you think that will taint their reputation?

Lots of questions. Ready for your opinions. 

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, THE CHAIR, and SOUL’S GATE. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike, hike, golf, take photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at


  1. Yes, if I recognize the the Pulitzer Prize. But otherwise, I don't think so. It looks good to list a prize on the cover of a book, but I think winning an award is akin to becoming published: it's sort of a cr@pshoot (preceded by years of pro bono work), so I don't put too much stock in it.

    1. I'm the same way, Jessica. And even if it's won something like the Pulitzer, I would still talk to a few friends who have read it before I would buy.

  2. I have never bought or even borrowed a book from the library because it won an award, to be honest. And this is coming from someone whose first novel made finalist in three different contests.

    Although, I do believe those awards helped encourage a few of my personal friends to read my book--my hypothesis being that those friends were a little skeptical or worried they may not like my book and the awards were "validation" for them. I have no idea if the same was true for people who don't know me, though.

    For the question about Amazon--I'm not really skeptical about Amazon reviews, at least not anymore than I was before news came out about "fake" ones. I've always known authors have their fair share of reviews that come from friends and family and such, and I look for reviews that are both detailed and critical when I am on there. Mostly, though, I tend to go by friend recommendations or the reviews by book bloggers that I follow.

    And as for Goodreads being bought by Amazon...yes, I have worries. I am only hoping they don't turn Goodreads into another Shelfari. I wouldn't mind a little clean-up on GR, though. One thing that bugs me to no end is finding gobs of 5-star ratings by people who haven't even read a book--people who are just excited about it coming out.

    1. I agree, Kat. I think an award or nomination might push someone who ALREADY was thinking of reading a novel, but if they've never heard of it before? Don't think so.

  3. I should add, an eye-catching professional cover (such as the two you've posted) is exponentially more important than a blurb about an award. A blurb about an award on an ugly or poorly executed cover really isn't going to help much, in my opinion, whereas on a good cover, the blurb is a little icing on the cake. (Although, I should use a different metaphor since I don't like icing, bleh! How about...a dollop of fresh whipped cream on a bowl of sun-ripened strawberries. :) I'm definitely going for that!)

    1. I'll take the strawberries and whipped cream too.

  4. Short answer: No.
    Long answer: Nope.

  5. JR - You rawk! I think what you mentioned--the constant hearing of a book--is more likely to nudge me to check out a book. Since I'm involved in the writing industry in more than just writing, I know how incredibly subjective contests are. While I haven't bought a book because ONE contest deemed a book a winner, I have bought a book that consistently hits those finalists/winner lists.

    You're absolutely right--the more we hear about something, the more we're likely to find out "what all the fuss is about." :-D

    1. Yeah, I think it comes down to that frequency of seven ...

    2. Jim

      I agree with Ronie. If a book consistently hits the Lists I'll seriously consider buying it if its in the thriller/suspense/spec genre(s).

      I tend to read everything an author writes so once I've read one and like it, I'll go back for more. I'll get introduced to new authors by readers I trust and who understand what I typically like.


  6. "And if awards don't influence you, and you're skeptical of reviews, how do you decide to try a book? Recent stats show Goodreads is one of the most influential sites on the web. Do they influence you?" (JR)

    Awards definitely do not influence me (speaking fiction here) because I've read enough "award winning" novels to know they're not all so "deserving". Deciding to try a novel depends on specific recommendations from those whose tastes can be similar to mine. Goodreads/Amazon, etc., have no influence on me. I don't read reviews until after I've read a book - even though I write them. Subject matter, good cover, good blurb, high recommendations from like-minded readers determine whether or not I'll try a novel. Anymore, if I only somewhat liked a first offering from an author, probably not going to engage further. Cold, hard facts, baby. ;)

  7. Love the cold hard facts approach, Nicole. I'm curious, where do you get recommendations from like minded readers? Who are these readers, where did you find them, and why do you trust them?

  8. I've bought books just because they won the Pulitzer. And I do read reviews online, but don't let a few bad ones, or positive sway me.

  9. I'd read Ronie's books if she wrote a phone book, and I'm thrilled that she (and you) have been recognized as gifted authors, but for me that validates the competition, not the author. I mean by that they had the good taste to recognize your talents. Not all contests seem to have my taste in reading material. There is, though, something to be said for seeing a cover or an author's name over and over. Each time I see it, whether as a contest winner or in sales lists, I am more likely to say, "Self, you gotta remember to check that out."

    So what makes me choose a book? Genre. We like what we like. And craft. There are some authors I go back to because they take me to interesting places. An attractive cover and a great hook in the back cover blurb. But most often it comes down to word of mouth. Very low tech and unpredictable, I know, but when a friend I respect tells me a book was incredible, that means more than anything.

  10. Congratulations to both of you on your nominations. I've read both books (I prefered Soul's Gate, but that's purely the opinion of one reader/reviewer).

    Do I buy books based on awards? I used to. As a child with a limited book budget, I'd always see a Newberry Medal on the cover as making something worth buying and reading. As an adult, I have the same feeling about a Christy Award. Not to dismiss the Inspy's, but I haven't read enough of their nominees or winners to say either way.

    I write reviews on Amazon (and Goodreads, CBD and my blog), so I know there are some honest reviewers out there. Do I read and trust the reviews on those sites? Read, yes. Trust, sometimes.

    How do I decide what books to buy/read? I'm a member of several bookblogger programmes, so it's usually what interests me out of the books offered.

    What do I look for?
    - genre (no Amish)
    - author (have I read him/her before? Did I like that one enough to read another?)
    - plot summary (what mood am I in? Do I want another bonnet western, or something with a little more intellectual content)

    I read more than most of my friends, so I tend to be the one other people ask. And I have a big enough to-read pile that I don't need to ask for recommendations any more.

    I do have the very cute Goodreads app, and will scan a book in the bookstore. The app then shows me if I've read it, if any of my GR friends have read it (and what they rated it), then the other ratings and reviews. Very handy at the local charity second-hand book sale...

  11. "I'm curious, where do you get recommendations from like minded readers? Who are these readers, where did you find them, and why do you trust them?"

    Jim, it's fairly easy to determine who enjoys the same kind of novels as me by their responses to my blog reviews and posts, or my visiting those blogs where their authors aren't averse to communicating to commenters and establishing relationships. Just because we have some mutual favorites doesn't mean I can take their recommendations as a guide for my reading, but gaining friendships and understanding their tastes eventually leads to trusting that we enjoy similar novels and from that I can take their suggestions most of the time. I should say there aren't a lot of them. I'm a very selective reader genre-wise, and I don't trust a lot of the gushing recommendations.

  12. There are a few awards that can entice me: the Booker, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer (and as I write this, I find their weight of influence is in that order). I will look up the winners and the finalists and will pick up a copy if they interest me. I belong to Goodreads and Red Room, but have to admit that I've yet to pick up a book based on their recommendations. I will look up a book on Amazon for the reviews if it interests me. I generally discard the one and five star ratings as most are never that terrible or great. Since I'm a slow reader (and writer as well), I'm picky about the books I buy. My wife consumes novels one after the other with no stops in between and has no idea what Goodreads is, but she's keeping a lot of writers working.

  13. I don't mean to offend but I select a book because of the story. Not even the genre. If the story sounds appealing, AND it's something I'm interested in or sounds like I'd get interested in, then I'll bite. That's a big "AND." Maybe this is a special case but it immediately comes to mind- Confederacy of Dunces. It was a gift and came with all the fanfare(PP) and I tried three times to get past page 5 and gave up. Maybe I'll make that fourth try because now it's been long enough and forget why I couldn't get any further.

    I also remember "A Woman of Substance" and I almost gave up after the first 50 pages - 90% of the book is flashback and the beginning was the setup. So I was bored first and then got interested. I often think that if I had given up I would have missed a great read. I read that before the movie treatment but it arrived with fanfare, too.

  14. Sometimes awards make me aware of a book and I may have bought one as a result. I know Amazon reviews keep me from buying a book when I'm thinking about it and if I see stuff that sounds like it was well thought out and critical I may not buy a book. On the flip side I've bought them before when I've read good reviews. I'm referring to the ones you pay for...

  15. Well, when it comes to one of your books or Ronie's, I'd buy them award or no award because I just plain love your books. Sometimes an award, or repeated accolades will make me check out a book to see if I want it, but the reviews sometimes have more influence. Mostly I buy books by authors I know and if a friend has a debut novel, I will buy it to support him or her, but it's quality that keeps me coming back.

  16. The thing that most influences me to buy a book is a very few words on the FRONT cover from an author that I already enjoy reading.


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