Do critics decide which books will be bestsellers?

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Because hedonic aspects of products are difficult to evaluate prior to consumption, consumers seek signals to reduce their uncertainty. Opinion leaders, such as critics, may serve as key informants to consumers. This study considers the different roles and incentives of literary critics and how they influence the success of books. Furthermore, it empirically investigates the impact of 4 book critics featured on Germany’s most popular literary television show, Das Literarische Quartett, on reviewed books’ success. The variety of control variables included in the mixed regression models provide results pertaining to not only the critics, but also the success factors of books in general. Book success does not depend primarily on the mere appearance of a book on a television show or a favorable review of it; rather, awareness and word-of-mouth effects seem crucial, and books are more likely to succeed if critics disagree about the quality and express extreme judgments, even if those judgments are negative.

Source: “Do Critics Make Bestsellers? Opinion Leaders and the Success of Books” from Journal of Media Economics, Volume 20, Issue 2 May 2007 , pages 77 – 105

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