Thursday, October 31, 2019

Please Don't Buy My Book

Amazon Algorithm Change. If you’re an Indie author, those three words probably provoke a level of dread proportional to the number of eggs book sales you generate from that one basket megastore.

Amazon’s latest tweaks involve their “Also Bought” generator. This feature is now much more prominently placed (its placement above the item the page belongs to is being trialed right now – sometimes you’ll see it there, sometimes you won’t), and it takes its data gathering very seriously.

If you’re an unknown author, Also Boughts are how potential readers find you. Let’s say you write cozy mysteries involving clever cats that help the investigator find clues. If Amazon customers were browsing for Lillian Jackson Braun or Clea Simon books and your book was featured on that page, it would be an ideal match – you’d very likely get a number of sales from people willing to try something new but similar. Perfect. Once you have more books out, you also want your own books to appear on your Also Bought list so that readers buy the rest of your series.

But how about this scary scenario? Your Aunty Mildred decides to do something nice to support you and asks her gardening club friends to buy your book. Suddenly books on pruning roses and the best time to plant hydrangeas are appearing on your book’s Also Boughts, and your book’s connection to The Cat Who series is being diluted by the number of readers who prefer composting to kitties. Your writer friends on Facetwit who wanted to help you out have caused Amazon to add dozens of writing books into your pool. Free days, giveaways, and contests you promoted on Tweetbook sent all sorts of freebie seekers to muddy the waters of the Amazon with every other free book they’ve downloaded (and probably never intended to read). And your day-job colleagues on InstaLinked have such varied tastes that Amazon has no idea what to do with the data it is being served other than to spread your book so thinly it barely registers.

So, how do you handle a book launch where the people who love you most could potentially sink your book? One idea is to initially send your friends and family to an offer IRL (in real life - what a concept), on your website, or directly from your publisher/ POD printer/ distributor, instead of linking to Amazon. Keep your Amazon link for those campaigns where you know you are engaging with fans of the authors you want on your Also Bought list, and vice versa.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article... please don’t buy my book (from Amazon, at least).

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or

Robot image from Wikimedia Commons

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