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 ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com

Robot image from Wikimedia Commons

6 comments :

  1. It's getting harder and harder to figure out what's happening on Amazon with their algorithm changes. And trying to use those changes to good advantage even harder. Still, most authors want to be linked to Amazon when guest posts and reviews are posted, so what's a blogger to do?

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    1. It's nigh impossible to make the absolute best decision when you're small fry. Things like this even out for best-selling authors due to sheer numbers, but have a much greater impact on indie and self-published authors.

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  2. Yikes! About the time I think I have something figured out, somebody changes it. Thanks for the heads up, Elle. I'm sure I'll be referring back to this article. (Of course, things may have changed again by then.) :-)

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    1. I know the feeling, Linda. Just as we were all getting used to the idea of branding ourselves as authors regardless of how many different genres we write in, this throws a spanner into that concept and makes it better to use a dozen pen names... Sigh.

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  3. I just checked a couple of my books. The sales of my series led to the other books in the "also bought" category, but one led to a cozy psychic book, which is not anywhere near my genre. Sigh. Wondering if this change is why my books have stopped selling.

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  4. Coming late to the blog post, but so glad I did. This is most helpful, and disturbing, Elle. Amazon is becoming more difficult every day. I'm glad that the publisher of my latest book has a tech-savvy team who takes care of overcoming things like this. I simply can't keep up.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.