Fuse #8

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Well, Ladies. Shall We Hack the Crowd?

I review for Amazon which is nice and all. So it was with great interest then that I read the piece Crowdhacking: 10 Simple Ways Authors Can Help to Increase Sales at Amazon.com. All right. I'll bite. I know enough authors that I'd like to become rich that I can appreciate what this article has to say. By and large it's information on making Amazon work for you. A lot of it is particularly useful (especially the don't-start-a-bunch-of-accounts-and-review-your-own-book part). I was taken with the following bit as well:
If you receive an email or a comment on your blog from someone who enjoyed our book or see a review posted online elsewhere – ask them to post that on Amazon.com. I have also seen authors who have asked for permission to repost favorable online reviews (with attribution) at Amazon.com
Smart note. Not everyone thinks of this. I automatically post all my reviews onto Amazon once they've been published. More people see those reviews than the ones on my blog, so I'm able to reach a larger population in general. Other bloggers have started to do the same thing. A highly recommended move, especially since you can build a fan-base there and then direct them to your blog with a link.

Thanks to Jeremiah McNicols at Z Recommends for the piece.

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At 7:48 AM , Blogger Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Fabulous link! Thanks a million. I'll send my writer friends here for a look see.

At 9:42 AM , Blogger Roger Sutton said...

So am I going to be the only person who notes the irony of your swipe at B&N and your attempt to build up traffic to Amazon? Jeez, Betsy--I'm not saying that the above tips don't work, just that while Amazon may look more democratic than the chains, it's just as interested in selling the smallest variety of books to the widest possible audience. Their "we have everything" apppeal has become increasingly illusory: if I want a book that isn't already stocked at a bricks-and-mortar B&N or Borders, ordering it from Amazon no longer saves me any time--what's available "overnight" has become a smaller and smaller percentage of what they sell. What they don't stock, they order for you--just the same as B&N will, despite the whats-their-names in charge of stocking the stores.

Why, I think I've turned into Andy Laties! In my fantasy world, the best general book store in America, Chicago's Unabridged Books, would move to Brookline Village right next to Terri Schmitz's fabulous Children's Book Shop.

At 10:16 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Oh it's worse than that even. Me mother worked at the very last independent bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan until a Barnes & Ignoble killed her little store slowly and painfully over the years. Amazon undoubtedly had a hand, but it's harder to blame a virtual enemy when there's a physical one sitting like a lump across town.

I tout Amazon because I'm inordinately pleased about my ranking, but I'm not oblivious to how horrid it can be. Every review I write (and recommended book, for that matter) links not to Amazon but to the Powell's online bookstore. I much prefer that people buy their books from someone independent. On the other hand, if your book is going to appear on Amazon anyway you may as well use what little resources it offers.

At 10:38 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an active user of Amazon.com's author-promotion mechanisms. I have an author-blog on my book's Amazon page, I submitted my book so it's searchable on Amazon, I have submitted a review written by an independent reviewer for display on my book's Amazon page. So far so good. However: the book I'm pitching is among other things an attack on Amazon.com.

Amazon.com is the last resort for authors who cannot manage to get their books into bookstores. To pretend that it's a GOOD place to sell books is to ignore the words of its founder, Jeff Bezos, who recently PERSONALLY told the biggest Amazon booster that Amazon actually sells a far smaller percentage of "little" books than was being touted.

Specifically, Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson wrote a book called "The Long Tail" in which he said that books below the 100,000 rank on Amazon.com's bestseller list account for 57% of all Amazon sales. He extended this statement to suggest that since presumably the top 100,000 sellers were the same as the 100,000 titles carried nationally by the big box book superstores, that therefore Amazon could essentially take credit for being the key distribution channel for millions of "little" books that couldn't get into bookstores around the country.

Such a statement would naturally make many frustrated authors feel that they should use all possible means to ensure they benefitted from Amazon's fabulous sales mechanisms.

But Jeff Bezos personally told Chris Anderson that this statement in the book was wrong. Bezos says that it's PROBABLY 20%-25% of all Amazon sales that are going to books ranked abova 100,000 in their bestseller list.

There are 4 million books listed on Amazon.com. Therefore, 3.9 million books are accounting for 25% of the booksales on Amazon.

Amazon is a LOUSY place to sell books. For most authors.

You can use all their promo systems. I do. But this won't help you very much. You have to be above (better than) the 100,000 bestseller-rank level to be seeing perhaps sales of 100 books per year on Amazon. It won't generally be worth much work-time to achieve this mediocre status!

If you're above (better than) 100,000 in their bestseller list, then, according to Chris Anderson, this means you should be among the favored books that are already represented in big box superstores anyway!! So, why would you be working so hard on your Amazon sales.

Look -- 3,000 brick-and-mortar bookstores in this country (chain and indie). If you're falling back on struggling to sell a hundred copies annually on Amazon, then are you sure you shouldn't be struggling to get your titles onto the shelves of bookstores instead/also/more-so? Are you finding that impossible? How about linking on your book's website to your local independent bookstore, via their Booksense.com affiliate mechanism (which does pay you a royalty). Or, even better, TELL your local bookseller who is not stocking your book on her shelves that YOU ARE SENDING HER CUSTOMERS. Have your friends place special orders for your books through that local indie bookstore! Make the bookstore understand that you're pitching all your hand-built traffic and sales to them. Make your local bookseller love you. Get their support by providing them with your support. Your local bookstore is starving; You are starving. You can help one another!

Amazon is a huckster. Like The Music Man.

Authors gain traction in this society through personal buzz. Word of mouth. But online is a mythological environment. You're up one day and forgotten the next.

If you get out into the real world, shake hands, make phone calls, offer assistance to booksellers and trade favors with them, you're creating much more authentic relationships. This is the best use of your time, to further your career as an author.

Amazon does not love any author. Your local bookseller can LEARN to love you as an individual, and to promote you, and to tout your books to other booksellers.

It is a slow process, building a professional identity as a great author, among the crowd of authors. But it's worth it. It pays off in the long run. Make friends with as many individual, real-world, front-line booksellers as possible. This is how to build your sales.

Sure, set your Amazon web-page up properly, set up a nice website -- run a Google ad-words campaign -- SURE do those things. But much more important is to establish life-long relationships with professional booksellers. They'll stick by you over the years.

At 11:25 AM , Blogger ElsKushner said...

I was going to write a long, tortured comment on this issue, but turned it into a long, tortured post instead. Thank you both for bringing up the topic of Amazon.

At 2:26 PM , Blogger Liz B said...

My concerns about Amazon reviews have been more about copyright and who owns them. The first bit that worried me: "If you do post content or submit material, and unless we indicate otherwise, you grant Amazon.com and its affiliates a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media. You grant Amazon.com and its affiliates and sublicensees the right to use the name that you submit in connection with such content, if they choose."

Then when I finalize a review I get: "Submissions become the property of Amazon.com."

Every now & then an author will request I put a positive review that I've done on Amazon & I usually comply, but I'm very leery about that language.

At 7:20 PM , Blogger Bkbuds said...

Ms. Fuse's sterling reputation notwithstanding, I don't have much confidence in Amazon reviewers. I caught the #1 Reviewer in a whopping lie--she'd quite obviously never read a particular book she reviewed, and the #2 Reviewer has admitted in a WSJ article to taking money from companies and publishers to place reviews.

I sometimes place my reviews there and sometimes don't. Authors and publicists are VERY obsessed about it, so I remain conflicted.


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