Amazon Has A Fake Book Problem

Fake books powered by clickfarms are gatecrashing the Amazons charts and, despite being aware of the issue for over a year, Amazon has taken little action.

At the time of writing, if you look at the Kindle Store Best Seller charts now, and click over to Free Books, you will see that the Top 20 currently has five suspicious-looking titles which you can see in the image above.

None of them have reviews. All were published in the last week. They have no Also Boughts – meaning they have had very few sales historically. Each of these titles are around 2,500 pages long, seem to have duplicated content, and are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

What is going on here? Read More…

Amazon and the Myth of the A9 Algorithm

There is more nonsense written about Amazon than almost any other topic because mere mention of Amazon will get you more clicks than anything else — although the “A9 Algorithm” might be the most ridiculous topic of all.

Amazon also happens to be an incredibly divisive subject generally, one of those where little nuance seems to be permitted — and someone writing articles about Amazon tends to regularly get labeled a “shill” or a “hater,” depending, sometimes off the back of the same piece!

Talk of Amazon can also be quite lucrative. The currency of the internet is attention — as I think was once said by Jeff Bezos, although I’m scared to Google it in case I start getting hunted down on every corner of the internet with hyper-personalized ads offering to make me a Kindle Publishing Millionaire or help me build a Drop Shipping EMPIRE.

Internet marketers are not known for their rigorous application of the scientific method. One intrepid black-hatted pioneer will discover a tasty data-morsel, dress it up in distracting finery, and then parade it about as part of a $2000 course. And then a dozen more will riff off that for their own courses and Patreons and books and masterminds and exclusive online workshops and virtual conferences; it’s like the most expensive game of telephone ever.

Sadly, it’s also quite value-free if you like hard facts.

This kind of environment shows some of the drawbacks of the brave new world ushered in by the internet and Google. If search for the phrase “amazon algorithm,” for example, the very first result is an article titled “Everything You Need To Know About Amazon’s A9 Algorithm,” and my BS alarm immediately goes off — use of the singular “algorithm” is a dead giveaway that the person doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about. Use of “A9” in this manner is another. Read More…

How To Market A Book | 2020 Edition

Figuring out how to sell books in 2020 means facing a pair of imposing challenges : the multiplying complexity of book marketing and — speaking of things rising exponentially — the global pandemic, which has led to lockdowns, recessions, as well as no small amount of tragedy.

And I want to focus on that second challenge for a moment — before we dive into all the ways that you can get your books into readers’ hands — because there is something rather different about this year.

Writers are generally quite fortunate in that they can work from home and sell books online and, for the moment at least, the digital side of the publishing business looks less exposed than the physical end.

Indeed, retailers and distributors are reporting a boost in ebook sales, and freebies in particular seem especially popular. Anecdotal reports concur, and also seem to confirm that there has been a surge in new entrants to the ebook market — which makes sense when people are stuck at home or less inclined to go browsing in meatspace, for painfully obvious reasons. Read More…

Amazon Decoded • Book Marketing Resources

Hi there! Here are all the resources mentioned in Amazon Decoded, and a few extra ones! Oh and if you somehow stumbled on this private page for purchasers of Amazon Decoded, I recommend picking up a copy. Really, you will be missing all the good stuff if you just try and crib from this page, and will probably end up doing everything ass-backwards. It’s less than five dollars, and it’s just nugget after nugget for anyone wanting to increase their Amazon sales. Get your purchase links here. Knowing who you are writing for and what appeals to them is critical to success. Ensuring that you have a solid conception of your Ideal Reader and that your presentation and packaging is Read More…

How To Find Your Comp Authors

Knowing your comp authors is increasingly important these days, but writers tend to tie themselves into knots with the concept. Today, I’ll explain a very simple way to cut through all the noise and determine your true comp authors, but also detail why that line-up should change considerably depending on the context.

Comp Authors Explained
Let’s start with the basics before scaling up the complexity and getting deep into ads: “comp author” is publishing shorthand for “comparable author.” You might also hear people these days in indieworld using it in phrases like “know your comps,” or “target your comp authors.” Or you might come across the phrase “comp title” more frequently in traditional publishing.

Originally, the phrase was used by publishing professionals as shorthand to describe a given author’s voice in marketing communications and sales pitches. An agent might shop your book to a publisher describing your sizzling romantic suspense as “EL James meets Lisa Jackson,” and the acquiring editor will know right away that she’s in for a dark, twisty story where the sex isn’t just open door – the windows are probably open too. Read More…

Reader Targeting Influences Everything

Reader Targeting is yet another concept we have to juggle. It’s no wonder many writers take to the drink, or otherwise lose the run of themselves. Or can be a little… kooky. We have to wrestle with a number of contradictory notions all the time — it’s enough to make anyone batty.

The most obvious is with the writing itself: we need at least some level of ego to push something out into the world and ask money for it. But we also must have the requisite critical faculties to see what’s wrong with it and to motivate ourselves to fix it, and to otherwise work on our craft until the things we make are as good as we need them to be.

(As a famous editor once put it — Nan Talese maybe? — those first few years, when our taste is much more developed than our skills, are tough.)

The experienced author isn’t done with these trying dichotomies though; one in particular that we all continue to struggle with is between our artistic natures, and our commercial sensibilities. It’s not so much about what to write or how to write it — most pros can navigate that part. The battlegrounds are elsewhere, things like cover design, series titles, descriptions, branding.

And one more surprising, perhaps: reader targeting. Read More…

BookBub Ads Expert Is Here To Help

Many people try BookBub Ads and fail. There is a learning curve – no doubt about that. If you tried the platform without adequately preparing, and without knowing how the system works, you probably got cleaned out. I still have scars from my first time. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

BookBub Ads Expert will show you a whole range of uses for Bookbub Ads, from supporting a launch or reviving backlist, to boosting a permafree, creating an international audience, or pushing an entire series at once. And there’s also lots of ninja tricks and killer moves to take your ad game to the next level. Read More…

BookBub Ads Expert – Resources

Welcome to the bonus resources page for purchasers of BookBub Ads Expert. If you haven’t yet purchased your own copy, well, congratulations on getting past security – pick up your copy of BookBub Ads Expert here. (You’ll need it!) For everyone else, we’ve got a gallery of winning images, followed by a step-by-step guide to ad creation – with some handy screenshots, I’ve got some up-to-the-minute information on the Also Bought situation at Amazon – with some useful workarounds for those affected, tons of detailed optimization advice – with some talk through my own process, links to a bunch more tools and resources – including some great case studies, a place where you can ask questions and get help, and Read More…

Granular Targeting Explained

I’m pretty experienced with digital advertising at this point but when I got my interview for Google AdWords back in 2003 I had to… Google it to figure out what they did. And I still got it wrong!

I was quite lucky that I first interviewed with Overture (the former name of the digital advertising division of Google’s one-time rival, Yahoo) because I had absolutely no idea how these kind of ad platforms worked, let alone best practices. But I learned fast—Google’s training was excellent.

One thing that was drilled into us constantly was the importance of granular targeting. It might be a little more obvious in 2018, but back then the only really familiar advertising model was the broadcast one. Put your message in giant letters on the billboard. Flood the airwaves with ad spots. Take out full page ads in newspapers and magazines (for the kids: these are paper versions of websites that used to be popular). The basic strategy was a simple, brute force one; if the signal is strong enough, the right people will hear it. Read More…

How To Use The Reader Journey To Create Superfans

It’s almost exactly a year since I gave a talk at a conference in Austin which introduced a concept I call “The Reader Journey” – which is a bookish version of a new marketing paradigm that is helping companies understand their customers better, and how to tailor their marketing accordingly.

I’ve spent the last twelve months researching and testing and experimenting, and then organizing all this information into a structure which will help you understand exactly who you are writing for, plus how to sway them with your marketing messages. But also how to treat them after you have convinced them to buy. How to turn them into the kind of superfans that will do the selling for you.

Strangers to Superfans: A Marketing Guide to The Reader Journey is out now and you can pick up your copy from all these lovely retailers: Read More…

BookBub Ads and Wide Authors

BookBub Ads are especially useful for wide authors. I decided a while ago that I was going back wide with all my books. Sales were pretty anemic to begin with (readers don’t magically discover books), but then I put together a little marketing plan. I don’t want to invest too heavily in pushing my historical novels until I have a couple more books in my series out, but I was curious to experiment with a few different approaches for pushing wide books. After nabbing an International-only BookBub Featured Deal for Liberty Boy, I decided to build a little campaign around it, particularly looking at sales internationally, and off-Amazon. When you are in KU, it makes sense to concentrate sales. As detailed Read More…

NaNoWriMo Writing Prompts – Bad Boy Romance Edition

Lots of people will be diving into NaNoWriMo in a few days, and lots more are sitting on the fence. I’ve been on that fence, it’s made of excuses! Today, I’m going to do you a solid by taking one of those excuses away. You’re getting some Writing Prompts. And not just any Writing Prompts, but Bad Boy Romance Prompts. (Please note that no actual romance writers were harmed in the making of these prompts.) Prompt #1: You are foreign. Maybe Australian! Your scammy non-fiction books aren’t selling too well, but you spot the latest trend: bad boy romance, and decided to write under a woman’s name – no, screw that, several women’s names! You eagerly stuff several books into Read More…

Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives

Rank stripping strikes again, and this time it’s someone I know: Phoenix Sullivan. And Amazon’s handling of the situation has been terrible. This post is from 20 October 2017. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links but the comments remain open. Phoenix is well-known in the indie community; I’ve known her myself for ten years and consider her a close friend. Aside from being exceptionally generous with her time and knowledge, tirelessly sharing her insights on marketing and algorithms, Phoenix is also well known as a vocal campaigner against scammers and cheaters – particularly on the current big issues of book stuffing and clickfarming. And now she is being targeted. When Rank Stripping Strikes Phoenix made Read More…

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts. The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples. Read More…