In case you read the old, free edition and want to know what has changed, let me make that easy for you: everything. This brand new edition is a full-length book (over 75,000 words) breaking down how the Kindle Store, and how you can seduce Amazon’s giant recommendation engine.
Most importantly, it goes deep on how to profit from that knowledge, showing you exactly how to tweak your metadata and marketing plans to sell more books.
In fact, Amazon Decoded goes one step further than that and hands you a series of strategies and tactics you can use right away – launch plans and backlist promotions to suit your needs if you are wide or exclusive to Amazon, or whether you are looking to maximize income, expand your audience, promote your work on a limited budget, or spend a little more and send a whole series into orbit.
Amazon Decoded also comes with a stellar set of bonus resources, housed on a private part of this here website, which will help you put all this information into practice and raise your marketing game.
Want to sell more books on the world’s biggest retailer? Amazon Decoded will show you how. Read More…
The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple were grilled on Capitol Hill yesterday, stepping up the anti-trust chatter that has been percolating over the last few years. While some of you might be tempted to reflexively dismiss these hearings as political theater, many commentators seem to agree that this time feels different.
Political sands have shifted. Public sentiment towards tech companies has soured — companies who were once almost universally loved. Well, at least in the case of three of them; Amazon always attracted some measure of criticism, I guess, probably given the particular companies it disrupted.
Indie authors, in particular, perked up at the news of these hearings, given that three of those places are where we sell most of our books, and the fourth is what many of us predominantly use to drive sales of those books.
Whatever your feeling on these individual companies, their effects on society, or the forces driving these hearings, the mere prospect of anti-trust actions creates uncertainty in business terms, at a time when we already have a significant amount of it. Which makes this an excellent time to examine how well your author business is future-proofed, given the average indie author’s dependency on this set of companies currently in the anti-trust spotlight. Read More…
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…
Also Boughts play an important role on Amazon, but it is one which is commonly misunderstood, because Also Boughts are much more important for what they represent. Which means you shouldn’t worry so much if they aren’t currently displaying on your book’s page — or even if they go away forever! — because Amazon’s giant recommendation engine will be completely unaffected.
That statement will spark some vehemently disagreement, I’m sure, but give me the opportunity to show you exactly what I mean.
Amazon makes millions of book recommendations to readers every single day — both on-site in various slots around the Kindle Store, and by email as well. These recommendations take many different forms. Some are very top-down, but most are either personalized for each individual reader, or contextual — based on what the reader is viewing at that moment, or the place they are in the Kindle Store, or an action they just performed.
Let me give you an example.
During the research process for the forthcoming second edition of Amazon Decoded, I conducted a number of simple experiments, which were quite revealing.
Have you ever noticed what happens when you buy a book in the Kindle Store? I mean, have you noticed what happens on-screen directly afterwards? Amazon never misses a trick, and as soon as you complete the purchase, a confirmation screen appears, recommending several more books of course.
Amazon is split-testing things all the time, of course, so you may see this play out slightly differently each time you purchase a book, but, commonly, you will see Amazon push the book in the #1 Also Bought slot pretty hard. Read More…
A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which is ghosting most KDP ebooks (and many Amazon imprint titles) for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — which has also exposed a glaring security problem. Amazon appears to be unaware of either issue.
This issue — which is either a bug or a very badly bungled roll-out — is causing great confusion as its effects are only visible to those outside the USA, which might explain why Amazon has been so slow to address it, or even understand the problem, it seems.
The first reports of this issue were from a few weeks ago when Australian readers who use the US Kindle Store were unable to see a handful of new releases. It seems to have spread significantly since then. This weekend I noticed the issue myself for the first time. Buy buttons had disappeared from a couple of my ebooks and they were no longer appearing in Search results or on my Author Page. It was as if they had been ghosted. Read More…
A real horror story has been slowly building for the last year or so and I’m getting a lot of emails on the topic so it’s time to deal with this head-on: what the hell is going on with Also Boughts?
For those unaware, the strip of books right which are usually placed underneath your product description on Amazon, headlined with “Customers who bought this item also bought” are popularly known as “Also Boughts” and have become the subject of much attention lately, as our knowledge of their importance grows in tandem with Amazon’s seeming desire to muck about with them.
First their importance: if you have read Amazon Decoded you will already know just how critical Also Boughts are and can skip ahead. For the rest of you, Amazon’s system is always trying to determine what kind of products you personally are most likely to purchase, so that it can display more of those to you. One thing it looks at very closely is the connection between products. People who buy printers tend to buy ink, for example, and recommending a printer-buyer some ink to purchase will elicit a lot of clicks. Read More…
For a month or two, though, things improved. The charts cleaned up. Real, actual authors — not faceless book stuffers powered by ghostwriters — started surfacing again. Readers were saying that it was easier to find good books in the charts. I noticed the difference myself in July when helping someone with a launch; it seemed to take less of a push to get in the Top 100. I stopped paying attention to what the scammers were doing. Life was good.
It seems like Amazon stopped paying attention too. It was far harder to get into the Top 100 in September, and a quick look at the charts showed why. Many of those “authors” from Chance Carter’s mastermind circle who inexplicably survived the purges of June/July — grotesque characters like RR Banks — were suddenly charting again. En masse. With multiple books each, simultaneously.
They had figured out a new hole in the fence. I looked at the Contemporary Romance charts for the first time in a while and all the real authors were being pushed down again, while all the ghostwritten trash was swamping the Kindle Store once more. Read More…
It’s official! Amazon is closing CreateSpace “in a few weeks” and seems to be nudging people to move now. More on that below, including how the process has been simplified further – significantly in fact, especially for those with large catalogs who can now move the whole lot at once.
As I said in my post two weeks ago, it’s probably wise to get ahead of the big migration in a few weeks. Amazon has 2m titles to move; stuff is bound to go wrong. And my own experience with KDP Print customer service indicates that you might not want to get stuck in that queue with everyone else.
To encourage you to move now, Amazon has further streamlined the process and you can now port your entire catalog in one go right here. There’s also a pop-up which will initiate the process for you when you log into CreateSpace, but reports this morning suggest both are getting slammed right now. Don’t panic if you can’t get in today – you have “a few weeks.” Read More…
Ever since the launch of KDP Print, it has been rumored that Createspace is closing – after all, it doesn’t make sense to maintain a second, off-brand POD service, especially one where the architecture is creaking and security issues are multiplying.
I spoke to one of the senior Createspace people at NINC last year, and he explained that the two services have been slowly folding together at the back end for quite some time, and that they were now working out of the same building. What we’ve seen more recently is the gap between the two closing at the front end, with Createspace killing off extraneous services like copy-editing, and KDP Print replicating the last few features of Createspace it had been missing – things like author copies and expanded distribution.
Bar a couple of minor kinks to be ironed out, and a couple of international issues, that process is pretty much complete. Nobody knows for sure when Createspace will actually shut its doors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens over the next few months. Which means you are going to have to move at some point. But should you do it now, or wait? Is the process tricky? I decided to find out. Read More…
I get so many emails about Amazon categories and keywords that I thought it would be useful to dig into all the opportunities at your fingertips, and clear up some confusion out there too. Useful for me, that is. Now I’ll have something to point people to! Should be useful for you too, even the old timers, because I bet there’s a least one hack in here you didn’t know about, and smart use of the category system can greatly increase your visibility on Amazon — critical for all authors, doubly so if you are in KU.
I’ll start basic then drop some tantalizing secret hacks.
Let me just note first that a version of this rather handy post first went out to my mailing list a few months ago. If you’re not signed up, you aren’t just missing out on stuff like this, you also missed the entire (free!) series I just did on BookBub ads. And without blowing my own oboe, I think I’m doing a few things with BookBub ads that are a little different from the norm. So you don’t overdose on FOMO and also miss the (free!) series I’ve just started on Facebook ads, go here to get free tips and tricks in your inbox every Friday and a free copy of Amazon Decoded too. Read More…
A problematic feature of the world in 2018 is that the social networks we have built seem to spread misinformation faster and wider than its more accurate counterpart, and this can lead authors to make decisions counter to their interests. One of the enduring myths surrounds “The Amazon Algorithm.”
That phrase alone is a red flag to me because anyone who has a good idea about how Amazon works knows there is more than one algorithm — for example there are separate algorithms which determine how books are ranked in the bests seller charts, in the popularity list, plus which books appear in search for a given term and what order they appear in. And that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg.
That’s not the only thing about the phrase “the Amazon algorithm” which sets me on edge — speaking about it in such a way betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what algorithms are, and what they can do. Read More…
The Amazon charts continue to be plagued by book stuffing, ten days into the new regime. Aside from one rather notable head on a pike — Chance Carter appears to have had his account shut down, but quite possibly for other actions — book stuffers are continuing largely as normal, only making minor tweaks to their presentation, simply appending the words “Collection” or “Compilation” to their titles and covers. And not even bothering to do that on all their (still) stuffed books.
The stuffers are clearly thumbing their noses at Amazon. They seem pretty damn confident that minor tweaks will fly, and that the whole new regulatory regime is, well, a sham. What will happen with someone like Cassandra Dee will be a good bellwether.
Cassandra Dee is the #1 author in Contemporary Romance, and she is a major book stuffer. Because of KDP’s catch-and-release approach to these guys, they are able to constantly make minor tweaks to how they stuff. I can only presume that KDP sends them communications about problematic breaches of the Content Guidelines, the stuffers make a minor tweak, and are allowed to continue… until the next time they get a KDP letter. Read More…
Amazon quietly rolled out new content guidelines on Friday to tackle the plague of book stuffing, along with some new metadata rules which all seem to be aimed at cleaning up the Kindle Store – something long overdue. However, one infamous book stuffer is already bragging about a loophole. This is a huge test for Amazon’s new policy and whether KDP will actually enforce it.
There was a push among some authors a few weeks back to get Amazon to lower the max payout size in Kindle Unlimited to 1,000 pages. Everyone proposing it knew it was an imperfect solution but argued it was better than the status quo. That was true, but the reason I didn’t join that call was simple: Amazon didn’t need new rules to tackle book stuffing, it needed a change in attitude. Stuffing was already breaking existing rules, Amazon was just not applying them. I was wondering what the point of new rules would be unless it was also accompanied by actual enforcement.
And now Amazon faces a test in the shape of book stuffer Tia Siren, who has made the most cosmetic of changes to her stuffed books — she has just appended the phrase “A Romance Compilation” to her book titles. — and is clearly thumbing her nose at Amazon and her fellow authors, while she continues to hoover up money from the communal author pot. Read More…
#Cockygate has been rolling for a month now and is quite multifaceted — touching on some pretty existential issues for writers, and indeed all creatives. This post from lawyer Marc Whipple tracks the beginning, in case you have been in a coma for the last month. The story also broke out into the mainstream briefly where it was covered by Vox and The Guardian, among others.
More recent developments are as follows. Multiple authors made creative stands against Faleena Hopkins’ extremely questionable trademark and even more dubious attempted enforcement of same, in the form of various Cocky-themed books and parodies. Hopkins responded with a video — which she since took down, presumably in case it destroyed her acting career — as well as a series of equally ill-advised posts.
Hopkins then filed suit against three parties: Kevin Kneupper, the author/lawyer who is formally challenging her trademark; Tara Crescent, an author who had published books with Cocky in the title previously; and Jennifer Watson, a publicist for an anthology raising funds to cover legal expenses of authors affected by all this. Read More…
Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts. Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later. Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard Read More…