BIG AL: Latest Amazon Changes May Help Indie Authors

Amazon.comIn case you haven’t noticed, there is a BIG difference between how Amazon sells books and how everyone else that purports to be in the book selling business does it. When talk turns to what Barnes & Noble could change to sell more books through, the answers always boil down to “be more like Amazon.” The problem with that is that Amazon started innovating the day they went into business and have never stopped trying out new things.

In the last couple weeks I’ve discovered two new innovations that are being tested by Amazon and appear to be headed our way. I’m guessing that if they’re deemed successful (meaning Amazon makes more money and it is a positive for their customers) then both programs will get rolled out to everyone. Each of these has the potential to be positive for indies.

The first is allowing indies to schedule the release of their book and for customers to pre-order that book prior to release. They’ve run a pilot program with selected indie authors being invited to give this a test run. The benefits should be obvious to any of you who have tried to schedule book release activities while coordinating the timing of your book being available on Amazon with your “official” release date. I know Amazon quizzes authors from time to time asking for ways they can improve and I’m sure this idea has been dropped in the suggestion box many times. (I’m going to assume it is coincidence that Smashwords recently started offering this ability for books distributed through them to some retailers.)

I suspect this will also change the way the game is played for those trying to maximize the help they receive from Amazon’s algorithms on a new release. How that will change, I don’t know. I’ll do like the rest of you and wait for David Gaughran to weigh in with the answer.

Second, I received an email from Amazon.

This is interesting for all the obvious reasons and generates some questions for which I mostly don’t have answers. Is this going to be used to come up with an additional set of recommendations for customers, to enhance current recommendations, or maybe both? (Actually the “see what others suggest” button on the email at least partially answers that question.)This seems more like the kind of thing I’d have expected from Goodreads. I can’t help but wonder if Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads is behind this in some way. It’s also interesting because this isn’t a book I purchased from Amazon, although I did post a review. I’m not sure if that indicates that they’ll choose books to ask readers about based just on what they’ve reviewed in the past, on purchases, or some combination of factors.

If you’re interested, here’s the process I went through after clicking the “suggest a book” button in the email.

First, I got this screen where I was allowed to enter the name of a book. (This functions much like entering a book name in the search screen on the main Amazon site.)

After selecting a book you’re asked to explain your reasoning.

And you’re then given the option to search for another book to suggest.

How this will help you might not be apparent. In fact, it might not. But, in my opinion, anything that provides other ways for customers to discover your book is a positive. We can be sure Amazon has other changes in the pipeline. If we’re lucky, they’ll all be good like these.


Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

16 thoughts on “BIG AL: Latest Amazon Changes May Help Indie Authors”

    1. No idea, Karen. All I can say for sure is that it is already happening by special invite, presumably to test it out. There is always a possibility that they’ll decide not to roll it out, too, although that would surprise me.

  1. There are certainly many things afoot at the Zon. I agree that if they do roll out preorders to everyone, it would be a great thing. Thanks for the update, Al.

  2. Interesting post, Al. I love that Amazon never stays in one place for long. It does make it a challenge to try and hit a moving target, but definitely keeps us all on our toes!

    1. True, DV. But you and your peers are better positioned to stay on top of the changes and adjust than your Big 5 competitors. I’d say that’s good, mostly. 🙂

  3. Amazon – always moving, always changing. Never staying still. It’s almost like a river or something.
    Both these initiatives sound like they could be good news for readers and writers alike.

    1. That sounds like it ought to be lyrics to a song, Danny. 🙂

      I agree, they both sound good to me. Good to see you here and thanks for the comment.

  4. While we’re on the subject of Amazon’s changes, I thought I’d report on my recent experience with KDP Select Free Promo Days, which suggests that initiative may be on the way out. After 44K downloads and two days of being #1 in the Free store, I have had no appreciable sales bump. For comparison purposes, past experiments with a similar series title netted me paid downloads in the thousands the following month.

    When I queried KDP customer service about whether the conversion algorithm of free downloads to paid downloads had changed, I was told “Amazon does not convert free to paid ranking in any way.” Yes, I moved about 100 copies of a second title during the promo, but my promo book ranking didn’t change when I returned to the Paid store, and I didn’t break any of my category lists. All this to say that any increased visibility Amazon decides to give new releases may turn out to be the only way to boost sales. Unless your only goal is to get free copies into numerous hands, KDP Select has lost its mojo.

    1. Joanne, I just ran a promo over the weekend, word-of-mouth only, got a LOT of free downloads, and then no bump in sales the next day. So I see exactly what you’re talking about. Thanks for letting us know.

  5. I’ve been curious about how the Goodreads/Amazon combo was going to manifest. It will be interesting to see how the recommendations pan out. I agree with you: “anything that provides other ways for customers to discover your book is a positive”.

  6. Amazon is always full of surprises. I don’t know if the matchbook is fully rolled out, but I got the email and enrolled my books. I’m looking forward to the preorder roll out.

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