By Indie Authors for Indie Authors.

Category: Marketing Tips (Page 3 of 8)

Why Everyone Is Wrong About the Amazon Algorithm

amazon sale rank

Cate Baum wrote an excellent piece on “Mythbusting the Amazon Algorithm- Reviews and Ranking for Authors” that I think everyone should read. Cate Baum is the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Self-Publishing Review and a former search expert. She knows her stuff. Earlier this year she had grown tired of all the misleading information that was being circulated amongst the Indie Author community about how Amazon’s rankings work. She decided she wanted to tackle the biggest myths and set people straight.

I highly recommend reading Baum’s full article. She even wrote a Part II since part one was so well received. (Thank you to @AssaphMehr for bringing both of these to my attention!)

Here’s the highlights with some of my thoughts.

 

Myth 1 – Nobody knows how the Amazon Algorithm Works.

False. Yes they do. 

Amazon uses an A9 algorithm. There are detailed manuals and articles that shed light onto how it works.

illust_productsearch_full

 

 

 

Myth 2 – Amazon has secret ways of ranking books.

False. It’s not secret. 

Amazon use preset factors inputed into the A9 algorithm. Cate Baum provides a very handy list of some of the factors that it considers:

 

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Myth 3 – You can figure out keywords that people will use to find you by typing into the search bar and seeing what is autosuggested.

False. Every search bar and the suggestions provided are personalized. 

Just like ever other sophisticated search company today, Amazon provides a personalized experience for each user. That means the search suggestions you see on Amazon are different than the search suggestions I see.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-2-07-25-pm

 

 

Myth 4 – It’s a job finding keywords to make your book discoverable and you have to do a bunch of tricks and resort to many author advice blogs to find answers and theories.

False. Amazon provides excellent guidance. 

Look at Amazon’s author guidelines. Amazon is fairly helpful in this regard.

 

 

Myth 5 – If you pick a niche category to get to #1 you are just conning everyone that you got to the Bestseller Lists by exploiting the “loophole.”

False. 

On this myth, Cate Baum is providing her opinion on Amazon’s node tree system for rankings and why she believes you’re not conning everyone by being #1 on a “niche” genre. I see both sides of the argument.

There’s no requirement that you have to be the #1 bestselling book for all of time that has ever been written forever and ever amen period. That would be a ridiculous goal. So any “bestseller list” is going to be a niche category in some respects. It’s quite an accomplishment to reach #1 regardless of the niche, even if your niche is #1 Book Written on the Third Tuesday of the Month During a Leap Year. That’s still impressive.

That being said, telling someone you’re an Amazon #1 Bestseller without any context can be misleading. But that’s you doing the conning, not Amazon or the rankings. And on this, I absolutely agree with Baum.

 

Myth 6 – You are advised to write to Top Amazon Reviewers and other reviewers to ask for free reviews to boost ranking.

False. This can actually harm your rankings.

Amazon has detailed guidance on how reviews can be solicited and what reviews will be allowed. It is also clear that a “Verified Purchase” is rated more highly than reviews that are unverified. If you don’t follow Amazon’s guidelines, you may find yourself losing reviews. (In my case, you may find yourself temporarily losing reviews even if you DO follow Amazon’s guidelines.)

My take from the research I’ve done on it is that about 50 reviews should be your initial target level to have a “proof of concept.” This is a good starting number to have so readers can get a good sense of whether people like your book or not.

 

Myth 7 – Nobody knows when the algorithm updates.

False. Sort of.

Amazon’s KDP Manual tells us that the rankings are updated every 1-2 days. However, we don’t know when the inputs and parameters for the algorithm are updated. We’ll never know that. This is proprietary and the secret sauce that is A9.

 

Baum goes on to include additional myths in her Part II. Again, I highly recommend you read the full article. It is very informative and well considered.

I do think Baum is a little too far leaning toward the position that these are all false myths, though. Baum is correct. Amazon does give a lot more guidance than the rumors that are circulated within the Indie Author community. However, there is still a high degree of opacity in the rankings as well. All of the factors that are considered in the rankings and how the factors are weighted are not clear, and I think this matters. I certainly don’t expect Amazon to provide this information, for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that people would game the system, but this shouldn’t be ignored either.

If I’m an Indie Author, which I am, and my time is limited, which it is, I only have so much time I can put toward marketing. I need to prioritize where I spend my time. It makes a difference if Amazon’s rankings puts a higher emphasis on sales conversions or page views.

Let me explain. If I’m trying to sell my book Pieces Like Pottery, a logical plan would be to have my book considered by as many people as possible. If 1 out of every 20 people that view my book page on Amazon actually purchase the book, then I want as many people as I can get to view my book page. It becomes a numbers game.

However, if Amazon weights conversion more heavily than sales and page views, my strategy could have a negative effect. Maybe a conversion rate of 5% is not ideal for Amazon and they prioritize books with higher conversion rates. If that’s the case, then instead of getting as many people as I can to consider my book, I would want to be spending my time targeting those readers I think have a very high probability of buying my book (and only those readers) because it would help my ranking.

Again, I don’t expect Amazon to tell us how these factors are weighted, but it does matter. I think Baum skims over some of this a little bit too much at times.

I also have a small issue with the tenor of the article. Baum doesn’t come out and say it outright, but it is heavily implied throughout the article. So much so, in fact, that I’ve seen it repeated a lot by Indie Authors. Baum’s article implies that Amazon wants your book to sell. This is true insofar as if your book sells, Amazon makes money; but I think it misses the point of why Indie Authors worry about these rankings at all.

Amazon wants to make money, but they don’t care how, (not within this context anyway). Amazon couldn’t care less if YOUR book sold or not. It means nothing to them. Amazon just wants books to sell, not YOUR book at all. And this is exactly the point of all the fretting.

If every book could sell to the extent that we all become bestsellers and wealthy authors, that would be excellent, but it’s not possible. So we end up competing in the rankings against other books in hopes that our book will be ranked higher, resulting in more search results revealing our book, which results in more users seeing our book, which results in more users clicking on our book, which in turn results in more readers buying our book, thereby helping the cycle to start all over again.

Amazon doesn’t care if your books sells. You have to care. If you don’t, no one else will.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

 

How Does an Indie Author Become a New York Times Bestseller?

New York Times Best Seller

The New York Times Bestseller list. The crown jewel for every author. Even more important than Oprah’s Book Club, which is an author’s dream in its own right. (Well, unless you’re Jonathan Franzen and don’t want to damage your place in the ”the high-art literary tradition.” Only the greatest authors can be so obtuse about their written works, right Jean-Paul Sartre?)

NYT Bestsellers see a huge uptick in sales, both in the immediate and for the foreseeable future. Being able to slap that label of “New York Times Bestselling Author of…” is the gift that keeps on giving.

So how in the world do you get on that list? It’s just the books that have sold the most copies, right? Wrong.

The NYT editors handpick the books that make the list. The number of copies sold is considered as a factor, but is not the final driving force. The New York Times editors are. Here’s how they describe their methodology:

 

Rankings reflect unit sales reported on a confidential basis by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles. Every week, thousands of diverse selling locations report their actual sales on hundreds of thousands of individual titles. The panel of reporting retailers is comprehensive and reflects sales in stores of all sizes and demographics across the United States. The sales venues for print books include many hundreds of independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; scores of online and multimedia entertainment retailers; supermarkets, university, gift and big-box department stores; and newsstands. E-book rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of e-books in a variety of popular e-reader formats.

 

It sounds an awful lot like they’re purely looking at sales, right? But in their 10-paragraph methodology description they’ve hidden phrases like “sales are statistically weighted” and “at the discretion of The New York Times Best-Seller List desk editors” and my personal favorite “proprietary vetting and audit protocols.” This, my friends, is what we in the intellectual property business call a trade secret. The Times tracks sales on a national basis, but in essence curates that list according to (if you’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt) proprietary standards and protocols. (If you’re cynical and don’t want to give them the benefit of the doubt, you would probably say they curate the list to fit the whims and fancies of the editors.)

This is how the Times runs into situations where hugely popular self-published author Autumn Kalquist believes they curated her book Fractured Era right off the list. According to Kalquist, “The New York Times ‘curates’ their list, and had snubbed self-published authors in the past. I was told it was possible they’d ‘curate’ me off the list no matter how much I’d sold.”

Kalquist goes on to explain that her book sold 20,000 copies and reached #16 on USA Today’s Bestseller List, but she didn’t find herself on the NYT Bestseller List. This confused and infuriated her, so she did some research of her own. She found that her book had outsold over 50% of the ebooks on the list and nearly 50% of the print books as well. Kalquist said her attempts to get an explanation by the Times were met with vague responses of the proprietary nature of how they go about making their selections.

The veracity of her statements aside, and I have no reason to question her statements and there’s anecdotal evidence from other authors that would support the notion that the NYT does do this to some titles, it’s hard enough for independent authors and small publishing houses to gain traction with readers. While we have help and hire consultants, we ultimately are the writer, editor, designer, publisher, distributor, and marketer. It’s a slog to say the least. We don’t need additional roadblocks put in the way.

Yes there are thousands, even millions, of self-published titles that are poorly written and edited giving a bad name to the entire genre. I understand that. This is the reason most book critics won’t review self-published titles and most literary awards rarely consider independent books. But it’s hard enough to find an audience as a self-published author. We don’t need Amazon offering preferred terms to certain traditionally published authors and the NYT Bestseller List skewing their proprietary “algorithm” against independent titles.

Times have changed NYT. It’s time to recognize your preference for the Big 5 Pulishers is outdated.

 

Times have changed @nytimes. It's time to recognize your preference for the Big 5 is outdated.Click To Tweet

 

We’re in this for the long haul, my friends.

A little bit of good news. (And I’m probably speaking out of turn here. Whoops.) I’m working with a few independent authors worldwide in an effort to support indie and self-published authors. Details forthcoming. Stay tuned. 

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

7 Valuable Insights from Promo Debriefs Using IndieListers

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by Jason Ladd

 

If promoting your book was easy, it wouldn’t be any good, right? There’s a new place for authors to gain valuable intelligence on the effectiveness of the hundreds (thousands?) of book promotions sites on the web.

IndieListers.com is the result of a question I asked after launching and promoting One of the Few:

“What if Indie authors had a singular place to debrief their promos where everyone could learn from their experiences?”

Most Indie authors love sharing their experiences and strategies with others. They’ve learned that independent publishing is not a zero-sum game. We can all win.

But these promo stack debriefs were buried in forums and comment threads on countless websites. There were plenty of needles, but the haystack was huge.

That’s when I decided to create IndieListers, the largest free online book promotions results database on the web created exclusively by authors.

 

There is Power in the Debrief

I learned many valuable skills while flying for the Marines. One of the most important was the power of the debrief. It’s where some of the most valuable learning occurs, and it’s what prevents you from repeating mistakes and wasting money.

IndieListers is becoming the place where authors go before and after their promos–to pick the best services and report the results.

I want to share seven valuable insights that you can gain from using this free service.

 

1. What’s Out There

You’re probably familiar with a few book promotions sites such as BookBub, eReader News Today, and Book Sends, but there are a ton of other sites out there.

IndieListers maintains a mega-list of book promotion websites that provide either free or paid book promotion services. There are currently over 250 listings, all hyperlinked for easy clicking.

 

2. What Authors Are Actually Using

Some promotion websites are focused more on their clicks than your downloads. They’re highly automated, nondiscriminatory (in the book quality sense), impersonal, and most important, ineffective.

Experienced authors don’t use them because they don’t work.

IndieListers shows you which promos authors are using, and whether or not they are effective.

 

3. Cost-per-Download

IndieListers is focused mainly on e-book activity, and a simple calculation built into the site reveals the cost-per-download for any given promotion. That’s good, but IndieListers data lets you take it further allowing you to estimate profit or loss.

 

4. Estimate Profit of Loss

Cost-per-click and book sale price combined with industry knowledge can help you estimate whether or not an author’s promo was profitable.

For instance, an eBook exclusively on Amazon during a $0.99 cent promotion will yield the author a 35% royalty from Amazon. In other words, the author will make $0.35 cents per download.

If the cost-per-download is less than $0.35 cents, it’s a good assumption the promo was profitable, and vice versa.

A book priced at $2.99 making a %70 royalty will yield the author $2.09 per download. If the cost-per-download is greater than that, they probably lost money.

 

5. Author Experience

IndieListers has a place to leave general comments about the promotion experience. For instance, it’s nice to know when an author is provided a refund–something we’ve seen from BKnights and FreeBooksy.

Comments have also provided feedback on the effectiveness of the “we-will-list-your-book-on-all-the-promotion-sites-for-you” services. During one of my promotions, I could only confirm my book on 5 out of 31 sites on promotion day (granted, some of these services still require a lot of author-in-the-loop, and there many points of possible failure).

Authors are also using the comments section to mention author rank changes, what they received on the tail, and whether they saw an increase in KENP.

 

indielisters 24jul17

A sample of the real-time feedback received by authors on Indie Lister.

 

6. Author Tactics

Are authors going Amazon only, or are they going wide with Apple, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Wattled, and GooglePlay?

Not only will you see how other authors are selling their books, you’ll get a feel for their experience and platform by looking at other data such as which professional services they used, how many books they’ve published, how many promos they’ve run for that book, and if they’re a best-selling author on Amazon, USA Today, or the New York Times.

 

7. Preview Author Platforms

IndieListers gives you the option of listing your Twitter username and author website. This allows you to take a look at how other authors are operating online, as well as connect with other authors in your genre.

In a guest post on Indies Unlimited, I talk about how my promotion results improved after browsing information provided by the database.

It wasn’t easy, but the results were good. My goal is to help make it just a little easier for you.

Whether your promotion is good or bad, sharing your results makes you part of a solution for the Indie community. I hope your promos are successful, but if they’re not, IndieListers could be your silver lining!

 

 

About the Author:

Jason B. Ladd is an award-winning author and veteran. He has flown the F/A-18 “Hornet” and the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” as an instructor pilot. He and his wife Karry are the parents of seven children.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

Five Tips To Build Your Audience Through Social Media

Five Social Media Tips for Authors

 

Writing a book is usually a solitary process where we keep our thoughts to ourselves—and when it’s time to sell, it can be difficult to flick the switch to do the opposite. Some of us are more comfortable than others when it comes to marketing, but the less you think about it as “marketing,” the more people you are likely to attract. If you’re wondering how you can increase your audience and sell more books without having to go too far out of your comfort zone, here are some tips to help you get your name out there as an indie author.

 

Mix it up with your blogging

Once you’ve written a blog post, where should you post it? On your own blog? Somewhere else?

With a daily roundup of their favorite articles, there’s plenty of opportunities for your post to get noticed on Medium, as journalists, authors, and thousands of others across world contribute to it daily. Writing a meaningful and honest blog post is highly likely to resonate with many, which will intrigue them to seek out your books. Try a mix of posting on your blog, and medium, for best results.

 

Don’t spread yourself too thin on social media

One or two active social media accounts—with regular activity—has a stronger impact than six content-starved profiles. Stick to the ones that feel most natural to you.

If you’re more visual and tend to post a lot of photos stay with Instagram and Pinterest.

If you tend to write more, Twitter and Facebook may be better for you.

Get involved and contribute to trending topics that are relevant to your books.

 

The more you try to scream BUY MY BOOK the more you will hear your own voice echo. Click To Tweet

 

Write a stronger job title on Linkedin

LinkedIn is often scoffed at when talking about social media platforms as it’s viewed as the most corporate one, but joining groups and contributing to some discussions will help you get your name out there. I see plenty of authors with a one-word job title– Writer or Author–but what kind of writer? What are the titles of your books?

Who would you prefer to read?

“Joe Tomlinson  | Author”

Or

“Joe Tomlinson | Indie Sci-Fi Author, over 20,000 eBooks sold”

The second will make a much stronger impression.

 

Get filming on YouTube

This sounds like a lot of work but it doesn’t need to be. Nearly all computers have a built-in camera these days. A laid-back five-minute video every few weeks is easy to film and upload. Talk about other’s books, the process of writing your own, an event you attended or anything else that’s on your mind.

 

Make a mailing list

If you’re not too keen on starting a YouTube account, a mailing list is just as good. Services like MailChimp have made it incredibly easy to send out well-presented emails—without any coding skills required. (Nothing Any Good ‘s periodic updates utilizes the MailChimp platform.)

So, what are you going to write about? Don’t worry—the ideas will come. I jot down my ideas on my phone. I’d say about 80% of them are terrible, but the remaining 20% with good ideas is more than enough to write a monthly email.

 

Marketing isn’t as big and scary as it sounds. It seems the more you try to scream “buy my book,” the more you will hear your own voice echo. But by simply being yourself and releasing content that means something to you, this is bound to resonate with others and bring them to you and your books.

 

Marketing isn’t as scary as it sounds. Be yourself and release content that matters to you.Click To Tweet

 

 

About the Author

Darren Boyd-Annells is the CEO and co-founder at Joosr, a digital publisher helping busy people find the time to read with 20-minute summaries of leading non-fiction books.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

 

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