Author Topic: And! Amazon rank-stripped me  (Read 14463 times)  

Offline StacyC

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #50 on: November 21, 2017, 06:12:41 PM »
I see the rank too! 🎉 #5 in the store & #1 in your categories!
  

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #51 on: November 21, 2017, 06:20:41 PM »
Who ever equated algorithms with magic? Companies spend serious money creating and tweaking their algorithms. Interestingly, I too can pinpoint cause-and-algo-effect for our 1.5M+ sales (and I've managed promos for trad-pubbed, award-winning USAT and NYT authors who've written beloved books that have stood the test of time). The same algos that track rank drive current and future visibility. Generic-you can optimize the algo-effect with a great cover, a hooky blurb and a solid story -- of course. Just as algos can optimize word-of-mouth for a good book. One doesn't preclude the other, however; they can work together or individually.

But magic? No. Who's thinking that? Amazon (as well as Nook, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo, btw, just to a lesser extent) *does* market books via its algos. That's demonstrable and replicable. I'm a bit surprised a SF writer doesn't appreciate the science behind marketing and sales.

I don't disagree with this at all.

What I do disagree with is the ultimate level of importance a lot of writers ascribe to the "Amazon magic" (i.e. its unseen recommendation engine). The only time it becomes important is when your book goes sticky. And no one really knows how to do that.

Yes, you can do it with ads, but that just proves my point. It's something the author does.

Interestingly, I see no slowing of downloads beyond what I would expect for this time of day. I'm about to hit the 20K. I suspect this is because the main source of downloads is the Bookbub email, which is rank-agnostic. If this keeps up, maybe tomorrow's downloads might be affected, but from my own email list operations (over 51k subscribers across multiple lists) I know that many many people delay opening emails for days. This is why I usually leave the Bookbub advertised price for a month (until it falls off their website).

Second day downloads are *at most* going to be a quarter of today's. Of course, UK, CA, AU and the others are not affected.

About data science and book sales in general:

I've been reading a lot of stuff recently about this subject. I come from a background of population biology, which gets referred to as "the science of numbers". It's about the proportion of a large population doing x and another doing y. While you can measure x and y and draw interesting conclusions from it, interpreting these conclusions and modelling projected developments becomes a lot more rubbery.

You only have to have run a couple of large simulations to know that when you change a tiny variable, it can potentially throw your entire model out of whack. If you're predicting future behaviour of pretty much anything (animals, people, plants, the stock market, you name it), the more detailed your model becomes, the more it is liable to contain assumptions (even if they're currently borne out by data) that will throw it out of whack.

Modelling is interesting for gaining understanding in how various aspects of processes are related. It goes without saying that the quality of the model is entirely dependent on the quality of the mathematical functions that control each variable.

Take applied finance. The models are impressive. They're scary. The maths is crazy.

Why then did a university lecturer tell a student, after a question whether they used the models to predict the behaviour of the stock market: nope, we use the model to perfect our understanding afterwards.

OK, so to take this back to data science and book sales. Some of the stuff I've read recently on how people use data science for book sales makes my hair stand on end. Not because it's "wrong", not at all, but because the models rely on base assumptions that are (often by necessity, so not blaming anyone) already of poor quality, or that are extremely volatile and a small change could turn upside down the entire resulting prediction. Therefore, to my mind, it's useful to study after the fact and much less useful to predict future events.

And if predicted cause-and-effect coincides with what we already know, or "common sense", the importance of the model becomes much less important to me as author. In practical terms, I've always included on-sales of second and third books in ROI from ads, because that makes sense. I don't know how much stock I'd put in some of the elaborate methods I see mentioned for calculating it. I can do a wet-finger prediction in three seconds flat and spend the hour I saved writing. Maybe I could more accurately calculate my on-sales as 53% vs my estimated 50%, but because I don't really have enough data to make my calculations statistically reliable, I'm going to keep doing the wet-finger stuff until such time that I do have that data.

Make no mistake, I love the AE reports, because they do exactly what this science was meant to do: make sense of past events to allow us to make global decisions about the future.

Online Patty Jansen

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #52 on: November 21, 2017, 06:30:42 PM »
Patty, did you notify KDP of the pending BB? Just wondering

I did. But, as I said, KDP is just part of a big company that just rolls on like a huge ship and takes forever to change course. You cannot expect them to take notice of this.

KDP tech Help is a call centre Cape Town, and last time I spoke to them, it sounded like there were a lot of people there. They would need to have to be VERY organised in order for this sort of stuff to be remembered.

Offline Annie B

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #53 on: November 21, 2017, 06:46:44 PM »
Looks like rank is back. That must be a relief. :)

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #54 on: November 21, 2017, 06:50:13 PM »
Looks like rank is back. That must be a relief. :)

That took a while to become visible to me, but now I see it, too.

OK, now I can do some writing :P

Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #55 on: November 21, 2017, 07:28:45 PM »
Let's put aside I don't think anyone is denigrating anyone :)

That said, just on point of fact, the two camps are not equal in terms of industry impact. KU authors are commodifying (ie. driving down margins) for the industry as a whole. Wide authors are not (although I guess one could argue that the permafree authors are; but realistically they are only permafreeing one or two books max, so their impact is negligible).

I 100% agree that everyone should do what is best for them. But at the same time, if in doing so you (and others) are contributing to the erosion and instability of the industry, driving down pricing power for authors in the aggregate, empowering zon to become a monopolistic powerhouse, etc. -  you should at least understand those who have an issue with that (not with YOU, but with the general trend of kowtowing to zon)... even if, and though, they nonetheless respect your right to do whatever you feel like (and most probably understand why authors feel they have no choice but to play the game the way zon tells them to).

Then make noise to the other channels to provide more tools to improve discoverability. Make noise to them to drop the curated placements. When I can make more from KU in a month than I make on all other platforms combined due to lack of discoverability on those other platforms, then I have a financial decision to make. As much as I hate being exclusive to one channel and as much as I would love to go wide, I can't pay my bills with good intentions.

But if you think telling exclusive authors that they're contributing to the erosion of the industry and accusing them of having Stockholm Syndrome will win you any converts, you're barking up the wrong tree.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2017, 07:30:22 PM by Perry Constantine »

Offline HSh

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #56 on: November 21, 2017, 08:14:26 PM »

But if you think telling exclusive authors that they're contributing to the erosion of the industry and accusing them of having Stockholm Syndrome will win you any converts, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Why are you making this about you? 

If you want to have a wide vs. KU debate why not start another thread?  It's a topic we're almost all interested in and will probably continue to be interested in.

This thread is specifically about Patty having a BB deal de-ranked by Amazon.  Yes, there are some not-positive feelings towards Amazon in this thread. 

Stockholm Syndrome might be a strong terms, but so is the term that was popular for a long time: Amazon Derangement Syndrome.  ADS.  We're authors.  We like to use lots of descriptive words.   


Find another thread that's more pro-KU or stop looking for reasons to be offended.

Lord knows we're not all in lockstep here at KBoards and you'll find many people who agree with you. 

I don't see people "barking" at your tree specifically or trying to convert you!


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Offline Becca Mills

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #57 on: November 21, 2017, 10:58:38 PM »
Folks, let's leave the KU-vs.-wide argument for other threads. I read Patty's comment about "Amazon Stockholm syndrome" as pertaining not to KU authors but to people who just loooove Amazon and see no problems with the company whatsoever, a (probably small?) group that likely overlaps with KU authors somewhat but is not identical with them. So there is no reason for that argument to blossom here.

Offline Perry Constantine

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #58 on: November 21, 2017, 11:45:25 PM »
Why are you making this about you? 

If you want to have a wide vs. KU debate why not start another thread?  It's a topic we're almost all interested in and will probably continue to be interested in.

This thread is specifically about Patty having a BB deal de-ranked by Amazon.  Yes, there are some not-positive feelings towards Amazon in this thread. 

Stockholm Syndrome might be a strong terms, but so is the term that was popular for a long time: Amazon Derangement Syndrome.  ADS.  We're authors.  We like to use lots of descriptive words.   


Find another thread that's more pro-KU or stop looking for reasons to be offended.

Lord knows we're not all in lockstep here at KBoards and you'll find many people who agree with you. 

I don't see people "barking" at your tree specifically or trying to convert you!

Thanks for the reminder of why I don't come here as often as I used to.

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #59 on: November 21, 2017, 11:54:36 PM »
On topic, it's great that the rank has been restored. I double checked and see that it is indeed. That had to be indigestion promoting. I'm doing a BB promo next week and an doing some nail biting. I tend to think that telling KDP in advance that you're doing one is probably a wasted effort, but I may be wrong about that.

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Offline ireaderreview

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #60 on: November 22, 2017, 12:48:15 AM »
1) This, EXACTLY:  Maybe the programmers have factored in BB  :P

1b) And if you go 99c instead of free, you have nothing to worry about at all.

Box Set Rank stripping a few weeks ago. Are they less frequent? The 99c rank stripping incidents?

***********************

2) This: It's happening often.  Could it be a stab at BookBub?

It's 1000% a 'stab at Bokbub' and at other promo sites

************

3) This: I don't see it so much on kboards, but then, I don't read every thread or anything.

No, on KBoards authors choose to give the algorithms benefit of the doubt by saying 'it's being done to target scammers' when it's becoming obvious that it has more to do with hurting other marketing venues

***********

4) Here's an example of giving benefit of the doubt

Patty writes:   You cannot expect them to take notice of this.

It's actually the EXACT opposite

first algorithm delays and tweaks were done to hit all the small promotion sites

now they are going after even Bookbub

Indie authors are writing things like

- it's just a false positive
- they don't even notice this
- it is to target scammers

This is a company that built a specialized Cloud Service for the CIA 4 years ago. You expect us to believe they can't stop a handful of botters

The other defence is that they just don't notice. Actually they notice two things very well

A) That promotion sites are growing very fast

B) That if money flows away from promotion sites it flows towards their own marketing avenues
*******************************

« Last Edit: November 22, 2017, 01:09:01 AM by ireaderreview »

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Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #61 on: November 22, 2017, 01:49:15 AM »
I've just suddenly cottoned onto this issue about rank-stripping.

Whenever I've made my book free in the past it has ALWAYS dropped the ranking from my normal daily setting, and re-ranked it under the free book graph. Only when it was set at $2.99, but Amazon was price-matching it to Free did it continue to show in normal ranking. I thought it was perfectly acceptable practice by Amazon. Maybe I was trialling this new 'rank-stripping' before it was rolled out without even knowing about it. Does it happen on NON-FREE books as well?


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Offline dgaughran

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #62 on: November 22, 2017, 02:21:05 AM »
Em, for those advancing the ludicrous theory that Amazon is targeting BookBub, please explain why Amazon imprints use BookBub almost every day.
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Offline dgaughran

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #63 on: November 22, 2017, 02:41:12 AM »
What I do disagree with is the ultimate level of importance a lot of writers ascribe to the "Amazon magic" (i.e. its unseen recommendation engine). The only time it becomes important is when your book goes sticky. And no one really knows how to do that.

There have always been authors who have declared Amazon's system unknowable, and there have always been those who have been working away and figuring it out and putting that knowledge to work.

When I started self-publishing in 2011, there were people who claimed Sales Rank was unknowable. Anyone want to still claim that today?

When we started figuring out the Pop List the same kind of people claimed it was unknowable (or irrelevant). We figured that out too.

Quite a large part of the Amazon recommendation engine and the various algorithms feeding into it have been mapped out at this point, by various authors, who have then shared that knowledge publicly - which has then been applied by authors who have optimized their marketing and sold millions and millions of books on Amazon.

Just a small data point.

(And, yes, I can make a book sticky. I've done it plenty of times, as has Phoenix and many others. The last time I made a book sticky it was below 200 for a whole month, below 800 for a month after that at $2.99 too. This led to a KU All Star and close to 7m KU page reads, and an equivalent amount of sales.)
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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #64 on: November 22, 2017, 03:08:52 AM »
Um, my website is getting hacking attacks from Russia and other countries. I think that's the global standard now. Unless AMS reaches a lot more people who click and buy/borrow, people will keep using external promotion sites because large lists of people who actually want those types of books is a far better plan of attack than sticking your book somewhere in the ad section and hoping the person has ads unblocked and bothers looking at them.

Sucks about the rank stripping, but at least it didn't stay stripped.

Offline dgaughran

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #65 on: November 22, 2017, 03:20:03 AM »
I keep repeating this:

I've had direct reports of something like 40 different authors who were ranked stripped. Most shared comprehensive details of what promo was involved.

1. Some were in KU.
2. Some were wide.
3. Some used BookBub.
4. Some did not use BookBub.
5. Some were free.
6. Some were paid.
7. Some used other ad sites.
8. Some used no ad sites.
9. Some only used FB ads.
10. Some only used AMS ads.
11. Some only hit their list.

So for anyone who thinks this is a potshot at BookBub, an attack on non-KU authors, Amazon undermining all ad sites, or forcing people to only use AMS, or whatever, the evidence simply does not support those claims.

Please stop repeating them and causing undue panic.

I can't spot any real commonalities in these cases after examining all the information provided, other than perhaps they were all (or almost all) very visible in the free or paid charts when rank-stripped, and almost all cases are clumped together. That to me indicates *possible* manual/deliberate targeting but only Amazon will know for sure. It could also be a malfunctioning fraud detection system. There is a little evidence for both theories (and they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive either). I don't see much evidence for these other claims, and plenty discounting them outright.
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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #66 on: November 22, 2017, 03:22:33 AM »
Basically at this point there's nothing we can do except cross our fingers before a promo.

Offline dgaughran

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #67 on: November 22, 2017, 03:27:09 AM »
Without being alarmist, there is *a chance* any book hitting the free or paid charts could get rank stripped right now. There is no pattern really, and no way to protect yourself. Even monster sellers have been hit. Even A-Pub authors (with their indie titles). Patty even informed Amazon in advance of her BB promo and was still hit.

But some much-needed perspective: a huge number of books make the charts every hour without getting hit. So you have to be incredibly unlucky to be one of those affected.

(Doesn't make it suck any less though, and my sympathies to anyone caught up in this. I'd be eating my hair.)
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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #68 on: November 22, 2017, 03:49:39 AM »
My own rank-stripping / KU read-grabbing adventures appear to be over, for the moment. But I'm left feeling I can't undertake any promotion with confidence. I'm relying on organic sales and social media only, and watching my income trickle away by the month. It so happens that I'm involved in a very successful anthology right now, so that's fine for the moment, but my income is going to take a real hit if things haven't calmed down in the next couple of months.


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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #69 on: November 22, 2017, 04:20:56 AM »
One interesting side note on this is that by early 2014 our curated books were taking 15 to 25 spots in the Top 100 Free Books each day

Now we have 4 million additional readers (as compared to 2014). If there were no 16 to 24 hour delays, given our size, we'd be taking 40 to 60 spots (of course, Bookbub would take top 20 to 30 - however, we'd take much of the rest).

That would mean - the Top 100 list of free books would be 60% to 90% dominated by the two biggest promotion companies

Awfully convenient that instead we see 8 to 24 hour delays and take far fewer spots than 40 to 60 in the Top 100

Another alternative: your readers are far less engaged now and don't respond to your emails as much or as quickly.

Saturation happens sometimes.

For instance, I'm sick of hearing about Books Butterfly in every single thread on Kboards.

Offline Elizabeth Ann West

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #70 on: November 22, 2017, 04:44:44 AM »
Amazon uses machine learning for more of the site than ever. Machine learning aims to provide tailored shopping experiences to individual accounts. The original Kindle store was as straight-forward as we were ever going to get . . .  and over the years Amazon has made changes to overcome rank manipulations, better align to their business goals, appease large vendors, and improve the experience for the customer.

Check your own site. I suspect more than 50% of your traffic is mobile. Now look at the mobile site of Amazon. You will see that it provide not even a WAY for readers to get onto the top 100 FREE list. Try it with your phone. Even if you go to the bottom and click "amazon.com full site" go to a book that's ranked top 100 free and try to clik on the link to top 100 free, it takes you to the top 100 paid. Do a drop down and you can only get top 100 paid, top 100 new release. I sat at the bar at NINC and realized this with T S Paul who was like "the Amazon people are right there, you can ask them about this . . ." because we both wondered if it was a glitch. It's 1.5 months later still doing that (and no I didn't bother the Amazon people with this), it's NOT A GLITCH.

What Patty and others I think are trying to say is that if you build your entire business strategy on getting sticky at a single vendor there will come a time when changes to their system impact your publishing empire. Right this second, look around, we are in the middle of a major change to Amazon's systems that are derailing many people's marketing campaigns. Spikes are out, somehow, and we've watched Amazon punish spikes to varying degrees over the last 5 years.

There's no way to predict from what Amazon is doing right now to what they will be doing in 1 year or 2 years. Who knows when KU 3.0 or 4.0 or whatever number we are on will be out? Who knows when/if Amazon will separate out the KU books into a separate sales ranking so their A Pub titles can dominate in two powerful recommendation engines? Who can tell everyone exactly how Also Boughts are deterined because mine are most frequently new releases in my genre, not my other books, which make NO SENSE. . . .

All efforts to publish based on leveraging the Amazon algorithms will have to be reactionary in nature, and it's basically a game of musical chairs. Something works until it doesn't, because the music stopped and we didn't know and now people are left without a chair. Some publishers shrug and go "OK!" and expect some launches to flop or some promotion to fail and just keep on going and kept a budget thus. Others can't or won't do that and hinge every major release on a wish and prayer that all of the stuff they took months to put into place WILL work the day of launch...Others just go "eh, I'll let Amazon worry about Amazon, and just focus on selling books any way I can."

I read Patty's post as publishing off of the current Amazon algorithms is unpredictable because it requires assumptions and observations where we are most often trying to justify the phenomenon we see. It's unknowable because we aren't in the loop on when or why changes are made, and unless someone is prepared to rise up from when the algorithms change and they weren't ready, it can be very demoralizing and devastating if you are counting on a specific performance of a book to say feed your family or pay your bills.


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Offline dgaughran

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #71 on: November 22, 2017, 04:54:39 AM »
There's a difference between strategy and tactics. A tactic might be putting a book free for five days and watching it bounce up the Pop List and then the paid chart. And that can get nerfed by changes to the pop list. A more grimy tactic might be stuffing a book and deceptively getting people to click to the end. And that can get nerfed by Amazon having a more accurate way to count pages.

A strategy might be using free to drive sales of other titles. Another strategy might be understanding how the store works (and, yes, the algos) and tweaking your marketing accordingly.

I'm comfortable using both. I'm not over reliant on tactics and have strategy to fall back on if one tactical play becomes less useful.

An example: KU is all about visibility because visibility turns into good Pop List placement which feeds into KU recommendations and then ultimately turns into reads. However, because of the way the Pop List works, there is usually a four-day lag before that visibility turns into reads. If I didn't know the algos, I wouldn't know that. Which means I wouldn't have the tactic of holding prices lower for longer after a promo, until the page read wave kicks in.

This is a tactic. It works very, very well, and makes a book sticky if you do it right.

The strategy is different, it's knowing the algos and recognizing the power curve in KU and knowing that aggression is rewarded with reads.

Both are useful.
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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #72 on: November 22, 2017, 05:21:04 AM »
There are a few observations here.

1) Authors are gaming/attempting to 'game' the Amazon system to gain rank, visibility.
2) Technical trading (following a regimen to 'game' the system automatically) will result in anticipation from the algorithm machine and subsequent readjustment to return things to balance.

I've watched (from the sidelines mostly) as author after author has come up with new ways to gain traction and get ahead of the crowd of other authors trying to do exactly the same. Maybe four years ago there were a hundred or so, now there are thousands. All up to the same tricks because everyone loves to publicise how successful their 'system' is. We've (the Indy author sector) become more concerned with manipulation of the market, rather than plain marketing. Free books, special offers, serial promotions, newsletter round-robin, cross-promo's (to name a few) and the market (being the reader) is saturated with it. Amazon and other sales platforms are reeling from the mass promotion of books by thousands of authors EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

And you wonder why the thing breaks !!!


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Offline EB

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #73 on: November 22, 2017, 05:22:15 AM »
An example: KU is all about visibility because visibility turns into good Pop List placement which feeds into KU recommendations and then ultimately turns into reads. However, because of the way the Pop List works, there is usually a four-day lag before that visibility turns into reads. If I didn't know the algos, I wouldn't know that. Which means I wouldn't have the tactic of holding prices lower for longer after a promo, until the page read wave kicks in.

I'm seeing this happen with a (former)permafree book that was bungled in the Pronoun fiasco. It did not retain permafree status when it hit Amazon and I was shocked to see it immediately started to generate paid sales. I did not promote it, as it's been permafree for at least 2 years now & I felt silly doing anything with it as a paid book. Yet I can see that putting it in KU has placed it in a better position on the pop list, my series page is back up and active, and it's getting a consistent # of paid sales and page reads. This with was absolutely no effort on my part, and I can't ignore it, or consider what that means for future releases.
 
For instance, I'm sick of hearing about Books Butterfly in every single thread on Kboards.
<sigh> Agree. I thought there was a block button but I can't find it.

Offline dgaughran

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Re: And! Amazon rank-stripped me
« Reply #74 on: November 22, 2017, 05:42:50 AM »
1) Authors are gaming/attempting to 'game' the Amazon system to gain rank, visibility.

I take extreme exception to this characterization. Figuring out how the store works and tweaking your marketing isn't "gaming the system" which implies some kind of cheating or unscrupulousness.

If I want to open a shoe store and I conduct a survey of the footfall in various streets in the town center, is that gaming the system? No, I'm gaining an understanding of the marketplace and tweaking my business decisions accordingly.

And you wonder why the thing breaks !!!

This is a little silly. Amazon sells half a billion distinct products. The Kindle Store is less than 7m items.

Yes, the problem here is legit marketing of ebooks.
Stuff for writers thisaway