Author Topic: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy  (Read 2253 times)  

Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
« on: May 18, 2019, 07:41:48 am »
Then here are the things we know to be true as a result: 

1. Amazon is a retailer, nothing more. 
2. There is no such thing as organic book sales on Amazon any more. 
3. Between AMS and the royalty share, selling on Amazon is incredibly expensive. 
4. Your cost of goods has no ceiling, but your retail price does.  There is a 100% chance all authors will eventually suffocate financially given enough time.
5. We are given zero metrics regarding the success of our marketing. 
6. Amazon gets tens of millions of visits a year (and likely many hundreds of thousands of sales and uncounted billions in revenue) that we pay for.
7. We get no participation or consideration or credit for that traffic. 
8. Twelve years later, we have no idea how many people visit our book pages.  We don't know our conversion rates, bounce rates or anything else. 
9. We still can't even buy a spot in e-mails sent by Amazon to our readers. 
9a. They're not our readers. 
10. We have no control or visibility over our "followers" on Amazon. 
11. We can't even get the right cover to show up for our default book listings. 
12. We still don't have redemption codes we can give to reviewers.  We still can't offer gift certificates. 
13. We're still not allowed to exchange editorial reviews author to author (or forewards, or anything else for that matter) -- the rest of the publishing industry has been doing this for 150 years.  Authors are..  encouraged to stay away from each other.  One can only wonder why. 
14. In fact, we don't get reviews any more at all unless we sell an overwhelming number of units. 
15. A good story, cover and blurb puts you at parity with people who are spending four and five figures a month on advertising. 
16. There is no integration between Facebook ads and Amazon unless you build it yourself (with a landing page) and risk being banned for using the wrong URL. 
17. A misplaced or misinterpreted hyperlink in your book could end your career.
18. Kindle software still can't display a transparent PNG.  It's 2019.   
19. Are you a comic author? Too bad, because your royalty is now halved and KU won't help you at all.  You also have zero chance of competing with Comixology on price because you aren't subsidized. 
20. Same if you write children's books, travel books, photo compilations or cookbooks. 
21. Amazon won't tell you what browse categories your book is in any more. 
22. By and large, you have no control over what browse categories your book is in, and you never will again.   
23. Which doesn't matter, since nobody cares about browse categories except authors stuck in 2013. 
24. We still can't offer our books as permafrees without jumping through a series of increasingly arcane hoops for no reason. 
25. Indie authors have to write an entire series of full length novels to have any chance at profitability, which makes them unique among all authors throughout history. 
26. And they can't sell the first book at full price. 
27. And they have to place profligate bets on increasingly complex and expensive ads to get any traction at all. 
28. There's an entire program for middle grade and kids' products that we are barred from participating in as sellers. 
29. There's an entire program called "Prime" that we are barred from participating in as sellers. 
30. Authors still can't even buy a premium book sell page. 
31. Indie authors still can't offer bundles of separate products. 
32. Indie authors can't post a video on their own sell page. 
33. It's been 12 years now. Indie authors still can't sit at the grown-ups table when it comes to book pricing. 
34. How much do we make on audiobooks again? And how many years do they have to be exclusive to be taken seriously?  Who controls pricing? 
35. How many people visit your Amazon book page?  You don't know, do you? 
36. Even if you had a #1 book, Amazon won't let you tell anyone. 
37. If you turn off your ads, your books instantly stop selling and will not sell another copy until you turn your ads back on. 
38. Any author can be banned and put out of business at any time for any reason, which makes us no different than the warehouse employees.  Except that the warehouse employees can rely on being paid every two weeks and don't have to advertise on Facebook. 
39. Most indie authors are terrified of Amazon. They are terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing and being de-platformed and forced back to the psychiatric hospital our job market has become.  This is not accidental. 
40. Amazon is just a retailer. 
« Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 07:49:16 am by Shane Lochlann Black »

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    Offline MMSN

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #1 on: May 18, 2019, 08:28:08 am »
    49. Amazon tells you that if you enroll your book in KU they will pay you for each page a reader reads. False. If a reader reads your book in Page Flip, Amazon will neither tell you about the page reads nor pay you for them. Some authors have estimated that up to 50% of their page reads are happening in Page Flip. Almost two years later, Amazon 'continues to monitor it closely [and] appreciates your understanding...'
    « Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 08:31:05 am by MMSN »

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #2 on: May 18, 2019, 08:30:40 am »
    Well stated concerns, for both of you.

    But:
    "25. Indie authors have to write an entire series of full length novels to have any chance at profitability, which makes them unique among all authors throughout history."

    I would think some pulp authors of the early and mid 20th century would have thought that they were in the same boat. Produce, produce, produce, produce to keep the career alive, to achieve any semblance of profit. Many of the early sci-fi and Westerns authors had to write series and serials.

    The difference may be the payout, and such sci-fi, westerns, and pulp authors were in a form of trad publishing, so perhaps this point #25 is indeed accurate.

    Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #3 on: May 18, 2019, 08:38:30 am »
    If Amazon promised authors one promotional e-mail to one of their proprietary big lists in exchange for 1/3 the normal royalty on a new book forever, 100% of authors would take that deal in a white hot instant, and book sales would skyrocket across the board. The resulting tsunami of revenue would make worldwide news. 

    But instead it's better if we're soaking wet in a -200F room with almost no oxygen trying to start a fire.  Isn't it? 

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #4 on: May 18, 2019, 08:48:55 am »
    I'm thinking that they figure that ad revenue brings in more revenue than sales of most indie-published books -- aside from the big indie authors, who developed vast readerships early in the game, and are probably more immune to the vagaries and whims of Zon practice.




    Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #5 on: May 18, 2019, 09:03:14 am »
    Quote
    Last year, Bezos said 1,000 authors were earning over 100k.
       

    I find this shocking.

    Offline swcleveland

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #6 on: May 18, 2019, 09:11:26 am »
    And yet, with all of these apparently increasing flaws, Amazon has no shortage of indie authors.  Like any other business, Amazon will keep doing what works for them and squeeze out every advantage, until and unless a competitor comes along with a better deal for authors.  Want Amazon to change their ways? Stop using them--and that comes with a consequence.

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    Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #7 on: May 18, 2019, 09:13:57 am »
    Quote
    The real question is how much as a total percentage of Amazon Advertising do the books bring in?
       

    Virtually nothing.  There's no oxygen in the room.  We're price-capped, we're competing with ourselves and we're paying an eye-watering royalty on every sale. I don't care if you're James Joyce. Unless you can stack thousands on a bet you can thread the needle between Bookbub and Facebook, and then kick out a novel a month at will for a year or more, you have zero chance of establishing a career as a writer on Amazon now. 

    And if you had thousands to spend, you wouldn't bet it on some Facebook ad.  You'd put it in a mutual fund. 

    The handful of people who got there made all the right moves early and likely had multiple Bookbubs to go with them. They built readerships under conditions that are entirely dissimilar to what authors face now.  The window has closed. 

    Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #8 on: May 18, 2019, 09:26:10 am »
    Quote
    Stop using them--and that comes with a consequence.
       

    What consequence?  My invisible books will continue to be invisible?  Allow me to paint the picture for you so we're perfectly clear: 

    1. Unless I have an active Facebook campaign, my books do not sell. At all. 
    2. The very moment I turn my ads on, the books start selling and getting page reads again (usually within minutes).  I've had up to six to one returns on ad spends from one series, so the problem isn't the books. The problem is Amazon makes my books invisible. This costs them and their shareholders money, but for some reason they are willing to forego that revenue. My books are more valuable to Amazon when they are not selling. I know this because Amazon doesn't make mistakes. Everything they do is optimized to the fraction of a cent and fraction of a second. 
    3. Incidentally: being in retail is supposed to get me more customers, not less. If what I'm giving up to be on Amazon isn't getting me more readers, then what the hell is the point? 
    4. Therefore, based on practical, factual evidence, my book sales depend on ads, not Amazon. 
    5. Facebook ads do not integrate with Amazon, so I can't re-market or discover new audiences. I have to build my own integration.  If in addition to the fact my books are being carefully withheld from readers, I have to build my own infrastructure, then what the hell is the point? 

    See the pattern yet? 

    « Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 09:28:27 am by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Offline atree

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #9 on: May 18, 2019, 11:49:16 am »
    If KU feels so bad then leave it and sell your books wide. Why complain about something that isn't a given?

    What's to complain about? KU is free for authors. There's no upfront cost and very very little threshold requirements to join.  KU is a bonus, it's a privilege, it's not a standar requirement in the publishing industry. Go back a handful of years it didn't even exist. And again, there's a choice, it's a free-ride. Complaining the free-ride is bumpy is like complaining the free roller-coaster ride was too short. Those who get irritated about how KU works or what the payout rate is... simply don't enroll and sell your books the regular way.  ::)

    As to it supposedly being impossible to sell books without marketing that's neither always true, or anything new. Before Amazon started the whole self-publishing market, back when you needed a publisher to publish, if they didn't market your book it didn't sell then either,  and even if they marketed it, in 90% of the cases, it still didn't sell and then they stopped marketing it and guess where that story ends...

    As to not selling without marketing, that's very very depending on what genre you work in. There are still a surprising amount of niches that do sell by simply publishing. The only real requirement these days is you need to publish more regularly than before BUT, and this is a big BUT... self-pubbing has made people money focused and now everyone seems to expect that their writing is going to support them. Again... back in the day (it's not long ago) very very very very few authors could make a living off their writing, let alone do so until they had been at it for 10 years.

    Again - if KU feels less than agreeable - don't use it and simply price books the normal way.

    Offline MMSN

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #10 on: May 18, 2019, 12:28:16 pm »
    It's not that simple.

    Amazon uses KU to manipulate rank, therefore impeding the wide books.

    So authors are forced to choose: where they will be screwed less.

    Offline Tobias Roote

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #11 on: May 18, 2019, 01:03:15 pm »

    And if Amazon ever shut down KU, then those rapid publishers probably won't make a living either. They make the bulk of their money off page reads and all-star bonuses. I'm not sure the method they're following would translate to paid only, otherwise they'd be all over the wide platforms.


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    Offline archaeoroutes

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #12 on: May 18, 2019, 01:11:00 pm »
    On Point 13, I'm pretty sure that editorial reviews from other authors (and indeed paid review companies like Kirkus) are fine, as long as you put them in the Editorial Reviews section. It's when they go in as customer reviews that things can get sticky.

    Offline MMSN

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #13 on: May 18, 2019, 01:15:05 pm »
    Do you think Amazon would shut down KU?

    Offline Anna Rose

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #14 on: May 18, 2019, 01:52:18 pm »
    No one has to be in KU or buy AMS ads.  I'm not doing either at the moment.  Amazon publishes books for no upfront cost and they do not have gatekeepers.

    The glory days of old may be over, but I don't see the point in blaming Amazon.  They're a business and their goal is to make a profit.  Just like we're trying to do.

    We'd all like to sell more books, but the problem (IMHO) is not KU, AMS, Amazon or any other company.  The industry is no longer new.  The 'gold rush' days are over. 

    I wish I'd been doing this seven or eight years ago, but I missed it.  All we can do now is try to figure out how to move on from here. 

    Whether you love or hate Amazon (or somewhere in between) they're still the biggest player in the industry, and it's up to each of us to decide where to go from here.

    « Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 01:56:45 pm by Anna Rose »

    Offline C. Gold

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #15 on: May 18, 2019, 02:08:24 pm »
    Companies like subscription models because the income is uniform and reliable. So I doubt KU will be tossed aside.
    Also, Prime draws people to buy on Amazon. Maybe KU does something similar and keeps Amazon at 80% of the book market share.

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #16 on: May 18, 2019, 02:41:36 pm »
    Many people fear thumbing their nose at Amazon, always citing the unprovable claim that Amazon has 80% of the book business. I've yet to see anyone who can define what that means (revenue, profit, KU versus paid?).

    I'm wide on two different sellers from the Zon. My 'marketing', if you can call it that, is the same. Publish once a month, and word of mouth.

    I sell probably 90 books on the Zon for every book on the other two sellers combined.

    Granted, that is just one anecdotal experience, but I"ve read similar statements from other authors here, some who were in the game long before I was.

    The fact is, the other eBook retailers really don't have the pull that the Zon does -- at least here in the States.

    So I don't doubt the claim that the Zon have 80% of the eBook business. As for the entire business (print included)? I'm not so sure about that. Maybe 60%. My local chains have a lot of customers -- at least the remaining bookstores. There are also the drugstore book sections in drugstores and box stores, and books sell there, too.
    « Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 11:11:41 pm by jb1111 »

    Offline atree

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #17 on: May 18, 2019, 09:57:43 pm »
    ...
    The cheaper the books are, the more they sell on Amazon.
    ...

    Not true as a rule.

    Some genres if you price too low you start to see a decline in sales as readers see lower price as a mark of poor quality (quality here meaning content not being on-topic or tropey enough). In one of my current genres we price 3.99 - 6.99 and 2.99 makes no difference in sales, just drops profit and going 1.99 and lower shows a decline in how many books you sell.
    So no, cheaper is a goal in itself.

    I currently write in 5 genres under 6 different pens. During the years I've had more than a dozen pens and written in all sorts of genres from fantasy to romance, mystery, crime, westerns, science fiction, non-fiction, erotica, YA adventure, horror, etc. Pricing strategies shift a bit from year to year but some genres are always able to maintain a sturdier pricing.

    Women's Fiction, Police Procedurals, Arthurian Fantasy are examples where there is little point, and much loss, in pricing under 3.99.

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #18 on: May 19, 2019, 03:23:24 am »
    Huh, I've had a very different experience than the OP. Most of those complaints do not reflect what my first 2.5 years have been like. I guess we all have our own unique author journeys.   

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    Offline jb1111

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #19 on: May 20, 2019, 03:46:35 am »
    @atree

    The % of books I sell on Amazon versus wide varies from 25 - 75% with price being the reason it is at the higher end.

    I did not say you cannot sell books at full price on Amazon.

    I think pricing depends on the genre, and the individual book. A lot of top sellers in romance were on KU and priced 99 cents to sell. One would think that if such high ranking authors felt they could make more money at higher prices, they would have priced their books higher. They priced them low for some reason... and they still sold.

    A lot of it may be due to some genres being more competitive than others.

    I've seen reasonably written books that basically were thrown together hack jobs selling in some other genres for 2.99 and 3.99 -- both KU and non-KU. They also sell.

    I don't think there is a given price formula for everyone -- I think that is something each author has to determine for themselves.
    « Last Edit: May 20, 2019, 12:51:21 pm by jb1111 »

    Offline CaptnAndy

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #20 on: May 20, 2019, 11:36:21 am »
    Threads like this one are the reason I take the time to read KBoards every day. Damn Well Done to everyone who have contributed realistic inputs on what faces Indy Authors in today's Amazon marketplace!. After several years of a limited focus on promotion, last fall I committed time and money in a promotion of my newest book. I went wide (D2D) on all my books and ran adds on fb and AMS. I sold a lot (for me) on Amazon, with good carry through on my other books. Wide sales were minimal. In January, I dropped wide and returned to KU and continued a few AMS adds. When AMS changed options, I tried the Locked adds, with limited results. I purchased KDP Rocket and spent days re-working keywords and blurbs. I opened a new AMS add, which produced some results, until the impressions stopped. I found that all the recommended bid prices had increased by at least 50 cents. I increased my bids and started getting a scattering of impressions. I suspect this new AMS changes will make it uneconomical to continue using AMS for promotion. I'm retired, so I'm not depending on my writing for income, but I can't afford to operate my writing/publishing business at less than break-even. I plan to test other add options, and continue to read on this issue, both here, and other places.
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    Offline atree

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #21 on: May 20, 2019, 11:44:56 am »
    Captn, I strongly suggest giving your books new covers and if you do, try to get the same cover gang to do them all so there's a unified look on your catalog. I believe your current covers are working against you, meaning your marketing efforts never reach their full potential.

    Offline Amanda M. Lee

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    Re: If Amazon is Not Our Enemy
    « Reply #22 on: May 20, 2019, 12:23:51 pm »
    Captn, I strongly suggest giving your books new covers and if you do, try to get the same cover gang to do them all so there's a unified look on your catalog. I believe your current covers are working against you, meaning your marketing efforts never reach their full potential.
    Unsolicited critiques on this board are frowned upon and unnecessary. If he asked, it would be one thing. He did not ask.

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