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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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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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ireaderreview said:
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.
 

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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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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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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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dgaughran said:
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.

crow.bar.beer said:
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.
 

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TobiasRoote said:
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.

TobiasRoote said:
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.
 

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ireaderreview said:
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
Does it? I'm not sure AMS is a match for any good list.
 
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dgaughran said:
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.
Take it however you want. Your taking exception isn't my problem. However, the algorithms cannot tell the difference between an author and a spammer/scammer, or whatever. To the machine every input is the same. My son is a 'gamer' I'm not insulting him because when he uses the games platform to garner an advantage over the opposing teams he's 'gaming' the system. It's a 'game' and you're all playing it, but the system knows you are doing it so tries to put checks and balances in place. It will continue to do so and might make some mistakes, but it believes it is being fair (as far as a machine can sense fairness).

dgaughran said:
This is a little silly. Amazon sells half a billion distinct products. The Kindle Store is less than 7m items.
I agree it's silly, but it's what people on KBoards are constantly saying. The system is broken or Amazon is [deliberately] 'breaking my run for the top'
The problem is when someone shouts foul because everyone else is doing the same and the system says STOP! while it checks things out (probably by a human being several hours, days down the line).

Are all the product groups in Amazon having this conversation? or just the authors?
 
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dgaughran said:
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.
How about the strategy of writing books that intelligent people want to read, instead of marketing to sell crap to people who think crap is wonderful?
 

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I don't think you are being silly TobiasRoote. I agree with you that there are many perspectives in this industry and we as indies most often look at it from only our own perspective.

Amazon doesn't want sales spikes. They've punished the sudden upward velocity of books for years. Now, more so.

This is a major change and now we all have to adjust for it. My adjustments will be working harder in 2018 to make Amazon a lower percentage of my monthly income.
 

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TobiasRoote said:
We've (the Indy author sector) become more concerned with manipulation of the market, rather than plain marketing.

And you wonder why the thing breaks !!!
Because the hard truth is 99% of self-publishers can't make a living without the myriad of tactics being employed... from simply working themselves to death, to investing absurd amounts of money into marketing and production, to using grey and black hat tactics. It used to be writing a book in itself was an accomplishment... now if you aren't writing a book a day you're half-assing it.

No one wants to admit that none of this is sustainable due to saturation and commodification. The unreliability of the zon platform and irrational algo behavior is simply another data point that this industry is buckling under its own weight.

The come-to-Jesus moment isn't going to happen though until KU hits 35c (or until page reads drop another 30%) and marketing / visibility costs climb even higher. That's when people will finally acknowledge that this has become a gong show.
 

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Modi Gliani said:
How about the strategy of writing books that intelligent people want to read, instead of marketing to sell crap to people who think crap is wonderful?
Writing books that people want to read is the prerequisite for a sustainable book business. So it goes without saying.
 

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You have to hate it when it happens. It's that slow response and helplessness at the time that bugs me - you're left stranded and if it's fixed a few days or weeks later when the damage to the investment in terms or money, time, energy and emotion has already happened. I also struggle when explanations for such disappearance aren't given when asked for.

 

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TobiasRoote said:
I agree it's silly, but it's what people on KBoards are constantly saying. The system is broken or Amazon is [deliberately] 'breaking my run for the top'
The problem is when someone shouts foul because everyone else is doing the same and the system says STOP! while it checks things out (probably by a human being several hours, days down the line).

Are all the product groups in Amazon having this conversation? or just the authors?
What's absurd about this situation is that KU books don't get hit anywhere near (if at all) the way non-KU books do. There are so many KU books outright botting the system and they go on forever without zon taking action.

But someone gets a bookbub, which is beyond easy for zon to check to identify the source of the spike, and zon says "STOP! TIME OUT!"

I agree with you that this is all a function of how the algo is programmed, but I also think the algo is constructed such that it uses a sledgehammer for non-KU books and a feather for KU books. One gets smashed over the head while the other gets the bottom of their feet tickled.
 

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TobiasRoote said:
It's a 'game' and you're all playing it, but the system knows you are doing it so tries to put checks and balances in place.
There's no evidence this happens as a counterbalance to authors promoting their books. It's possible Amazon has simply installed a mechanism that verifies all newcomers to the Top 100 Paid and Free in order to deny high-profile visibility to scammers, in response to recent complaints in which scammers had hit the Top 100s.

Amazon has every reason to love and embrace promotions, IMO, and no real reason to frown upon them. :)
 
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Seneca42 said:
What's absurd about this situation is that KU books don't get hit anywhere near (if at all) the way non-KU books do. There are so many KU books outright botting the system and they go on forever without zon taking action.

But someone gets a bookbub, which is beyond easy for zon to check to identify the source of the spike, and zon says "STOP! TIME OUT!"

I agree with you that this is all a function of how the algo is programmed, but I also think the algo is constructed such that it uses a sledgehammer for non-KU books and a feather for KU books. One gets smashed over the head while the other gets the bottom of their feet tickled.
Yes, it's evident that the Cinderella (KU) is treated much more leniently than the rest. However, the next quote explains the system perfectly.

Elizabeth Ann West said:
Amazon doesn't want sales spikes. They've punished the sudden upward velocity of books for years. Now, more so.
and yet authors still try to 'spike' the system instead of accepting a more natural progressive growth of sales on the back of actual popularity of the book and organic take-up. Which I believe would not warrant any reaction at all by Amazon's 'spike bots'
 

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Seneca42 said:
Maybe the programmers have factored in BB :p

But you should still keep going for a BB. 1) Everyone who gets ranked stripped gets their rank back (or most do anyway). 2) It only seems to happen on zon US. 3) You'll still make a ton of money and get a ton of readers, so it's still a no-brainer.

And if you go 99c instead of free, you have nothing to worry about at all.
Not true. Our VEIL KNIGHTS series promo got rank stripped on a 99c BB promo just a few weeks back.
 
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Mylius Fox said:
It's possible Amazon has simply installed a mechanism that verifies all newcomers to the Top 100 Paid and Free in order to deny high-profile visibility to scammers, in response to recent complaints in which scammers had hit the Top 100s.
Yes, I think I pretty much said the same thing
 
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