I was updated my Amazon page and noticed this new banner:
Which took me to the following popup:
If my math is right, basically if you spend $60 on bucks, you get $3 back to buy more books. Not a great deal, but it’s something, like a loyalty program.
If I’m speculating, here are some reasons they might be doing this:
- #booktok exploded so much, big publishing companies are talking about going straight through tiktok with a new book marketing program, which will probably be rough on Amazon
- ironically (I think), #booktok also caused a storm when tiktokers taught each other to buy and refund books so they can read for free; and now they’re pissed their favorite piracy site has been taken down. It made such a fuss Amazon actually changed the refund policy in authors’ favor, which is a big deal.
- Twitter (Musk) is talking about pulling Twitter off iphones, and even creating his own smartphone. Iphones have had monopoly over smart phone apps for years, taking huge fees. Amazon has had the same kind of power over books and publishing. I wouldn’t be surprised is Bezos is worried about something else replacing him soon, and he wants to make sure readers keep shopping for books on Amazon.
More book publishing and Amazon changes…
I just finished my new course, the 21 Day Bestselling Author Platform (early bird discount), and I’m already finding out things that just changed which I may have gotten wrong. So I made this list and am sharing here, because everybody deserves to know what’s going on and it’s hard to keep up.
1. adding 10 categories… it’s been the case that you could secretly ask for up to 10 categories, but they changed that recently, down to 3 or 4 I think (still more than the default 2 listed on the product page).
2. keywords… I heard recently that they *might* be phasing out keywords altogether also, which makes sense to me, so instead of the 10 optional keyword boxes they may soon have something else. Probably they’ll focus more on onpage metrics, so it’s even more important to get your title, subtitle and blurb right (but they may also scan all the reviews, and probably also look into the book content itself for keywords, which gets tricky for fiction, so it *might* make sense to have your blurb or a short teaser with keywords inside the book as well (you can feature a few of your best reviews that hit all the keywords early in your book, which is probably smart anyway.)
3. amazon pages… they recently added “A+ content” which in my opinion will make everyone’s amazon page look like MySpace, but it’s got options to add images and stuff. I think you could probably edit the title/metadata of your images for a small SEO boost, and this might also work with images you submit in a review (you can’t really review your own books, though I have managed to post video reviews… you should probably get someone else to help out with that.)
4. amazon reviews… these move around a lot, usually your worst reviews float to the top because they’re upvoted. I saw recently Amazon may be changing its algorithm to mix this up a bit (to having most recent as the default I think). This stuff is hard to keep track of because Amazon routinely tests things out in small batches, so not everybody notices the same things.
5. amazon ads and linktracking… amazon recently added a way to “tag” links so you can track clicks and follow through, even when advertising off amazon. That’s really handy for keeping track of which promotions actually converted to sales. Also in one of my videos, I showed you how to set up a bunch of ads and focused mainly on targeting competitor products (other books in my genre) but the default sponsored products – automatic targeting actually is doing better. I’ll have an update on that stuff once I do the case studies.
6. bestseller rankings… at the beginning of the year I posted an unpopular article about “amazon’s war on indie authors” because a lot of people were finding their book promotions and sales weren’t affecting their sales rank as much. This has happened again several times this year but doesn’t seem to be a full-time thing yet. My thoughts were that it’s very possible pressure from the big publishers, and possibly from readers, made Amazon want to “clean up” or “curate” their bestsellers lists, similar to the New York Times bestseller list – in that sales alone aren’t the only metric of rank. This would be a serious disadvantage to indie authors, and it might not happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re at least testing out some options and it could happen.
Five Four Publishers
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a big antitrust lawsuit against Amazon and the 5 big publishers, and we got a bunch of juicy details: including that 1/2 of traditionally published titles actually sell less than 12 copies, and that 90% percent of titles sell fewer than 2,000 units.
I already knew that most authors don’t make any money, or can afford to go full-time, but this was still surprising. The lawsuit stalled out but just a few days ago, they started it up again, so here are more details. A few months ago the suit was dismissed for lack of evidence, but they’re back with some amendments. Basically, it’s a class action lawsuit against Amazon and the big 5 for price gouging (keeping the price of ebooks artificially inflated).
If I’m reading it right, the same group sued Apple in 2011 for the same thing. And I feel like it’s very possible I’m confused and this is a separate/different issue from the big merge case I mentioned earlier. Anyway you can read more about it here.
* From what I can tell, one lawsuit is class action against Amazon et al for price gouging; the other is a move by the US Justice Department to block the 2.2 billion acquisition of Simon & Schuster, to Penguin, because that would be an even bigger-than-current monopoly (more details here).
8. Amazon is an ads company
The other bit of news that had authors buzzing, is that (allegedly) amazon makes more off authors paying for ads, than it does off actual book sales (here’s the link).
Top sellers have to pay about 20% of their revenue straight back into ads. This isn’t a huge surprise, organic visibility is hugely down on Facebook and even Google too. Everywhere has become a “pay to play” option and it sucks when one platform controls everything, which is why the lawsuit mentioned above matters.
I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised to see Amazon backtrack on a few things after enough author outrage, so while I’m generally not optimistic about the power of indie authors, it shows we can sometimes make a difference.
9. Kindle Vella
This is old news now, but Amazon has a serialized reading experience called Kindle Vella, which is another way to reach readers. Mostly I think they’re just trying to cannibalize competition, as there hasn’t been much real growth, though some of my friends have made good money. You might think readers just don’t want serialized reads, but there’s actually a few reading apps making millions, mostly for steamy stuff.
10. AI everything
I talked about AI art for book cover design, and since then (in only a few months!) there’s been a ton of news. Despite the outrage from artists, very big companies are moving in and developing their own tools, including websites like DeviantArt. There are new photoshop plugins, Microsoft is partnering with Dalle2, Google and Facebook are both making a text-to-video machine, and really just too much to catch up on. But the artwork has improved exponentially in just a few months.
People have been asking “what if they come for YOU!” and I think it’s likely, with GPT4 (when it releases) that it’ll be much better than people expect. Amazon recently announced they’re laying off 10,000 employees and hiring robots instead; including a tool to screen resume applicants so they don’t need hiring recruiters, and also some real ones to work in the factories. Some coder is suing a tool that promises to write code; but many coding and graphic design tools are already using versions of stable diffusion or other things to automatically write or design things for you within their tools.
For people who make a living offering these services, it’s scary. For everyone else, it means more control, better output, and cheaper prices. For example, AI text-to-voice is already nearly good enough to produce audiobooks, so audiobook narrators are freaking out when authors opt for a much cheaper service, and this will go way up when the voices are as good or better, for 1/10th of the price.
Recently I told a friend “It’s not that hard to succeed online, you just have to put out the most content!” and then I felt a little sick, as I realized how horrible it is to be cranking out crappy content just to survive. Cheap content could always be outsourced, now the quality has gone up and the cost or effort has gone down. So you’ll be able to make better stuff for less money, but so will everybody else… so any skills you’ve spent years developing will probably be meaningless soon, and yes this might include writing books!
I know that’s not very positive, but if you don’t know these things are happening, you’re already falling behind (luckily, most people are ignoring it and will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, which gives you some time to get ahead…)
I’m actually slightly optimistic that AI will be used for good; it’s already allowing for new medical cures and cheaper drugs. Maybe it’ll save humanity from itself before it’s too late; by giving access to more people, so instead of the richest people hiring the most skilled workers to achieve their nefarious plans, regular people can have a bigger impact and the playing field to everything will be lowered.
More big amazon kdp changes!
They’re really shaking things up over at Amazon… and everywhere else. So here’s a few more things we got that weren’t expecting.
11. goodbye amazon author central
Amazon central has always been (another) way to claim books and edit information; and it allowed you to slightly customize your amazon author page – for example adding a blog to show latest posts. But that’s gone now. Instead we have a clean, simple landing page. It’s *possible* these pages are without ads and distractions, and some people seem to like it. It makes sense for Amazon to remove outbound links and keep people shopping, but it sucks a little to be stripped of personality or an easy way to attract readers to your blog.
12. you can retire products in KDP
This one is a actually great; probably half my “book projects” on KDP are old mistakes that are uneditable, failed launched or removed products. We can finally archive these to get rid of them on our dashboard. This feels like something they should have fixed 10 years ago but just never cared enough to take action.
13. goodbye USA today bestseller lists
Apparently it was basically run by one person and didn’t make any money; plus it was pretty easy to game the system and “earn” your letters with a group-promo boxset. I understand why they cut it. I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Book recommendations in general
I feel like, everybody is firing all their people, getting rid of messy old structures that don’t work, and focusing on the bottom line. Smarter AI driven recommendations will replace “author-selected + customer support assisted” categories and keywords; limits of categories will help keep genre lists clean with books that actually belong there; it will get harder to get more visibility for your book but it will be easier for readers to find and buy books they’ll actually enjoy.
This is, however, happening at the same time as most big companies are doing a desperate cash grab for advertising (less organic visibility for authors… unless they can afford to pay for it).
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.