What happened to Amazon?!

This post is my refection on how the e-book market has been changing, based on my own experiences and those of my fellow authors—both new and established.

Warning: I’m going to be straight with you.

IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE!

It’s no surprise that the book market has become saturated with new titles within the last few years. It seems like writing has become a contagious disease and the act of self-publishing is the antidote. Now, not only do I have to compete with the big guys—by big guys, I mean traditionally published authors with a full support staff: editors, designers, public relations, advertising, extended distribution, street teams, Goodreads groups, dedicated bloggers and other authors in the company, who all show a preference to sharing each other within their imprint, but I have to stand up against a throng of my fellow indies just to maintain my fan base.

Beautiful Lady With Abyssinian Cat

WORD OF MOUTH IS BEST

I’ll admit, word of mouth seems to be by far the strongest way to have your book spread like wild fire. Need I remind you of the Twilight and Fifty Shades phenomenon? I have much love for the peeps who share my books with their friends, family and fans. It’s like a big pat on the back that reminds you, when you’re feeling less than inspired by the changes in the book world, that some people really do enjoy your writing and find it worthy of sharing with the rest of the world. Because, let’s air this truth now, it’s clear the market is changing.

As of February 2015, there were over 3.2 million e-books on Amazon. What’s this mean to me, you might be wondering? The size of the market has easily tripled since I entered the publishing world, which—let’s face it—on the grand scheme of things wasn’t very long ago! This also means that I may potentially have to divide my profits by three, if all of those books are being competitively marketed. And trust me, I’ve felt the cut on Amazon where I used to focus my efforts and drive the majority of my sales. My only saving grace seems to be that many of these new authors in my genre got into the game much too late to make any real market impact. Other than that reality, all I can really do is keep writing and publishing with my fingers crossed.

WHY REVIEWS ARE IMPORTANT050115_0445_Whathappene2.jpg

This brings me to the matter of reviews. “Oh boy,” you’re thinking. “Here we go again.” But this needs said. Not only is this next bit important to me, but to every fan out there who has a hope of reading their favourite authors in the future.

When a reader looks at a book on Amazon, that person makes his or her decision based on the cover, blurb, rating and reviews available within a matter of minutes, and sometimes seconds, thanks to the one-click option. When they’re deciding between two books that appear to be of equal quality and content, do you think they’re going to pick up the book with a couple hundred reviews or the one with twenty? What would you do in that situation? Come on now, be honest. You’d pick up the book with more reviews. I know, it’s bad, I used to do that too. It doesn’t mean we’re picking up the better story, just that we’re allowing other readers to decide for us. It’s a crying shame, is what it is.

Here’s the truth, people. I’ve enjoyed books with less than fantastic ratings and I’ve enjoyed books with fewer than twenty reviews. You might be taking a leap of faith by purchasing those stories, but isn’t that kind of what you’re doing every time you take a chance on any book written by any author? Quite frankly, I’d rather leap into a pool of unexpected awesomesauce than leave the party with a sour taste in my mouth because a story wasn’t to me what hundreds or even thousands were saying it would be.

Fact: People purchase books based upon others’ recommendations.

Fact: Reviews equal book sales.

Fact: My new releases are selling, but those readers aren’t leaving feedback.

How frustrating for me!Books And E-book

I know many of you, my friends and fans, have read my books. The truth is, though, I have very few reviews posted on Amazon/Barnes and Noble. On Goodreads, where ratings are a simple click of the button, I have better standing, but even those numbers have seemed to hit a standstill lately. That leaves me wondering. What do I have to do to get a reader to leave a review?! Seriously, please tell me! You have no idea what reviews mean to an indie author. How’s about I tell you.

MY TAKE ON REVIEWS

People who absolutely love a book so much they might die if they don’t share the news, have to leave a review. Love those people. Every time I get a review like that, I have a good, smiley day. At the other end of the spectrum are those readers who absolutely detest your story, your message and your delivery. Those people always manage to get their say as well, and they don’t leave their personal triggers out of the mix. That’s always going to be all you—the author’s fault—for hitting that point without warning the reader in the synopsis, in the front matter, on the front cover for God’s sake.

If your reader is having a bad day, that often becomes your problem when they leave their one star—DNF—wish there was a no star option, because that’s what this book really deserves, even though I haven’t read past the free preview I downloaded on Amazon. Really? You feel that strongly about a piece of romantic fiction? Unfortunately, I see this on Goodreads all too often. Even when it’s another author taking the hit, I feel it in the gut. This, my friends, is why every author needs a whole whack of supportive guys and gals who read, review and share the love of his or her work. There are actually readers out there who seem to thrive on writing the most horrific reviews that stab at an author’s pride, joy and voice, tearing them from their already rocky existence in the author world. Okay, I think I’ve already driven home the point about nasty reviews. Lol.

Back to the numbers’ game. For authors with fewer than one hundred reviews on a book, we are basically allowing these nice and nasty readers to set the stage for all future purchases. We’re allowing them to voice their individual opinions and basically decide for all future readers whether a book is worthy of purchase or not. What I’m saying is, the more the merrier. Especially with Amazon’s latest sales tactics (paid advertising) of thrusting their select bestsellers on you, who’s deciding what we read next?!

As luck will have it, there are people like me who always read critical reviews with caution and knock four or five-ish FIVE STAR reviews off the top of every book on account of close friends or family. I know I’m being unfair to some, because there will be writers out there—like me—where no immediate family has left reviews on their work. And while my local friends all support me by buying and reading my books and sharing important news, as you can imagine, the nostalgic sense of knowing a published author fades rather quickly, no matter how much fun it was the first time around. Now that I have six books out, I couldn’t possibly expect EVERYONE to buy and read them ALL. But I will take this opportunity to give a special thanks to those who have hung around for the long haul.

blonde journalist with typewriter

Please, if you’ve read my book, review it!

I’m saying this not only for myself but for all authors. We’re not asking for your last born child. We’re not asking you to write an elaborate blog post about what you love and hate about us and our books. All we’re asking is that you, the reader, form as little as one sentence to describe what the book made you feel. Does that sound difficult? I hope not! ❤

READERS SAVE AUTHORS!

Did you know “Loved it.” is now an acceptable review on Amazon? You don’t even have to leave any text on your Barnes and Noble review, and you can even remain anonymous! All you have to do is log in to your Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Goodreads account, locate the book by author name, click a star rating and tap a few keys on your keyboard in the review box. It’s as simple as writing a status update on Facebook.

 

Random Acts of Kindnesssummer holidays, love, travel, tourism, relationship and dating

Please, if you’ve enjoyed any one of my stories, take two minutes of your time to leave a review. Go on, I’ll wait here. No, really, it’s that easy. You can be jointly responsible for my success, and help me reach my goals, or you can close this window and act like you never read these words. No matter what you decide today, I thank you for taking the time to read my post.

If you’re new to my blog and have become curious to read a piece of my work, I have a steamy little book for free on all distribution channels. –>> Just click that book right over there and pick up your free copy today!

If you’ve already enjoyed one of my books in the past and simply cannot afford to purchase another one, I’d be happy to provide a kindle copy to you in exchange for an honest review of the book you’ve already read.

As always, feel free to contact me on any of my social media sites about anything! I’ve been known to be a good listener from time to time and I’m happy to help you any way that I can. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your day. Until next time!

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15 comments

  1. While there are one or two points here, chiefly regarding the level of opportunity still available, I don’t agree with, I absolutely agree with everything said about reviews. Reviews are the lifeblood of indies. I wonder if your readers know that traditionally-published authors have hundreds of reviews on release day because their publishers send out hundreds of advance copies of the book to reviewers whose first priority is those authors? Or that as an indie you face an uphill battle in even getting views of your book, because the advertising you have available, if your pockets are deep enough, won’t accept your book until it has a certain number of reviews?

    My bet is that hundreds of excellent writers and storytellers have no hope of discovery because even the tools available to some indies aren’t available to them for financial reasons. I hope your readers will take your words to heart and begin to leave reviews, preferably great reviews…but every review helps.

    Good post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Jamie. As I said, this is from my own limited experience and those of my close author friends. The majority of my results are derived from the romance genre. My opinion. I can’t speak for any other genre with any confidence. I’d be interested to hear if indies in other genres are taking a hit half as hard as the romance/erotica authors have. There has been an obvious (like, an elephant has stepped into the room) change for me and my close author friends, who have established small fan bases and experienced success in recent years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m one of the ones you mentioned that have come along recently (since January of last year), and in the romance genre I’ve garnered too few fans to support me at this time. However, I’ve also written thrillers, and I agree, the genres are different. Amazon changed the game significantly when they introduced Kindle Unlimited and only offered it to books in the KDP Select program. I’ve had to adapt to that to stay afloat, as I’ve had no success at all on other platforms.

        I was greatly encouraged this week, though, when one of the thrillers, on sale with a countdown deal, went to #9 in the Kindle best-seller list. That kind of result, though rare (for me anyway) makes me believe that there’s still opportunity out there.

        I’ve seen countless authors state their royalties have gone down as their sales-to-borrows within the KU program went to a 25/75 split in favor of borrows. That hasn’t been the case for my thrillers, and I can’t account for the difference, or for the sudden popularity of a book that’s almost a year old.

        However, just as the entire industry has had to adapt to the gorilla in the room or die, that’s what I intend to do. I’d far rather be writing than working for someone else. 🙂 I think if we support each other as indies, we’ll manage to do fairly well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely. As an indie, I’m forever and always adapting. Exclusivity with Amazon, however, would have been my biggest mistake and quite possibly my kiss of death.

        Amazon had been the bread winner, as far as my authorship goes, for a good two years. Then KU happened and I instantly saw the results (negatively). The change literally happened over night. I went from selling a healthy amount of books every day to a handful of total sales in a month. Yeah, I panicked and wrote a lot of rants that I never intend to publish, but still I refused to put all my eggs in Amazon’s basket. I’d rather stop publishing than be unhappily strong-armed by Amazon.

        I’m so glad I stuck it out with my other distributors. Although my Amazon rank has tanked since I quit promoting those links, a sudden Barnes and Noble success with my newest release boosted me into bestseller status. Over two months later, I’m still selling over 20 times more books on Barnes and Noble than on Amazon. I continue to bask in my unexpected and unexplained success, with Barnes and Noble stealing the top spot and iBooks not far behind in second place. To Amazon, I’ve said “It’s been fun.” I’m making more money at Barnes and Noble now than I ever have with Amazon, and I’m not wasting hours upon hours tweeting and retweeting and SHOUTING “buy my book!” to the world.

        I’m happy to hear your sale worked out, though. The program is surely going to be great for thousands of authors. I won’t be one of them. I’m not going to get on Amazon’s exclusivity bus after they’ve thrown me under it with their new scare tactics. Congrats on your countdown success. Make sure to capture a screenshot of your book when it’s sitting next to other top sellers. 🙂 That’s always a nice pick-me-up in between books.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Christa, you are up for a read and review. I’ve been remiss. I’ll let you know what I read. I seem to remember having one of your books in the close to 4000 books on my Kindle! Yes, technology has changed it for us. I completely understand the frustration. I’ve read some terrific books and can’t understand why so few review. I think we’ll herd animals. It’s a few of the readers that venture off and discover new gems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a reader I would like to know when it became my job to sell your books. If you self-published without adequate advertising dollars, that’s just a terrible business decision. Adding your product to an already saturated market – another bad business decision. It’s quite presumptuous to assume readers will pick up the slack and save you now.

    I was under the impression the reviews I leave are used by readers to gain insight into the book and assist them in deciding what to purchase. I’m under no obligation to review any book and I certainly am not about to spend my time and energy selling your books for you. I buy the books I want to read, read in my own time, and review if I feel I have a contribution that will assist other readers. I paid for the book – I don’t owe the author anything.

    Like

  4. I was one of the romance authors doing pretty well at the beginning to middle of last year with Amazon. Then, KU came out, and my sales dived 70% – and have yet to recover. I put my books in, sales/borrows increased a little for one month, then they were right back where they were. I do a decent amount on B&N and iBooks, etc. but unfortunately, Amazon is ‘where it’s at” for a lot of readers. It should NOT be the job of readers to review, but Amazon has honestly made it that way because reviews are important in the algorithms. Amazon is more likely to promote a book with hundreds of reviews over a book with 20, or 50. No reviews means your book is hard to find and even harder to get noticed.

    Not everyone can afford marketing, and thing is, even if you pay for ads on FB, or pay for your book to be seen on sites, places have made it so you feel as if you’re wasting money because you see no results. It’s not just a matter of pushing money at promoting because I’ve paid money to market, to promote, and it barely does anything. And if anyone compares Indie authors to Traditional authors, they are trying to compare two very different things – marketing as an Indie is completely different than having someone at a company market for you, and traditional publishers can get their books into places not available to a person who publishes their own.

    I do ask kindly at the end of my books for someone to leave a review, but that’s it. They will or they won’t, but what really matters in the end is that they’re my fan and stick with me! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. John Green, Kathryn Stockett, Karen Russell, Donna Tartt, Alissa Nutting, debut author Anthony Doerr, Elizabeth Donohue, the list goes on and on. Oh, and even EL James, once she stopped reading Konrath’s personal rant/vendetta against the “legacy” publishers (“But with self-publishing you can own your book forever, and forever is a very long time”; yeah, Joe, it’s a frigging eternity if no one will ever see the book I “own” anymore than they would if I kept it in my desk drawer!) and jumped onto the traditional game–and James made 95 million dollars in the process.

    What do these authors have in common beside the fact that they are traditionally published? They wrote amazingly solid, amazingly entertaining books that are amazingly edited, amazingly reviewed and marketed, and amazingly easy to purchase. (Well, not necessarily EL James, perhaps, but that’s another subject…lol).

    So, from a readers’ perspective, we are not going to slog through the 3.2 million self-published books to find the ever-elusive “pearl” when the traditional publishers have handed us a full “jewelry box” with plenty enough choices as it is.

    The irony: as the glut and sludge of the self-pubbed authors bogs down the e-book system with detective novels that peter out on page ten, housewives’ wet dreams, and memoirs of cats and dogs, the readers gravitate more and more toward the traditional publishers (and are willing to pay for the books to get the “services” of editing and vetting a great read) for their reading fix.

    I think there is a lot of candor in Christa’s blog post. It’s similar to Delilah Dawson’s recent skewering of the self-promotion game on her blog, the one that went viral last month. Christa’s and Delilah’s “insider” perspectives–and honesty–are refreshing. Thank you. Wayne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, Wayne. Thank you for laying it out there. I never intended for this post to go any farther than my blog followers and maybe, hopefully, catch a fan or two’s attention from one of my social media accounts. The response has been astounding. I thank you for yours. I’ve remained very active in the online author/reader community and I simply hoped to enlighten a few curious readers who didn’t understand what is happening to self-published authors. Many of them already review every book they read, understanding how important it is to authors, both independent and traditional.

      I understand why the traditional route is so appealing to most and would never discount that as an option, but that wasn’t what I was here to talk about today. I only wrote these words because I felt like Amazon put my non-exclusive books in the desk drawer. For my sake, I hope I can fight my way back out of the sludge, as you say. 😉 Thanks again for your time.

      Like

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