According to some recent online posts, Amazon is changing the way it will be rating reviews.
“The new system will give more weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified Amazon purchasers and those that more customers vote up as being helpful.”
As an author, I find this promising. Recently I have revised three of my backlist titles. Some of those earlier reviews from the original books are less than stellar. I’d like to see new readers overwhelm the airwaves with positive raves about my revised and updated editions. And I certainly wouldn’t mind if Amazon removed some of those low-rated earlier posts that say my writing should have been better edited. Because those reviewers are right. My earlier editions did need more work, which I can only now see from the perspective of 15 years later.
Permed to Death, book one in my Bad Hair Day series, is a prime example. It’s full of exclamation marks and other new author mistakes. Open Road Media has put this title for sale at $1.99 this month only. This is great since it’ll attract new readers to my series. But I hope they keep in mind this is my first mystery and understand that my writing has steadily improved over the years. Some kind reviewers, who enjoyed the story, have remarked that it’s the first in the series and should be judged that way. Earlier reviewers haven’t been so accommodating. Hence my eagerness to produce revised and updated editions.
I need reviews for these new Author’s Editions so they can supersede the earlier ones. If you have read Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, or Body Wave in their revised formats, please post a customer review at Amazon, and also at Goodreads or BN if you go to those sites. These books are all on sale now for $3.99.
You can also go to an author’s book pages on Amazon and click on Has This Review Been Helpful to You? Click Yes if you feel it’s a decent review or No if it bashes the book and you don’t agree. Some low ratings may be justified but others are unusually cruel, like one star reviews that say, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read,” or “Author needs work” or “Painful to read.” Be fair. If you think the writeup applies, click yes. If not, click no. And is this true of newer editions? We’re not asking for all good reviews, only fair ones.
Please consider leaving a review for any of my new titles you pick up. Your post might encourage someone else to buy my book. And the more books that sell from the frontlist, the more the publisher will be inclined to acquire the sequel.
You count as a reader, now more than ever before in the publishing industry. Use your power to help your favorite authors.
Empowering Authors with Amazon Independent Publishing Novelists, Inc. Conference Day 2, St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014
Several representatives from Amazon Independent Publishing spoke at the Novelists, Inc. Conference. They said they’ve seen consistent growth in print and Kindle books over the past few years. The Kindle growth curve exceeds print. This is a global trend as well. The adaptation to digital, when it occurs, happens fast across the world. The percentage of books sold online compared to brick-and-mortar stores is rising steadily.
Digital creates discovery through dedicated e-book readers. Kindle owners buy four times more books than before they owned one. “What’s old is new again.” Digital creates incremental demand. We release older titles, and Kindle sales of all our books increase along with print editions. In 2013, there was 90% device ownership in the U.S. with 32% of these being e-readers and 42% being tablets.
At a bookstore, you have to worry about how your book is placed and where customers can find it on the shelf. Online, you’re concerned with how customers hear about and find your books. How can your book stand out against other content? Books have to compete against all other entertainment products and pricing. So how can we grow the mind-share of people who read books?
What’s next? Global marketplaces are another focus. So are opening Kindle stores based on local experience. Reading experiences such as Kindle Voyager and Kindle reading apps. To drive discovery, we have Amazon Author Central, Goodreads, Kindle Daily Deal, and Kindle Countdown Deal.
The Author Experience Ease-of-use with KDP, Createspace, and Audible
Better tools with a pricing tool and now a Kids Book Creator
Reimagined content through Kindle Worlds and Kindle First Day One
Author lifestyle support with Kindle Scout, WriteOn, APub, indie platforms
The Customer Experience New models such as Kindle Unlimited
Wider functionality such as #AmazonCart
Global and Local
KDP Benefits are that it’s easy to enroll, fast to market, global reach. Author maintains control, retains full rights, keeps up to 70% royalty. You can use KDP to publish in territories where you have the rights. The new reporting dashboard launched in February. An order is different from a sale that has cleared the bank. You can retrieve up to 90 days of data. The pricing tool suggests how much you should price your book based on various data.
Pre-order means you can promote your book up to 90 days before the launch. This helps to build sales rank. You should put a link to the next book in your series at the back of the book if possible. 10 days before, you must present the final file. There is a three day block out period prior to launch where you can’t make any further changes.
Series Promotion Improved search and browse feature.
Be sure to put your info in the metadata.
New series landing pages for the whole series so you can see your books in order.
The next in series will appear as a buy button on devices at the book’s end.
KDP Select means you can attain higher royalties, reach new audiences, participate in special promotions. This includes the Kindle Lending Library, Kindle Countdown Deal, Kindle Unlimited. KDP books do hit the bestseller lists. Authors get paid from a global fund and can earn All-Star bonuses.
Kindle Daily Deal leads to 3000 times more sales. There’s a lasting effect. One day later, there is 110 times sales. At seven days, it’s 18 times sales. At fourteen days, it’s 5 times more sales, and at thirty days, it is 4 times more sales.
On the Kindle Countdown Deal, you get up to seven promo days. The book must be at least one dollar off the list price. There’s a countdown clock on your Amazon book page. Your book is also listed on the KCD landing page and it’s based on ranking where your book appears.
Kindle Unlimited costs consumers $9.99 per month, and this includes audio books. The Kindle Matchbook program means if you buy the new print book, you can buy the Kindle book for $2.99 or less.
Createspace offers global reach, 24/7 customer service, Kindle conversion, industry-leading royalties, free Cover Creator tool, forums, blogs, articles and videos as publishing resources. Professional services of editors and designers are available if needed. Your share of the list price: Createspace 80%; Amazon 60%; Expanded Distribution 40%–all minus a manufacturing fee.
How to Maximize your Success: Use Metadata. This can consist of keywords in terms of genres and categories that are visible at the bottom of the Kindle detail page. This metadata should be consistent across all locales.
Your Amazon Author Central page includes a book list with cover images, author photo, bio, Twitter and blog feed, videos that you upload. Readers will also see recommendations for similar authors. You can get your sales data and ranking on Author Central. Make sure your books are on Goodreads and you have an active presence there.
How to Get Reviews? Offer promotions such as permafree, KCD, etc. Publish in multiple formats, i.e. print, e-book, audio.
Author Platform: Keep up with Goodreads, Amazon Author Central, social media, email lists. Consult with other authors on ways to attract readers.
Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.
Amazon provides opportunities for authors to have input on their book pages through Amazon Author Central. Watch out that this opportunity doesn’t bite you.
Recently, a reader emailed to say that when she went to order one of my earlier mysteries, two author names showed on the page. I should notify Amazon that the other person wasn’t me.
Actually, I replied, I am Nancy Cane. That’s the pseudonym I’d used for my earlier romance novels. However, this name does not belong on my mystery titles.
I went to the URL the reader had sent me, and sure enough, when you scrolled down, both Nancy Cane and Nancy J. Cohen were listed under Authors.
Accessing my account at Amazon Author Central, I clicked on Books, selected this title, and requested a correction. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because each title has several editions. I had to request a correction on each edition by filling out a form.
All was fine until I got a response from Amazon that they’d made the corrections I had requested, totally removed my Nancy Cane author page and merged it into my Nancy J. Cohen author page. However, this author page had a TOTALLY DIFFERENT URL and was missing 4 of my videos, my 400+ Likes, my events, plus it had an outdated bio.
Panic set in. I spoke to a rep on the phone who said he’d notify the technicians to see if they can restore my original page. This can take 3 to 5 days, if they ever respond. I hope they fire the guy who misread my corrections and totally screwed things up.
If they can’t restore it, I have to go around to my numerous sites, including any self-published works on Amazon, and change the URL. I’ll also have to campaign to readers like yourselves to Like my page again, add in all my lost videos and events, etc. Let’s hope they can restore the original. What they can’t restore in my faith in them. I don’t dare request any more changes through Author Central or they might mess up again.
When you finish reading a book, do you write a brief review and post it online? If your answer is negative, why not? Do you feel you have nothing to say? Are you afraid your opinion won’t count? Is it too much bother?
Reader reviews count a great deal to potential book buyers. When you’re thinking of ordering a book, do you go to the virtual bookstore and read customer reviews? I know I do. It’s possible that the more customer reviews on an Amazon page, the more chances of Amazon’s algorithms picking up the title and including it in their promotion, “If you like this book, you might like…” This recommendation is of tremendous help to authors. So are five star reviews. But be honest in your opinion and assign however many stars you feel is appropriate. Just please don’t trash someone’s work. If you don’t like the book, leave off your opinion. Nothing hurts worse than seeing someone give my book one star and condemning it. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea and another reader will love it.
So how do you write a review? Start out with a blurb about the story. Pretend you are summarizing the tale for a friend, but omit any critical plot points that may act as spoilers. Then mention what you liked about the book. The exquisite setting details? The engaging characters? The non-stop action, or the quirky sidekick? Surely you can find something good to say. End your review if you can with a quotable line encapsulating your opinion. This may range from “A charming historical mystery that will sweep you away to the Victorian era” to “Starships, space battles, and snarky sidekicks…what’s not to like about this action-packed sci-fi adventure?”
Since the New Year is upon us, hereby resolve to start writing reader reviews and posting them online to support your favorite authors. Where to put them? Here are several sites where your opinion matters.
Go to the book’s page. Scroll down to where is says Most Helpful Customer Reviews. Scroll down some more until it says Write a Customer Review. Then click there and follow the directions. You’ll need to be signed into your account. Preview and Publish your review as the final steps.
Barnes and Noble is often overlooked, but with so many NOOK owners, this online bookstore still carries weight. On a book’s page, scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews. Then fill in your star rating and write your review in the box provided. Click Submit to finish. Again, you’ll probably need to be signed into your account first.
Here’s my author site on B&N. This online bookstore isn’t as author friendly as Amazon so it’s harder for us to make changes, like eliminating books under my name that don’t belong there. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nancy-j.-cohen
Goodreads is a popular reader site where readers review books they’ve read, file these reviews on virtual bookshelves and create genre lists. Readers participate in group discussions, offering each other recommendations. A good review here really helps, and so does a recommendation in any of the groups! You can also look for book giveaways under Explore to get a taste of new releases. It’s easy to register for a free account. Then you just go to My Books, click on Add Books, and type in the book title. The book should pop up. Click on it and give it a star rating. Then click on Edit my Review and write in your review, or cut and paste it from your home computer. Be my friend at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen
Here’s another site for you to post reviews and keep track of your reads. I need to update my bookshelf here. Librarians frequent this site. Find me on Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/home/NancyJCohen. And, it’s another place for authors to offer giveaways of upcoming new releases.
Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with each place. Once I get caught up, though, I can just copy and paste my book review to each site once I finish reading a title.
Your opinion as a reader truly counts now more than ever, with professional reviews almost impossible for authors to get on their own, reviewers swamped with hundreds of titles, and the days of bookstore browsing severely diminished. Word of mouth is critical, and this is where you come in. Offering positive reviews and recommendations online of books you’ve read is one of the best forms of support you can do for authors. Consider yourselves our street team, and get involved.
Are you already doing online reviews, and if so, where?
I have hopped on the Kindle train, become Kindle-ized, joined the Kindle generation. In simpler terms, I got my first Kindle as an advance birthday gift (the big day is Thanksgiving if you’d like to send me a card).
It’s the 3G Kindle model for $189. I got a thrill opening the box and finally holding the e-reader device in my eager hands. It came with a little booklet of instructions and a charging cable. The initial charge took an hour or so, then it was ready to go. I turned it on and followed the directions on registering my account. Then I read the manual on the Kindle itself. It also comes with embedded dictionaries. Instructions are easy and clear. My fingers had to get used to texting on the little buttons but the controls are quick to learn. I like the simple page turn button and the almost instantaneous speed with which it turns pages.
Then I emailed myself, at the address they specified, a pdf file I’d been saving on my computer of a romance novel. Oops, I’d sent it to my regular Kindle email account and got charged 30 cents. Now I read that you’re supposed to email the file as an attachment to your account name at free.kindle.com and put “convert” in the subject line. It’ll convert the file for free into Kindle formatting and download it to your device. I did this with a copy of Silver Serenade, my latest sci fi romance. Voila! It showed up on my Kindle!
I connected the Kindle to my home wireless network and activated my Twitter account. Now I’m ready to buy the list of books I’ve been accumulating on my Wish List. I’ll still read regular print books around the house, but I can’t wait to take my Kindle on a cruise.
The hunt is on again, this time for a cover. Fabric, leather, or canvas? Zippered or slip-in? Light or no light? Since I can read in bed at home with the lamp on, I don’t see the need for a reading light. And I’ll want a case that’s as lightweight as possible that fits in my purse. One reason why I never used my PDA was because the metal case made it too heavy. I’ll need to be able to stick this e-reader in my bag without weighing down my shoulder. The cases at Target are $29.99 and up. Cheaper ones exist online, but do I want to waste my time hunting one down? Oy, more choices.
Macmillan’s current fight with Amazon over e-book business models is a necessary one for the industry. The stakes are high, particularly for Macmillan authors. In a squabble over e-books, Amazon quickly and pre-emptively escalated matters by removing the buy buttons from all Macmillan titles (with some exceptions for scholarly and educational books), in all editions, including all physical book editions. Thousands of authors and titles are affected; hardest and most unfairly hit are authors with new books published by Macmillan that are in their prime sales period.
Yet if Macmillan prevails, the eventual payoff for its authors (and all authors, if a successful result ripples through the industry) is likely to be significant and lasting.
For those of you who may have missed it, here’s the story so far:
Last Thursday, Macmillan CEO John Sargent informed Amazon that beginning in March, it would offer Amazon access to a full range of e-book titles only if Amazon were willing to sell books on an “agency” model that would pay Amazon 30% of e-book proceeds and allow Macmillan to set its own retail price for e-books. (Currently, Amazon buys e-books as a reseller at a discount of 50% off the retail list price and sells at the price it chooses.) Macmillan’s price under its agency model, in many cases, would be higher than the $9.99 ceiling that Amazon has been seeking to impose on the industry.
If Amazon didn’t find the agency model acceptable, Sargent said Macmillan would expand its “windowing” of e-book editions. “Windowing” is the practice of waiting until a particular edition of a new book has been on the market for a while before making cheaper editions available. Publishers have for decades waited until the hardcover sales window has closed before opening the sales window on paperback editions, for example. This helps protect the sales channels for hardcover books. Windowing e-books is similarly believed to help protect a publisher’s sales channels for physical books. The risk with windowing is that some owners of e-book devices are angered that low-priced e-book editions aren’t available as soon as books are released in hardcover form.
This was a bold move by Macmillan. Amazon has a well-deserved reputation for playing hardball. When it doesn’t get its way with publishers, Amazon tends to start removing “buy buttons” from the publisher’s titles. It’s a harsh tactic, by which Amazon uses its dominance of online bookselling to punish publishers who fail to fall in line with Amazon’s business plans. Collateral damage in these scuffles, of course, are authors and readers. Authors lose their access to millions of readers who shop at Amazon; readers find some of their favorite authors’ works unavailable. Generally, the ending is not a good one for the publisher or its authors — Amazon’s hold on the industry, controlling an estimated 75% of online trade book print sales in the U.S., is too strong for a publisher to withstand. The publisher caves, and yet more industry revenues are diverted to Amazon. This isn’t good for those who care about books. Without a healthy ecosystem in publishing, one in which authors and publishers are fairly compensated for their work, the quality and variety of books available to readers will inevitably suffer.
Macmillan’s move is timely because, at the moment, the e-book market is still far smaller than the physical book market, but the e-book market is growing quickly. The longer Macmillan waited, the more difficult the transition.
Amazon didn’t wait for March, when Macmillan’s new policy is slated to go into effect; it decided to hit Macmillan immediately and comprehensively, removing the buy buttons for nearly all Macmillan titles, in all editions. This is a direct attempt to use its clout in the physical book industry to enforce its business model in the e-book industry. In some ways, it was an unusual exercise of power for Amazon. The company has used the tactic of turning off buy buttons on several occasions before, but, with major publishers it’s usually selective, and doesn’t turn out the lights on nearly all titles. That treatment is reserved for smaller publishers. (Authors receive no advance warning of Amazon’s treatment of their titles, nor can they do anything about it.)
Amazon, it appears, overreached. Macmillan was a bit too big a foe, and Amazon’s bullying tactics were a bit too blatant. (For a flavor of media reaction, see this story in Fast Company.)
Sunday evening, Amazon announced that it would have to “capitulate” to Macmillan, “because Macmillan has a monopoly over its own titles.” (By this definition, nearly every company exercises a monopoly over its products.) We’re all still waiting for that capitulation: Macmillan’s books still weren’t available on Amazon on Monday evening.
If Macmillan does indeed prevail, the economics of authorship in the digital age are likely to improve considerably. We may go through some rough stretches to get there, however.
You’ll be hearing more from us on this matter soon.