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How to Improve Amazon

30 January 2016

From Chris McMullen:

I love Amazon. As a customer, as a reader, as an author.

Yet, I see ways that Amazon could be even better.

Although I use Amazon frequently as both a reader and author, most of this post is from the publishing perspective.

. . . .

 Does Amazon Care? 

Yes. I know this because I and other authors have made several suggestions in the past, and Amazon has already made significant improvements.

  • KDP authors now have access to pre-orders.
  • KDP reports have improved significantly.
  • For weeks toward the end of 2015, Amazon had a large banner advertisement on their homepage announcing Countdown Deals.
  • The Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks.
  • KDP authors can now send emails through Amazon to their Amazon followers when they publish a new Kindle e-book.

I could go on. And on.

. . . .

Mediate Publishing Services (Cover Design, Editing, Formatting)

First of all, did you know that Amazon now offers services like painting your house, cleaning your home, mounting your television, mowing your lawn, fixing your computer, and much more? Amazon connects local top-rated professionals to customers in select cities. Customers pay Amazon, and Amazon offers a Happiness Guarantee.

150,000 books were published on Amazon in the last 30 days. That’s a rate of 1.8 million books per year. Very many of those books were self-published through KDP or CreateSpace.

Just imagine how many authors are interested in:

  • cover design
  • editing
  • formatting
  • translation
  • book promotion

And much more. We’re talking millions of dollars in author/publisher expenses.

Where do authors and publishers go for these services now? They go off Amazon.

One of Amazon’s big marketing rules is don’t drive traffic off Amazon hoping to drive it back onto Amazon later. Amazon wants to keep people on Amazon as much as possible. Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime keep customers at Amazon. Discussion forums keep readers and authors engaged on Amazon.

But many authors/publishers are leaving Amazon to find publishing services.

Authors can get limited services from CreateSpace, but it’s fairly expensive, it lacks interaction with the actual designer, and the file format of the result usually isn’t portable.

Amazon has a golden opportunity to implement something like the new Amazon Services, but for self-publishers, only it would be online and worldwide (not local, like painters and yard crews). Amazon would connect authors/publishers with cover designers, formatters, editors, translators, book promotion services, etc.

Link to the rest at Chris McMullen and thanks to Craig for the tip.

Here’s a link to Amazon Services if you haven’t seen it before.

Amazon, Self-Publishing

36 Comments to “How to Improve Amazon”

  1. The mediation service would be tremendously viable but it would also require a lot of vetting and probably setting up/paying for an arbitration service to settle the inevitable disputes.

    I’m surprised nobody has tried it yet so I have to wonder if there might not be a legal (or perception) reason not to do it. (It might be too close to vanity press territory?)

    If so, they might have to settle for hosting a neutral listing of freelancers without vetting or charging.

    If they did do it, though, Author Solutions just might implode.

    • 99Designs and other firms do it for graphic design services. They added cover design to the list of projects you can run as cover art is just another design brief. They provide connections between clients and applicants, hold the client’s funds in trust, and redeem those funds to the successful applicant (keeping a percentage for their services).

      I don’t know of anyone who provides a similar service for editors, et al. Nor do I know of anyone who has built a broker house around a final product (e.g. ebooks) rather than related skill sets (e.g. graphic design).

      99Designs et al handle vetting by holding the funds in trust so the applicants know there is money to be spent and releasing those funds when the client approves the final deliverable. I can see proofreaders and line editors bidding on a sample chapter from the work in question, but I’m not sure how it work for developmental editors. Their job it the larger scale of the work.

    • The big home improvement stores – Home Depot and Lowes – offer a similar service.

      If you buy a hot water heater at Home Depot, if you ask, they will connect you with a local plumber to pick up the water heater, bring it to your house and install it for a fixed fee.

      When I’ve used the service, someone at Home Depot has contacted me to make certain I’m satisfied with the work after it’s complete.

      I’ve been told that these tradespeople view Home Depot and Lowes as excellent sources of business and know they’ll be taken off the recommendation list if homeowners are not happy with their work.

      • I had a water heater installed via Lowe’s setup with local folks. The installers did a good job, but the water heater died in three years.

      • Horror stories abound. There is no supervision, just a connection and a ‘warranty.’

        I’m sure we’re not unique, but promises are easy, and completion to the clients reasonable satisfaction, hard. For the big jobs.

      • I had ordered carpeting for my father in laws apartment in Florida from Home Depot. Six months later I came down and saw their third party installer had done a horrendous job seaming the carpet between the two rooms…there was a one inch strip connecting the two rooms instead of just a seam. I called and they sent down a supervisor to inspect it. They were going to redo the two rooms of carpeting but the carpeting had been discontinued so they gave us an upgraded carpeting for the three rooms we had initially done at no charge. That was great customer service.

  2. “But many authors/publishers are leaving Amazon to find publishing services.”

    Really? Where? Where are they going ‘off Amazon’? Not for selling their e/books it seems.

    “Just imagine how many authors are interested in:

    cover design
    editing
    formatting
    translation
    book promotion

    And much more. We’re talking millions of dollars in author/publisher expenses.”

    Really? Is this an ASI ad? It almost looks like they want Amazon to go into the vanity publishing business.

    Self publishers already know to find/look for help with (or do it themselves) these ‘services’, so why do they expect Amazon to have to do it for them?

    (And as far as ‘improving Amazon’, I don’t see anyone else coming close to doing what Amazon is doing — which makes it hard to imagine they know better than Amazon. Hint, it’s about the buying experience, not the selling …)

    .

    “A failure to plan on your behalf does not constitute an emergency on my behalf”

    Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. — Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar”

    • It’s not necessarily going into vanity publishing or even into honest publishing services. Amazon could simply serve as a clearing house for newbies that *don’t* know how to find good freelancers. Conceivably the profit would come from the freelancers, not the authors.

      As I said, it *would* be close enough to ASI territory to suck away their business. Maybe that is the way to do away with that vampire for good; help freelancers promote their honest services.

      • Felix has a good point. Rather than setting up a completely internal operation at great cost, the idea of Amazon providing services through their individual purveyors is a good one. The existing form is already in place with Amazon’s Associate Sellers framework. I am both a writer and a career graphic designer with more than 30 years in the trade and many book cover designs under my belt. I would happily give Amazon what is in effect, a “Finder’s Fee” percentage in exchange for their promoting my services through their publishing avenues. One-stop shopping can save a lot of stress, especially as Amazon’s seller framework provides feedback to weed out those who do not give fair value or good service.

      • If Amazon offers ‘services’ (lawn mowing, dog walking) then book covers/editing could be just another service and would be vetted just like the lawn service crew.

        I don’t see Amazon needing to treat ‘e/book writers’ as any more special than any other supplier, but they could offer ‘services’ to the writing ‘buyer of services’.

        The trick to offering those services though will be keeping ASI and all its other talking(lying) heads from gaming the referral system and coning ‘new to self publishing’ writers out of their money.

        • The trick to offering those services though will be keeping ASI and all its other talking (lying) heads from gaming the referral system and coning ‘new to self publishing’ writers out of their money.

          Good point.

      • @ Felix

        You raise a good point, but just how much can — and should — Amazon be expected to do? They are, after all, a commercial retail business, not a hand-holding referral, educational, or consulting enterprise.

        If noobs want to learn to self-publish (or do any sort of activity), the first thing they need to do is educate themselves. When I’m learning something new, I immerse myself in learning about it, to a minimum of having some inkling of how much I don’t yet know, so I can continue to learn enough to plan a course of action and pursue it.

        Hey, I’ve been a writer and editor for a long time now. I know how to do research, expect to do it, and accept the need to do it. People who want to have knowledge already neatly tied up and handed to them on a platter, with minimal effort on their part, have a mindset that’s alien and completely inscrutable to me.

        And I freely admit I have scant pity or empathy for such lazybutts. Get off your rear and start learning, then planning, then doing.

        Expecting free manna falling from Heaven isn’t a viable strategy. If you want to achieve something, take action. And that starts with educating yourself.

        [rant off]

        • There’s nothing ‘lazy’ about wanting to outsource editing or design. It’s a legitimate business decision. As a writer I can educate myself to a point, but I’m never going to be able to create covers as good as a professional designer and a good editor is worth her/his weight in gold.

          • @ Sharon

            Of course outsourcing things one isn’t very good at is a legit and valid approach. What I was railing about are people who want everything done for them without investigating who would do it, what it would cost, and onerous contract terms with fangs. It’s the “I’m just a creative writer and don’t want to learn about the business aspects of a writing career” that DWS and KKR blog about.

            Writers who want someone else to do everything beyond tapping the keyboard are easy fodder for ASI and the other various vanity press scams.

            As always, caveat emptor.

            • I’m good at editing, but I still hire an editor (am looking for a new one right now). Cause for a professional product it needs more than two eyes. Always. IMO. But everyone has their own way of doing business.

              I also made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. Nobody’s going to get it right the first time. That’s how we learn.

              Cheers.

        • There is also nothing wrong with seeking reputable recommendations for reliable people. In fact, it’s wise to do so. If Amazon wanted to jump into the business of mediating/recommending self-publishing services, that’s hardly becoming an Author Solutions. Although, Allen F has an excellent point that AS itself might well attempt to list itself (under various aliases) on Amazon’s site. (Ugh!)

          • @ J.M.

            “There is also nothing wrong with seeking reputable recommendations for reliable people.”

            Yes, the key words here are “reputable” and “reliable!” And the only way to ascertain that is doing some research — which isn’t that difficult to do these days on the Internet. 🙂

    • Translation services – publishers are finding that elsewhwere? Do you know where? I haven’t been able to find a source for reputable, affordable translations yet.

      And he’s completely right about Createspace – I used them for formatting my first book interiors for print and have had no luck in getting the design files back so I can continue to improve the books (and keep the front and back matter current).

      If I had known that (or been smarter when I contracted the services), I wouldn’t have done that to begin with. I do my own interiors now, but still can’t make needed changes to the CS ones (without forking out money to CS).

  3. When I looked at this excerpt, I was kind of puzzled why a self published author would suggest this. To me, it’s redundant b/c Kboards has a pretty comprehensive yellow pages that’s a good start. Or, one could put up a thread asking for referrals.

    Not the best idea, but…
    I went to the OP’s location on the web and looked over the entire post… and the rest of it is a lot better than what showed up on this excerpt. He makes some pretty good suggestions that are worth a look.

    Just my opinion.

  4. I love Amazon.
    They’re beta testing phone support for KDP.

    • Please, dear God, please, let it be that whoever answers the phone is able to *listen* and speak off script. Let us not have to ask to speak to a manager in order to get someone who can deal with our issues.** Thank You!

      **The only time I’ve ever had to do that was, sadly, with KDP’s phone support.

  5. Couldn’t an editor could list his services in the same place the house painters and lawn mowers do? Why do they need something new?

  6. cover design– we do our covers inhouse. Some are award winning. I’d rather teach authors how to do cover design with free software than see what I’ve seen in covers that all look alike, I dont care who touts them. They are not quality. There was one person who was hugely talented, and designed according to the content of the book, what a concept. However, they wanted an ongoing royality for their artworks… which admittedly was far above most one sees on books, but, no. Trying to get rid of all middlemen, not take on more.

    editing– no thanks. Many already have their beta readers and proofers who for beer, whiskey, tequila, chimichungas. ‘za, [afterward] do just fine.

    formatting -about 20-30 minutes: done. And done your way by you.

    translation: we write to publishers ℅ translators of books we like from foreign language to English. It is a long project and translation truly is an art. It’s expensive to gain artful. It’s cheap to gain c. Elance and Upwork might be ok, dont know.

    book promotion: if amz had something to offer, it would be highlighting an author for money. They are not likely to promo off their site. And I would hope for certain not do what the other vanity presses do and that is give the author a long list of c websites that mean nothing to anyone, to ‘list’ their book on.

    my 02? Amz’s marketing reach in putting a book title right in front of 5 M people on banner front page, for low $$ would be spectacular.

  7. It sounds like the OP wants Amazon to be Bibliocrunch, too. And Bibliocrunch is great, but I’m not sure Amazon really needs to do it.

  8. Interesting. Likely Amazon will improve. The good keep getting better and the bad remain bad.

    There is a thread about Amazon competitors — Google, Apple — shooting themselves in the foot on Kboards. I found it worth my time to read. Maybe you will, too.

  9. The basic Bezos formula seems to be
    -offer a service that many customers want
    -use technology to reduce the cost of delivering the service to a minimum
    -deliver the service superbly, maximizing usage with quality
    -under price the competition by monetizing the service on volume the of the service– take a penny, not a dollar, from each consumer
    -ignore the squeals of competition who claim quality, efficiency, and good prices constitute a monopoly

    Offering services to authors can fit this pattern, except that authors, as consumers rather than suppliers, are a small market segment. Large enough to be worth the zon’s attention? I don’t know.

  10. I would love to be able to choose when the “look inside” ends. Whenever I publish a new book, I take a big breath when I check to see where it cuts off. Sometimes, it’s just not very hooky. Sigh. I would think Amazon would want to have more hooks so that more books would be sold.

    I also am starting to think about translations and it appears to be a real mess right now. Might need to wait on that for a bit until someone comes forward with a good program that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Maybe just a leg.

  11. We don’t need Amazon to find editors, cover designers or formatters. We need them to host our books and sell them. Period. The rest we can do ourselves (except editors–always hire an editor, whether you pay them cash, whiskey or compliments).

    Here is how Amazon can improve:
    1. Have an author page for Amazon.ca (Canada)
    2. Accept PayPal as payment for books on Amazon and CreateSpace. (Blurb offers this option)
    3. Have direct payment from CreateSpace to Canadian residents and pay before it reaches $100.
    4. Give authors the option of where the “Look Inside” ends.
    5. Fix the glitch that prevents author pages from showing up on Amazon.com. Sometimes my page is there, and sometimes it’s not. I’ve also found author pages by others missing sometimes too.

  12. “KDP authors can now send emails through Amazon to their Amazon followers when they publish a new Kindle e-book.”

    Does anyone know how this works? I just checked my Amazon author page and didn’t find this function.

    • Laura, this is something to have to wait for Amazon to offer. I was getting an email for a while that asked if I wanted to send a message to my followers. I was surprised to learn I had followers, so I was happy to write a little something about my latest book and send it off.

      The thing is, you’ll never know how many followers you have. Amazon keeps that information locked in a vault, never to dazzle your wondering eyes.

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