Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

2 January 2018

From David Gaughran:

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

. . . .

After a few weeks of “investigating,” Amazon returned the rank to Kristi’s book. She did not receive an apology from KDP, or any kind of compensation for this visibility-killing sanction. In fact, Amazon threatened to take similar action in the future.

And Amazon made good on that threat.

In early December, Kristi made another book free – Gia in the City of Dead – as part of a KDP Select promotion from December 1 to December 5. When she woke on December 1, she saw that her book had been stripped of its rank – before any promotion had even kicked in. She immediately emailed Amazon to ask them why this had happened. This was the nonsensical reply she received the following day:


In the Kindle Store, the Bestsellers Rank is divided into Free and Paid lists. During the period when your book is being offered for free, it will have a ranking in the Free list. Once the free promotion is over, your title will show up again in the Paid list.

The Bestsellers Rank calculation is based on Amazon sales and is updated hourly to reflect newer and historical sales of every item sold on our website, with recent sales being weighted more heavily. With this in mind, titles that are part of a free promotion may see a drop in the sales rank under the Paid list after the promotion is over. However, since your sales rank takes into account recent and historical sales data, your previous Paid rank will influence your new Paid rank.

Category rankings will appear in the Product Details section of a book’s detail page to display the appropriate rank information.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales.

While monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book sales, it is not an accurate way to track your book’s sales or pages read. Neither is it an accurate way to compare your sales in relation to books in other categories, since a particular item’s sales rank does not absolutely reflect its sales or Kindle Unlimited (KU) / Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) activity.

Your paperback which is linked to your eBook shows the following:
Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1296 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Crime > Organized Crime

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

[Name Withheld]

It appears that a customer service rep has rushed a reply after misreading Kristi’s query and pasted in a bunch of irrelevant canned responses. I merely copy it here to show that this kind of botched reply is becoming typical with KDP customer service – a situation which is frustrating normally, but critically so when you have a major issue like Kristi did at the time.

. . . .

Anyway, Kristi persisted until she got someone to actually read her email. This is where things got really weird. On December 4, she received this unsigned email from KDP’s Compliance team:


We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. We take activities that could jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously and may temporarily remove sales rank while we investigate. The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available.

If you have any questions, please email us at

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Note that while the email stated that “The sales rank(s) of your book(s) is now available”– this was not the case. The rank had not been returned to Gia in the City of Dead, as I can vouch for myself. Kristi was in contact with me throughout this episode and I was able to watch events unfolding and verify her claims.

Kristi’s rank didn’t return the following day either, but when her free promotion ended on midnight of December 5, as scheduled, her rank returned. On December 6, Kristi received this email:

Hello Kristi,

I understand your frustration and I really appreciate your patience while we investigated this further. There was a technical issue that prevented your sales rank from displaying while our system was updating the rank. Our Technical Team has corrected the issue and your sales rank is now displaying accurately. Again, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. You can confirm the sales rank is now appearing by accessing the link below.

[link to book]


[Name Withheld]
Executive Customer Relations
Kindle Direct Publishing

Bizarrely, KDP was now claiming that a “technical issue” prevented her sales rank from displaying. This was obviously stretching credulity given the rank manipulation form letter that Kristi had again received from Amazon’s Compliance team, and she said that in response to this message. Then she received this message:

Hello Kristi,

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. The email you received from on December 4 was sent in error and the sales rank did not disappear due to free promotions or manipulation. Our Content Review team confirmed there was no manipulation and our Technical Team discovered that the disappearance of your sales rank was due to a internal issue.

Best regards,

[Name Withheld]

So, an “internal issue” caused the rank disappearance, and the rank manipulation email was sent in error. Hmmmmm. Quite the coincidence, don’t you think?

Nevertheless, at this point Kristi was relieved that her rank had been restored, even if Amazon had – once again – completely ruined a promotion which she had spent money on, killing her visibility and crippling her downloads.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Andy for the tip.

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Books Of The Year

30 December 2017
Comments Off on What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Books Of The Year

From The Cardiff Review:

When we talk about “Books of the Year”, what we most often mean is, “Of the few books I read this year, I enjoyed the following…”

Or: when a writer is doing the choosing, I assume they mean, “Here are the books which I enjoyed and were written by people I know—and it would be awkward/rude of me not to mention them.”

Having benefited from having my book on these end-of-year lists in 2015 and ’16, I feel compelled to state that—in the majority of cases—I happened to know the writers who put me on these lists. In the past, when asked for my Books of the Year, I’ve likewise listed some books written by people that I know. In other cases, I’ve omitted books that I liked because of the very fact I knew the author and felt that if I mentioned their book, it would seem like a direct slight to other authors whom I knew but whose books I hadn’t yet read, or whose books I had read but didn’t want to recommend. 

. . . .

I am under-read, and my reading is very rarely up-to-date. So when I’ve been asked to choose Books of the Year in the past, I’ve done so with a heavy dose of guilt—namely because in the rare instances I have a read a book in its year of publication (which always feels too soon, really) it’s more often than not because I now know the author, or because I’ve been put on a panel with them, or because I’ve been a judge on a prize.

. . . .

I think the context of my recommending is further misleading, because:

a) it suggests that I think these books are the best books of the past year; and

b) by extension, it suggests that I have read many, many books published this year, and am thus in a position to make this kind of judgment; and

c) by further extension, it assumes that such a judgement is even possible or helpful—and, indeed, that I believe I’m rightly qualified to make such assertions

I am not naive enough to think that the writing industry can exist outside of the machinations of capitalism, but I do think these kind of lists are in a ragged service to a skewed, misguided market-logic whereby literary “product” values are something measurable and commensurable—and inherently related to newness.

. . . .

And once the year passes, the media—more or less—tells us that a book has had its time (unless it happens to win an award the following year) and so onwards we go to the next year, onwards we go to the next pile of books. Onwards! The march of progress waits for no one! 

But outside of the book industry itself, who gives a crap when a book was published?

Link to the rest at The Cardiff Review

Google Chrome will block autoplay video starting January 2018

7 December 2017

From Ars Technica:

Google is taking on the irritating trend of auto-playing Web videos with its Chrome browser. Starting in Chrome 64, which is currently earmarked for a January 2018 release, auto-play will only be allowed when the video in question is muted or when a “user has indicated an interest in the media.”

The latter applies if the site has been added to the home screen on mobile or if the user has frequently played media on the site on desktop. Google also says auto-play will be allowed if the user has “tapped or clicked somewhere on the site during the browsing session.”

. . . .

In addition, Google is adding a new site muting option to Chrome 63 (due for release in October), which allows users to completely disable audio for individual sites. The site muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing for some degree of user customisation.

However, Apple’s upcoming Safari 11 browser—which features its own auto-play blocking tools—will allow for more granular control, enabling users to mute auto-playing media with sound or block auto-playing media entirely on specific sites or on the Internet as a whole.

. . . .

In addition to auto-play blocking, Google is planning to implement ad-blocking inside the Chrome browser. The Google ad-blocker will block all advertising on sites that have a certain number of “unacceptable ads.” That includes ads that have pop-ups, auto-playing video, and “prestitial” count-down ads that delay content being displayed.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

5 Things I’m Not Doing to Launch My Book—Plus What I’m Doing Instead

4 December 2017

From  Deanna Cabinian via Jane Friedman:

The gist of all marketing advice for authors essentially boils down to: try everything and see what works. I’ve tried a lot of tactics over the last year [to launch and] market my debut YA novel.

. . . .

I’m launching One Love, my second novel, there are some efforts I’m not going to spend any time on.

. . . .

2. I’m not paying for trade reviews.

With One Night I purchased sponsored reviews from Portland Book Review and Midwest Book Review. Because it was my first book I felt I needed some industry blurb to help me market my book. Here’s the thing, though: I can’t prove that either of these reviews led to a purchase. And as a consumer, I can say that a trade review has never been a huge factor for me when it comes to deciding what books to read. They might pique my interest, but there are plenty of books that review publications like that I don’t and vice versa. For my second novel I’ll be using blurbs from the blog contacts mentioned above.

3. I’m not accepting any and all event opportunities.

As an independent author it’s tempting to accept every publicity option available because few venues are willing to have us. But after doing several events I’ve learned that single author book signings are generally a waste of time. If you analyze the number of books sold versus the time and effort you put into it, the ratio is not a good one. Instead I am only doing multi-author events, events with guaranteed foot traffic (such as festivals and farmers markets), or speaking opportunities that have a built-in audience (for example, school visits).

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Here’s a link to Deanna Cabinian‘s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Agencies Are Scrambling to Meet Client Demands for Amazon-Specific Solutions

28 November 2017

From AdWeek:

Amazon is no sleeping giant.

As the Bezos behemoth continues along its unstoppable, disruptive path, brands are increasingly requesting Amazon-tailored services. Agencies have been ramping up their capabilities on the platform and even launching dedicated practices as a response.

Many marketers now view Amazon as a legitimate competitor to Facebook and Google, according to 22squared vp, director of media planning Brandy Everhart. “What they bring to the table is an expensive data set that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of successful campaigns that are focused on driving conversions on the Amazon platform.”

Even brands that don’t sell on Amazon are asking questions due to the power of its search reach and the benefits of its data sets. “Clients want me to increase their engagement in every possible way,” said Matt Bijarchi, founder and CEO of digital brand studio Blend. “We’ve learned ecommerce is also a brand-building opportunity.”

. . . .

Frank Kochenash explained that the agency developed Amazon-related services well before the partnership, offering “everything from strategy to content development to content optimization, paid search management, media management, all on or within the Amazon ecosystem.”

Explaining the Mindshare partnership, Kochenash added that conquering Amazon is a challenge for his clients, as “some are scared and some see the opportunity, but they need an Amazon answer.”

. . . .

Specifically, Kochenash said the Alexa algorithm has “a tremendous amount of control” in determining purchasing patterns, something “brands are rightfully concerned about how to address.” He noted brands face two paths to success on Amazon: either create a great product that results in continual reordering, or have a brand that’s already so strong that customers actively seek it out.

Nick Godfrey, COO of digital consultancy Rain, explained that Alexa was so technologically advanced compared to Siri’s first iteration that Amazon had a “head start” over competitors like Google and Apple. Alexa’s established user base also better justifies innovation budgets for clients and agencies.

. . . .

“If you’re a brand in 2017, you better have an Amazon strategy,” said Godfrey. “The dominance of Amazon goes hand in hand with the dominance of Alexa.”

Link to the rest at AdWeek

PG notes that Alexa was introduced just three years ago and some experts ridiculed the idea. PG has recently read that Hindi and Japanese versions of Alexa are under development.

8 Ways For Authors to Waste Their Money

26 November 2017

From The Digital Reader:

Publishing a book can get quite expensive. A good cover designer can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the editorial costs alone can set you back even more.

While there are many important expenses, there are also many ways to spend money and get nothing useful back. For example, take the Bowker SAN. This costs $150, and is basically a way for you to list your physical address in a Bowker database – something you can do with your website, or  dozen other services, at no cost to yourself.

I recently polled a number of experts, including David Gaughran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joel Friedlander, Victoria Strauss,  Jane Friedman, and Hugh Howey. The following post lists a few of the things they thought were a waste of money.

. . . .


Of all the suggestions made by the experts, publicists topped the list, with several experts saying that publicists just weren’t worth the cost. “They don’t do much you can’t do on your own, and what they do, they do poorly,” I was told.”They also cost tens of thousands of dollars.”

It would cost less to learn how to do the work yourself (or at least get a virtual assistant to do it), and you’ll get better results.

. . . .

Classes on the “Secrets” of Millions Sales

Like most professions, it takes a lot of learning to be a successful author, and you have to keep picking up new tricks all the time. And there are many experts out there who can teach you what you need to know, but there are also a lot of scammers who promise more than they can deliver.

Authors would be wise to avoid any course that promise to show you “the secret” to getting millions of sales. Before you sign up, you should check to see if the “guru” has actually written and sold a lot of books or just teaches marketing courses for a living.

Many of these million “sellers” have either given away most of their copies or sold the copies of their fiction books at a loss. Other have sold hardly any books at all, and are making money from their marketing tips, not from their writing.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

The Epic 4,000-Word Guide to Differentiating Yourself as a Writer

11 November 2017

From Medium:

It started when one of my friends made a surprising change.

“I’m going to focus on my YouTube presence more,” he said. “I feel I’m going to be able to differentiate myself there.”

Then he said:

“It’s hard to differentiate yourself as a writer.”

Truthfully, I’m a little jealous. He will spend the next year romping around Pittsburgh with a camera and a cute toddler. I assume his popularity will skyrocket.

. . . .

Maybe you want to be a Writer with a capital W. You scrawl random words on post it notes and wake up in the middle of the night to jot something down in your notebook. You want to see your name on a cover.

If so, I have awful news for you:

My friend is right.

It’s difficult to separate yourself as a writer. Your Instagram friends will cross the world and shoot infinite exotic and beautiful locations. You will lock yourself in a room, pushing buttons to try and express how you feel. The latter is not a natural thing.

. . . .

In order to chunk this monster post up a little, I’ve divided the key components into three sections:

  • Why You Should Even Bother Writing
  • 10 Ways to Outstrip Your Writing Competition
  • Practical Steps to a Viral Post

Link to the rest at Medium

Here’s the Social Media Content Your Audience Does NOT Want to See You Post

6 November 2017
Comments Off on Here’s the Social Media Content Your Audience Does NOT Want to See You Post

From Medium:

Let’s be honest for a second here. When it comes to quality, a large amount of social media content posted by brands isn’t good. In fact, in terms of subject matter, copy, photo quality, and more, much of the content is downright cringeworthy.

. . . .

1. Inauthentic, forced content

You see this mistake all the time. Companies and individuals force trending topics into their posts in hopes of gaining more followers and engagement. Examples could be anything from an athletic event to the latest dance craze to a natural disaster.

Just because LeBron James is trending on Twitter doesn’t mean your company has to post about him.

. . . .

6. Way too many hashtags

. . . .

According to research by Buffer, on Instagram 11 hashtags is the ideal number, and on Twitter the amount is one or two.

Link to the rest at Medium

Do You Know Where Your Domain Names Are?

31 October 2017

From CommLawBlog:

Failure to renew a domain name can cause your website to go down. The need to renew your domain names seems obvious and simple enough, but numerous companies and individuals have gotten famous for forgetting and letting domain names lapse, including Microsoft, Jeb Bush, the Dallas Cowboys, and,  recently, Sorenson Communications.

Last year, Sorenson Communications let a domain name lapse. It was SORENSON.COM which it used for providing access to its Video Relay Service (which Sorenson operated under the brand name “SVRS”). The domain name expired, the website was inaccessible, and Sorenson’s customers could not receive or place video relay service, 911, and other calls during the outage. Sorenson’s SVRS customers lost their telecommunications relay services, which left individuals with hearing and speech disabilities without the ability to communicate using a phone to call. Although Sorenson notified the FCC the morning the outage began, the domain name was not renewed – nor the website available — for another two days. Although the SVRS services were restored, the FCC was not amused by what it called at “preventable, internal operational failure.”

In the FCC’s September Order, Sorenson agreed to “reimburse the TRS Fund the sum of $2,700,000, and pay a settlement to the United States Treasury in the amount of $252,000.”

. . . .

Accordingly, set your domain names to Auto Renewal. Whether you have registered your domain names for one year or ten years, you will probably forget when they expire (and inevitably the email reminder will be sent to your spam file). Auto-renewal service is found under various names for different domain name registrars, but it operates in the same manner and allows you to post a credit card on file and automatically renew your company’s domain name(s) in case someone on staff forgets, avoiding unintended expiration. Even if you don’t actually want to renew the domain name, the cost of renewing the name – even to “park” it for the short term – pales in comparison to the expense of getting it back.

Link to the rest at CommLawBlog

PG will add that if the credit card on file with whatever company is responsible for auto-renewing your domain name expires or if the old credit card is retired for any reason (it’s reported as lost or stolen, for example) and you receive a credit card from the same issuer with a different number, you’ll need to update the credit card information that is used to auto-renew your domain name.

As a specific example, Costco has long offered a Costco co-branded credit card to its customers. Among other things, the credit card could also serve as a Costco membership card which must be displayed when a member enters a Costco store. At checkout, the membership card must again be presented and scanned, so, although it is not required, it is convenient for the customer to use the same card for the purpose of both providing a customer number for checking out and paying for their purchase.

A year or so ago, Costco terminated its relationship with its co-branded card issuer, American Express, and, with customer consent, transferred all their customers to a new Costco branded Visa card. The Amex accounts were cancelled with no option (that PG could find) for continuing to use a newly-issued Amex card with the same number.

If a Costco customer had used the Amex credit card for auto-renewal of domain names and neglected to replace that card number with a new one, auto-renewal would have failed.

PG will note that some domain registrars are not noted for high levels of customer service so you can’t count on receiving a message when your domain registration is about to expire.

Seven WordPress Plugins for Author Bookshelves

25 October 2017

From The Digital Reader:

Author websites come in many shapes and forms, and can be found on just about every platform from Squarespace to WordPress, but the vast majority share at least one common feature.

Generally speaking, they all need to display the books an author has written, or is working on.

Authors with a site on Squarespace,, etc, will have to build a book listing page by hand, but this is one area where self-hosted WordPress websites excel.

Authors with a self-hosted WordPress site have any number of options for listing their books on their sites. They can either use a theme like Preface, and use its built-in features to create book pages and book shelves, or they can use one of the following plugins.

. . . .

I recently undertook a survey of bookshelf plugins so I could recommend one to a client. There aren’t a lot of options, but I did find a couple great plugins.

When I look at bookshelf plugins I try to keep three requirements in mind:

  • The plugin has to look good on my site, and include both bookshelf pages and book pages
  • It has to be easy to use.
  • It needs to have widgets that I can use on to automatically display book covers and blurbs the front page of my site, and other pages.

. . . .

Here are 7 WordPress plugins that authors can use to list their books on their sites, and some comments on my experiences with the plugins.

. . . .


This is the second of my preferred plugins. The free version is great; it lets you reorganize the book listing layout to your own design, and it even includes many of the features other plugins would ask you to pay for.

As you can see in the demo, a book listing takes up a lot of space on the page. This plugin begs for a theme with a lot of whitespace, so it’s not going to work for everyone.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG has never had problems putting widgets for Mrs. PG’s books onto her website. However, he’s planning to check out several of Nate’s suggestion to see if there is a better way.

« Previous PageNext Page »