Amazon

OverDrive Blames Kindle eBook Problem on Technical Snafu

27 February 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

If you’ve been checking ebooks out of your library over the past month, you may have noticed a certain problem with OverDrive. Numerous library patrons have been complaining on Amazon’s forums and elsewhere that new titles which libraries are adding to their catalogs are no longer available to read on the Kindle.

. . . .

OverDrive is having an issue with their system. It affects titles published since the beginning of the year, and it is impacting publishers both big (Macmillan, Harlequin, HarperCollins) and small (Overlook Press, Sourcebooks, and more).

. . . .

To start, It’s safe to assume that this is not an action taken by the major publishers; this issue is also hitting smaller independent publishers.

. . . .

So what’s going on here?

At this point I really don’t know, but in the absence of any new info my working hypothesis is that this really is a technical snafu. It’s a wide-ranging and very embarrassing technical snafu, but I have no evidence at this time to disprove that claim.

. . . .

Some newly published titles are getting through OverDrive to the Kindle platform, including Big 5 titles.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

The Top 10 Things All Authors Should Know About Amazon

26 February 2015

From The Huffington Post:

1. Your Amazon ranking has nothing to do with sales. Although many authors are obsessed with it and like to send out mass e-mails to friends and family when the number drops, unfortunately, all your ranking means is that people are looking at your page. While it might be argued that sales will inevitably rise due to more page views, the direct connection between ranking and actual sales is zero. It’s not that your ranking is meaningless; it just doesn’t mean your book is on its way to bestseller status.

. . . .

5. Publishers cannot control the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature, but you can. This feature is another of Amazon’s logarithms, and it’s all about the shopping cart. You can encourage your readers to buy a book you want to be associated along with yours, and that can get you linked up with a heavier-hitting author. There are workarounds to a lot of Amazon’s formulas. Use them to your advantage.

. . . .

10. Amazon is more author-friendly than they are publisher-friendly. This means that if you’re an author, you’re likely to get great customer service from Amazon, especially on the KDP side of the company. However, Amazon seems not to understand the limitations authors who are publishing with publishing houses face where their data is concerned. I’ve witnessed them make suggestions and recommendations to authors that simply cannot be accommodated by the author’s publishing house. This can be frustrating to authors (and publishers), but Amazon is its own organism, not too concerned about needing to understand how other systems work because its own is so dominant. They have an Amazon-centric view of the book world, and expect authors to conform to how Amazon does things. The note here for you, authors, is to take advantage of this by using and exploiting Amazon’s resources, but work with your publisher; don’t work around them. And don’t for one second buy into the idea that Amazon is “it.” Yes, it’s the number one online space for retail sales; but for most publishers, Amazon accounts for only about 30%-40% of total sales.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

Amazon Publishing Expands Into France, Spain

25 February 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Amazon’s modest publishing empire has outposts in the US, UK, and Germany – and soon France and Spain.

. . . .

According to the listing, Amazon was “seeking an innovative, passionate, Editor with marketplace insight to acquire exceptional works for our imprints”. The listing goes on to suggest that the operation in France will be a full-fledged publisher with teams devoted to marketing, publicity, and author relations.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

Amazon to Publish Inaugural Books Selected by Kindle Scout

24 February 2015

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today announced that customers can pre-order the first 10 titles discovered through Kindle Scout, Amazon’s new reader-powered publishing platform. The books, which will be released onMarch 3, are the first to be published under the digital publishing banner Kindle Press. To date, there have been 21 titles selected for publication by Kindle Press, with more books submitted and selected daily. Today, Kindle Scout also began accepting Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Action & Adventure submissions in addition to Romance, Mystery/Thriller and Science Fiction.

. . . .

“Since we opened our doors we’ve been busy weighing the feedback of over 29,000 enthusiastic Scouts who have nominated the books they want to read next,” said Dina Hilal, general manager for Kindle Scout. “These first 10 titles signal a new option for authors, who can choose to have their books discovered and supported by Amazon customers even before they are published.”

. . . .

The first 10 Kindle Press books to be published on March 3, 2015 are:

“Having Eddie & Sunny chosen for publication by Kindle Press has been nothing short of a dream come true,” said author Stacey Cochran. “The reader enthusiasm galvanized during the Kindle Scout campaign was exciting beyond anything else I’ve experienced as a writer, but the thing that’s been most surprising in all of this is the community experience and friendships I’ve made with the other writers I’ve come to know through Kindle Scout after connecting on social media.”

Kindle Scout by the numbers:

  • 9 – The average number of excerpts a Scout considers before nominating a title to be published
  • 3 – The number of minutes it took the fastest author to submit a manuscript to Kindle Scout
  • 31 – The average number of days in which a Kindle Scout author receives a publishing decision after submitting a book
  • $25,000 – If a Kindle Press author does not earn at least this amount during his 5-year contract, he can request his rights back
  • 10 – The highest number of free Kindle books an individual Scout has earned for nominating books to date

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

PG will note the 5-year guarantee of $25,000 in earnings for each author.

PG first mentioned the inclusion of a provision he called a Minimum Wage for Authors in publishing contracts in 2011. The 5-year guarantee doesn’t go as far as he would like, but it’s a start.

Jeff Bezos Takes Washington Post into Digital Future

23 February 2015

From Spiegel Online:

Jeff Bezos has come to offer his condolences to the Washington Post. The CEO of Amazon boarded a plane in Seattle late in the evening to arrive on time for the funeral in Washington on this morning.

It is Oct. 29, a grey fall day, and the established Washington elites are gathered in front of the National Cathedral: senior politicians, publishers and top journalists past and present. They have come to bury Ben Bradlee, a legend in the journalism world. He was editor-in-chief when the Post uncovered the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, bringing down then President Richard Nixon and securing a permanent spot for the paper in the American history books.

The glorious past is being celebrated once again on this day. The service is a festival of remembrance, commemorating the best days of the Postand its values as an independent, incorruptible and tenacious newspaper.

Bezos, wearing an atypical tie, is standing at the entrance to the church, holding a smartphone to his ear. At the memorial ceremony, he looks a little lost as he moves through the crowd. This is not his world, but thePost is now his newspaper. He bought the paper in August 2013, probably saving it from demise in the process. With $250 million (€220 million) of his personal fortune, the Amazon founder acquired the newspaper from its publishers, the Graham family, which was at a loss over how to lead the once proud newspaper into the digital future.

. . . .

Until a little over a year ago, the Post was a newspaper in a “we’re still here” twilight state. Circulation was declining, as were sales, more than 400 jobs had been cut since 2003 and it was unclear whether the paper stood a chance of surviving. The editorial staff clung to the fact that thePost was still a good newspaper and was still winning Pulitzer prizes — in short, that it was still the Washington Post. But that “we’re still here” attitude was also tinged with an odor of decline.

Since August 2013, a new calendar has begun for the 137-year-old newspaper: B.B. — before Bezos, and A.B. — after Bezos. The Amazon CEO has injected new energy into the editorial staff. Instead of simply bringing in cash to allow the staff to continue the status quo, he plunged the Post into a period of cultural change, determined that the paper would reinvent itself and escape the confines of the printed page.

. . . .

But what exactly is Bezos up to at the Washington Post? Is he trying to turn the old world of newspaper publishers upside-down and provide them with an answer to the question on everyone’s mind: How can journalism survive on the Web? Or is the Post ultimately nothing but an exciting hobby for someone who doesn’t know what to do with all his money?

Bezos’s motives remain a mystery to those at the Post. “But it’s ridiculous to believe that Jeff Bezos came here with a magic pill to solve all the media industry’s problems within a year — that’s a preposterous notion. If he knew already what worked, we would not need any experiments,” says Executive Editor Marty Baron.

. . . .

Shortly after the sale to Bezos, Baron and a small entourage flew to Seattle, with a wish list in their pockets. The meeting took place in Bezos’s home. But instead of simply writing a check, the Amazon CEO had some questions. He wanted Baron to explain the purpose of various projects to him. “The discussions we had with him were mostly about: How do we draw large numbers of customers?” says Baron. Baron often uses the word “customers” instead of “readers” these days, and it isn’t quite clear whether this is intentional or simply the result of his biweekly telephone conversations with Bezos. Before the trip to Seattle, the Postteam had worked up some numbers on the costs of various proposals, and how much revenue each program could potentially generate. “We put down numbers because we did not want to have nothing, but we told Bezos right from the beginning that these forecasts were based on nothing but guesswork on our part,” says Baron. Apparently Bezos didn’t care.

One of the first ideas to get implemented was the “Morning Mix” on the website, a collection of the most important stories from social networks and online media like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, which a Postteam edits and rewrites daily. As banal as it seems, the new feature is a departure from a long-held doctrine: The website is the sovereign territory of Post journalists, and anything that hasn’t been reported by staff doesn’t make it onto the site. Since May, anyone from ordinary people to politicians and academics can publish highly opinionated articles in a category called “PostEverything.” Both ideas were controversial,” says Fredrick Kunkle, a 14-year veteran editor at the Post. “But we understood that we have to open up to gain more readers online.”

. . . .

The spirit of optimism under Bezos has even convinced the skeptics. After years of almost weekly farewell parties in the newsroom, the paper is now hiring larger numbers of journalists once again. About 100 new staffers were added last year, mostly experienced bloggers and multimedia journalists, but also classic journalists like Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Ellis Nut. Popular political blogs on the website, like “Wonkblog” and “The Fix,” have been expanded. “The optimism is infectious,” says Kunkle.

The editorial department, accustomed to thinking in smaller and smaller terms, has been overcome by a feeling that the sky is the limit. The website’s user numbers are growing, with 42 million users in September, a 47-percent increase over last year. Potential numbers on the order of 100 million or more are being talked about in the newsroom. They are fictitious numbers with no basis in reality, and yet they say a lot about the new thrill of the chase among “Posties,” the insider term for journalists at the Post. “Bezos has unchained our ambitions, the feeling is that nothing can stop the Post now,” says Kunkle.

. . . .

“The web gives us a second chance to be a truly national and international paper and even more: the preferred destination of American readers,” says Executive Editor Baron. And this time Bezos, an Internet titan, is giving them the chance to take advantage of that opportunity.

Link to the rest at Spiegel Online and thanks to Hannah for the tip.

The Two Sides of SEO for Book Publishers

18 February 2015

From Digital Book World:

Here’s a scenario: A reader hears about a book you publish from someone they trust. They decide they want to buy it and read it. So how do they find it? It’s possible they go directly to their favorite bookseller (let’s assume this is all happening online), find it there and buy it. Awesome, you just sold a book.

However, many other readers will go to their favorite search engine and search for the title, the author’s name or both. The question I have for you is this: Where does your book page show up in the search results when that happens?

. . . .

If links to your pages aren’t in the first couple of positions on the first page of the search results, the chances of someone clicking on them are pretty slim. And if you’re not on the first page, you have basically zero chance of getting the click.

. . . .

I’ve heard publishers say it’s impossible to compete with the bigger sites whose pages come up at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) in book searches—like those belonging to Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. I’ve heard that they are just too big and popular. I’ve heard that their search engine optimization (SEO) is just too good, if not perfect. And I’ve heard these things lots of times.

But none of that is true. You can compete with the bigger sites. They are not too big or too popular. And contrary to perhaps the biggest misconception of all, their SEO is far from perfect.

. . . .

SEO has two sides to it: what I call the ‘mechanicals’—on-site elements that search engines look for—and the ‘content envelope’—all the available off-site content about your site and your products, like book reviews, blog posts, videos, social media posts and all the other content that envelopes your site.

You don’t have full control of the content envelope. If you had a really outstanding content generation and social media program you might gain a little more. But you really can’t control everything that happens outside of your site.

On the other hand, you have complete control over your site—after all, it’s yours.

That means you can shape the mechanicals entirely as you wish. Search engines are fairly explicit about what they are looking for when they crawl and index your site. Of course, they don’t tell us everything, but we know enough to be able to ensure your site itself is highly optimized. And just by focusing a little effort on the mechanicals you can start showing up at the top of the search results. Above Amazon, above Goodreads and above Barnes & Noble.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG is always interested to read SEO articles directed at publishers. Like this one, they are kindergarten level discussions — for 2002.

PG would love to see some quality studies of the online habits of those who purchase books regularly. He would bet that Amazon, not Google, is the most popular search engine for books.

Google is king of almost everything in the search world, but if someone is purchasing books on a regular basis, it’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t prefer Amazon where you can find the book and buy the book at a low price instantly.

If publishers are not going to spend significant money to build a really good ecommerce experience with good prices — a mini-Amazon that directly competes with Amazon and all the other online and offline booksellers — PG wonders why they care about search traffic when readers search for the title of a book.

If publishers are doing SEO to send search traffic to their retailers, that’s fine, but they’re going to run into complaints from retailers who aren’t included in the SEO program. Plus, it’s hard enough to do successful SEO when you directly control all the online content. Putting together an SEO program that involves multiple third-party retailers and actually competes with Amazon is a really, really difficult challenge.

Finally, if you want to beat Amazon in the Google search rankings, you have to spend serious cash to hire real SEO executive talent and pay substantial amounts of money to one or more outside SEO service providers. And even then, you might not be able to do it.

UPDATE: PG just took a tour of the websites of the major New York publishers. They’re about two trillion miles away from platforms that would support successful SEO.

Amazon Giveaway – The First Self-Service Giveaway Tool

10 February 2015

From The Amazon Media Room:

Introducing Amazon Giveaway, a new self-service tool designed to modernize the time-tested radio giveaway. Today, people are more likely to encounter giveaways on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, where the word “giveaway” is used more than a million times every day. Everyone from authors, aspiring artists, non-profits, brands, bloggers, social media gurus and more, can now use Amazon to create a giveaway, choosing prizes from millions of eligible physical items. Amazon Giveaway is an intuitive tool that allows anyone to create and host their own giveaway, to generate awareness and reward their audiences.

“The idea of running giveaway promotions is easy. They are a really effective way to attract attention and build engagement, but giveaways often come with hidden costs and complexities which makes the reality of running one hard,” said Steve Shure, Vice President Consumer Marketing. “Amazon Giveaway is the first self-service tool that takes care of all the hard work of a giveaway, from setting up all of the rules to shipping prizes directly to winners.”

. . . .

Anyone who wants to host a giveaway can get started at amazon.com/giveaway or simply visit Amazon to find the eligible item they would like as a prize and click “Set up a giveaway” near the bottom of the product detail page. From there, the host determines the giveaway details, enters custom content and decides whether prizes will go to many entrants or to the first few entrants. Hosts receive a unique link that they can share with their audiences how, when, and where they choose.

Eligible prize items are shipped and sold by Amazon.com. As many as 50 prizes can be awarded per giveaway, with a total value of up to $5,000.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon vs Apple

10 February 2015

From the Self-publishing Advice Blog of the Alliance of Independent Authors:

Everyone knows that Amazon sells more books than Apple, but it’s becoming obvious that Apple has moved past B&N into the number two position, and Apple is continuing to grow. According to iBooks Store Director Keith Moerer, addressing publishers at Digital Book World 2015, Apple’s ebook businesses is gaining 1 million new customers every week. That’s a lot of new readers.

. . . .

If you’re an author, and your books aren’t being sold through Apple, you need to rethink your strategy. Of course, that would mean you’d have to abandon Kindle Select as Amazon demands exclusivity if an author is in Select. And that brings up a question many authors ask.

Should You Be Exclusive On Amazon?

I’ve never been a big fan of Amazon’s exclusivity clause. I also haven’t been a fan of the way that Amazon treats authors in relation to how other companies treat authors.

But let’s leave exclusivity aside for the moment, and focus on…

Who Is The Best eBook Retailer For Authors?

. . . .

The answer to the question of who is the best eBook retailer is more complicated than it might appear. Amazon sells the most books. We all know that. And in an article last March regarding which eBook retailer is number two, Jeremy Greenfield from Digital Book World had this to say.

I wish I could give you a clear answer, but after nearly a month of investigation into whether Apple or Barnes & Noble is now the second-largest ebook retailer in the US, this is the best I have: It depends.
I think with developments we’ve seen in the last half of 2014, Apple has secured the number two spot, but let’s move off the sales topic and focus on other issues.

I hear a lot of complaints about Apple, most of them having to do with how difficult they are to deal with, or how strict they are about accepting material, or how you need a Mac to submit a book. All of that is true—to an extent. But none of that has much to do with the long term.

Even if it takes you two weeks to upload a book—what’s two weeks when your book will be there for years, theoretically, forever. And yes, Apple can be strict about what material they accept, but I’m convinced that’s better for indie authors in the long run. As to needing a Mac… I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. That leaves you with a few choices, the easiest of which is using a good distributor, which isn’t a bad idea anyway.

. . . .

FEATURE AMAZON APPLE
Categories 2 3
Commission 99c–2.98 35 70
Commissions 2.99–9.99 70 70
Commissions 10+ 35 70
Commissions Int’l[1] 35 70
Coupons X
Delivery charges 15c per megabyte up to 2 Gig free
Exclusivity required for some benefits X
File types .mobi epub
Free books w/Select 5 days per quarter anytime
Free books w/o Select X anytime
Payment terms 60 days 32 days
Price matching enforced X
Pricing internationally some control complete control
Reach globally 12 territories 51 countries
Sales reporting updated every few hours daily
Scheduling promotions with Select anytime
Series manager tool X
Uploading easy need a Mac

. . . .

Delivery Charges

This is one of those things that—when first looked at—seems like nothing. But the more you analyze the cost, it becomes apparent how serious it is. (Amazon only charges you if you are in the 70% commission plan.)

My charges for normal mystery books average 10–12c per book. On a book priced at $2.99 that reduces your earnings from $2.10 to about $2.00. That represents an effective cut of about 4%. So in reality, you’re getting 66% instead of 70%.

The actual charges amount to 15c per megabyte. This could get serious if you have a 10-meg file and are selling your book for $4.99. Instead of receiving $3.50, you’d get $2.00. That’s taking your commission from 70% to 40%. A huge cut in commissions.

This is so important, I want to spend a moment on it. If you’re a typical novelist and your book is primarily text it won’t affect you much. Maybe the 3–4% I cited above; however, if you produce cookbooks, illustrated books, non-fiction books heavy with charts, tables, graphs, and images—then these delivery charges mean a lot.

Link to the rest at ALLI and thanks to Suzie for the tip.

Anti-vaxxer children’s book is getting destroyed in Amazon troll campaign

9 February 2015

From Salon:

In 2012, a proactive Australian anti-vaxxer named Stephanie Messenger self-published a children’s book called “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles.” With the book, Messenger endeavored to “educate children on the benefits of having measles and how you can heal from them naturally and successfully.” The book’s illustrated cover features a girl frolicking in a meadow with her stomach exposed, revealing a number of measles pocks all over her body. The whole thing is truly grotesque — so much so, that Amazon has put a disclaimer on the book’s description, noting that it is “provided by the publisher/author of this title and presents the subjective opinions of the publisher/author, which may not be substantiated.”

The book is made all the more relevant, now that a massive measles outbreak (due to the steadily growing vaccine “trutherism” movement) has infected more than 100 people in 15 states, including five babies at a Chicago daycare center.

So, the Internet is doing what the Internet does best: trolling the hell out of Messenger’s deeply flawed book through Amazon comments.

. . . .

“Finally! A children’s book with an agenda I can get behind! I always thought I loved kids until I actually had one of my own and boy was I wrong! I researched anything and everything I could possibly do to get rid of the little brat, but I didn’t want to be arrested for murder and childhood cancer is just too darn unpredictable. Fortunately, I stumbled upon ‘Melanie’s Marvelous Measles’, and learned that there is a huge community of people who hate children as much as me! Thanks to Melanie, I was able to ignore my pediatrician’s recommendations to vaccinate my daughter before our trip to Disney World, all while acting like I want what is ‘best’ for my child.” –brittany

. . . .

“Google image “measles” for a GREAT extra set of illustrations as you read along! While watching Melanie chase rainbows in her parents’ Beverly Hills garden, you can journey along with the millions of kids getting marvelous measles in the areas of the world without the luxury of herd immunity from that oh-so-terrible vaccine! Then you can see into the future of what your grandkids will be enjoying, as you continue to encourage others to reject vaccines that hold back the prevalence of viruses in the population. Gotta say, it’s a great time to study medicine in the USA – we get first-hand experience treating diseases that we’d have to travel to the third world to see. Thanks so much, Stephanie!” –Lyra 

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Ric for the tip.

Turning Amazon Reviews Into Celebrity Status — and Free Stuff

8 February 2015

From ABC:

On any given day, Bob will come home to find two to three boxes at his front door filled with products that range from cell phone products to coffee mugs all for free.

That’s because by day, Bob, who asked that his last name not be used, is an IT specialist inWashington, D.C., but by night, he’s an Amazon celebrity.

. . . .

He gained elite status on Amazon by reviewing hundreds of products over the years. Most reviewers like Bob start off small, one review here or there, but now companies send him their products for free. He said he receives about 30 products per week.

Bob is now in the “Top 5” of Amazon’s trusted reviewers and has been in what the company calls “The Reviewers Hall of Fame” for the past five years. For him, it’s more than just a hobby. He said he spends three to four hours a night reviewing products.

And Bob goes all out. He sets up photo and video shoots for his reviews and he’s not afraid to use words like “worthless” in describing products.

“It needs to be time-consuming to be a hobby,” he said. “What good is a hobby that takes 10 minutes a month?”

Mandy, who also asked that her last name not be used, is number 7 on the Amazon celebrity list and has a similar story. A political consultant and a single mom, she spends her spare time building up her review count on Amazon and she too receives dozens of free products now.

“Around Christmas time I was getting around 15 to 20 boxes a day,” she said. “It’s flattering that people [send their products] because you’re not paid for this. This is something that I do because I want to help people. I really want to help small business.”

Many of the free items Mandy said she receives range from clothing to household goods to beauty products, even jewelry. The biggest item she received was a full-sized washing machine, but she said those big ticket items are rare.

. . . .

“[Reviewers] are hugely powerful,” said PR specialist Howard Bragman. “On average they give between one and five reviews a day. So they have a lot of volume, they sell tens of millions dollars’ worth of product because again that’s how our decisions are made.”

Link to the rest at ABC

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