A blog on Indies Unlimited titled After the Gold Rush ticked my goose. It blogs the same old lament we’ve been hearing for the past year and a half, The Golden Age of best selling ebooks is over. Left unsaid, but inferred: Jeff Bezos changed the algorithms on Amazon, so a book cannot not hit the bestseller list after a FREE promotion and the title returns to Paid.
Until 2012, if an author promoted a title on FREE, every download counted as a full sale—not in dollars—but where a book placed on Amazon’s Best Seller list. A title with as few as 30,000 downloads could reach the #1 Top Best Seller slot. Amazon customers bought those books in the thousands. Next, the author collected those lovely royalties even as the book dropped off the bestseller list—way off, as in sucking mud.
Here are the stats on one of those artificial bestsellers today:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,031 Paid in Kindle Store
In two years, the title has garnered less than 55 reviews. The author has not produced another book either.
Another Amazon algorithm notes reviews—how fast they come in and how often readers who don’t write reviews agree with the reviewers. You will see something like: 37 of 37 people found this review helpful. did you ever notice that on your reviews? Prolly not.
Now, I don’t know Jeff Bezos, but that man does NOT eat Stupid for Breakfast.
He noticed this: Amazon customers seldom supported the FREE books after that first flash of fame on the bestseller list. They did not rush to write reviews. Or if they did—reviews that did come in were mixed. Many of the titles could not maintain a 3.8/5.0 Review Rank. Bestsellers whether ebook or trad maintain that review rank or better, even after 1000+ reviews. Very few of those authors who enjoyed a FREE download counting as a full sale have produced a second best-selling novel under the new algorithms.
However, Amazon still cut the author some slack while protecting its customer base from those one week or one month wonder books. A FREE download now counts as one-tenth of a sale. It takes massive downloads to get in the magic TOP 100 FREE and for the title to find a nice slot when it returns to Paid—which it won’t do unless Amazon customers buy the book. However, if the FREE downloads are massive, Amazon pops the title on its popularity lists in the book’s genre—readers find it easily. That’s nice. Amazon wants an author to be successful—it taps 30% of every royalty dollar. Honey, that’s good for the bottom line.
When a title does return to paid and even before Amazon readers start buying the thing, the title needs to start collecting four and five star reviews PDQ. Very few of those titles that reached the artificial bestseller status in 2012 and earlier, earned 100 or more five-star reviews within the first month or even the first year. If yours did—share. That’s great–you sold books. The algorithm that changed the way FREE books count as one-tenth of a sale leveled the playing field. Your books and mine do not have to compete with artificial bestsellers now. We are all paddling the same canoe. We put our FREE books in front of readers and they decide if the book is worth the purchase price when it goes off FREE. They say so or not–in a review. That works for me.
One guy on IU lamented about how many awful ebooks are there. Yep. There are. But! They don’t get on the bestseller lists now so the public perception is that ebooks are getting better. Nor will the premier promotion sites accept those awful ebooks. They vet the books before accepting them. Amazon readers can continue to trust Amazon and they know when they are taking a leap of faith on an ebook. Readers are much more perceptive today than in the past. Good for them.
I looked at the books by the authors who were shouting the loudest complaints about their titles not selling. Guess what? They were not promoting them. Some authors did not have full-length books. Sixty-five pages is not a book. It’s a short story or a novella at best. The premier promo sites such as Bookbub, Kindle Nation Daily and One Hundred FREE Books, will not accept anything less than 100 pages meant for an adult market. If you’re gonna write to sell—you have to write for the market and know how it works. If you have 35,000 followers all waiting for your 35 page opus—good on you! Go for it. I’m not saying the short is not well written. It’s just gonna be a tough sell and if you don’t realize that when you type THE END, you have a figure out how best to market it off grid. Amazon is the first venue we put our books on. It is not Amazon’s fault if the work doesn’t sell. That’s on the indie author. Hey! We are so lucky have a free venue. Amazon doesn’t charge five cents to upload a book.
Have a look at the stats on this book: SalesRank: 10,000,000, updated on XX May, 2014 17:09
I found it last week: Mercy! 9,999,999 books are selling better than this book. You hear that there are only 1.5 million ebooks on Amazon. Somebody can’t count. Your competition for the reader is all ten million of the books on Amazon. Actually–there are more than ten million books on Amazon.
Another commenter decrying the loss of the Golden Age said: “The writer producing a book a month will tend to do better than the writer producing six per year.”
Folks: That dog don’t hunt! It is not about production. It is about promotion. I can show you two authors that I know, each with ten books or more. One seldom promotes. His titles are sucking mud. The other author promotes one title a month or one every other month. She sells books. I know another author who had a single ebook for almost a year. She promoted in a unique way and sold 30-50 books a week for a solid 10 months. That kept her title #1 in her genre until her second and third books came out. She worked it! You try it.
Here is another bit of rhetoric that doesn’t hold water. “Enthusiasm over some new book for FREE! (has) waned…” Fact: Since mid-November of last year 195,278 readers have downloaded two of my titles on FREE and written over 450 reviews that prompted sales of something over $8,000. Now 8,000$ in the scheme of things ain’t much and I know it. I’m not boasting, but it is a tidy return on investment (ROI) for two promotions and keeps me in Bingo $$$ and I have a little left over to fund my next promotion.
The author of the article inferred that Bookbub subscribers hoard FREE books. Yes, they do. I love ‘em. And once my titles have 100 Five Star Reviews, I tweet #Bookbub Hoarders to remind them they downloaded my book. That works. They tweet me back. I follow them and they follow me. We’re having a good time.
The Gold Rush is not over—you just can’t pump the gold with a fast machine anymore. Jeff Bezos put paid to that. You’ve got to use a pick, a shovel, and a gold pan.
My titles are not bestsellers. They may never be, but they are finding a reader thither and yon. I’m working with the market we have—and for me that market is on Amazon with the rules Jeff Bezos laid down. I’m good with it.
The author of the article on Indies Unlimited gave us a ping back to an earlier article he wrote in which he said: “Who should you take advice from… A million-seller like Stephen King…or some housewife who just sold $45,000 worth of her dippy romance in a month?”
I’m laffin’. I write dippy romance novels—and have done off and on for thirty-five years. Fed, clothed, sheltered and educated my five kids on the royalties, too. Then took what was left and traipsed about the world having fun. You listen to whomever you want to. I’m thinking for myself.
Dippy romance? Gad! Where’s my dang snake gun?
Oops. It’s raining again. I’m going inside, make myself a Chocolate Martini and browse my new Kindle Fire for a good book to read. I’m a Bookbub Hoarder, too. Y’all have a good one.