As we near the end of the year, I thought it would be relevant to discuss indie authors and Amazon in 2013. I wish I had a crystal ball and could tell exactly what will happen (ah, then I would dominate sales lol), but I don’t. I do, however, have some thoughts on what Amazon will mean to us indie authors…
Indie Authors And Authors Reviewing Authors
At this point, I think an author would have to be pretty out of touch to not be aware that Amazon is removing reviews left and right. But what is more concerning is that Amazon doesn’t allow authors to review other authors anymore (see this LA Times post). Amazon’s statement:
We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.
So if Stephen King wants to review another author’s book, they’ll tell him no? Apparently they don’t realize that they are potentially hurting their sales with this. Obviously this is a backlash to the whole review scandal, which also means…
Indie Authors And Reviews In General
Amazon reviews will become less relevant as word gets out to the average Joe and Jane about what has happened with sock puppet reviews, John Locke buying reviews and all the mess it’s caused. I read more and more of readers who don’t trust reviews and who also are not trusting indie authors because they worry the authors have faked reviews. Places like Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other reader sites may become the place to go for truly honest reviews.
Indie Authors And Book Rankings
It would appear that since at least April that Amazon began changing its algorithms in ways that do not favor indie authors. I think this will continue. Why?
Amazon got what it wanted – a bunch of ebooks for all the Kindle buyers to load onto their ereaders. Remember, this happened when they were in a price war with the Big Six publishers. But now many publishers are dropping their prices and the ever-changing algorithms appears to have a favorability ranking:
- traditionally published book
- Amazon’s own published books
- higher priced books (those selling for more than $2.99)
- books enrolled in KDP Select
Amazon is smart. They know traditionally published books, especially by all the bestselling authors, will continue to sell, and generally much better than independently published books (yes, there are exceptions). Amazon needs those traditionally published books showing up on the bestseller and popularity lists. And so the algorithms do not favor free or 99 cent books anymore, which means a lot of indie authors are adversely affected. Unfortunately, I think this continues in 2013.
Indie Authors And Free Books
This one is concerning for anyone who is using Amazon as the primary strategy for their book marketing (i.e. KDP Select). As I stated above, the algorithms do not favor free books. You will find it much harder to climb the book rankings and the benefits of being there will be less and less. Why? Amazon is already threatening places that list free books, telling them to cut back on the free book listings. E-Reader News Today reports (as reported on Anne R. Allen’s blog:
While Amazon cannot make us do anything with our website, they can tell us they will not pay us anymore if we don’t do what they want us to do. And what they’ve told us to do is cut down A LOT on the free books or they will not pay us at all. I can’t go into detail on what they’ve told us but this is something that will be affecting all sites similar to ours within the next month.
Free seems to have lost its luster for Amazon…
Indie Authors And Gifting Books
Gifting books is an issue, too. There was a time when you could gift someone a book and you could get a review. and it would show Amazon verified purchase. Not anymore. Now gifting a book is called unethical because it’s considered compensation for the reviewer…how giving out ARCs fits in and is okay, I don’t know. Now you must have someone say in the review that they received the book for free (and the review might still be removed).
The only form of compensation that Amazon allows is a free copy of the product (provided up-front) in exchange for an unbiased review. Refunding of a product or providing funds to purchase the product are considered compensation and not allowed.
Indie Authors And Amazon’s Publishing Houses
Amazon will continue buying publishers and creating their own publishing houses. Why? They want into brick and mortar stores and they need the credibility of being a legit publishing house to do this. It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos wanted into publishing and it’s also no secret that he and Amazon has resorted to bullying tactics to get what they want. Dennis Loy Johnson, talked about Amazon’s bullying:
I was at the Book Expo in New York and two guys from Amazon came to see me. They said that the company was watching what we were doing and that they strongly advised us to get in line. I was shocked at how blatant the pressure was.
Amazon wants this market…the question is, will they get it? And if so, what does this mean to the average indie author who only sells a few books a month?
Indie Authors And Amazon’s Quest For The World
Amazon will continue to publish around the world – and this leaves out many indie authors, who can’t afford the exorbitant prices to translate their books (and please don’t cite that indie authors can use the free Google translators – these do such a poor job of accurate translation, I would be embarrassed to have my name on a book translated by those sites).
Amazon sells in the U.S., Canada, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, India and how Brazil. Expect them to roll out in more countries as 2013 rolls on…but most indie authors won’t be able to take advantage of this because of translation costs.
Indie Authors – What Next?
I really wonder what Amazon has up its sleeve. It’s no secret that Amazon loses money on its Kindle sales. Where will they make money? Certainly on book sales, but not much from us little ole indie authors. I hope I’m wrong, but I do worry about the future of indie authors with Amazon.
But what are some positives? I’m glad you asked :).
Other markets are growing, especially Kobo, which means more market for your books worldwide. More indie authors are reporting better sales on Smashwords than Amazon, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook is another market to exploit. I’ve never been completely comfortable with Amazon’s exclusivity with KDP Select. And I wonder if indie authors who don’t sell well in other markets don’t know how to market there (myself included). It seems to me that the best bet is to build your author platform so you can hopefully sell across all markets…but what do I know?
What do you think will happen with Amazon in 2013? Let me know.