Things Are Changing at Amazon and Facebook….So How Do You Cope?

I just read an awesome post by Anne R. Allen titled “Indie Publishing in 2013: Why We Can’t Party Like It’s 2009”.  I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself, but to sum up the items I want to focus on in this post, it outlines the changes Amazon has been making.  These changes include the way authors have been able to effectively promote their books.   As most of you probably know, Amazon has been removing reviews, and I didn’t realize it until recently but they’re not just removing reviews from self-published books.  Traditionally published books are also at risk.  Amazon isn’t as quick to price match “free” anymore, which does limit the potential to reach a wider audience (on Amazon).  Traditionally published books are now cheaper, which (naturally) makes it harder for the indie author to compete.  It looks like sites featuring ebooks are being told by Amazon that Amazon won’t pay them if they keep featuring the free stuff.  And, to finish on my end of summarizing the post, Facebook is now wanting monetary rewards if you want to reach more people with your posts on there.  Okay, so that’s my quick breakdown of Anne R. Allen’s post because I want to alert everyone reading this that this stuff is going on, and as Anne R. Allen pointed out, we have to be flexible enough to work with these changes.

Thinking as a business person, some strategies on coping with these changes have come to mind.

1.  Patience is a must.

With the huge success stories we’ve heard about authors that seemed to pop up out of nowhere and made it big in a year or less, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking self-publishing is such an easy way to make money. The stars of self-publishing are what we hear about most.  That’s why we forget that there are a lot more other self-published authors out there who have been publishing for years who haven’t sold a million Kindle books or made megabucks.  Just like with traditional publishing, a few make it big, but most don’t.  While it’s good to have goals, I recommend being realistic about them.

2.  Sales are never steady.

Your sales from month to month will fluctuate.  I can promise you this because every single book that has ever been written has never remained at the same spot on a bestseller’s list forever.  If there is no other constant in the publishing business, you can count on sales going up and down.  Be prepared for it, and you stand a better chance of not getting depressed when your sales fall.

From what I’ve noticed (by my own sales, by talking to other authors, and reading up on the forums), a lot of authors are taking a hit in sales on Amazon.  But is it time to throw in the towel and give up?  If you don’t love self-publishing, I say stop doing it.  If you want to switch to traditional publishing, by all means do so (but I don’t think that’s the guaranteed golden egg either).  The fact of the matter is self-publishing is going to be  the easy way out.  I don’t think it ever was an easy way out, even when it was easier to get noticed on Amazon.  Why?  Because I started self-publishing on Amazon in 2009 with a few other authors, and we are not all selling the same number of books.  Some of us sell more and some of us sell less.  There will always be those who sell more than you and some who sell less than you.  What Amazon does might impact some sales, but it doesn’t have to effect all sales as long as you…

3.  Avoid exclusivity.

I’ve never been a fan of exclusivity.  I realize some authors have seen a boost from KDP Select, but I think this is way too dangerous.  I don’t care how much money goes into the pot for borrows or how much Amazon will push a Select book (which doesn’t have the same impact that it used to, from what I can tell).  If you limit yourself to one outlet, you are at the whim of the place you’re on.  I don’t care if it’s Amazon, Apple, B&N, or anywhere else.  Potential for longterm (emphasis on “long”) success requires a lot of patience and the willingness to keep going when you see no results from your efforts.  You might never make it big.  We are not all meant to.  But you might be able to have some spending money, pay some bills, or possibly make a living.  The more places you sell your books, the better your chances are of getting noticed.  Not everyone owns a Kindle.  Since we’re going global, I see this as a shining light.  Amazon is not the only place going global either, thank God.  You start getting international sales, and every little bit starts to add up.  It’s a slow process, but I believe if you’re patient, things can pick up.  Don’t shut out the potential fans.  Be accessible.  That is to your advantage.  Being dependent on one place to sell your books is not to your advantage in the long run.

4.  Watch your pricing.

As much as some of you might want to sell at a higher price, realize the fact that traditionally published books are coming down in prices.  The whole “only crap is cheap” is becoming invalid, as is the “you get what you pay for” motto that grates on my nerves whenever I hear it.  If you want to insist on a high price, understand what you’re up against.  While a lower price might not have the same incentive that it once did, it’s important to stay competitive in the marketplace if you’re running a business.  Whether you think your book is worth more or not is irrelevant if the reader doesn’t think so.  A book is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.   The same thing is true with any product.  I’m in the middle of selling my house and it will only be worth what someone offers on it, no matter how much work I put into getting it ready for selling.  Now, if you can sell at a higher price and be happy with the results, then by all means, do it.  Some of you can.  But for those who can’t (and I’m one of them), we will have to price the books at what readers are willing to pay in order to make a certain amount of money.  I believe lower prices on traditionally published books will change the perceived value readers are willing to pay for books, esp. by unknown authors.

5.  Email lists.

I wanted to mention this because of what Facebook is doing.  Facebook has been a good avenue to reach fans (esp. those on your friends’ list), but if they are starting to want money (and I’m not surprised by this), you can work around this.  On your blog or website, have a form people can fill out to be notified when you have a new book out.  Put their email on a list and send it out when the new release is out.  You only need to send this once.  Do not abuse this list or else people will block you or delete the email as soon as they see it’s from you.  And let them know upfront what the list is for.  You can also use Facebook to link up your blog post or link to your website.  You can put your website in your Facebook profile for people to view.  Anything that gets them to see the list will work to your advantage.

6.  Link your blog posts to Goodreads.

I’m surprised anyone at Goodreads reads my blog posts over there, but once in a while, I’ll get a comment.  This is a great place to have your blog posts at because people over there are book lovers.  You can also have your website in your profile page.  You don’t have to be active on Goodreads to take advantage of this.

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I better end this post here since it’s already over 1000 words.

 

 

29 Comments

  1. I read on the Smashwords blog where Amazon sweetened the deal with KDP Select, adding more money to the pot. I don’t believe in exclusivity, either. If you put all your eggs in one basket, then the baskets falls, you have a lot of broken eggs. And it’s not fair to readers who have Nooks, etc. I’m not going to tell my readers “I’m sorry, but you HAVE to buy my books on Amazon”.

    I heard something about Amazon removing reviews. What in the world would even be the reason for that?

    The pricing issue is a big one, and some of the new authors I know are pricing high, which I think is a big mistake for someone just starting out. And I’ve started watching my sales closely lately, and my .99 books still outsell all the others. Some people just won’t buy a book unless it’s .99. My later books are $2.99, and I think that’s a very reasonable price. But those don’t sell as well, even though they are much better books than my older ones. I’ve been tempted just to price everything at .99 all the time, but I’m not sure that’s the answer. I think the lower book sales for most of us (and it seems to be a problem for most authors right now) is caused by the market being glutted with books. Everyone can self-publish now, but not everyone goes to the trouble to make sure their books are ready for publication. But it’s hard for the readers to wade through all the books. I used to make good money from my books when e-publishing was a new thing. Now, I’m really struggling. So should we quit? (Sometimes I want to!) No, I think things will eventually settle down and the cream will rise to the top. Don’t you think so?

    1. Yep, I saw that Amazon added a lot more money to the pot. After watching how things went for a lot of authors who went into Select this past year, I am not tempted at all to put any books into that program. I hear that a few authors did very well off of Select, but most of them didn’t. The books I followed (because I was curious about it), did worse in the long run from where they were before. I think the problem with Select is that it requires the free promo days, and once your promo days are up, other books get promoted. I don’t think temporary free books are as beneficial as permanent free ones because it takes time for the free books to spread out to enough readers who’ll actually buy the other books. (just my opinion)

      From what I understand, Amazon is removing reviews if they suspect you’re faking a review (say there’s a similar IP address used), have someone review your book with a name similar to yours (so they think it’s a family member), or some other thing they find suspicious. I hear it’s happened to traditionally published books, too, so this isn’t something where self-published authors are being targeted.

      As for pricing, the same is true for me. I sell at $0.99 a lot better than $2.99. As much as people want to claim that $0.99 is a sign of “low quality”, the average reader thinks it’s a bargain. I don’t think they devalue books based on low prices as much as we’ve been led to believe. Now that traditionally published books are coming down in price, I think the argument for keeping prices lower is stronger. The real problem, as you pointed out, is the amount of care authors take into polishing up their book. Also, the amount of books makes it harder to get noticed, too. It was a lot easier to market books back when e-publishing was new. That’s why I’m glad I’m not starting now. It also helped that back then, there were no expectations of selling well. I was told that my life was over since I had no publisher. It was easier to wait for sales to pick up, and since free and $0.99 weren’t done much, it was easier to get noticed.

      As painful as this whole thing is, I think we’re in a transition where those who aren’t serious about self-publishing will give up. It will help the cream rise to the top. I know what you mean about wanting to quit sometimes. It can be stressful, esp. when things happen that are out of our control (copyright infringement, the algorithms changing, reviews). I think it’s normal to go through periods where we want to throw in the towel and walk away, but in the end, it’s the love of what we do that keeps us going. Every job has it’s downsides.

      I always enjoy reading your comments. You have some great insights. 😀

  2. What a great post, thanks. I’ve been one who has warned my blog followers about Amazon’s exclusivity, and what they are doing in terms of removing reviews (a widespread and concerning problem). But you are so right in all your advice and, as one who’s sales have dropped, I take it to heart, especially about long-term goals 🙂

    1. Thanks for warning people about exclusivity. I haven’t seen it pay off enough in the long run to make it worth it, and it’s hard to watch those books hit a peak just to end up worse off than they were before. I don’t think Amazon boosts Select authors for long. I heard an author say it still benefits her, but the books I’ve tracked (out of curiosity) end up suffering for it. It’s hard to watch. I don’t know if Amazon is removing reviews because of complaints regarding sockpuppet accounts, but that’s my guess. I worry about the removal of reviews, too. I might not agree with authors who try to trash other authors or rig the system with bogus good reviews, but I would rather have that and keep the legitimate reviews on authors’ books. Legitimate reviews are hard to come by, and I hate to see them removed. I feel your pain on the drop in sales. It’s hard to work hard, produce more books, and watch your sales drop overall. I feel like I’m working harder for less pay. I keep telling myself to be patient and get through it. I think that’s the only thing we can do. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this article. I think it will be very helpful, especially to people just getting started in self-publishing while following advice mostly from 2009 and early 2010.

    1. I remember the stuff I did in 2009 and 2010, and it’s not the same game anymore. It was a lot easier back then than it is now. I’m lucky because I started back then, so the advice worked well for me. I’m still trying to figure out a way that I would try to get established if I was starting out today. I guess my big thing would be to try to get a few books written and then focus on marketing while putting one of my books permanently free. Free seems to still work, but if there are no other books to buy, it’s hard to get the most benefit from it. But now there are a lot more books, so that works against new authors as well. I started out participating on reader forums (back then you could go on Amazon without fear of someone accusing you of only being there to sell your book). Today, I’d probably go to Goodreads and hang out as a fellow reader but let my profile speak for me regarding my books and website. I did develop some friends and a small readership from the discussion boards. It wasn’t a huge way to sell, but it did get me where the readers were so it was a good start. Those are some ideas off the top of my head on how I would do things to get my foot in the door with marketing today. I still like Facebook, but I guess the way to go about doing things over there might change. I like to link blog posts to there to keep people updated on my books and give out sample teaser scenes for upcoming books. That seems to work (at least at the time being).

  4. JoanReeves says:

    Great post, Ruth Ann. I completely agree with you on all points.

  5. annerallen says:

    Thanks for the shout-out Ruth Ann. Your tips are spot on. Especially about the patience. Self-pubbers who have somehow hit the jackpot (often because they already had a trad-pubbed platform) often say if you’re not making a living at it, you’re not a good writer. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nobody knows why an E.L James steps out of the crowd to become a megastar. But nobody should feel that is the norm.

    1. Thanks! I really loved your blog post. You laid out everything that is happening very well. I was trying to get a grasp on it, but I had trouble figuring out how to word it. Thanks to you, I was able to link to your post so everyone could read it. 😀

      I agree. Making a living at writing doesn’t mean you’re a good writer. I have read some great self-published books that should sell better than they do. I don’t understand why some books sell and others don’t. People like E.L James are rare.

  6. annerallen says:

    I’ve quoted your post here in my blogpost this morning, Ruth Ann. http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2012/12/self-publishing-or-traditional.html

    1. Thank you! I read it, and I love all the resources you linked to. Thanks for pointing me to some blogs I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet.

  7. I’m still confused on the pricing issue. While I understand cheaper sells better, it’s not the same pricing a 100 page novella or short story at .99 as a 300 page novel at the same price, or even at 2.99. I think we need to clarify what we are selling at .99. What is the going price for a 300 page book? Thanks for offering this great forum for writers.

    1. The key isn’t what you think the book is worth or I want think the book is worth. The key is what people are willing to pay for it. It’s not just books. The same applies to anything. I’m selling a house right now. The realtor told me from day 1 that the house is worth what someone will pay for it, regardless of how much work I did or did not put into the place. He’s right. If you can sell a short story at $0.99, then that is what it’s worth. If you can sell it at $4.99, then that is what it’s worth. It’s what the market will bear for your story.

  8. I’d heard about the Amazon thing for awhile now, but thus far they haven’t deleted any of mine. I’ve been reviewing lots of different things, and that might have had something to do with it.

    1. From what I’ve seen, they haven’t deleted any of my reviews either. I review a wide variety of books and a couple of movies. I don’t know if it’s the variety of what we review that makes the difference, but maybe it helps. I’ve also been reviewing books since 2008. Maybe length of time as a reviewer helps?

  9. JoanReeves says:

    I’ve been reviewing since 2004, and I review books in many different genres as well as movies, TV series on DVD, and even electronic gadgets. None of my reviews have been deleted either. I get emails from Amazon asking me to post reviews, and I get emails from them telling me that a customer said my review helped them decide to buy. I guess everyone probably gets those too.

    1. I have gotten emails asking me to review stuff I buy, but I haven’t gotten one telling me my review helped someone buy something. It must be the variety and length of time reviewing things that tells Amazon the reviews are okay.

  10. Amazon has gotten a little too big for their britches lately…

    So has Facebook … you mean you’re going to CHARGE me for reaching my own hard-won readers?

    Google+ just went live a few days ago on a new service called ‘Communities.’ Kind of like Facebook fan pages used to be. You can set them up as private, semi-private, or public pages and they don’t charge you to reach your own audience. I started a reader-oriented community called FREE EBOOKS where authors can list their giveaway the day it’s free (can’t have any strings attached). It’s meant to be an alternative to the KDP Select exclusivity trap. If anybody wants to join, here’s the link (you must follow the submission guidelines):

    https://plus.google.com/communities/117269704176312407898?hl=en

    1. I finally figured out what is going on with Facebook. If you post something on your fan page, Facebook will ask if you want to pay them a certain amount (I was asked $5) to make my post visible to 1K or so people. But I can post anything on my regular page without being asked to pay for additional exposure. Still, with all the ads they already have from businesses (and I’ve paid for a couple over the years–huge waste of money), you’d think they have enough money where they wouldn’t have to ask authors to get their post available to more people. I

      As for Amazon, I know they’re a big deal now, but it seems to me that there’s usually another company coming around the corner that unexpectedly expands and becomes bigger in the future. I haven’t seen the benefit to Select. It might give authors a spike, but from the books I’ve tracked, the books ended up being worse off than they were before. There’s probably someone out there who is better off long-term from it, but I haven’t seen who this person is.

      I think it’s awesome that you started the community on Google+. I’ll pass the information along to one of my readers who has a book review blog. She is a huge reader and has a growing list of followers who will buy books from authors if they like the free ones they read. She’s on Google+. She’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. 🙂

      I’ll post your link on a blog post I’ll do tonight to pass it on to other authors. Thanks for being supportive of other authors.

  11. historyweaver says:

    Very helpful post. Now trying to figure out connecting my blog to Goodreads.

    1. Thanks. 😀

      I found this on Goodreads about establishing a blog: From your Author Dashboard, click “view your blog.” This will take you to a welcome page with three options: write a new post, edit your blog’s title and description, or sync with a pre-existing blog. From there you can change the name of your blog, as well as write a new post. Goodreads Authors are the only Goodreads members who can have a blog on the site.

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      It’s been so long since I made myself a Goodreads Author and set up my blog, I can’t remember the exact steps I took, but I think it was an easy process. It was easier than figuring out Facebook, and Facebook is constantly changing (which doesn’t help). LOL

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