The Wrong Side Of Amazon

100_1498Is there a wrong side of Amazon? Is there a punishment algorithm for those who violate the expectations of this mighty retailer?

I’ve heard many stories from those who have failed to follow directions, particularly authors. Have they reviewed another writer on amazon who writes in a similar genre? Has someone who is closely related to them or with the same last name posted a glowing review? These are among the no-nos.

Yet there seems to be an expectation that authors will do a myriad of small things, such as check the box to agree with glowing reviews and so manipulate them to keep the best foremost. And authors are expected to tag books by genre, but only from a specific provided list, despite any signature uniquenesses the book may possess. But you must know to do it to gain this advantage.

Such restrictions and expectations have spawned many “How To” books for succeeding on Amazon. Those who simply publish a book and walk away will lose out to those who learn these ropes. Make no mistake; this is competition. In fact, given the number of self-published authors today, it is fierce competition. Your book could be pushed beneath so many other books on Amazon that it will never ever see the light of day.

But what of those who cross the lines set by Amazon, those who mistakenly (or not) go against the rules?

You will be warned. And you may be punished. You will receive an email chiding you for your action. You will be warned that if the action is repeated, your work will be removed from the location that is under contention. And perhaps it will.

Make no mistake, I am sure that the folks at Amazon are fine people who only wish to help every author succeed. I know that there needs to be structure to prevent authors from running amuck at the site. I blame the software, the algorithms that are in place to provoke the release of such messages; not the humans.

A case in point. My first novel, THE OTHER, sells at Amazon, but I never enrolled it in KDP Select. I published through Smashword and it went out to all the distributors represented by them. I did enroll my second novel, MESTACLOCAN, in KDP Select and was pleased by my sales. In fact, the sales of both books seemed to be invigorated. So I decided to enter THE OTHER in the program. I knew I must remove the book from all other distributors and I did so through Smashword. Slowly, one by one, the book was withdrawn from each. Except one.

Two distributors were engaged in a merger and my book was apparently forgotten. It remained shelved. Not realizing this, I enrolled in KDP Direct. All was well but in about a week I received a note from Amazon that I must remove that book from that retailer’s shelf, or be dropped from KDP Select. I tried to do so, but had no way to connect to them and my book remained with that retailer and I was dropped from KDP Select.

Well, fair enough. But then my book sales slowed. Again, no surprise here. I re-published at Smashword and gradually THE OTHER took its place on their shelves. Back to normal, I thought. But then my sales at Amazon shrank to the lowest level ever. And stayed there.

Now I don’t believe that the folks at Amazon decided to bury my books. But I do believe that the algorithm applied is designed to make sure my book doesn’t enjoy any of the advantages that may come with KDP Select, even those that may have already existed without the program.

We all know that book sales is all about exposure and that without it, book sales will plummet. And yes, there are other ways to gain that exposure and I will pursue them. I am hard at work on my next book and, yes, when I publish it will go right to KDP Select. I have learned my lesson.

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