Amazon is a battle-ground

This is not going to be a funny post. I am not going to talk about how yesterday, I spent 45 highly frustrating minutes hiding like a spy in the utility room, trying to photograph the blue-tits as they attacked the bird-feeder outside, and how every time I made the slightest noise they all shuttled off, leaving me feeling embarrassed with just a blurry photo of something reminiscent of my sixth-form photography project, which was deemed ‘sinister in its abstract usage’. Nor am I going to talk about how it disturbed me today when, on the BBC News web-site, I came across a story about the new gigantic Boeing 747-8 plane, which immediately made me think of the Titanic and how that ended (I didn’t think of the Titanic because the plane also doubles as a boat, by the way, as it doesn’t. I thought of the Titanic because if you ask me, a huge great plane like that is just asking for trouble).

Instead I am going to talk about the battle-ground that is Amazon. The warriors, in this case, are not clad in armour but seated in front of computers across the land: they are independent authors, or indie authors, if you like (I personally don’t particularly like the term indie author; it makes me feel like I should be wearing tight jeans and sat here with a fashionable hair-cut I can neither comprehend or want, and that’s something which I’m just not into!). Definitely regression from what warriors of the past would have wanted for their kind in the future, but warriors nonetheless.

Because if you’re an independent/indie author on Amazon, you’d better be prepared to fight.

I think Amazon are basically good, let’s get that straight from the out-set. Yes they’re a massive corporate organisation who love nothing more than making stupid money and pretending they understand what it’s like to be a broke unknown writer, but at the same time, their platform is nothing less than essential for anyone wanting to sell their work in paperback or on the Kindle. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything the firm do —  I don’t. But as with anything in life there are positives and negatives. And remember: with rare exceptions, you care just as much about making money as Amazon do. Or, more accurately, you need to make enough money to keep you going, which you could argue is the same for Amazon with their ever-increasing overheads. You can try and argue against that point by saying that you’re just one person and they are enormous and have lost sight of their magnitude in pursuit of success, but the argument drowns as soon as you realise that humans are all essentially greedy. Soon as we have anything, we all want something more, even if the stakes are very low.

But enough with the pessimism, and back to the battle-ground.

One really incredible thing about Amazon is that they offer you the opportunity to interact with a readership. Not a spokesman, not a manager — YOU, the author. This is possible through their Author Central programme, which gives you a customisable page to woo readers with, or via their numerous discussion forums where you can reply to threads and start your own.

The problem is that it’s getting out of hand. In a big and potentially damaging way. And readers are getting sick and tired of authors shamelessly promoting their work — which you really can’t blame them for, if I’m honest, so am I.  To the point where now, I suspect that 75% of readers don’t even bother to click through to a book page unless they recognise the author’s name or the pitch was truly mind-blowing and they have to read that book. And to be honest, why should they? When almost every thread in a discussion is infected with someone — often out of context, with the most tenuous link imaginable — trying to sell their work, why should a reader waste their time on a complete unknown, let alone 6 hours reading their novel?

For the independent/indie author, it poses a real and difficult-to-process issue: do you risk continuous posting and hope readers will be intrigued enough — or broken down mentally enough — to check out your book, or do you hold off and hope that the other promotional work you do will pay off?

By the way, you can now buy The Number 3 Mystery Book for just 69p! Did I mention that?

There’s another dilemma, of course: if you don’t do enough promotional work and connect with your readers, then your work won’t actually find any readers.

What it comes down to, I think, is integrity. There’ll always be people who have no shame. People who really do think any publicity is good publicity. But at the same time, the real writers will eventually shine through. Until then we’ll all just have to hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

C

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7 comments on “Amazon is a battle-ground

  1. herocious says:

    I haven’t gotten involved in the Amazon Author Central Program yet. With all the social media available, what I find difficult is learning where to focus your efforts. What platforms have been most effective for you?

    Like

    • chrispink says:

      Hey Herocious, right there with you on that one. Twitter, Facebook, forums, discussions, flyers, emails — it’s easy to just do a bit of everything and not really focus on anything. In terms of what’s been effective for me, it’s a bit too early to say right now — my novel’s only been out less than a month, so I’m right at the beginning. At a guess though, I’d say that emailing websites for book reviews / promotion will be most effective. I say that because I have a few things happening in the coming weeks which should hopefully get the word out. Otherwise, asking people to share on their Facebook Wall is invaluable. It might no have immediate results, but it definitely gets immediate interest, which is almost as good when your’e a relatively unknown author.

      What about you?

      Hope all’s good in Austin,

      C

      Like

      • herocious says:

        Hi C,

        You have good strategies. Thanks for sharing them. Sending out ARC copies is definitely worth trying steadily until you get a few up around the internet. Doing interviews is also a pretty great way to help get the word out. I’m happy to say that my book has gotten a little of both. I’ve also started a Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/austinnights. But probably what has helped the most to lift Austin Nights out of obscurity is writing book reviews for other authors and small presses and publishing them on TheOpenEnd.

        Enjoy Life

        Like

      • chrispink says:

        Hey Herocious,

        This is good to read, was good to read, was good to read for a second time. You know what I’m saying — thanks man. I agree with you — it’s all about getting the word out. It definitely takes some time — which feels like dead time, especially when waiting for those all-important emails which may or many not help things along — but yeah, it’s really worth it. For me it doesn’t ever feel like a failure, just because it’s the beginning. There’s always time to grow, after all.

        Thanks to you for sharing your advice and experience here — I’m sure readers will appreciate.
        Hope all’s going well at TheOpenEnd. Best of luck, and maybe I should do a feature on your thing in the future? Would be good I think.

        You enjoy life too.

        C

        Like

  2. Yasmin Selena Butt says:

    I totally second integrity, Chris. Desperation is pretty unsexy. Smells bad too. Word of mouth is a good thing. Someone you admire liking your book is another. I think the way forward that will work best for you will involve trial and error. I think it will be a combination of things incl maybe some of the stuff I brainstormed a couple of weeks back. There may well be things you do, where you end up thinking ‘God, I’m never doing that again!’ – I’ve watched musicians go through that with discovering the horror of ‘pay to play’ gigs. Also reading about other self-published writers experiences will be good for tips and also learning from their dodgy experiences. And you don’t have to change, you’re perfect the way you are! You’re an original soul. That deserves respect Mr Pink.

    As an Amazon customer, in truth, I rarely click through onto discussion pages, I like the Author’s pages and I like user reviews. That’s about it. I think its worth keeping your author page nice and up to date though. I’d much rather decide someone is cool and interesting through word of mouth or my own intelligent deduction : )

    And by the way, with the Blue Tit thing, does your camera have an auto/timer setting that just takes pix at a set regular interval? Can you put it on a tripod and just leave for an hour or two during prime Blue Tit time, taking pix every 2mins? Steve’s camera can do that. Have a mooch. Or borrow a camera that can. Might save you from brain ache if you can! Hope you’re okay?

    Yasmin x

    Like

    • chrispink says:

      Hey Yasmin, agreed, yes, a combination of things sounds about right to me 🙂 As Herocious pointed out above, it’s tough at the beginning. Every author out there has a different idea, and many are reluctant to offer any advice. And you have a valid point: it’s expensive too to do a lot of things. You can easily throw good money after bad and not realise until it’s way too late…

      That said, we live in a really exciting time. It’s just incredible what you can do with Facebook and Twitter — things which would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago.

      But yes, true, you can learn a lot. Many people are happy to share what worked for them. You just need to follow your gut instinct, I think.

      I shall not change! Somehow I doubt I’m perfect though, far from it in fact!

      Word of mouth = amazing. It can really builf up a BUZZZZ.
      Hm, with the Blue Tits I don’t think an auto timer would work. Those things operate so fast, you have to be there really.

      I don’t mind the brain ache. I’ve taken some good shots before and I’m sure I will again. There’s no accounting for the human touch after all.

      Thanks Yasmin, goodnight,

      C x

      Like

  3. herocious says:

    chrispink :
    Hope all’s going well at TheOpenEnd. Best of luck, and maybe I should do a feature on your thing in the future? Would be good I think.
    You enjoy life too.
    C

    You are very welcome to do a feature on TOE, C. Here’s how to do it http://theopenend.com/about-the-open-end-2/

    Cheers for the betterment of us all

    Like

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