Saturday, January 26, 2013

How Amazon "Review-Addiction" is Wasting Your Time

photocredit: "bastique" from Flickr

Getting a grip on Amazon's multiplying sock-puppet problem.

I've been doing some research today on Amazon's review scene. This is because it's become clear that the conventional wisdom  is "if you want to make a decent income from Amazon, you have to get reviews." Unfortunately, Amazon is being gamed right and left, while they have been removing some legitimate reviews, while protecting some obvious scammy ones. (There is even a disclosed scam going on in certain "top 10" book categories where poorly written, proxie-authored books are staying in Amazon's good graces with stellar reviews - all by sock-puppetry.)

The problem is that their review system actually violates human nature. The average of self-originated reviews comes in at around 1 in a thousand purchases/downloads. This from people watching their own stats as authors. A discussion of this at KindleBoards is here. And here.

And while I have to get Storify operating (non-peak-hours would help) and some major links I've found, the key point is that Amazon is being gamed regularly on multiple fronts and is responding quite poorly. Meanwhile their 90% market share of a few years back is this year down around 50% - and shrinking as more e-tailing distributors (like Kobo) enter the market. Amazon being flat over the holidays and every one except B&N reporting increased sales - that's not a good thing.

So their system is earning less and less trust.

One thing I want to point out: "celebrities" with a "following" (read: Kool-aid drinkers, mostly) will have a sudden spurt of 4 and (mostly) 5-star reviews immediately after the book is released. Some within 24-hours, too short for most people to read the danged book. When you see some social media star getting a hundred reviews in a week without 100,000 purchased or downloaded books, you know it's verging on a scam.

Digital Book World has this:

"First, the kerfuffle over sock puppets, reviews, yada nada:  less than 5% of readers base their purchases on reviews across all platforms.  Hmm.  Yes, the star reviews might alter Amazon algorithms, but still."

A separate post from them, reviewing their latest conference:

Amid all the change in how readers read and discover books, one thing has remained constant: in-person, personal recommendations are the No. 1 way people discover books, no matter who they are or how they read.
  • No. 1 way women 30-to-44-years-old discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)
  • No. 1 way consumers find out about young-adult fiction: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)
  • No. 1 way online shoppers discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~15% of new books discovered this way)
  • No. 1 way tablet readers discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)
  • No. 1 way e-reader readers discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)
If you read the rest of the post, it mentions that there are now 44 (or more) distinct ways people find their books.

Recall from an earlier post about Discoverability - which had this graphic from that same conference:

The take-away was this:

Top converters: 
Author Sites - 76%
Goodreads - 29%
Amazon - 10% 
Top viewed: 
Google - 72%
Amazon - 66%
Facebook/G+/etc. - 59%

Discovery Share (most recent book purchased):
Amazon - 6.6%
Author Sites - 3.1%
Goodreads - 1.5%
When you track down where people got their last book from, we now see where indie self-publishers should be spending their time and marketing coins:
  • Amazon - 50% (tweaking book descriptions, etc.)
  • Your own author site - 25% (set up and then tweak)
  • Goodreads - 12.5% - (while you can be present engaging on forums, your key point is your author page and making sure your book is listed)
  • G+, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. - 25% - (yes, watch for addiction..)
If you are looking for repeat business, this is where it shows up. 

And in this - you see that the bulk of effective work is getting people to actually talk to other people about your book. Means intensely satisfied customers - which goes back to writing really, really good books. (Not spending a great deal of time on social media and begging for reviews.)

Just to short-hand this immensely - it means you SEO your book and your site with the keywords from both Google and Amazon included through the meta-data about the book and your own site. And then use your own site to convert to multiple sales.

Still stuck on reviews?

The solution to reviews seems to be this:

And you get people to your site from search engines, using buying keywords - not information-seeking keywords.

Yes you sell directly from your site. And you give offers from your site to make it intensely easy to buy books from you. While Amazon will match any discounted price you set on-site, they can't match you for packages or accompanying giveaways.

But yes, to cover all bases, you do ask for reviews from the "top reviewers" on Amazon, as this is where Taleist says the top-earners are submitting to.

And another post on by Mike Michalowicz says to simply target the reviewers of competing or similar products directly. As he says "...get endless amazon reviews for your book..."

That is, if reviews are key to your sales tactics. Some of the data found so far point out that these are probably not the best use of an author's time. (May be their agent, or some for-hire freelancer paid by your traditional publisher when you land that contract.)

Tomorrow I hope to post that overlong Storify article which lays all this out in more detail.

And it was a Kindle book which got me looking askance at all this "conventional wisdom" which Locke and others are throwing around.

So I'll do a review of this tomorrow and post some of this over at so you can see it all for yourself.

But the summary is bringing me to a very different conclusion of how to factually build an online ebook sales business.

I'll cross-post the results right here, so stay tuned...

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