Dumb Advice from Forbes to Indie Authors

 

Amid the never-ending anti-Amazon rants, one occasionally finds a piece that aspires to be grounded in facts and statistics. Well, this new one, by Suw Charman-Anderson in Forbes, is a classic example of how to misread (and misreport) statistics in order to come to dumb conclusions.

The writer discusses a May 2012 survey of Amazon book purchasers, which tried to determine how the customers made their purchasing decisions. She reports the…

…statistics show that only a piddling 10 percent of Amazon book choices are made because of its ‘bought this/also bought’ recommendation engine. Bestseller and top 100 lists influence 17 percent of book choices, with 12 percent down to promotions, deals, or low prices. Only 3 percent came through browsing categories. Planned search by author or topic, however, makes up a whopping 48 percent of all book choices.

Her first conclusion from these statistics? “Amazon is a destination for purchase, the place you funnel your fans to, not a discovery mechanism in and of itself. People are simply not browsing for books based on Amazon’s recommendations, not in any significant numbers.”

marketing adviceLet’s leave aside the facts that (1) the survey data represent only a freeze-frame snapshot of Amazon book purchasers in May 2012, and (2) that if 48% of book choices came from customers’ planned searches, then 52% — more than half — did not; yet the writer calls the 48% “whopping,” while dismissing the 52% as “not…significant numbers.” She later even states that these figures show that “the majority of Amazon’s sales come from planned search.”

Forty-eight percent is a “majority”?

Based on her first conclusion, plus these dubious characterizations of the data upon which it is based, the writer then goes on to make a broader case:

Self-published authors have limited resources for promotion and these figures show that you should focus not on trying to woo Amazon’s algorithm, but on building awareness outside of Amazon. Rather than hoping to gain traction within that 10 percent of people who pay attention to Amazon’s recommendations, or trying to crowbar your title into bestseller or top 100 lists, you should be focusing on building an independent fan base. No one can search for your books if they don’t know you exist.

I read this and realized at once that these conclusions, which are being echoed elsewhere, don’t conform to my direct personal experience — or to common sense. Please bear with me while I elaborate:

 

When I published my debut thriller, HUNTER, in June 2011, I already had something of a “brand,” having been a nonfiction writer for decades. I also tried to enhance my brand by expanding my online “platforms.” I launched this blog, “The Vigilante Author,” to position me in the minds of thriller readers who like and are looking for that kind of fiction. I did a lot of social media: Facebook, interviews with other bloggers, etc. HUNTER received several nice, if temporary, sales surges when a few big blogs mentioned it.

I also tried to promote the book via the online retailers and their internal promotional methods. By means of links, I directed readers to where they could then buy the book: not just links to Amazon, but equally to Barnes & Noble (for the Nook) and Smashwords (for iTunes, the iPad and iPhone, Kobo, and other ereading devices). I encouraged happy readers to leave customer reviews on those various online sales sites. And I worked to craft a compelling product description that I posted on all of them, so that once the curious went to those product pages, they’d get a strong pitch to close the sale.

Overall, the novel did pretty well for the first five months, selling 4,000 copies at an ebook price of $3.99. Yet almost all of those sales were on Amazon, not on any of the other sites. All my external promotional efforts, and the publicity they generated, resulted in utterly paltry sales — a combined total of only 132 books — on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, on Smashwords, and on iTunes.

So, if my “external promotions” were the factor most critical to sales, then why weren’t my sales spread more evenly among all online retailers? Why did Amazon sell thirty times more copies of my book than did all of their competitors combined?

amazonYou see, it wasn’t only my external efforts bringing attention to the book. For one thing, HUNTER had soared to near the top of the “customer rating” lists on Amazon. It also quickly garnered a lot of highly positive “customer reviews.” And Amazon recommended it in promotional emails and online to readers of similar books. Soon, it creeped up several Amazon subcategory bestseller lists, adding to its visibility.

By contrast, it did not get that kind of visibility and attention from the other retailers. I’m absolutely convinced that Amazon’s internal promotions explain why the book was selling so well there, but nowhere else.

Then, five months after its publication, Amazon invited me to enter HUNTER into a week-long, post-Thanksgiving sales promotion, along with scores of other books, lowering its price temporarily from $3.99 to $1.99. Simultaneously, from among those scores of promoted titles, they also selected HUNTER as one of eighteen top “Editors’ Picks.”

As a result, the book was showcased prominently at the very top of about a half-dozen different pages of the Amazon Kindle website. You simply could not go to the Kindle home page, its “Editors’ Pick” page, its special sales promotional page, its “Movers and Shakers” page, or its various category “recommendation” pages, without HUNTER’s eye-catching cover staring you in the face. It began appearing on a lot of “also bought” recommendation lists for other bestselling books in its categories, too.

Literally overnight, sales exploded, from a few dozen per day to thousands per day. By the last day of the sale, HUNTER was the #4 bestselling product on Kindle, and it hit #1 in the “Mysteries and Thrillers” category (and several subcategories), as well as #1 in “Romantic Suspense.” That prominent positioning further enhanced its visibility to Amazon customers.

It’s interesting to note what happened in the days, weeks, and months afterward. Once the price went back up to $3.99 and HUNTER was no longer featured prominently on those various promotional pages, its sales began to decline. However, it took a month for the book to fall out of the overall Kindle “Top 100” list. During those four weeks, it was still highly positioned on multiple category bestseller lists, and thus “discoverable” to millions of customers browsing those lists, and so it continued to sell hundreds of copies per day.

In the months following — despite all my efforts to keep the book in the public eye — the novel’s sales continued to slide slowly back down to its pre-promotional levels, levels similar to what it had been selling right after I published it. By then, it had become far less visible — thus discoverable — to customers browsing Amazon…even though my outside promotions, publicity, and name-recognition had never been better.

It’s obvious that those sudden, massive sales (over 50,000 copies in just 35 days) did not occur because my independent marketing efforts were driving purchasers to Amazon to look specifically for my book. No, that huge, months-long sales spike came almost entirely from attention generated internally by Amazon alone, via its promotions, bestseller-list placements, and algorithm-governed recommendation system.

Fellow authors participating in that same post-Thanksgiving promotion also saw significant spikes in their sales, though not as great as mine. The only significant difference among us was that their works were not featured quite as prominently or on as many Amazon pages. We see this same phenomenon repeated every single day with “Kindle Daily Deals,” where a product or book is singled out for spotlight attention and invariably soars right to the top of the Kindle bestseller list — then sinks in the days that follow, despite every effort by the author to keep it up there.

What do I take away from all this?

branding-yourselfBased on personal experience, I do believe that an author’s “outside” promotional efforts — if planned and conducted prudently, applying sound marketing principles — can help to generate solid, ongoing sales. For example, I think it’s  important for an author to distinguish himself from the pack, and thus become discoverable, by establishing a unique brand via marketing methods external to Amazon’s. And yes, I do believe that word-of-mouth recommendations from a loyal, steadily growing fan base are the most reliable long-term way to generate an enduring “long tail” of sales.

However, I think the wrong message to take away from the  statistics reported in Forbes is the one presented by the blog’s author: that Amazon’s promotions, bestseller lists, staff picks, “also bought” recommendations, and categories don’t really matter as much as an author’s own outside promotions. Or, to quote her own words again: “People are simply not browsing for books based on Amazon’s recommendations, not in any significant numbers.”

That’s wrong, mainly because the writer (whose bio gives little evidence of personal expertise in successful bookselling) misinterprets the reported customer purchase percentages. The fact that 48% of Amazon’s book customers went there in May 2012 with a specifically planned purchase in mind, does not mean that 48% of a given author’s buyers will go to Amazon specifically to buy his or her book. Nor (still citing statistics from the survey) does it mean that “only” 12% of a given author’s sales will come from special Amazon promotions, “only” 3% from people browsing through the various book categories, etc.

That’s a completely erroneous reading of the reported percentages — because Amazon’s aggregate customers are not the same statistical set as one’s own specific customers.

Suppose your book is selected for a special promotion to “only” the (supposed) 12% of Amazon’s book buyers who pay attention to such promotions. Well, 12% of Amazon’s tens of millions of book buyers is still an enormous audience. And if they notice it, you may then find that 95% of your own sales will come from that 12%.

Moreover, the Forbes writer — her thinking perhaps clouded by an anti-Amazon bias (note her closing sentence, and repeatedly critical articles) — also ignores statistics from the same study that should give her pause. As reported here,

Two years ago, 35% of book purchases were made because readers found out about a book in bricks-and-mortar bookstores, the single-largest site of discovery. This year, that figure has dropped to 17%…. In the same period, personal recommendations grew the most, to 22% from 14%. Some three-quarters of personal recommendations are made in person, while the rest come by e-mail (8%), phone (7%), Facebook (4%) and other social networks (3%).

So even now, just 22% of book customers buy them based on personal recommendations, and only 7% from recommendations on social media. Yet the Forbes writer stubbornly urges authors to go “outside of Amazon,” relying on such promotional things as “reviews, social media or word of mouth,” and to “refocus on direct sales…[from] your own shop” (presumably meaning one’s own online store).

As every bestselling Amazon author learns, a huge percentage of his or her sales come from Amazon’s internal promotional methods. Usually, one’s own external promotions merely kickstart the process of pushing the book under an Amazon spotlight. Once under that glaring spotlight, even an obscure author, with few prior sales and zero social media presence, can see his sales suddenly spike overnight, to the point where 99% of them are Amazon-generated. This sort of thing happens a lot.

Let me stress this point: I think it’s vitally important for any indie author to define and implement a marketing plan that includes promotions that don’t rely on Amazon’s (or those of any other online retailing outlet). It’s important to build your brand, to distinguish your work, to utilize a variety of platforms that grant it visibility, and to connect personally with readers in order to encourage long-term, word-of-mouth-driven sales. It also makes sense to try to sell directly to the consumer.

But these activities are not an either/or proposition, vis-a-vis Amazon. They should be done, not instead of, but in conjunction with efforts to exploit the Amazon platform. It’s just plain silly to believe that one’s own marketing alone can possibly equal or exceed the time-tested techniques and global reach of the world’s biggest online retailer.

So, if strong sales are part of his objectives, then the wise author will do what he can to take full advantage of those mechanisms and that unparalleled retailing power.

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  • Darlene

    First rate! (as usual) well said. Gonna forward this all over the place…

    • RobertBidinotto

      Thanks much, Darlene!

  • http://twitter.com/JRTomlinAuthor J. R. Tomlin

    Excellent analysis. But then those were my exact thoughts when I read the (frankly) rather silly blog post. It is a complete miss on analyzing the data by dismissing the clear majority of readers/buyers.

    • RobertBidinotto

      Thanks, JR. It frosts me to see erroneous information and conclusions propagated to writers from outlets as influential as Forbes. Writers struggle hard enough to overcome numerous obstacles, without the bad advice and warped perspective of dubious “experts.” If I’ve had success, it’s because before I even began this gig, I paid close heed to the proven advice of bestselling authors like Joe Konrath, Michael J. Sullivan (and his wife Robin), Bob Mayer, and Dean Wesley Smith. All of those people have different takes and emphases in some important areas. But at least those are informed viewpoints — not somebody’s amateur extrapolations from a smattering of third-party data of dubious quality.

  • Adam Pepper

    Good piece Robert. I agree wholeheartedly.

    • RobertBidinotto

      I appreciate that, Adam. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.patterson.923 Aaron Patterson

    You rock bro, I was going to talk about this very thing but you beat me to it and did a far better job! It amazes me how many people just suck up the junk and don’t think, it is as if our brains are just to keep our ears apart. =)

    • RobertBidinotto

      Thanks, my friend. (Folks, Aaron is a bestselling author, and also the highly successful CEO of StoneGate Ink, the publisher house for the double-edition pairing HUNTER with CJ Lyons’s SNAKE SKIN which you can find discussed and linked elsewhere on the blog. In other words, he knows whereof he speaks.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikefstewart Michael F Stewart

    Nice, Robert, and well said. Agree wholeheartedly.

    • RobertBidinotto

      Thank you, too, Michael.

      In response to my post, some folks elsewhere prefer to treat my experiences as those of an “outlier.” Well, that’s why I spent some time describing my experience before Amazon selected HUNTER for its big sale. That gives a much more realistic picture of what Amazon’s algorithm-driven system typically can do to boost a sales, far short of making it a bestseller.

      Also, Joe Konrath, who (as I’ve reported here very recently) has soared past the “1 Million Sales” threshold, also acknowledges and emphasizes the matchless power of Amazon’s marketing machine. And he stresses the same marketing tactics that I do. Check out these recent posts on his blog:

      “How to Sell Ebooks”: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-to-sell-ebooks.html

      “Hungry Dogs”: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/02/hungry-dogs.html

  • http://twitter.com/JonathanGunson Jonathan Gunson

    Robert, I can understand why this particular strain of idiotic misinterpretation makes you hopping mad.

    The Amazon ‘algorithm’ is geared to increasing the momentum of popular titles, and letting the dross slide away. No ‘external’ publicity can have much impact on this process.

    So the idea that an author can hand-generate massive sales on Amazon by external promotion without Amazon’s intervention is patently absurd. It’s almost all activated and driven from WITHIN Amazon. For this reason I make sure that all the authors I deal with are aware that their task it simply to help kickstart the process. They can do this by external means as best they can, and, as you point out, build their own platform for long term stability.

    Congratulations by the way on the 50,000 sales hit for HUNTER.

    Jonathan Gunson

    • RobertBidinotto

      Jonathan, I’m so glad you’re assisting authors in learning how to navigate this unfamiliar terrain with common sense and sound perspectives. And thanks for the kind words about my sales for HUNTER, which are now considerably greater than 50,000.

  • Catherine Kirby

    Thanks for this article, which puts the facts to right and is encouraging too. Well done to have achieve so many sales with your book HUNTER!

    • RobertBidinotto

      I’m so glad you found it encouraging, Catherine. And thank you.

  • Dan Thompson

    The other thing skewing this statistic is the conversion of free e-book samples to purchases. I do over 90% of my Kindle shopping that way. If a book looks promising — even a New York book — I download the free sample. Weeks/months later, I start reading the sample. If I want to keep going, I buy the book. But I suspect that in this little data snapshot, that is going to count as a “direct purchase” since I came in from the outside and made the purchase, even though I probably found the sample in the first place through some other Amazon navigation method.

    • RobertBidinotto

      Dan, that is a terrific point. I bet you’re absolutely right. And if so, it’s another reason that “48%” stat in the pie chart is inflated and bogus. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jeff.Faria Jeff Faria

    Well-done. I feel this article strikes exactly the right note, and certainly it is reflective of my own approach. I feel my job as marketer of my own work is ultimately to make folks aware of my books and to direct them to Amazon. Some will download free and/or buy, and those downloads or buys will have an impact on the far larger (and larger than I myself could ever hope to achieve) Amazon consumer community, some of whom will themselves be moved to download or buy. The great advantage of Amazon over Apple or B&N or Smashwords or whatever is simply this: Familiarity. Consumers get books. music, movies, electronics, groceries, etc., from Amazon – a far wider range of goods than they get from Apple, etc. They are simply more likely to be comfortable there than anywhere else you might send them for a purchase. Once a book is well-established, of course, it makes sense to expand to other venues, but to make an initial impact it makes sense to put all one’s (admittedly finite) resources behind an Amazon push.

    • RobertBidinotto

      That’s how I look at it, too, Jeff. When I advise fellow authors about book promotion, I point out that you have to “think like your customer,” the target reader for your kind of book. No company “thinks like a customer” better than Amazon, which is entirely data-driven concerning individual customer purchases, browsing history, and other indicators of personal preferences. They track all of this, then constantly come up with mechanisms to match the right products with the right customers.

      It is breathtakingly stupid for any author to ignore the enormous power of these tailored and honed marketing tools, which reach an enormous global audience of potential customers, and which Amazon makes available to us to use for FREE!

      As I indicated in the post, my personal sales data completely ratify the competitive superiority of Amazon as a book retailer over its online rivals. So when Amazon opened its “Kindle Select” program — which pays me every time my book is “borrowed” from the Kindle Owners Lending Library by an Amazon Prime member — I leaped at the chance to participate. I did that, even though I had to agree to make HUNTER available for sale exclusively on Kindle, and remove it from sale elsewhere (Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader). It was an easy decision, because despite the growing attention my book was getting, sales on those other devices were negligible. And that decision has paid off handsomely for me: To date, HUNTER has been “borrowed” by Prime members over 5,600 times, at an average payment to me of about $2.00 per “loan.” In short, it’s been lucrative.

      I can’t wait for what other neat promotional opportunities Amazon will invent for authors like me. And if they’re smart, other authors should eagerly take advantage of those opportunities, too.

  • Fran White

    Dear Robert,
    Thank you for giving we authors the time and dedication to our craft. You are truly an amazing writer as well as an amazing person!! Please keep up all of your good works.

    • RobertBidinotto

      Fran, you are a sweetheart. I look forward to meeting you tomorrow at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference.

  • http://twitter.com/acwainwright August Wainwright

    Robert, really great article. Serious praise for the fact that you’re calling out an “expert” with a platform who uses whatever means necessary to bend the statistics to fit their agenda. If more people took the time to call people out and demand the use of FACTS, the industry, the internet, and life in general would be so much more pleasurable to navigate. So thanks for that.

    I will say, though, that something in need of discussion among authors is the very fact that the internal procedures within Amazon DO matter so much. I’ve been slowly building up my own external platform while writing my first book and will continue to do that over the coming months. Still have lots to do, but I have an actual marketing/advertising plan that I will stick to. That being said, I do find it worrisome (not that it will affect what I do) that a single entity has so much control over whether my efforts are deemed successful or not. I understand that’s an entirely different discussion, but one that should continue to be had.

    Anyways, thanks again for the perspective.

    • RobertBidinotto

      I hear this concern a lot, August. It’s the concern about “monopolies” and “putting all your eggs in one basket.” But let me tell you how I look at it.

      Before Amazon, and particularly its Kindle Direct Publishing option — which allows individuals to self-publish ebooks and sell them globally via Amazon — writers like me had almost no chance of becoming successful published authors. The traditional publishers operated like “gatekeepers” (a term some of them have used) into print. They offered a very narrow funnel into which countless authors poured their work — and their hearts and souls. The overwhelming majority never made it into that crammed funnel, and into bookstores. Their only other alternative was “vanity publishing,” an expensive and futile process that only left them poorer, more frustrated, and sitting on boxes of unsold books.

      Traditional publishers had an iron lock on book distribution…until Amazon came along. The first thing it did was compete with bookstores with online distribution. This brought book distribution costs way down, which allowed Amazon to pass along savings to book customers. And, of course, the bookstores understandably screamed bloody murder, even while publishers used Amazon’s huge retail platform to sell more of their books online.

      Then Amazon came out with the Kindle, and tied it to purchases exclusively on its own store. This put further pressure on bookstores. But Amazon’s aggressive price cuts on ebooks began to pinch publishers, who wanted to keep ebook prices artificially high.

      For traditionally published authors, having Amazon as an online and ebook sales outlet was a great thing…until Amazon took the next step: enabling authors to self-publish ebooks and print books, and distribute them globally online and via the Kindle.

      This was a huge game-changer for unpublished and unhappily published authors. Now, the narrow funnel into traditional publishing was irrelevant, and publishers lost their gatekeeper status. Publishers woke up suddenly to the fact that Amazon was a complete vertically integrated book industry unto itself: It could produce books on its own sites, market them online and on Kindles. But authors woke up to unprecedented opportunities — opportunities many of us have found to be life-changing.

      So, to those who worry about an “Amazon monopoly,” or who complain about this or that Amazon policy, I ask: Compared with what? With the bad old days when authors didn’t have this option at all? When few of us could get published, and those few who did had to endure contractual terms grossly biased in favor of the house? When even a “bestselling author” in the traditional world couldn’t make enough money to support himself and his family? When one’s publisher could, without warning, drop your contract, pull your book out of print, yet keep your subsidiary rights forever?

      Thanks to Amazon, those days are gone. Those who fear it becoming a “monopoly” should also realize that it’s impossible. It’s far from being that now, and it couldn’t gain control of all possible competitive options in a million years. Even if it could, the moment Amazon would begin to mistreat writers and customers, a host of competitors would leap into the marketplace to offer them better terms and service, and its monopoly would be gone, virtually overnight. Amazon isn’t dumb; it is keenly aware that it has to keep people happy every day, or it could easily fall from its present perch.

      Bottom line: I’m not worried. I’ve never dealt with any company that is more customer-friendly (and as a self-publisher, I am one of its supply customers), helpful, responsive, and visionary. I’m happy and proud to work with them, and I only hope many other companies — including publishers and book retailers — follow their lead.

  • RobertBidinotto

    BTW, I just read on Kindleboards (an online watering hole for self-published authors) that the data from the study cited by the Forbes writer focused on traditionally published authors. If that is true (and the person claiming it was in email communication with the author of the “pie chart” presentation), then that’s another fatal flaw: The statistics simply can’t be extrapolated to include self-published books.

    There are other big problems with the data and their interpretation. As Dan Thompson notes in the comments below, many Kindle owners download free “samples” of a host of ebooks, and may not go back to read these and make an actual purchase until months later. But when they do, how would they respond to the buyer survey? Wouldn’t they be likely to say, “I went to Amazon with a preplanned purchase in mind” instead of “I discovered the book while browsing on Amazon”? That could significantly, yet misleadingly, inflate the “preplanned purchase” statistic. Yet there’s no breakout “slice” on the pie chart to account for such buyers.

    And ditto all the many regular Amazon customers who receive the company’s daily book recommendation emails, as I do. Those emails are tailored specifically to each customer’s preferences, as determined by their past buying and browsing habits. In effect, they are “also bought” recommendations. Yet would an customer responding to this survey say, “I went to Amazon with a preplanned purchase in mind” instead of “My purchase came from an Amazon promotion”? If the former, that would also inflate the “preplanned purchase” statistic.

    And what about impulse purchases? A customer goes to Amazon with a single “preplanned purchase” in mind, but once there, notices some “also bought” recommendations, or begins to browse and — using various “discoverability” tools — ends the session with four other purchases. How does the customer report this to the people conducted the survey, and where does it appear on the chart?

    All together, such considerations would render the pie chart figures worthless for any author seeking to enhance the “discoverability” of his own book — though the Forbes writer is trying to make the opposite case.

    But, bending over backward for sake of argument, let’s assume that all the pie chart numbers are absolutely complete and accurate. Let’s further assume that the pie chart does apply to indie books as well as traditionally published ones. And for sake of convenience, let’s also assume that the chart’s split between “preplanned purchasers” and “browsing customers” is split evenly, 50/50. What would this mean, then, for any given author seeking “discoverability” on Amazon for his own books?

    The first thing to realize is that the “universe” of his target audience does not consist of “all Amazon book buyers,” which is what that pie chart depicts. By definition, his own total universe of potential customers for his books must exclude those going to Amazon with predetermined purchases in mind. Instead, his target audience is limited only to that 50% of book buyers using Amazon’s various “discoverability” tools to browse for new books.

    Now, if we take that 50% and show them on a pie chart, a funny thing happens. The 50% becomes the new 100% — and all its internal percentage “slices” also double. The 17% of overall Amazon book buyers who discovered a book by browsing its bestseller lists now doubles to 34% of book-browsing customers. Likewise, the “mere” 12% of all Amazon book purchasers who were influenced by promotions and sales also doubles, to 24% of all browsing book buyers. Etc.

    Viewed this way — by measuring only legitmately browsing buyers, rather than anyone buying a book on Amazon — Amazon’s “discoverability” tools can be viewed as twice as effective as the Forbes article declares them to be. If more than 1/3 of browsing customers consult Amazon bestseller lists for their purchases, that is a very significant number of potential customers that any author would want to target. Likewise, if a quarter of all those browsing buyers respond to promotions and sales, then those tactics are twice as significant for generating sales than the Forbes piece suggests.

    The fallacy in using the pie chart as the Forbes author did can be demonstrated by reductio ad absurdam. If including all book buyers (instead of all browsing book buyers) is valid, then why don’t we make an even more-inclusive pie chart — one that includes not only Amazon book customers, but customers for all its millions of other kinds of products? If we did, then “book buyers” would constitute a small sliver of Amazon’s overall retail business — and each of the various “discoverability” percentage slices would be even tinier. Would the Forbes writer then mock the “paltry” percentages by saying something like, “Only 0.05% of Amazon customers actually use its bestseller lists to buy books”? Similarly, we could expand the pie chart again and again — first, to include all of Amazon online book sales competitors…then all of its online retail competitors for all its goods…then all its competitors, period…etc., etc. Each time we expand the “customer” universe with a pie chart, the percentages of “individuals using Amazon internal discovery tools just to buy books” becomes tinier and tinier.

    Would anyone in his right mind conclude that this is the way to determine the value of those book discovery tools?

    The point is this: Nobody, but nobody, has crafted better “discovery” tools for book buyers than Amazon has. That’s why it’s the 800-pound gorilla of online book retailing, if not of book-retailing, period. Any author who fails (or worse: refuses) to utilize those tools to promote his or her own works is foolish.

  • http://twitter.com/ceebee308 Claude Bouchard

    Hi, Robert, Another great post and offer yet another (personal) example of marketing impact by the Great Zon. Last week, I released “Femme Fatale”, the latest in my series which started selling “okay”… On Monday, March 11th, unbeknownst to me, Amazon sent out an unknown number of emails announcing my new release. My day’s sales on Monday were 550% of what my average daily sales had been since the beginning of the month… However, maybe it was just my good looks and boyish charm…

    • RobertBidinotto

      Hey, Claude — I missed this comment when you first posted it a few days ago. I’ll run off now to check out “Femme Fatale” — and congratulations on both the new release, and the great reception. (OF COURSE it had to be due to your looks and charm!)

  • Brian January

    Good article–you make interesting points!

  • Louisa

    Good article, by why so many quotation marks around terms when there is no reason for them? For example, “customer review.” It’s a bit distracting.