Sunday, 8 July 2018

It’s all in the algorithms

Last month I was listening to a Sterling & Stone audio sales pitch for their most recent author training. It was a pretty generous offer and they said they were being so generous because it was the last time they would do such a thing. Now, I know people always say that in sales stuff, but the guys gave their reasons why.
They love what they do. They love the independence it gives them and the quality of life they get from being a full time writer. They won’t do anything to jeopardise that because that would affect their income and thus their families. And in current America with no guarantee of Health care and education, money matters and none of them (even Dave) want to go back to working full time for somebody else.
They do the sums. They rely mostly on Amazon for income and over the years they have learnt how Amazon works and how to use it to sell more of their books. That’s what the course was about. The tag was ‘make $3k a month’ or they’d give you your money back. **
But… and here’s the big but… Amazon is run on algorithms. When you buy something it tries to work out what else you might be interested in. The key to success is for your works to appear as recommendations to people when they are already buying stuff. These suggestions are referred to as ‘also-boughts’ because that’s literally what the screen says: people who bought this title also bought... Amazon also uses your ranking to pick recommendations to email out to readers. This is why some people cheat and put their book in the wrong genre, one with less titles usually, to get a higher ranking.*!
Sterling & Stone have worked out that teaching other people how to write messes up their sales.
Let’s say I buy one of their books on writing. My ‘also-boughts’ will be an erratic mix of romance, historical romance, erotica and non-fiction writing. Another person’s ‘also-boughts’ might be hard core sci-fi, military fiction, non-fiction war history and non-fiction writing.
With those kinds of stats Amazon does not offer Sterling & Stone’s works to other people browsing the site because it can’t guess what people would like it. Everyone’s mixed up buying history confuses it.
Sterling & Stone know this because they have literally written a book and marketed it to a select email list of people who like that exact genre. It did better than their other works because it had clean ‘also-boughts’.
So, as a result, they will no longer write books on how to help other authors.
And that is obviously something that other people are going to realise as well. Not many of them will invest this much time and money into a solution.
Although I did hear Rachael Herron say her ‘also-boughts’ were pretty clean, so maybe Amazon is neatening the process up? %%
I hope so because a lot of peoples’ livelihoods depend on it. $$

**the proviso was that you had a series in mind. That you completed the first book in six months and they would give you a $500 cover. Also no erotica. Amazon sends all erotica writers to an algorithm ‘dungeon’. Sighs…
*! Please report people who do this or who stuff multiple works in until the actual book is a tiny percentage of the whole. Samples are fine, I love samples.

%% she was talking to J Thorn on the Petal to the Metalpodcast

$$ not mine obvs… dammit AM, finish your shit.

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