Tuesday 13 January 2015

Amazon vs Amazon vs Amazon

I am a Canadian author marketing my debut time travel novel (The Space Between Thought) in the U.S., as well as Canada and am discovering things about the Amazon retail platform that all writers should know.

I should mention that I am also older and a bit dull, at times. So it's possible that I am the only one on the planet who does not know this stuff.

1) E-BOOK LOCATION: If you purchase a Kindle e-book, it is available to you through Amazon.ca or Amazon.com, but not both. You must manage your content on the Amazon site serving your own country. I assume this has to do with things like licensing rights, tariffs and taxes.
   I am told that if you purchase something from Amazon.com and have it shipped to a US address, you can use this address to cheat the system by registering your Kindle to the American Amazon site. You might find this advantageious because U.S. book prices tend to be cheaper.

2) REVIEWS & RATINGS: If you review a book through Amazon.ca, that information is not transferred to Amazon.com or Amazon.uk or Amazon.jp etc.
   Amazon wants to display the most relevant reviews to readers within a region; namely, the opinions of other people within that region. Readers in the U.K. would probably find comments from locals more understandable than comments from Americans or Australians. A more starkly obvious example is that few on Amazon-Japan would be happy to read reviews written in English.
   Authors might want to try to get their readers to post reviews on whichever site will generate the most commerce.
   As a Canadian author, my priority is for reviews to be available to the wider market of readers in the USA.

There is a meme regarding crazy amazon items and reviews. (for instance: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1001250201)

3) BOOK RANKING: One day, while roaming Amazon, I was thrilled to discover that my book had suddenly rocketed from a ranking of about 800,000th to 12,000th! Then I noticed that I was logged into Amazon.ca, not Amazon.com. A book ranking is not based on its popularity across all Amazon sites.
    Also, your Kindle book ranking is kept separate from the paperback version's. As I write this line, I am about 850,000th in the paperback rankings but 300,000th among Kindles.
   Another unexpected thing is the degree to which a book can bounce in the Amazon rankings. Typically, my book sits at about the 800,000th mark, but a few times a week it bounces as low as 1.5 Millionth  or as high as 200,000th, on Amazon.com.
   I don't know how amazon works this number out, but the obvious guess is that whenever I sell a book, I bounce higher in the ranking. When someone else sells one, I go lower. Because of the platform I used to release the book (iUniverse) I do not yet have access to my sales figures and so can not verify the exact relationship between rank and sales. But, assuming that I am not selling truck loads, then if you think about it, the huge movement of this number implies that a lot of books never, ever sell.
4) PREVIEW: The preview feature may work for your book on Amazon.com, but might not work if people log in to a different Amazon. My guess is that a copy must be uploaded to each platform separately. So, remember to do that for each Amazon site, in each market you want to reach.

5) OUT OF STOCK: It can take a while before Amazon.com has your book's details completely entered and online. I don't really know how they stock stuff, but when my book debuted, the printed version came and went out of stock many times, in the first few days.
   And while it was nice to be able to say, "Amazon sold out of my book!" it was frustrating to the initial wave of friends and family who went to buy. Also a handful of supportive people I'd met online checked it out and it's depressing to think that they might have purchased, had the book been available. With so many other options to distract people, the odds are slim that they will make a point to return.
   I have been told that any time Amazon makes a change to your book's online profile, the status defaults to "Out Of Stock." So to avoid disappointing your first customers, be patient and don't announce for a couple of weeks.
   Actually, there are a lot of details that you might want to change after the book is fully displayed. After looking at the preview, you might want to delete extraneous material from the front of the book. Preview-readers do not care about the ISBN number and publisher info. They just want to get to the meat as quickly as possible.
    After my book came online, I noticed that an excerpt I had put on one of the front pages, while a good idea for readers browsing the printed version of my book in a store, was confusing in the preview format. It looked as if the novel had begun in the middle.

6) YOUR ACCOUNT: Once, a long, long time ago, I bought something from Amazon.com. At that time, I created an account with name and password—long forgotten. More recently, all of my activity has been on Amazon.ca where I created an account and used my name. This has caused some confusion as I begin to establish my author-identity.
   Amazon readily identifies you on all of their sites, however, if you've got 2 identities under the same name, you have to be mindful of which one it thinks you are, otherwise you might find that you have no access to your e-books and current account history or end up shipping your stuff to your old house where your ex will burn it and post the pictures on Facebook.
   As an author, you might find readers navigate to an outdated profile. I noticed that I am shown as an author on Amazon.com, but as just a mere mortal on Amazon.ca.

7) FREE AUTHOR SERVICES: You should be thorough in completing both your Amazon author profile and the book profile. Readers can get extra information and be led to your website from here. It's a free extra opportunity to promote reader engagement.
   You can find details on all of this in Amazon's Writer's Cafe discussion forum. Check out the "Tips, FAQs and Useful Threads for Authors" discussion highlighted, near the top of the forum.
8) PRODUCT SELECTION: Some products listed on one Amazon.com are not available on Amazon.ca. However, you can order many of these products from Amazon.com and have them shipped to Canada.
    This actually does make sense to me, as many products come directly from third party vendors which may not have the same restrictions on them as Amazon.
   What isn't so easy to understand is that some of the products that are available on both sites are much more expensive on Amazon.ca, but if you order them through Amazon.com they arrive at your doorstep for significantly less. Unfortunately, I can find no general rule to identify which will arrive cheaper. It might have to do with individual product providers.

9) PRODUCT PRICING: Amazon.com offers e-books cheaper than Amazon.ca—undoubtedly due to differences in licensing, taxes and tariffs—however, if you can manage to purchase even one item on Amazon.com and have it shipped to a US address, you can use this address to cheat the system by registering your Kindle to the American site, thereafter, taking advantage of the American pricing. A good reason to send a small gift to an American friend.

10) Why can I never come up with 10 points, like everyone else?

In the end, whether you are buying or selling, it is probably best to consider each Amazon website as a completely separate entity.

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