And it’s getting ugly.
First we had the little stink bomb that authors (authors!) were using assumed names to trash other writers on the major sites such as Goodreads and Amazon.
Are you kidding?
Now we have covens of individuals claiming to be readers who love to eviscerate an author personally, not her work mind you, but the author herself. Then, when these “readers” get a response, they jump on the author like a pack of wolves tearing at a wounded Elk.
Well, just between you and me, this is what happens when everyone in the book biz has an algorithm.
Take Barnes and Noble….
I write stories set in Las Vegas. Understandably, they sell well here (I happen to live in Vegas as well.) So, imagine my surprise when the third Lucky book, SO DAMN LUCKY, came out in hardcover…. and the local B and Ns didn’t carry it. The book was not available for purchase ANYWHERE in Vegas. (Alas, we had no independent bookstores at the time)
Needless to say, I did not react well.
When I finally got an answer through my publisher I was told it was just a numbers thing. Whew. That made me feel SO much better….
Apparently, B and N orders books based on the last book’s sell-through…minus ten percent. Then Corporate salts them around to various locations—nobody could tell me how THAT decision is made. I’d probably need an Epi Pen.
So, Duluth got books. Vegas…nope.
And, apparently B and N looks at whether a store reorders the book. How can they reorder, if there was no order placed for them in the first place? And, lest you think I’m making this up, NONE of the markets where my previous books sold well (Dallas, Phoenix, Denver) got books. I myself went into the Dallas stores, and I had friends in the other markets do the same, and we asked the store to order some of the books. The managers looked at the sales history and ordered the new book.
And Corporate cancelled the orders.
It’s no wonder the company is on the ropes. At this point, I won’t shed a tear when they disappear.
As digital sales become increasingly important, Amazon wields more and more power. And we’ve all seen their various algorithms in operation. The star rating as well as the number of reviews factors into where a book appears on the site—what rank it has when folks do a search, whether it appears on various “recommended” lists, etc. As you can imagine, this has quite an impact on sales (sorta like having your book on display in Barnes and Noble…no I’m not bitter).
And there seems to be a lot of pressure to…pump up the numbers.
I’ve been told that there are sites where an author can buy reviews… any star you want.
And now we have authors and readers running around trashing books to move them down the list, and authors begging every family member on the planet to write a five-star review to move them up the list.
Many will say this is just digital “word of mouth.”
In it’s purest form—legitimate reviews—I agree. But that’s not what is happening anymore. The review sites and the digital retailers are trying to counteract the abuse of the system, the gross manipulation. But there appears to be no perfect answer. As a writer, I can no longer review books by others. But, I’m also a reader…. But, now my reviews are “suspect” so I’m not allowed to play—even when all I ever do is tout books I love. The others, I don’t review.
And, if I buy books that I authored? Those sales don’t count. Even though I buy the books to sell at speaking events where a bookseller has not been procured. Or I give the copies away as promotional tools. So, why wouldn’t these sales count? Because, I guess authors buy a bunch and store them in their garage…to boost the sales figures. Although, between you and me, how many books can an author buy? It would take a significant investment to boost the numbers. So, is it really such a widespread thing that it needs to be addressed this way? I think not.
The whole thing makes me sick.
To be honest, I don’t read my reviews (My son does, though, and he gives me a report—so, it’s not that I don’t care. I do. I just can’t have other folks’ ideas rattling around in my empty head. Totally messes with my muse.) My family members wouldn’t think to write a review. I don’t know where my book appears on Amazon searches. I don’t know whether I’ve been viciously attacked…and I don’t care. Maybe I should. But then what?
Is the book biz going to become like Major League Baseball or the Tour de France where participants have to cheat to compete?
What do you think is the answer?
Just for fun, this upcoming Friday through Sunday (the 15-17th) I’m giving away a digital copy of LUCKY BANG, the latest Lucky novella and the story that sets up the upcoming two-part digital series LUCKY NOW AND THEN.
So, head to Amazon this weekend and download LUCKY BANG for free, 2/15-17.