Amazon And Our Relationship With Them

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At JHP we sell your book on Amazon

Love it or hate it, writers and publishers have to engage with Amazon.

Amazon accounts for almost 50% of all book sales and 83% of all book sales in the US market, and is the largest single account, on both sides of the Atlantic, for all publishers.

We make every print and ebook edition available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

The information from Amazon.com feeds through to regional Amazons in France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico.

This means people in those countries can order the book from the US site.

When will my book appear on Amazon?

The print edition of your book will appear for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com as soon as they receive book details, roughly 8-9 months before publication.

As it takes a bit of time for data to appear on Amazon, sometimes your print edition may be listed Amazon.com before Amazon.co.uk, or vice-versa. You will only be able to see the pre-order button for your book on the Amazon site in your region. If you're in the UK, you will not see the pre-order button on the US site, and vice versa; in most cases you will not be able to find your book on an Amazon site outside your region, but it will be visible to those searching from within that region.

Your Kindle ebook is usually available for pre-order four weeks before publication. Other ebook retailers usually follow Amazon in this.

Your book may not appear on Amazon’s websites in France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico until your publication date or just after.

Why does the release date on Amazon not match my official release date?

Sometimes, Amazon may include an inaccurate publication date when your data is first uploaded.

This is because It takes a little time for all the worldwide databases to get information accurately reflected on their sites.

Please ignore this; it will correct itself nearer publication.

In the United Kingdom (on amazon.co.uk), your publication date could be one of two dates:

The official launch date.

The date when the book is available to order and ship out of the warehouse.

In the USA (on amazon.com), Amazon will set your publication date as the first day of the month the official date is in.

This means a title publishing on September 29th may begin shipping from September 1st.

This also means that US customers can sometimes post reviews on Amazon.com up to four weeks earlier than UK customers (although Amazon.com reviews may also be visible on Amazon.co.uk book pages).

Why is my Amazon price different from the RRP?

It can be frustrating to look on Amazon to see that your book is a few pounds or dollars more expensive than the recommended retail price. Equally so, if you go to the site to see your book suddenly discounted, and you had no idea it was going to happen.

The truth is that Amazon and all retailers have the right to change list prices as they please, and are under no obligation to stick to the recommended retail price at all.

In fact, in 2016, Amazon UK started to implement a policy of deliberately not displaying the RRP, and regularly offering some books at prices £1 or so above it.

Since the demise of the Net Book Agreement in UK in 1997 Amazon UK has the right, as does every retailer, to sell books at whatever price they choose.

So while the recommended price is what you will see most of the time, it won’t always be the case.

If you do see a price promotion on Amazon, it is a great opportunity to promote the book to your networks.

It’s also worth pointing out that a discounted price on Amazon or any other retailer doesn’t affect your Royalty payments, which are accrued from the trade sale made to Amazon from a distributor or wholesaler, and nothing to do with the final price charged.

My book is out of stock on Amazon. What should I do?

Unfortunately, there is very little we can do with Amazon stock – their orders are placed automatically based on current stock levels and previous purchase patterns. If you contact Mary on the Editorial & Production - Printing queries forum, she can let you know their last order details and the current stock at NBN, our US distributor.

Why Amazon reviews are important and you should try to get as many of them as possible

Amazon reviews influence sales more than the reviews written by professionals in newspapers. Many buyers on Amazon make their choice on the basis of reviews and 10 good reviews is sometimes described as an acceptable minimum to trigger a purchase. We would go further. We think, for you, as an author, 50 is the magic number. Once your book receives over 50 reviews Amazon is likely to promote it across the site and over 75, very likely to. Having lots of Amazon reviews also opens doors to ebook marketing services. For instance, it is hard to get a promotion on a site like BookBub without at least 50 reviews. People follow the herd – if they see a lot of reviews for your book, and many of them are good, they are more likely to want to buy it. Basically, working to encourage reviews on Amazon is a priority for you as an author

14 things you need to know about Amazon reviews

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers genuine product feedback from fellow shoppers.

Our goal is to capture all the energy and enthusiasm (both favorable and critical) that customers have about a product while avoiding use of reviews to outright advertise, promote and especially mislead. We have a zero tolerance policy for any review designed to mislead or manipulate customers.

Customer Reviews help customers learn more about the product or genre, hear the reasons behind your star rating, and ultimately decide if this is the right product for them or not….

We don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion and if we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we’ll remove it.

If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we’ll likely remove your review.

We don’t allow authors to submit customer reviews on their own books even when they disclose their identity.

Amazon reviews are so desirable that people break the rules in order to get them. This can lead to reviews being deleted and Amazon accounts being blocked. Amazon changes their review policy regularly and there is often some confusion and complaint, especially when they delete reviews they consider fraudulent which are actually honest reviews. When it comes to adding reviews, you, the author, need to keep on top of what is allowed and what isn’t. A good place to start is Amazon’s actual policies:

Here are some key rules about Amazon reviews:

  1. You can only leave a review as long as you’ve spent at least $50 (roughly £40) with Amazon in the past twelve months.
  2. You CAN post reviews of products not purchased from them (non-verified purchases).
  3. Non-verified purchase reviews are limited to five per week, so if you regularly block-post lots of reviews, make sure that no more than five of them are for non-verified purchases.
  4. Authors and publishers ARE allowed to supply ARC copies for review, as long as a review is NOT EXPECTED. Therefore, whilst it is perfectly fine to offer people an ARC, don’t include the term ‘in exchange for an honest review: Jennetta Penner recommends language like “I received an ARC at no cost from the author” so you might want to ask those you supply with ARCs to not use the word “exchange” in their reviews.
  5. Only one review per item is allowed from the same household and/or IP address.
  6. Reviews of ‘friends’ or ‘associates’ books/products are not allowed.
  7. If your social media accounts are linked to your Amazon account and you are ‘friends’ on FB, Amazon will probably remove the review.
  8. If Amazon see a whole host of non-verified reviews (from accounts that didn’t order the book from Amazon) appearing for the same thing, at the same time, they consider it suspicious and will investigate. Therefore, if 200 people have had a NetGalley widget for a book pre-publication and the majority of those people post their review on publication day, some of them will probably be removed.
  9. If Kindle reviews are left behind but the kindle book file has not had at least 10% read they will be declined or removed (scary, but they measure this!)
  10. If you work in any capacity for JHP and have a company email address, reviews are likely to be deleted.
  11. Encouraging people to purchase your book from Amazon and then leave a review (meaning it will be a “verified purchase”) means a review is more likely to be accepted.
  12. Amazon.com only shows reviews that have been entered on that site. Amazon.co.uk also only shows reviews in full where they have been entered on that site, but there is also a link to the reviews that have been entered on Amazon.com. It doesn’t work the other way around yet, though.
  13. Customers cannot post reviews until the publication date; however, authors can post Editorial Reviews (top reviews, like endorsements) through their Author Central account, separately for amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.
  14. Even if a review is one sentence, it still counts towards the overall number, which helps with promotion.

The main thing is: be honest. Don’t cheat – you will be found out. It’s called “sock-puppeting.”

Someone has published a rude review. What should I do?

We, as the publisher, have no power to remove negative reviews.

If someone has posted a review of your book that seems really unjust, you can complain to community-help@amazon.com or report it through your Author Central account.

Try to remember that you are not writing to please everyone. Besides, a good mix of honest reviews can impress more than a handful of five-star ones, of which customers can be suspicious.

How to generate reviews for your book on launch day

  1. Make a (long) list of your contacts/fans who might be happy to read the manuscript/PDF and, if they feel so inspired, leave a review.
  2. Take into account that only 20–25% of your acquaintances will do it. If you want 10 reviews then you should ask 50 people.
  3. Write acquaintances a polite note telling them you’re about to publish your book and asking them to be part of your launch team and that, if they feel inspired to, you would like them to leave an honest review on Amazon.
  4. Give them clear instructions – encourage them to acknowledge that they received the book from you for free, but not to say that it was “in exchange” for a review.
  5. Offer them a PDF and review-by window (this has to be either side of the launch day) – send them the manuscript a month or so in advance. You can go one step further and use an online converter and create a zip file MOBI, EPUB and PDF, this covers all possible devices. Calibre is a free software that converts PDFs and EPUBs to a variety of formats for different readers and for both Mac and PC. Instructions are easy to follow.
  6. Two weeks before, send a polite and enthusiastic reminder, with examples of short and nice reviews (not necessarily of your own book) and some tips on writing a review (see below).
  7. Two days before launch date, send them another excited email, thanking them for having read your book and reminding them of the upcoming launch date.
  8. Launch date – write a last email thanking those who posted the review already and reminding them the next week is the best time to post their reviews. Only 20–25% will do so, but it still gives your book visibility on amazon and some reviews to get it going.
  9. Multiple reviews aid sales of your book, which then increases the reviews, creating a virtuous circle.

Tips on writing a great review on Amazon

These are from Amazon itself.

  1. Include the "why": The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
  2. Be specific: Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. For video reviews, we recommend that you write a brief introduction.
  3. Not too short, not too long: The ideal length is 75 to 500 words. Video reviews have a 10-minute limit, but we recommend 2 to 5 minutes to keep your audience engaged.
  4. Be sincere: We welcome your honest opinion about the product – positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions.
  5. Full disclosure: If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that that you received the product free of charge. Reviews from the Amazon Vine™ program are already labelled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.

Author and Publicist Daniela Norris was advised to do this for her novel and she noted this: “20-25% of the acquaintances who say they'll read a book and review it do so, if you want 10 reviews after publication day, you should ask roughly 50 people...you might get lucky and get more than 10 reviews”.

For some email pro-formas, and more advice on this, check out Tim Grahl’s article on the subject.

Why you should use Amazon reviews in your marketing

Because, as an author, you need to get into the habit of banging your own drum. It’s okay!

When you get good Amazon reviews, tell the world.

Share on your social networks, quote from them, add them to your website.

Likewise, when you hit milestones (50 reviews, 75, 100) share the good news.

Why you should join Amazon Author Central now

We recommend all JHP authors create an Amazon Author Central account to share the most up-to-date information about themselves across their Amazon books.

You must wait until your book is available to purchase on Amazon before you can set up an Author Central account.

The account connects your books together in an easy way, gives your readers more information about you, helps you build your brand, gain fans and learn about how to sell more books.

Information available includes access to your Amazon Sales Rank, Nielson Bookscan data for authors published in the USA, and access to all your online reviews in one place.

NOTE: Amazon Author Central Accounts are not yet centralized – you have to create one for Amazon.com (USA), one for Amazon.co.uk (UK) etc.

We recommend you to:

  1. Sign up to the US first, then UK, and then your "home" Amazon site (if you don’t also live in the US or UK).
  2. Complete as many sections of your account as you can.
  3. On Author Central US (not UK) you can narrow the category to increase you book’s visibility, and add keywords.
  4. Author Central US has more capabilities than Author Central UK, including the ability to add Editorial Reviews directly.
  5. Add your top, most exciting reviews to your Editorial Reviews.
  6. For your Amazon.co.uk account (and presumably for other countries too) you can add Editorial Reviews by contacting customer service.

We also recommend reading blogger Jane Friedman’s article about using Author Central, where she explains how to claim your Author Central pages and gives details of how you can activate your page in countries other than the UK and USA.

More useful links:

Why you should be wary of instant bestseller programs

There are various programs offered by freelance PR and self-published authors, which you have to pay to join, which tell you how to create an instant Amazon bestseller.

They revolve around borrowing other people’s mailing lists, getting them all to buy your book on the same day, and offering them in return free material, usually ebooks, or vouchers for a workshop, or similar.

Treat with caution.

It is a bit like pyramid selling, it tends to work for books that tell you how to get rich. You buy the book to find out, and the book tells you to start your own workshops on how to get rich.

It does not work for our kind of books.

Do not hand money over for them.

Focus on building steady, sustainable sales, with the right kind of people who are going to recommend your book.

How your Amazon ranking is calculated

Amazon keep their ranking method a trade secret, so no one really knows what it’s based on.

If you learn one thing about Amazon rankings, let it be this:

Because the formula weights sales by date, it favours steady sales over a dramatic surge. Publishing success is a marathon rather than a sprint. It takes half as many sales to sustain a rank as it takes to get there.

The common understanding is that each sale counts as one point toward a rank score. Each day, the preceding day’s score decreases by half, and is added to the current day’s points.

So the ranking score is a rolling figure, usually based over a period of 30 days, (though this keeps changing over time and between regions.)

The top 1000 titles are recalculated hourly.

The next block, up to 10,000, are recalculated weekly, while the rest get checked monthly.

A book with no sales ranking has not sold a copy.

It’s not quite as simple as that, though, because as your book rises in the ranks, it will displace others, and similarly your book may be pushed downwards.

Sales decrease by approximately half as the ranking doubles. So a title at number 2000 is selling half that of number 1000.

Any book in the top 10,000 could be selling 100 and upwards a month online, several times more than that overall, and can be considered as doing well.

As your book’s ranking goes up, so does its visibility, especially if you can crack the top 100 in any popular category. This is because Amazon provides hyperlinked top 100 lists in every major category right on its site.

Your book is more likely to be noticed by readers browsing the site by category if it’s on one or more of those lists, and the more likely it is to be recommended as a “Buy this book and that book together” candidate on other popular books’ product pages.

This tends to become a self-feeding loop - the higher you climb, the more people see and buy your book, so the higher you climb.

7 other key points about Amazon ranking:

  1. To count as a "bestseller", you have to rank in the top 100 for your category.
  2. It’s possible for your book to rise even if it hasn’t sold any copies.
  3. Results tend to be weighted against books bought at lower discounts (not a problem with us as we give them 55%) and at lower prices.
  4. Pre-orders are counted on the day the book is ordered, rather than on the date of the book’s release. Which is some books that have not yet been released have a high sales rank.
  5. In the first 30 days of publication, Amazon lends more weight to sales of a new book and it is reflected in where it sits in the "new and popular" rankings. So promotion in that window has the most effect.
  6. A good way to check sales rankings on the different Amazons (USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Japan) in one go rather than having to look them up separately is to go to www.salesrankexpress.com, or www.novelrank.com. You can also check sales performance over a 90-day period at junglescan.com.
  7. If you plan to buy similar books to your own on Amazon, as well as your own, buy them together. It will enable your title to show in the Amazon "Customers who bought this bought these others" section.
  8. There is plenty of discussion on the internet as authors and publishers try to fathom Amazon’s popularity rankings and bestselling algorithms.

Don’t get too obsessed, and do not worry about short-term movements.

It is like the stock market – downs as well as ups. The sales ranking function is programmed to have a short memory. If you’re going to track it, track long-term trends, if you want to, rather than weekly ones.

The importance of Amazon also-boughts

It is vital that your book is categorized properly. If it isn’t, it can come back to haunt you.

For instance, the wrong category can negatively influence the also-boughts section of your Amazon page.

When you look for something on Amazon, you will always see the section of their site that says What other items do customers buy after viewing this item? followed by a list of books:

We call these books also-boughts, and if your book shows up here it will drive your sales across Amazon.

If your book is categorized properly, when you look at your book the also-boughts should make sense, and in real life, people who buy your books will also be buying similar ones.

Say you use a marketing website like BookBub to do promotion, and you don’t place your book in a category which is true for it (because the correct category might not be available), you can accidentally destroy your also-boughts, and, subsequently, your sales.

For example, if you have a thriller and you promote it in a romance newsletter because there is a romance in it, and many people receive the marketing email and go out and buy a bunch of romances and your thriller, then romances will show up in your also-boughts.

Amazon will start promoting your thriller to romance buyers. They will not likely buy your thriller, and Amazon will start thinking your book is a dud and stop promoting it.

You will then see a sharp drop in sales because your book isn’t selling well enough to show up in also-boughts.

Your brand is important – so don’t promote your book on email lists which do not focus on your target audience.

Check out our guide to Amazon categories here.

9 ways JHP works with Amazon

  1. Amazon.com buys non-return from our North American distributor, NBN (National Book Network), at 50% discount on RRP.
  2. Amazon typically buys 85% of books direct from our distributors NBN & Wiley and 15% through wholesalers.
  3. Omuni Barnes is NBN’s dedicated National Accounts Manager for Amazon.com and is able to use NBN’s standing to actively sell our books to Amazon.com through Vendor Central, giving us an advantage over many publishers who can only use Amazon as a marketplace to make books available.
  4. Amazon.co.uk buys on consignment, paying 45% of RRP on books sold.
  5. We are on the Amazon UK Advantage program for publishers, which speeds up supply and allows us to exchange editorial, sales and marketing information with Amazon.
  6. Amazon.com.au only sells ebooks and audio books, not print.
  7. Look Inside Your Book. Every book we sell on Amazon offers Look Inside functionality. Readers can read random pages from no more than 20% of the text, mimicking the experience of browsing in a book shop. We don't have any control over the pages of your book that Amazon chooses to preview.
  8. Amazon may decide to run a promotion on your title (especially if you have a lot of reviews). We can’t influence these promotions directly. If we find out that Amazon have picked your title for a merchandising program such as Kindle Daily Deal, we will record it in your Marketing Activities as an “Advert.”Amazon deducts money from sales revenue in return for promoting our titles to customers.
  9. Amazon also offers other publishing merchandising programs. They cost between $5000 and $100,000 and are only worth thinking about once your title has held onto a top 1000 sales ranking on Amazon for a couple of months. These programs are run through our distributor NBN in the US, and through Amazon Advantage in the UK.

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