So, it appears that Amazon’s recent rumoured change in content policy (specifically not allowing stories of less than 2,500 words) has at least spread a bit further than that.
The word going around is that because of the success of the Kindle Direct Publishing platform that allows schmucks like me to get their work onto the biggest book-selling site in the world (unsurprising, really, that people would be into that, especially when getting published conventionally is getting harder and harder) the overall quality level of Kindle-only books has dropped. This, again, is unsurprising, because Amazon don’t vet each book as it goes up onto the site; anything can get on, as long as it’s doesn’t auto-flag for certain offensive keywords in its description, and no-one complains about it after it’s up.
(Wholesome, unbigoted titles about schooldays are still warmly accepted.)
As a result, more and more shitty books have been bought on a whim by brave punters willing to give a new writer a go (how do you think I get anywhere, eh? A-HA! A-HA! Thought I’d get it in there first) with the end result of those customers feeling burnt by Amazon. Not exactly the way a vast international mega corporation wants people feeling about them, you might say, and so Amazon appear to have done something about it.
The most obvious is the removal of the ability to tag the book with keywords outside of the ones a KDP publisher can add on the book’s information page. These means that they stand out less in the marketplace, and far more damaging, it means that the effectiveness of the free listing days (KDP Select publishers get five free listing days per quarter on the proviso that their book is only available on Amazon) that made the KDP Select program such a vital tool for people like me has been massively reduced (that and the fact that an number of available free listing title on any given day has almost doubled.) Before, a free listing meant that thousands of downloads were likely, massively increasing the visibility of your work and hopefully gaining you a great deal of vital customer reviews.
Pictured: the Luke Smitherd unsold inventory.
I did blog previously about my confusion over why The Stone Man
, a book with far more reviews at the time that The Physics Of The Dead
ever did, barely shifted any free copies in the US than TPOTD did back when it had no reviews at all. I didn’t realise about the tag removal at the time, and the similar free listing failure of The Black Room
in both the US and UK was also baffling to me (and before you say ‘the books were crap’ it couldn’t have been, because no-one had read them at the time, yet the same was true of TPOTD and it shifted thousands of copies. The books may
still be crap, of course, but that’s not the reason the free listings failed.) Now it makes sense; TPOTD seems to have gotten in just before the gate closed on the glory days of the free listing.
I hope that this doesn’t remain the case, but not just for my sake. That first free listing of TPOTD managed to get me my first batch of reviews, which began a steady trickle of sales than seems to be s-l-o-w-l-y increasing with each release by tiny increments. If it wasn’t for that, the only way that people would have discovered my work would have been through sheer chance and my own promotional efforts (hint: sheer chance alone would have had better odds of success.) So this makes me wonder how brand new writers without a supportive social circle or social media skills are going to get anywhere (I have neither either, apart from, in the case of the latter, the new friends I’ve made via my books, but at least I had KDP Select free listings when they were at full strength) unless Amazon returns the KDP program to it’s former tag-heavy glory. Plus, it does rather beg the question: if the big appeal of limiting your book to Amazon was the payoff of being able to have a successful free listing, why would anyone bother opting in to the Select version of KDP when now you only get a lousy few hundred downloads worldwide? My best hope is that Amazon is trying to do something about the increased number of simultaneous free listings, and will figure out an algorithm that can let all the free listings co-exist but be found perhaps by the right customers, rather than just reducing the overall amount that are found full stop. We shall see.