Amazon Decoded, by David Gaughran: #BookReview.

326 Pages

Authorship Reference/E-Commerce Web Marketing.

I read this book after reading the author’s ‘Let’s Get Digital’. It’s a natural follow-on for those interested in marketing their e-books as indie writers/publishers. In fact, it also has a lot to say about, and to, mainstream and some small publishers, much of which might benefit the authors they supposedly represent.

For those wishing to run their writing careers as a business, this is an excellent book. It gives detailed information about how the Amazon algorithms work, how to take advantage of this knowledge and how to maximise your chances of exposure and positioning on the multiple sales leagues.

For me, as what David describes as a ‘Wide Author’, the news isn’t good. It appears Amazon is rather narrow-minded regard genres and needs an author to restrict their writing to one genre, the narrower, the better. So, it’s not so much interested in selling good books, just a product from which it can make the maximum profit without worrying too much about content. If that sounds bitter, it’s because I’ve always admired writers willing to experiment, eager to stretch the minds of readers, daring to challenge long-held, often erroneous, beliefs. So much so, that I’ve emulated their stance in my own writing, though how successful that may have been is for others to determine.

My point is that such narrowness of approach as the sub-sub-genre gives does nothing to expand the minds, knowledge and opinions of those who read only in that limited field. And it positively harms those who would encourage broadening of the mind, adventurous reading, and the chance to experience something outside their comfort zone. This is what retail bookstores on the Highstreet used to do, sometimes with the help of imaginative and forward-thinking publishers; encourage readers to experiment.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where the single-mined will of the accountant rules above all, and the only issue of any importance is ‘How much profit can we make?’.

End of rant.

David makes no bones about the amount of work and dedication involved in playing this game as a professional. It’s demanding, time-consuming, and will not always garner results. But for those who win in this lottery, tweaking their output to best make use of the algorithms, the prizes in financial terms can be excellent. Of course, it also helps if you have a budget at hand to spend on some of the associated advertising.

So, not a book I can make maximum use of, though there are some aspects I can adopt to slightly increase visibility. Because Amazon is so fixated by narrow genre, my changes may make virtually no difference, however!

David makes it clear that we writers are very much in the hands of the business that is Amazon. My take from this is that I should ignore Amazon and concentrate my efforts on less prescriptive retailers if I’m to gain any increase in readership.

[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]

5 thoughts on “Amazon Decoded, by David Gaughran: #BookReview.

  1. A narrow point of view in anything is problematic, and I’m not at all surprised that Amazon is behaving this way. I stopped buying from them (about three years ago now); it treated its employees terribly during the first weeks of the pandemic as well. Companies that are that big and/or ambitious try to shepherd, control, and narrow to lower costs and make more money. I’ve always tended to favour smaller, more local companies anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you, Lynette. Unfortunately, for authors, Amazon remains the biggest outlet by far; they sell more books than most of the other companies put together. Such market share gives them disproprortionate power that they abuse. It’s just one of the many side effects of a global fiancial system run on unregulated capitalism.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If I understand you correctly Amazon wants to pigeon-hole authors by having them work in one genre only. By showing you the faults of Amazon the author may be hoping that you’ll give other on-line publishers a look. Others such as Smashwords or Book Baby. From what I’ve seen of Smashwords they are no better than Amazon. They seem to be willing to publish anything as long they make a profit. I would be wary of any author trying to steer others in a different direction. I think the indie author should find a place that’s comfortable for them and stay there. And it seems Stuart you have. I know almost nothing about Fantastic Books but for whatever reason or reasons you’re comfortable with them and they with you. Amazon may not be perfect but in my opinion, no on-line publisher is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An interesting take, Tom. Yes, Amazon is more concerned about maximising profit than about giving users a wide-ranging choice. The book goes into great detail about the many different ways Amazon impacts on the sales success or otherwise of authors. There’s certainly no intention from the author to steer writers to other retailers, though. He is merely telling it like it is and leaving it to the individual writer to decide whether there’s anything they can do about their situation on the site.
      Smashwords is an entirely different animal; they are happy for writers to present books free of charge, if they wish, and there is no ranking or ‘recommendation’ situation that disadvantages the ‘wide author’. Smashwords is primarily a self-publishing site that enables authors to publish their work in e-book form.
      Fantastic Books Publishing is a small independent publisher, not a retailer. They sell their own author’s works and distribute those books in paperback and digital form to the various retail outlets in much the same way as the bigger publishers. The difference is that FBP gives the author much more freedom to experiment with different genres and also provides an extremely generous deal for authors whilst taking a role in supporting charities by sending 10% of all royalties to the charity chosen by the author.
      Hope that clarifies the situation for you, Tom.
      My gripe with Amazon is simply that it takes positive action to deter writers from straying from a very narrow sub-genre, and fails to provide readers with a wide range of books they might enjoy, keeping them to an equally narrow sub-genre rather than using their extraordinary power in the market place to encourage readers to diversify.


Comments are closed.