I wish I could start this blog by promising to bring you new solutions to current problems, but unfortunately all I can manage is an identification of those problems. The topsy-turvy world of publishing is facing a whole series of crises at the moment, and e-book authors are not immune. In fact, we are at the very center of some of these problems. Here are some of the trends I’m noticing. What are we to do about them? I have no easy answers, but I suspect the first step comes with recognizing that there are problems.
1. The big crisis of the week was the revelation that Todd Rutherford and others like him have been selling 5-star book reviews to anyone willing to pay for them. You’ve likely heard the outcry! Once it becomes known that not all reviews are legitimate, all reviews become suspect. Those of us who work hard to earn the praise of strangers who read our books are tarred by the same brush as those who have laid out thousands of dollars to fill up their Amazon ratings. Because, after all, how can a prospective customer know if that great review came from a happy reader, or your doting Aunt Sally, or one of Rutherford’s lackeys who churn out reviews based on a picture of the cover?
If there’s any comfort in this, it comes from viewing our less-than-stellar reviews with a certain amount of gratitude. In one location I have a 2-star write-up that goes on for some time about how boring my book it. Now I can say “Thanks” for demonstrating that at least I haven't purchased my reviews!
2. The second crisis that disturbed me this week was triggered by a status that appeared on my Facebook page from someone I have never heard of. How did this gentleman get there? I have no idea, which is in itself troubling. However, what really worried me was his message. This was a writer who, based on the popularity of “50 Shades,” had determined that no one wants to read anything but sex today. So he had just issued a 12,000 word, 40+ page “book” that contained nothing but one prolonged sexual encounter – no plot, no setting, no names beyond “he” and ‘she” – just steamy scenes. He offered the “book” for free, with a link to a Smashwords page, where a prospective reader could download the first few pages to whet the appetite – or something! I have no idea how many downloads he chalked up, but his approach to writing a “book” must cast a shadow over all our legitimate efforts.
3. And in the midst of unscrupulous people out for a buck without caring about the overall effect of their actions, we’re getting word that the rules of social media are changing – faster and more quietly than we can keep up with. I pointed out a couple of changes on Amazon last week, having to do with the way they count free downloads as “sales.” Now I’m wondering what they will do about some of their lists, like the ones that rely totally on customer reviews to provide the “top-ranked” books in each of their categories. If reviews are now suspect . . . . . . . .?
4. Another place where the rules are changing is Google. They, too, are changing their algorithms that show the relative popularity of websites. I can’t begin to explain what’s going on, except for pointing out that one Google mogul has been quoted as saying, “We’re changing it, and you’re not going to like it!” I’m seeing the effects of it (whatever it is) already. The report that tells me how many hits my website gets has been running even, or growing slowly, every day for the past 18 months. How, then, did it plummet from an average of 450 hits per day to 47? I don’t think I said anything offensive enough to cause a total black-listing, but there it it. Rumor has it that they are no longer counting back links or connections that come from other sites such as Twitter or Facebook. If so, internet marketers will have some major adjustments to make.
Have you noticed any other changes coming? Do you have any suggestions as to how we meet the new challenges? Let’s start a conversation.