This past weekend I ran a seminar (or tried to do so!) at the Military Writers Society of America Annual Conference. Our focus was figuring out how to use the tools Amazon offers to help a writer market books. There were so many questions and so much discussion that we did not finish in our allotted time. At the end of the hour, I promised to put all the PowerPoint material online, so that everyone could access it and have the time to think about it and ask questions. So during weekdays in the month of October, I will be posting one tip a day here on the blog.
We start with the basic premise: that both Amazon and the writer have a single goal in mind. Both want to sell lots of books and make lots of money. Agreed? If one of you makes money, the other will, too. Amazon cannot make money from your book without your cooperation, and you need them as well. So it is to everyone's advantage if you work hard to learn the rules under which Amazon operates -- and then follow them!
When you first put a book on Amazon or Kindle, you are asked to read the small print. Remember those long paragraphs that they told you to read carefully? Then you were asked to check a small box if you agreed to abide by them. If you are like the 99% of us, I'll bet you scrolled rapidly through the text just to get to the box. And you checked it, not because you agreed with it, but because you had no choice if you wanted your book to be available. Of course you did.
But let's be clear, once you check that little box, you have signed an electronic contract. Violate it at your own peril. Amazon has the power to drop you and all your books if you don't follow the rules. And here's the bigger catch: they have the right to change the rules.
It's their site. They will send you a notice if they make an important change, whether for good or ill. Read what they have to say! Know what's going on.
Right now they are making a whole lot of changes, mostly in response to the trouble all of us have been making for them. They will be tightening up the rules on reviews (and stars), for example, in response to the discovery that some authors have been paying for reviews to let their books sound better than hey really are. Now I'm guessing that most of you didn't do that, but many people did, primarily because Amazon didn't have any rule against it.
As I used to tell my history students, people don't make rules against behaviors that are not happening. I know of a city with a law on the books that bans topless doughnut shops. I was there when the city council passed it. Why? Because someone had discovered that the only laws on topless businesses applied to those that served alcohol. The enterprising young man opened a doughnut shop with topless clerks, served only coffee, and had truckers lined up on the interstate access ramps to get in.
Tip # 1: Know the rules. Obey the rules. They protect you and all the rest of us from the few who try to take advantage of loopholes.