Thursday, April 07, 2005

POD Authors Kill Amazon Feature

So many folks have told me that POD is ruining the world of publishing, that it floods the market with too many competing titles, making the search for a purchase all the more difficult. I’d like to think POD is liberating publishing, but that’s a post for another day.

There is one thing that POD ruined: Amazon’s Customers’ Advice section. This was, for those of you who don't remember, an area within the product details for each title that allowed customers to suggest other titles (in addition to or instead of) the title listed. These suggestions would be ranked based on cumulative suggestion (i.e. if three people suggested MIDDLESEX and one person recommended THE KITE RUNNER, MIDDLESEX would show first.)

This section no longer exists in books (it is still available in music and elsewhere.)

Why? A friend of mine who worked for Amazon told me it was because the [POD authors] were using it as a way to promote their books. Not a bad idea, I suppose. Wait for the new Grisham novel to come out, then get all of your friends to suggest your title as the perfect companion!

The result: bestsellers were showing “customers’ advice” titles as uniquely coming from Authorhouse, Xlibris and iUniverse. What are the odds?

Amazon limited the suggestion of titles to one recommendation per user per book and you had to be a purchasing customer (to prevent users [read: POD authors] from creating several dozen accounts then bombing the bestsellers with a tie-in to their books.) Later, you could only suggest the same title 3 or 4 times, preventing someone from suggesting the book across 15,000 Amazon selections. But even these restrictions did not work. The feature became saturated with ridiculous comparisons, and thus useless.

So, you see, self-pubbed authors found a way to get free advertising with Amazon.

For a while.

Alas, the feature is gone. And it is a shame, too: it was great tool, especially for finding decent political titles, romance novels and thrillers.

It was, I am sad to say, a great way for the midlist author to get some exposure through valid customer suggestion, to get some buzz.

Unfortunately, Amazon decided to take their ball and go home.