by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers
I normally don't argue with anyone online. One, I don't have time, and two, I want everyone to like me. But last night I spent an hour countering some authors who were freaking out about Amazon buying Goodreads.
If they had posted rational, thoughtful ideas about why it might be a bad idea for Amazon to own all three of the book-related (book review) social media sites, I might have even agreed with them. However, they were throwing around the word monopoly and trashing Amazon as evil, so I felt compelled to respond.
First, Goodreads isn't a retail store, so monopoly isn't an issue. Second, all those authors sell their books on Amazon, and I would bet they make a good chunk of their income from Amazon sales, even if they're traditionally published. If they really hate Amazon, they should pull their books down from the retailer and never sign with a publisher that does business with Amazon. Back up your beliefs with your actions and money!
More important, any of the big players in the publishing marketplace (Penguin, Books-a-Million, Ingram) could have bought Goodreads. But they didn't. And Goodreads could have said no. But they didn't. If you want to be mad, why not focus your anger on the founders who sold out?
Amazon is a successful business because it makes smart moves. It also wants to connect readers with the right books. Honestly, it's the most customer-centric business I've ever encountered. When I talk with the people at Amazon Publishing, they discuss everything in terms of "the customer experience" and how they want every customer to have a good experience. It's embedded in the company culture.
What do I think will happen to Goodreads? Amazon will improve the interface and make it considerably easier to use. They'll create a way to use the site from Kindle, which will make book cataloging and reviewing easier. They'll make author pages better so I can update my books to show the new covers. For inside scoop, here's an interview with people from both companies.
Will the B&N buy buttons eventually go away? Probably. But B&N is already circling the drain… because they waited way too long to get into the e-reader business and overinvested in expensive retail space. Maybe B&N should have bought Goodreads long ago and eliminated Amazon's buy buttons. I'm sure everyone in publishing would have cheered.
PS: And this morning, Shelf Awareness writes: "In one fell swoop, Amazon, whose algorithms for recommending books have shown limited effectiveness, now owns one of the major tools built to address the problem [of discoverability] it created."
I call bullshit. Amazon did not create the problem of authors failing to get discovered. There just weren't enough bookshelves to stock and display the growing number of authors. And yes, the growth of e-readers shrank print book sales and the number of bookstores. But don't blame Amazon for creating a product readers love! Further, Amazon, with its infinite "book display" space and supportive algorithms, has successfully corrected the problem of discoverability for most authors. As I said, keep the criticism real.
Great blog Ms. Sellers. Amazon DOES help authors. Even though my first book, "Moral Hazard-A Wall Street Thriller" was published several years ago, they included it in a campaign to people who "may also like this". Although other books were listed below, my book was top billing and in the email subject. And the best part...I didn't even have to pay for it. Just a small part of how Amazon connects authors with readers. Thanks again for your informative response to Goodreads article.ReplyDelete
Thanks. That's what everyone keeps forgetting. Amazon pays authors well and has leveled the playing field. Readers who hate Amazon can't claim they care about authors.Delete
Great points, LJ.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the support!Delete
I loved this quote:ReplyDelete
“I just found out my two favorite people are getting married,” said Hugh Howey, best-selling author of WOOL. “The best place to discuss books is joining up with the best place to buy books – To Be Read piles everywhere must be groaning in anticipation.”
People dislike change. People want someone to blame when change occurs, even if that change is ultimately positive. Amazon is a big target, and I agree with you completely—"it's the most customer-centric business I've ever encountered." Have they made some mistakes? Sure. But at the heart of every money-making move they make is great customer service.
Next? I hear there's talk of The Zon buying Hulu.
You make some excellent points, LJ. Thanks for spelling it out for us. I'm pretty much a nobody on Amazon, but someone who'd bought my first e-booklet, Writing a Killer Thriller, emailed me to say that Amazon had suggested they might like my newer, longer book, Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power. So Amazon was promoting my book for me and I didn't even know it! And since Style that Sizzles recently came out in print, Amazon has discounted it to jump-start sales, another move I didn't know about, but it certainly makes sense. And it HAS jump-started sales of the print version! So they're definitely working on my behalf!ReplyDelete
L.J., I'm a blogger/reviewer so I can't afford to be choosy. When I post a review, I do it at as many sites as I can to give as much exposure to my thoughts as I do to the the author I'm writing about. Goodread's does have a section where you can set how many places book searches are done, so I hope Amazon doesn't trash that area. It is actually fairly useful.ReplyDelete
Amazon isn't going to get rid of anything that's working well for readers.Delete
It will be nice to only go to one place to put up a review of a book, since most of us book readers are joined at the hip to both Amazon and Goodreads! Hopefully it will all work out for the authors in the end-which I am pretty sure it will. I will always love Barnes & Nobel--their actual stores where you can sit and read a book or magazine if you choose. I sincerely hope they don't go out of business entirely!ReplyDelete
I love bookstores too, but honestly, I haven't shopped in one for years. I take that back. Except to buy some pictures books for our granddaughter. But B&N is in trouble, and even the retail stores that stay open—if some of the company survives—won't carry much fiction.Delete
Great blog. I wasn't upset by the sale. After reading this, 'm glad to find out I wasn't simply being naive.ReplyDelete
Brava, L.J., Brava! A great, logical,rational and helpful response to Chicken Little's sky-is-falling panic.ReplyDelete
Amazon is my go-to for everything. I'm stuck in Yukon, OK with no way to go anywhere else, so I can look up and order from Amazon everything from a book to a coffee pot. Service is excellent and delivery is speedy. I have never had a reason to complain about Amazon.
I joined Goodreads but have never had time to read or post there. Too many things demand an author's attention these days so some things just have to die on the vine.
I belong to a couple of listservs and some writers' groups on Facebook that keep me posted on what's being published. I have about 175 book reviews (going back a few years) still up on Amazon so I can always check there to see what I read and reviewed -- and I don't read or review a book I don't like so that's all the record I need.
So many people like to knock Amazon. To me it's a big window on the world.
Thank you, and thanks again.
Thanks for stopping in. Amazon has changed my life for the better....repeatedly. And I love making purchases online. So much faster and more environmentally friendly than driving around!Delete
I'm active on Goodreads and on Amazon. It could turn out to be a match made in heaven. Thank you for your comments. They were fair and honest, and probably right.ReplyDelete
I think you're right. This will turn out well. Especially because Goodreads will get easier to use.ReplyDelete
Rationality rules. Agree with you stance, L.J. Change is a fact of life. Get used to it and see how you can use it to your advantage.ReplyDelete
Amazon is the best thing that happened for the small press authors who couldn't get their books into the big chain stores. The indy bookstores are closing or will only sell books by "no name" authors via consignment. B&N only promotes the best sellers. Amazon gives every author a level playing field. I buy books, music and movies on Amazon because of the wide selection of both old and new releases. What physical store will still let you buy music in records and cassette tapes as well as VHS of old movies? If the Amazon/Goodreads hookup helps authors to promote their books better, I'm all for it. The major publishing houses are too busy trying to prop up their ineffective business model to see the opportunties that Amazon is gobbling up. More power to them.ReplyDelete
L.J., I agree with you. I knew as soon as I saw the announcement that Amazon bought Goodreads, the slams against Amazon would begin. Today I received an email from the Authors Guild in which Scott Turow, current President of the Guild, stated: “Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built. The key is to eliminate or absorb competitors before they pose a serious threat. With its 16 million subscribers, Goodreads could easily have become a competing on-line bookseller, or played a role in directing buyers to a site other than Amazon. Instead, Amazon has scuttled that potential and also squelched what was fast becoming the go-to venue for on-line reviews, attracting far more attention than Amazon for those seeking independent assessment and discussion of books. As those in advertising have long known, the key to driving sales is controlling information."ReplyDelete
I have been a member of the Guild since 1990 and my late husband was a member since 1972. I did not renew my membership this past November because of the constant attacks the Guild has made on Amazon in recent years.
I admire Jeff Bezos and how he has built Amazon, not only to author satisfaction but to customer satisfaction. Amazon has given independent authors great opportunities. The publishers, authors, the Guild, again complaining are usually the same ones who complained and put down those of us who made business decisions to go with ebooks, and take control of our works. I love Amazon! Even though a number of my books and my husband’s books are at B&N, and other retailers, none come close to matching the sales through Amazon.
And I buy all my books at Amazon, and have for many years now, along with just about any household items I may need. If you’re treated right, customers stay with the company. That's called Success!
You'll notice Turow said "Goodreads could have become a competing bookseller." As is, it's not a competitor for Amazon. If Goodreads had started profiting from book sales, it would no longer be the open reader forum everyone seems so worried about. He can't have it both ways. And Amazon isn't so much seeking to "control" information, but to acquire it.Delete
Very good post, LJ. You bring up things that all authors should be considering. When I buy ebooks, I go to Amazon.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping in, Helen. I buy all kinds of things from Amazon because they make it so convenient.Delete
The only thing I want to see is Amazon addressing the vindictive one star non-reviews put up for no other reason than to hurt. This is more important now that they own a major review site.ReplyDelete
Reviews should help readers decide on what books to read not feed some coward's sense of power.h
I agree. The one-star reviews about price should be abolished.ReplyDelete
LJ - as an avid reader of more than 300 books a year, I am was happy to note that Amazon and Goodreads are engaged. So much better for me and other readers. Thanks for the interesting blob and saying what many are thinking.ReplyDelete
Good post. I have four books published with Avalon, which was bought out by Amazon last summer. After the purchase, Amazon re-released the books (up to that point only available in hardcover)as ebooks; they also made them available in paperback. It gave new life to books which had been out for a while and for which sales had gone flat. I also have one book and some short stories which I self-published through Amazon's KDP and CreateSpace. The sales on these books more than doubled after the other books became available in more affordable format. Amazon had treated me very well and, while I tend to be wary of anything that becomes too big, I am delighted with the way I have been treated by them. I feel that I have a lot more control over my books and my career than I had in the past.ReplyDelete