Friday, June 10, 2011

The Unbearable Ennui of Amazon UK and DE

Australia, Ireland, India, Romania, and Norway—what do these countries have in common?

They all have representative governments, and they all have fans of Zero Sight.

How do I know? 

Because I've received emails from readers in all these countries.

I consider this super cool. With only three months of indie authorship under my belt, I'm having some rather radical conversations with people thousands of miles away. They took time out to read Zero Sight, and even bothered to shoot me a letter. Indie readers seem to be a special breed. I'm really happy to make their acquaintance. [And to everyone that asked, I'm sorry, but I do not know which Las Vegas casino's slot machines have the best odds. And besides, you should be sticking to blackjack. Blackjack is the card game with the smallest house advantage. But always ask how many decks they are using. The casino can still worsen your odds that way ; P]

So Zero Sight is selling well internationally. Great. How about in the UK and Germany? 

It's selling terribly. (Under one dozen sales combined.)

Big surprise. You're a nobody. But, hey, why is Zero Sight selling well elsewhere?

After an initial solid release—thanks, mom—Zero Sight has been slowly building positive buzz on Amazon. As you all probably know, I do very little promoting. I update my blog. I talk to folks on Facebook and via email. I try (and fail) to leverage Twitter. But that's about it. I don't have the time or money for anything else. The Amazon buzz is my lifeblood, and I believe that positive reader reviews and also-bought on Amazon are largely responsible for propelling Zero Sight's US sales.

So why is Zero Sight selling internationally as well? 

International readers (that do not live in the UK or Germany) are routed to Amazon's US site for their Kindle purchases. If they search in the YA Contemporary Fantasy lists, or purchase similar items, Zero Sight's bloody digits pop out at them. They can then read Zero Sight's reviews, nod sagely, and decide to buy one of Kevin Hearne's books instead.


Jules: Oh, come on now,
how am I supposta fockin'
compete with them abs?
Fortunately, Mr. Hearne only has three Iron Druid novels finished, and fantasy buffs are voracious readers. When they run out of their supply of Hearne, they seem to settle for me. (You too can visit me in the discount bin!)

Kevin Hearne's outrageously successful Iron Druid Chronicles aside, positive word-of-mouth is my bread and butter. I have no marketing campaign to speak of. I think it's the only reason I'm making any sales.

So what's the matter with Ze Germans?

The UK and German Amazon websites are special. Each one has been granted a distinct closed system. We writers get better royalty rates thanks to this arrangement, but there are also so pretty heavy costs. The reviews and also-boughts built up on the US site do not transfer to the UK or Germany. For a newbie author like myself, it's like starting back at square one.

Maybe I need to go on a charm offensive. Maybe I need to reach out to readers on both sites. But promoting on Amazon UK and Germany's discussion boards has backfired for many authors. Readers have become angry. They don't appreciate authors hawking their wares in every thread.

So watcha gonna do, buttercup?

I was raised in a city that prides itself on its service industry, and if there is one thing I was taught early, it was to listen to your customers and deliver exactly what they want. If readers don't want me posting announcements, that's the last thing I'm gonna do.

I've decided to take a hands off approach and be patient. I'll let the Amazon US buzz continue to grow and focus on the editing for Zero Sum. I want to get the second Zero Sight Series book out in the early fall, and I'm gonna need every free minute I have to get it done. I'll hope that the positive noise eventually reaches readers in the UK and Germany. If it doesn't, I'll grudgingly take a loss. I just can't stomach battles with two more closed loops. That's time I can spend writing, which is what my current readers are encouraging and/or screaming at me to do.

And would you like to deliver any words to your benevolent overlord?

Why, yes! Amazon, if you're listening, why you aren't merging the product relationships between your US, UK, and German sites is beyond me. My numbers are a case in point that if the buzz is positive on your US website, consumers outside of the US are more likely to risk a purchase. But this only works if you allow them to see the reviews and also-bought statistics you've spent so much time and money collecting and processing. You should be using it to help your authors make sales and you make commissions. It is free internal marketing data that is ripe for the picking.



jago said...

just saw this and reviewed your book-on naturally i gave you 5 stars! :) so that'll give you 3 reviews, problem not solved, but its the least i could do for an awesome reading experience. thanks. Jago

B. Justin Shier said...

Thanks, Jago. I appreciate you taking the time to write the review! Also, thank you for using the word "dross". I did not know there was a solid form of slag. I will cherish this term forevermore.