I spend lots of time at Amazon and I can see that the web 2.0 features keep coming. It’s a good time for all authors to think about what “web 2.0” means and what they can do to foster their own success in a world where user generated content and user interactivity rule the web, and more importantly, the web-store. (Here’s O’Reily’s definition of Web 2.0, link)
Amazon has an increasing number of features that authors can take advantage of to sell more books and create a bigger “footprint” on the site.
More authors are creating Amazon blogs and I’m sure the good ones are generating sales as a result. The main key to writing an Amazon blog is not overdoing it: that is, you have to understand that your readers are here to buy a book not read a blog, and you need to write accordingly. This is not the place for long drawn out entries about your personal life or about the process of writing your next book. This is the place to put your book in context for readers who might be looking at your competition. A great place to start is “Why I wrote this book.”
Noah Lukeman, the literary agent, has a good one for his new book, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation.
The Amazon blog really gives you an unprecedented direct connection to your reader. This is your chance to stand next to your reader at the bookstore. The key is to be polite and not screw it up!
Don’t like the cover copy? fix it in your Amazon blog. Feel that you’re seeing malicious or wrong-headed reviews? address them in your blog. But one caution, take your time when you post to Amazon and treat it much more formally and carefully than you do your regular blog. The last thing you want to do is create a flame-war on your Amazon author page.
Personally, I don’t like the fact that they’ve emailed any blogs, I think it’s better that blogs stay where they belong, on the customer page and out of the customer’s in-box.
Who’s your competition?
Amazon has a relatively new feature that tells you what your customers are ultimately buying, although it’s not enabled on all pages. Joe Wikert blogged about this recently and I think he has a good point: this feature may work to the greater benefit of bestsellers as shoppers may instinctively buy the book that others have already purchased with the feeling that other shoppers have some better info, and otherwise act like lemmings. (Here’s Joe’s post, Amazon’s “What Do Customers Ultimately buy…” Feature link)
Customer behavior info also gives you a good sense of what you need to address in your Amazon blog. It’s critical that you look at the books that your lost customers are buying and try to figure out if you’re losing customers for reasons intrinsic to your book (your book really isn’t the right book for that person) or reasons due to presentation (your blog might be able to address those issues, deal with malicious reviews, etc.).
Listmania, and “So You’d Like To”
This is one place where Amazon was an early Web 2.0 pioneer. By allowing their customers to post reviews, lists and essays on the site, Amazon enabled a huge source of free content and free advice. Likewise, except for maybe wanting to avoid appearing too mercenary, there is nothing preventing you from creating your own lists or “So You’d Like To” essays on Amazon. The more impressions your book makes, the better you’re going to do. Again, the trick is to transcend sales and marketing hype and give customers information that is ultimately useful.
Okay, this one is kind of cheesy and Amazon isn’t about to overcome MySpace as a social networking site anytime soon, but I’ve noticed an increase in “AmazonFriends” and I note that AmazonFriends often review the same books or albums. If you find a tight community of AmazonFriends that review in your category it might not be out of line to reach out for a review.
There are plenty of these too, reviewers that review for the sake of free books, paid PR programs, and the like. Sure, they can boost your stars and most readers probably don’t notice them for what they are but as customers become more educated I think they will. I almost always check a reviewer’s background to get an idea of where they’re coming from, what else they’ve reviewed, etc. and you should assume your customers are doing the same. it’s great to start out with five star reviews no matter what, but long term reviews from relatively disinterested reviewers are the best.
I don’t see these taking off yet but again this is another way to improve your footprint and presence at Amazon and certainly ebook sales will increase at some point. The tech market at least is seeing an increase in ebooks and pdf beta books and this is a good sign of things to come….eventually. (I consider this a 2.0 feature because you don’t really need a publisher or agent to get to your readers through Amazon shorts, you can publish here directly.)
Wikis and Tags and Bears, Oh My
Areas where I haven’t seen much activity yet but they bear watching. I’m still confused by tags but it won’t surprise me if Amazon comes up with some sort of cloud view soon, and I do tend to surf clouds when I see them. The wikis seem underpopulated and underutilized so far, but this also could change again too as customers become more accustomed to wikis (and consider the ramp up to blog usage so far).
Added after my post: this link will take you to Amazon’s “most-edited” wikis.