And so it goes

As I sit here writing this blog, I find myself feeling torn. Today marks and end even as it marks a beginning. But before we get to that, I want to pass on some information about changes afoot at Amazon and, possibly, other outlets as well.

The other day, I noticed something odd about the category rankings of one of my books. I’d been watching that particular book fairly closely for a week or so  because it picked up traction and was selling better than it had been for quite awhile. For several days, it was in the top 10 in several categories, all categories I expected. Then, yesterday, it not only dropped out of the top 10 in those categories but wasn’t even listed in them. Instead, three new categories were listed. Yes, the rankings were still damned good, especially for a book that’s been out as long as this one but they were very different from the previous categories.

My first thought was “what the hell?”.

Now, for those of you not familiar with Amazon’s process when you upload a book for sale, you can choose three categories to list your book with. These categories act like search terms, among other things, and help readers find your book. But, just because you can only choose three when you upload your book, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose more later. You can email KDP and ask them to add the title to additional categories. In fact, you get up to 10 total categories.

Now, here’s the caveat. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, you can’t just choose random categories. They have to fit your book. In fact, Amazon is cracking down on misuse of categories, going so far as to suspend or even close accounts if you misuse this ability. Some authors have found their accounts closed erroneously and have had to go to bat against the Amazon bots to get them reinstated.

So, keeping that in mind, categories are important, especially once you hit the top 100 and then the top 10. Everyone wants to be able to tack that “Best Seller” banner to their title. So when you start seeing weirdness with your categories and rankings, you get concerned.

At least I do.

And Amazon has changed the rules without much fanfare when it comes to what rankings they show. According to another author who queried Amazon about what they were seeing, Amazon has shifted to a policy where only three category rankings will show on a product page. In other words, you can be in the top 10 in four or more categories but Amazon will only show three. As if that’s not bad enough, the categories I see might not be the same one you see because their bots choose which ones to show based on our browsing histories.

As a reader, I don’t see a big problem. As a writer, this is a huge problem.

But that’s not the only thing Amazon appears to be changing. Another author posted in one of the FB groups I belong to that they noticed a change to their Amazon Author Page. This author noticed that some of her books were missing from the top of the page (where the covers are shown). At least the links were listed below.

In the discussion that followed, it seems another author noticed the same thing with their author page and contacted Amazon. In a response from Amazon, that author was told that Amazon has implemented a “Top Picks” feature. This means just as one customer will see a different set of category rankings, they will see a different set of book covers if they visit your author page. In other words, Amazon is directing them to books the company bots think they want to see.

While this makes sense from Amazon’s point of view, it sucks for writers because it limits even further the potential for readers to see a book cover that interests them and causes them to actually click through to the product page.

Yes, I will be letting them know what I think about it later today.

Every writer here should be doing the same thing because this can very effectively limit our potential buyer pool. Even as readers, this is bad because it limits the possibility of discovering new books to read.

Now, on to what I alluded to in the first paragraph. . . .

This is my last post as a member of MGC. I’ve been with the blog for more than a decade. I have enjoyed my time here, the relationships I’ve built not only with my fellow bloggers but with each of you. But the time has come to move on. I will still be writing. I’ll be blogging on a much more regular schedule over at my personal blog, Nocturnal Lives. I will miss being part of this great community and will stop by to comment as often as possible. I may also show up from time to time with a guest blog.

For now, it has been a blast. You guys be good to whoever takes my place (I know you will). Now I will take my coffee mug and move along down the proverbial road to new challenges and new rewards.

Take care!

Amanda

Featured image created using Midjourney AI

40 comments

  1. Sounds like what YouTube did a few years back. Ended up causing big problems for creators and communities, and I’m not sure it actually helped YouTube any.

    I have noticed it’s a lot harder to find interesting content. I’ve pretty much ended up using it for music at this point or specific targeted searches, or manual searches of channels that have a specific subject I’m looking for.

    But the front page is more just junk these days.

  2. Also, good luck, and thank you for the cattle prodding to go do my own worlds :). I still think I needed to do the first two (ish, one was only 16k words) but after that I did need to move on.

    At this point I think I’ve got the core characters nailed down, and what I think the core arc is about. Now it’s onto building enough of the world’s details to support it and get story written! 🙂

  3. Good luck on your future endeavors and thanks for the great posts. I know I always enjoy your dives into the how’s and why’s on Amazon, even as only a reader they always come in handy.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Keep an eye on Nocturnal Lives because I’ll do posts like this over there whenever a topic strikes my fancy.

    1. Thanks, Karen. It’s a great group of folks here and I know you’re going to be a great addition. I look forward to reading your contributions.

  4. Meep! No, that can’t be. I read this post wrong. It’s not happening. Tuesday mornings with Amanda will continue as they always have! They must!

    In all seriousness, I understand. It seems like you’ve been under a lot of stress for a while, and something probably had to give. But I’ll miss your posts a lot. You gave a lot of good insights, as well as quite a bit of amusement. Tuesdays won’t be the same without you!

    1. Thanks, Zsuzsa. I’m going to miss it but you’re right. Something needed to give and for a lot of reasons. I’m still going to write on topics like I covered here over on my blog, but I’ll also be covering other topics and focusing more on rebranding some of my series as well as upgrading my promotion efforts.

  5. Amanda, I will miss reading you here! I remember finding MGC and your posts about 9 years ago. You were so helpful and informative on so many topics for this newbie. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m glad you’ll still be at Nocturnal Lives.

  6. Your posts about the implosion of RWA got me started at Mad Genius. Thanks for several years of great posts and best wishes on your future.

  7. What?!? You mean I can’t call a novel with explicit nookie “sweet romance?” But, but, one of the characters runs a bakery!

    In all seriousness, I’ve seen some really bad examples of “category fudging.” In non-fiction it tends to be the Zon-bots not understanding what the book is about. Fiction’s a different story, pun intended.

    Best wishes, Amanda, and I hope that you have a bit less Life Happening in the next while. 🙂

    1. The category fudging is just one of the things that have me wanting to beat heads together. Those doing it don’t consider what the consequences will be once Amazon finally has its fill. They won’t be the only ones impacted. That is seen by the number of authors who have lost their accounts/had them locked even temporarily because they were swept up by the bots even though they did nothing wrong.

      And thanks for the good wishes. Yeah, I’m ready for life to calm down a bit.

  8. This is my last post as a member of MGC. I’ve been with the blog for more than a decade. I have enjoyed my time here, the relationships I’ve built not only with my fellow bloggers but with each of you.

    Thank you for your time and all the good posts.

  9. So long, and thanks for all the posts!
    On a less Hitchiker’s Guide riff, seriously, thank you for all your support, encouragement, and advice over the years, and all the time and effort you’ve put into building this place as a community to learn.

    May your life get easier, and you find time to breathe!

  10. Thank you for your work here, and good luck in the future.

    Also, thanks for the heads-up about the latest Amazon shenanigans. I haven’t seen any problems yet, but now I know to keep an eye on them.

    1. Thank you. I started watching the category issue when I got an email warning me of a problem with one of my books. Of course, when I called Amazon about it, they couldn’t tell me which one and told me to just check my titles, all two dozen plus of them. As I said in the post, I noticed something weird with category rankings yesterday. It is going to be interesting–and not necessarily in a fun way–to see how all this pans out.

    1. Thanks. I’m going to miss this place, but I will be back in the comments and maybe in a few guest posts after life settles back down.

  11. Was it something I said?
    (Impudent grin)

    We’ll all be poorer without your presence.
    Vaya con Dios.

  12. I’ve found Amazon has got progressively worse at recommending things I want to buy.

    In the world of things as opposed to books it is so bad that even if you specify (picking an example totally not at random) “Omron blood pressure monitor” it will show the omron devices well below the chinesium ones.

    In (e)books about the only useful thing I’ve found is the “buy next book in series” suggestions and some of the “People who bought from this author also chose these authors” choices. Everything else is generally sufficiently crap that I just bookmark the authors I follow and that’s it (and the bookmark is author page with books ordered by publication date).

    Amazon isn’t quite down at the google “Be Evil” level but it seems to be approaching it. That’s a problem.

    Anyway I’ll miss your posts here even if I rarely commented on them and I look forward to the guest posts when you do those

    1. I totally agree about the ‘Zon’s recommendations. Their algorithms are completely screwed up right now. This is why writers need to be worried and need to keep a close check on what is happening with their own books. As for the rest of it, thanks. I’ll be seeing all of you around the interwebs.

    2. “Smoked Paprika.”

      “Here, let me suggest organic bespoke paprika that is $5/oz! It’s highly recommended! Or how about these other herbs?”

      :scroll waaaaay down:

      :find smoked paprika:

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