Publishing has always been a difficult way to make a living. Not just sitting down and actually getting the words on paper (which is a blog in and of itself), but the competition of getting your finished story to the reader.

The whole process has been made easier in the last few years as the world of self-publishing opens a new realm for authors hoping to see their work in print (or at least in digital pixels).

The competition no longer lies in trying to catch the ear of an agent and ultimately the attention of a publisher. The problem for an author is now trying to rise above the din of other books being released daily in HUGE batches. I feel like a woman standing in the middle of the stock market floor shouting “me me me … I’m over here” only to be drowned out by others who jump higher and yell louder.

Like many authors, I go out in the twitterverse and tell people about my books. I mention them now and again on Facebook. I’ve even done a couple of ad campaigns. But like other authors, I don’t want to scare readers away by being in their face every day shouting BUY MY BOOK … IT’S REALLY GOOD! Yeeeeah, that so isn’t going to work. No one likes the hard sell.

So what’s left? Well, Amazon used to have catagory tags for our books. We used to be able to have people agree with them and have our books show up on category searches done by readers. But Amazon found out some people were (in their words) abusing the system. Authors (like me) were having “tagging parties” to get high numbers of agreements so their books show up higher in a search. Some people were putting big name authors in their set of tags so their books showed up when a reader searched those author’s books. In some cases, this was done by some readers who wanted other readers to find an unknown author (which is awesome). In some cases it was done by the author (not cool).

Tags were being abused by some by adding erotic tags to books that didn’t fit that category. Some authors found tags like “spam” or “delete” or “trash” in their lists.

I think Amazon got tired of the sheer number of valid complaints they were getting and have now completely dropped the tags associated with books (Note: turns out this is only on the US site). I think the only way to search for a book now is through the categories authors/publishers add when putting a book up on Amazon. I haven’t heard any backlash from readers, but I’m wondering if many have discovered they’re not getting the results from their Amazon searches. And perhaps readers didn’t really use this feature.

I also think Amazon used the tags (and likes at the top of a book page) in their algorithms to determine a book’s ranking on lists. (Pure speculation as no one knows for sure how the algorithms work.) And Amazon doesn’t like to think the rankings are manipulated in any way. Getting rid of tags stopped the possibility that authors could do anything to “play the system”.

There are rumors that Amazon is going to get rid of the reviews as well. I don’t know if that will happen, but I do know similar things are happening with reviews being used to bring down (or up) an author’s number of stars. Unfortunately not all reviews are legitimate. Again, I’m not sure how many readers use reviews to find a new author. But I wonder if readers are going to miss the reviews if they’re no longer found on books.

What about you? Do you use either tags or reviews in determining whether you’re going to make a book purchase? Because you know … I’m curious about this kind of stuff!

30 Responses to Amazon’s At it Again

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