Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Befriend Amazon.

There's been plenty of buzz recently about a glitch (or, perhaps, something far more purposeful and sinister than a glitch) in Amazon's ranking system. (If you want to catch up on the story, click on the New York Times story here.) There's been a copyright battle brewing between the Authors Guild and Amazon over the Kindle 2's "text-to-speech" functionality. (For more on that story, click directly on the Authors Guild Web site.)

But, although beating up Amazon for its myriad controversial choices (or glitches) may seem like a fun and productive sport for publishing industry professionals, I have a hunch we'd all be better served to get to know Amazon a little bit better and learn how to work with it. Specifically, tap into Amazon's book promotion opportunities.

There's a whole world of book promotion potential of Amazon that lies beneath the bookseller's surface. I wish I could say that, ardent book publicist that I am, I found out about Amazon's book publicity opportunities by clicking around the site and uncovering hidden treasures for authors and publishers buried beneath Amazon's surface . . . but the truth is that I read a lot, and most of what I uncovered regarding Amazon's hidden book promotion opportunities, I found via a wonderful book by Brent Sampson called Sell Your Book on Amazon: Top-Secret Tips Guaranteed to Increase Sales for Print-on-Demand and Self-Publishing Writers. I'm not shilling for Sampson (in fact, I don't know him and, except for the fact that I bought a copy of his book, I haven't done business with him). But I'd like to see every author (yes, even mainstream authors can benefit from understanding the book publicity potential of Amazon) pick up a copy of his book.

Amazon's offerings and -- you'll know this if you've tried to work with Amazon using any guides you've come across -- its URLs are constantly changing. So I read everything I come across regarding Amazon's book promotion opportunities so that I can keep up with the available features. (Obviously, I try to keep up-to-date with Barnes and Noble's online book promotion offerings to which, while less robust than Amazon's, are still worth checking out. For example, have you checked out Barnes and Noble's new Blogging Booksellers feature?)

Amazon isn't perfect, and we can all take issue with something about its functionality, vision, style, and the like. (I'm tempted to say that Amazon is only human, but it isn't, and I think that's the point here.) But, anyway, why not take a look at the other side of the story? Why not explore the ambitious and evolving infrastructure that Amazon has built to help authors and publishers gain online visibility for their books? (Yes, of course, I know that helping authors and publishers promote its books through Amazon benefits Amazon as well as authors and publishers, but we're not beating up on Amazon right now, remember?). Just tap into one or two of its book promotion opportunities that so many authors and publishers tend to miss (such as its Wiki that will accept all entries from authors and publishers, at this time), for starters, and see where it leads.

It's big, controversial, powerful, and I know the temptation is to spurn any corporation that boasts those attributes. But Amazon offers so many benefits for authors and publishers . . . so why not befriend Amazon, and see whether its book promotion opportunities can do some good for your book sales?