I received an email today from a writer friend who had just published their first novel on Amazon. And the email was basically asking friends and family to buy the novel and leave a review.
Which sounds like a great idea for a new release, right? Get some sales and some reviews.
Except, especially on Amazon, that can be the kiss of death. Because Amazon is all about the algorithms. What is this book you have published and who can I shove it in front of to generate sales?
And the problem with having friends and family be the first people who buy your book is that it’s very confusing to those algos. Because your middle grade fantasy is being bought by someone who reads 90% mystery and also by someone who reads 85% non-fiction and by someone else who reads gritty books across fantasy, sci fi, horror, and mystery. So what reader can Amazon find that fits all those categories?
Now, granted, I myself have made this mistake. Because who wants to publish a book and have no sales? So you tell people about it. And because they like you (hopefully) they buy it even though they may never actually read it and generally don’t read things like it as a general rule.
Which means you end up trying to swim against the current to get to your actual audience. And you don’t have a lot of time to do it in because Amazon is relentless with its 30-day, 60-day, 90-day cliffs. It’s an environment where your book either proves itself or it sinks. Fast.
Better is to not tell friends and family about your new release until your also-boughts have populated. Also-boughts that you have hopefully helped craft via advertising towards your actual target audience, so that when those friends and family come by to show their support Amazon already knows what you’re selling and who it will sell to.
It’s a bit counterintuitive to a lot of businesses. When I was a broker you were encouraged to find friends and family members who’d invest with you first and then move out from there as you did well and got word of mouth. Lots of businesses are built that way. But books don’t work quite the same. Because people will pay a dollar or five for a book but it does you no good if that sale doesn’t help build towards more readers. Better to have people share links on your behalf with people they know who might be your target audience and hope those people buy it.
Anyway. Something to think about for the brand new author with no established audience.
2 thoughts on “New Release Misstep”
Another way in which family and friends aren’t useful—and might even be damaging—is reviews: Amazon (and many other retailers) take a broad-brush approach when assessing who is too closely connected to the seller to be allowed to post customer reviews; so, all those people who might buy your book because you asked, probably aren’t permitted to give you the reviews you’re also desperately hoping you get on your new release.
And if they do anyway and Amazon notices, they might wipe all your reviews or even decide to delist your books.
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An excellent point. (Although I’m too scared of my mom to actually tell her she’s not allowed to review my books. Good news is if they ever do take them down I think my review average on a few titles may in fact go up.)