Random Thoughts and Comments 20230119

I’m amazed that there are people out there who have no internal dialogue. Their minds are just blank when they’re sitting there not interacting and I find that both disturbing and fascinating, because my mind is never turned off.

So, without further ado. Some random thoughts and comments.


I am increasingly disappointed by the poor decision-making at Amazon with respect to books.

The other day I went to Amazon and there were no also-boughts listed on my book pages. None.

It’s quite possible it’s been this way for a while. I certainly know they were pushed down to the bottom of the page at one point in time.

One of the reasons this is bad is because it hides the scammers. It used to be that I could look at an Excel book and see its also-boughts and if all the also-boughts on a computer book were cooking books about Keto diets, I could pretty much guarantee you that the book was in KU, listed in obscure categories, and probably getting all its money from page reads out of a click farm somewhere.

Another reason is because also-boughts let readers see what others books I had that might interest them. The also boughts on my Excel books often had my Word, PowerPoint, and Access books, too.

I think this does really fall apart for the big-name or prolific authors like Nora Roberts or Stephen King because all of their also-boughts for ten pages are them. But that could’ve been controlled for by showing one page of same-author also-boughts and then showing other authors after that first page of results.

Finally, in the past also-boughts let me see for my fiction books what other authors people who bought my books were buying. That let me know if I had a branding or marketing issue (if my also-boughts didn’t line up with my type of book). But it also let me know who to advertise to with my AMS ads. If Author X’s readers like my books, then I should use Author X as a keyword.

Now it feels like both readers and authors are flying blind there. All they get is ads that may or may not have anything to do with that book.


Amazon seem to be falling apart in other ways as well.

I think I mentioned it before but I’m pretty sure they changed the way that they determine a broad category match on AMS ads, because this last six months for me running broad category match keywords has been a game of whack-a-mole where I luck into someone clicking on my completely inappropriate ad which then lets me know that AMS is showing my book about Microsoft Excel to people searching for makeup and blade saws.

I think before there was some effort to restrict matches to the same general type of product (although maybe not, back in the day I advertised my budgeting book towards people buying high-end TVs) but it feels like the wheels are completely off these days.

Maybe that’s just me.

I’d rather see it where people could direct ads like that using ASINs but where broad category matches were directed to at least products in the same general lane. So my Excel book keywords would direct to other computer books and computer software, not frickin’ makeup.

And don’t even get me started on trying to advertise Access books that suddenly are being put in front of people who want disability access aids. I’m not trying to be that asshole, but Amazon is making it look like I am. It’s a waste of my money and shoppers’ time and energy.


With these types of missteps I think it would be wise for anyone who relies primarily on Amazon to start making a Plan B.

Because they may be the ones who choke off the effectiveness of KDP with their poor decision-making, but when it gets to the point that they decide it’s not a “core business” that’s “worth keeping” we’ll all pay that cost in brutal ways.

If you haven’t been paying attention, they seem to be in a cutting mode right now. Peripheral stuff at the moment like Amazon Smile (which, dude, if you really cared about giving to charity would’ve just been a default thing instead of forcing people to remember to go to a different website each time they ordered) and whatever the subscription program they ran for magazines was and I think I’ve seen at least one or two other programs cut recently.

They are headed in the direction of efficiencies and profit maximization, which means get ready to get screwed as things become less workable for anyone except top execs and shareholders.

(There are days when I think about what I learned at Wharton and how it drives towards a long-term outcome that is net negative for all but a handful of people and just shake my head that I spent time absorbing that crap, but that’s the world we exist in right now. Do you hate the coach when they tell you what it takes to win? Or do you hate the game? And if you do hate the game, do you still play? What other choice is there?)


I’m also keeping a wary eye on all the AI developments because they mean that online identity is going to become even more nebulous than ever.

And there will be significant impacts on writers, audio narrators, and artists.

It’s funny, people used to refer to self-publishing as a “tsunami of crap”. What does that make what we’re going to be seeing from AI-generated projects in the next five years?

As a reader, when that stuff starts to flood the market and I can’t tell the difference between a book worth my $8 and one that isn’t because the packaging will be slick but the content won’t be enjoyable, I’ll probably be even more likely to stick to physical books that come from larger publishers. I won’t be the only one.

Expect those with solid name recognition to weather this well, but new names or unestablished ones to falter.

Then again, I’m also not a whale reader who reads five books a day that the current ghost writing, churn and burn marketers target, so maybe for that reader the new flood won’t be any different to them.

But visibility with that many more titles out there will be almost impossible I think.


Sorry I seem all gloom and doom these days, but I do think there are some seismic shifts coming in the next five years.

Which reminds me there was a good Twitter thread by author Matt Wallace recently. He’s trade-published, but still a good discussion of the ups and downs of this business and need to regroup and readjust multiple times if you choose to keep going. And how really it all comes down to you making that choice.

There were some good spin-off threads based on that one, too. I bookmarked this one by Marshall Ryan Maresca and this one by Ursula Vernon who also writes as T. Kingfisher. Hers was more of a spin-off of her spin-off which discusses what it really means money-wise to sell a million copies.


Speaking of sales numbers, I think I hit 90K paid copies sold as of November and $300K in revenue, which seem like good numbers, right? But they’re really not. Not when rents have more than doubled in my area in ten years and health care cost has tripled.

Yesterday I added the audiobook of Sell That Book to my YouTube page. I wrote that at around 50K sales, but I think the advice in there is still solid. (If I did it right any subscribers to the channel only received one email about it, but the whole book is up there.)

It was actually when I was narrating the audio for this book that I thought about putting up a YouTube channel. Because I had two chapters I wanted to share with anyone who’d listen.

One, was this one on when to quit trying to trade publish and self-publish. (Answer, never if it’s just because you gave up on ever getting trade published.)

The other was the very next chapter which is basically, why wouldn’t you self-publish if that’s the only way to fulfill the dream of getting your book out into the world:


Anyway, those are my publishing-related thoughts for the day.

I’m currently reading a series of books that are really good in the sense that I can devour one of the books in the space of a day or two and want the next one, but at the same time it’s funny to me because there are parts of these books that I absolutely do not like.

They’re a type of fantasy book that is not normally what I seek out, but I like the larger story in these books so I keep reading them.

Thinking as a writer, though, after reading about a dozen of these books there are some little author quirks that have become very obvious.

This author has a go-to phrase they use during sex scenes in every, single, book. Which when you read an author as they release a book once a year isn’t something you notice, but when you read six books by them in a week is.

It’s a reminder that series books have to work standalone because it can be years between when someone reads books in a series, but they also have to work when read in quick sequence. That’s a tricky balance to find. Both in terms of what information is presented and when, and in terms of repetitive phrasing.

Also, I read these books out of order. I read a later series of books first and then circled back to the first series of related books.

I don’t think I would’ve read as many books by this author if I’d started with the first book in the first series and read from there forward.

The reason is because of the characterization. These books include three different groups of characters that are very distinct in their supposed traits. So I would expect a wide variety of relationship types when characters get together.

And yet…all of the sexual relationships between all of the characters, no matter what group they belong to, are identical. Ultra-possessive and involving certain physical acts that I’m pretty sure aren’t the norm for most people…

This was understandable in the first six books or so because of the focus on one of those groups, but then it went right on to include the other two groups, too.

If I were reading in order I would’ve walked away at that point.

As a writer I think that’s a lesson that sometimes what you think people like about your stories is not what they like about them. And, also, to stop sometimes and ask yourself if the world you’ve built would really work that way or not.


In randomly related news, I just finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, which I thought was a very good book. (Non-fiction.)

It’s also a reminder that in real life when a man is ultra-possessive and pushes the timeline on a relationship, that’s a very bad sign. (p. 199 in my copy) As is intense possessiveness and jealousy.

I think the fiction books I was talking about above just barely stay on the right side of that line, but I can see how someone could read one of those books and think they want that kind of intense, ride or die, lifelong connection with someone and then find themselves in a controlling, dangerous relationship where they’re at risk of being killed if they leave.

If you’re a single woman learn the real-world red flags for that type of situation. Because if you get into that type of situation, it’s often already too late to get out safely.

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at] gmail.com.

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