UK Amazon Kindle Forum discussion

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General Chat - anything Goes > Is the quality of indie books improving? Your opinion, please.

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Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments I know there are a great many well written and well edited indie books out there. I've read a number of them.

Big but coming...

BUT

I had a browse through the top 100 free kindle books on Amazon last evening and I was quite shocked at the lack of quality.

Many of the books had a very large number of five star reviews yet using the 'look inside' feature, they were full of grammatical errors, typos that any decent spell check program would flag immediately and just generally bad writing.

Seeing such badly written books with so many five stars reviews tells me there is still no reason to give any credence to the review system that's in place.
As long as the review system remains so easy to game, there's little incentive for improved editing and writing, I feel.

I do feel sorry for readers who haven't found a place like our group, where they can find honest recommendations.


message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22177 comments I've seen people of writers' forums start their post with, "I'm just about to publish my book and I'm willing to spend $x to promote it."

(It's always in $ and x can be anything from 1,000 to 10,000)

So I think there are indie writers out there who are seriously gaming the system
Unfortunately there is no other realistic way of getting noticed. Merely writing decent books isn't enough because they're drowned in the tide
The only other method is to flog away for twenty or so years on the grounds that you've a chance of what amounts to a lucky break.
Groups like this are few. There are still groups out there who don't let writers post


message 3: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 4053 comments I see it as an evolving system. Indie writers are gradually learning more of the tricks to getting noticed, such as writing in series, pricing a teaser book for free, using facebook advertising, having a reasonably passable cover.

These tactics have worked in the past. As Jim says it is perfectly possible to take a sub-standard book and market it aggressively to get lots of downloads.

But ... the process of evolution and competition means that the tactics won't work forever. As everyone learns the same tricks they stop being so effective. We can't all do the same thing to stand out.

I do think there is a place for reviews. If anything, they help to counter some of the tricks and gaming. You can usually tell whether a review is paid for or a genuine reader who has enjoyed the book for its own merits.

Patti - I'd advise caution with the kindle "top free books" list. As a general rule Amazon don't want us to price our books at free, The way that authors usually get round this is by publishing free elsewhere (say Smashwords) and then to ask Amazon to do a price match. So the top 100 free aren't necessarily the best books. The list will include some who are following the usual formula.

The list that annoys me is the Smashwords "best rated". These are books with 20+ scores of a perfect 5.0. Yeah right.


message 4: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25096 comments Some of this reflects the fact that the 'average' reader isn't as good at grammar as you (we) are. Things that ruin a book for me don't impinge on some people at all. As Will says, you don't look or quality in the top 100 free books. I've also found many of the top 100 paid need a bit of proofreading too. Even those from a publisher.

Top and bottom is that everyone has a different criterion for excellence. I do see far more indie books with professional editing and proofreading these days. It costs, but it shows.


message 5: by H.E. (new)

H.E. Bulstrode (goodreadscomhebulstrode) | 58 comments That’s a tricky question. I suspect that for those indie authors who have been writing for a number of years and have been consciously focusing on their craft, the quality of their books will have improved, but as for their visibility, or lack thereof, that’s a different matter altogether. As Jim points out, many of the most visible books have been propelled into the limelight by the expenditure of a significant quantity of dollars, with their chart position being no indicator as to their quality. Like you, Patti, I’ve noted that a good number of these are littered with basic errors and typos, as well as being poorly formatted, and that’s before we even consider the merits, or otherwise, of their structure and content.

As is often the case, there does seem to be a divide in the general psychology of indie authors based in the UK, and those in the US. A greater proportion of those in the second country appear to be more preoccupied with the volume of an author’s output and level of earnings as markers of success, than the quality of the writing. After making a perfectly innocent remark in one writers’ Facebook group recently regarding average daily word count, stating that personally I found that if I wrote much more than 1,400 words a day I had to spend far more time rewriting and editing, I was attacked by some troll in a highly shrill and aggressive manner. She shrieked that she, and many others, regularly churned out 6,000 words a day with no subsequent need for editing or rewriting. Perhaps herein lies the answer to why there are so many poorly written indie books on Amazon.


message 6: by Will (new)

Will Macmillan Jones (willmacmillanjones) | 11721 comments Amazon are of course attacking the review issue. But as usual, they are using a blunt hammer rather than a scalpel. No posting of reviews across the site (ie US reviews stay only in the US, UK only in the UK, and you can't post onto the other coun tries anymore). No reviews allowed unless you spend £ 50 a year, and wholesale account deletions of anyone they think is gaming the system. I was on a blog site recently that was talking about this, and one writer had complained about the Goodreads star system, and was told that a member who posted 400 1* ratings (with no written reviews) in one genre and in one day had not broken any site guidelines.


message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22177 comments Will wrote: "I was on a blog site recently that was talking about this, and one writer had complained about the Goodreads star system, and was told that a member who posted 400 1* ratings (with no written reviews) in one genre and in one day had not broken any site guidelines. ..."

I read the same blog Will,
I was left feeling that some people need treatment


message 8: by Jim (new)

Jim | 22177 comments The other Will is right in saying things are constantly changing

Originally 'give-aways' were popular with writers because they counted as sales on Amazon so boosted your book into the topseller bracket where it was seen and might get genuine sales.
This no longer happens, Amazon stopped that way of playing the system.
But there are now websites and suchlike who are geared up to do 'give-aways', indeed they make money out of them.
So you now have people with a vested interest in writers still doing give-aways even through the main reason for doing it has gone. So more and more people are desperately coming up with more and more spurious reasons for running free promotions!


message 9: by Will (new)

Will Macmillan Jones (willmacmillanjones) | 11721 comments I really don't see the point of Smashwords. Has anyone anything good to say about it at all?


message 10: by David (new)

David Manuel | 1147 comments Perhaps it's just the quality of free books that's not improving. Try enlarging the sample size.


message 11: by David (new)

David Edwards | 446 comments Indie is not the same as Free.

I am told that the purpose of the time-limited free offers on Amazon is to train the Machine Learning algorithms behind their product suggestion mechanisms, since a book that may be languishing at 800,000 on the Kindle Paid list selling a handful of copies a year can still garner hundreds of downloads when offered for free. Those downloaders provide a much better dataset for building profiles of potential paying customers.


message 12: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4616 comments I'm not convinced that free downloads help anyone who isn't writing in a popular genre such as Romance or thrillers (or epic fantasy, if I'm allowed to be sarcastic).

I think that the path for certain novels and authors, even as indies, is going to be different. I can't compete with the popular genres - nor write in them; so I have to be something different - and figure out how to market it.

All I'm going to get from free downloads is more readers who thought they were getting a Romance, and leave reviews telling me it isn't.

Algorithms may work in general, but they are very poor in the specific. I hope the readers who like mainstream are discoverable by indies, because those are the ones I write for. The Romance readers have plenty of writers already, as do the thriller writers.


message 13: by David (new)

David Edwards | 446 comments There are arguments for and against limited Free Downloads on Amazon if you haven't got a series of books to offer.

'Pro' is that the Amazon computer systems get a chance to run a tape measure over people who are interested enough in your book to download it whilst you're not actually missing out on proper paid sales, because people who download free stuff were never going to pay you for it anyway.

'Against' is the argument that if the free downloaders are truly representative of people who are prepared to pay, you must be cannibalising possible paid-for sales, and if they are not, it's a complete waste of time.

Facebook advertising looks too expensive to me, because on the face of it, it needs an infeasibly high conversion rate to pay off. Nevertheless, I do know one person who has had a lot of success with it. Her secret; her adverts are targeted well enough to achieve that infeasibly high conversion rate. She has worked out how to tee up Facebook to only contact people who are highly likely to bite. Since she hasn't written a million-copy best-seller, she really knows her customers.

The problem with Amazon is that you know so much less about the people who buy your book than they do, and they don't share their knowledge. Buying advertising from them looks like a mug's game to me.


message 14: by Will (new)

Will Macmillan Jones (willmacmillanjones) | 11721 comments David wrote: "Indie is not the same as Free.

I am told that the purpose of the time-limited free offers on Amazon is to train the Machine Learning algorithms behind their product suggestion mechanisms, since a ..."


According to an article I saw in the Guardian today, Amazon value data on customers before anything else, even sales...


message 15: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4616 comments David wrote: "There are arguments for and against limited Free Downloads on Amazon if you haven't got a series of books to offer.

'Pro' is that the Amazon computer systems get a chance to run a tape measure ove..."


With one book and being a very slow writer, I have nothing to offer for free as a loss leader except a short story prequel that has been 'read' 67K times on Wattpad - and featured there - but is really too short.

I'm more concerned that the world of readers is splitting into three groups: the 'free-only' people; the genre readers looking for low prices; and the people who get their recommendations from the traditional bloggers and the NY Times - and decided long ago that all indie writing is cr*p.

This ghettoizing of indie - and the exclusive attitude of those who read big publishers (and who now list everything under 'literary' on Amazon) - is a problem for those of us who write in the intersection of those Venn diagrams.

I realize this a a sweeping generalization, but every time I look at the Author Earnings reports, it seems more real. Amazon imprints are poking away at the middle - but are even more impossible to submit to than traditional agents and publishers. How Amazon picks those 'worthy' of its imprints (which do rather well) is a deeply-held secret.

I'm not impressed by the offerings I've seen (the Kindle First books' newsletter comes into my inbox at the beginning of every month) in the literary category. Given these books' very mixed reviews, other readers aren't, either.

Frustrating.


message 16: by David (new)

David Edwards | 446 comments Don't underestimate the capabilities of algorithms. This graph from Microsoft (now more than 5 years old) shows why voice assistants became available then, and not before. 'Deep Learning', as it is termed, led to a step change in algorithmic reliability, and the improvements continue. Machines learning how to identify potential happy customers for your book better than you can yourself isn't the stuff of Science Fiction.


message 17: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I had book one in my trilogy free for over a year. It got plenty of downloads, but zero reviews, and zero conversion to books 2 and 3. Conclusion: either I wasn't reaching the right audience, or people just don't bother to read what they download.

Either way, I decided it fell into the waste of time camp, so I put it back to full price. Course it hasn't sold any since, but with ($)0 marketing budget that's hardly surprising!


message 18: by David (new)

David Edwards | 446 comments At least one of the Amazon imprints works on a crowd-sourcing model; you have to find 100 people to vote for your book being published by them.

The 'Literary' genre on Amazon looks like the marketing equivalent of a waste-basket taxon. Amazon have gone out of their way to make it difficult for shoppers to drive product searching the way shoppers want. It's not just books, where you're allowed to tag your works with just two BISAC categories, which means that category searches produce uselessly unwieldy hit lists. Any product searching by keyword produces huge lists of unrelated dross. It boils down to Amazon wanting you, the customer, to rely on their choices for you. Which means that you, the supplier, are reduced to dreaming up ever more imaginative ways of gaming the system.


message 19: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4616 comments Tim wrote: "I had book one in my trilogy free for over a year. It got plenty of downloads, but zero reviews, and zero conversion to books 2 and 3. Conclusion: either I wasn't reaching the right audience, or pe..."

Your trilogy was FINISHED. Mine isn't. Big difference. I'm writing as fast as I can, which unfortunately isn't very.

You should, by the common understanding of such things, set your first to 0.99, and advertise the heck out of it at that price; when people pay something, they invest more than if it's 'free.' Once they read it, if they like it and there's something in the back matter that tells them the rest of the story is at , they should proceed there in an orderly fashion.

People grab 'free' - and think they'll decide later.

Too many people jumped on the free bandwagon, and it's going nowhere as a result.


message 20: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4616 comments David wrote: "At least one of the Amazon imprints works on a crowd-sourcing model; you have to find 100 people to vote for your book being published by them.

The 'Literary' genre on Amazon looks like the market..."


Gaming the system takes far more energy than I have; I will find other ways to market.

I also think the readers who want the mainstream (and the literary) books from the big publishers don't go to Amazon and search; they go with an agenda, buy the book they came for, and leave.

There is no 'if you liked The Name of the Rose, you may also like' (except books by Umberto Eco, maybe) - the book is unique. The algorithms that suggest other books will be going by the keywords, among other things, but I don't think those algorithms really work for this kind of novel. My opinion, of course, and I didn't deal with that kind of algorithm in my research days.

When people are going to invest heavily - time and money - in a big fat literary/mainstream novel, they're going to want to make their own decision, not grab some other $17.99 ebook/$19.99 hardcover at random. Especially reading time.

And they've stopped the Kindle Scout program - no more getting your friends to go vote for you. Gamed - and now discontinued. Too bad, because it might have gotten some books a look by an Amazon editor, or at least rumor was that they browsed the submitted books.


message 21: by Will (new)

Will Macmillan Jones (willmacmillanjones) | 11721 comments The Kindle Scout program was very similar to harper Collins' (now closed) Authonomy. Although 5 books a month were supposed to be seen by editors, I don't recall any more than 1 or 2 books in four years being taken up for publication.

Mind you, the site was fantastic for its chatrooms


message 22: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4616 comments Confirmation bias. Someone gets looked at, they make a big deal about it on social media, and it carries disproportionate weight - especially because everyone would like to have that deal.


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