Friday, February 8, 2019

Has Kindle Unlimited cooked my Also Boughts?

I've become obsessed with Amazon's Also Boughts, mostly because the ones appearing for Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed have been so random/nonsensical recently. I posted about this last month, when the first three books appearing were cookbooks. At that time, none of the Also Boughts that I clicked on linked back to my book. Not good, right? I mean, the point of the Also Boughts is, "Hey, you there, shopping for books, if you like this book, you might want to check out this other, somewhat similar, book." But if these relationships are a) broken, and b) only flow in one direction, there goes one of the most valuable discovery tools in book-selling.

I strongly suspect I'm paying the price for not being more active about marketing my books last year. I was seeing less and less return on the pay-per-click ads I had up on Amazon, so I gave up on them early in 2018 and figured I'd wait until I was ready to release The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo in the fall before investing any more. More books = more bang for the buck, at least in theory. If a reader clicks an ad and buys a book and enjoys it, maybe they'll seek out another of an author's titles.

So I waited it out as my sales shriveled, with as much as 50 percent of my Amazon revenue coming through KDP Select, the program where Kindle Unlimited subscribers can download your book for free, and you get paid for the number of pages they read. And even that wasn't anywhere near what it was a couple of years ago. It was so lame, in fact, I decided to drop out of KDP Select in the fall. I removed my first three books by November, and never enlisted First World Problems.

And now that I'm digging into these Also Boughts, I'm even more convinced leaving KDP Select was the right move. Because I suspect most of these shitty Also Boughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with my novel came about because of indiscriminate Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Or unscrupulous ones, in the case of the cookbooks, which look phony as hell the closer I look at them. KDP Select has a serious issue with scammers, uploading crap just to earn a quick buck. You tell me, is a book called Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: With Over 100 Best Healthy Food Recipes, Meal Plan to Lose Weight likely to be well written? The title sounds like it was poorly translated from Maltese. Here's a review someone left:

"While this book overall has some good ideas and is informative, there are so many errors and omissions in the recipes that most are useless! If this writing was edited, perhaps they had too many aperitifs before working on this. Very amateurish."

Red-flag scam alert!

One of the other cookbooks is called Fruit Pies: Practical Guide to Homemade Baking. Several reviews are critical of recipes that call for store-bought crusts and canned fruit filling. Sounds less than legit.

So this is the company my book is keeping in Also Bought land. Well, they're not all that bad, but even most of the legit books don't seem like they would share much of an audience with mine. Lots of romances and books about the Holocaust. (Not Holocaust romances, mind, but two very distinct sets of books.) In tabbing through the books listed almost every day, I did eventually notice some changes for the better. Jonathan Tropper's One Last Thing Before I Go showed up a week or so ago. A Camille Pagan book popped in briefly. And this week, one of my own books, Nine Bucks a Pound, appeared. Yay. I mean, ideally, you want your own books all to be there so readers can easily find them, especially if they don't know you've written others.

Wednesday afternoon I went through every book appearing as an Also Bought for Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. All 97 of them. I clicked on each link and scrolled through its Also Boughts, checking to see if they linked back to my book. Out of 97, only two did, and one of those was my book. The only book that wasn't written by me that linked back was The Drift of Things, by Ben Schwartz. I had never heard of this book, but based on the blurb and the Look Inside, I could tell this was a legit match. It's about a guy in his 30s who returns to his hometown for his mother's funeral and has to deal with crap from his past. Mine is about a guy in his 30s who returns to his hometown for his father's funeral and has to deal with crap from his past. So, yeah, you could see there might be some crossover readership. (And I enjoyed the part I read enough to buy The Drift of Things, so the Also Bought link just got a tiny bit stronger.)

Over the past couple of months, I've been running Sponsored Product ads on Amazon. These allow you to target specific authors or books that are similar, at least in audience, to yours. When a shopper searches for an author or book that you've targeted, your book will appear in the "Sponsored products related to this item" section, which appears right below the Also Boughts. I've had decent luck with a handful of author names, where users search on them, see my ad, click and buy. This is great for two reasons. 1) It's a sale, yay. 2) It's building relationships, in theory, with books that I actually want to show up in my book's Also Boughts. And in time, hopefully there will be enough sales for a link back to appear in the related book's Also Boughts.

This is the ultimate goal. Also Boughts are like free ads, only more powerful. Much more powerful. For starters, they come above the ads. And then, obviously, anyone who understands the difference would likely give more credence to the Also Boughts.

I think I have things moving in the right direction, but this is like turning a battleship and it's likely to take time before all the crap links disappear from my Also Boughts. And this is assuming that my theory of why they showed up there in the first place is correct. I wish I understood better exactly how Amazon makes these associations, how many common purchasers it takes to form an Also Bought, whether free Kindle Unlimited downloads count as strongly as a full-price purchase, and if Amazon weighs them any differently depending upon whether the KU subscriber actually read the book or merely downloaded it.

But I'm learning. Better late than never.

In case anyone is interested, and for the sake of logging all this somewhere I can find it again myself, below are the Also Boughts that were appearing for Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed as of Wednesday, February 6. The KU column indicates whether the book was enrolled in Kindle Unlimited as of Wednesday. Fifty-three of the 97 were, though note that books that were not in KU then could possibly have previously been, as mine was.

BookAuthorPositionPriceKULinks Back?
Mediterranean Diet CookbookInna Volia1$2.99 YesNo
Fruit Pies: Practical Guide to Homemade BakingMelissa Teigen2$0.99 YesNo
The MaddeningAndrew Neiderman3$6.00 NoNo
Air Fryer CookbookInna Volia4$2.99 YesNo
Prayers and Lies: A NovelSherri Wood Emmons5$9.00 NoNo
Don't Look Back: A haunting mystery perfect for the long, dark nights Ben Cheetham6$0.99 YesNo
A Dog’s Luck: A Love Story and a Family Saga IntertwinedLiora Barash Morgenstern7$3.99 YesNo
Gone Hollywood: A Romantic ComedySally Mason8$3.99 YesNo
Mary Lincoln: Biography of a MarriageRuth Painter Randall9$0.99 NoNo
The Couple on Cedar CloseAnna-Lou Weatherley10$2.99 NoNo
The Distance Between Us: A NovelNoah Bly11$4.20 NoNo
I'm Not From Around Here: A Jewish Boy …Ishai Klinowsky12$2.99 YesNo
Nine Bucks a PoundJames Bailey13$3.99 NoYes
The Third Hill North of TownNoah Bly14$1.99 NoNo
Tilting: A MemoirNicole Harkin15$3.99 YesNo
The War of the WorldsH.G. Wells16$0.99 NoNo
Man DownRoger Smith17$5.99 YesNo
Two Princes and a QueenShmuel David18$3.99 YesNo
Best Served Frozen (The Derry Women Series Book 4)Gerald Hansen19$4.99 YesNo
The Greatest Gift: Contemporary Romance NovelJeremy Asher20$3.99 YesNo
American Journey: The First Three NovelsJohn A. Heldt21$6.99 YesNo
Angels: A Paranormal Boxed SetAddison Moore22$7.99 NoNo
The Drift of ThingsBen Schwartz23$4.99 YesYes
The Annie Szabo Mystery Series Vol 1-2Meredith Blevins24$7.99 YesNo
Rethinking Possible: A Memoir of ResilienceRebecca Faye Smith Galli25$0.55 NoNo
The Gospel of Galileo GalileiAugustina Comte26$3.99 NoNo
Saving Babe RuthTom Swyers27$4.99 YesNo
Swans Are Fat TooMichelle Granas28$0.99 YesNo
The Haunting in Barry's Lodge: A Gripping Supernatural SuspenseAnnie Walters29$0.99 NoNo
I Love You My Child, I'm Abandoning You: Holocaust book memoirsAriela Palacz30$3.99 YesNo
Love For Sale (The Cost of Loving Series Book 2)Martin Humphries31$0.99 NoNo
KilledJames Kipling32$5.99 YesNo
What the Wind KnowsAmy Harmon33$4.99 NoNo
StimKevin Berry34$3.99 YesNo
Star-Spangled Manners: In Which Miss Manners Defends American EtiquetteJudith Martin35$10.49 NoNo
Three Brothers Lodge - The Complete Series Box SetMorris Fenris36$9.99 YesNo
Mr. Love: A Romantic ComedySally Mason37$3.99 YesNo
Emergency Exit (The Derry Women Series Book 8)Gerald Hansen38$4.99 YesNo
The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast WarPhyllis Edgerly Ring39$0.99 NoNo
A Heart's Assurance (Bellingwood Book 21)Diane Greenwood Muir40$3.99 YesNo
The Medium: A Paranormal Adventure Novel Full of Supernatural EventsOri Koskas41$0.00 YesNo
Beneath these Stars (Lucy Mitchell Book 2)Hannah Ellis42$4.99 YesNo
Songs in Ordinary Time: A NovelMary McGarry Morris43$9.99 NoNo
The Risen: A NovelRon Rash44$10.99 NoNo
Dog Gone Lies (Pacheco & Chino Mysteries Book 1)Ted Clifton45$4.99 YesNo
Good Crime: A Kat Makris Greek Mafia NovelAlex A. King46$3.99 YesNo
KillerJames Kipling47$0.00 YesNo
Magical Cool Cats Mysteries Boxed Set Vol 1 (Books 1, 2 & 3 & A Christmas Feral)Mary Matthews48$1.20 YesNo
The Odds of Loving Grover ClevelandRebekah Crane49$0.99 YesNo
Real Life & LiarsKristina Riggle50$7.99 NoNo
Escape to Osprey Cove: Book 1 of The Osprey Cove Lodge SeriesLuisa Marietta Gold51$2.99 YesNo
Mommie Dearest 40th Anniversary EditionChristina Crawford52$1.99 NoNo
The Year THEY Tried to Kill MeSalvatore Iaquinta53$2.99 NoNo
My Father's Kingdom: A Novel of Puritan New EnglandJames W. George54$2.99 YesNo
White Jaguar: An Inspector Marco Nayal Crime Detective ThrillerPreben Ormen55$3.99 YesNo
The Self-Care Project: How to let go of frazzle and make time for you Jayne Hardy56$0.99 NoNo
Texas Troubles (An Ollie Stratford Cozy Mystery Book 1)N.C. Lewis57$2.99 YesNo
Stepmother: A MemoirMarianne Lile58$5.56 NoNo
I Only Wanted to Live: The Struggle of a Boy to Survive the HolocaustArie Tamir59$3.99 YesNo
A Drop in the Ocean: A NovelJenni Ogden60$3.35 NoNo
Round the Corner (Sister Circle Series Book 2)Nancy Moser61$3.99 YesNo
One Last Thing Before I Go: A NovelJonathan Tropper62$8.99 NoNo
The Four Gifts of AnxietySherianna Boyle63$12.99 YesNo
Can You See Us Now?Cheryl Benton64$4.99 YesNo
Shoot to KillJames Kipling65$5.99 YesNo
Veronica's Grave: A Daughter's MemoirBarbara Bracht Donsky66$5.56 NoNo
1123 Hard To Believe Facts: From the Creator of the Popular TriviaNayden Kostov67$4.99 YesNo
Illegal: A True Story of Love, Revolution and Crossing BordersJohn Dennehy68$2.99 YesNo
Saving NoahLucinda Berry69$4.99 YesNo
A Dark and Bloody Ground: A True Story of Lust, Greed, and MurderDarcy O'Brien70$1.99 NoNo
Magnolia Gods (River Sunday Romance Mysteries Book 2)Thomas Hollyday71$2.99 YesNo
Skip Langdon Vol. 1-9: (The Skip Langdon Series)Julie Smith72$9.99 YesNo
Brought To Our Senses: A Family Saga NovelKathleen H. Wheeler73$7.49 NoNo
The Essay: A NovelRobin Yocum74$10.99 NoNo
Fragments of Isabella: A Memoir of AuschwitzIsabella Leitner75$6.00 NoNo
The Road to BittersweetDonna Everhart76$9.99 NoNo
223 Orchard StreetRenee Ryan77$4.99 YesNo
Fleeing The Jurisdiction (The Derry Women Series Book 3)Gerald Hansen78$4.99 YesNo
Gold (River Sunday Romance Mysteries Book 4)Thomas Hollyday79$2.99 YesNo
Those Children Are Ours (Jennie Bateman's Story Book 1)David Burnett80$2.99 YesNo
Family Ghouls (A Greek Ghouls Mystery Book 1)Alex A. King81$0.00 NoNo
Riding Standing Up: A MemoirSparrow Spaulding82$4.99 NoNo
Southern Magic (Sweet Tea Witch Mysteries Book 1)Amy Boyles83$0.99 YesNo
While My Sister SleepsBarbara Delinsky84$5.99 NoNo
Sleeping ArrangementsLaura Shaine Cunningham85$2.99 YesNo
Breaking Out of Bedlam: A NovelLeslie Larson86$10.99 NoNo
The Grass Harp (Vintage International)Truman Capote87$5.99 NoNo
Harvesting the Heart: A NovelJodi Picoult88$12.99 NoNo
Face Of Our FatherG. Egore Pitir89$2.99 NoNo
The Vanished Child: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical MysteryM J Lee90$4.99 YesNo
Rent A Husband: a Romantic ComedySally Mason91$4.99 YesNo
The Group: A NovelMary McCarthy92$10.20 NoNo
Bread Toast Crumbs: Recipes for No-Knead Loaves & Meals to Savor Every SliceAlexandra Stafford93$15.99 NoNo
The Night Child: A NovelAnna Quinn94$0.99 NoNo
Remedy House (Home Sweet Home Book 3)Ruth Hay95$3.99 NoNo
Up the Down StaircaseBel Kaufman96$1.99 NoNo
In a Different Key: The Story of AutismJohn Donvan97$14.99 NoNo

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