If you haven’t noticed by now, I enjoy taking the contrary point of view whenever possible. When everyone is running to the right, I invariably have to go left. It is with this spirit that I review the recent acquisition of Goodreads.com by Amazon for an undisclosed sum. If you’ve been reading the articles, following the tweets, and reading the blogs, apparently, this is the worse thing to ever happen in publishing. It is fashionable these days to deride all things Amazon, but the fact is that without Amazon’s aggressive business practices, innovation, and business model, independent publishing would still be on the outside looking in. I think all the naysayers need to take a hard look at themselves and answer the following questions:
- Would Amanda Hocking, EL James, John Locke and others have received million dollar book deals without Amazon?
- Would independent authors everywhere be cashing decent royalty checks each month from book sales without Amazon?
- Would indie authors be selling books everywhere from Canada to Japan without Amazon?
- Would indie books be making their way onto bestseller lists without Amazon?
The basic fact is that Amazon (and the Kindle family) is the best thing to ever happen to independent publishers and authors – the same authors and publishers currently up in arms about another extremely savvy move by the online giant. Yes, it’s true that over the past 15 months, Amazon has flexed its muscles and not always in author/publisher friendly ways. First, there was the introduction of the KDP Select Program that forced authors to choose between Amazon and every other online ebook retailer for distribution; then there was the whole fake reviews fiasco that caused Amazon to take down reviews by authors for other authors; and most recently Amazon removed product tags and Facebook likes from their algorithm which were significant boosts to past book discoverability on the site.
These same changes, however, are exactly why I’m so bullish on the Amazon/Goodreads integration. Adding Goodreads into the fold is sure to boost ways for books to be discovered, especially those on the Kindle platform. I have already reviewed the ways Amazon’s algorithm boosts book discoverability here, but now let’s discuss how the Goodreads integration makes up for some of Amazon’s past sins and current gaps.
- More Reviews = More Visibility: Although Goodreads CEO, Otis Chandler, has not yet confirmed whether the existing goodreads reviews and Amazon reviews for current titles will be integrated (let’s hope not), the mere fact that Amazon is gaining 16 million fairly active book reviewers into the fold (with the various genre groups, bookclubs, fans, friends, and followers) can only help indies looking to boost the number of reviews. Goodreads has a number of groups dedicated to exchanging honest reviews for free ebooks and now these reviews will be a part of the Amazon ecosystem that helps books get found by readers. And now Amazon (and the prospective ebook buyer) has a way of identifying which reviews are coming from a book’s fans and followers vs. other reviewers (and the detailed data attached) so they can make a more informed decision of a books merit and avoid sock-puppet and other review boosting scams.
- More Promotional Tools = More Sales: For years, I have been lamenting an easy (and inexpensive) way to advertise within Amazon to boost my book’s visibility and sales. With the addition of goodreads, I have just gained this access. Goodreads has a variety of promotional tools to help authors reach readers; from book giveaways (hopefully now Goodreads will allow for digital book giveaways) to pay per click advertising, to events, authors will have more tools at their disposal to attract potential book buyers than ever before. I can see KDP Select freebies getting a large visibility boost on goodreads as well as a result of this integration.
- A More Social Amazon = Faster Potential Word of Mouth Amplification: One of the most powerful tools available on goodreads is the bookshelf. When a friend adds a book or reviews a book, their entire network is notified of this occurrence. Now imagine this happening auto-magically once someone begins reading your book on their kindle. What if the notifications of reading status were automatic instead of something the goodreads user has to manually fill in? What if sections you highlight immediately become accessible by your network and notes you save can become discussion topics? What if Amazon automatically redirects readers to goodreads to review the title once they’ve completed the book? More books being discovered is the result, and if you can get your book read by the right people in bunches and they favorably review your work, expect the noise level around your book to spread like wildfire across goodreads and your Amazon author ranking to dramatically improve.
- More Incentives to Join Amazon Prime = More eBook Borrows and Shares = More Money in your Pocket: Amazon has a vested interest in making Amazon Prime and the Amazon Cloud service exponentially more valuable to potential consumers. It was this interest that led them to entice thousands of authors to enroll in KDP Select, as the more content available for Prime members to borrow for free the more satisfied would be said Prime members. Amazon will want Goodreads’ 16 MM users to become Prime members, and they are going to be advertising this heavily once the integration is complete. If the KDP Select fund continues, then more potential ebook borrowers means higher potential monthly royalties from KDP Select borrows. And can you imagine the scenario when Prime borrows and lends also becomes visible to your network on goodreads?
- Better Targeting = a Better Amazon Algorithm = Better Author Discovery: Last but not least is the improved product recommendations that Amazon hopes to gain with the user data acquired from Goodreads users. But this works in the favor of the author as well. The more bookshelves your book is added to on goodreads can be added into the recommendations algorithm, increasing your book’s Relevance and Popularity on Amazon, and exposing your work to more readers both on and off Amazon.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do believe many of the predictions above will come to fruition and will keep you posted as soon as we know for sure what this integration means for discovery of your books. As for Barnes & Noble, Apple, eBooks.com, Kobo, traditional publishers and others, this move may not yet mean check mate, but it’s only a few moves away. If you have a counter in the works, now would be a good time to bring it out.
What are your thoughts on the Amazon/Goodreads integration and my predictions?