24 February 2015
Well, New York Magazine published an article about Ellora’s Cave founder Tina Engler (aka Jaid Black), titled “Did Amazon Sink the Queen of Online Erotica?” A copy of that article can be found here.
The article made me laugh out loud—and not always in ways the article’s author, Phoebe Reilly, intended. Though there were some intentional laugh-worthy lines in there. Tina says, in a blog post about the article, “I’m Done with the Media.” (I was startled at one claim that Tina says is untrue.)
First, I realized I used a buzzword a couple of times, and I want to define it: “organic” search means search results based solely and only on relevancy rankings. The opposite is “paid” search, e.g., the right side of Google pages.
One of the things that determines organic search at Amazon is keywords. These keywords aren’t shown to buyers, but they drive the search box. This is something the indie crowd has taken to heart and excelled at, but it’s alleged that EC doesn’t do anything with keywords at Amazon.
Rick and I were talking about this last night, and he’s a smart guy. He’d just read the following in the article:
It wasn’t until late 2013 that she noticed a plummet in sales via Amazon, the company’s biggest distributor. It had been pulling in roughly half a million dollars a month, but suddenly that figure dropped 60 percent.
He said, “You know, a sudden shift implies a technology change. If it were gradual, over a period of six months, it would be a market change.”
If your competitors gradually got better than you, it would be a change over time, but if Amazon suddenly figured out that keywords should be weighted more heavily, those using them poorly—or not at all—would have their organic search visibility tank at Amazon.
And, btw, only at Amazon, as they are the the only book vendor who drive search via keywords.
If one’s writing erotica, keywords can (and should be) what real people would use to describe what they want to read, not code phrases writers use. Given what sells from indies on Kindle, I’m guessing there’s a lot of fucking going on in those keywords of successful authors.
That said, I’m not sure organic search and technology shifts explain the phenomenon (mentioned in the article) where the top hits for a search on “Jaid Black” are different authors (and not even ones published by Ellora’s Cave).
There is a prohibited keyword practice of using other authors’ names in keywords. Several authors have been banned for that, and some books have just been taken off the market.
Which I’m not saying is a factor, just that it’s theoretically possible.
If my hypothesis about keywords is correct, then it’s relatively easy to fix. It takes a whole lot of time, because keyword research is not simple. It’s not a fast skill to acquire, and insight into Amazon keywords takes practice.
Obviously, a house with as many books as Ellora’s Cave has would have to triage the project into phases and stages, and it’d make the biggest difference to authors who were selling well before but who lost more market share relative to other EC authors.
Queen of Online Erotica my ass.
Did she help break through the market? Absolutely. Queen? NFW.
I know a lot of people reading here are writers, and many of you indie publish, too. Your ears may have perked up at the mention of keywords.
Stay tuned, it’ll be a day or two yet.