January 18th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Amazon Connect - thoughts and observations

I had been putting off joining Amazon Connect - largely because it necessitated finding and loading a picture of myself. Was the world ready for that? And what would it do to my sales?

Here comes the confession - as the human genome project confirmed last year, there is such a thing as the scruffy gene. And I have an extra large one. If I stand in a shop doorway for more than a minute people hand me their loose change. Hence the dearth of photographs. I couldn't find one taken after 1991.

That is until I remembered the film Sade. I'd been in it - playing the aristocrat in green to Daniel Auteuil's Marquis de Sade. Which is a story for another day but also proof that it takes a beard-ectomy and a team of the French film industry's finest costumiers and make-up artists to make me presentable. So I uploaded a still from the film here Clue: I am not the one on the right under the black veil. Hmm, maybe I should open a caption competition?

Now, back to Amazon Connect. I'm not sure about the efficacy of having the same message sent to both the customers who have bought your books in the past and to your current book pages. To me, as an author with just the one book out, they appear to be different audiences. On the book page I want to convince readers to buy my book. But I don't want that sales pitch to go to customers who've already bought the book. Ideally there should be an option within Amazon Connect to say where the message should be sent.

An alternative approach would be to allow the author editorial control over the descriptive elements of the book page. Amazon UK does this - up to a point. Authors register as the author of a book in a similar way to the Amazon Connect program then they can update description, synopsis and add published reviews. The drawback is the way they display the content. Whereas the US Amazon is happy to expand the size of the page if the content is large, its UK partner cuts the content. My Amazon UK page has room for two one-line reviews and that's it - you have to click onto another page to get the rest - including the description of what the book is about. And how many casual browsers would bother to click to find out?

You could argue that the publisher already has editorial control over what goes on the Amazon page. But anyone who's tried to get their page amended knows how long-winded a process that is. And no one has the same motivation as the author to maintain that page and keep it accurate, fresh and interesting.