Are "new" books working Amazon's system?

AmazonL.J. Sellers has picked up on a trend on Amazon. The novelist who writes for the Crime Fiction Collective blog noticed old books popping up on lists for new releases.

If the book has been out for several years, how can it become a “hot, new release?”

Sellers writes:

“The newest trend I’ve noticed is the republishing of the same book. What I see happening is that familiar books that were competitive on Amazon’s crime fiction list, dropped off the list, then came roaring back with a new pub date and a high profile.”

Amazon

Essentially, publishers or authors are re-releasing e-books with a new publishing date, and thereby taking advantage of Amazon’s algorithms to get their books back to the top of a list.

The crime fiction area is probably not the only place this is happening.

Sellers also notes that even though a print book with dozens of reviews is already on the site, the author can just ask Amazon to link to the two listings—getting their “new” book plenty of old reviews.

Lately the chatter has been about book discoverability. Amazon prides itself on its recommendation tools, but it seems that some have found a way around these obstacles.

Now, are there reasons to un-publish and post a book later for reasons other than trying to work the system?

Of course.

Authors could discover a terrible mistake after the book is posted. Or there could be significant changes an author wants to make based on reader feedback and reaction (which is a topic in itself).

Other have claimed to have done this because they’ve put a new cover on a book, say, or released another book and wanted both to get attention at the same time.

In Sellers’ case, however, she’s talking about books that haven’t changed anything. She’s talking about the process, in other words, of simply taking a book down and re-releasing it with a new pub date to get extra attention.

What do you think of this practice? Is it ethical? And do you think it’s something Amazon should crack down on?

4 Comments on Are "new" books working Amazon's system?

  1. You think putting old books as new is bad? Check out this scam. An author by the name Marshella Goodsworth puts out the worst cookbooks I have ever seen and she puts a premium price on them. She churns them out in droves. Here’s her shtick. She places some of her books on the FREE list just long enough for the Free Kindle Book websites to pick up on them. Then, she takes them off the free list. They are available for free for just a couple of hours. This way, the books show up on the free lists (such as FREEBOOKSIFTER) and when folks click on those books, they are no longer free (usually $6.99). You want her chintzy books free? You will have to search them on Amazon around 4am-6am. After that, you pay. Nice way to get your books all over the free sites with little to lose, don’t you think?

  2. @Koa: I’m not familiar with Marshella Goodsworth, but I’ve published with KDP Select and visited many of the sites that list free books. KDP Select doesn’t set a book to free for just a few hours. It’s a whole day or nothing. What may be happening here is that unlike most authors, who set their books to free for at least two days at a time, if not the entire 5 allowed days in a row, Marshella may only be doing one day. New free books don’t just automatically pop up on the freebie sites the moment they’re posted to Amazon — often it’s not until many hours later or even the next day — so if she isn’t doing several free days in a row that would be why her books are no longer free by the time you get to them. FreeBookSifter, in particular, only updates their listings once a day, so it’s quite possible if she’s doing one day at a time that they’re catching her listings right before the free period expires. Hard to say whether this is a deliberate strategy on her part or she’s simply never considered how long it actually takes for people to find her free books.

  3. All I can tell you is the following. I can do a search on the author around 1am (eastern) and none of her books are free. I can check back around 3am and I’ll find one free. Check back again around 5am and I might find a second one free. By 8am, they are all back to regular price. If this is actually happening and she has somehow figured a way around the system, it’s actually no big loss, for me at least. My wife told me to not order any of her books even if they were free. She said her books were so bad that not even for free did she want them on her machine. -Koa-

  4. That’s interesting, Koa, thanks for the additional info. At the time I did Select I didn’t see a way to go free for only a few hours, but sounds like there must be one. Seems like a strange strategy to me. I can’t see how it would benefit her, as most people expecting a freebie when clicking wouldn’t pay full price — unless by accident. But then, they’d probably request a refund if that happened. Strange. Ohh.. hm. Just had an idea. Perhaps she’s hoping people will use the Kindle Lending Library and borrow her books instead. So the customer still gets to read a free book (though only a maximum of 1 at a time per month), but she gets paid by Amazon for each borrow. Pretty sneaky if that’s what she’s doing, exploiting the free advertising from the sites that track freebies.

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