Saturday, 20 April 2013

Amazon buys Goodreads: What does it mean for Indie Authors?

Amazon buys Goodreads: What does it mean for Indie Authors?
There seems to be mixed views on the news that Amazon have purchased Goodreads - the social book reading and sharing website. I can see the pros and cons of the argument, especially as an indie author. I have found Goodreads such an important tool to reach out and contact and engage with readers.

Over the last 6-12 months, The Drought has been picking up more reviews than ever before, and that is largely down to sites like Smashwords and Goodreads connecting me as an author with readers. But not just any readers, by spending a bit of desk time simply researching various members and groups on the site, I have been able to contact readers who I feel would enjoy my book based on their reading lists.

Goodreads is the largest site for readers and book recommendations in the world, with over 16m members. Most readers are happy to be contacted, especially when I use a Smshwords code to offer them a free download of The Drought in exchange for a fair and balanced review.

But on Amazon it is much more difficult to find and contact relevant reviewers to read my book. In the two years The Drought has been available on Amazon, it has only received a total of 27 reviews. In less than half that time on Goodreads, The Drought has nearly 70 reviews and has been download 500 times.

So what happens when Goodreads gets Amazonafied? Does it become increasingly more difficult for indie authors to connect with readers? Is this just another nail in the coffin for self-publishing success stories? Maybe not, but it does throw up the concern that Amazon will further increase their vice-like grip on the book selling and reading community.

Amazon put a stop on authors using their forums as a self-promoting tool, and any author who has attempted to give their books a little plug on some of the more popular independent forums will often have the door slammed shut in their face for even daring to mention their own book! I once posted a very positive review on a forum for The Book With No Name which happens to have an 'Anonymous' author and I received a rather snotty-nosed message from one of the forum's administrators accusing me of having something to do with the book.

Connecting with readers and getting reviews is just about as important to an indie author as it is to Luis Suarez having the salt and pepper within reach when he is snacking on Branislav Ivanovic's arm. Okay, it's a lot more important than that! But I could't resist a little dig...

These reviews not only help make other readers aware of my book, but it also gives me a sense that all the hard work is worth it. It's one thing having your friends and family tell you they like your book, but it is totally different when someone in Germany or the Philippines post a 5-star review saying how much they laughed when reading it. And it's fantastic when they compare your work to well-known established authors.

It's these reviews and relationships with these readers that keep indie authors going in the hope that they'll become that next big self-publishing success story. For every reader who gives you a positive review, it's two fingers up to the literary agent who said no. If Amazon take this function away from us, then it's Amazon who will be holding the two fingers up at indie authors.

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