Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Mystery for the Ages

By Deborah Sharp

What's up with Amazon? In a riddle to rival the Great Sphinx of Egypt, my mystery keeps getting paired with books that don't appear to have much in common with Mama Does Time.

I'll admit it: I click on my own book pages at Amazon to see what's shaking. Usually, it's nothing much. New customer reviews? A star from Publishers Weekly? Rankings rocketing into the single digits, biting at the nape of Ms. Stephenie Meyer?

Nope. Nope. And, You've got to be kidding. And, yes, I do check out my Amazon rankings. I know, I know .... they're not supposed to mean anything; it's some arcane formula that has to do with movement of your book and not actual sales figures, yada yada yada. Everybody checks out their numbers. Authors who say they don't are like those Hollywood stars who claim, ''I never read reviews.''

Right. And you don't Google yourself, either.

Anyway ... The Telltale Turtle: A Pet Psychic Mystery by Joyce and Jim Lavene? There's nary a turtle nor a psychic of any sort in Mama Does Time.
A. K. Azern's The Case of the Bouncing Grandma? Ditto and ditto. Negatory on the bouncing. Not a single grandmother.

Now, I'm sure those books are fun reads, and their authors are probably asking, "Who the heck is this Mama, and what does she have to do with my title?'' I am by no means complaining. I'm thrilled that anyone is buying the book, no matter what they choose to buy it with. I'd get a kick, though, to see the PG-rated Mama partnered up on Amazon with some dark, erotic thriller. Or, maybe a couple of physicists, needing a break from reading Quantum Enigma, could mosey on over and become ''Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought'' . . . Mama.

Hey, it could happen. If there's a distortion in the time-space continuum.

I am pleased to report that in Amazon's Inappropriately Capitalized category of What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item, fully 91 percent buy Mama Does Time. (Ninety-one percent of how many? Who knows.)
Of course, I immediately began to worry about the fate of my upcoming Mama Rides Shotgun
Just 48 percent of customers buy this one after viewing. It's not out until July. Are they reluctant to pre-order? Perhaps the anti-gun lobby disapproves of the title? The cover shows a saddle on a horse. Is it equinophobia? Perhaps Amazon's customers don't like Cow Hunter chili.

What does it mean??? Who knows. It's a mystery for the ages.

How about you? What mystifies you about the Great and Powerful Amazon?


Jess Lourey said...

I actually cured myself of the amazon habit. I checked my stats religiously with my first book, more of a holiday church-goer with the second, and by the third, I couldn't stand the pain.

It is healthy to not read the reviews, I think, because they're always so arbitrary. Paul Newman said something to the effect that he didn't read his reviews because if they're good, he gets a fat head, and if they're bad, he feels like crap. No good comes of it.

Easier said than done, but a worthwhile goal, right? And if the practical route doesn't work, I recommend buying 1000 copies of Stephanie Meyers' latest at the same time you order 1000 copies of Mama, thus pairing them in and setting the spark that starts the fire. And then return all 2000 books.

Terry Odell said...

OK, how do you get the percentage of views that led to sales figure? Not that I'm checking my book stats. Of course I'm not. It's simple curiousity. Yeah, right.

I did see Nora Roberts in the "people who bought this also bought" list once. I think it was more likely "A person who bought this also bought Nora Roberts".

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'll admit it, I do check my stats and my reviews on Amazon. Once through an Amazon reader comment I discovered that a whole batch of one of my titles was defective and was able to pass that along to my publisher and the problem was fixed. But mostly I'm just curious. I like to see what readers like and don't like about my books, but I don't fret over it, just made a note of it. Ugly or nasty reviews I just shrug off.

The big mystery to me is how often books are tagged with only "1 copy left" or "only 3 copies left" but the ranking doesn't budge. I pretty much consider everything on Amazon just hype.

Wait until your next Mama comes out, Deb, then it will be paired with your first one. That will make sense, won't it?

Cricket McRae said...

Great post, Deb! Amazon haunts us all. The stats are like the proverbial sore tooth: painful but I can't leave it alone, either.

Cynical me, whenever I see the rankings climb on my books, I'm sure there's just a glitch in the formula. But like Sue Ann, I want to know what readers are saying in the reviews.

Right now I also want to know more about opportunites to connect with readers on Amazon. Plogs (is that even right?) and lists and the like. Worthwhile?

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Cricket, I think the Amazon Plog/Author Connect feature is very worthwhile. I get a lot of people signing up for my newsletter through my spot on Amazon.

Deborah Sharp said...

thanks for reading, and great comments. Love Jess's idea to buy 1,000 copies each of Mama and Ms. Meyer's latest, thus sparking a fire. Anybody know a loan shark?

Terry, the percentage of people who buy after viewing is way down toward the bottom of my page, below the blog.
Not sure it tells you much, cuz it may be x percent of only 15 people who viewed.

Lastly, to Cricket: I took Sue Ann's advice long ago (as in SO many other things!) and added a blog on my Amazon page. I've NEVER heard from anyone who has read it, but I figure it can't hurt.

Terry Odell said...

Deborah -- My Amazon pages don't have that feature. Maybe nobody's buying after viewing. Or there's some other app you have to have going before you see that one.

Julia Buckley said...

Deb, the better question for me would be what I DO understand about Amazon, and the answer is not much. Except that they are a behemoth consuming the rest of the publishing world. That part seems clear.

Chester Campbell said...

You got my curiosity up, so I checked a couple of my books and finally found the line about what customers ultimately buy after viewing this item. It was on the page for Deadly Illusions, third book in my Greg McKenzie series. Guess what? 37% bought Deadly Illusions; 63% bought Secret of the Scroll, the first book in the series. I have no idea how many books they're talking about.

Keith Raffel said...

I am confused. I thought the Sphinx was in Egypt and the Amazon was in Brazil. Is the Sphinx really in a rain forest? Does the Amazon flow through a desert?

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Keith, I think Deb's talking about that Internet book-sharing program, Sphinxter.

Maybe not.

Sue Ann raises a good point, Deb. When Mama II comes out, it will likely be paired with Mama Does Time. And also with Mama's Family Season 3 Boxed Set.