Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dear Amazon, I'm Pretty Sure That Sexy Bastards is NOT Women's Fiction

Dear Amazon,

I decided to treat myself to a new book this week. I was in the mood for women's fiction. I hopped right over to your Top 100 bestseller list, and guess what I found?

Sexy Bastards
Break Me: A Stepbrother Romance
Shawty Fell In Love With A Hustla
MMF Bisexual Romance Vacation for Three
Bad Boy Fire Bear Paranormal Bear Shifter Romance

I decided to try Romantic Comedy instead. There I found...

Monster Prick
Blindfold The Complete Box Set
Dirty Little Secrets
Stepbrother With Benefits
Call Me Killer A Bad Boy Romance

Obviously, it's me. I'm not using these lists correctly! So I decide to try one last favorite at this time of year. HOLIDAY ROMANCE! And I found these...

Stepbrother With Benefits Third Season
Bad Boy Daddy
Push Ultra Alpha MMA Badboy Mafia Romance
Steel Justice Romantic Suspense
Deliciously Mated

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm sure that some of these books might have something to do with Christmas romance. And possibly humor. And a woman's journey. But I have to admit that a lot of these titles sound like they're pretty-close-to-a-porno. I have no problem with that, per se. If you had a list of books called "pretty-close-to-a-porno" that would be great. But instead, I'm finding them in women's fiction.

What does that mean?

It means that the most important tool for browsing at Amazon--the bestseller list--is now worthless. The lists are filled with non-category books that don't belong there. And since Amazon has billions of books, it effectively destroys the only way that I can browse for books I like.

That's an epic fail for readers.

And from the other side of the coin--as an indie author--it's also an epic fail. One of the best ways I can reach readers is via the bestseller lists. But my Klaus Brothers Christmas romance cannot compete with MILFs and Stepbrothers and Badboys. So, I'm shit out of luck as an author, too.

Recently, I visited the bookstore in my hometown, and it was a lovely and pleasant experience. There were women's fiction books in the women's fiction section. There were comedies in the humor section. And there was a whole table of holiday fiction, and not one Stepbrother book in sight.

Dear Amazon,

You can do better.




Julia Barrett said...

Agreed. And agreed again.

Bea said...

Sigh. I remember when Amazon was a good place to get books, but the tagging there has gotten ridiculous and makes the lists useless. Crowdsourcing has its limits, there needs to be clearer definitions and *some* oversight (not like the absurdities of there review oversight, which is adding to the uselessness of their reviews).

Unknown said...

I love this! So true.

And if you're looking for a good romantic comedy, check out Deb Julienne's Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aids. I think you'll enjoy it!

Penny Watson said...

Julia...I know. It's so irritating!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Bea! The reviews are now worthless, the bestseller lists are worthless. I wonder if someone can design an app that would make it possible to browse Amazon in a more efficient way. I would buy that!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Sara! Thanks for the rec!

Laura K. Curtis said...

You sent this to Amazon's customer service, right????

Penny Watson said...

Laura--do you think I should? They'll ignore me. Maybe I'll tweet it to them. hee hee!

Unknown said...

I have to agree with you. Amazon has put one of my Erotic Romance books in Women's Fiction. I hate it but nothing my publisher does gets Amazon to change it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's authors gaming the system. Sometimes it's Amazon being stupid. One of my books is in family sagas. Well, the Duals and Donovans series does have a large family in it, but it's an erotic paranormal romance series. Not a family saga. That's a different genre, Amazon! And they refuse to change it despite pleas from the publisher.

Penny Watson said...

Nancy...interesting. I wonder why Amazon would not make changes at the publisher's request. I just don't get it!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Teresa! I wonder if readers ever get mad and complain to Amazon. It must help with sales somehow, and so Amazon doesn't care. I always make sure to put a description in my book blurb so readers will know what they're getting despite Amazon's category problems.

Amy said...

Couldn't have said it better!!!

Penny Watson said...

Thanks, Amy!

Kathryn said...

Yes, yes, and YES! I write women's fiction (and have a holiday romance too). In all my work, there's yet to be a time when my main character has sex with/is impregnated/engages in bondage with her step-brother. When that's what I'm in the mood for, it's great. When I want a romantic comedy, not so much.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Kathryn. I hear your pain!

Anonymous said...

Huh... I had no idea banging your step brother was in the spirit of Christmas!
Live and learn, I guess.

But in all seriousness, as soon as categorizing is put freely into the hands of everyone uploading books or done by an automatic algorithm, it all goes downhill like this. When inventory gets as large as Amazon's, it becomes almost impossible to keep the order.

William Ockham said...

Is it really an epic fail for readers? I would find it very surprising if that were true in the broadest sense. Amazon is so much more effective at selling books than anyone else ever. I mean that quite literally. I don't think Amazon is perfect and I know they experiment in ways that lead to some rather spectacular failures, but when I see a situation like the one you describe, my default assumption is that they have optimized for selling the most stories to the most customers with the least possible human intervention.

In this case, Amazon's goal is not really to "correctly" categorize books the way a library or traditional bookstore would. Amazon's goal is sell the most books to the most customers. These lists which fail you spectacularly are serving someone. And I assume, because Amazon has access to enormous amounts of buying data and some incredibly brilliant folks analyzing it, the buyers served by these lists far outnumber the buyers who are failed by them. Because the lists used to work the way you would prefer and now they don't.

The idea you expressed in the comments for an app that enables a different way of browsing Amazon is interesting to me. As a software developer interested in ebooks, I've spent quite a bit of time trying to come up with an economically viable way of achieving a personalized experience for finding ebooks. It is a very difficult problem because Amazon is so good at recommending stories for most voracious readers. I have some ideas, but alas, I have found that consulting with energy companies on how to implement cloud-based Big Data solutions is far more lucrative.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Michelle! It's very frustrating for someone like me who likes to browse and shop. It's no longer possible at Amazon. For the first time in years, I'm shopping directly at publisher's websites and at "real" bookstores. Crazy pants!

Penny Watson said...

Hi William. Thanks for leaving a comment.

Is it really an epic fail for readers? Well, if you're a reader who loves "pretty-close-to-a-porno" books, then it works great. You can go to any bestseller list and find books you like. And clearly, those books sell extremely well, and there are many readers who buy them.

On the other hand, if you're a reader looking for something OTHER than "pretty-close-to-a-porno" books, then YES, it's an epic fail. The bestseller lists are no longer a useful tool for me. There are many frustrated readers bitterly complaining about this issue on message boards and social media. For the first time ever, I am going directly to publisher websites to purchase books. I would estimate that my book purchases at Amazon are down by more than 50% this year. I used to buy books weekly, sometimes daily, in the romance section. Not any more.

I have heard folks complaining about "racy" books popping up in the search engine when they are looking for childrens' lit. The racy books are bestsellers, and Amazon is in the business of selling books--this is true. But unless you can make your store functional for all readers, I still see this as a failure. Not for Amazon, but for the readers. It would be fabulous if someone could develop an app to help with the browsing issue. Hopefully, that will happen some day!

Unknown said...

Amazon are constantly shooting themselves in the foot with their rapacious attempts to sell, sell, sell.
Rather than an app, I did develop a blog which reviews erotica (Feminist Erotica). Maybe someone can make one for romance. I do review romance on my blog sometimes too, as I'm trying to offer a mix for young readers - at least I make sure it's well tagged and don't call humourous incestuous porn 'romance'!
Let me know if you'd like me to check out your romance :)

Penny Watson said...

Hi Naoko! Review blogs definitely help readers. Thanks!

extraordinary ordinary whimsy said...

Ew I had no idea. No good!