I do public domain stuff, but I invest a lot of time into cover designs, proofreading, typogaphy, and so on. As such my books usually outsell the quick-and-dirty, boilerplate versions of the same title, when given equal footing.
What often happens, though, is that my listings end up nested inside the profile for another publisher's book. That is, when you search for the title you only see the other seller's book on the search results page; if you click on that, a link to mine will appear in the "formats" window inside that profile. For an example of what I mean, you can see how there are fifty million versions of Jane Eyre buried inside this profile:
Of couse, this is good if you happen to be the "top" profile, but if your listing gets nested like this, it's practically invisible.
CreateSpace claims that this is determined by sales rank, but in my experience it's totally haphazard. I've had top ranked titles sell well for months only to be buried by a newer version with a generic cover that is twice the price.
This, of course, makes it risky to do anything with a public domain title. You can have the best priced, best designed edition available, only to see your sales drop to zero because of seemingly random listing mechanics.
Does anyone have any insights into the mechanics of this, and what one might do to ensure the visibility of one's listing?
The problem is that you are relying solely on Amazon to sell your books for you. Nesting on Amazon is so common so you won't find any help there, and the reason there are umpteen millions of versions of Jane Eyre is that Amazon does not remove out of print listings or publishers' duplicates from its catalog. To say that it does not care about that is an understatement, and speaks more to a pattern of hoarding rather than a cluttered basement bookshop.
Since CreateSpace does not have a return policy in place, most indie bookstores will not pick up your title for sale, and of the registered sellers with CS, few if any sell the books for a better margin. My advice is to stop looking to Amazon for solutions and go direct with Ingram, which I plan to do soon. While CS is excellent for low cost printing and shipping to customers, its distribution process does not allow for effective selling through other venues, and some of my books are now far beyond their current shelf life unless I do something to redesign or reissue them with a different cover or whatnot. I now have the opportunity to revamp them, and I am taking baby steps to do so while the time is good. If after a year you find no improvement in sales I advise you to do the same.
Thanks for the reply. I definitely hear you about depending too much upon Amazon and I'm always looking for ways to make my business model more robust.
I've been looking at Lightning Source/Ingram for a while now, but can't quite see the advantage. Most of my titles are "long tail" books that brick and mortar shops wouldn't be interested in, even if they were refundable. Beyond that, it doesn't seem to me that Ingram provides much better distribution than what CS currently has on offer--do they?
Actually, as I understand it CS uses Ingram to reach outside retailers beyond what is listed as a "certified" reseller. My books are listed on several bookseller sites that are also registered with Ingram. The problem is that "no return" policy. As long as it is in place, there is no advantage to using CS as an effective distributor to B&M shops which demand a return policy. Otherwise, I would say stick with CS as long as you already have the books out there. The issue is also how much risk you want to take with getting returns, which eat into your royalties. Lightning Source can destroy the books but they take the cost of printing out of your net revenues to date once they have issued refunds to the bookshops. At least with CS it is strictly POD. It's your call.
I have the same problem with a title. But it is worse than nested, if you actually go to every page you will likely find that your title is missing completely unless you type in the ISBN or use the nested link. Here is an email I recently sent to amazon:
I have proof that you have buried my edition of Ever Increasing Faith, 1475128851. It should show up on the first page of search results but does not show up at all on any page, unless I type in the ISBN.
I even hit the "sort by price" and the other editions which are higher priced showed up but not my edition.
The real proof is that I went to bookfinder.com and clicked on every link and my edition of the book did NOT show up.
It was right up next to the top of listings until I asked for the other reviews to be linked to my book and then it disappeared, or it may have been right after that when I uploaded a new cover.
I will not continue to use CreateSpace as my printer of you are going to give priority to outside publishers. There are other POD printers I can use for all my books, such as Lightning Source, for example.
UN-bury this book!
Great Plains Press
It is good to know that CS does not allow for returns, I was going to use CS for all my publishing but with amazon nesting and no returns, it looks like I need to look elsewhere.
I'm not sure it's a question of CS giving priority to outside publishers, as much as the haphazard and seemingly random way that Amazon organizes their own site. I see even traditional publishers with buried listings. For example, last time I checked the top-level listing for "Jane Eyre" was a CreateSpace version, with dozens of traditional versions nested inside of it.
If there were some kind of rhyme or reason to it, we might be able to plan accordingly, but as far as I can tell it's totally random and illogical.
There is actual a reasoning behind this, books with linked centralized reviews and the same Author and Title are linked to one central record when searched unless the search is specific to something unique (like publisher)
The main title (one that displays as the primary) is the title with the best current Amazon sales rank.
The ways to avoid this are either a) don't link to the centralized reviews b) sell enough to become the best seller and the main title.
I hear that said by CS staff, but I don't think it's really true. The main title may often be the top-ranked, but this has more to do with the fact that buyers rarely notice the nested versions.
I've seen it happen, for example, that the main title is simply the most recently published version of the book in question. A brand new book with a terrible, boilerplate cover for $25 replaces a professionally-designed version for $15, and the sales rank for the main title drops to well below what it had been previously (and the newly nested version drops to zero). Were it merely a question of driving sales to one's own profile to beat out the Kessingers and the Bibliolifes, I wouldn't worry, but I haven't observed that, in practice, Amazon is actively reshuffling the main title based on rank.
However, if you have good information to the contrary, I'd love to hear it. If I can keep my titles on top by fair competition I'm happy--it's the apparent randomness of Amazon's system that frustrates me.
Personally, I am of the opinion that teh shared reviews and nested listings should be abolished, though I understand that Amazon does not want 50 of the same book in a search and that the reviews are usually valid for all because they are based on the book but sometimes this is not true, what if one wished to leave a review based on a specific format that was impressive. I say separate all title and reviews (unless they are through the same publisher such as paperback and kindle) and let each publication stand on its own.
Unfortunatley his is not how it currently works. The information I do have on how the titles are listed is unfortunately 3rd party and how it is suppposed to work. I know the 10 titles I checked today all had the book with the highest sales rank listed as the 'main' book. I have kept my own PD books unlinked with others so I can't speak to personal instances.
As to how the sales rank is set, it seems to have changed slightly recently but the following link has been fairly accurate in what I've seen http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/amazon-sales-ranking-explained/
Alas the blog, while interesting and informative is inaccurate. For example:
The best rank I’ve ever seen for him is 27,873 the worst is 527,890.
My current ranking for Metaphysics In Jars is #5,334,540. That is there are 5 million, three hundred and thirty-four thousand and eight hundred and seventy-two books that have as of 7:29 pm PST sold more than mine. (This is about a 24% improvement over a year ago, if, as I assume is correct, high score wins.) Ms. Buroker is off by an order of magnitude.
I point this out to put into some perspective a wide range of questions and issues, not least is the occasional sense as described in the forum of being treated unfairly by Amazon, alien reviewers, and the intransigencies of fate.