Dear Diary… 2020

Before I start, this post was not wholly my idea.

This post is vaguely in the form of a diary which looks back on 2020. It is an amalgamation of pieces taken from other blogs, social posts and such, with a snippet or two of my own observations mixed in for good measure.

This is my disclaimer… as such, the following is far from my usual form of ‘Posting’. The following is purely for entertainment purposes, the expressed views herewith in are not necessarily those of the author.


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January.

Australia caught on fire.

I am unsure if the fire was extinguished, it may still be smouldering away.

The reason I don’t know, is because the media circus had not finished talking about those fires when their attention was distracted as we came to the brink of war with Iran. The [British] Foreign Office warns British nationals against all but essential travel to Iran and Iraq, following a US airstrike in Baghdad the previous day, in which Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed.

We may still be ‘almost at war’ with them but the reporting stopped in favour of telling us about Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt, who, it seems, spoke to one another at an awards show and everyone flipped the crap out.

Men can walk safely on the streets once again as Reynhard Sinaga, described as “the most prolific rapist in British legal history”, is sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of raping or sexually assaulting 48 men in Manchester. Police believe he may have been responsible for assaulting a total of nearly 200 victims.

This almost coincided with the ‘Big Brother‘ Police announcement that live facial recognition technology will be rolled out across London.

Then there was this thing happening in China. Something to do with wet meat or bats or such.

But again, the press became distracted after Prince Harry and a girl called Megan decided to “step back as senior members” the Royal family. At the same time, something was going on in the USA about impeachment. It seems that is a thing, who knew… who knows?

Then this Chinese thing (they decided to term it as a Coronavirus), it showed up in the USA “officially,” and the media got all excited… but then Kobe Bryant died, seems people in America knew who he was and it upset them so the media spent their time dredging up every bit of nonsensicle information about him, non-stop, 24/7.

In the UK, now with Boris at the helm, we finally managed to kick all the shit shifters, the self-opinionated, egotistical, communistic national-party fascists out of parliament, so the government could honour the people’s wishes from the referendum and get Great Britain out of the diabolical farce they call the European Union.

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February. 

Iowa crapped itself with the caucus results and the president was acquitted (from that impeachment I mentioned last month) and the Speaker of the House took ten-whole-years to rip up a speech.

Then ‘The WHO’, That’s not the band or the doctor, but the ‘World Health (dis)Organisation’, gave the Chinese virus a name, they called it, in a most scientifically creative way, COVID19, which confused some really important people in charge of our lives as they thought that meant there were 18 other versions before this one. But all it means is CoronaVirusDisease of 2019, which, when contracted comes out as ‘Covid19’.

Then some bloke called Harvey Weinstein was found guilty. Many Americans started asking if Corona beer was safe to drink, and everyone on Facebook became doctors and viral experts overnight. They then informed us that regular flu generally killed more people each year than all the COVIDs which had come before. You know, all those non-existent COVID numbers, 1 to 18.

So, clearly there was little to be concerened about… unless you are a conspiracist. Then you better watch your back because… if they are really after you, you are not paranoid.

The first British death from Covid19 is confirmed by the Japanese Health Ministry; it is a man in quarantin on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, anchored off Japan.

The first death from coronavirus in the UK was confirmed this month, as the number of cases exceeded 100, with a total of 115 having tested positive. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, tells MPs the UK has moved to the second stage of dealing with COVID-19 – from “containment” to the “delay” phase.

 

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March.

This is when the shit hit the fan big time.

A chap named Warren dropped out of the American presidential race and Sanders was like Bernie or bust.

Then, just as things were getting fruity, Italy shut its whole country down and this COVID19 thing was no longer considered confined but officially recognised as a Pandemic. (A Pandemic is when lots of people start dropping dead all over the place and no one can stop it happening in a hurry.)

So, a nationwide state of emergency was declared in many countries like the USA and Great Britain and the other bit, that um, whatsit… oh, yes the European Union thingy and people were told to go home and stay there, not to come out until you were at least eighty years old.

In some countries they added to their death toll by shooting anyone not at home.

But it didn’t change anything. Everyone was confused about what it was or what to do about it. Many people thought it was just a bad dose off the flu. So, everyone went shopping to buy toilet rolls, flour, yeast, Spanish olive oil and gummy bears, all the essentials for surviving the apocalypse.

Without getting all the attention it needed, COVID19 got ‘a bit’ upset, thinking we were not taking it seriously and started to infect the celebrities everyone likes, as it did with Tom Hanks.

That got it some attention from the news stations, who ran the story on each news broadcast, and all the people, who were now sitting at home watching thier screens, began to believe what they saw and hear on television, so they got frightened.

NHS Nightingale Hospital London, the first temporary critical care hospital to treat COVID-19 patients, opened in the ExCel Centre in East London, employing NHS staff and military personnel, with a bed capacity of up to 4,000. It was the first of several temporary critical care hospitals across the UK

Reacting to this, the Governments closed all the schools, hairdressers, bars and restaurants, so no one can learn anything or get their hair cut or have a beer with their frends… or their nails buffed and polished.

Then everyone had to work from home and attend Zoom meetings naked, wearing skimpy underwear or stained onesies.

The Stock markets bottoms fell out. (Out of where I’m not certain.)

Although, to be honest, most of us don’t understand why the stock market is so important or even a thing anyway.

I mean whose money is it anyway, where does it go, who do we owe it too, and where did they get it in the first place, oh, and how come there’s more money being made every year and when there’s not we’ve lost it? Is there a giant sofa with a ton of loose change behind the seats? Has anyone tried looking there?

There are just so many questions…

Anyway, while sitting around at home naked or squirming around in ragged onesies with your arse hanging out, we all got to meet a chap called Tiger King, thankfully only on our televisions. I’m guessing he’s the type of chap you would never take him home to meet your parents… Hmmph. Less said about that the better.

The ONE thing most can all agree on this year, Carol totally killed her husband… whacked him, and then Netflix was like you’re welcome, and we all realised there was no way we were washing our hands enough in the first place because all of our hands are now dry and gross and were all searching for lotion.

 

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April.

Bernie finally busted himself out of the American presidential race just as New York City became the perfect setting for The Walking Dead.

We also learned no one who needed them had any face masks, ventilators, or toilet paper.

Around this time, most people’s natural hair colour, including a great deal of grey, was showing above their root line and sales of home hair dye and other unessesary chemicals took off.

Oh, and Kim Jong – Un died, but then he came back to life… or did he? Is anyone really sure?

Who knows, because then, the Pentagon released videos of UFOs and really nobody gave a shiny shite about a fat man with a strange haircut after that.

 

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May.

Like at the predicted end of the world in the bible with the historical locust swarms, we learned of marauding murder hornets… and it dawned on us 2020 was probably the start the real-life Hunger Games, however, people must have forgoten to let us know it was starting.

In some places, people started to protest lockdown measures with AR-15s.

Sports events were cancelled everywhere. Theatres closed, both stage and movie. Aircraft stopped flying, ships and boats reduced their passage.

Basically the whole world shut down, which was a godsend for the wildlife, the sea and the atmosphere. Never in living memory has the air been cleaner, the skies bluer, the animals and birds more prevalent.

Then, people all over America finally reached a breaking point with race issues and violence. There were protests in every city, which was confusing to some because people were gathering in crowds standing a lot closer than 2 meters apart. Those people must have forgotten about the pandemic called COVID19 I guess?

The media struggled with how to focus on more than two things at once, while people, in general struggle to focus on more than anything more than that which was being dangled in front of their nose at the time.

A dead whale was found in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. Monkeys stole COVID samples from a lab and ran off with them.

All the while our astrologers were shitting their collective knickers, as a giant asteroid narrowly missed the Earth.

I think it swerved to avoid the Covid19 monster personally.

 

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June.

Common was cast from the window, somehow wearing facemasks became a political thing.

Then everyone remembered the pandemic, just as scientists announced they found a mysterious undiscovered mass at the centre of the earth, and everyone cried out “DON’T YOU TOUCH IT”.

However, after a deep breath, everyone realised people believed ‘Gone with the Wind’. They thought the film was like non-fiction too.

Then they announced of a strange radio signal from somewhere out in the universe which repeats itself every so many days… then everyone cried “DON’T YOU ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH IT”.

In the UK, Jonty Bravery, an 18 year old, is jailed for 15 years after throwing a six-year-old boy off a 200 ft balcony at London’s Tate Modern gallery, leaving him with a bleed to the brain and life-changing injuries.

America decided to reopen from the shutdown that wasn’t ever a shutdown… and, so far, things have gone spectacularly well… well, no, they haven’t to be honest, they are not doing very well at all. 

The UK experiences its hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures reaching as high as 33.3 °C (92 °F) and hords of brain dead twats swarmed the beaches and spread the virus amongst themselves… the effects are yet to materialise, it takes a few weeks… 

Then, like a mass birth of rabid raptors, all the Karen’s came out and started tearing down statues of long-dead people, people who no one knew or remembered… until that point.

Whatever happens, history cannot be changed. Something so few seem to comprehend.

Everyone is then on Facebook, arguing about masks. are they effective… well no… not if you dump your discarded masks and gloves in supermarket carts, baskets and scatter them across countless car parks, they just hold and harbour the virus carrying further afield.

Mind you, I have said for years many people should have their heads entirely covered in public places anyway,  generally to reduce mass nausea. (I guess that’s another story though?)

Then we learned of a massive dust cloud coming at us directly from the Sahara Desert, which is fairly normal, but this is 2020, so the Ghost of the Mummy and the Scorpian King is most likely lurking in that dust.

One bright note is the Congo’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak is over… what do you mean, what Ebola outbreak… where have you been this year? Have you been distracted?

We have also discovered FLYING SNAKES, yes, seriously. FLYING SNAKES. And what about the 200,000-duck army China is sending to Pakistan to help with the locusts… yep, that’s the truth.

 

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So, we get to this month, July….

Some people, at this point, think we are over it. Of course, they are wrong, very, very, wrong.

This is just the beginning.

Not allowing for what additions are next. like Aliens, Zeus, more Asteroids, Artificial Intelligence becoming self-aware… (Skynet?).

Oh, joy… Live long and prosper.


 

WtIPV1smallWithin the Invisible Pentacle is available from Amazon UK

https://amzn.to/2SrwzIx

And from Amazon

USA

https://www.amazon.com/Within-Invisible-Pentacle-Paul-White/dp/1720987653/ 

These stories vary widely; some will make you laugh aloud, or nod in agreement. Others will make you shiver with apprehension, while a few might bring tears to your eyes.

The prevailing factor is, they are written with consideration for our fragile human disposition, the fears, the dreams and wishes, the uncertainties and self-doubts we all carry inside ourselves, the human element of love, of life and of survival.


 

Amazon’s A9 algorithm, dispelling a myth and the future…

Amazon-A9

In most of my posts, I ramble away in an unplanned manner, eventually making sense of, or come to a conclusion, about whatever topic is being discussed.

I tend to stay clear of jargon and try not to get too bogged down with the technical aspect of… stuff.

I have tried to do the same here; if you really want to get all techy and scientific you’ll need to undertake some research of your own.

Otherwise, please read on, some explanations, tips, and links are included.


‘A9’ is the proprietary search algorithm developed by Amazon. It is named after the company’s subsidiary which handles SEO

It has one job, to answer customer’s purchasing queries.

Please note, it is NOT Google.

Amazon is the primary destination for book searches, so understanding A9 is critical to your author success on this platform.

Amazon is happy to let A9 fly under the radar, even with A9 being somewhat revolutionary, to say the least.

We all love how Google seamlessly adapts its SERPs to your browsing habits, but A9 floated this idea successfully way back in 2004. A9 also pioneered visual street views long before Google Maps was a thing. The point is, despite being the most valuable company in the world, Amazon isn’t keen on pushing A9 through as a wide-lens search engine. In fact, you won’t find many people who have heard of the A9 algorithm.

The simple reason is, as I said above, it is NOT Google.

Amazon is not in the Searcher Intent business. Searcher intent is simply the type of request or query a specific user is looking for. For example, searcher intent is extremely obvious when terminology such as “buy” or “sell” is used. This is 100% commercial intent. E.G. “buy shoes” “sell my car” etc.

Whereas other intents, such as informational, e.g. “how-to” is also searched by users in YouTube, Google and other major search engines.

Amazon though, being a product-based search engine, doesn’t have this issue. That’s because people coming to Amazon are looking to do one and one thing only: Buy Stuff, like YOUR books. Unlike a traditional search engine, A9 does not need to consider whether someone searching for say, ‘Stephen King’ wants to learn more about the author or if they want to buy his books, Amazon it ‘knows’ they want to buy his books… and this is the most important factor. It is what shapes the way you need to work with A9 to gain higher rankings on the platform.

To place your book in a ‘high’ and visible position the A9 algorithm needs to consider factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history.

Therefore, optimizing your books potential rating on Amazon begins before your listing goes live. There are several optimization elements you have control over and need to address before you sell even a single book.

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1, Book Title and Brand Name, (if any)

The most relevant keywords will be the title and subtitle (if any) of your book. As with Electric Eclectic branded books, the brand name is used as, or as part of, the subtitle.

This allows people optional and assorted methods of searching for your book. They can key in your book title if they know it or remember it, or at least search for something similar. Alternatively, they can use your author name, or simply type in the brand.

For example, when you enter ‘Electric Eclectic books’ into your Amazon search bar you will be presented with a list of all the titles, from authors who have written under the Electric Eclectic brand.

Check out Electric Eclectic at https://electriceclecticsblog.wordpress.com/about/

 

2, Book Description

While it is clearly important to write a compelling description to entice the person browsing to buy your book, consider using three to four ‘bullet point’ at the top of your description, such as, ‘Fast-paced Thriller’ or ‘Romantic Fantasy’, to clarify the genre of the book.

Bullets naturally stand out and make content easier to read than a block of text and help increases conversion rates.

Other bullet point options are such things as ‘Revised Edition’, ‘Prequal to ….’ and so forth. Not only does this help your potential buyers to decide, but it also reduces the risk of bad reviews due to a purchaser buying a book outside their regular choice/comfort zone.

A9 will also pick up on the words used, helping to target your book towards those who will enjoy your story.

TIP: Try by selecting three top-ranked competitors, (Mainstream publisher/agent listings are great for this) chose ones which boast the greatest number of reviews.

With the list of keywords in hand, remove those that aren’t relevant. As easy as that, you’ve got a handy list of keywords in your arsenal

In most cases, data from 3 or 4 competitors is enough to get started.

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3, Pricing

Your books must be strategically and competitively priced. If they are your conversion rate will benefit.  Analyse the book pricing of those with high volume sale in your book’s genre, ensuring they are of similar page count/format. Find the ‘sweet spot’ price points, both on and off Amazon and price your book accordingly. Do not overprice or under-price, doing either will reduce your potential sales.

A9 takes pricing into consideration as it is in Amazon’s best interest to prioritise products (books) that sell.  To better your chance of being listed next to, or in the proximity of a ‘Best Seller’, you need to be thereabouts.

 

4, Cover Images

Although images are not a direct, performance-related Amazon ranking factor, they play a critical role in both your click-through and conversion rates.

While cover images are not factors A9 specifically evaluates, (presently) They are very important for your potential customers and can have an impact on your sales.

High-quality images which view clearly when enlarged can increase sales by as much as 10%, according to Amazon, and the A9 algorithm rewards products that sell well.signature

Are you looking for a bespoke cover? Email Peejay Designs at PeeJaydesigns@mail.com

 

5, Customer Reviews

Genuine, unsolicited, un-incentivised reviews are an ‘indirect factor’ which may impact your product’s rank on Amazon. Customer reviews can significantly influence the conversion rate, demonstrating their role in Amazon SEO. Books with strong ratings (four stars or higher) are more likely to rank higher in Amazon search results than those with less than four stars.

Although your Amazon ranking, as discussed, is dependent on many other factors; so often a two-star review rated book will show next to four and five star reviewed books. This could simply be because it is a new book is without enough reviews to give a true indication but more often it is because the author simply got everything else perfectly set up for A9, so the book appears higher on the pages.

You should constantly monitor your reviews to ensure customers do not abandon their potential purchase due to a negative review.

By responding to negative reviews in a timely fashion, you are showing your prospective customers you hold a value of their comments. This helps maintain positive overall customer experience.

You will notice at the start of this section I used the wording ‘Genuine, unsolicited, un-incentivised reviews’. This is because these are the ONLY reviews that Amazon A9 is concerned with.

Many authors believe that paid for, swapped, coerced or otherwise incentivised reviews help with Amazon rankings. Well, maybe they once did, but Amazon has been working extremely hard and are finding ways to validate every review.

Amazon uses a number of various systems to log everything… the numbers, the names, usernames, associated usernames (friends of), web locations, physical locations, device ID’s of reviewers, ISP addresses associated with reviews and many more data points.

This information is used to monitor the posting of fake and incentivised reviews, along with authors and businesses linked to enticing fake reviews. You may get away with one or two, but that’s about it, many more and A9 will flag your account(s). This may mean the reviews will be deleted, your account may be suspended or closed, just as those posting the reviews.

As A9 and its associated crawlers and bots develop and gather more information about each author/users’ actions and their algorithms enhanced, Amazon has vowed to clear all fake and incentivised reviews from the platform to improve quality.

Read more… https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1kR

 

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6, Sales

The most important thing to remember about the A9 algorithm, and what differentiates it from traditional search engines, is that it exists to facilitate one thing: sales.

A9 looks at your title, product descriptions and the price you set to determine relevance. Together, these factors create a flywheel effect where improving one element of your product marketing also increases sales velocity which, in turn, improves your listing’s visibility.

Higher A9 ranking means more targeted exposure by Amazon, such as showing on ‘Also bought’, ‘Also viewed’ and ‘Frequently bought together’ directed to a relevant audience.

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7, The Future for A9

Looking at how Google evolved over the years gives us a look into how we believe Amazon is expected to change.

Amazon’s A9 algorithm will follow a similar trajectory, albeit more slowly and less aggressively (remember, as effective as it is, A9 is not one of Amazon’s most important ‘products’).

Amazon is working to fix many problems: low-quality listings, broken English, higher return rates and how people generate reviews (fake reviews, for example). Amazon has aggressively targeted fake reviews in the past few years, going so far as suing Fiverr directly.

In February 2011, Google released an update called Panda.

Despite its tame name, this update wiped out millions in affiliate marketer & SEO consultant earnings. Superficially speaking, the update itself was aimed at low-quality sites from a content point of view. Copied, scraped and poorly created content was the chief target, meaning that millions of low-quality sites were hit very hard and de-indexed. 95+% of traffic and all the income associated with it, poof, GONE.

Amazon is looking to publish a similar update; the goal to have listings that read well and avoid broken English, duplicate content and generally poor optimization overall, instead of just basing the majority of factors on sales directly.

One of the reasons this makes sense from a business point of view is to reduce the number of low-quality Chinese sellers driving out genuine, quality-focused businesses. (Think future competition, think Alibaba).

There are multiple other reasons it makes sense to Amazon’s business model.

This ‘Amazon Panda’, or whatever they may call it, will change the game, but what will ultimately turn Amazon SEO services & marketing agencies on its head would be an algorithm update similar to Google’s ‘Penguin’ update.

The Panda update in 2011 was big but the Penguin update actually changed the SEO game forever. Released on 24th April 2012 (version 1) it impacted close to 3.1% of search queries. If you’ve ever implemented an SEO campaign, you’ll know it’s a massive amount of organic search results.

In short, this update aimed to remove link spam. Any site which was using questionable link building tactics was hit and penalised. Organic traffic for some companies went to zero and some never recovered.

Amazon’s ‘Penguin’ update, a form of which is under construction (I have been told), will involve targeting elements such as sales manipulation, discounted product giveaways, which they are already combating, and overall search engine manipulation.

Other trust signals will become more and more important.

Industry chatter tells me that generating more than 3 reviews per day is a signal that Amazon uses to identify review manipulation. Other tools such as Fakespot or Reviewmeta are also very common for spotting fake reviews.

Third parties are building tools that identify fake reviews. Amazon has signals and software to reduce the amount of review spam on their platform.

The end result is if you want to stay 100% safe, ensure you stay within Amazon’s terms of service and avoid any algorithm manipulation

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 One final ‘thing’  to end this post..

Myth: Discounted books and Giveaways Still Work.

NO, they don’t.

This is an Amazon SEO myth we have to cover… discounted and book giveaways. They just don’t work anymore.

This was a very sharp change Amazon made almost 2 years ago now. The main tweak involved how Amazon weighted the ranking signal for discounted product sales.

Previously Amazon weighted discounted products (80%+) still relatively heavily. So, a small amount of discounted product giveaways resulted in large organic ranking movements.

The tweak Amazon added downgraded the weighting used. With this in place, running discounted giveaways just doesn’t make economic sense anymore.

Read more… https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1fn

reflection

A word of caution about FREE & some other stuff worth knowing about.

You may, or may not, have noticed I have not posted here for a while.

This is because there is so much happening in the book and publishing world; two areas I am involved in.

Here is one major ‘continental shift’ which is taking place right now.

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FREEBIE books have lost their appeal.

“The general public has become immune and dissatisfied with the mass of FREE and GIVEAWAY books.”

What was once a novel, loss-leading marketing tool, has become a haunt for freebie hunters who just want free and have NO interest in the author, or on many occasions the book itself.

In fact, Amazon’s own download figures show that ONLY 2% of ALL free books are read, with over 70% being deleted within 14 days of downloading. (or discarded in the case of paperbacks.)

The reason is, as free loses its appeal, authors and publishers now give away vouchers, gifts and run competitions to entice people to download their free books.

Simply, this means they are paying people to download in an attempt to manipulate the figures and gain a ‘ranking status’, in the hope it will influence genuine readers to purchase.

It will not.

Whilst this may have worked in the past, it no longer has any substantial legacy, particularly as Amazon has once again changed their A9 logarithms to combat this ‘false’ accounting of sale.

Now only verified ‘paid for’ purchases count towards rankings.

Which leaves only one possible benefit of giving a book away… that of building a mailing list for future direct marketing and sales.

BUT… this now only tends to create a false list of possible future people who may read another of those books, because once downloaded the ‘reader’ then cancels their subscription/listing (as is their legal right). Only dedicated Freebie hunters stay, waiting for the next free book you offer. Which is one of the reasons why only 2% of such downloads are actually read.

Most indie authors give their books away in the belief they will gain readers in the long term. Oh dear, they are going to be out of pocket for a long, long time and those authors who pay companies, the free book marketing businesses, are losing far more.

If it sounds too good to be true… it is.

paying someone to give away your book, (the book you may have spent a year or so producing, spending money on editing, formatting, cover design on so forth), in the vague hope ‘free’ will earn you an income, let alone cover your initial costs… without any guarantees…

Hmmph, doesn’t sound so good in the cold light of day, does it?

Read more about this here

 

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AMAZON

Genuine reviews ONLY.

Sales logarithms are not the only change AMAZON have recently made. They have changed, once again the way customer reviews work.

This time for the best, in my opinion.

No longer will payed for, swopped or gifted reviews count, and if things work well, they will not even be shown.

ONLY true, verified, genuine purchases by readers will count. NO form of solicited or professional reviews will be accepted.

If Amazon can and do strictly enforce this rule, then for the first time will all authors get, and all readers have a genuine, believable overview to the quality of the books they are looking to purchase.

I hope this works and the cheats and charlatans are cast out.

 

Goodreads

GOODREADS becomes the ‘GO TO’ platform.

Goodreads has been around for a long time and has slowly progressed to become a mecca for book lovers.

This trend continues and is now being enhanced on several fronts. Goodreads shall soon be THE place for readers and authors to talk and deal with all thing literary. There are many changes which will be implemented during the next few years.

If you do not have a presence on Goodreads, either as a book lover or as a writer… get on with it… go now and sign up before you are left behind… and remember… you heard it here first.

Please don’t think I am in love with Goodreads. I am not.

The site is overbearingly confusing, they [Goodreads] do nothing to assist authors with marketing… but will soon offer paid for services, so I am told, which I guess will be expensive as they boast a high number of readers, even if few of those will want to read your genre/book/narration/style etc. unless heavily incentivised… but I wander off track again!

Read more about current trends here