I write eBooks and publish them through Draft2Digital, and a little bit on Smashwords. Draft2Digital has recently started distributing to Amazon, the market leader in eBook sales, and I distribute to Amazon through them.
This is a relatively new situation, however. I used to distribute to Amazon through a book aggregator called Pronoun. I was with Pronoun right up until the end, when they closed down their book distribution business a couple of weeks ago.
When Pronoun shut their doors, my books were unceremoniously yanked from Amazon, destroying my page ranks and wiping out the reviews and star ratings I had gotten. There wasn’t really much I could do about that, and at least the books were soon live on Amazon again with Draft2Digital.
I thought it was a problem that was pretty much solved, but then I noticed something a few days after the great yanking. I saw that my links from Goodreads to Amazon were broken. This was bad because one of the important ways that people find my books is via their listings on Goodreads.
Goodreads describes itself as a social cataloging website, and it was launched way back in January 2007. The website allows individuals to freely search Goodreads’ database of books, annotations, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions.
The website facilitates reader interactions with authors through the interviews, giveaways, authors’ blogs, and profile information. Thousand of authors, including James Patterson and Margaret Atwood use Goodreads to advertise. The Goodreads community of book readers rate and review books, and each book listed on the site has a link to Amazon, and various other sites, so people can buy the book.
It was just this crucial “buy the book” link that was broken. Amazon was not redirecting incoming links from Goodreads away from the old edition and toward the new edition. Instead, what they were doing was throwing up a 404 not found page, along with a random advert for whatever product they were trying to flog.
The 404 page I first saw had some weird picture of a dog, then next time I tried I saw an advert for Finding Dorry. This was a problem I had to fix, but how? My guess was that the easiest way to fix the problem would be from the Goodreads end, rather than making Amazon forward links. In my experience Amazon don’t even forward broken links that you created using their tools. They don’t fix them even if they get broken because of something Amazon themselves do, so thinking they’ll fix a problem caused externally, by Pronoun closing down seemed optimistic in the extreme.
I have had so many product links, created with Amazon’s own tool, which they say they will look after serving and updating, go from a beautiful ad to something ugly like an orange square. In my mind I think of it as the orange square of Amazon advert death. A little like the famous blue screen of death.
Anyway, like I said, I was pretty sure that Amazon was not the way to go to fix this. Instead, based on gut feeling alone, I started to fiddle around with the interface at Goodreads, to see if there was a possible solution to the broken Amazon links there.
I figured there would be some simple way to prompt the Goodreads site to recognize the new edition, and ignore the old one. The first problem I encountered with this plan was that the new edition wasn’t even on Goodreads yet. This surprised me because when I published through Pronoun it appeared automatically, really quite quickly. There was a way round this though, because I found that it is possible for authors to add the data for a new edition of a book themselves (although it is not possible to delete an old edition).
I added the new editions of my books, and waited. I was pretty confident that whatever magic was powering the Goodreads site would spot that one of the editions was live and available for sale, while the other was just a dead 404 page. I figured the most modern edition would soon become the one shown to visitors to Goodreads by default. But this didn’t happen.
The system did not recognize that it should change the default edition, even though I waited a couple of days. It looked like I would have to do this myself, too. So I went digging deeper into the interface. I found an option to combine all the various editions of my book, the Smashwords edition, the Draft2Digital edition, and the now defunct Pronoun edition, into one.
I was quite proud of all the work I had done and, quite irrationally, I still thought that since I had told the system that all these different editions are the same book, it would naturally change the link from the dead one to the live version. I don’t know why I was still thinking this would happen automatically, but I was wrong, again, no.
It turns out that this last step would also have to be done by me, manually. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. I clicked around the Goodreads interface trying stuff out, but I just couldn’t get the system to prefer the edition with the live Amazon links. At last, I swallowed my pride and asked for help on the forums.
I am indebted to rivka from the Goodreads librarian forums for finally explaining to me what I had to do. The final step was to edit the details of the most recently added edition of my book, the Draft2Digital one. There is a button on the right of the edit details page that allows you to set the edition you are editing to be the preferred edition. JUst one click of that box, and boom, done.
Finally, within seconds, my links were working again. I’m hoping that having the Goodreads links live again will help send readers to Amazon from Goodreads. I know active links are not enough on their own and that I will have to engage with the community at the Goodreads site too. I’ll try and make more time for this in my busy schedule. But step one is complete, my books are listed in the Goodreads database and the links to Amazon are live. I think that’s a solid base to build more engagement from Goodreads in the future.
Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.
This is a universal book link (UBL) and you will be greeted with a page displaying all the places the book is available online. Just select the storefront you prefer and, if you want, also make this your default bookseller. From then on, every time you click a UBL you will be taken directly to the book you are interested in, on the storefront you prefer. The UBL even allows you to go to the Amazon store that matches your region.