We Believe Amazon’s Changes to Author Central Pages Will Hurt Authors and Readers
Howard Brown and I were not happy as we explored what Amazon had just done to his Author Page.
The retail giant’s New Year’s gift to its thousands of authors was actually a loss: Authors like Howard who actively interact with readers in helpful ways suddenly found their photo galleries had been removed, their videos had vanished and they no longer could automatically flow newsy links to their latest online columns through their author pages.
“Where’s all my stuff?” Howard asked.
“Why take these resources from authors? Doesn’t Amazon want to sell books anymore?” our Editor David Crumm said as he joined us on a Zoom to explore the extreme house cleaning Amazon has done to authors’ personalized spaces.
As we looked over Howard’s Author Central dashboard, I said, “This doesn’t make sense! These changes are going to hurt not just authors, but also the entire global community of publishers and readers that Amazon wants to serve.”
It is possible that Amazon consulted some of the Big Five publishers in our industry about these changes, but Front Edge is a well-established mid-sized publishing house with all of our books listed across Amazon—as well as Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Walmart’s online store and a host of other retailers. Neither our authors nor our publishing house received any notice that this would happen—or any rationale for the changes after they were made.
We literally stumbled across these changes like authors everywhere.
We tried, then, to send some emails to the Amazon staff, but the brief replies we received provided no rationale and soon we were warned that our authors could either use these new pages—or leave them.
“Let’s not poke this Big Bear with any more questions,” Howard said. “I certainly don’t want to leave.”
Obviously, we do not want to anger Amazon in honestly reporting on what happened to our authors. In fact, the opposite is true: We want to partner with the Giant! Like Amazon, we’re sincerely dedicated to building healthy communities through good media. When we founded Front Edge Publishing in 2007, we published those principles for all the world to see.
So, let’s be clear:
We’re Friends in the Amazon Community—And Always Have Been
Our Front Edge Publishing team members have been strong advocates of Amazon’s carefully curated community of readers, reviewers and authors. We play by the rules. We are active, as well, in Amazon’s vast Goodreads community (stay tuned for an upcoming column about how to optimize your Goodreads experience).
As Front Edge’s Marketing Director, I have coached our authors in the best use of Amazon’s Author Central Pages. If you care to look back at the heyday of those pages:
- June 2018: Making the Most of Your Amazon Author Page
- July 2018: Our Best Examples of Amazon Author Pages
- May 2019: How Do I Add Video to My Amazon Author Page
- January 2023: Unfortunately, most of the above advice is out of date.
What Did Amazon Say about Author Central Pages?
According to Amazon, “The new multi-page experience features your most popular books, adds a Quick Look feature for viewing book details at-a-glance, and provides an improved layout for mobile devices. Your U.S. Author Page is automatically updated—no action required.”
And here’s what truly puzzles us:
Amazon also says that authors whose books are sold internationally will still have all of those multi-media features available. They will be visible, now, to international customers in these countries: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom.
That’s right: In those countries, readers can see the photos, videos and fresh columns from their favorite authors.
We have no idea.
Is There Good News? Yes, There’s Some
The biography section of Author Central has always been pretty easy to navigate and it still is. A new feature is that you can now upload your biography in multiple languages. For authors with large followings overseas—and we have some authors with a significant following around the world—this will be a helpful addition.
Another good change is that authors can now “toot your own horn,” or that of another author through the new “Book recommendations” section. As Amazon describes this:
Connect with your readers by adding book recommendations that help them learn more about you and guide them on the next best book to read. Select the book you’d like to recommend, either from books you’ve written or books by other authors. Once submitted, the book recommendations will be shown on your Amazon Author Page and Amazon website. Submit at least three new book recommendations, either your books or books by other authors, and we will consider sending your recommendations via email.
This is a feature that is borrowed straight from Amazon owned Goodreads. Promoting your own book, or another author’s is a feature that is available on Goodreads and one that I’ve suggested as helpful, as recently as this December 5 column. If Amazon does email an author’s recommendations—that has huge potential for outreach. At this time we’ve not yet seen one of those emails and we do not know how many potential customers they will be reaching—but we will be watching for our authors’ experiences with this new feature (so stay tuned for future columns).
We also like a section called “Recommended Books I Have Written.” As a first time author, Howard has only published one book, so far—although he is working on a second. So, in this space, he chose to feature his book, Shining Brightly for the answer to a prompt in Amazon’s dashboard to name: “My most talked about book is.” If you are an author exploring that dashboard, you should be prepared to see several prompts. You could answer several prompts with several books you have written.
Next, Howard was able to recommend the work of other authors. This is a great opportunity to share with potential readers the work of your writing peers. The three questions he saw in his dashboard were:
- If you like my work, I think you’ll like…
- A book I couldn’t put down was…
- A book that left an impression on me was…
As Howard responded to those prompts, the books he selected popped onto his page. Click on the image at the top of this column to see for yourself.
“But this is disappointing,” he said as the recommended books became visible. “I can’t explain why I chose those books.”
“Can’t you add a mini-review to explain your choices?” David asked.
No. This new book-recommendation interface seems to be limited to click-and-post with no chance to add a personalized message—which seems to run counter to Amazon’s constant appeal to its customers to express themselves through reviews.
We’re Puzzled. We’d Like to Hear More From You
While overall I am not in favor of these changes to the Amazon Author Central pages, I do want to re-emphasize my constant appeal: Every author should claim their Amazon Author Page and fill out the prompts in the new dashboard.
As I have always urged: Upload a friendly photo, write an informative biography for yourself and use the book recommendations to show the world more of your personality and concern for the world.
An experience with these new pages to share?
Please, we’d like to hear from you.