I’ve seen a lot of comment about Amazon’s offer of 4 weeks free Nielsen data to writers through their Author Central product. Some of it is fair and some of it is unfair.
I think it’s fair to say that authors will like this, that publishers should really have been making access to sales data more freely available to authors anyway and that in general access to the data will be both useful and enlightening to some authors.
I think it’s unfair to say that not allowing access to Nielsen data showed how foolish/badly-run/outdated the industry was. Most of the time I’d wager the publishers’ agreements with Nielsen had strict rules about dispersing such data and who could access the information where.
From the author perspective Dave Cullen put’s the case for having some kind of sales data access well in his post on the topic, but you can guess from what I’ve said about that I disagree with about as much as I agree with in his post overall.
I’m interested to see that the debate has centred on sales and how this makes authors more conscious of sales as in the LA Times Jacket Copy blog:
In recent years, individual authors have increasingly been asked to take part in the marketing and promotion of their own books. Publishers have faced budget cutbacks, and the Internet has provided authors with more ways of reaching readers — and potential book buyers. Amazon sees the Nielsen BookScan data as a tool to that end. “The geographic view of print sales will help authors identify trends to help their promotion efforts and enables authors to develop more effective methods for reaching the widest possible audience,” Amazon’s Kinley Campbell wrote in an e-mail.
Just in time for Christmas, Amazon may be turning authors into an army of booksellers.
But I’m also certain that this misses the mark. Think about what this move has cost Amazon. First off, money. And I’d wager quite a chunk of money, it’s no mean service they have rolled out to authors. Secondly it will have pissed off publishers somewhat. Now you might say Amazon don’t care about that, but I say they do up to a point, and that point is where the amount of trouble caused by pissing off publishers is outweighed by the amount of good this does Amazon.
So what good DOES this do for Amazon? Well it creates a compelling reason for an author to open an Amazon Author Central account. It enables Amazon to gain rich metadata about those authors to help them increase sales. It probably enables Amazon to cross promote other author services like CreateSpace and Kindle’s DTP. In that sense, the data will be Amazon’s lure to authors who will be reluctant to forgo the stats once the have them (and boy do I know the power of stats) and so may be inclined to pool their service deals with one provider. This will be especially important if (as seems to be the case) digital sales increase and more and more authors move independent.
It also gives Author Central a USP over say Facebook, Twitter, Filedby or some other platform that an author might wish to spend time building a network from. In that sense it is a play to aggregate author information and enable Amazon to stay ahead of the game.
This is not Amazon being generous or simply throwing its money around wastefully, this is clearly a well thought through long-term strategy to create a great reason for authors to have a good Author Central profile. Who knows, perhaps soon only authors with proper pics and biogs will have access to the data.
It’s less about making the writers booksellers and more about making them data-entry clerks and using the aggregated data to sell books and selling the authors other services too.
Or maybe I’m just being a cynic.