Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 22, 2012

Making Amazon Forums Work For You

By Lyn Horner

Howdy partners. It’s been a while since I last stopped in to visit here on WITS. Time flies when you’re having fun writing and promoting books, which brings me to today’s topic. As the title implies, Amazon forums offer authors an opportunity to promote their books, but only with caution and proper etiquette.

When I self-published my first book, Darlin’ Druid, in late 2010, I had no idea how to use Big A’s customer forums. In fact, I didn’t even know they existed, but I soon learned about them – the hard way.

I discovered the forums by accident, from chance comments by authors on other sites. My first thought was “Oh boy! Now I can tell readers about my new baby.” Certain all the historical romance fans would be eager to buy it, I dipped my toe in the Romance Forum pool, letting readers know about my book.

One of the “forum police,” a reader who shall go nameless, immediately snapped off a sharp reply, something about needing to “bump” an earlier warning to authors not to promote their books on the forum. That made me scratch my head. If I couldn’t tell romance readers about my book, how was I supposed to reach them?

Eventually, I found a few author friendly threads where I met readers, authors and ebook reviewers who kindly welcomed me into their midst. There, authors were able to talk about general writing topics and promote their projects. I connected with some wonderful folks on those threads, was invited for interviews on blog sites and even received terrific book reviews from a few readers.

However, my sales were slow, driving me to become reckless and post promo messages on two or three romance forum threads, where readers were looking for book suggestions. Big mistake!

One of the above mentioned self-styled forum cops proceeded to add four nasty tags on my book’s retail page. She didn’t call me out about my posts, just did her best – her worst, I should say – to drive customers away from my book.

When I discovered what she’d done, I was horrified. I screamed about it on the friendly threads, and a number of my new friends hit the disagree button for those tags. Believe me, I learned my lesson.

I never again posted on the Romance Forum.

A few months later, Amazon introduced the Meet Our Authors Forum, where authors are encouraged to exchange advice about writing and promoting their books. A lot of authors complained that we were being corralled in a sort of prison where we’d have no contact with readers. To some extent that’s true, but not entirely. Some readers do visit the MOA threads looking for new authors to try.

One thread I’m on nearly every day is titled Western Romance Authors Please Post Here. The thread is hosted by Maggie O’, an avid reader who is our guiding light. I host a thread called Books Unmolded: crossing genres, breaking cookie-cutters. Stop by and say hi if you have a moment.

There are many other threads on the MOA forum, some for specific genres, others purely for book promotion.

Here are a few you might want to check out:

Promote Your Fiction Titles
Authors Post Your Shameless Plugs here.
Welcome Readers To Our Writers Corner #10 (There were 9 previous threads by that name.)
Talk about your book!
Looking for ebooks $2.99 and under

My advice to authors:

Introduce yourself on a few MOA threads, ones that suit your genre.

Be friendly, offer advice if you can help fellow authors, visit their blogs and Facebook pages, and ask them to visit yours. If you’re lucky, as I have been, you may form lasting relationships that will lead you in unexpected, fruitful directions.

As for those reader forums, look at them, lurk in the background, learn what customers are looking for, but NEVER promote your books there.

Instead, look for friendly readers on the MOA Forum. Offer them a free copy of your newest book. If they like it, ask if they’re willing to post a review on the book’s retail page. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll drop a good word for you on the reader forums.

I hope I 've given you a good idea of how to navigate Amazon forums and make them work for you. Have you self published? How has your experience been? What areas of promotion have provided you with the best results for your books?


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About Lyn:

Don't miss Lyn's latest book, Dashing Druid. Her first book, Darlin' Druidis also available. Click here for a sample of Lyn's books.

To find out more about her books and indie publishing, visit Lyn Horner's site  or follow her on Twitter.

0 comments on “Making Amazon Forums Work For You”

  1. Oh Lynn, this is a treasure. With my first book out in May, I'm going to have to dip my toe in that pool, but I'm terrified! Your blog gave me a little confidence, Thank you.

    Do you know anywhere there's a listing of the Forums Available on Amazon?

  2. So I didn't even know about the Amazon author forums! Good grief - so many places to be and so little time. Thank you for making me aware and for the great advice!

  3. So glad to learn about these pit falls now. I tend to be too trusting and would have miss-stepped for sure. Thanks for sharing your mistakes to save the rest of us! Great Post!

  4. My pleasure, Sharla. It's my belief that authors should support other authors. I know you feel the same way. You've helped me many times in the past. Now it's my turn.

  5. Thank you for sharing this advice! I hate that you had to learn the "hard way", but what a teachable moment for us all. All the best!

  6. Ouch! I haven't found the Amazon forums useful at all and have heard of other similar and even more brutal experiences. I have found the Goodreads threads fun and useful and far more friendly. Although as more and more authors come in with more and more promotion even those can become like the wild west. Thanks for the post, Lyn. A word to the wise and all.

  7. Hi Lyn,
    Thanks for the great post. I have always found the amazon forums confusing so this is very helpful. I am curious about whether you think participation in the forums has boosted sales? Can you tell if there is an increase related to posting on the forums?

  8. Thank you, Ella, Kristyn, Casea, and Bren. I hope you avoid my mistakes and find your way around the forums without too much difficulty. The best, really the only way to find threads that fit your needs is to go exploring. Visit different threads, introduce yourself on ones that feel like a comfortable fit, and try to add to the conversations. Don't hop from one thread to another, spamming everyone with promo. Even on the MOA forum, such behavior is frowned upon.

    Bren, some days my sales rise for no apparent reason, other days they hardly budge. I know that several of my friends on the western authors thread have purchased my books. How many other readers and/or authors buy my stuff as a result of finding me on the forums, I don't know.

    I can tell you that all my books are enrolled in the KDP Select program, which allows me to offer each book for free 5 days out of every 90-day period that it's enrolled. What good does giving away books do? A lot! It boosts the book ranking on Amazon, meaning more readers see it when they do a category search, such as "historical romance" or "western romance". This in turn leads to more sales. The major drawback is that you can only sell your ebooks on Amazon while they are in the program. It's a trade-off you should consider carefully. For me it has worked wonders.

  9. those Amazon forums are nasty! Glad I had the guts in January when I first published to post on the MOA forums, and found great authors that became my online friends, including you, Lyn. Great advice for others!

  10. Like you, I found the Romance Forum to not be all that "loving" of authors. 🙂 I steer clear of them these days, but I'm so lucky to have found you and the others on the western thread. As for Goodreads...I'm finding that place to be a hotbed of jealous authors out to sabotage those who are doing well. Add in the unkind reviews based on the silliest of reasons, and I keep scratching my head and wondering why some of us continue to write. I guess the answer: We love it. 🙂

  11. Great post, Lyn! I dodged a bullet because I lurked long enough on the romance forum to see which way the wind blew. Very unfriendly crowd, to put it mildly. I'm so glad Maggie started the thread for us over on the MOA forum. Without it, I wouldn'g have met you and the other wonderful authors we blog with at Cowboy Kisses. 🙂

  12. Excellent advice Lyn, You're right about the Romance Forum. I did one post and never went back. Also hit a Christian site, It was anything but. You have listd some really good sites and information.

  13. Hi, Lyn! My experience was similar to yours only a couple years earlier. I'd been lurking on the forums but hadn't posted. One day, a reader wrote in wishing she could find faery stories that weren't steamy--she'd read enough and wanted a sweet story. She also wanted humor. Everything she wanted described my first book, Faery Special Romances, so I wrote in and said so. Duh! And you know what happened next. So I avoid those forums and hang out at MOA with Maggie and you guys. The Book Trailer forum is good, too, but I just can't keep up with it.

  14. Great advice, Lyn, thank you! I'm sorry to hear you had to learn "the hard way" but so appreciate your willingness to offer your experiences and expertise to help the rest of us!

  15. Howdy, Peggy, Ginger, Devon and Jacquie. Glad you cowgirls took time to stop by and share your thoughts about the forums. I know I'm not the only one who stepped in the Romance Forum mine field. As for Goodreads, I mostly skulk in the shadows there. It's just too busy and confusing. My brain goes on overload.

    Jacquie, congrats to you! Just to let everyone know, Jacquie Rogers won 1st place in the Colonial/Civil War/Western category of the Romance Through the Ages 2012 Contest. I took 3rd place in the same category. I'm told the winners will be listed in a full page ad in RWR.

    Jeff, I'm sorry to hear you didn't get a very neighborly reception on the Christian Forum either. That's pretty sad. Your memoir ought to appeal to that group -- if they's only give you a chance to tell them about it. That's the crux of our problem. We're blocked by Amazon rules from reaching out to the readers who might appreciate our work. However, those rules were put in place to protect readers from spammers. It's hard to argue with that.

    Susan, you're so welcome. I don't want to see anyone get hit by those painful barbs I endured.

  16. Glad I read this blog!! I've been lurking around the odd Amazon thread and it hasn't inspired me to participate. Lyn, thanks so much for such an open and informative post. Yep - we authors all need to support each other! Best regards, Mary

    1. Mary, you're so welcome! I enjoy sharing what I've learned, even the bad stuff. And I love getting input from other authors AND readers. They are our lifeblood.

  17. I got lucky, and involved in some non-author forums first, talking about books we liked. In fact I was on some of the forums for months before anyone knew I was a writer. It's a fun place to spend time, if you have any extra

  18. LOL! Extra time? What's that? Thanks for stopping by, Mona. You were obviously smarter than I was about the reader forums. There really are great people on them; we just need to be careful not to insert book promo into their discussions.

  19. Time is a precious commodity, that's for sure. After a couple of bad experiences on the forums (not from trying to promote my book either) I stick to the ones I get invited to visit. Maybe I'm missing meeting other great people, but time is short and I'd rather be writing... or reading... or answering one of Maggie's challenges on the western romance thread.

  20. Hi Alison. Glad to see you here. I'm with you about the writing and reading. I haven't answered Maggie's latest challenge. Want to, but I'm deep in research about Indian crafts today. Did you know the Plains tribes built saddles out of wood and hide? Interesting tidbit I'm going to include in Dearest Druid.

    For those who don't know, Maggie O' is the leader of our gang on the "Western Romance Authors Please Post Here" thread mentioned above. She's a reader and the best cheerleader any author could ever have. Every now and then she challenges us to write a paragraph or two using key words she gives us. It's a chance to show off our writing talents. It's also fun!

  21. I realize this is your blog and therefore your forum and sandbox to vent in. All the same, I have to tell you, as a reader and a user of various online forums, this post does not cast you in a positive light.

    Your mistake was a common one that we all make at least once: you jumped into a new playground without reading the rules, and accidentally broke a big one in the process. By your own admission, you did this a couple of times, and received the same harsh response each time. That should tell you something--not that the users of forums A & B are big meanie poopoo heads, but that members of forums frequently spammed by sellers are more likely to take overt advertising attempts badly. (You would too, if your conversations were always interrupted by someone pushing products.)

    Cattily calling users 'forum police' when you broke the rules gives two distinct impressions: first, that you had no respect for the rules and couldn't be bothered to get to know the communities you were trying to advertise to; second, that you had no respect for the communities (and readers) themselves, and were only looking at them as gatherings of potential marks.

    I'm certain that's not the impression you meant to give, and that part of it is a difference in POV. You're approaching it as an author trying to reach out to readers, who found that outstretched hand slapped away. I'm approaching it as a forum user grown weary of the flood of Viagra spammers, con-men, "You too can work from home!" marketers, etc., and by extension very tired of people trying to sell to me when I just want to talk books (or movies, or whatnot).

    Surely, as an author, you can appreciate different POVs?

    1. Mokienatrix, I was invited to share my experiences on the Amazon forums and that's what I did. My intention was to help other authors avoid making the same mistakes I made. I'm sorry if you took offense.

      Regarding the rules, I admit I didn't read them as I should have. I was new to forums of any kind and was stumbling around in the dark. However, I don't think my infraction excuses the person who pinned those destructive tags on my retail page. She could have posted a message on one of the threads I used at the time, advising me not to promote on the Romance forum. That would have been the polite thing to do.

      As for “Forum Police”, it's a common name for posters who love starting trouble on the forums. I heard of one author who gave up writing because she was hounded from one thread to another by such people, humiliating her to the point where she couldn't stand it anymore. I also have a friend who endured such harassment for months, and she's an award winning author. These things hurt!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I certainly agree we are each entitled to our own point of view.

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