It is SOP in 2017 for authors to buy space in a BookBub or other sales promotion email so they can boost their ebook sales, but given how Amazon is letting its bots run amok authors might want to reconsider.
There are numerous reports on KBoards from authors who have had an ebook “rank-stripped” within minutes of a BookBub promotion email arriving in readers inboxes.
Our VEIL KNIGHTS series promo got rank stripped on a 99c BB promo just a few weeks back.
Welp, I had a bookbub today for a 3 year old permafree wide book. I was at maybe #475 in the free store at the start of the day, before the email went out. I’m already rank stripped. Fingers crossed that my ranking is restored.
I have a Bookbub today. I was at #4 free. This is the only time really that I check ranking.
Well, the ranking is gone.
The problem is automation run amok.
Amazon’s bots can’t tell the difference between an author running a legitimate promotion and a scammer who is gaming the system. As a result, Amazon is punishing authors for the crime of promoting their books.
Edit: “Rank-stripping” is the term for when a book is removed from the best-seller lists. This hurts the author by reducing their visibility, and thus costing them sales.
Some books are only punished for a few hours, but not all, and to make matters worse, Amazon waits a week before telling authors they’ve been punished for using BookBub.
If your rank isn’t returned in a couple of hours and it’s really strip-stripped, the ‘naughty’ mail won’t come for another WEEK. Unless you’re proactive. Then they’ll send you boilerplate naughtiness in reply.
I contacted Amazon before starting this post, and have not received a response.
Some have tried to justify the punishments by saying that Amazon doesn’t want sales spikes, but that makes no sense given that Amazon has a competing email promo service run by Goodreads. (Curiously, there are no reports of a Goodreads-promoted title being de-ranked.)
While Amazon might not have intended to punish authors who use BookBub, that is the result of the system Amazon built. And frankly, it is an inevitable result given that Amazon is a firm believer that they should never hire a person if a bot can fill the role.
Obviously that concept just is not working, but there is little chance of Amazon responding to the fundamental problem and hiring more people to run the Kindle Store.
Edit: Amazon has responded:
Amazon monitors a variety of activities to detect efforts to manipulate sales rankings. While we don’t disclose the methods we use to detect this type of abuse, our focus is on suspicious activity, not any particular promotional program that publishers and authors may use. As always publishers and authors are responsible for any third-party marketing activities used to promote their books, and so are strongly encouraged to make sure these activities don’t manipulate our services. If a publisher or author believes there has been an error, they should contact us directly and we will investigate.
image by Micah Sittig