Author Ethics Research Notes: Appendix III

Appendix III: Reader Awareness Survey, Amazon

 

Survey Date: May 18, 2011

Survey Sample Size: 47 respondents out of a target 100. 

Survey Method: Surveymonkey.com

Samples Obtained:  Survey was attempted at the Amazon.com customer forums, but abandoned due to intense hostility from the community.  Results are presented incomplete for discussion purposes only.  Some percentages reflect fractional results because respondents could select multiple answers or skipped a question.

Author Notes:  This survey was designed to compare author opinions regarding certain concepts to actual consumers.  Because of the scope of questionable activity that occurs on Amazon.com, the survey was an attempt to see how aware consumers were of behavior and what actual motivated book purchases.

Disclaimer: This survey does not reflect the scientific method of conducting a survey.  The survey is an informal attempt to gain insight into author behavior in regards to publishing ethics.  It is meant as a means of stimulating conversation and encouraging additional formal research.

Question 1: How often do you look at the name of the Publisher in an Amazon listing?

  • All the time. I only buy books from major publishing houses.  8.5%
  • All the time. In my favorite genre, the publisher brand is as important as the author brand.  2.1%
  • All the time. If I see Createspace as the publisher, I won’t buy the book!  2.1%
  • All the time. I prefer to look specifically for independent books/self-published books.  2.1%
  • Sometimes. I have a few publishers who consistent produce books I like.  12.8%
  • Sometimes. If I really enjoy a book, I might want to check out other titles from the publisher.  10.6%
  • Rarely. I shop genres and authors, not publishers. I’m aware of the big publishing houses, but I rarely even notice the name of the publisher when shopping for books.  42.6%
  • Never: I doubt I could name the publisher of any of the recent books I bought!  19.1% 

 

2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Not important” and 5 being “very important,” please rate how important each of the following is in your book buying decisions on Amazon.

  • Book cover 11.1% (1) 13.3% (2) 37.8% (3) 24.4% (4) 13.3% (5)
  • Book blurb 2.2% (1) 8.7% (2) 13.0% (3) 41.3% (4) 34.8% (5)  
  • Price 2.2% (1) 2.2% (2) 31.1% (3) 31.1% (4) 33.3% (5)
  • Preview/Sample 8.7% (1) 10.9% (2) 15.2% (3) 32.6% (4) 32.6% (5)
  • Author name recognition 6.5% (1) 10.9% (2) 43.5% (3) 17.4% (4) 21.7% (5)
  • Publisher name recognition 45.7% (1) 37.0% (2) 4.3% (3) 8.7% (4) 4.3% (5)
  • Star rating 9.3% (1) 11.6% (2) 48.8% (3) 25.6% (4) 4.7% (5)
  • Quantity of reviews on the listing (i.e. number of review, regardless of content) 10.9% (1) 30.4% (2) 43.5% (3) 15.2% (4) 0.0% (5)
  • Quality of reviews (i.e. detailed reviews that note good/bad aspects of book) 4.3% (1) 6.5% (2) 30.4% (3) 41.3% (4) 17.4% (5)
  • Sales rank 52.2% (1) 32.6% (2) 6.5% (3) 6.5% (4) 2.2% (5)
  • Referral from a friend or peer 4.3% (1) 8.7% (2) 8.7% (3) 32.6% (4) 45.7% (5)
  • Third-party reviews (reviews from sites other than Amazon that link to the Amazon page) 17.4% (1) 26.1% (2) 17.4% (3) 37.0% (4) 2.2% (5)
  • Accessibility (the book is available in a format you want) 4.3% (1) 2.2% (2) 4.3% (3) 30.4% (4) 58.7% (5)

 

Question 3:  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “not a factor” and 5 meaning “a major factor,” please identify what methods you use to find books on Amazon.

 

  • I find new books in the bookstore or library, and come to Amazon to get the best price. 34.8% (1) 26.1% (2) 17.4% (3) 13.0% (4) 8.7% (5)
  • I find new books in print publications, and come to Amazon to get the best price. 39.1% (1) 23.9% (2) 17.4% (3) 10.9% (4) 8.7% (5)
  • I discover new books on social sites like librarything or Goodreads, and come to Amazon to buy them. 26.1% (1) 13.0% (2) 13.0% (3) 34.8% (4) 13.0% (5)
  • I discover new books by following book blogs or book sites that I trust, and then come to Amazon to buy them. 15.6% (1) 11.1% (2) 20.0% (3) 28.9% (4) 24.4% (5)
  • I scroll through the Amazon bestsellers lists until I find a book I think I will like. 21.7% (1) 23.9% (2) 30.4% (3) 8.7% (4) 15.2% (5)
  • I type a keyword into the search bar, and then scroll through the listings until I find a book I think I will like. 21.7% (1) 13.0% (2) 32.6% (3) 19.6% (4) 13.0% (5)
  • I use the Amazon forums to find out information about books that I might like. 17.4% (1) 6.5% (2) 15.2% (3) 32.6% (4) 28.3% (5)
  • I check out Listmania lists of genres/topics I like and use them to find new books. 34.8% (1) 15.2% (2) 34.8% (3) 13.0% (4) 2.2% (5)
  • I search using product tags, and then look for books I might enjoy. 28.9% (1) 31.1% (2) 15.6% (3) 20.0% (4) 4.4% (5)
  • I use Amazon recommendations based on my previous purchases to help find new books. 15.2% (1) 19.6% (2) 34.8% (3) 23.9% (4) 6.5% (5)

 

Question 4: Following is a list of behaviors that authors use to promote their books on Amazon. Using the drop down menus, please note whether or not you consider the behavior acceptable or not acceptable.

 

  • Write informative book reviews of other books (whether positive or negative) 73.3% (Acceptable) 8.9% (Not Acceptable) 17.8% No Opinion)
  • Write book reviews of other books in order to promote his/her own book (“if you like this book, buy mine!”) 11.1% (Acceptable) 77.8% (Not Acceptable) 11.1% (No Opinion)
  • Swap positive reviews with another author 15.9% (Acceptable) 72.7% (Not Acceptable) 11.4% (No Opinion)
  • Write a review of his/her own book 2.3% (Acceptable) 88.4% (Not Acceptable) 9.3% (No Opinion)
  • Creating a secondary account in order to post reviews of his/her own book anonymously 0.0% (Acceptable) 100.0% (Not Acceptable) 0.0% (No Opinion)
  • Tag his/her own book with relevant tags 79.5% (Acceptable) 6.8% (Not Acceptable) 13.6% (No Opinion)
  • Tag his/her book with popular tags not related to the book 2.3% (Acceptable) 93.2% (Not Acceptable) 4.5% (No Opinion)
  • Create a Listmania list with his/her book and similar books in the genre 72.7% (Acceptable) 6.8% (Not Acceptable) 20.5% (No Opinion)
  • Create a Listmania list with his/her book and popular books completely unrelated 9.1% (Acceptable) 72.7% (Not Acceptable) 18.2% (No Opinion)
  • Plugging his/her own book in a thread where the poster specifically asked for recommendations for related books (i.e. a horror writer commending his book in a horror thread) 70.5% (Acceptable) 25.0% (Not Acceptable) 4.5% (No Opinion)
  • Plugging his/her own book in a thread when the poster specifically asked that authors NOT recommend their own books 2.3% (Acceptable) 97.7% (Not Acceptable) 0.0% (No Opinion)
  • Plugging his/her own book in a thread where the poster specifically asked for recommendation of unrelated books. (i.e. a paranormal romance writer plugging a book in a thread where the poster said they do not want paranormal romances) 0.0% (Acceptable) 95.5% (Not Acceptable) 4.5% (No Opinion)
  • Thread bumping without a reason (i.e. “bump” or similar non-statements) 4.7% (Acceptable) 62.8% (Not Acceptable) 32.6% (No Opinion)
  • Commenting on a review that a customer left for his/her book (whether positive or negative) 25.0% (Acceptable) 47.7% (Not Acceptable) 27.3% (No Opinion)
  • Commenting negatively on a review that a customer left for his/her book 2.3% (Acceptable) 95.5% (Not Acceptable) 2.3% (No Opinion)
  • Gifting books to friends/family through Amazon and/or purchasing their own book in volume to increase sales rank 13.6% (Acceptable) 50.0% (Not Acceptable) 36.4% (No Opinion)
  • Entering into purchase swaps with other authors who agree to buy each others books in order to increase sales rank 9.1% (Acceptable) 54.5% (Not Acceptable) 36.4% (No Opinion)

 

Question 5: In the last 90 days, have you PERSONALLY witnessed an author behaving badly on Amazon? Examples would be spamming the forum, attacking reviews, sock puppetry, having a temper tantrum in a thread, etc. If you aren’t sure, select No.

 

  • Yes, I have seen this happen several times recently.  53.5%
  • Yes, I have seen this happen at least once.  23.3%  
  • No, I have not seen this happen in the last 90 days.  23.3% 

 

Question 6 was an essay question that asks respondents to offer an example of the behavior they witnessed.  We are not posting responses in their entirety due to space constraints and to avoid revealing identities of authors or respondents.  Below is a summary of some of the examples.

  • An author who goes into every thread that requests book recommendations and plugs her book, even when it is a completely different genre than requested.  Several comments along this line.

 

  • An author complaining about bad reviews and then employing sock puppets to agree with himself.  Several comments alone this line.

 

  • In a thread in which someone made a negative comment about a book, the author and her friends hijacked the thread and attacked the poster.

 

  • An author going to Facebook and Twitter to encourage her followers to attack a review and hijack a thread in which her book is discussed negatively.

 

  • Several open offers to swap positive reviews or swap sales.

 

  • Several comments regarding Christian fiction authors suggesting their books in threads that specifically say they are not looking for Christian fiction

 

  • Several comments regarding resurrecting threads that are over a year old in order to promote a book

Leave a Reply