Monday, February 08, 2016

Attack of the Bibliography!

I noticed an Amazon trend a few months ago. Some third party indie publishers were creating Kindle bibliographies for bestselling authors who had a lot of titles.

I thought it was interesting, but probably not necessary. Amazon makes it pretty simple for readers to find books. Why should readers have to buy an ebook to get a list of ebooks to buy?

But more and more of these bibliographies began to pop up.  I took a closer look at the trend, and realized why.

Amazon customers were searching for series titles in order. So to find them, they would type in something like "JD Robb series in order" or "Nora Roberts series" or "JD Robb books chronological".

If you search for any of those, you get four different bibliographies by different publishers offering their $0.99 checklist of JD Robb/Nora Roberts titles.

So I had myself a think.

I have two pen names--Jack Kilborn and Melinda DuChamp.

I operate under the assumption that most of my ebooks are bought and read by readers who haven't heard of me (or my pen names) previously. They're browsing, find a title, and buy it. If they like it, the hope is that they'll seek out other titles.

One way I do this is to have a bibliography in the back of my ebooks. But this is problematic; links are tied to a specific region, like the US or UK or Canada, so I haven't been using links, just a static list. This makes it harder for readers to instantly buy one of my other titles (every step introduced between the desire for a purchase and the actual purchase loses some potential customers). It's also problematic when, like me, you have 60 ebook titles with more coming out every year, which requires updating the bibliography in every single title.

Maybe readers who try me and like me will Google me and find my website. But that takes an extra step. More likely, they'll search for me on Amazon, perhaps with the term "JA Konrath series in order", and maybe they'll start the series from the beginning. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe they'll miss a title. Or maybe they'll give up in frustration because it isn't immediately apparent to them which books of mine tie in together, and the order they should be read in.

So I published this, for free on Amazon.

The long and search-intensive title is:

"J.A. Konrath Books in Order: Jack Daniels Series in Reading Order, Jack Kilborn, Codename: Chandler, Melinda DuChamp, Complete Pen Name Chronological Bibliography".

The link is:

I also made free downloads available in my website, as Kindle and pdf files.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

The Reading Order ebook has links in it, to make it very easy for readers to immediately download any of my titles, in order.

Q: But Joe, earlier you said that was a problem, because links are tied to a specific Amazon store. What if an reader downloaded the book? Does your ebook have links for Canada too?

Joe sez: Sort of. I took a shortcut. There's a very cool, and free, service called You put in an Amazon link, and you can create your own URL.

For example, for my upcoming 9th Jack Daniels novel, RUM RUNNER (being released March 25), I created this universal URL:

That link is clicker specific. If you are from Canada and shop at, it will take you to the RUM RUNNER Amazon page in Canada. If you are in England, it'll take you to And so on.

Pretty cool, huh? So rather than have a gazillion links for each ebook title, I only have a single, Booklinker link.

BTW--if you haven't pre-ordered RUM RUNNER yet, please do.

Q: Okay, so you've got a bibliography, and it has links for all of your ebooks at all Amazon stores worldwide. But how did you make it free? Does Amazon allow free ebooks?

Joe sez: No, Amazon doesn't allow freebies. But it does price-match with other retailers who do offer freebies.

So I used the fine services of Draft 2 Digital. In about ten minutes, I set up an account and uploaded the READING ORDER ebook as a free ebook, and D2D distributed it to Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Nook, and Inktera, and they all went live within 24 hours. It was fast, simple, and free to do, and the D2D folks were accommodating and responsive.

I also created a Google Books account and uploaded it there, also for free.

Then I went to me Amazon page for the READING ORDER ebook and clicked on tell us about a lower price at the bottom of the Product Details section.

I started this on February 2. Once a day I'd tattle on myself, clicking on that link and reporting the free links from Apple, Nook, etc. Six days later, Amazon price-matched my book, so it is now free. and aren't free, because first I wanted to see how the US experiment went. But now I'm doing the same thing with those stores, and I expect they'll be free soon.

All in all, not too much work. A few hours at most to compile the book. I paid to do the formatting, and Extended Imagery to do the cover, so there was a cost involved.

Q: Was this effort worth the time and cost?

Joe sez: I have no idea. I saw a trend. It made sense to follow it, because I understand why it's happening. Aggregation is a form of information, and it has value. So much value that some readers are willing to pay for compiled information that they could otherwise get for free.

Amazon is very good at collecting data, and very good at recommending books to readers. But there are many ways to skin a cat. The fact that these "reading checklist" books seem to be so popular shows that some readers want aggregation in ebook form. I've even seen some ask for pdf form, to print out. Why miss an opportunity to connect with fans and potential fans if this is how they prefer to find you?

Media industries are filled with cautionary tales about companies not listening to customers. One that springs to mind is Napster. Rather than study and learn from consumers who were trading digital files, they tried to shut it down with lawyers and cries of copyright infringement. As a result, Apple--a computer company--is now the biggest music retailer in the world. If the record companies had listened to what consumers wanted (easy to download digital files) they could have made billions.

If some readers want a handy ebook checklist to make sure they get all of my work, it makes sense to give it to them.

My approach seems like the best way for me to give it a go. It works for all Amazon stores, it will allow new fans (and longtime fans) to easily find and read all of my ebooks in order, and it should be easy to maintain and update as I release new titles.

But if anyone has any suggestions or better ideas, I'm all ears.

Visibility and discoverabilty seem to be the biggest hurdles for authors to overcome. Remember, sales isn't about selling something to someone who doesn't want it. It's about informing people who are looking to buy the type of things you're selling.

You want readers to be able to find you in as many ways as possible. And once they find you, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to read you. Every extra step they have to take--even if it's just one extra click--will lose you some customers.

If someone likes your kind of books, you should be very easy to find and acquire. If you have more than twenty titles, that might mean you should consider a reading order checklist.



Veronica said...

I love how you noticed this, acted on it so quickly and then had the kindness to tell the rest of us about it. Thanks Joe.

I've been focused on creating "funnels" (the marketing book I read called them that) for people to move through my non-fiction work in ways that make some sense.

Sounds like you created the fiction version with this publication.

Veronica said...

Oh, AND that you tied it into the tip about booklinker AND announced your pre-order opportunity all in one post.....

Nicely done!

Andrea said...

I have 27 titles now, and because I want to make sure readers don't have to work to find my stuff, I've been putting links in the backs of all of my books to all of my other books... yeah, not fun.

I was thinking about linking only to the first book in each series, then including a note that the entire series is complete... but I'm still not happy with that. I think I'll give your method a try. Thanks for the tip!

Mike Hall said...

I find it surprising that anyone would pay for this information when authors are anxious to give it away. As a reader, when I get interested in an author, I get this kind of information from a website:

I have no idea who owns it, where their data comes from, how they decide which authors are included or how it's paid for (affiliate fees from Amazon?) but in almost all cases where I've tried it the information I want (book titles, reading order, etc.) is there complete with links to seven Amazon country websites. You select your preferred country and this is remembered (no doubt there's a cookie involved).

Have a look under J A Konrath. "Rum Runner" is there as a new book, apparantly coming out on 25 March. It also lists two aka's for you, though not Melinda, who is in the "adults only" section but doesn't get linked to you.

I do use google but mostly to find an author's own website. The good ones give this kind of information and there is often a freebie for subscribing to a newsletter which makes it worth a visit.

I've also noticed that some authors include this information in their Amazon author's page which seems a good idea. All told, kindle bibliographies seem kind of redundant.

J.M. Ney-Grimm said...

I trust the Kobo version has Kobo links in it. Kobo has global links built into their system.

But what about all the other retailers? Don't they also have websites geared to different territories of the planet? How did you get all the links correct for the non-Amazon stores?

I'd love to know!

Kris Bock said...

A bestselling author I know said she gets more sales when she links to her main Amazon profile or main website page, not to an individual book. I guess people might click through because they are interested in one book, but then see others of interest. Only linking to your main profile also makes updating the material at the back of books much easier! But for someone like you, with so many titles that people might want to read in order, what you're doing sounds like a reasonable experiment.

JA Konrath said...

Fantasticfiction is a great site, Mike. They've been doing that for over a decade.

But how many of your average Amazon readers know to go there? And can they access it on their Kindle?

I'm one of those jerks who pays for a speed pass at amusement parks, so I can cut into line ahead of everyone. I'm paying more for convenience. This seems like the same thing. Readers can find this info, for free, if they hunt around. But some publishers are selling it to them.

Obviously I'm giving it away for free, not selling, and hoping that'll lead to sales.

JA Konrath said...

I trust the Kobo version has Kobo links in it

Nope. I have no titles on Kobo. It has Amazon links. If Kobo removes it, that's fine--I pubbed on Kobo for free so Amazon would price-match.

It's a work-around.

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant! I hate searching for author books in order. Now I can start reading your books one after the next! Thanks so much!

Mike Hall said...

Joe, you make very good points.

I must admit that when I commented I was thinking about book purchase which I always do on a tablet or PC (where I have things like fantasticfiction and author's websites bookmarked), plus there is a good chance that the next book is already on my "waiting for publication" wishlist. I suspect that I may be a bit more organised than the casual reader you are hoping to attract?

Once I've bought the books though and they are sitting on my kindle I agree that there can be a problem if the title does not include the number in the series information. It's at this point that I'd find your bibliography useful, though so far I've just typed up a list in Word - limited to the books I actually own for the author - and emailed it to my kindles. A bit of effort on my part but it does mean I only list the books I've got and never list those I don't want to own.

David Lang said...

This is a very good thing to do. I have series that I have not started reading yet because I know I only have part of them, but haven't taken the time to go hunting down the full list and reading order (and I hate it when authors say that there isn't a proper reading order for the series)

Once something like this is a bit more common, can we push Amazon (or someone else) to automate the purchase of some of the large series? I have some series that I would like to get in e-book (some that I read through the libraries 20+ years ago), but at the inflated prices of these books, I can't afford to plop down the money for 30+ titles in one series at one go. But if I could buy them at a rate of one/month (or week, etc), that would space things out nicely.

Ruprecht said...

Why not create/update your Wikipedia page. A list of series books is common on Wikipedia. Then you could put a mention in your author bio or something to direct the curious.

Or, doesn't Amazon have an authors page? Couldn't you have books listed by series order there?

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Congrats on the new release! I ordered mine the first day it was on pre-order. Can't wait to read it!

Lowrychris said...

Big fan of this idea because as a reader, I do go hunting for the order of books once I discover a new author, and this makes things simple and one click easy. I wonder if you considered adding a short blurb under each link? This seems designed for a reader that knows you, but I don't know if the juice would be worth the squeeze to find new readers through a freemium like this.
It took me less than five minutes to download and read through the book, until I got to the sample in the back (another great one!) so I wonder if you'd report out on this little experiment at the end of the quarter. How many downloads of this title alone and what lift, if any, you see in sales between now and Mar 25 launch?

JA Konrath said...

I've just typed up a list in Word - limited to the books I actually own

Yeah, Mike, I think you put in more effort than the average reader. Or at least more effort than I put in.

One thing about my clickable list is Amazon won't let you rebuy books you already own. Plus, since you can highlight in a Kindle, you can cross out ebooks you don't want to buy.

Eric Z said...

Great post Joe!
I just wanted to mention that GeniusLink is even better than booklinker BECAUSE it links your amazon associates links to the right store :-)
Some might be against aff.links, but why not?

Sadie Swift said...

Joe, the Google Play Partner site says 'We are not accepting new sign-ups at this time. We are sorry for the inconvenience. We’ll be back soon.' It's been like this for several months now. Could I ask how you were able to create an account with them?


I've never heard of Fantasticfiction but I was happy to see that they have all of my books. I'm also going to take your advice Joe and set up the link. I'll have to have my wife Amy help me with it. She's the computer wiz. Joe it's to bad you're not going to be visiting Albany NY any time soon. We could get a beer with Tom Schreck and Vincent Zandri.

Iola said...

I like this. I've seen those "books" on Amazon, and it galls me that people will put them up - and irritates me that people will pay for them rather than doing a quick internet search to work it out for themselves.

Doing it yourself is clever. Much better. Take the money off the table for the book spammers, and provide a service for your readers.

Stefan M. said...

Joe, just to tell you: At least for me (living in Hungary) the link doesn't work well. It took me to, whereas officially I'm only allowed to buy ebooks from Amazon on

JA Konrath said...

Joe, just to tell you: At least for me (living in Hungary) the link doesn't work well. It took me to, whereas officially I'm only allowed to buy ebooks from Amazon on

Hi Stefan. I'm guessing you have a US region locked Kindle. Did you try using the link on your Kindle? I'm curious if it'll go to the right store.

Domino Finn said...

Eh, this is what web pages are for. Back of book link to website that lists your books. To me, this bibliography book is an unnecessary step. And if you're so keen on smart-linking directly to amazon, why not put those smart-links in the back of your books?

Not to mention, whenever you update your bibliography book, anybody with previous versions won't get the updates (even if they delete and repurchase the book). You need to send Amazon an email and have them force push an update out (only done if they deem the update important enough). (Although if you do this, it might be an interesting way to "notify" Kindle readers, if they notice the update).

Also, you don't need to click those links to get Amazon to price-match. Just email support with the links to the free book on other vendors. Turn around is usually between 24 hours to a week.

Stephanie Faris said...

I've been reading all of Harlan Coben's books and I get SO frustrated trying to find things in order. I know some of his books are part of one series and the rest are standalone--yet it's hard to figure out which is which. Thankfully he's separated it out on his website (or whoever set up his website did it!).

Stefan M. said...

Hi Stefan. I'm guessing you have a US region locked Kindle. Did you try using the link on your Kindle? I'm curious if it'll go to the right store.

I used the link through the browser on my laptop. I've just tried the browser on my Paperwhite (which I never use) and was also sent to And just for fun I hid my ass on my laptop and made it seem like I was in Romania. Now the link sends me to the Italian store - which I guess would not be the right place for Romanians either. As far as I know, if you reside in a country that doesn't have its own Amazon store, with only few exceptions you're supposed to buy ebooks (and other digital content) from the US store.

Stefan M. said...

And one more, as I figured out that that's rather what you wanted to know: I downloaded "J.A. Konrath Books in Order" (from Links in there also send me to

Vince F. said...

Joe, looking at the reading order book you created, I see a book called WEBCAM yet cannot find it on Amazon. Nothing indicated this is an upcoming novel so can you fill us in on what this is? is an awesome site and one I use constantly when keeping up with authors I already read and looking into new authors I haven't. As well, it's been my go to source for reading order for years. If anyone hasn't checked out the site yet, you owe it to yourself to do so.

JA Konrath said...

WEBCAM is the new Jack Kilborn novel, featuring Tom Mankowski (THE LIST, HAUNTED HOUSE).

Tom is in RUM RUNNER and Jack is in WEBCAM and they both take place during the same 72 hour period. So they're two thriller novels happenign at the same time, and the characters cross over into each other's stories.

WEBCAM will be released on March 28. I'll have a pre-order page for it soon.

Louis Shalako said...

I've been putting a link at the end of a book to an author page on Kindle, unfortunately, as you point out, that only leads to one market, i.e. U.S.

William J. Thomas said...

Glad to see the Doctor Hans Uberass books are at least referenced! They are hilarious. You should bundle them and put a new bonus short in with it... Glad to see more Timecaster books coming too.

JA Konrath said...

William, other than my drunk friends, you may be the only Uberass fan in the world. The Doctor thanks you.

Unknown said...

Joe, I love the idea of two books occurring in the same time frame, with characters moving back and forth. Brilliant idea that I've never heard of before. I'd be very interested to see if the sales on these two books climb together. In theory, they should be closely matched as readers read one and quickly buy the other to see how the stories are connected. If you don't mind, keep us posted in how this works for you.

Anonymous said...

I use a site called I keep track of all my favorite authors and their series. I can even show the books in the series which I have already read. They send me an email when one of "my authors" writes a new book. It's free.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post. People who are really concerned about their business may take help from the free advertising sites so as to make them more amazing and effective as those who really wanna make advertisements on time with more efficiency and effectiveness may take hep from this.

Chelsea Field said...

Hi Joe. I'm a very long way off needing to do this myself, but I haven't come across this anywhere else and it's very interesting. I might revisit this page in say, about ten years or so :). Thanks!

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Nik Venture said...

Hey Joe, I just received your newsletter and noticed that you mention it is 99 cents (although free on your website). Then I went to Amazon and it is still listed as permafree.

The reason I mention it is because I'm about to try permafree on one of my books and I was wondering if Amazon was about to remove yours from permafree or am I missing something?

Steven Davis said...

Have a link back to your author site which has a page for each of your books.

In addition to having direct selling links, if you support them, also include links for the various places where they can buy the book in all its formats.

Most importantly, have a way to sign up for a mail list of your upcoming books by series, author name, genre, whatever.

While Amazon may be a great service now, you want your readers to become your customers.

You may also want to have a discussion forum for your book.

Dotty said...

Joe thank you so much. I'm an author's assistant, and two of my clients have HUGE backlists. Question: do you think it would add value, and therefore be worth it to the reader to purchase, if we added the equivalent of a DVD commentary to each title? For example: the author could write a blurb on where the idea came from, why they made the choices they did for the character (we could even mark some w/ a spoiler alert?) why they chose the cover art (if they did) etc? People pay money for the extras on Blue Ray, and spend time and energy updating IMDB, etc., so maybe adding that info to a reader's guide would make it worth it to a customer to pay a buck for it?

The best part is, I could get most of this info from my authors over *coffee*, and then create an actual product for them. <3 One of them is a Harlequin author, so you can imagine how much this might help her. :P