In this week's Self-Publishing News, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at Amazon's plan to use AI to summarise customer reviews.
Do have a listen to the new self-publishing news podcast. Howard and I have been talking about the way the legal cases that are being brought against Open AI, as well as the FTC investigation. We've also been considering whether Meta's new Threads social media platform will be a viable alternative to Twitter.
Amazon: AI Reviews, Influencers, and Another Call for Investigation
You won’t need reminding, I am sure, that Amazon has a strict no paid reviews policy. Many authors have fallen foul of this rule. Some, admittedly, who were using review farms to pump their ratings. Others, however, have seen this used as a cover for removing many reviews that were obtained wholly within Amazon’s rules. This week we discovered the no paid review policy didn’t necessarily apply if you were, um, Amazon.
Influencers Offered $25 a Video to Fill Amazon's TikTok-alike Stream
Of course, it’s not strictly that simple. Paid and other reviews not generated by amazon customers are fine if you place them “above the line” in the product description area. And Amazon’s new scheme is designed to populate its shopping feed. That scheme will see them give influencers payments of $25 to produce video content. The content would include reviews of Amazon products. Influencers would be paid to produce up to 500 of these videos each. The total spend on the scheme will top out at $875,000.
Influencers have been less than enthusiastic about the scheme. The payment amounts to a little over a tenth of the going rate for such content. Amazon would like its stream of short form videos to rival TikTok and keep people buying from Amazon rather than in-app on other platforms. If it wants to succeed, it may need to act as though this is a little more than a summer side project.
AI Review Summaries
Meanwhile, the regular reviews on Amazon have also been in the news. Amazon is planning to use AI to provide an above the line summary of below the line reviews. The summary will aim to capture a distillation of the sentiment expressed by customers. What could possibly go wrong!?
Booksellers Ask for Investigation
It’s not all about reviews in Amazon news this week. Booksellers’ pressure on the giant is growing. The American Booksellers Association, along with the Authors’ Guild, has written to the Federal Trade Commission calling for an investigation into Amazon’s bookselling. They argue that Amazon’s dominance of the bookselling market, which includes 80% of ebook titles, represents a harm to the free flow of ideas. The harm derives, they argue, from the extent of the influence of Amazon’s algorithms in how readers discover new books.
This completes what is, for me, an interesting set of stories. They show just how inconsistent Amazon can be. On the one hand, it can utterly dominate a market. On the other, it is spending a few hundred thousand dollars to underpay a few influencers in an attempt to shift people away from the world’s most downloaded app.
ALLi Discount for Sam Missingham's Book Marketing Show
Sam Missingham has been a staunch ally of indie authors for as long as I have been self-publishing. It's fabulous to see that she has now launched The Book Marketing Show on November 3rd and 4th to help with the trickiest part of the process. There's also a 10% ALLi member discount if you follow this link or use ALLi23 at the checkout. The keynote is indie superstar LJ Ross, who having just clocked up her eight millionth sale, knows a thing or two about marketing! ALLi members will also be very familiar with another of the headliners, Ben Galley, whom I remember being in the audience when we launched at London Book Fair more than a decade ago.
Sam sent me some fabulous words that capture the spirit of her approach and the event:
Indie authors have led the way in understanding the power of digital marketing when it comes to selling books. Over the last 10+ years, it has been so impressive to watch indie authors become a powerful and collegiate group who share best practice, especially in marketing. Trad authors and publishers have copied many techniques and these have become common marketing tactics thanks to the indie author community.
Society of Authors Relaunches Awards for Audio Drama
Audio drama is an area in which I’ve had the pleasure of reporting indie success in the recent past. Mary Jane Wells won the Best Original Drama award at the Audies in 2022. This month, the Society of Authors has announced the relaunch of two new awards for audio drama writing, each with a first prize of £3,000 and a closing date of October 1st.
The Imison award, in memory of Richard Imison, is for those who are new to audio drama. The Tinniswood award, in memory of Peter Tinniswood, is open to all audio drama writers. Both awards were last held in 2020, so this is a very welcome relaunch. Both the prizes are open to indies who otherwise meet the entry criteria, and both awards allow works that have been distributed via Audible.
And on the subject of awards, there are just a few days left to enter this year's Kindle Storyteller Award, which closes on August 31st.Amazon plans to use AI to summarise customer reviews, and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet