There's this magic button on Amazon. It's magical because it allows readers to "Follow" their favorite authors. If you've never noticed it, find your favorite author's Amazon page and underneath his or her picture is a yellow Follow button, press it and wait for news. Many indie authors (okay, maybe just me) believe this button is magic because followers will be notified of future releases that are on preorder or release day notification. Especially helpful was Amazon's Author's Message to the readers, which helped facilitate sales of the new book, a service offered by invitation-only to the author.
With my last book, Spellbound, I never received an alert about its release. I follow myself through two separate email accounts and never received an email. My dutiful readers told me that they'd never received an alert. When I questioned Amazon about an alert to my followers, they responded with canned verbage--one of them being that sending a note to readers was by invitation only. So what used to be automatic, was now by invite. I never received an option to send a note to readers. I later noticed that Amazon no longer send personal messages from the author (even those that are top sellers on Amazon), so that option was phased out.
My request to send release notice to followers was never resolved. I was devastated, thinking I had missed an opportunity to reach all those readers who'd pressed the Follow button wanting release updates. Mind you, there is no way of me knowing how many readers follow Rosemary Rey. Amazon doesn't release those figures. Amazon doesn't have a system for promoting to those followers. There are so many missed opportunities that Amazon could so easily create paid promotional opportunities to those followers or building up more followers by special ads, etc. But of course, I must remember that while Amazon appears as a publisher, they're just a distributor. They have no obligation to market for us writers who sell through their program.
On Sunday, February 25, I received my pre-order notice from Amazon. Both of my emails received the message. I was elated. I was hopeful. I was wrong. The magical follow button has not helped me. While it's too soon to tell if the followers will go to my pre-order page and buy Flip Flop Love at its introductory price of 99 cents, I have only had 3 pre-order sales. Those 3 pre-orders came before the message was sent. I had sent out my own notifications. I even took out an ad on Facebook, which isn't so helpful when you're an unknown author. Readers aren't willing to take a chance on new authors or new stories when they don't know much about the writing. And having a book at 99 cents isn't necessarily a draw. Readers will pay their top dollar for a book from their favorite author.
Essentially, what I'm trying to say, to myself more than anyone else, is that I relied too heavily on this button which has failed to pay off. When marketing to readers, it's not Amazon's responsibility. The best practice is to create a Newsletter, a blog, a website, paid promotion, and a presence on social media. One thing is not better than the other. The point is to spread the message far and wide. It's like taking a pot of spaghetti and throwing it against the wall, hoping it sticks. A lot will stick, but it won't necessarily be a lot of strands at first. You have to build up a following. Your followers don't come from one magical button. It comes from building a virtual relationship, instilling trust in them that your writing can be romantic, impactful, entertaining. But the most important part of this process of writing and marketing is to be consistent so your readers follow you through whatever method is best for them.