The questions from authors about Amazon that a publisher encounters are seemingly endless—and with good reason. The publishing industry is always changing and evolving, and Amazon’s buying and selling tactics do as well!

So we thought it would be a good time to try and break down what parts we, as your publisher, can control, what you, as an author, can control, and what is left up entirely up to the whims of Amazon.

Your Metadata (a.k.a. your title, subtitle, author name, book description, author bio, reviews, keywords, price, pub date)
Who Controls It? Your publisher.
As your publisher, we have the ability to edit all of the data about your book. Your title, name, description, blurbs, awards, bio, and more—that’s all us. However, if you claim the book on Amazon in Author Central, it will give you the option to edit this information. Do not edit it. If you change anything, it will override our data, you’ll lose information, and we won’t be able to put anything back.

Your Author Page
Who Controls It? You.
This is a page on Amazon in Author Central that shows all of the books you’ve written. You can add a picture, post updates, and add a new bio (different from your bio on the book’s page). This is a great resource for repeat authors building a fan base. It’s easy to access and set up: just go to Amazon, find “Author Central”, and log into claim your profile and books.

Your Amazon Categories
Who Controls it? Amazon.
Amazon categories arelooselybased on BISAC codes. BISAC codes, which stand for Book Industry Subject and Category, are a standardized set of categories developed by BISG (the Book Industry Study Group). These codes are a piece of metadata mostly used by sales teams to “shelve” your book in the correct categories for booksellers. These codes are changeable under the publisher’s control. However, not all BISAC codes have a corresponding category and vice-versa. Thus, sometimes you’ll end up with Amazon categories that aren’t quite right. If you call Amazon and ask them to change it for you, they are sometimes receptive and will take care of it. Occasionally, you’ll get someone who will tell you your publisher has to do it. Your publisher cannot do it unless you want your BISAC codes changed too, so the only way to move forward is to push back on Amazon and call them again; be persistent. Your publisher can also help influence the Amazon categories with your keywords, by putting the actual name of the category you want to be in at the front of your keyword list, and playing around with the order and different keywords or phrases for a few weeks.

The Recommended Books Sections
Who Controls it? Amazon.
I know that we ask our clients what books they would like to see in these sections (Frequently bought together, Customers who bought this item also bought, and Sponsored products related to this item), but that information does not go to Amazon. That is just another way we help our sales team position the books, and it’s a great way to help brainstorm comp titles. These sections are brought together by Amazon’s algorithm that they do not disclose.

The Price
Who Controls it? Your Publisher—and Amazon.
Your publisher can change the price of your book, but Amazon can choose to override it. This is frustrating, we know. If we bring your price down for a sale, then bring it back up, Amazon’s algorithm might decide to keep it at that lower price longer because it’s selling better at that price. Keep in mind that though you will still be paid on the list price that your publisher has in place. So, if your book is retailed at $9.95,but Amazon keeps your Kindle at 2.95, you’ll still be getting paid on your full list price of $9.95. Also, If Amazon is informed that your book is being sold at a lower price elsewhere, they reserve the right to change the price to match. So, if you lower your price for Barnes & Noble Nook, Amazon has the authority to lower the Kindle price to “price match.” One more note: as your publisher, we can only change your ebook price. Paperback prices are fixed and cannot be constantly changed for sales like ebooks.

Your Amazon Reviews
Who Controls It? Amazon.
While your publisher manages the endorsements and trade reviews on your book’s page that are listed under the standard “REVIEWS” box, we do not control anything at the bottom of the page, where readers can offer star ratings and give their own reviews. Recently, Amazon has started to remove reviews they believe weren’t received organically or ethically. Anything that’s an Amazon-verified purchase will be fine, but if it’s a great review and the reviewer hasn’t reviewed anything else on Amazon, then that will raise the red flag that maybe they’re a friend or connected to the book in some way. On the same token, if someone reviews your book and you review theirs, that also raises a red flag.

What other questions/insight/comments do you have about Amazon? Let us know below!