Amazon.com tells me you are in the mood for “An Historic Murder Mystery set in the Internet Bubble”

A friend of mine, Patrick McCusker, recently received an email from Amazon.com that read as follows:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt also purchased books by Tom Evslin. For this reason, you might like to know that Tom Evslin’s hackoff.com: An Historic Murder Mystery set in the Internet Bubble and Rubble will be released soon. You can pre-order your copy by following the link below.

Book Description
Larry Lazard, CEO of hackoff.com, takes his company public and watches its stock price soar and collapse. Following a hostile takeover attempt, Lazard is found dead in his office of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Author Tom Evslin, a serial CEO, also took a company public in the Internet bubble and fought off hostile takeover attempts in the subsequent rubble. Unlike Larry, Evslin lived to tell what may be the definitive story of those wild and crazy times. The mystery moves backwards and forwards around the time of Larry’s death. Sex, power, money, farce, and tragedy mix… Read more

Amazon does a lot of mailings of this sort where they look for commonalities in purchasing patterns among customers. I bought some poker books from Amazon.com and they periodically send me new poker titles.

But this is what I find strange. Ever heard of Tom Evslin? Have you read any of Tom Evslin’s prior books?

My guess is the answer to those questions above was “no.” It turns out that this is Tom Evslin’s first book. And he self-published it. And it currently ranks 161,427 in the Amazon.com sales ranks, which means it is probably selling less than 1 copy a day (and that is after the Amazon mailing). One possible reason: you can read it free online. So why is Amazon doing an email blitz? You’d think they would be telling folks to buy Blink or The World is Flat.

I’d love to know the story behind this. Computer gliltch? Marketing experiment gone awry?

Any readers have an explanation?


Thomas

Slightly off topic, apologies...

Cory Doctorow offers his books for free online, but his "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" was one of the best selling SF novels of 2003.

After the enthusiastic response, his publisher (perhaps surprisingly) encouraged Creative Commons licenses for all his subsequent works.

So perhaps Evslin's poor sales are simply due to poor marketing, or perhaps poor quality.

An interesting question remains: why are the free alternatives for Doctorow's works deemed inadequate by consumers? Why do they buy what they can get for free? Are they buying the tactile sensation of the book?

Would it make sense for a consumer to contribute his purchase of such a book seemingly altruistically, but thinking that he might induce the publisher into releasing many more items for free, so that the consumer will end up with a net profit?

But how does the consumer overcome inducements to free riding?

Read more...

alipkin

Apparantly, Amazon sells their "you might like" emails as ads. I'm guessing that the price generally makes it unlikely for the average vanity press author to use them, but maybe this guy had a lot of money to burn.

Fractals of Change

Did You Come Here from Freakonomics?

If so, you probably mean to be at hackoff.com - the website from which you can read or listen free to the podcasts of hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble. But you may enjoy this site as well and are welcome her...

tevslin

I'm flattered by the association. I appreciate your providing a link but you actually pointed to my nonFiction blog, Fractals of Change, rather than www.hackoff.com where, as you point out, people can read hackoff.com free. Your readers may enjoy Fractals of Change, however; it is often about economics, freaky or otherwise, and business.

Actually, hackoff prepublication sales are doing well and I attribute that to making the book and a podcast of it available free online. Cory Doctorow says that more copies of a book are NOT bought because no one ever heard of it than because they could get it free.

Our experience is that online readers become purchasers AND, more important - especially to a first time author, recommenders. There are many thousands of people reading or listening to hackoff online.

I've found, as you apparently have as well, that a blog is a good way to reach and hear from readers. I think actually distributing books on a blog platform as I've done with hackoff will become a common publishing practice.

Read more...

tevslin

In response to reader alipkin: we did NOT pay Amazon for this mailing or promotion (other than what they might make in sales margin). Apparently they see some kind of correlation. There is some relationship of subject matter but that is not what they're talking about here.

echalom

I received a similar email from Amazon, saying "We've noticed that customers who have purchased Blink ..." And for what it's worth, I purchased both Freakonomics and Blink through Amazon. Very strange.

JanneM

It could be the other way around: most of the people that have bought hackoff have also bought Freakanomics, making the connection strong one way, though not the other. They may well have a heuristic that says that since there are a lot of commonalities between them, all those people that have bought one but not the other (mostly Freakonomic buyers) are possibly interested in the not yet bought volume.

Quite possibly a number of buyers of hackoff are getting emails about Freakonomics; we just don't hear about it here.

Mjschreck

It appears that Amazon isn't the only company making these bizarre connections. Wal-Mart recently got in trouble for recommending African-American themed videos to purchasers of "Planet of the Apes" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The link, though, might have just been due to random chance. Check it out here:

http://chrissilvey.com/weblog/?p=128

R-Squared

The two books could somehow share similar target readers.
For example, marketing reserach shows that people who search for the following keywords: "biting," "Queen B" or "Jeep Sahara Limited XT." are very likely to purchase baby products. This corrleation looked strange at first thought, but it actually make some sense.

dalmatica9

Well, since you've mentioned Blink, here is a "public service announcement" Amazon style- but without affiliation... If you liked Blink, you might like this as well:
http://www.andrewsmcmeel.com/godsdebris/
Free online, or pay for it at Amazon.

kittycanscratch

I would still buy a book if I could read it for free online. It's easier to curl up with a book than my laptop. And offering it online will at least pique the interest of readers.

Abathyboyclab

Greetings

I need full kit of solar energy complect for my home, Where I can look at thechnical specifications and examples? We search on internet and not find this. :( Please if you have some instruction please post.

Thomas

Slightly off topic, apologies...

Cory Doctorow offers his books for free online, but his "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" was one of the best selling SF novels of 2003.

After the enthusiastic response, his publisher (perhaps surprisingly) encouraged Creative Commons licenses for all his subsequent works.

So perhaps Evslin's poor sales are simply due to poor marketing, or perhaps poor quality.

An interesting question remains: why are the free alternatives for Doctorow's works deemed inadequate by consumers? Why do they buy what they can get for free? Are they buying the tactile sensation of the book?

Would it make sense for a consumer to contribute his purchase of such a book seemingly altruistically, but thinking that he might induce the publisher into releasing many more items for free, so that the consumer will end up with a net profit?

But how does the consumer overcome inducements to free riding?

Read more...

alipkin

Apparantly, Amazon sells their "you might like" emails as ads. I'm guessing that the price generally makes it unlikely for the average vanity press author to use them, but maybe this guy had a lot of money to burn.

Fractals of Change

Did You Come Here from Freakonomics?

If so, you probably mean to be at hackoff.com - the website from which you can read or listen free to the podcasts of hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble. But you may enjoy this site as well and are welcome her...

tevslin

I'm flattered by the association. I appreciate your providing a link but you actually pointed to my nonFiction blog, Fractals of Change, rather than www.hackoff.com where, as you point out, people can read hackoff.com free. Your readers may enjoy Fractals of Change, however; it is often about economics, freaky or otherwise, and business.

Actually, hackoff prepublication sales are doing well and I attribute that to making the book and a podcast of it available free online. Cory Doctorow says that more copies of a book are NOT bought because no one ever heard of it than because they could get it free.

Our experience is that online readers become purchasers AND, more important - especially to a first time author, recommenders. There are many thousands of people reading or listening to hackoff online.

I've found, as you apparently have as well, that a blog is a good way to reach and hear from readers. I think actually distributing books on a blog platform as I've done with hackoff will become a common publishing practice.

Read more...

tevslin

In response to reader alipkin: we did NOT pay Amazon for this mailing or promotion (other than what they might make in sales margin). Apparently they see some kind of correlation. There is some relationship of subject matter but that is not what they're talking about here.

echalom

I received a similar email from Amazon, saying "We've noticed that customers who have purchased Blink ..." And for what it's worth, I purchased both Freakonomics and Blink through Amazon. Very strange.

JanneM

It could be the other way around: most of the people that have bought hackoff have also bought Freakanomics, making the connection strong one way, though not the other. They may well have a heuristic that says that since there are a lot of commonalities between them, all those people that have bought one but not the other (mostly Freakonomic buyers) are possibly interested in the not yet bought volume.

Quite possibly a number of buyers of hackoff are getting emails about Freakonomics; we just don't hear about it here.

Mjschreck

It appears that Amazon isn't the only company making these bizarre connections. Wal-Mart recently got in trouble for recommending African-American themed videos to purchasers of "Planet of the Apes" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The link, though, might have just been due to random chance. Check it out here:

http://chrissilvey.com/weblog/?p=128