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Power with the People

January 8, 2014

protestsTwo contrasting Australian books offered for sale on Amazon.com – both debut efforts published in 2013 – are a great example of how the Internet has transferred power from institutions to individuals, and the ramifications that has on the decisions you make to market your product. (Well, perhaps ‘power’ is too strong a term – ‘voicepower’ is probably better.)

The first, The Conservative Revolution from ultra-conservative Australian Federal Senator Cory Bernardi, and published Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd, is a political tract espousing Bernardi’s right-wing views. The second is the self-published teen novel Invisible by Cecily Anne Paterson, a first-time author from the rural village of Kangaroo Valley.

Despite Bernardi’s public profile, the political machine of which he is part, and the marketing support of his publisher, Bernardi’s printed work is languishing at #150,454 in Books with a rating of 1.5 stars out of 5 from 257 reviewers, while Paterson’s book is 50,000 places ahead of Bernardi with 4.5 stars from 451 reviewers – and #2 free book in Kindle’s Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance eBooks category.

While the star ratings are quite telling, it’s the reviewers’ comments that really show voicepower at work. Bernardi has generated a lot of controversy in Australia, especially with his stance on gay marriage, abortion and environmentalism (see for example, “The real danger in Cory Bernardi’s comments“), and Bernardi’s Amazon listing has given opponents a great opportunity to respond, with a series of savage and at times comical reviews of his book – for example, the most popular review ‘Poor value, and very rough on the nether regions‘. On the other hand, Paterson’s reviewers have largely been supportive.

In hindsight, I wonder if Bernardi is regretting his decision to sell through Amazon, given the vitriol generated in the reviews. For a start, as a consumer it seems odd to me to buy an Australian book from an Australian publisher via a US bookseller. And it’s an odd choice to go with Amazon and not offer an ebook version, as is the case with the Bernardi book. Paterson, however, has everything to gain. She is reaching a worldwide audience with a book that resonates with teenage girls everywhere – despite the novel being self-published – and, by offering an ebook version for free, she is generating word of mouth and referral exposure that will give the book and any future novels she writes greater traction.

(Pictured above: “26 November 2013 Kiev (Student) Protests 01”, Oxlaey.com, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.)

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