International Amazon Book Links, A How-To

The Problem

(I already know the problem; skip to the solutions.)

So there’s this thing with Amazon, and most people–especially the average reader, and a fair share of writers, too–won’t even know it’s a problem.

Let me explain…

In its simplest form, this is the link to my book: www.amazon.com/dp/B00999FXZ0/

Now, if you’re based in the US, or anywhere where Amazon doesn’t have its own regional site (That’s Austrailia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the UK), that link will take you to a page where you can buy a copy of my book.

That’s all well and good for people who are based in the US, but what about those who aren’t? What do we see?

Amazon.com Page, Seen Outside of US
As I’m based in the UK, I don’t have the option to buy this ebook from Amazon.com

Now, I know that “Pricing information not available” isn’t a big deal. I know that it just means I’m in the wrong store, that if I change the .com to .co.uk in the address bar, it’ll take me to my book’s page on a site where I could buy it. But, were I a casual reader, I might think that “Pricing information not available” means that it’s just not available to me. And lo, I’ve already clicked off the page, and as a potential reader, I’ve been lost.

There is a notice on the right of the page, telling the site visitor that they can find the book on their regional Amazon site.

This right here.

Amazon changed the way it did this a while ago. It used to be you’d click that link, and it would just take you to the main Kindle eBooks page on Amazon.co.uk, which is the most ridiculous thing I think I’ve ever seen from a multinational retail site.

Thankfully, they did improve it. Now, when you click it, you get to the .co.uk site, with a search you’ve run, and (hopefully) the book you wanted to look at.

I say “hopefully”, because if you have a book with a title that could be confused with another completely different book with the same or similar title, that will also appear in this search.

Here’s an example of that:

Screenshots of Marilyn Peake's Shade on Amazon.com, and the results page of trying to buy the book by clicking on the search link Amazon provide.
Screenshots of Marilyn Peake’s ‘Shade’ on Amazon.com, and the results page of trying to buy the book by clicking on the search link Amazon provide to the Amazon.co.uk version.

This is Marilyn Peake’s SHADE novel, as seen on Amazon.com, and what happens when you click the link to the right and get re-directed to Amazon.co.uk.

In Peake’s case, SHADE isn’t even on the first page of the results, because the word “Shade” is used in many books for sale on Amazon, and Amazon’s search doesn’t even bother to include the author’s name!

As an aside, you can get Marilyn Peake’s novel here–and don’t forget, if you’re not based in the US, you can change the site’s location by changing it in the address bar!

The easiest way to get to the actual book I want is to just change the address from amazon.com to amazon.co.uk in the address bar at the top. Again, I know this, because I’ve done it so many times before. The average Amazon site visitor probably doesn’t know this, and the average visitor shouldn’t have to trawl through pages and pages of results to get to the book they’re interested in reading.

This isn’t Peake’s fault, the same reason it’s not my fault, or any other author’s fault. Amazon should really address this issue.

What I don’t get about this is, why Amazon don’t direct the visitor straight to the book’s product page for the visitors location, when they click the link on Amazon.com? The product links are identical, save for the domain extension–there are already javascript solutions to this problem out there. Amazon obviously have the resources already to tell where a reader is coming from, based on their IP settings, in order to generate that advisory notice on the right. If someone in Germany clicks on the link on Amazon.com, surely it should send them to same page on Amazon.de?

Why don’t they do this?

The answer is, *shrug* i’uno. They should. I’m sure they will, eventually.

Anyway, that’s the problem.

As an author, if you link to your book on Amazon from your own web site, you have to choose how to include all the links, or risk losing potential readers.

There are three solutions to getting people clicking the right thing when they’re visiting your site, or your Twitter, or wherever, to direct them to the right place, based on where they are.

The Solutions

Option 1: ALL THE LINKS

This is the simplest, but also arguably the messiest, solution. Simply include all the links on your site’s “Buy” page, and anywhere else you have your books listed.

Then, instead of linking directly to Amazon.com from your other social media pages, concentrate your focus on sending visitors to your dedicated “Buy” page.

While that might not look too bad on a dedicate sales page, if space is tight, it might look a bit messy. Plus, you’d still have to choose which link you’d give preference to, in instances where you have only one option (like in a tweet, for example–I don’t think 12 links would even fit in a tweet, let alone their descriptions!).

Option 2: SmartURL

This is my recommended solution for 95% of people looking to resolve this problem. It has only one drawback, which I’ll address in Option 3.

First, the how to!

  1. Signup on SmartURL.it. You can connect with Facebook, Google, or just e-mail.
  2. Once you’re registered, click on Create smartURL
  3. In the Default URL, enter your book’s link on Amazon.com–This will be where your URL automatically forwards to, if the user isn’t coming from one of the countries you specify, or if SmartURL isn’t able to determine where the user is based.
  4. Work your way down the page. Type in the country you want to change the URL for, and paste the same Amazon code, BUT change the domain extension to match each site. Once you’ve completed one, click the + button, which will add another line.
  5. Once you’ve added all the countries and forwarding links, you then have the option of choosing a custom alias, which I would recommend, because it’s easier to remember smarturl.it/TheGenesis than it is to remember smarturl.it/YhsdTwieU. Just bear in mind that someone else might’ve taken your alias already, so be prepared to think of alternatives–hence why mine is TheGenesis and not just Genesis, which was my first choice.
  6. Save, and you’re done!

Here’s what one of mine looks like, finished.

You can use your SmartURL anywhere online, and when the user clicks it, they’ll be taken directly to the correct Amazon store, depending on where they’re located.

Easy!

Option 3: SmartURL & YOURL

Now, like I said, SmartURL has only one possible drawback, and it’s unlikely.

If the were to site disappear, like if the owner decided one day, “I don’t want to provide this service anymore,” what you’ll be left with is a series of dead links that you might have peppered throughout the whole Internet. Tracking them all down, and changing them to whichever service may replace it, will probably drive you mad.

This is only a worst case scenario, but it’s always possible, and if you want to preserve your links permanently, it’s something to be considered. With this option, you will be using your own URL shortening service, which will then link to the SmartURL you’ve created, which will then direct the user to the correct site!

Observe: http://pnrf.co/genesis

So you, the user, clicks on this link. The forwarder I have set it will shoot pnrf.co/genesis to smarturl.it/TheGenesis, which will then shoot you to whichever Amazon site is local. If the worst case scenario happens, and SmartURL one day disappears, I will just have to change the forwarding address I’ve setup on pnrf.co/genesis to whatever alternative service takes its place.

You will need to have your own domain and web hosting for this (not wordpress.com, for example), one on a Linux server that has PHP enabled, and preferably cPanel, just because it makes things simpler.

If you also want to have a dedicated shortened url, like I have (pnrf.co), go ahead and get one, but you don’t necessarily need one, as you can use your existing site for the system, so long as it’s in a separate location to your main site, such as WordPress. The YOURLS system can be installed in a subdirectory, so if you’re site is at http://myamazingbook.com, you could install YOURLs into a folder within your hosting called “s”, which would then become http://myamazingbook.com/s/

You will still need to setup your SmartURLs using the method explained in Option 2.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll then be adding another forwarding URL using your own domain forwarding setup.

I can’t really go into much depth about setting up YOURLs on your domain, because there’s faaaaaaar too many possibilities and differences in the way an install will go for you.

Best I can offer you there is the Install and the Config documents on the YOURLs web site, which should hopefully explain it all better than I could.

You need to have some knowledge of MySQL, in that you’ll have to be able to setup a new database on your hosting control panel, but other than that, if you follow the install and config links above, you should get there…and I’m sorry this isn’t really a guide as much as a “go there instead”.

Now, if you’ve chosen this option, and you’ve got your YOURLs install all up and running, the next bit is super-simple.

  1. Login to your YOURLs admin, which will be at http://<<YourDomain.com>>/admin if you’re using a dedicated domain, or http://<<YourDomain.com>>/s/admin, if you’re using an installation in your existing domain.
  2. At the top of the page, there will be an option to enter a URL. Put your SmartURL link in there.
  3. You will also have the option for a custom short URL, which–again–I’d recommend you choose, the positive on this being that you have full control of these custom names, and you don’t have the risk of anyone else taking your url choices.
  4. Click ‘Shorten This URL’

And you’re done! Your new URL will appear in your database table.

Again, here’s mine (you’ll probably want to click to enlarge it):

'The Genesis' Links in YOURLs

 

You may have spotted another link in there, which is the shortlink to the Barnes & Noble version of my book. The reason I’ve done this, even though B&N don’t have separate sites based on region, is just for uniformity. It’s cleaner to have pnrf.co/genesis and pnrf.co/bngenesis side-by-side instead of pnrf.co/genesis and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-genesis-k-l-kerr/1018844690?ean=2940016789828&isbn=2940016789828, you see?

I really, really hope this all makes sense, because–as a writer–until Amazon fixes their regional cross-linking, you’re potentially losing sales and never even knowing about it. Again, it’s not your fault, it’s Amazon’s, but this is what you can do to fix it.

If you’ve any queries with doing this, let me know. I’m on Twitter (@Penrefe), and I’ve posted this blog to the Writer’s Cafe on KBoards, where you can ask me anything you’d like about setting this up.