Open Letter to Amazon et al Regarding Book Sales API Availability
If you buy a copy of Assets, Budgets, and Credit: A Financial ABC, you might think that I, as the author, should be able to easily see that I've made a sale, whether it was on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or elsewhere — regardless of where it was purchased. "Easy" is in the eye of the beholder, but needing to log in to each bookseller's self-publishing platform is not what I call easy. This blog post is inspired by the current process of checking sales, and is an open letter to those who can improve the experience for small and self publishers.
To: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo (Rakuten), et al
Subject: API Availability for Tracking Book Sales
Dear Amazon et al:
As a self-published author, I appreciate the work you have done to revolutionize publishing. What was once a closed, restricted process is now democratized, allowing books that previously might not have been considered "sufficiently marketable" to be purchased by readers worldwide. I started writing novels in junior high school, long before the Web existed, and I have watched (and, as a developer, participated in) the drive toward digital publishing. Your market access, devices, and free reading applications have opened doors that I never would have expected when I was a teen, penning my first novel in a spiral notebook using a ballpoint pen.
However, as good as things have become, there are aspects of digital publishing that still need work. One area that is overdue for attention is providing better tools for self-publishers and small publishers to track sales automatically rather than by manually and separately logging in to each publishing platform's self-publishing site. It's nice to be able to see sales stats in the Amazon KDP interface, the Barnes & Noble NOOK Press interface, the Kobo Writing Life interface, etc., but the manual nature of this approach does not scale well, nor does it provide any real flexibility with sales data.
I ask that you improve the experience of authors and small publishers by providing programmatic (API) access to the book sales data currently presented only interactively in your self-service digital publishing sites (KDP, CreateSpace, NOOK Press, Kobo Writing Life, etc.). Ideally, each API should be free to use, openly and accurately documented, and require strong authentication to ensure data is not accessed improperly. By providing an API, you will allow developers to create new tools offering new functionality. This could include a publishing dashboard that provides a cohesive, cross-platform look at sales, or data import tools to bring sales data into back-end sales tracking systems, or other utilities not yet envisioned. API calls could be rate-limited to avoid being a burden; furthermore, by allowing direct access to data without an interactive login, the API could reduce overall network traffic by avoiding the bandwidth overhead of the interactive site (graphics, CSS, etc.).
You have made great strides in allowing countless voices, previously unheard, to reach new audiences far beyond their personal circles of family and friends. I hope you will consider this suggestion and see the value that a robust API would provide to authors and publishers as well as the benefits it would provide to you.
Stuart J. Whitmore
Author and Founder of Crenel Publishing