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Thou Shalt Not Attempt to Outthink the Algorithm
May 26, 2016
My inbox this morning featured a recommendation from Amazon that I buy my own book.
I didn’t. I have a copy. I have dozens, actually. One time my children asked if they could use them to build a pavilion for their stuffies (I love a vocabulary that includes both “pavilion” and “stuffies”).
Instead of going for the all powerful one-click purchase, I over thought: Were there others out there waking to the same siren call of You Could Be Home By Now? Given the early morning-ness of the missive, would they be subliminally ticked off at the title? They are all home already. Likely grumping about having to leave the muzzy comfort of their beds. Way to come up with a title that would remind them, Manaster. Way to set your book up for some subconscious resentment. And you, Amazon. Would it kill you to hold off for a few hours? Let your clientele get into the office. Wait till they want to be home again. Wait for the moment of maximum allure. Don’t you want to sell stuff? Isn’t capitalism alive and well?
And then I remembered: the Amazon algorithm is vast, unknowable, obscure. Only a handful of people likely got this email. Quite possibly only me, triggering it by sneaking a peek at their listing for my next book, The Done Thing. (Egomaniacal? Yes. But the cover is just. So. Pretty.)
So here’s what I’m going to do. For the hell of it and in the name of science. This is the link to The Done Thing. If you click on it and some days later wake to an ill-timed recommendation for You Could Be Home By Now, let me know. If not, I’ll assume that my recent purchase of paper towels, preorder of Tana French’s next mystery, and perusal of a replacement backpack for the kid who allowed hers do develop an inch of mysterious, corrosive slime on the bottom somehow added up to a reader who’d be very into the work of one Tracy Manaster.