Monday, 16 December 2013

Messing with Amazon's head, or Jeff Bezos thinks I own a dog

The dog I don't have -
image from K9 Protection Dogs
Amazon has the most sophisticated algorithms in the world for knowing what its customers want in order to offer it to them. It's one of the secrets of their success.

I know I've misled Amazon about my reading tastes, since I so often click on the books in the signatures of fellow writers out of curiosity, to see how they are doing or to read their samples. But this week I realized, when viewing the Lightning Deals Amazon emailed me, that I've confused them about my entire lifestyle as well. I cycle, garden in a small way on my balcony, feed birds and have a weakness for tiny bright torches; they've got that right, even if they haven't twigged I wouldn't take a barbecue as a gift.

But now Jeff Bezos thinks I own a dog. He's currently offering me an assortment of dog beds, collars and eating bowls. And I know why. It's because there's a guard dog in Wolf by the Ears, and I researched the toy he'd be playing with. (A Kong, since you ask, this one.) Amazon's useful for finding items your characters own or buy, because its selection is so huge. A pity it doesn't sell property.

Of course, as a writer I'm even more misleading on Google. Recently I've exhibited an unhealthy interest in firearms, signs of surveillance, tracking by mobile phone, the FSB, undetectable poisons, post-mortems, fingerprints, toxicology, how long a corpse takes to float and how to hack a Sim card. Perhaps in my next book I'll include a villain who writes a novel as cover for the research necessary for his evil deeds...


  1. Great post, Lexi. Your Google history sounds worse than mine. I've been doing some medical research recently. No fear of convincing myself I'm suffering from a blast injury though!
    K x

  2. I'm lucky with medical research, as I have an extremely helpful doctor friend. What I could do with is an equally helpful solicitor, policeman and SIS officer...

  3. I've often wondered if my name is flagged somewhere for the odd things I research. I agree about having all those professionals on call--it would sure make things easier.

  4. I'm always annoyed by bad suggestions, although you can at least fix them in Amazon. I don't even want to think about my Google history with all the research for my novels.

    What I find interesting is that I check the bestseller status on my math books so Amazon rarely misses a month without letting me know about my own books in the store—even though I own them all already, not to mention have the account that published them...

  5. Mwahahahahaaargh. MI6 must be enjoying your browser history, Lexi. All you need to do is research bomb making and you'll be a full on terror suspect. Phnark. Then again, thinking about tha stuff I've googled researching books, I should imagine I'm right there with you.

    Like Robert, I get frequent recommendations from Amazon for my own book, also to the account that published it.



  6. I like to think that MI5/MI6 agents are issued with a list of people who are constantly setting off alarms by their use of trigger words on the internet. It's probably titled SODDING WRITERS - IGNORE.

    Amazon never tries to sell me my own books. I feel rather miffed.

  7. My book is occasionally recommended to me but I suppose if I tried to buy it again it wouldn't let me. There's no pleasing some people.

    Like Lexi, I'm often checking books, particularly in my own genre, to see why they are so high or low in the charts. Consequently they sometimes send me some real trash.

    I must go and search "War and Peace" to raise my profile.

    Yep - being a writer would be a good cover. But I expect MI5/6 have got that angle covered too, at least I hope so.