For years publishers and authors have struggled with Amazon. It’s always love/hate. We love them because it gives us all the opportunity to sell to the mass market, it gives authors who can’t get into bookstores (which is most of us) the chance to get in front of their consumer and sell more books and, now with eBooks, it has opened the door to a bright, shiny, new model for sales. But is this going to work long-term? The initial response might be yes, of course. Amazon is too big to fail. Well, perhaps not fail, per se but there are opportunities here, in fact many of them, for Amazon to stay ahead of the game.
While many say that the review piece on Amazon is broken, I disagree. I think it’s broken everywhere. We can’t trust reviews though we still chase them. So let’s not blame Amazon for a faulty review system, it’s everywhere. Instead let’s look at the real issue: sales data. You can sell on Amazon but the “who” of who bought your book will never be revealed to you, despite the fact that you pay a nice chunk of money to Amazon to have them even list your book. Look, don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon. I’ve taught classes on how to maximize Amazon’s sales system and any new author who wants to circumvent Amazon isn’t making a wise decision in my view. But the challenge is that as sales people, we all know that your previous customers are your best customers and while there are ways that you can find out who bought your book (even on Amazon), they aren’t perfect. Yes, you can put an offer in the back of your book to get people to sign up for goodies on your site, but it’s not a perfect system. I mean how many times have you seen an offer in a book and thought “oh, I should do that” and then never do? My point exactly. So,the challenge I think that Amazon will face in the new year are the folks, the big named authors who, like JK Rowling, have decided to create their own fulfillment system. New authors don’t have the ability to do that, really. You have to build the fans first and we all know that takes time. But here’s another thought: would you be willing to pay Amazon a tiny bit more to get this data? Yes, I know, they already take the lion’s share of your book profit, but having this data could be an enormous benefit to getting future sales. Would you do it?
Consider this. As we progress through the publishing world in 2013 you’re going to see even more books published, more people clamoring to see their work in print. The number of books published each year is going up at a staggering rate. If we’re going to make this change, it should be now. As authors we need to collect this data. Ask anyone with a viable mailing list how important that list is to them and they’ll tell you. For some it’s the lifeblood of their company.
Changing Amazon isn’t an easy prospect but I think that the time will come, very soon, where authors and publishers will start demanding this sales data and if they can’t get it from Amazon, they’ll get it on their own like the JK Rowling model and other big names who have successfully sold books on their site. We need big names to lead this charge. Consumers are trained to go to Amazon and that’s great, but if we are going to change this system we need a few leaders to help us do that. Barnes and Noble could implement this? Frankly they’ve almost become a footnote for online sales. When was the last time you bought a book at BN.com? But if they offered up this sales data, would you switch your online sales to them? My guess would be yes.
Is this a reality? I would hope so. I would hope that Amazon sees this as a chance for growth and offers this up to publishers and authors and, if they don’t I believe that eventually other opportunities will start to emerge making capturing sales data no longer an option, but a given.
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