In today’s bookselling world,
the 100-pound gorilla everyone focuses on is Amazon.com. But it’s not just this
one vendor you need to be concerned about. It’s every other e-tailer and
bricks-and-mortar retailer as well. You need to ask yourself how you can best
work with these companies as customers that will sell your books, while also
asking yourself how you can best compete against them if you’re selling books
from your own Web site.
Many publishers decide not to
compete against key retailing customers in terms of price. This approach leads
them to sell their books on their own sites for the price on the cover. By
doing this, they feel, they are supporting their customers and positioning
themselves on an even keel with other vendors.
The weak point of the strategy can
be seen by going to Bizrate.com or any other price-comparison Internet shopping
site. When I plugged in the title of my own book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Publishing for Profit, I got a wide
range of prices, running from $14.95 to $24.95. If I offer that book on our
site at $24.95, my chances of selling many copies are slim to none, given the
What’s a publisher to do? There
are two approaches.
offers with added value. Sell the
book at full price, but offer another product at a significantly reduced price
or free with every purchase. This effectively gives the customer something
extra while maintaining your full-price listing, since a price-comparison site
won’t pick up an added-value offer. The extra product can be a book, some other
product you create or sell, a free e-chapter, a poster, “bonus dollars”
customers can spend later on a product they choose, or something else. The
offer is limited only by your creativity.
a more aggressive position by meeting the competition just as any other vendor
might. Using this approach means
offering a book at the low end of the competitive pricing range or somewhere in
the middle. If the price you choose is below what others charge, you can state,
following the example of many airlines, “We guarantee our Web site prices to be
the lowest available,” but of course you will have to keep checking so that
this will always be true.
There is no easy answer to the
question of which of these approaches is best. As more and more publishers,
large and small, decide to use their Web sites to compete against the large
chains and e-tailers that are taking market share and demanding added discount,
it makes more and more sense for these publishers to offer discounted pricing.
Will this affect publishers’
relationships with their customers? It probably will. At the same time,
everyone has to remember that the more books that are sold, the more reading
that is encouraged, the better for the industry as a whole. Whatever anyone can
do to get people reading is good for everyone in the business.
Tom Woll is president of
Cross River Publishing Consultants, which provides a full range of consulting
services to publishers of all sizes. Suzanne Lawlor is an associate at CRPC.
For more information, visit www.pubconsultants.com.
This article is adapted
from the new PMA Report, “Selling Online: An Introduction for Independent