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Stop the Amazon Pity Party, Already: An Anti-Anti-Amazon Point of View

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I have no pity for those who whine about Amazon.com. They are simply sucking on what they believe is a lemon and making ugly faces instead of making lemonade and smiling. Amazon helps with sales in so many ways. Let me count the ways (and give the reasons):

The Advantage Program

I’ve heard countless publishers poormouth the Advantage Program, proclaiming that the discount is too deep. I say that it’s a small price to pay to have such an expansive catalog listing for a book at such a high-profile location. The Advantage Program offers expanded excerpts, reviews, interviews (publisher and author), Search Inside the Book and much, much more.

Many top-flight media contacts have told me that they use Amazon’s catalog listings to check out the books/authors they are considering and to find experts on searchable subjects. Knowing that, it’s worth the 55 percent discount (and having to pay S&H) to get that listing, and it’s worth the effort to flesh out the listing.

Finally, I love the Amazon Advantage program because it pays on time, every time. Only catalogers can compare to Amazon’s timeliness with payments.

Used-Book Sales

“It’s unfair!” I’ve heard many publishers and authors protest. I say it’s perfectly fair and, in fact, another outstanding opportunity. For years, publishers have gnashed their teeth about what to do with hurts and returns. Here, at last, is a way to unload them.

It’s funny, but by selling used copies on a book’s catalog page, publishers often realize more of a profit than by selling new books to the Advantage program. Why? For one thing, the buyer pays S&H, and for another the book doesn’t have to be discounted 55 percent or discounted at all (in some cases) to be listed. And it isn’t necessary to sign up as a bulk/pro Marketplace seller and pay a monthly fee. Indy publishers need only go to their books’ catalog listings and choose “Sell yours here,” on the right-hand side. Scroll down a tad if you don’t see the small blue box titled “More Buying Choices” right away.

Not only can publishers sell hurts and returns at “Sell yours here,” they can also sell new books at or below the price Amazon lists or for more than the normal retail price, depending on what the market will bear. Who could complain about that opportunity?

The money for “Sell yours here” book sales is doled out every two weeks. On time. And you can arrange for direct deposit to your bank account at no extra cost. Such a deal.

So my bottom line is that the publisher who is really in business to make money will do the following at Amazon:

1. List new books with the Amazon Advantage program (www.amazon.com/advantage).

2. Take advantage of the many extended-listing opportunities that program offers. You will be required to do some extensive reading at the site, and you will have to take many different actions. Remember that you work your butt off to get a book published; don’t get lazy now.

3. List at least one copy of the following types of books as available, using the “Sell yours here” (Marketplace) feature:

    • new book
    • used book in “like new” condition
    • used book in “very good” condition
    • used book in “good” condition
    • used book in “acceptable” condition
    • signed book in “like new” condition
    • signed book in “very good” condition
    • signed book in “good” condition
    • signed book in “acceptable” condition

4. Regularly check your books’ listings to make sure everything that can be done has been done. Amazon reliably posts high-profile reviews, but you will need to make sure that writeups in newspapers and less-well-known magazines are posted (an opportunity found at the Advantage Program site).

5. Remember that offering expedited (Priority Mail) shipping increases your sales chances in the “Sell yours here” department. Mark both standard and expedited when prompted during the listing.

If you whine about Amazon and have not done everything I’ve suggested here, zip your lip for a while and give it a try. If you don’t experience an increase in sales, it might be because you aren’t experiencing any sales, which is your fault. That’s right. It’s your responsibility to drive sales to retailers, including Amazon. It is your job, not the bookseller’s, to create demand for the book. It’s Amazon’s job to give the book a sales venue, and there is no higher-profile sales venue in the world for books.

© 2004 by Betsy Lampe

Betsy Lampe regularly drinks lemonade. She is association executive of the Florida Publishers Association, a PMA affiliate, and president of Rainbow Books, Inc., a 25-year-old, family-owned, women-run, independent publisher of self-help/how-to nonfiction and mystery fiction. Rainbow Books, Inc., belongs to the Association of American Publishers as well as to PMA and was a founding member of both Florida Publishers Association and Publishers Association of the South. For more information: rbibooks@aol.com.

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