Authors: Don’t Bow Down to Amazon


When readers visit your website to buy a book, do you send them to Amazon? If so, you could be making a huge mistake. Why? Sending customers to Amazon is the marketing equivalent of idolatry and ineffectiveness.

Now, before you whine about convenience or the importance of a high sales ranking, let me give you the big picture:

1. Amazon Takes Your Contacts

Amazon loves it when you send book-buying customers to them, because they get the most important piece of business data possible – contact information! That’s right. Amazon is more concerned about getting your customer’s email and mailing address than selling your book. Why does it matter? Because, the best way to grow a business (and your writing career) is to develop a database of highly-interested customers.

People who visit your website to buy books are like marketing gold. Customers who buy one book are likely to buy another book or know someone who will. Therefore, you want to stay in touch with these people through your newsletters and promotional activities. Odds are in your favor that they’ll buy again. However, if you send customers to Amazon, then you lose the chance to build a relationship with these important people. Meanwhile, Amazon laughs all the way to the bank. How do you think they grew so fast?

If you’re still not convinced, consider this. Publishers love authors who build a personal database with thousands of targeted contacts, because it means easier marketing for your next book. Show your publisher a large, legitimate database, and they’re more likely to show you large advances and bigger marketing budgets. Are you with me?

2. Amazon Takes Your Profits

If you send a customer from your website to buy your $12 book at Amazon, you’ll be lucky if you make $1.50 in profit – regardless of whether you use Amazon’s Advantage or Affiliate programs. However, if you sell a $12 book from your own website, you can usually make at least $6.00 in profit. That’s a big difference!

Look at this way…for every 100 books you sell yourself, you make $600 in profit (not just revenue). That’s enough money to buy a new computer, new clothes, or go on a relaxing weekend vacation.

Now, don’t give me that nonsense about, “I don’t care about money…I just write as a ministry unto the Lord.” If you really write as a ministry, then you should be the best possible steward of your God-given talents. So, ask yourself, “Would God prefer me to mindlessly give away money to a secular corporate giant (Amazon), or use that money to help feed my family or feed orphans in Africa?

3. Amazon Takes Your Marketing Effectiveness

Let’s assume your new book is about to launch. You’re doing a big marketing campaign with email newsletters, blog tours, and media interviews. Let’s also assume that your marketing is awesome. People read your e-newsletters, surf the blogs, and watch you on TV. Enamored by you, they come running to your website. But, when they’re ready to buy your book, you redirect them to Amazon.

A month later, you start wondering if your marketing campaign was effective. Guess what? You’ll never know, because Amazon is holding all of your data. Sure, you can check your website hits and your faulty Amazon ranking, but all that really matters is the actual sales data. Yet, you don’t have that important information, because you gave it away to Amazon. They know who bought your book, but you don’t – isn’t that weird?

So, what’s the marketing moral of the story? Stop sending customers to Amazon, and start selling books from your website. How do you do that, you ask? My article Easy E-Commerceand Fulfillment from Home explains how.

8 Responses to Authors: Don’t Bow Down to Amazon

  1. Sharon Smith June 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    Your CommentsWow. That was fabulous information. In the process of trying to publish my first book, so your just post helped me out a lot!

  2. Daniel June 13, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    On a related note, I recommend avoiding for your fulfillment. It’s tempting to use them as a print-on-demand company because they’re owned by Amazon. You get listed in the Amazon marketplace automatically, which is one of the things that drew me in.

    The problem with using them is that their reporting is even more stingy than Amazon’s! They give you no more information than the date and the quantity sold.

    Also, even though they’re owned by Amazon, they don’t share data with each other. I ordered my own book through Amazon, and got an email two weeks later saying the ordered was delayed. Two weeks after that, I got another email saying it was delayed again. At that point, I called BookSurge, and they said it was Amazon’s fault and that they couldn’t “look inside” Amazon’s system to see what had happened. I called Amazon, and they blamed BookSurge, and they couldn’t access BookSurge’s systems to figure out what had happened, either!

    Finally, you don’t have complete control over the retail price of the book (and as a result, mine is *way* overpriced).

    I didn’t come here to bash BookSurge, but once I read through your article, I realized that talking about my experience with Amazon-owned BookSurge would compliment your thoughts about Amazon. I’m a first-time visitor here, thanks to @markdavidgerson on Twitter.

  3. Laz Babbs June 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Hey, am so with you on this. I sell through my website because I need the income and the data. And although I’m not making money on US orders at the moment, as it costs me so much to send stuff there (and I have to compete with Amazon prices) it is still important. I simply don’t understand how other authors can afford not to!

    I’m busy beating Amazon at the moment because I have my new boook to sell and they can’t until Friday. Feels good to beat them! I’ve had lots of advance sales before the book is even out.

    So thanks for sharing this. Wonderful.

  4. Steve Laube June 20, 2009 at 5:41 am #

    I would like to provide a correction to this blog entry. As someone who worked inside a publishing house for over a decade and as a literary agent for the last six years I can offer an alternative viewpoint.

    When a publisher speaks of a book in-house they will only count sales of royalty bearing units. Books sold to an author are royalty-free and thus are never included in the total sales. Plus they don’t show up in the royalty statement sent to the author. So if the publishers says a book sold 15,000 copies that is how many actually sold. If the author bought an additional 25,000 copies not a single one shows in the royalty reports or in the in-house spreadsheets. They will never say the book sold 40,000. Never. The author can claim 40,000 in sales if they wish. But the publisher will say, “no, only 15,000 copies sold.”

    An author should never treat their publisher like a personal printer. Yes, the publisher makes a little money on the sale of a book to the author. But it is usually negligible when compared to the total sales in the general market. And if the author is selling more than the publisher? That is a different issue entirely.

    Also the advice offered in today’s blog entry doesn’t take into account that many authors have severe contractual restrictions when it comes to an author selling their own books.

    1) For example, one publisher I know contractually prevents the authors from reselling their books, period. If an author does a book signing the store is to buy the books from the publisher. Some may exclaim, “But that isn’t fair!” Then see the next paragraph before criticizing the publisher.

    2) Few understand that publishers are bound by law to treat every “dealer” the same. So if they sell to Borders at 40% off for 25 copies they have to sell to XYZ store at 40% off for 25 copies. BUT if the author’s contract grants the author a flat 50% off all purchases and the author orders 25 copies, the author is at a competitive advantage over the XYZ store and Borders. And if the author sells the book on the Internet at a discount and undercuts the competition, the XYZ store can claim unfair trade practices. And thus the publisher is in jeopardy of being in violation of fair trade. It gets VERY tricky in these waters. A large publisher is very careful because all they need is for ONE tiny dealer to make a legal complaint, win a judgment, and the entire global operation of their company is suddenly under scrutiny.

    I know of one author who wanted to buy books for resale. Their publisher had them fill out an application for an account and are therefore bound by the rules of any other reseller.

    So to have someone say, “forget your publisher, sell them yourself”… could be creating a legal showdown that is not healthy for the industry. Always have a disclaimer with advice like this that says, “unless the contract with your publisher has specific restrictions.”

    The Steve Laube Agency

  5. Marlo Schalesky June 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    My website designer made a pop-up box for me on my website that includes links to all the major online booksellers as well as a search for a local bookstore, for each of my books. It's awesome! My publisher is very happy about it because they can show major bookstore clients that I'm linking to them, I'm happy because any sales count toward my total with the publisher, and I'm allowing my readers choice in where they buy from. I love it.

  6. Roger Lord Zeck August 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    This applies to physical books, not ebooks, is that correct?

  7. Juliet Nicole June 12, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    As a book reader, I actually get annoyed when authors don’t link to their amazon page. This is for one, single, solitary reason: Amazon offers you a peek inside the book. Most author websites don’t. And that is the primary way I decide whether I want to buy a book or not.


  1. 89+ Book Marketing Ideas - August 27, 2014

    […] Sell your book on your site, not just Amazon […]