The Truth About Amazon.com

What do you think about getting LDS books on amazon.com? Is this a good thing? Wouldn't it lead to a lot more sales?

A lot of people think that simply being on amazon.com gives them a better chance at selling their books. Other than the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you say, "Oh yes, you can get my book on amazon.com..." having your book on Amazon is really not going to be worth the trouble to the average LDS author/publisher. Here's why.

Amazon is not a bookstore. Having your book on the shelf at a store can lead to impulse sales because people browse at a store. They select a topic area, start at one end of an aisle, and drift down to the other end. If your book is on the shelf, it might get noticed. Someone might pick it up, flip through it, and decide to take it home with them.

People don't generally go to Amazon to browse. It's too big. They go looking for a specific title. While there, they might browse the first few pages of a topic area, but unless they are specifically looking for your book, they're not going to find it. Amazon ranks books by sales and being #76, 823 out of 77,851 in a topic area doesn't mean much. It doesn't get you face time with the consumer. If you're not in the top 100, they're not going to find you by browsing.

People who are looking for LDS books don't generally go to Amazon. They go to Deseretbook.com. It's smaller. You can browse there. If your book is 340 out of 750 in your topic area, your chances of getting noticed are a whole lot better.

The only time when getting on Amazon is helpful is if you can drive traffic to the site. If you have a cross-over title that's not specifically LDS (even if published by an LDS publisher) then Amazon makes sense because non-LDS readers may feel more comfortable going to a non-LDS site to get your book. You want to give them that option.

Now let's talk finances. I don't want to be a one-note Nora, but we've discussed print runs, cost per book, and profit margins before. In the LDS book world, standard wholesale discount is 40%. Amazon wants a yearly fee, plus 55% for their Advantage program. That's too much if your print run is under 10,000.

And just to give you an idea of exactly how well a title does when listed on Amazon, we listed Title A on Amazon because we were curious to see if this would be a good avenue for sales. After more than 5 years, we have sold exactly 1 copy. Per book income after Amazon's discounts: $6.73.

As opposed to over 120, 000 copies sold using other avenues (bookstores, conventions, retail sales, etc.). Average per book income after discounts: $9.46.

I think everyone can do the math on this one.


Anonymous said...

I actually browse at Amazon regularly and I buy the majority of my books through Amazon (I also buy through my kids' schools and at book fairs). I rarely buy at a bookstore and only once in a very great while do I buy from Deseret Book. I think I've bought once through Deseret Book online as opposed to buying every other month or so from Amazon and many of those titles are LDS or by LDS authors. I always go to Amazon to check for a book and if I cannot find it there, I usually don't purchase it. I also buy bags of books at the thrift store--we had to remodel a room in our house into a library because I keep buying books. Maybe I'd have different buying habits if I lived in Utah, I don't know.

I can see why Amazon doesn't make financial sense for publishers. Too bad we can't find a common ground.

Tristi Pinkston said...

If an author would really like to have their books on Amazon, they can do it simply themselves. They can just set up a seller account and bam - their book is on Amazon. Of course, they then get to ship it themselves too, but if they're only selling one book every five years, that's not too much to handle.

I shop at Amazon quite a bit myself, but I tend to get national books there more than LDS.