Amazon’s “Buy Button” Policy

The publishing world is all abuzz with the latest Amazon change. It has to do with Amazon’s “Buy Button” policy change in regards to new books sold on the site.

A Little History

Last November, Amazon began allowed third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. Third-party re-sellers on Amazon can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outlined by Amazon, which includes price, availability, and delivery time (see https://goo.gl/11yc37).

The program is only open to new books, defined by Amazon as “brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition. The dust cover and original protective wrapping, if any, is intact. All supplementary materials are included and all access codes for electronic material, if applicable, are valid and/or in working condition.”

Amazon has long allowed third-party sellers to compete with Amazon for the sale of new items. Up until last year, books were exempt from this program with Amazon selling the publisher’s copy of a book as the first listed seller. Interestingly, Amazon currently does not sell or stream copies of other copyrighted works—movies and television programs—that are distributed by anyone other than the authorized distributor. In other words, third party sellers cannot sell these copyrighted new works.

The Concern

Of course, publishers are concerned that they will not get their fair share of retail price for new books sold by third-party sellers on Amazon. Where do these third-party sellers get their books? Generally, not from the publishers. Publishers and authors make the most money from books sold directly through Amazon because these books are purchased directly from them (although sometimes through the publisher’s distributor).

Many authors and publishers have also expressed concern that the books being listed as “new” by third-party sellers are not really “new”. If you believe your book (or anyone’s book) is being sold as “new” by a third-party seller—but really isn’t a new book—you can file a complaint with Amazon (see https://goo.gl/aqfw5P).

Speculation

Anytime Amazon makes a major policy change, many speculate as to the motivation behind the move. Two theories are being kicked around.

  1. Amazon is trying to expand its POD offering and wants to encourage publishers and authors to use its POD services. After all, it appears that, for the most part, books sold via Createspace and IngramSpark still have Amazon as the primary “buy” button.
  2. The other speculated motivation is that Amazon wants to reduce their storage and labor costs by giving preference to third-party buyers. In doing so, Amazon will have less books to stock and move in their warehouses.

Personally, I also wonder how much Amazon just changes things up every so often to stay in the news. Every change brings lots of buzz, so the strategy seems to work if that is what they are after.

As a consumer who buys books on Amazon, I find the third-party buy button very annoying. It makes me have to double and triple check that I am actually buying the book from Amazon and not a third-party seller that will make me pay shipping.

I would love to hear if and how Amazon’s buy button policy has effected your book listing and sales on the site.

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What’s Your Spin?

According to King Solomon, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” This includes your storyline or the subject matter in your book.

If there is nothing new under the sun, then the information or story you cover in your book is already available to readers. So, why would they read your book?

Ponder this question for a moment. It’s a good question and one many independently published authors have a hard time answering.

Let me answer it for you—in part.

Readers want to read your book for the spin you put on the subject or storyline. In other words, they will want to read your book for how you solve a problem or tell a story in a way that is unique.

To garner attention in today’s information-rich society, you must tell a unique story. You must handle a topic in a manner different from everyone else.

I recently met an author who is publishing a book on grief. I asked her what made her grief book different then all the others on the market. She stated that her book had to do with grief suffered by suicide survivors (those whose loved ones had committed suicide). I mentioned that there are already plenty of books on this subject and asked how hers is different.

She told me that she is a therapist. In each chapter of her book, she not only deals with a grief issue, she also walks the reader through guided questions she uses in a therapy session. In essence, she said, her book allows people to experience therapy for their grief without having to pay for a therapist.

Now that’s a spin. This approach is unique and a great way for this author to sell her book.

What’s your spin? When you find it, make sure that your voice is consistent and all your marketing content (brand message, website, blog, social media, etc.) reflects your spin. Then you will stand out from the crowd and find readers for your book.

While there is nothing new under the sun, every human being is unique. No other human has the same fingerprint as you. The same can be true for your book. The subject matter will not be new, but you can give it a unique fingerprint.

What’s your spin?

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Photo courtesy of Serge Kutuzov.

 

Why Would Someone Buy Your Book?

The number one reason people buy a book is because they have a connection to the author. This connection can come in a variety of forms:

  • They personally know the author.
  • They have heard the author speak.
  • They have read other books by the author.
  • The author is an influencer they listen to, watch, or follow.
  • They have a friend or family member who has recommended the author or book.
  • A publication or organization they trust recommends the book.

Sometimes people buy books they discover in a bookstore or online because they are looking for a good read or a book on a particular subject to help them with a problem they have. However, the majority of the time, people purchase a book because they have some type of connection to the author.

Are you making connections with readers?

I recently heard a speaker say that there are four reasons people will do business with you. These four reasons are:

  1. They like you.
  2. They trust you.
  3. They find you competent.
  4. They believe you have integrity.

How are you doing on these measures as an author? Are you likable? Are you providing potential readers with competent, trustworthy information that can improve or enrich their lives in some way? Are you a person of integrity?

According to Dictionary.com, one definition of connect is to associate mentally or emotionally. Do you want to make a connection with readers so that they buy your books? Then associate mentally and emotionally with them.

An easy place to start connecting mentally and emotionally with potential readers is through social media. Join the conversation. Spend more time responding to others and being empathetic to their needs. Develop a connection before you bring their attention to your book and what it can do for them.

Remember, Jesus often asked people “What do you want?” when they came to him. He did not assume that he knew their need. He asked them to tell him. Once they told him, he provided. Follow his example.

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Are You Willing to Commit?

Ask yourself the following question:

What am I willing to commit in time and energy each day or week to keep my book alive?

It’s a great question. Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru, said, “Books don’t sell themselves; people sell books.

How much time and energy are you putting into promoting your book each day or week? Are you putting in as much commitment in time and energy every day or week to promote your book as you did to write your book?

Marketing a book takes time and energy. So many authors give a great effort to promoting when they first publish their book, but then slowly their efforts dwindle to nothing. At that point, they cease selling books.

Do you want to keep your book alive? Then you must commit to doing marketing activities daily or weekly. Not sure what to do? Here are ten ideas:

  1. Publish a new blog post or podcast at least once a week.
  2. Share your blog post on Reddit or StumbleUpon.
  3. Send a newsletter to your email list sharing your new blog post or podcast and reminding them of your book.
  4. Comment at least once a day on your social media accounts.
  5. Send a request to a book reviewer or blogger asking them to review your book.
  6. Join the discussion on online groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads) that speak to your target audience or topic. Respond to a thread or start a new thread regularly.
  7. Write insightful comments on a blog that targets your audience or speak on your topic a couple times each week.
  8. Write articles and guest blog posts.
  9. Send a request to be a guest on a podcast that speaks to your topic or audience.
  10. Send thank you notes to people who share your social media posts, give you a shout out, air your blog post, interview you, or review your books.

Need more ideas? You can find plenty more in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace and in Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) monthly newsletter for our member publishers and authors. In fact, one member recently wrote, “This latest newsletter is the best marketing newsletter I have ever read. You provided so many ideas, topics, tips, etc, that it’ll take me two weeks to put all of them into practice.—Michael

How much time and energy are you willing to commit to keep your book alive? Decide. Then, start doing promotion activities. Remember, any activity that draws people’s attention to your book is marketing.

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What Authors Can Learn from Shopping Behaviors

I love to shop. For the most part, I prefer shopping in physical stores where I can not only see what I am purchasing, but I can touch and feel it also. I know many people prefer to shop online. While not everyone shops the same way, there are a few similarities overall among people’s shopping preferences.

A new study by Catalyst, a marketing agency specializing in retail, explored consumer-shopping behaviors across multiple channels. Their research found that most customers prefer convenience over other factors when shopping. Here are a few of the findings from Catalyst’s study:

  • Convenience Is Paramount
    Amazon wins when it comes to convenience. Most customers prefer researching and buying products online.
  • Efficiency Matters
    Customers look for what saves them time. If it is not readily available to order or purchase, or if shipping is not fast, customers will walk away from a purchase.
  • Price Matters—but Quality Matters More
    Customers want the best quality for the lowest price. They are willing to pay more for a product when convenience and customer service are perceived to be superior.

There are a few nuggets of wisdom for authors in this study and its findings. Here are two lessons from this study that can help you sell more books.

1. Your books must be available in multiple channels for buyers to purchase.

Believe it or not, not everyone shops on Amazon. Your book needs to be available for purchase (and quick delivery) at the places where your readers shop. Having your book available for purchase on Amazon and your website is not enough. Make sure your books are in wider distribution so that they are conveniently available to more people.

2. Your book’s price affects sales.

One of the best rules to follow when independently publishing a book is simply this: Follow the industry standard. When pricing your book, this means that your book is priced in the same range as other books in its genre that are published by the large industry publishing houses.

Since print-on-demand is more expensive per book than offset printing (printing large numbers of books at once of 1,000 or more copies), independently published authors often price their books higher than industry standard. Pricing high allows the author to make a decent return on each book sold. However, pricing your book higher than other books in your genre can result in a loss of sales. Remember, people are looking for the best quality at the lowest price. If a reader is considering purchasing your book or another book on the same topic, if the books appear equal in quality, the reader will opt for the lower-priced book.

Book buyers are shoppers and they, like most consumers, prefer convenience, efficiency, and good deals.

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