There is a growing debate in the publishing stratosphere on whether or not writers and publishers should start aggressively pursuing direct sales of books in an effort to eliminate the middle man (Amazon). Visit any number of writer and/or small publisher sites and you will no doubt read a wide variety of opinions on the matter.
Many of my readers are entrepreneurs first and writers second OR some want to create a business around publishing information. We are different. We already know the benefit of direct sales and many of us are already doing this. In fact, this may be ALL that you do and you are looking to branch out to different forms of distribution of your work (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.)
This leads me to my humble opinion. Entrepreneurial writers a.k.a. non-fiction writers a.k.a. information publishers should always maintain a balance in the way we sell our information.
Placement On High Exposure Retail Sites
You should definitely publish books on your topic(s) to online retailers such as Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It’s important to push your information in front of as many fresh eyes as you can and using these retailers is the best way to do this. This is where you’ll accrue book reviews and other social proof (tweets, shares, etc.) that you’ll need to build your author platform. This is also a great place to also get sales. Retailers like Amazon do a lot of the heavy lifting for us. Even if you rarely market you non-fiction book, Amazon’s ecosystem is powerful enough to help you generate sales all on it’s own. Not sales that will buy you a new car, but enough to get things rolling until you put your book marketing plan into gear.
But let me clear, these sites are NOT where you’re going to make your money. Your real money is going to come from DIRECT sales and other ancillary income that you generate as a result of publishing and selling your books (such as speaking).
Direct Sales For Maximum Profit
There’s a reason why big publishers are considering direct sales. It’s the same reason why authors should…so that you don’t have to share any part of the sale with another entity. Why get 70% of the sale of your book when you could get 100%? Or at least 100% of the sale minus a small processing fee (such as with Paypal). Of course the key to direct sales is that people need to visit your website and buy from you versus buying over on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. So why would people buy from you rather than a trusted seller? Because you’re going to offer more value that’s why.
Many writers are doing this by offering “premium” versions of their books. You can buy a book on organic dog food on Amazon, but if you buy the same book from the author’s website you could get the book plus premium content on how to shop for ingredients or 10 bonus recipes. The opportunities are endless on what you could create as premium content.
Fiction writers are throwing in novellas with the purchase of a novel directly from their site. Some sell their books individually on big retail sites and then “box them up” and sell the boxed versions only on their website.
Another idea for nonfiction writers is to offer a book on the retail sites, but offer a “bigger” course-like version of your topic on your website. So if I wanted to, I could write a very dumbed-down version of my article writing and marketing home study course Articology and offer that on Amazon, but if people wanted the full blown course then they could buy it on my site. The advantage to this is that writing a book on Articology and offering it on the bigger marketplaces puts my content in front of a much larger audience, with of course the hope that they will later invest in the full course.
How Much Time Should I Spend On This?
Okay here’s the thing…You don’t want to stab yourself in the foot by spending all of your marketing time pushing readers to your site. You still need some momentum to build on the retail sites (like reviews) in order to gain some traction in the marketplace and to continue to build on your author brand. That’s why I stress the need for a delicate balance. I think of this “balance” in a tier fashion.
Tier 1 readers are people who visit the big book retail sites and either look for me directly there (because of my marketing efforts) or who happen to come across my book during a basic web or Amazon search. I want them to purchase my book, read it and review it. My next objective is to take these Tier 1 readers and convert them into Tier 2 readers. These are people who want more from me. They are ready for higher level information and so I want them to buy directly from me (information product, course, webinar, etc.) The key to converting Tier 1 readers into Tier 2’s is by making sure you get them on some sort of list, preferably an email mailing list. Authors and entrepreneurs alike can agree that building an email list to market to is one of THE most important things an author can do to assure continued sales.
What are your thoughts?
Have you been wondering about the benefits of selling on retail sites vs. direct sales? Did you make a decision on doing one or another? Share with us your thoughts on this highly popular topic in publishing today.