Independent Book Selling in the Age of Amazon

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The newly self-published author may be tempted to sell their book on the website of the “earth’s most customer-centric company.”  But here’s a tip newbie novelist; think again.

I wrote my debut novel in 2006 and made it available on Amazon. When I took it out of print 8 years later, Amazon didn’t seem to get the message.  As far as the behemoth online retailer was concerned, my urban fantasy would hang on its website in perpetuity.

It’s not because Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos believes in my work.  It’s because Bezos, Chairman, CEO, and President, thinks the customer is sovereign.

Whatever they want they get – for a price.  Even if it’s my out-of-print title.

Amazon may have started as an online bookseller in 1994, but today they sell more than books. The Motley Fool, the investment website, reports retail is not even the driver of income. It’s the AWS cloud computing platform.

Still, Amazon has access to every book in print. If it’s not in the warehouse, they will print-on-demand and send it to you and waive the shipping and handling fee. If they can’t print it, they’ll send a digital version to your Kindle (if you own one) or your PC. It will be lickety-split at a price that’s easy on the wallet.

For most independent booksellers, Amazon is a formidable opponent to beat.

But it’s not an impossible feat.   If they just follow the leader.

“People are very convenience-motivated,” says Jeff Bezos in the CNBC article  How Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went from the son of a teen mom to the world’s richest person.

It’s hard not to agree. We want someone to make and serve up something to us even before we know we want it.

We gravitate to sellers who take the time to know what we like.

Bezos intuited that we have thousands of thoughts like this in a day. He built an online business to offer whatever comes to mind.

To avoid customer decision-making overload, through the Amazon Associates’ program, Bezos partnered with thousands of other website owners who offer curated content to their specific communities.

In short, all roads on the superhighway lead to Amazon.

All of this is common knowledge, but what’s intriguing is Bezos says he’s not afraid to be wrong.

You can’t beat a fearless man. But you can join them.

This doesn’t mean work with or for Amazon. Or sell your books on the website. It means to emulate the competition.

Bezos’ initial goal was to host an everything store.  If you sell everything, everyone is a customer.

And from Bezos’ words, he runs a customer-centric business. Everything Amazon does serve the whims of the customer.

Unlike Amazon, independent publishers, self-published authors, and independent booksellers don’t have that luxury to peddle to everyone.

And it’s that barrier to entry that creates an opportunity.

Since Amazon is selling everything to everyone everywhere, independent publishers and self-published authors can differentiate by catering to specific readers.

A reader-centric strategy offers curated content, events, and products for special-interest communities.  Think: “If you build it, He will Come

Amazon can help too.  They offer free customer-focused tools that independent booksellers can use– such as, “rated by customers interested in” a feature that shows a reader’s other interests.

Using my novel as an example, readers who rated “Sleeping with a D-Man” 3 or more stars are also interested in sports.

With this additional information, I can also offer sports-related content or events on my author website to attract and cater to potential readers.

A reader-centric strategy means you’re not selling books or forcing traffic to your websites. You’re providing a space for like-minded people to gather, locate, consume and share their interests.

If Bezos is correct and people are convenience-motivated, build a world around your readers that helps them get what they want.

You just might get what you want too.

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