Amazon sells a boatload of books, and a shipload of other stuff. In their quest to become the Walmart of the Internet, they offer a huge range of products and often discount them steeply to get your shopping cart started—and books in particular seem to frequently become loss leaders. This sometimes alarms authors just entering the world of retail book distribution, who suddenly realize that the customer who once bought on the author’s website can now buy the same book faster and cheaper on Amazon.
The discount Amazon places on titles does not affect what an author is paid through his or her publisher, of course, but it can impact how effectively that author can sell product on his or her website. It’s important to remember, however, that there are at least two types of buyers—those who will just buy the book, and those who are looking for a deeper experience. The buyer who just wants the book will probably not buy it from your author website if it is also available on Amazon. It is definitely difficult to compete with Amazon (or BN.com) for this customer—one-click purchasing, free shipping, and familiarity stack the cards in favor of the online retailers.
Frustrated by Amazon’s dominance, some authors eschew Amazon, trying to keep a product monopoly limited to their website. This is a mistake—you’ll never be able to attract the volume of users or offer the ease of purchase that Amazon does. As the saying goes, it’s better to have 10% of the gold than 100% of the shaft.
However, the buyer seeking a more immersive experience is another story. It’s for this type of buyer that you should sell product on your website—product that offers a deeper experience than just a cheap copy of the book. For example, bundle the book with an audio supplement. Offer a self-assessment or workbook to accompany the book. Consider offering coaching or, better yet, a community where your readers can collaborate and support one another. Use access to assets like podcasts, sample chapters, and exclusive supplementary content as an incentive for newsletter signups. And by all means, put a mention of these available website features at the back of your book. Ultimately, the goal is to capture and stay in front of your reader in a way that enhances their connection with you (read: no spam!) and builds allegiance. Successfully doing so will help you compete not just with Amazon but also with every other author vying for attention (a far more formidable opponent!).