Books Front Matter

Publishers: Understand Your Options with the Amazon Policy Change

Since its launch in 1994, Amazon has been an industry-disrupting force for publishers, authors, and booksellers. As the popularity of the site has grown — it is now the largest e-tailer in the world — so too has its ability to affect book publishing and sales. This spring, Amazon rocked the book publishing boat once again with a change to its “Buy Box” setup. Beyond the controversy, it is important to focus on what this change means for authors and publishers as well as review your current sales strategy in light of the Amazon shift.

The old approach

Before March 2017, the Amazon Buy Box — the bright yellow Add to Cart box with the left-hand cart icon — defaulted to the book publisher as the seller for book sales. Purchases resulted in Amazon paying the publisher 45% of the list price and the author receiving a royalty for each sale.

The new setup

As of March 1, Amazon implemented a new policy so that third-party sellers could “win” the default Buy Box position, thereby gaining the favorable position for sales. The book’s publisher is now in competition with other sellers to be the default Buy Box seller. Those sellers who fall short will be relegated to a lower-list position — below the landing page screen line — requiring potential buyers to scroll down to see them.

This revised policy is meant to foster competitive pricing and ensure titles are available for quick shipment. However, it could enable book resellers and those selling wholesale or hurt copies for drastically reduced prices to become the Buy Box winner, preventing publishers and, therefore, authors from making money off the sale.

The winning strategy

Lafayette – Circa February 2017: Amazon Store at Purdue. A brick-and-mortar store customers can receive products from Amazon.com V[/caption]While Amazon remains a relevant way to reach consumers, the company’s new policy highlights the need for publishers to sell their books on multiple platforms. In addition to Amazon, publishers need a direct-to-consumer path.

In fact, offering readers the opportunity to buy directly from — and support — their favorite publishers without involving a third party is a convenience for both. Many audience members already visit their favorite publishers’ websites for event information, new offerings, and the like. When they can make purchases on publishers’ sites, the only competition is other titles from that publisher — rather than competing authors — so publishers are less likely to miss a sale.

With the right partner, savvy publishers can easily launch branded e-Commerce sites that offer online sales of printed and electronic books, seamlessly linked to their existing websites. Combining the reach of Amazon with their own selling platforms enables publishers to have a wider reach than would be possible alone — while establishing stronger relationships with readers.

A clear path

Without a doubt, the Amazon platform gets book titles in front of a wide-reaching audience that might otherwise have remained unaware of the title, author, and publisher. However, Amazon’s recent Buy Box policy change makes it clear that publishers cannot rely solely on Amazon sales.

If you’re ready to begin your direct-to-consumer path, invest in finding the perfect publishing partner to help you get there.

Need to make the move to direct-to-consumer eCommerce printing and sales — but don’t want to go it alone? Through Sheridan Connect, Sheridan hosts and manages the eCommerce portion of online sales, handling payment processing and fulfillment so that you can focus on developing content and reaching readers. Contact your Sheridan representative to schedule your demo today.

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