Hachette’s Partnership with Gumroad to Sell Print Books Won’t Amount to Much

While the major publishers are often derided as being so far out of date their new ideas could collect social security, Hachette has shown today that they are only 2 or 3 years behind the times - tops.

Hachette Book Group announced a new partnership this morning with the indie digital marketplace Gumroad to sell print books on Twitter. In what would best be described as a small experiment, Hachette and Gumroad will sell three print books "for a limited time and in limited quantities" via each author's tweets.

The three books are Chris Hadfield’s You Are Here, Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and The Onion’s The Onion Magazine: The Iconic Covers that Transformed an Undeserving World. Palmer's book will go live later this week, and the other two titles will follow days later. Each of the 3 books will be bundled with a bonus item. In the case of astronaut Hadfield's book, for example, the extar will be a signed original photo, and The Onion's book will be  accompanied by a set of note cards featuring twelve of the editors' favorite magazine covers.

Given Gumroad's focus as a digital marketplace, they make a strange partner for selling print books, but Gumroad's integration with Twitter’s new “Buy Now” button makes them a good candidate for this program.

Now if only it had happened several years ago, back before Gumroad was an established bit player in the indie scene.

IHachette's Partnership with Gumroad to Sell Print Books Won't Amount to Much Bookstore Publishing f Hachette had tried this pilot in 2011 it would have been a novel experiment with a still untested idea.  (Yes, people were selling ebooks via Twitter in 2011 - just with links that led to ebookstores.)

But in 2014, selling via Gumroad isn't a novel concept any more. It's common to the point of being passe, and some creators have even moved on from to other means for direct sales.

Lots of authors sell via Gumroad, but some have been tripped up by Gumroad's limitations and stopped using it for direct sales. As Elizabeth Beeton of B10 Mediaworx pointed out in a blog post earlier this year, Gumroad has its quirks.

In addition to being an author and publisher, Beeton also sets up stores for other authors, and over time she kept getting tripped up by the same pair of problems:

1. The merchant is listed as GUMROAD on the customer’s credit card statement. No one who bought from B10 Mediaworx complained, but plenty of my client’s customers complained. As a result, there were quite a few sale disputes.

2. There is no “add to cart” for digital products. No one who bought from B10 Mediaworx complained, but plenty of my client’s customers complained. They had to check out each time they bought a title. Can you imagine if you need all ten?

In short, Beeton has shown us that Gumroad is not a good option for ebook or book retail - not unless you want to sell one book at a time to one person at a time.  And while that won't be an issue with this pilot, if Hachette decides to step up their direct retail efforts they will have to go elsewhere.

In conclusion, while it might sound snarky or sarcastic to say that Hachette is years behind the times, in this case that is an accurate description.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

12 Comments

  1. […] today Hachette announced a partnership to sell books via Twitter, and they also quietly confirmed my report from Friday about their plans to sell Kindle ebooks […]

    Reply
  2. Peter Turner9 December, 2014

    Have you come across good alternatives to Gumroad for selling D2C via Twitter?

    Peter

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder9 December, 2014

      The blog post I linked to discuses an alternative.

      Reply
  3. Peter Turner9 December, 2014

    Thanks. The alternatives Elizabeth Beeton describes don’t seem to fit much with a bookseller’s requirements. Gumroad may have real limitations but for publishers wanting to sell books via Twitter, there may be no better choice.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder9 December, 2014

      What’s wrong with her solution, in your opinion? What are you looking for that it doesn’t do?

      Reply
  4. Peter Turner9 December, 2014

    Well, it’s a WP plugin, which is limiting. And, I may be wrong but it doesn’t seem like they support invoice processing that would allow for print book distribution via a 3rd party.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder9 December, 2014

      Thanks.

      Now that you mention it, I bet Gumroad does hand off that invoice to Hachette or a 3rd-party.

      Reply
  5. Peter Turner9 December, 2014

    On reflection I bet one could create a work around so that print ordering could be supported. Paypal is also a limit and WP is notoriously not a secure environment for credit card processing–or at least that’s what I’ve heard. Thanks, Nate, for your thoughts on this. Best, Peter

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder9 December, 2014

      It just occurred to me that I know of another option. Have you heard about http://www.Aerbook.com?

      That startup was created to enable selling ebooks on social networks like Twitter. I’d love to hear your opinion.

      Reply
  6. […] I wrote about the Gumroad Hachette deal on Monday I said that Hachette would have to find a new partner if it wanted to scale its book sales on […]

    Reply
  7. […] Gumroad has made a name for itself in offering a minimalist marketplace where creators (or giant publishing conglomerates) can sell content, these apps won't let you buy anything. Instead the apps let consumers access the […]

    Reply
  8. […] Gumroad has made a name for itself in offering a minimalist marketplace where creators (or giant publishing conglomerates) can sell content, these apps won't let you buy anything. Instead the apps let consumers access the […]

    Reply

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