An Author’s Guide to Sweet-Talking Amazon
Amazon is a huge part of the ebook ecosystem, but the ebook divisions are really just a tiny part of the a massive enterprise – one that runs largely on automatic (like most huge companies).
Figuring out how to get that automatic operation to do what you want can mean the success or failure of an author’s career, and Greg Hullender has the inside scoop on what authors need to do.
He left a comment over on Mad Genius Club last week where he explained how authors needed to align their request with Amazon’s interests:
I was a senior manager at Amazon for three years. Amazon’s customer focus is extremely strong, and you need to understand that to really understand what makes the company tick. Bezos believes that if you take care of the customers (even if it doesn’t seem to make short-term economic sense) that you will win in the long run. (Maybe the real shock is that almost no companies believe this–Amazon is very unusual in this regard.)
As an author, you’re a partner not a customer. Amazon is very happy for you to use their platform to make money as long as you treat the customers the way Amazon would. Unfortunately, there are third-party merchants (aka “partners”) who really do want to soak the customers and a few who resort to outright fraud. As a result, the company is very diligent about policing its partners; it has to be.
The sort of stuff you’re talking about (e.g. having to submit proof of ownership) is called “merchant friction.” Amazon does make an ongoing effort to reduce merchant friction, but it always takes a back seat to customer satisfaction.
A tip to anyone dealing with Amazon is to describe your issue in terms of customer needs if at all possible. If you can make it about you and Amazon working together to please the customer, things will go much more smoothly.
In a broader sense, Amazon is driven what it calls Leadership Principles. Unlike anywhere I ever worked, these principles drive the company. People mention them in almost every meeting, and they’re serious about it. (It helps that getting reviews and promotions is tied to proof that you were “strong in most and deficient in none” of these principles.) Anyway, if you understand the Leadership Principles, you’ve come a long way towards understanding Amazon.
When you break it down, this is a practical example of one of the basic principals of persuasive speaking: framing an argument based on your subjects' motivations (explaining why they want the same thing you want) to win them over.
It is simple idea in principle but difficult in practice, which is why I am grateful that Greg laid it out for us.
image by nist6dh