How Not to Succeed as an Author: Tell Readers "Please Don’t Buy my Books on Amazon"
Jaime Clarke, author of the not-yet-released novel Vernon Downs, doesn’t want you to buy the book from Amazon. He’s even launched a website called Please Don’t Buy My Book on Amazon.com:
I hope you’ll take a moment to consider this personal plea: If you’re even remotely interested in my novel, Vernon Downs, please don’t buy it on Amazon.
Mr Clarke would instead prefer that you take the more difficult path of pre-ordering the book from the publisher or waiting to get the book from your local indie (like Newtonville Books, the one that Mr. Clarke co-owns). If you do pre-order from the publisher, you have the option of listing your preferred indie:
If you want to support your local bookstore, enter their name and address in the Special Instructions field when you check out and Roundabout will donate 50% of the monies (excluding shipping) to that bookstore. You can’t yet order Vernon Downs directly from your local bookstore because the distributor that fills those orders would also have to fill orders to Amazon.
This novel isn’t due out until April of next year, so this request is more of a publicity stunt than anything, but it still represents one author’s efforts to drive away readers.
And he’s not alone. Shelf Awareness reports that another bookseller turned author is making a similar request. Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of SF-based Book Passage, uses his books' website to direct possible readers to indies.
Petrocelli commented: "I get really disheartened every time I see a routine, mindless 'buy-link' to Amazon on author websites. (It’s even worse when it’s an author I know or one who’s coming to our store for an event.) Needless to say, I never even considered doing that. I thought about simply directing any sales to Book Passage, but I quickly decided that wasn’t such a good idea either. As an author, it’s in my best interest to spread sales around and get as many stores involved as possible."
Funny, I thought his interests as an author was best served by selling as many copies as possible for the best price he can get. Being an author is a profession and/or business, after all, and more money is inherently better than less money.
Or at least that’s my opinion, and it looks like it’s not a universal one. This attitude that authors should forgo their own financial self-interest in favor of supporting indie bookstores has been growing stronger of late.
Back in June The Bookseller posted a rant by one indie bookseller who wanted authors to prop up his struggling bookstores:
Here’s an interesting list of authors, can you guess what they have in common? Joanne Harris, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Alison Weir and Julia Donaldson. The answer is they all have websites that direct readers straight to Amazon to buy their books. Now here’s another list: Kate Morton, Ian Rankin, Tom Holland and Patrick Ness. The websites of these authors direct readers to buy their books either from Amazon or a multiple.
So what? Well, as an owner of two independent bookshops I feel angry that these authors, unthinkingly or by design, have chosen to support Amazon, W H Smith or Waterstones without giving a fig for independent bookshops.
How best to gently debunk this?
1. An author’s interests are best served by getting as many copies sold/read as possible.
2. They’re competing with a vast number of other authors in a maelstrom of distracting ways for a reader to spend their time, all of which are trying to get the attention of readers who have a near infinite supply of reading material.
3. Any time an author makes buying a book even the smallest amount more difficult that author runs the risk of losing the sale and losing the reader completely.
It’s in an author’s interest to make it as easy as possible to buy their books, and that’s why they tend to offer potential readers the simplest way to buy the book: Amazon.
Does everyone have an Amazon account? No, but there’s a good chance that they will have an account, and sending a potential customer to a site where they don’t have to create an account is always preferable. It removes a step in the buying process.
One might loath Amazon, but in this day and age it is a necessary evil.