As a self-publishing and book marketing company, Outskirts Press primarily helps authors publish and market books. Up until Version 4 of our new and improved website, we really left the “selling” of books to retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc. After all, they’ve invested huge amounts of money and time into making the shopping experiences on their sites extraordinary. There’s no viable way to compete with them.
I still believe that. I also believe that given the choice between an author selling a copy of her book from her own website and selling a copy of her book from Amazon.com, she’s better off in the long run selling that book from Amazon — even if she makes slightly more money in the short run from her own website. I have written a whole book about why I believe that, so I won’t dive into that here.
So, if I believe Amazon sells books better than publishers, and if I believe authors benefit more if books are purchased from Amazon, why would Version 4 of Outskirts Press introduce a direct bookstore for readers?
There are a number of reasons.
The first reason is because our own bookstore gives us greater control over the sale price of our books. Amazon’s sales pricing policies are up to them and there is very little control over it. You can try to prohibit Amazon from discounting a book by passing along a “short discount” to Amazon (in the neighborhood of a 25-30% trade discount), but I’ve seen Amazon discount books with 20% trade discounts during the holiday season. Naturally, the higher the trade discount, the more apt Amazon is to discount the book (they have more margin to play with). Most authors don’t mind so much — with Outskirts Press they make the same royalty regardless of Amazon’s sales price, so why not let Amazon dip into its profit to invoke more sales for the author?
But some other authors prefer to set large trade discounts to pursue offline distribution and would prefer to keep the retail discounts to a minimum (or none at all) so they can maintain a certain value ratio for their book. Perhaps they are selling it from their own website for the full retail price, for example… Amazon’s discounting procedures make such an objective difficult.
So by offering another direct sales channel, we have attempted to satisfy two conflicting objectives, which is never an easy task. One, we have controlled the sales price and the discounting since books purchased in quantities of 1-9 at a time are discounted only by 10%, regardless of if the author has a 55% trade discount. Two, we’ve created a customer incentive by creating possible scenarios whereby the customer can get a better price through us than through Amazon. We’ve done this in exactly the same way we satisfied objective number one–by offering a sales price 10% lower than the retail price, regardless of the trade discount, even if that trade discount is set to the absolute minimums. Amazon often won’t discount such a book, but Outskirts Press direct does.
And of course, just like Amazon sales, the author receives their full royalty, 100% of the profit, regardless of the purchase price. It’s a win for everyone. And our author webpages still behave as they always have, sending customers to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble for their purchase, so our authors have the ultimate in flexibility.
And that brings us to the other reasons for the changes to the Outskirts Press bookstore, which I’ll discuss next time.