Sending Customers To Amazon And Barnes and Noble

A couple years ago I settled on discouraging customers from buying books directly from my site by doing away with a discount. This means that buying direct from me is the most expensive way to get my books, compared with special ordering through a bookstore or buying from Amazon with free shipping. Admittedly, the main reason I did this was that customer service was getting to be a hassle. Once you start shipping a couple books a day, you get pretty regular stream of "where's my book" e-mails from customers if you use Media Mail. By dropping the 20% discount, I reduced my direct mail order business by at least 70%, probably more if you take into account the growth in my web traffic since then.

On the other side of the equation, I saw some growth in Amazon ordering, and Barnes and Noble started stocking my most popular title in selected stores due to walk-in demand. The question is, did that sales growth offset the lost direct sales? I can't make a direct computation for various reasons but my gut feeling is it didn't. Since the move was motivated by the desire to cut back on customer service and not to increase sales, I can't call it a failure.

Losing some customers who visit a bookstore and don't find a book in stock or who don't feel like buying two books on Amazon for free shipping that day is just part of a changed business model. What does get under my skin is seeing visitors follow the link for my publishing book to Amazon and buy competing publishing titles without buying mine. I don't think it's a judgment on my book which has pretty good reviews, though the PowerPoint cover may be a turn off for some. I think it's just the hazard of sending a shopper off browsing, so that after a casual click or two, they forget who sent them. The consolation prize is that I probably earn about a dollar per sale in Amazon commission on those books.

So why don't I set up an Amazon A-Store with nothing but my titles, or fool around with Amazon web services to have people add directly to their shopping cart on my site? The truth is, I've made a couple half-hearted efforts with these things but I just don't find it that interesting. But if I was managing the retailing for another publisher, I'd force myself, so do as I say and not as I do.

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