I have been thinking about Amazon.
This weekend, I was on the retailer’s website, searching for the product page for The ONE Thing. I had gotten advice earlier in the week that there was real value for publishers to add certain elements to the page, because Amazon weighed the inclusion of those elements in their search algorithm. When the page loaded, I noticed a special offer – buy two, save 50% on 1. The marketing copy was a little awkward, but it’s always great to see a Bard Press title included in a promotion like that. I clicked through to see what other titles were included in the promotion, and the results showed 1000 business titles to choose from, along with other items in office products, electronics and home improvement.
The promotion instructions said to put two participating products in your shopping cart and the discount would be automatically added. I choose Humor, Seriously by Jennifer Aaker and the new edition of Robert Cialinidi’s Influence. In the shopping cart, I could see the promotion reduced the two books’ cost by $9.15. I clicked the ‘Place your order” button and was informed the books will be here tomorrow. I can share the link to the promotion, so you can see what they offered, but the promotion has ended.
Amazon is always running experiments. Also this weekend, I researched or ran across:
- A front list title offered for 80% off the retail price – that’s crazy low for a new book.
- A book format option called “Print on Demand (Hardcover)” – why call it out?
- Made for You Custom T-shirt– download the app, take pictures for measurements, and order your custom made shirt
- They are crowdfunding new products through their Build It program with Day 1 Editions.
- Prime Wardrobe will pick out clothes for you for a five dollar styling fee and each month send you a selection to choose from – yes, I am going to try it.
For the company that got its start selling books, there have been an amazing number of books written about it in the last two years. Amazon, Think Like Amazon, and Bezonomics are among the books that predate the pandemic. In the last six months the pace has quickened.
Invent & Wander, edited by Walter Isaacson is a collection of Jeff Bezos’ shareholder letters, speeches, and interviews. Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America by Alec MacGillis, which came out in March, is described as a “a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow.” Working Backwards is the business book treatment of leadership principles and cultural values by former Amazon executives Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. And this week Brad Stone’s Amazon Unbound is being released, the sequel to the BusinessWeek reporter’s 2013 book The Everything Store.
If you need more to read, you could subscribe to Tim Carmody’s newsletter Amazon Chronicles by or What Did Amazon Do This Week? written by Paul Armstrong.
Six weeks ago, my daughter and I opened a seller account on Amazon. She wanted a way to earn money and I needed to recover floor space in my office from the overflowing piles of books. Of course, as a book publisher, I was also interested to see if I could learn anything about the used book market by dipping my toe in as a seller.
We did some research before we started and checked what the internet had to say about our new venture. Non-fiction sells better than fiction. Books with higher sales ranks sell faster, with #500,000 being the lower limit if you want to sell something fast. We found all of that to be true.
Since the first of April, we’ve shipped over 80 orders and sold almost $1500 in books. Like anything, we had to learn the system. Fees and shipping mean you can’t sell for less than eight or nine dollars. You can buy shipping from Amazon which is great, but they will only sell you shipping methods that meet the promised delivery times. Rather than economical media USPS media mail, you can get locked into Priority Express. Some adjustments to the lead times on our account reduced the need for faster shipping and the higher costs.
I learned that Amazon’s marketplace is robust. We sold books ranging from $6 to $100. Sellers are heavily competing on price—watching each other closely and adjusting continuously. Our buyers tended to live in populous states like New York, Florida, California, and Michigan. We sold through two-thirds of the books we listed in these last six weeks. We also have an equal number of books that we didn’t list because there was too much inventory or the price was too low for it to make sense for us.
I just got done watching The Planets, a 2019 documentary series from NOVA and BBC Earth. I’d started watching it on Amazon Prime during one of the free windows to subscription content. It was so good I spent the $9.99 to buy the series outright. The five episodes were outstanding. My wife and I kept saying “How did we not know that?” The series pulled together 20 years of findings into a fun and informative highlight reel of scientific discovery. Interviews with NASA project managers and scientists were weaved together with imagery and animation from a wide variety of missions to other planets. Loved it.
And of course, if I am talking about Prime, I have to mention The Expanse. The series has been exclusive on Amazon Prime, since they brought the series back from near-death after the cancellation on the Scifi Channel. The Expanse is the best science fiction TV series since the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. They just finished the amazing fifth season and have started filming the sixth and final season of the series.
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