Despite rumors to the contrary, ubiquity is not always a way to sell more anything.
Authors have varied opinions about exclusivity, but the ardent executive often wonders why. Exclusivity is offering your book on one platform for a specified period or forever. One of the benefits of exclusive titles is the platform is eager to sell your title and marketing for you.
Opening periods of exclusivity are commonplace in far more than the publishing world. It gives customers the feeling of having something which is available in small quantity, ergo more valuable.
But my customers shop…
Most authors want to get on the platform with the largest number of shoppers. This sounds like a simple supply and demand argument. If you believe it is, you are looking only at one side.
First, most authors believe being in the biggest store is the easiest way to be found. Ever heard There are a lot of fish in the sea? It is true. The larger the platform, the more books on it. These books are competition. Virtual shelves packed to overflowing means customers need to know precisely what your book is to find it or you have to have sold enough copies to rank for your keywords.
Second, nothing is free. To justify some of the fees, platforms offer some “services” to you. The most common of which is adding their DRM and one of their ISBN to your book. Now, your book is indelibly branded by the platform. Even when you (or your publisher) have already registered your book’s forms, the same treatment given to self-publishers is applied to your professionally published book… for the same price the platform charges the person who uploaded a word processor document.
Another service is the shopping cart. To keep you from hosting a site and accepting payments, which can get pricey for a first time author at $50-$150 per month, platforms host the shopping cart, collect all the customer information and handle returns. Occasionally, they will toss in email notices to former clients to buy something, which could be your book.
Third, scrapers are ruthless. Have you shopped for a book to see the new, used and other prices? Large platforms sell their product lists. Virtual bookstores buy the information or scrape it from newly listed rolls and list your book at a lower price, claim it ships from another country or offer it for twice the price with free shipping.
To minimize the number of payment transactions, all platforms have a minimum payment threshold. Until your royalties reach a certain level, you will not be paid. The platform gets to hold your royalties in an interest-bearing account (with thousands of others) until you make enough.
Pricing your book to minimize losses is difficult. You either have to stay on the platform perpetually, or risk losing rightfully earned royalties. If you can price your book exactly so it earns an even factor of the payment threshold, you may have to price your book out of the safe zone.
When you are marketing your book, offering your customers what they are looking for is difficult enough when there are multiple formats, e.g. iTunes app, Kindle, PDF, paperback. How interested are you in marketing for more than one website?
The majority of large platforms get large because huge numbers of authors are driving traffic to their sites. Want proof? Go to Twitter and search “amazon”.
Baskets and Eggs
No one truly wants all their eggs in one basket. Where the rubber meets the road is answering the following question:
Can I effectively market and reach enough potential customers to create volume sufficient to meet monthly thresholds in all the places which offer selling platforms?”
Before you decide you are willing to put your book everywhere there is a storefront, consider how many people you will need to drive there before you get paid for the sales you are working so hard to make.
How are selling platforms similar to social media platforms? What other downfalls are there to having your book on many platforms? Is it worth the work for the lower profit margin?
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© Red Dwyer 2013
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