Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why Smart Authors Think for Themselves

posted by Saul

Penelope Trunk is a respected careerist, a published author and blogger. She founded Brazen Careerist and two other startups. Her career advice runs in 200 newspapers.

But even she can get it wrong sometimes. And, boy, was this one a stinker.

In a guest post for Venture Beat on Tuesday, she wrote a piece titled "Why Smart Authors Are Cutting Amazon Out." The message was simple enough: Don't sell your books through

[I]t would behoove all authors who can sell their book to sell it on their own website and not on Amazon. Amazon is using ebooks as a marketing tool for the Kindle, and if you drive your list to Amazon, you’re merely driving them into Amazon’s Kindle-centric sales funnel.
She argues that advances don't matter (so, obviously, she's talking about Big6 authors, not self-pubbed authors), or at least they don't matter as much as customer lists:
[O]nly Amazon knows the email addresses of the people who bought the book. Moreover, Amazon knows what else this customer would want to buy and can sell it to them. Amazon is keeping — stealing, really — the mailing list away from author.
Why is "The List" so important? Because it allows you to target your audience for your next book, your next speaking engagement, blabbity blah blah. She argues that without the list, you can't reach your audience. Um, isn't that what Amazon is for? If I have my book on Amazon, why do I really need a list?

Apparently authors drive business from their websites, not Amazon.

Now, I can't say how many people visit my book pages on, but I know it's a hell of a lot more than visit my website. She says:
I know this because my personal blog gets about a million views a month. When I write a post like this, promoting a book, I can tell exactly how many sales I made — more than 1,000, in this case.
This is really bad news for publishers, because I make almost as much in commission from Amazon when I sell a book I didn’t write as I would make on the sale of one of my own books after the publisher takes out their cut.
So book publishers are largely ineffective at selling books, and they can’t get better because Amazon is not sharing data that would reveal exactly what works and what doesn’t.
The Writer's RoadTrip blog doesn't get a million hits a month. In fact, I don't personally know any writers whose websites and blogs and facebook pages and tweets combined reach more than a few thousand readers. So, no, Ms. Trunk, feel free to give out career advice to the rest of your cronies who share the lofty reaches you occupy, but for the other 99.999% of writers out there, we're doing just fine thinking for ourselves.

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