Despite the Amazon craze (and Smashwords and all the other shiny new e-book selling tools and platforms), the majority of the e-books I release will never be sold through such marketplaces. That's because for years I've focused on writing "information product" e-books -- which are highly profitable, are what I usually refer to here as "traditional e-books," and are often ignored by today's e-book newcomers and those hyping e-books in the publishing industry.
Why I Say "No Thanks" to Amazon
Amazon isn't an ideal place to sell these types of e-books for a few reasons:
- The overall market there is too generic.
- Buyers in large marketplaces mistakenly compare niche markets based on price (if a novel sells for $.99 a $29 e-book won't even be considered by many there).
- Information product e-books should be thought of as almost mini-courses rather than e-books in a broader sense. Lumping them in with other types of e-books risks hurting sales as much as potentially helping them.
- The best way to sell this type of e-book is by targeting a very specific niche audience and building your own reach or platform. I already have a significant audience in the niches where I publish most e-books, and you need more trust to sell these higher priced products. You do that better through your own site than through marketplaces like Amazon. That said, if an e-book author didn't build a platform first and they don't have significant reach in their niche yet, then Amazon might be a fine option for their early information product e-books.
- There are already better marketplaces and distribution tools for information product e-books (E-junkie.com is my preference although ClickBank.com is another longstanding leader in e-book sales). This is especially true if you want to promote your e-book through an affiliate program as Amazon's affiliate program generally can't compare to those through these other types of services (you set the affiliate rates, attracting more prominent affiliates who sometimes only promote products for a larger cut than the minuscule one Amazon offers).
- While some people dismiss these other e-book marketplaces because they don't like some of the hyped up marketing-oriented (read: "spammy") e-books sold there, I find there are far more crap titles released on Amazon and similar sites. That's less of a reason to go out and try these other options, and more a dismissal of a typical excuse for not doing so. If you're worried about who you associate with based on how you sell your e-books, stop. They each have their fair share of bad apples.
Where Amazon Has a Place
I don't try to hide the fact that I'm not a fan of Amazon's recent hijacking of the e-publishing industry. But that doesn't mean I dismiss them as a bad option all-around. There are certainly exceptions. For example:
- When I release my first novel and my nonfiction book (not an "information product" type of book), Amazon will give me a little more reach in those relevant markets. That's because these books will appeal to a somewhat broader audience than the super-targeted information product varieties do.
- I think these newer e-book marketplaces are a good option for those just getting their feet wet who don't yet have a strong reach in their target market.
- If you plan to price competitively with the style of e-books sold there, the marketplaces make sense as a part of your marketing plan.
- I'd say any book released in both print and e-book formats should probably be included there for sale -- letting buyers choose the versions they want rather than forcing them to visit two or three different sites to buy a copy of your book.
- If you already have strong e-book sales independently, there's no harm in trying to increase those numbers even more by making the e-books available more widely. For higher priced information product e-books in extremely narrow niches, this isn't likely to skyrocket your numbers and may not be worth the time. But if you have a lower to mid-range information product e-book and it might appeal to new verticals you hadn't considered before, it might help you reach those folks without changing your general Web presence (like a freelance e-book targeting writers that might also sell well with freelance designers and other similar professionals).
- Some information product e-books are given away for free as marketing tools. Personally I use these as a form of link bait -- offering something that attracts natural links. So it doesn't make sense to put them on Amazon. That would also be the case if you use the free e-books to solicit email list subscriptions. But if you give it away solely to get your name out there in your niche in an effort to attract business of another kind, it might make perfect sense to release your e-books for free on Amazon and other services. [Edit: You generally cannot release an e-book for free on Amazon without their permission. You can price only as low as 99 cents. See the link in the comments below for more info, or check out other options like the Apple store or Smashwords.]
Amazon has its place, but it's not the be all and end all in e-book sales. That's especially true when we talk about traditional e-books or "information product" e-books. Have you written e-books of this kind? How do you prefer to release them? If you haven't, have you considered it? What would be your goal out of that kind of e-book -- more promoting your business or yourself, or to make money directly since they're often priced higher due to the high value action-oriented information they generally contain? Share your thoughts in the comments below.