Amazon Has Difficulty Marketing Its Private-Label Titles


It sure ain’t easy, even for the very best, to market a book in today’s environment. Amazon’s private imprints are a prime example, as it’s been widely reported that their general trade lines have fallen woefully short of expectations. I commented in my Newsletter that Larry Kirshbaum, Amazon’s private label CEO, has told my agent that he was not going to publish any more singles. (A single in book-publishing vernacular is a work by an author who was previously unpublished by a major house.) Surprising to me, the Amazon edict includes nonfiction, which is generally an easy market match if the material is topical. The Amazon private label list is reported to be 14 overall titles for spring release and reduced even further for the fall.

The point of this is that Amazon cannot effectively market even its own titles. Yes, it can make any specific title a bestseller, but if all or most of its efforts are placed in one basket, what happens to the rest of the authors in whom the firm has invested considerable time and resources? Consider this: Amazon/Kindle has more than 1,900,000 e-books in its catalogue. Amazon itself has published the bulk of these titles via authors who elected to use the firm for self-publishing, and CreateSpace has issued more than 200,000 ISBNs since the start of 2012.

Amazon’s having difficulty marketing its own books can be explained by analyzing their vertical marketing capabilities that either aren’t exploited effectively or cannot be fully utilized because of the immense number of titles the firm has in its archives. I believe the answer lies with the latter. Amazon purchased diapers.com, and this, odd as it might seem, is an excellent vehicle to highlight the problem. With more than 2,000,000 purchasers of diapers, it’s a no-brainer that Amazon would send its diaper customers a notification whenever a new children’s book is published. This enables what is referred to as “the high percentage capture,” since the children’s story is being marketed to a theoretically pre-sold audience. And if it were just one story, all would be well in the kingdom. However, if there are 100,000 books on Amazon’s Children’s list, the dilution rate is extreme. In doing the math, in the world of absolute numbers, this means that each title would sell at a rate of 20 copies.

Now it must understood that in the real world it doesn’t work this way, but there are some undeniable conclusions to draw from these metrics. Then, of course, there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is what book(s) Amazon chooses to present to its captive market. This, more than anything, seems to me to be where their marketing team has come up short in the past. And if a new Children’s author is expecting phenomenal sales via Amazon exposure, will that person stand much of a chance against the likes of Jeff Kinney or Dr. Seuss?

My contention is that the impetus to gain Amazon’s blessing–resulting in marketing support on its site–in the vast majority of instances must come from outside the firm’s glass dome. Hence, a book will have to be a bona fide winner of substantial magnitude before standing any chance of becoming anointed. This is solely my opinion, and I could be all wrong, but take a look at this issue during the next year and see if my postulations are accurate or pure poppycock. Regardless, something is drastically wrong with Amazon’s marketing, as the firm seems to have had a horrible time acquiring traction for its own imprints, evidenced by recent the departure of its private-label CEO.

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