Barefoot Books Leaves Amazon– Should You Follow Their Example?

 Several of the contributors (including me!) are still at BEA 2013 today, but I did want to put up this writeup–

Several people sent me this article a few days ago, and it is a very interesting read about how this company (Barefoot Books) has withdrawn all of their titles from Amazon.  Ballsy, to say the least!

Everyone loves to hate on Amazon because they are the 800 pound gorilla of bookselling at the moment, and to be honest with you, they can be highly annoying.   The feeling in the publishing industry is that Amazon doesn’t really care that much about the quality of books, that they are not handling reviews well at all, and just that they have so much market share, you can’t NOT be on there, but you’re not thrilled about it at the same time.

However (and this is a big however) notice that Barefoot already has a business model that doesn’t have to necessarily include Amazon, and that is why they are able to cut the Amazon cord. They sell books based on the Avon model which is to have a brand affiliates representatives introducing new products (books) into groups in peoples’ homes.  Cool idea!

This is the kind of thing you should be doing through book clubs, through encouraging your friends and your friend to take your book out there and advocate for it, but this is not something that you can do on your own unless you have a huge consumer base built up or a bunch of affiliates that are willing to work on behalf of your product (that is your books and your career).  If you’ll recall, word of mouth marketing is what pushed “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood over the top.”  It can happen for you too– get out there and set up some book club appearances!

So, that is to say, while you might be tempted to Barefoot’s example and quit Amazon altogether, you would stand to gain much more by being a part of the Amazon universe, especially as a self-published author, because as one person, you probably don’t want to be getting out there doing appearances plus running a whole ecommerce engine on your website to sell the books.  To me, this seems like a recipe for an indie author to get overwhelmed, bogged down, and lost in the shuffle.

The bottom line , is, it will be very interesting to see how this example develops and I admire their tenacity breaking out like this but this is definitely not something I would recommend for publishing clients, nor would I recommend this (at all) for indie authors.  Remember, Amazon has a much bigger digital footprint than you will ever be able to create.  You can see proof of this by simply Googling yourself– many authors find that the Amazon listings for their books show up in Google results even above their own websites.   Don’t go cutting off this revenue stream unless you have a solid grassroots strategy in place (as Barefoot does).

One final thought on this:  I’m not sure that Barefoot has really acknowledged the fact that they are now going to be competing against Amazon, since third-party sellers are still going to be able to sell their books in the Amazon marketplace even when Barefoot isn’t sending books to Amazon anymore.     For instance, even thought Barefoot announced that they have cut off their relationship with Amazon, I can still buy many of their titles right this minute, including “Driving My Tractor,” pictured above.    This means that Barefoot Books is, in a way, competing against Amazon for market share and sales.   As Borders would tell you (if they weren’t out of business), this is not a good idea at all.

So, best of luck to Barefoot Books with this bold move.  We will be interested to see how it turns out!



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