Is Amazon Prime day good for publishers?

15 July 2015 by in Book publishing, Business and finance

Today, to mark the twentieth birthday of a small company that you might have heard of, called Amazon, the web retailer is launching its first ever Amazon Prime Day. In order to induce customers to sign up to the £79 a year service, benefits of which include free delivery on purchases and access to Amazon’s TV streaming service, they are being given exclusive offers in a promotion that Amazon claims has ‘more deals than Black Friday’. It all sounds like a pretty sweet deal from Amazon, which claims to be the ‘customer-centric company’.

But what does this all mean for the publishing industry? It may look great from a consumer point of view, with its exclusive free ebooks and highly discounted books (in much the same way that a worm on a hook looks great to a trout). Amazon is pushing the products at customers at prices that are incredibly attractive. But if it looks too good to be true then it might be worth taking time to think about just how Amazon is managing to make these offers. Take, for example, the summer read that everyone’s talking about, The Girl on the Train, which is selling on Amazon for £6, less than half of the RRP (£12.99). The Amazon price is much lower than that of the average paperback book in your local book shop, and no doubt when it is released in paperback, Amazon will reduce it further. How is Amazon making money on this product, and more importantly, how is the publisher?

Well it’s unlikely that Amazon is making much, if any, money on the discounted products. By heavily discounting books like this one and Go Set a Watchman, Amazon is creating loss-leaders that are drawing customers to the site in the hope that they will buy more products that aren’t so heavily discounted. More importantly it’s creating subscribers. The repeat subscription fee (yes, its cancellable but subscription retailers rely on something called inertia – cancelling involves action so only a small percentage will make the effort) and the easy marketing opportunities mean that Amazon can afford to give a few books away for peanuts.

(By the way, ever wonder why books are so ‘expensive’ (the average price for a non-discounted paperback is around £8.99)? There are quite a few parties involved in the creation and selling of a book and all of them need to make money from the deal. So, to name a few there is an author, the publisher, the printer, sales, marketing and distribution. Publishers have to sell books to retailers (such as Amazon) at a discounted price and this is one of the things that makes it possible for Amazon to sell books to customers at high discount. If the RRP of a book is lowered then the returns for the publisher are lessened. As it is books are often priced at a level where publisher margins are small – we’re talking levels that would make the Dragons’ Den investors say ‘I’m out’ right at the start.)

bookshops

But we digress. The point is that when Amazon discounts greatly it is either not making any money itself or it’s asked the publisher for extra discount as payment for the huge level of publicity garnered through a prominent position in a big Amazon promotion. And don’t forget that Amazon sells many more things other than books. Heavily discounted books draw people in; the hope is that they leave with a more high value item as well. Amazon may not make money on books but as it sells other items it doesn’t have to. That’s not something you can say for your local book shop. Some people on the inside of publishing – publishers and competitor retailers – are unhappy with the pressure Amazon’s pricing puts on the industry. A new app has launched to combat the huge portion of market share that Amazon has, where you can compare their prices to those in your nearest bookshop.

As a small independent publisher, we cannot compete with such a giant. But we value content and we value authors and the time that it has taken us collectively to bring you the best books that we can produce. Perhaps you think that paying £8.99 for a paperback is excessive, but consider those behind the scenes before you rush to see how much Amazon has knocked off.

You might say we are conflicted when it comes to Amazon. We have a working relationship with the site. Given that it is a global brand, our customers are able to buy our books and ebooks through a very effective sales channel and yes, we admit that we use the site as well from time to time to buy books. But perhaps, rather than give all your sales to Amazon, you as a customer have the power to take your patronage elsewhere occasionally. Pop into your local independent bookshop, or visit your local chain. Touch and feel the books; you’re sure to get good advice from the booksellers too if you can’t decide on what to read next. The power is in your hands to redistribute the wealth of the market share. Enjoy your Prime Day deals, tell us whether you think it’s worth waiting for The Girl on the Train to be released in paperback or whether we should join the library waiting list, and when you see a bookshop, think of the publishers and the authors. We love books and value them – we’re not sure the same could be said for Amazon.

Harper Lee: breathing life into a classic

4 February 2015 by in Book publishing, Classic Wine Library

If you haven’t read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird then what have you been doing all these years? If there ever was a ‘modern classic’ then this is it. Set in Alabama and focussing on the childhood Jem and Scout Finch, the children of local lawyer Atticus, the reader is shown the absurdity of racism through the innocent eyes of children.

Largely hailed as a champion of the Civil Rights Movement and still incredibly relevant today with regards to the situation in Ferguson, USA, Lee’s novel has, until now, been a one hit wonder. So successful was her novel that not only did Lee need to work again, but the attention of writing such a groundbreaking novel was too much for the author. Many people, until yesterday, presumed that she was a man:

Lee, the 88-year-old author has announced that this year she will be publishing a follow-up to her novel entitled Go Set a Watchman, focussing on Scout’s return to her home town as a young woman. Most people seem to be excited about this, but there are others who worry that the new publication will detract from the ‘classic’ status of its predecessor. As with any sequel, there is always the anticipation that it has to live up to the first one. Look at how the Star Wars ‘prequels’ were butchered, or how Hangover II just didn’t have the impact of the first one. When you write a novel as good and seminal as To Kill a Mockingbird, do you ever get a second chance to do it again?

Take, for example, Bob Dylan, whose best work is arguably his early 60s albums like The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Like a Rolling Stone. Though still making music, Dylan has lost the magic of his early career. Perhaps this is due to the change in zeitgeist, we no longer have such a need to hear these songs?

Mockingbird coverFor Lee, the issues in her first novel are still as relevant as ever. Earlier this week, Vanity Fair Magazine was shown to be ‘too racist’ in the production of the cover of its annual Hollywood Edition. Only one black actor, David Oyelowo (who has also spoken out about the lack of opportunity for black actors in Hollywood) features on the cover after the controversy of all white nominees in the acting categories for the Oscars. Lee’s remarkable novel is still incredibly relevant and one hopes that her second will open as many minds as the first.

Though Infinite Ideas are in no way as ground breaking as Harper Lee, we see the value in relaunching and republishing because ideas and publishing are important. Our new series, the Classic Wine Library, has rejuvenated what was a tired series and breathed new life into much loved titles, such as Julian Jeffs’ Sherry, which has recently been published in its sixth edition. Still as relevant as it was in 1961, when first published, Jeffs’ book is the very definition of a classic.

Sherry preorder

Codebreaking our future

23 December 2014 by in Book publishing, Codebreaking our future

Michael Lee’s new video, ‘Finding Future X in Cape Town,’  discusses his book, Codebreaking out future and the impacts of time and casuality on the future. Perhaps your 2015 resolution will be to break the code of the future…

Watch the video here

The rise of the ghost (writers)

10 December 2014 by in Book publishing, Current events, Entertainment

So it has emerged that YouTube phenomenon Zoe Sugg (Zoella to her fans) did not in fact write her book, Girl Online herself. She had help from a ghost writer and the Penguin editorial team. We had bets on in the Infinite Ideas office as to whether she had employed a ghost writer and some of us (Catherine) were proved right all along.

ghost writersBut what does a ghost writer do and why is Sugg’s book causing such an uproar within the publishing and literary community? Well, quite simply, people want to believe that she is flawless, the real deal, the girl next door turned internet phenomenon who can do no wrong.

Step into any bookshop at this time of year and you will see shelves lined with autobiographies of household names hoping to be the Christmas best seller. You don’t really think that Sir Alex Ferguson sat at his desk with writer’s block for months on end agonising over how best to describe Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant do you? Of course not, he has got better things to do, like lecture at Harvard and enjoy his retirement.

A ghost writer is not a victim. They are not forced at gunpoint to write a book which will be passed on as somebody else’s and paid in magic beans before being thrown back out into the light of day. Ghost writers understand the writing and editorial process and, often, get compensated generously by the publishers and the celebrities they write for.

It’s also an incredibly top secret affair. Most ghost writers have to sign contracts stating that they are not allowed to reveal themselves as the author of various works. They live like spies on the edge of society, among us but not really one of us. Not really though, many of them lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Perhaps some people will be disappointed that ‘role model’ Zoe Sugg was not the sole creator of her debut novel but her sales record will disagree with most of the sceptics. Such was they hype around the publication that signings were conducted in secret and had to be ticketed. This debacle has highlighted the importance of branding in a competitive publishing world. Did fans buy the book because they were interested in the story, or did they buy it simply because it was an extension of the brand they worship? There’s a reason that Jamie Oliver has been Christmas number one in bookshops for the last sixteen years and this trend seems to show no sign of slowing down. Kudos to Penguin, you’ve got great PR style.

Thanksgiving Thursday

27 November 2014 by in Book publishing, Current events

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends! While you’re tucking into your turkey and pumpkin pie, there are many that are bracing themselves for the Black Friday sales. In Britain, we are hardened to the Boxing Day rush and most of us have learnt by now that it really is not worth fighting the hair-pulling, toe-stamping horde of shoppers determined to get the half-price boots in John Lewis we’d been eyeing up since September.

turkey1

Sales have now moved online and are, in our opinion, much safer. So if you’re completely talked out tomorrow or have just had enough of your family’s bad jokes and anecdotes about the time you put Uncle Phil’s car keys down the toilet, perhaps you would like to enlighten yourself with some helpful knowledge from our free ebooks. And, because they’re ebooks, they can’t be bought in the shops and are therefore safe to buy from your living room.

Infinite Ideas’ Infinite Success series will be free for one more day so make sure you get your hands on it quick.

Good luck for Christmas, hardy revellers, we’ve got the sherry stocked up already…

A book is a gift that just keeps on giving

19 November 2014 by in Book publishing, Entertainment, Lifestyle

Of course, as publishers, we would tell you that. So it is our job, as publishers and promoters of books to prove to you that we are right. Obviously.

Firstly, a book is just about the easiest gift to wrap. Yes, it’s great getting a bike or a bottle of wine for Christmas, but good luck wrapping it. Too much paper and sellotape and the need for four hands means a happy Christmas is suddenly in doubt. You may end up consuming the wine out of frustration.

Ryan Gosling and book friendA book enjoyed can be passed on to your friends and family with excited expression of joy about all the wisdom/happiness/laughter that you have gained from reading it. A book not enjoyed can be passed on to your enemies in order to trick them into having a really terrible time. Of course, you can give your ereader to your loved ones but you might not get it back as they may think you are challenging them to read all the books you’ve downloaded.

A book is a really handy tool around the house. Its screen does not crack when used to prop up a table as an iPad’s might and it provides an excellent coaster for the contents of that badly-wrapped bottle of wine I gave you.

Books also make your house really colourful and inviting. Nobody wants to visit a sterile home; books add vibrancy, they make you look interesting, they start conversations with your guests. Anthony Powell even called one of his books Books Do Furnish A Room.

Game-lovers can buy multiple books and stack them, play Jenga, make houses or build forts. The possibilities are endless once you visualize your books as bricks rather than reading material. That is, of course, if you are lacking in building materials.

book blog pictureIf you’re in the mood for love this winter, a book can make you look very clever and sexy, particularly on public transport. No texting for you, oh no, engaging the mind is the purpose of your journey. There are those, of course, who choose to take their ereaders on buses and the tube but most people just assume that they’re reading 50 Shades of Grey or worse, the Daily Mail and shun them to the limits of society.

If someone thinks you look sexy and intelligent while reading, they may strike up a conversation about mutual interests and next thing you know, you’re walking down the aisle. Knowledge is romantic and guaranteed to help you find love.*

Finally, books save lives.

Save a life. Give someone a book this Christmas.**


* This has not been proven by experts
** Infinite Ideas also sell ebooks. We like it when people buy those too.
*** Ryan Gosling would no doubt be difficult to wrap up, but we’re willing to give it a go. In an exception to the rule he most likely would be more gratefully accepted than any book.