Advertising and Marketing

Amazon delivers another blow to traditional publishing

By: Ginger on April 1, 2022

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

By: Ginger on April 1, 2022

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In recent weeks, Amazon has done something previously considered unthinkable – offering up the option for authors to advertise their books using Advertising on Amazon even if they’re traditionally published, or the rights to those books are held by somebody else. In doing so, they’ve delivered yet another gut punch to traditional publishing by providing authors that aren’t yet self-published with an opportunity to test whether they can do a better job of promoting their own books, while at the same time getting a view into just how much money they’re leaving on the table.


 

If you’ve visited your Author Central account on Amazon recently – the one where you can post your biographical details, and curate all the books you’ve written or contributed to – you’ll notice a new tab called Reports & Marketing.

Newly added to Author Central

On that page, you’ll see the option to go directly to the Advertising on Amazon – with it even prompting to create you an account and make your advertising relationship with them permanent (woah, steady on, Amazon. This is all moving so fast…)

Obviously, as a long-time user of Advertising on Amazon, I haven’t been able to see inside the experience from the viewpoint of a traditionally published author, but I can only assume that this new portal into Advertising on Amazon will give authors an opportunity to promote the books to which their Author Central account is attached irrespective of whether or not they hold the publishing rights.

Previously, Advertising on Amazon was only open to authors who’d self-published their book through Amazon, because the dashboard would only allow you to advertise books listed in your Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard.

This meant people who’d written a book which had been published by somebody else – either a mainstream or independent publisher – didn’t have any way to utilize Advertising on Amazon to promote their books, relying entirely on their publisher to do that for them.

And the reason so many authors are flocking to self publishing is precisely because traditional and independent publishers often AREN’T using Advertising on Amazon to promote their authors’ books – something I’ve heard from numerous author friends who took the traditional publishing route precisely because they thought their publisher would “take care of all that” for them.

But as we’ve written about before – Advertising on Amazon isn’t an easy platform to get to grips with, and a lot of traditional publishers and independent publishers simply didn’t bother with the learning curve. Instead, they relied on the tried-and-tested methods for promoting their authors which had served publishing so well in the past, but are becoming less and less effective in this new online landscape.

This has really given traditionally published authors a rough ride over the course of the last decade – especially for those who might have written the first book in a series for a traditional publisher, but then gone on to self-publish the rest of the series. Not having any way to directly and measurably advertise your own books was a big problem.

And in solving that problem, Amazon has managed to score another direct hit against traditional publishers. They’ve empowered every traditionally published author on Earth to take the power of advertising their books into their own hands – and once they see how effective it can be, some of them my even decide that there is far less incentive of continuing with the low royalty rates that traditional publishers usually offer them.

Another nail in the coffin of traditional publishing

I count three times that Amazon has dealt traditional publishing a potentially mortal wound. The first was by creating Kindle Direct Publishing – democratizing access to the biggest bookshop in the world and giving thousands of authors who’d been spurned by traditional publishing the opportunity to prove those gatekeepers wrong. I know. I was one of them!

The second death-blow came in the form of Kindle Unlimited – a kind of ‘Netflix for Books’ which gave authors the opportunity to access special marketing benefits and an audience of millions of paying readers – as long as their books were exclusive to Amazon.

The KDP Select program was heavily subsidized by Amazon and offered spectacular initial payouts for successful authors, leading a stampede of authors away from traditional publishing – most notably, the authors who wrote prodigiously and made money doing so.

This left traditional publishers struggling to retain valuable authors – something increasingly difficult given Amazon’s 70% royalty rate and the (then significant) bonus of Kindle Unlimited royalties. Compared to the 10% royalty rate most publishers offer, the only two things they could offer to authors was the faux prestige of being “really” published and the convenience of offering to “take care of all that” when it came to advertising and marketing.

These were things traditional publishers were struggling with anyway – just ask any traditionally published author if they think their publisher is really doing all they can for them. Now, Amazon has given them this third potentially-fatal blow by giving authors a chance to bypass the publishers who’ve failed them already and see if they can’t do a better job themselves.

And many of them will…

What do we need to know?

The impact this development will have on the world of advertising remains to be seen, but overall I’m starting to think it can only be a good thing.

Amazon has a vested interest in making their advertising work, so I think this new influx of traditionally published authors will see Amazon invest much more heavily in tools and training to help make their platform successful. For those of us publishing at a pretty high level – as in, our covers and contents are equal to or superior to what is “traditionally published” – this will help us immensely as our profit margins are significantly higher.

For the traditionally published authors who experiment with advertising, that’s where their biggest challenge will lie. Although Amazon has given them access to their advertising platform, they’re still only getting a 10% royalty rate on book sales, and it’ll often be months before a publisher will pay that out. This opportunity is very unlikely to prove profitable for most traditionally published authors – but I think that’s kind of the point.

Once an author sees the dashboard explaining how many copies of their books they’ve sold, they’ll quickly figure out that Advertising on Amazon does work, and if they were able to use the 60% of royalties that their publisher is withholding from them, they’d be able to do it profitably themselves.

I truly believe this is the beginning of the end for traditional publishers, because Amazon has once again democratized access to something traditional publishers used to gatekeep, and this time it will finally – once and for all – reveal how little they provide for their authors in return for the lion’s share of royalties they keep.

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About the Author

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

Ginger is also known as Roland Hulme - a digital Don Draper with a Hemingway complex. Under a penname, he's sold 65,000+ copies of his romance novels, and reached more than 320,000 readers through Kindle Unlimited - using his background in marketing, advertising, and social media to reach an ever-expanding audience. 

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3 Comments

  • I think you may have this backwards, especially if the books are still sold from traditional houses. The increased ad revenue supplied by trad pub authors to Amazon is going to be a boon for kindle.
    However, with greater ad advertising, the more trad pubs books sold. I think there may have been some backroom negotiations between kindle and trad publishers houses.
    I’ve seen evidence that Kindle is closing indie authors accounts for fabricated reasons or without cause. Did kindle tell the trad publishers they would do this if they allowed their authors to buy kindle ads and therefore sell more trad published books? Stranger things than this are going on at kindle-amazon, and all indie authors should be aware.

  • Maybe it’ll be easier to digest if I put a reply in point form.

    1. Amazon never, but NEVER does anything to benefit anyone else BUT AMAZON. If AMAZON does something, it’s because that particular feature (offered) is not producing envisioned financial results. That’s the only reason I see Amazon promoting ‘advertising to trad-pub authors’ advertising on Amazon.

    2. Advertising costs money. BIG MONEY. Trad-publishers will spend money on advertising for their established writers. Not so much on mid-list and NONE whatsoever on new-comers they choose to take on. Trad-publishers advertising their author(s) work will always, ALWAYS do better than that author advertising him/herself. Offering the possibility that trad-pub authors will now advertise themselves on Amazon to see if they can do better — is naive at best.
    They know they can’t — that is if their trad-publisher is advertising for them. The argument here offered is just way off…it’s why I’m commenting in the first place.

    3. Amazon is coming here with so-called ‘breakthrough’ feature – again, as if anything from Amazon wasn’t laughable enough or expensive enough – because authors advertising on Amazon feature is not performing according to the algorithm they envisioned. Not a money-maker or money spent on advertising here is drying up. Amazon has a vested interest in serving Amazon and no one else. Here it’s baiting actually indie authors with this feature (to show them that ‘big’ name authors are now advertising themselves which in itself is ridiculous) so the indie authors (once upon a time staple/fodder for Amazon’s advertising) will return once again to waste their money on Amazon…this is a cyclic and unproductive pitch here – heard it all, seen it all – nothing is below Amazon; nothing.

    4. There will be no impact on advertising world. Why would there be? Not all authors are stupid, gullible, naive or plain desperate. Advertising works when you spend BIIIIIG money on it. End of argument. Where you spend that money…ah, that’s what Amazon is after – trying to convince you that THEY are the Holy Grail of advertising. They’re not. They’re mediocre at best, and ineffective more often than not.

    5. You know where true, punch-a-hole-in-the-world advertising lies these days – in celebrities, in influencers, in infamous and marginally larcenous criminals who game the system and gain fame, in having a direct pipeline to media (think family or friends employed there) – other powerful advertising lies in many different places and directions than Amazon. That’s what’s steaming Amazon’s clams.

    Personally, over the years, I found Amazon’s advertising to be least effective. There is nothing like having a celebrity ‘read’ your book – and nothing like having a FOREIGN celebrity read and take your book to their homeland – especially if their homeland is…oh, China…

  • I have seen some indies panic over the ability for trade authors to now use Amazon and as an ex-trade author, I don’t think indies have anything to worry about. Most trade authors have a completely different mindset from indies. Many are not going to be interested in using this. First of all, they are going to have to take time to learn how to use the ads. Many won’t because trade authors tend to not want to take on the marketing themselves. So I doubt many will want to take the time to learn. Also, many will not be able to afford to. A lot of authors go trade because they don’t have funds to advertise or self-publish so I doubt a huge amount of trade authors will find this feasible. Especially since Amazon ads are skyrocketing by the day. Another BIG thing is that trade books tend to be much, much higher in price than indies. So for example your ebook is 15.99 (yes, my trade ebooks were this high), it’s going to be darn hard to not only get readers to click on your ad but to buy for that price. This means trade authors will most likely lose money from any ads they run because they can’t run ads as cheaply as some indies can who are promoting free, 0.99 or 2.99 books. A lot of readers will not spend 15.99 on an ebook. I’m talking about trade authors who are mid-list or not well known. Sure, James Patterson can do well with this but of course he doesn’t need Amazon ads. The random trade author is not going to be able to make Amazon ads work enough without spending way money than they lose due to the price of their books. Another thing is, many pubs have stipulations with how you can promote. It’s in your contract. Some things, pubs won’t even allow you to do. So these authors have to check with their pubs to see if they will even sign off on this whether the author pays or not. And another big thing again goes back to affording the ads. Many trade authors will expect pubs to pay for this and if you aren’t a big name, it won’t happen.

    My guess is this will fall flat. You will get some savvier trade authors who might try this. Ones that are already dabbling in being indie. You also might get some of the bigger authors being able to use them if their pub pays. But this will be a small amount. Some indies act like the sky is falling and this will ruin their business but knowing what I know about being trade and being around trade authors and the mindset, I don’t see many trade authors running ads.

    Most trade authors want to just write. That’s why they go with trade. Many will also tell you they can’t afford to market, edit, etc. This is another reason many stick with pubs. So how are they going to run ads? Maybe I am wrong but I am going by what I’ve known for years. Again, it’s the trade mindset that is different. You have to have the patience and desire to learn ads and work with them to get things right and I can’t see trade authors, especially those who don’t make much from their books seeing this as an alternative to market. Plus, many trade authors tend to hate Amazon and I don’t think they would want to willfully give the Zon money.

    So, again, I could be wrong of course but I don’t see a big storm coming at all with this. In fact, this was announced weeks ago and I’ve only heard about one discussion on Facebook about it from some panicked indie authors. But they came off the ledge when many others said the same things I did.

    Also, using Amazon ads won’t drive trade to self-publishing. Yep, goes back to the mindset. There are trade authors who make NO money and say they would rather make a dollar from their writing than go indie. Many still look down on the option and still have that dream of their book being in bookstores so, no. Ones that want to go indie, will go. But this isn’t going to make those not interested suddenly go indie.

    I see hybrid authors using this for their trade books now, definitely. Ones that already use Amazon ads. But I don’t see an influx. I think if that was gonna happen we’d see some evidence now. Doesn’t mean the indies won’t have a tougher time running ads but I doubt it will be the huge change some think it will be.

    Great topic!