Whenever I’m talking with authors about websites and how to use them, the question of whether to share the link to the book on their site or to the book on Amazon almost always comes up.
The reality is these sites have fairly similar purposes, but the philosophy behind them is very different. And that difference is very important to understand.
For the author, their site is to inform the reader about their book(s) and then direct them to a sale. Amazon is just there to sell books – not necessarily yours.
Right off the bat, you can see a pretty severe difference between what each site is trying to accomplish.
The Author Website’s goal is to inform a potential reader about the book in order to convince them to buy it. Amazon’s goal is to process a sale for a customer who has already decided to buy.
Amazon is not trying to convince a reader to buy a book, it is there to process the transaction. You can see this from how little information about the book is presented. Amazon uses more screen real estate to serve two banner ads – neither for one of the author’s books – than to describe the book that is central to the page.
Once you scroll down a bit from that initial landing screen, the difference between the two philosophies becomes starkly apparent.
The author’s book page presents actions. The reader has had a chance to see what the book is about and now options are presented: Buy Now, Read A Sample, Add To Goodreads, or See The Full Series. Not to mention the audiobook and links to buy it, which, being icons, also serves to let the reader know where they can buy it in the future.
Amazon, on the other hand, has written off the purchase and moved on to other alternatives, serving the customer with an entire screen of other books to choose from. Remember, Amazon’s goal is to sell A book, not YOUR book specifically.
If the potential reader didn’t take the bait on the first screen, then Amazon’s assumption is they are looking for a book but weren’t satisfied with the first offering.
The third screen brings things back into more alignment between the two, but for entirely different reasons.
For the author website, this screen starts bringing social proof into the equation as a means to bolster confidence in the book and get the potential reader to reconsider the book and get back on the “Buy Now” track.
For Amazon it is a way to present what they consider low level information. This page is the “publisher” space and gives some room for the publisher to make their pitch, which is commonly a string of reviews. But, remember, this screen comes after the one prior – the one full of alternative books.
Amazon’s concept for this screen is similar to that of the author website’s, which is that the reader didn’t buy the book, but passed on other options, so they must be looking for more information. And so they give the publisher (or author, if self published) a space to make their pitch to try and get a sale.
Screen four is where both sides give up, quite frankly.
The author site shows the reader some of the other books by the author that might interest them, in this case a randomized sampling of the author’s catalog from that same genre (historical fiction).
Amazon presents a large banner ad. It has decided that if the reader hasn’t selected and bought a book by now, its not really that interested in buying a book today so why not try something else.
The last screen in both cases is for linked content from a previous screen.
For the author website, this is where the buy links, connected to the big red “Buy Now” button at the top, are placed. This area of the book page provides enough screen area to hold all of the myriad options of buying a “wide” book, both in terms of the various retailers, but also formats (ebook, audiobook, and hardcopy).
Amazon uses this area to house reviews, connected to the star rating at the very top of their first screen.
“Which Do I Share?”
All things being equal, authors should share the link to the book on their website over sharing the link to Amazon.
A well crafted book page on an author website performs better than an Amazon page in terms of clicks. With ModFarm sites, even our worst performing book page converts at the same rate of an Amazon page (about 16%), but some pages work considerably better (our highest performer is currently at 42%).
If the book is a wide release, sharing to the book page on your website provides the various purchase options that Amazon is not going to provide.
For authors with wide books, having the various purchase options well presented and available on their website makes a big difference in sales. Examining ModFarm author site clicks over the past three months, the cumulative clicks to other retailers adds up to the same number of sales directed to Amazon. In effect, directing readers to their book page instead of to Amazon can potentially double a wide author’s earnings.
The caveat here is “all things being equal” and the reality is that many author websites do not have book pages that are designed to sell books. A surprising number don’t have book pages on their websites at all. If that is the case, then there is little other option than to share the link directly to the retailer.
Some Extra Tools
If the author website has the ability to tailor how its content shows on search engines and social media, then authors can make their website links more of a sales tool by customizing the display image and text, something that can’t be done with links from Amazon or other retailers. Here’s an example of that from Scott Moon’s Shortyverse series page, recently shared on Twitter:
In addition, when more readers are directed to an author’s website, they get exposed to the amount of information on that site. If the site is well constructed and has a lot of information they want (largely book information), then they view the site as a resource, checking it more often for updates, increasing the site’s SEO, and reducing the need for advertising over time.
An Amazon page is most effective when the people visiting it have already decided to buy. An author website’s book page, if well made, is better at convincing undecided people to buy a book than an Amazon page is.
This is due primarily to the difference in philosophy. An author site wants to sell a specific book, Amazon just wants to sell a book and if the reader passes on the first option, its algorithm quickly offers another twenty similar options.
If a book is a wide release, sharing a dedicated book page from an author website that contains the various purchase links is the best choice by far. A distant second is something like a Books2Read page, that has the purchase options but not the sales architecture.
If an author’s website does not contain a dedicated book page, then sharing directly to a retailer, be it Amazon or any other, is the only remaining option.