The shocking truth : Book buyers have minds of their own

The shocking truth : Book buyers have minds of their own

So that's it then. The gigs up.

What I’ve been passing off as Witchcraft and High Magick to grateful publishers for the last 10 years has been unmasked as simply taking advantage of perfectly predictable consumer behaviour, a working knowledge of Google and a sprinkling of common sense.

Dammit. Ah well, it was good while it lasted. 

At the Digital Media Strategies Conference in London this week Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis released stats showing that almost half of book purchasing decisions on Amazon were made before a customer visited the Amazon site.

48% - Planned Search: Author or Topic

17% - Lists, Bestsellers, Top 100

12% - Promotions, Deals, etc

10% - Bought This Also Bought

6% - Other

4% - Staff Picks / Best Books

3% - Browsing Featured Categories

These stats show that overwhelmingly Amazon is used by 48% of consumers merely as a vehicle for purchase – it’s just the last link in the logistics supply chain between desire and delivery.

For sure, that still leaves 52% who make their decisions based on other factors such as price, “what else is in the charts” and “if you bought that you should buy this" which of course underlines the fact that publishers still need an intimate knowledge of how the Amazon machine works if they're to be sure to exploit those internal Amazon sales channels.

There’s nothing new there - smart publishers already know how to game Amazon’s recommendation algorithm, how to use its’ promotional calendar to their best advantage, how to use dynamic pricing as a sales trigger and they already have all their metadata sorted out to ensure their books appear in the most effective sales categories. (and yes, I am sniggering up my sleeve as I type that – I know almost none of you do any of those things but some of your authors might be reading this and I don’t want to embarrass you in front of the children)

That said, the simple fact that 48% of your customers are making their buying decisions before they even enter the Amazon eco-system is a screaming endorsement of the need to find your audience and engage with them before they even get close to clicking on that Amazon link.

Mmmmm… now I wonder where these 48% of book buyers are doing their research before they go to Amazon?

Now perhaps I’m missing something, maybe there really are hordes of parsimonious consumers spending hours wandering around high street book stores, scanning barcodes and checking the prices against Amazon in the hope of saving themselves a few quid.

Or, and stop me if I’m being all whacky here could they perhaps be “PLUGGING SOME WORDS INTO GOOGLE” and seeing who and what comes out near the top? Could they be hanging out on Twitter and making direct relationships with authors? Could they be talking with other readers on sites like Good Reads and Bookish? Could they in other words be acting just like you and I do?

I know, it’s a crazy idea – talk about blue sky thinking.

Imagine a world where our customers act just like we do. They talk with their friends just like we do, they listen to the views of those they respect just like we do, they get together with like minded people, just like we do – they use Google as a 6th sense just like we do.

If 48% of book buyers are making buying decisions before they even get to Amazon then surely it makes sense for publishers to find our where their customers are making those decisions and to make sure that they're part of that decision making process.

You know what I'm going to say don't you? You should do by now, I go on about it often enough.

It all comes down to discovering your audience and engaging with them - they're out there, you just need to find them before somebody else does.*


* Okay I promise I’ll stop going on about it for a while  #BigFatLie.


Chris McVeigh is based in Los Angeles where he acts as a business analyst advising media and technology companies on opportunities in the publishing sector. He is the founder of and