Publish & Prosper

The Indie Author’s Guide to Thriving Without Amazon

March 13, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 16
The Indie Author’s Guide to Thriving Without Amazon
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
The Indie Author’s Guide to Thriving Without Amazon
Mar 13, 2024 Season 1 Episode 16
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Matt & Lauren explain why indie authors need to stop relying on Amazon as their primary sales channel. Listen now to hear why we feel so strongly about it, what alternatives we suggest, and how to get your readers on the same page.

Dive Deeper

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch our webinar Is Selling On Amazon Enough?

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [9:06] “We talked in the last episode about the thousand true fans theory and this idea of connecting directly with your fans and building these true fans that are gonna buy anything from you. You can't do that if you're exclusively selling to people on Amazon. If your fan base exists on Amazon, you have no way to foster those relationships and connect with those creators and those readers.”

🎙️ [25:18] “How do you convince people that have never heard of you before that are potential new readers and buyers to buy directly from you? ... The easy solution there is to make sure that your website with your bookstore on it is the primary link that you're using at every available opportunity.”

🎙️ [41:24] “All of this is part and parcel of the fact that when you're selling direct, when you're owning kind of that relationship between you and your fans and readers, you are in fact in control of the entire customer journey.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Matt & Lauren explain why indie authors need to stop relying on Amazon as their primary sales channel. Listen now to hear why we feel so strongly about it, what alternatives we suggest, and how to get your readers on the same page.

Dive Deeper

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch our webinar Is Selling On Amazon Enough?

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [9:06] “We talked in the last episode about the thousand true fans theory and this idea of connecting directly with your fans and building these true fans that are gonna buy anything from you. You can't do that if you're exclusively selling to people on Amazon. If your fan base exists on Amazon, you have no way to foster those relationships and connect with those creators and those readers.”

🎙️ [25:18] “How do you convince people that have never heard of you before that are potential new readers and buyers to buy directly from you? ... The easy solution there is to make sure that your website with your bookstore on it is the primary link that you're using at every available opportunity.”

🎙️ [41:24] “All of this is part and parcel of the fact that when you're selling direct, when you're owning kind of that relationship between you and your fans and readers, you are in fact in control of the entire customer journey.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Matt: Welcome back to Publish & Prosper. Thanks for joining us again. Hopefully again, or if it's your first time, thanks for checking us out. Today I think everybody's going to be very interested in the topic we are going to be discussing. I know we certainly are. And that is how to convince your readers to buy directly from you. The subtext or title here would be: the indie author's guide to thriving without Amazon. Yes, it can be done. And we're going to talk about how and why.

Lauren: It can be done and it should be done. 

Matt: Agreed. 

Lauren: For sure. If you have listened to some of our past episodes, you've probably heard some passing references to us… not being anti-Amazon. I don't want to say that we're anti-Amazon. 

Matt: Hmm. I am, but go ahead. 

Lauren: But not… I think one of, for both of us, one of our big pet peeves when it comes to self publishing and working with indie authors is when they have this, this conviction, I guess, that they have to be on Amazon. It's essential, like Amazon is the end all be all of indie publishing. And we know that that's not true. And I think it's our mission kind of to convince authors and creators that there is more to indie publishing than just Amazon.

Matt: Yeah, but the reason why they think that is because that's the largest marketplace. That's why.

Lauren: Sure.

Matt: It has nothing to do with their actual self publishing capabilities, cause we all know they're pretty subpar. It has nothing to do with their print quality. Cause that's definitely subpar. It has solely to do with the fact that it's the largest marketplace for everything - not just books - in the world, basically, or one of the largest, right? So yeah, they've been trained to believe that that's the only way to do it, just because you've been trained to think that that's where you have to buy everything these days. Books or plastic forks or diapers. It doesn't matter. Like that's just the thought process that's been permeating throughout our culture over the last 10 to 15 years, at least. 

Lauren: That's so true. And also one of the reasons that I would argue against making Amazon your end all be all as an author, because I know–can't speak for everybody, but I can speak for myself. I get so distracted when I'm browsing Amazon and I am just clicking through the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. And I forget that my original objective was to go order new hangers. 

Matt: But that's actually not your fault. And in fact, that's what Amazon does to you. The minute you log into Amazon, because what happens is they know your past purchases, they know your past search history. So even if you went directly to an author's link for their book, cause that was your intention. Amazon already knows what you like to look at. And so they're immediately already putting the other things in front of you. And more often than not, what happens is a lot of people don't end up buying that book by that author. They went to go purchase in the first place. And the flip side to that is you as an author would never know if they bought that book or not necessarily.

Lauren: One of the reasons indie authors like being on Amazon - or claim they like being on Amazon - is because of that discoverability that they believe exists there. So they'll be like, oh, there's bestseller categories. Or there's always that section on any sell page on Amazon that says like, ‘products related to,’ or ‘if you like this, check out this.’ And that works in your favor, but that also works against you just as much, if not more. If I'm clicking directly on an author's page, if an author is linking me on their Instagram to their Amazon buy page for a specific book and I go click on that book and I'm scrolling through the page looking at it and I see a recommendation for another book that catches my attention, I am just as likely to go click off of that book page and onto the other book page and then another one and then another one and then another one and then I never go back to the first one and I'm buying somebody else's book entirely. 

Matt: Yeah. I mean, again, the idea of discoverability, it was valid years and years ago. It was. Any author could publish something, put it on Amazon, and probably get some eyeballs and some sales without doing anything else. Like that legit was a thing for sure. It's not these days at all. And so even that little bit of algorithm that you just described, just to even get in there, is not easy. 


Lauren: You know what? I'm going to back up a little bit. And I want to be very clear about the fact that I am not coming from this from a perspective of being anti-Amazon. I am an Amazon Kindle user, I am a Kindle Unlimited reader, like I have an Audible subscription, I have a Kindle Unlimited subscription. I also try to make sure that when I'm then buying print editions of the books that I read on those, I'm buying them directly from the authors and never from Amazon. I will never, ever buy a print book from Amazon, ever. And I haven't in like over a decade, just absolutely will not. But I'm not coming from a place of Amazon should never ever be used. And I will at some point throughout this episode, undoubtedly make the argument in favor of being on Amazon. 

So what I'm trying to say here is that you should not exclusively be on Amazon and Amazon should not be your primary focus. It should be an option that you provide your readers, but it should be a secondary option. If you're going to do the work to promote your book, you should do the work, promote your book and send people to your website where you're selling your book instead of sending people to Amazon. 

Matt: Yeah. And now that you've given your preamble, I'll back up and give mine.

Lauren: Okay. 

Matt: I am anti-Amazon for a lot of reasons, but what it mostly boils down to is I am pro-anything that makes certain creators will be properly paid for what they produce and create, and they will be able to continue building their business and fan base from those efforts. And so when you work with a third party retailer like Amazon - and there are others by the way, Amazon's just the biggest and the worst. But when you work with a third party retailer, you give all of that up. You're going to make some money, sure, especially if you're doing print. If you're doing ebooks, let's be real about this. There's very few that are paying their bills off of ebooks on Amazon, especially if they participate in Kindle Unlimited. But nonetheless, I mean, people do it. 

But my point here is that if your goal is to be a full-time creator, author, or if you already are, you should be utilizing sales channels that pay you the maximum amount of profit for the work that you've created. That platform did nothing except process the credit card from the buyer, and they're keeping the bulk of the profit, and they're keeping the data from that customer. You don't get any of that. When we run into people that say, yeah, I sold 5,000 copies of my last book on Amazon last year. Great. Who, who were those people? Do you know any, can you name one of those 5,000 people? Can you email them and thank them for buying your book, and then talk to them about the rest of your series, or your other series, or maybe your nonfiction work? No, you can't. You don't have any of that. So you can't build your business off the back of that sale. It just doesn't work that way.

I am anti-Amazon for lots of reasons, but it's more that I'm pro-creator in the way that if I create something, if I make something, that's mine. I want to make the money off of it and I want to build my business off the back of it. I don't want to build somebody else's business off the back of it. I don't want to help Amazon. I'm not interested in building their logistics system for them. I think that's the stance I come from, and so that's why I really obviously am always harping on selling direct and doing the best that you can to do that. 

Now I will agree with you on one point. One, and only one.
Lauren: I’ll take it.

Matt: And that is, especially for creators and authors that are early stages: it is probably helpful to have your books available everywhere for whatever amount of discoverability you'll get. You're not gonna get much on Amazon, but you may get some, and so why miss out on that? I might lock it down to only ebooks, and again, reserve print strictly for purchasing from me, but putting your book on Amazon and going into Ingram's distribution network and working with some of the other distribution channels and retailers, especially for an early stage creator and author, is not the wrong thing to do. 

But if you're just coming into this or if you've been in it for a while and you're really trying to take a new approach to your business, you have to start building your own audience and customer database or you're never gonna have longevity. And even if you've been in this game ten years now and you say, no, Matt, you're crazy. I've been in here ten years writing books and publishing and I'm making some money from it. Okay. But again, where's your database? Where's the data that you own so that you can keep growing that? And eventually, when these third party retailers take total and full control, what are you gonna do? 


Lauren: And you're making some money from this, you could be making more. If you are finding success as an Amazon author, why wouldn't you want to find a way to increase that success and claim ownership of it?

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: And move off of the rented land that you're building your author empire on -

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: - And onto your own website, onto your own platform? We talked in the last episode about the thousand true fans theory and this idea of connecting directly with your fans and building these true fans that are gonna buy anything from you. You can't do that if you're exclusively selling to people on Amazon. If your fan base exists on Amazon, you have no way to foster those relationships and connect with those creators and those readers. 

I was thinking about this this morning. I woke up this morning to an announcement that Taylor Swift dropped a new version of the like the album that she has coming out I have now ordered three different editions of the same album that I haven't heard yet I haven't heard a single song on this album, but I have ordered three different versions of it. I have paid three separate shipping - all of this I have done this three separate times and I will do it again when she inevitably announces two more editions of it before the album comes out. Because I am such a true fan of hers that I will buy whatever she puts out. And because I am shopping directly from her website, because I buy the albums directly from her website, I am on her mailing list. I woke up this morning to an email that said, Hey, new version of the album available for 72 hours. Buy it right now. I - I spent $30 before I got out of bed this morning because as a true fan, like that's what I'm willing to do. And the same is absolutely true when it comes to authors and books. And I do think, as Matt was saying, like discoverability for new authors and stuff like that, I can personally attest to the fact that I have used Kindle Unlimited that way where I have found new authors on Kindle Unlimited that have a couple of books, but not all their books available there. And I've read a couple of their books and been like, oh, I like these, I'd like to go see what else they have and then moved off of Amazon and started investing in their actual content that they're selling. So I'm not ruling that out as a discoverability option. I'm not saying that it's impossible, but the important part is that step where you're moving your readers off of Amazon and onto somewhere else. 

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm just going to interject here, lest anybody try to chalk up what you just said to just some Taylor-frenzied fanatic, you know, phenomenon that's going on right now around Taylor Swift - which it absolutely exists and normally I would also ascribe that to you. Lauren is right. Like, in this situation, the same applies to authors and creators. When you've set up a direct network, when you've set up the ability to talk directly to your readers and fans and the ability for them to purchase directly from you, that is a two-way communication channel and street that doesn't exist when you sell through retailers. It doesn't. And so you miss those opportunities to solidify your super fans and build that long-term business that we keep talking about. You cannot build a long-term business with super fans if you're not selling direct. Don't listen to us. Go read Kevin Kelly's article. Go read the other 10,000 articles out there on the internet right now that talk about establishing direct communication channels with your fans and the ability for them to purchase and/or get content directly from you and how important that is to the longevity of your business. 

Lauren: Absolutely.

Matt: Period.

Lauren: And it is, if you're listening to us and you don't want to agree entirely with Matt - first of all I totally understand, totally understand. 

Matt: I almost just spit my coffee everywhere. 

Lauren: I know I didn't time that well, I'm sorry. 

Matt: As I drink from a coffee mug that says Comments Have Been Disabled.

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Thank you, Lauren. 

Lauren: That is a great one.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: I very much understand if you don't want to agree with Matt's hard line on this one. 

Matt: Booooo. 

Lauren: I do. No, I get it. But -

Matt: I do, too, sadly. 


Lauren: I think it's also important to remember that if you're not ready to commit entirely to that idea of relinquishing your availability on Amazon, it is okay to do both. That's a question that comes up a lot at conferences when we're at conferences, at events. I'm always surprised when people are surprised when we tell them that these are not either or distribution options. If you decide that it's important to you to be everywhere that your potential buyers and your potential readers are and you want to make sure that you are selling on Amazon and are selling through global distribution to other retailers like Barnes & Noble, on the Lulu Bookstore, and also selling direct from your own website, you can do that. You can choose to do all of the above. You can take the option that has your book everywhere if you want to, if you're not quite ready to let go of Amazon yet. There will be some guidelines that you'll have to follow. There will be some distribution requirements that you'll have to follow in order to do that, which sidebar is also another argument kind of against Amazon. 

Matt: Right.

Lauren: Amazon has distribution requirements and we see this all the time. Our internal support team gets requests from people all the time. There are things like, I submitted my book to Amazon for a global distribution and it got rejected and I don't know why. Because they don't tell you they don't explain why your book was rejected if it gets rejected. 

Matt: You know how to get around that and never have to deal with somebody rejecting your book from their distribution platform?

Lauren: Sell it directly from your own website. 

Matt: Comments have been disabled. You know what though, this is timely though too, right? Okay, this episode's everywhere, so we're gonna apologize in advance for this. 

Lauren: That’s… yeah. 

Matt: Plus we just came in here hot off of lunch, we had a bunch of tacos, we're all hyped up, we're super excited about this topic. Back to what we were just talking about. This is a whole ‘nother thing, right? So this idea that somebody can basically reject your work, whatever you created. Now, I'm not gonna go out there and be so arrogant or pragmatic as to say like no work or content should be rejected. I mean, clearly there are people out there creating stuff that is just not fit for human consumption at all. Like really bad stuff. But what we're talking about is, yeah, there are things that you might submit that, you know, whether you realize it or not, you may have written something that goes against somebody's guidelines particularly Amazon’s. And we even see it here at Lulu sometimes where we might have to reject a piece of content based on something that's in there. We don't see it often, but. 

Oftentimes when Amazon kicks something back, you're right, they don't tell you why. And so you're left wondering, like, did they just not like my book? Was there something in there that I, you know what I mean? Like, what's going on here? Why do I do this? These are things you don't have to deal with when you're selling direct. And if you are somebody who's been kicked off of a platform or you're like I should be able to write… You can write about it! It’s yours! But you're gonna have to sell it direct. Forget about the fact that you're giving them most of your profit, forget about the fact that you're losing customer data, how about the fact that you lose a certain amount of control at times? 

Lauren: Yeah. Also, lest you assume that this is all content-based rejection 

Matt: I already use that word, by the way.

Lauren: What?

Matt: Lest.

Lauren: Damn. That's probably where it got in my head. 

Matt: I probably have said that word in years.

Lauren: It's fine.

Matt: But I did say it earlier.

Lauren: It's okay. I'm noticing as I'm editing these episodes that we're picking, we're definitely starting to pick up each other's phrases. 

Matt: Oh god.

Lauren: More than, oh more than just like naturally happens when you work on a team together for five years. Oh, fun fact. Today's my five year anniversary. 

Matt: Oh, happy anniversary. 

Lauren: Thank you. 

Matt: I'll wait till tomorrow to fire you. 

Lauren: Tomorrow is Saturday. 

Matt: Oh dang. You got me. 

Lauren: I got it until at least Monday. Um, but okay. Don't assume that this is just content-based rejection. I was trying to do, like, just a quick Google search to see if I could see authors talking online about reasons their books were rejected from Amazon, and some of the variety of different reasons that I saw people mentioning included: that the project title and the title listed on the interior file were not the same title. The text on the spine did not have a wide enough margin around it. The ebook had too many line breaks throughout it. Or the ebook did not have a correctly formatted table of content. 

Matt: You know what's wild is they will get that nitpicky about things sometimes and on the flip side of that have you ever seen some of the print books that come out of their facilities where clearly nobody took a look at it?

Lauren: I mean that's what I'm saying when I saw that spine margin one I was definitely like oh that's because you want to have a bigger margin for error.

Matt: Or they don't, they don’t know what a spine is, let's be real. 

Lauren: Yeah. Except, that's another thing you can't do on Amazon. You can't distribute coil bound books on Amazon. So they only published books that have spine. So if you want to make a coil bound workbook or journal or planner or something like that, can't sell it on Amazon, but you can sell it direct from your own website. 


Matt: So this episode has already gone sideways. 

Lauren: So off the rails, but I knew it would. 

Matt: But let's do this. I don't want people to think that this is just one big Lulu party. Like it's really not what this is. And going into this, we knew this episode would probably get pretty wild. We do obviously think very strongly about the relationship of creators to their buyers and who contributes to that and who takes away or depletes that. And so we have strong feelings about that. But all of that aside and time considerations here, I think we'll wrap up this section on Amazon specifically, which - or we'll in just a second, I'll let Lauren have one more thing here, but we're using the word Amazon a lot. And again, that's because it's the biggest elephant in the room, but really a lot of the stuff that we just talked about applies to any third party retail system that you participate in. So let's not forget about the others, Barnes & Noble and Kobo and Ingram Spark and all the others. I mean, use them for whatever discoverability you can get out of them. Fine. You know what I mean? And just know what you're getting yourself into. And if you're okay with that, it's totally fine. 

The flip side to that is don't send your traffic there. If it's traffic that you're working hard to gain, don't send them over to these third party retailers, keep that traffic benefit from that traffic. Only use those other systems for what you're hoping they bring to you, which is new traffic that you haven't been able to get your hands on. 

Lauren: We've recently been talking in episodes about this idea and you know, this whole like marketing series that we did, we repeatedly brought up this idea of social media is a platform for you to find new fans. And then like, the purpose of social media should be to find new fans and funnel them into something like your email newsletter list or a community that you have somewhere else that is something that you control and own and less fickle than social media. I think we should treat this as something similar, where these retail distribution platforms, regardless of which of them - like Matt said, any of these variety of options, not just Amazon. If you want to use them as a way to find new readers and fans, fine. If you choose to do that, you choose to do that, but use them as a way to funnel people to your website and to your email newsletter list and to becoming true fans of yours that are gonna read your content no matter how you put it out and where you put it out. 

Matt: Yeah, and again. The real point of this episode, and we're going to get into this, is to help you convince your readers to buy directly from you instead of places like Amazon and some of the others. And so our intent wasn't necessarily to make you hate Amazon or distribution, but you did get a little glimpse into our personal feelings as well as obviously some factual-based things. 


Matt: But really what we're here to talk about is how to convince your readers to buy directly from you. This comes up a lot whenever we talk to people about selling direct. One of the biggest fears is, like Lauren said, most people like to buy everything basically off of Amazon. And so I'm a little nervous or intimidated about asking my readers to buy from somewhere other than Amazon. And we get it. We understand. But as authors, we have to get comfortable telling people: I would like you to support me directly. I would like to be able to keep writing these things for you and for other readers. I need your support. Please buy directly from me. The first in this set of things we're going to talk about is you have to be willing to just directly say, please support me buy directly from me. I want to build my brand and my business and my author ecosystem. I don't want to keep giving it away to others. And most people, if not all, appreciate that. You'll still have some out there. That'll be like, when's it available on Amazon? Just ignore that comment or delete it. 

First thing you're going to want to do as an author, as a creator is you're going to want to put it out there. Like, I would love for you guys to support me directly. I am venturing into this direct sales portion of my journey as a creator. I really want to start building my ecosystem and my business. And I would absolutely love it if you supported me directly. So many of the ones that we see and hear doing this are so successful right now. And if you can do that and not feel like this terrible guilt or shame, which you shouldn't, but a lot of people do, you're going to see that you're going to be better off in the long run. 

Lauren: I think that modern consumers really appreciate the transparency of something like that and also really appreciate the humanity of that. We see studies all the time that talk about how consumers are much more conscientious about who they're buying from. They're looking for sustainability in products. They're looking for companies and businesses that aren't the devil incarnate and aren't like doing the worst possible things to the environment and the world. 

Matt: Aren’t actively trying to shut down other small businesses on a daily basis. 

Lauren: Right. Things like that. People are more than ever conscientious consumers. And I think that a lot of people do genuinely appreciate that transparency in humanity to say like, the best way that you can possibly support me is by buying from me directly. So if you appreciate my content, if I've ever provided valuable content for you, whether that's entertainment, education, something else, whatever it is, if you want to support me, this is the way to do it. And I think - I know for me, anytime that I see a creator that I like that is that says, like, you can buy from me directly, I will do that. I will always choose that option if I can. And I think a lot of other people feel the same way too.

Matt: Yeah. And there's lots of ways to do that too. There's lots of ways to ask them to buy directly from you or give them the opportunity to do so. So, clearly on your website is the first one, right? Getting set up to sell direct and sell directly from your website. But we've talked a lot about other ways to connect with your readers and fans through in-person events and things like that. And again, having your books there for them to buy directly from you. In the nonfiction world, it is not uncommon and it's quite frequent to go to, let's say a marketing conference and run into a few different people who have copies of their books with them and they're selling them there as they go. And there's nothing wrong with that. People love that. So I would say that it's not limited to just selling on your website, but the real point here is that you have to ask for it. That's the first thing you got to ask for it. 

Lauren: I was so excited at PodFest because I really wanted to meet one of our Tilt Publishing authors, Katie Brinkley. And I knew she was gonna be there and I sat in on one of her sessions. So I was kind of like waiting to go introduce myself, and there were a couple other people ahead of me waiting to talk to her. And I got to watch it unfold as it was happening as one of the people in this little lineup was like, oh, I heard you have a new book. Are you selling copies of the book? And she said, oh yes, I do. I have copies like right here. And she pulled one out of her bag and both other people online in between me and her we're like, oh, you're selling, I would love to buy a copy too. And I just like watched it organically happen right in front of me. 

Matt: Yeah, yeah.

Lauren: And she had it all set up where she had a QR code on her phone that the other people could just scan it from their phone and it would take them right to Venmo, PayPal, whatever it was. And they would be able to just immediately Venmo her the money for it and walk away with a signed copy of her book. And I was just standing there watching it happen. Like, this is so cool to watch this happen.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: In the moment and watch it happen in real life.

Matt: Think of how cool that was for Katie Brinkley too though.

Lauren: Oh, I'm sure. 

Matt: Yeah, I mean that's the point. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: If it's a creator you like, if somebody you wanna support, make their day, buy it directly from them. 

Lauren: Absolutely. So.

Matt: Imagine though if those people online, by the way, had looked at Katie and said, oh cool, I'll go find it on Amazon, thanks. 

Lauren: You know what? I would have - 

Matt: Physical violence would have ensued.

Lauren: I would have opened my mouth for sure because I would have been, I would have taken the name badge off so that you couldn't see that it said 

Matt: There you go, that’s right. 
Lauren: And then I would have just been a civilian. 

Matt: No face, no case. Yeah. I didn't say that. Edit that out. 

Lauren: My boss is not encouraging violence on behalf of our authors. 


Matt: Alright. On to number two. 

Lauren: So, okay. I, I can again hear the phantom voices in my head of people saying, well, this is all well and good for people that are already your fans, but how do you convince people that have never heard of you before that are potential new readers and buyers to buy directly from you? Which is a valid question, but not an impossible one to answer. The easy solution there is to make sure that your website with your bookstore on it is the primary link that you're using at every available opportunity. If you have one link in your social bio, it should be the link to your website. If you are doing any kind of paid promo, whether it's any of the different varieties of paid sponsorships that we talked about in one of our recent episodes, social media ads, newsletter sponsorship, anything - anything that you're doing, Google ads even where you have a link. You know, I know I said we weren’t gonna bash on Amazon anymore. You better not be spending money to send people to Amazon. You're going to spend more money on the ad campaign than you're going to make from the book sales. If you're going to be spending money on an ad campaign, you should be sending people directly to your own website. In any case where your primary objective is to sell books, the link provided should only be the link to your bookstore on your website. Once you get people to your website, you want to make sure they have a good time while they're there. So you can't - 

Matt: Oh, is that all? 

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, you know, no big deal. But no, really, you want to make sure that you're sending people to a website that is not a train wreck nightmare. You know, this is one of the oldest running jokes on the internet. When you're trying to find a recipe and you go on a food blog and before you can get to the recipe, you have to read 15 paragraphs about their life story interspersed with photos. And there are also so many like inserted interstitial ads throughout it that you can barely even like click on anything because the page takes so long to load that as you're in the process of scrolling down, more things fill in and it just gets longer as you're going. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And by the time you get to the recipe, you're so fueled with rage that you've already pulled up DoorDash on your phone and you're not, you’re just clicking out of this entirely.

Matt: You sound like you're speaking from some very good experience. 

Lauren: Oh this has definitely never happened to me before. I don't know what you're talking… Matt's just raising his eyebrows at me. 

Matt: Because I know the truth. 

Lauren: Yeah, no that happens to me all the time, and it drives me crazy every single time, and you want to make sure that that doesn't happen to you. You want to make sure that you're not leaving a bad taste in the mouths of anybody who is coming to your website for the first time and going oh my god this is unnavigable. Is that a word?

Matt: It could be.

Lauren: It is now. I said it. So therefore it's a word. 

Matt: Alright. 

Lauren: But you know, you want to make sure that your website is set up in a way that can be easily navigated, is user-friendly, is not filled with distractions. I understand the draw of having ads and like sponsors on your website because you're making a little bit of passive income on that. But at what cost? If it drives people off of your website and discourages them from buying your own products because they either hate the experience of being on your website or they wind up clicking into it. I can't tell you the number of times that I'm on a website that has targeted advertising on it. And the ads in the sidebar are for Disney World vacations. And I immediately get sidetracked from whatever I'm looking at, and now I'm suddenly booking another Disney trip.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So, so sorry to you if you thought that I was going to come buy your book and then the sidebar ad on there was 30% off deluxe hotel stays for the month of April. Like, bye, I'm spending my money on Disney and not your book. 

Matt: That's right. 

Lauren: And you don't have to be a programmer to do this. Any website, help me out here, what's the word I'm looking for? 

Matt: Any of the website building platforms that are out there, like Shopify, Wix, WordPress. 

Lauren: Yes, thank you. That's when we're looking at those, they all have this built in. They make it easy for you. They make it so easy for you 

to design a clean, distraction-free, easy to navigate website.
Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: That's in line with your branding and your style and just highlights the key details and has your products page and then is good to go from there. 

Matt: That's true. You don't have to be a web developer. You don't have to be a Python coder. You don't need to know all the craziest, newest CSS and HTML hacks to build yourself a really nice little author website that allows you to sell your books and products directly. There's apps for everything. It is so, so convenient these days. That's not to say that you won't have to put some time into it. 

Lauren: Right.

Matt: You know, somebody like me or Lauren or some of the others out there that have worked with these mediums before, as we've said before, we could spin up a website in less than a day for sure, with the ability to sell. It may take you a couple of days. It might take you a week and that's okay, but think of it as an investment, right? When you're talking about the longevity of your business, of your content, and really trying to create a legacy for yourself, you shouldn't be looking at anything in terms of like, can I get this done in the next hour? Like it's an investment.

So, if you have to spend three days building a really cool author website that you can sell your product from. Okay. It might not be ideal. I get it. You know, you'd rather spend that time writing or creating or hanging out with your kids or whatever that might be. Like, and I understand that, but it's an investment and the more you invest in the longevity of your business, obviously, the more successful it's going to be in the long term and that's the goal. 

So I think that most people can get into it and have themselves, let's say the, the minimum viable product, right? A website that will work for now. And then you just iterate on it. You know, every week spend a few minutes updating some of the text, spend a few minutes updating some of the imagery or the pictures or things like that. It's easy.

Lauren: It's not unlike the process of writing a book.

Matt: Right, yeah.

Lauren: Honestly. Where it's, you know, you are putting in the bulk of the work upfront, and then that work is gonna pay off long term and for a long period of time. If you've already written a book, you can probably set up a website. 

Matt: Yeah, I mean, you can get through it for sure. Yeah, so far we've talked about, in trying to convince your readers to buy directly. First of all, you should ask them.

Lauren: Yep.

Matt: Right? That's the easiest part, just ask them. Number two, if you're gonna ask them, you need a place to send them, right? So you need to have a website slash, you know, little store ecommerce place or somewhere that you can send them where you can sell the products directly to them. There are variations of things you could use as an interim before you have a site built or whatever that might be, but there are so many easy ways to do a site these days. It's kind of hard to justify not having one. 

Now, that being said, we know the costs can get a little heavy depending on which plans you choose, which platform you choose, but nonetheless, you can always start out small and scale out from there. And just, again, it's an investment and think about it that way. If you're on the $39 a month Shopify plan and you’re retailing your book for $15.99, you've only got to sell three or four of those each month to really cover the costs of your website and the maintenance of your website. 

Lauren: Yeah. 


Matt: So think about some of those things. Number three though, I would say, in approaching how to convince your readers to buy directly from you, is you need to be able to entice them - sometimes, depending on the audience - to get them to come buy from you. So you might have some of those stubborn ones, maybe they've never read your content before, maybe they have and they're just not quite convinced, you should create something really cool, some exclusivity or something that entices people to come over to your platform and not only give you their email address to sign up for your newsletter, but to buy directly from you. 

Lauren: Yeah, I told this story on the podcast a few episodes ago, maybe, I don't know. My favorite author who I've read almost every single book she's published, I was never, I'd never been to her website and I'd never been on her mailing list and the thing, the way she got me onto them was by saying that she was sharing an exclusive epilogue for her newsletter. So it was a book that I loved and she said I wrote a four chapter epilogue for it. And if you want it, sign up for my newsletter now and it'll be in your inbox on Friday. And I signed up for that newsletter immediately. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Give us something to entice us over there and we'll be there. 

Matt: Yeah, that's right. Exclusivity is always the way to get somebody to do something that you want them to do, whether that's to buy something from you, to sign up for something, to attend something. Exclusivity is one of the tried and true ways that brands, businesses, individuals, that you get somebody to take an action. 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: And when we feel like we're getting something exclusive, when we feel like we're a part of something exclusive, right? And this is why communities are working so well right now too. Being a part of an author's community or something like that. But that exclusivity really makes us feel like we're a part of something special and it makes us feel like we're that much more connected to that artist, whether it's a musician or a writer. It doesn't always have to be discounts or promo codes, although that is something you can do. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: And it's a good way to track where these people came from before they signed up or purchased. And the discount doesn't have to be big either. So if you do feel like, hey, I wanna get first time buyers over to me, and I feel like I should give them a little bit of a discount because I feel like they're those Amazon people that wanna save a dollar too. Okay, give them a little bit of a discount and create a code so that you know you gave this code out over on this particular social media channel, and first time buyers will save 10%, 15% and that kills two birds with one stone. You get to fight that notion that people don't want to spend the extra money to support a creator and you get to track where they came from because of that code. So you can do that as well.

Lauren: I got sucked in so hard yesterday. And one of my favorite and least favorite things about working in marketing is being aware of when I'm being marketed at and when I'm falling for it and knowing enough to know that I'm falling for it but still doing it anyway, and I was buying something online yesterday it was a first-time purchase and probably a one-time purchase and I you know I was going through the checkout process and they like it was one of those things where it was like sign up to be like a member for free blah blah blah, and I unchecked it so it's like I'm actively working on cutting down the number of subscriptions in my inbox ever since we did the episode on email newsletters and email marketing. I've been trying to unsubscribe from all these things. And so I was like, I'm not gonna sign up for this one. I'm trying to cut back on this and clean out my inbox a little bit. And then two steps later in the checkout process, after I had already declined that, I got a pop-up that was, if you sign up for our free membership right now, you will get free shipping on this order. Yeah, I will be getting emails from… But you know what? It worked. And eventually I'll remember to unsubscribe from their emails. But here we are. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But, you know, it worked. It absolutely worked. And as I was doing it, I was sitting there going like, man, they got me and they did. And I knew I knew exactly what they were doing, but it worked. You know, if you have something to offer people to encourage them to shop from you, to sign up for your newsletter. Whatever it is, a one-time discount, an exclusive, you know, like if you buy this, I will send you in like a thank you email that has a coupon code for your next purchase, or a free ebook version of the book that you just purchased and then you can have it on the go if you want it, whatever, any little thing that you can think of, that's just like a little something extra to entice people to buy directly from you. 

And again, all these things are possible with the platforms that you're using and the different app tools that you're using. So if you’re using - if you're like, how do I send somebody a thank you email? Like I'm sure your email service provider has an automated email system or your ecommerce tool or your website hosting platform, whatever it is. They all have tools as Matt says, there's an app for that. 

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: There's definitely an app for that. 

Matt: Which, I think that's from a commercial, so maybe we shouldn't keep saying that. I don't know. Luckily we only have like five listeners, so I don't think we'll get hit with a cease and desist.

Lauren: Ohhh.

Matt: Well, we might get hit with a cease and desist from those listeners, but. Maybe it was Staples or something. 

Lauren: No, it's Apple. 

Matt: No, I don't think it's Apple, is it? I thought it was Staples. 

Lauren: Staples is that was easy. 

Matt: Oh, you're right. 

Lauren: Because they had the easy button. 

Matt: Easy button. We should do that instead. It's easy to create a website and sell direct. Easy button. No, no, I don’t want Staples coming after us either. 

Lauren: Okay, well, so we'll cite this now, officially cited, because in October of 2010, there was an article that Apple registers trademark for ‘there's an app for that.’ So apparently that's trademarked phrase. 

Matt: Alright. So. Edit that in post. 

Lauren: We've said it too many times. 

Matt: What if we say there's a plugin for that? 

Lauren: Great. 

Matt: I think we've changed it enough to where they can't sue us. 

Lauren: Okay, give me a nice clean, there's a plugin for that. 

Matt: There's a plugin for that.

Lauren: Alright, I'll just - I’ll just cut and replace it. 

Matt: Just overdub it, yeah, like anime or something. 

Lauren: Uh-huh. 

Matt: Well, we're not doing videos, so nobody will see my mouth. 

Lauren: Exactly. 

Matt: That's probably a good thing. 

Lauren: If this episode sounds really weird, you'll know why. 


Matt: Did we talk about subscriptions yet? 

Lauren: No, we didn't. 

Matt: Oh, okay, good. So subscriptions are really popular as another way to entice people and create exclusivity. And there's a lot of really cool subscription platforms out there now that will help you facilitate that. Some of the older ones that have been around for a little while, Patreon and a few of the others, but there's some newer ones that are dedicated solely to authors, like Reem. Subscriptions are a really cool way to not only generate some passive income for some, for others they generate a lot of income from their subscriptions, but that's a whole other story. But it's a great way to encourage, you know, repeat buyers and email subscribers to buy directly from you. 

So if that's your thing, if you really want to try and build up a pretty large subscriber base, again, there are tools and plugins for that, not apps, but there are plugins and tools for that. 

Lauren: There you go. 

Matt: Platforms and things. 


Lauren: There you go. One more thing that I think, and then I think it's probably time to wrap up this aggressive soapbox of an episode. One of the things that you can do when you're selling direct from your own website that you cannot do from any other retail platform that you're selling on, is add additional products to the same shop page as your book. So, you know, like if you're selling from any book retailer, you cannot control the related products that are also being sold on that same page. If you're selling from your own website, if you're using an ecommerce plugin on your own website, you can also add in non-book products. So if you're saying you're using, like, Lulu Direct to have your book available on your website, and then you're using the Printful plugin to have some print-on-demand stickers and printed out quotes from your book or something like that. Like just a little couple extra product ideas that are like fun bonus enhancements from your book. You can have them all right next to each other. 

Matt: The really cool thing too, this is a little bit of insider baseball or whatever they call it. But when you're using multiple plugins on, let's say something like Shopify, although this works on other platforms. But if you're using Shopify and you have, let's say the Lulu Direct plugin for selling your books, and you have Printful for basically everything else, right? Everything from stickers to framed art, coffee mugs. I mean, they literally do everything else except books. Between Printful and Lulu, you could literally sell anything you wanted, merch-wise.

Lauren: Cool. 

Matt: But you can do split carts and what's really cool means they can put your book in the cart to check out from you, which that'll get printed and shipped by Lulu, but they could also put a coffee mug and… let's say you're selling framed prints of your latest book cover because maybe it's super cool. Those things would get transmitted the order over to Printful and they would print and ship those, but it's still all in one cart. It's all one checkout. You don't have to worry about figuring that experience out. It's pretty much done for you. When you start thinking about this idea of selling direct and having your readers come by direct from you. And you start to compound things by adding new products and… just know that as you think of those things, somebody else has already thought of them and created a way to do it. So more than likely you're not going to have to figure that out or recreate the wheel. There's usually already a process for that. So don't let that be a deterrent. Just jump in. 

Lauren: I was really hoping that Matt was going to fill in all the gaps that I left in this. I just had this bullet on my outline where I was like, oh, you know, selling additional products on your page. I don't know anything about this other than the fact that you can do them concurrently. And hopefully Matt can fill in the rest of the details. And he did. Thanks for pulling through on that one.

Matt: Yep, I'm here at your disposal anytime. 

Lauren: Well, not in about three minutes, because you have to go. 


Matt: I think one of the last things that we should touch on really is just all of this is part and parcel of the fact that when you're selling direct, when you're owning kind of that relationship between you and your fans and readers, you are in fact in control of the entire customer journey as it were. And so there's a lot of benefits to that. And there's some what people might call disadvantages or cons, if you do the whole pro and con thing. But just know that it's, it's all yours for better or for worse. And I think that's the goal here. And there are going to be things that you're going to encounter that are going to be, let's say, customer service related. So if you're selling books directly to your fans, it stands to reason that if they do get a book and it's damaged. The first person they're gonna reach out to is you, not FedEx. And you have to be prepared that that's gonna happen on occasion and you're gonna be able to, you know, have a correspondence with them and say, hey, terribly sorry, you know, we'll get another one shipped out. Things like that, you need to be prepared for the fact that you are the business, you do own and run this. But you can turn those into great experiences. And I think what I'm trying to say here is, that is your job. Once you're selling direct, once you are having those two way communication and interactions with your fans and followers - which is what you want, and you own that experience from start to finish - it is your job to make that a great experience, right? 

And that's part of what we were talking about earlier, where, you know, make sure your website is set up with a lot of great components, not just like, hey, here's my headshot. Here's what my book's about. Here's my book to buy it. And then that's it. You should be constantly adding some value where you can and other aspects of your website and other things for your fans and followers. Make sure that that entire customer fan follower journey is looked at holistically. Like, don't just provide a place for them to buy your book and then that's it and you never do anything else there because your book sales will dive dramatically. 

Lauren: And I know that for some people that can sound like a negative, but I think it's a positive. I think the fact that you get to have control over the complete customer experience is one of the best things about selling direct. 

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: And I know that for a lot of people, the reason they choose to self - or one of the reasons that they choose to self publish in the first place is because they want to retain more control over the entire experience than they would have with a traditional publishing option. This is part of that. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: You are retaining control, you get to have control over this experience and you get to have input in making it the best experience possible for your customers. Which is another way that you turn one time customers into true fans. 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. 


Lauren: So yeah. Hopefully we didn't scare you away with the, uh, with our strong opinions on selling on Amazon. I will reiterate once again, I at least I'm not trying to give you the advice to never sell on Amazon ever again. I'm just saying that you should consider alternative options instead of just relying on Amazon. Because you absolutely, as an indie author, can thrive without Amazon. 

Matt: I on the other hand I'm saying don't ever sell or buy on Amazon, because they're complete garbage, but I will say, or I will concede at least to one of Lauren's points, is that I understand, especially for early stage or first time creators and authors, that there's a lot of fear that comes into play. Like, oh, I have to have it here, nobody's going to buy it, or what about the discoverability aspects or things like that? That's fine. Put it up there. Just don't send traffic there. Don't work hard to build followers on any platform, whether it's social media or anything else, and then tell them actively to go to Amazon or somewhere else. Keep that for you. Rely on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and these other places for whatever traffic they might send to your book. That's fine. Put them there, yes, for those few people out there that would look you dead in the face and say, so glad you've got a new book. I'm dying to read it. I see you were offering it direct. I'll be right back. I'm gonna go to Amazon so I can save $2. Okay. Whatever. 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: I personally would tell them don't bother, but nonetheless. So I will concede. I think there is some slight benefit to having it in several places. Just in the off chance, you do get a little bit of discoverability, but otherwise, yeah, you really should be owning your audience and the entire process from start to finish as well as all the profits. 

Lauren: Yeah. And if you're not sure yet how to do that, if you still have more questions about how to do that, if you're still not entirely convinced, but you'd like us to convince you more, if you disagreed with everything we said in this episode and you want to argue at us. At us because I will not necessarily promise to engage in response, but you can now email us at and share your thoughts, your insights, and or ideas for future episodes that you'd like us to dive further into this topic or other topics. 

Matt: As well as now as well as your disappointment with Lauren.

Lauren: What? For what? 

Matt: For supporting Amazon and Taylor Swift. 

Lauren: Wow. Do not email me about that. I will hit delete. Unfortunately, Matt will probably save it, frame it, print it out, put it on my desk. 

Matt: Oh for sure.

Lauren: So I guess that's up to you. 

Matt: There'll be the new Lulu t-shirts. 

Lauren: Sounds great. Well, thanks for listening everyone. I hope we taught you something valuable in this, or at least you were entertained listening to us get heated about Amazon. 

Matt: Yeah. Our listener count just dropped. 

Lauren: Oh, well.