Home » Bookstores, Non-US » For the cunning plot to lure book buyers away from Amazon, read on

For the cunning plot to lure book buyers away from Amazon, read on

12 March 2013

From The Independent:

War is said to be the mother of invention – and in the increasingly bitter battleground of  publishing, bookshops have a new weapon.

Anyone who buys the new Joanne Harris paperback Peaches for Monsieur le Curé from Waterstones will find it contains an extra chapter not included in copies sold elsewhere, after the book chain signed an exclusive deal with the author.

The chapter, which Harris says can be read either as an epilogue or as “the prologue to an as-yet-unwritten story”, may not be central to the plot of Peaches, which is a follow-up to her best-selling Chocolat.  But Waterstones hopes that the extra material will be enough to persuade Harris fans to shun Amazon and other web retailers in favour of a trip to the High Street.

The promotion is one of several innovative marketing tactics – many involving  so-called “bonus material” – being adopted by booksellers in an attempt to compete with cut-price online rivals.

Foyles recently sold copies of Alexander McCall Smith’s novel Trains and Lovers with a small booklet containing an extra short story by the author.

. . . .

But it is not merely nostalgia for the high street bookshop that is compelling authors into offering these deals. “One of the buzzwords in publishing and bookselling is ‘discoverability’,” Mr Tivnan added.

“Authors are unanimous on this. The place to discover a new book is not on Amazon. It is browsing through a bookshop or a library. Physical bookshops have to survive. Authors and publishers really want to keep bookshops and libraries open. Particularly mid-rank authors, lower down than Joanne Harris or Ian Rankin [who added a bonus essay to a bookshop-only version of a recent novel].”

Link to the rest at The Independent and thanks to Dinah for the tip.

PG was interested to see that mid-rank authors in Britain are supposedly in favor of this marketing gimmick since mid-list authors in the US are no longer found in Barnes & Noble and other physical bookstores at all.

Bookstores, Non-US

32 Comments to “For the cunning plot to lure book buyers away from Amazon, read on”

  1. Authors are unanimous on this.

    One vote against. I discover new books based on recommendations from friends.

  2. So they are including a preview chapter of another book inside? Isn’t this already common practice? Am I missing something?

    • I offered the first 20,000 words of my novel at the end of my free short story collection. I guess I was cutting-edge.

      I suppose what these authors are doing different is making the extra material exclusive to Waterstones. It seems kind of juvenile. Not to mention, if the average reader buys one of their books through Amazon or elsewhere, and doesn’t have access to the extra material, isn’t there a greater risk that they don’t buy the author’s next book?

  3. Paper is passé.

  4. I don’t know what on earth they mean by ‘mid rank’ authors. It’s a new one on me. I’m a mid-list author, or so I’ve often been told, and physical bookstores (which I’m not against per se and visit from time to time ) have done me few favours. Where are these ‘unanimous authors’? Would I go to a bookstore just to get an extra chapter from Ms Harris? No way. I recently put my postcode into a website in an effort to find my nearest independent bookstore. I was given two options. One was more than an hour’s drive away down hilly, bendy, rural roads which these days are full of crater sized potholes. The other, interestingly enough, was on the island of Arran, involving an hour’s drive in the opposite direction, and another 45 minutes on a car ferry. Quite close as the crow flies, but I’m not a crow. That’s why I love Amazon.

    • The problem here is that publishing industry leaders usually live in big cities surrounded by bookstores and have never had the experience of the books you want to read simply not being available locally.

  5. This is a load of rubbish: “Authors are unanimous on this. The place to discover a new book is not on Amazon. It is browsing through a bookshop.”

    Authors are not unanimous on this. Because it’s a big steaming pile of rubbish. How do I know it’s rubbish? I have money in the bank that says I’m selling books without the need of a bookshop. That’s how.

    Sure, some people still browse shelves. That’s great. But a lot of people don’t. I suspect a lot of people browse online and offline. Myself, I haven’t used a bookstore to find a single book I want to read in the last five years. Either recommendations from friends, blogs, or browsing Amazon/Goodreads.

    I guess what they mean is that I won’t find the books they most want me to find in co-op space, because I’m telling you it ain’t any easier to discover a spine-out book than it is to find one browsing Amazon.

    And if they think that offering extra chapters in print books is a good way to go … Well, reader rebellion and book piracy will find them.

  6. What a great idea. And why stop at just extra chapters? My indie novel, American Zen, has its own soundtrack of 11 songs that are either referenced or played by my fictional rock and roll band that I’m offering for free to anyone who buys the Kindle version (which, I know, doesn’t write out Amazon, but still…).

  7. Authors are unanimous on this.
    No, they’re not.

    The place to discover a new book is not on Amazon. It is browsing through a bookshop or a library.
    I have yet to see a lick of proof to support this.

    Physical bookshops have to survive.
    No, they don’t.

    Authors and publishers really want to keep bookshops and libraries open.
    I like bookshops, but I don’t care if they survive. I do care about libraries, though, and they seem to be adapting better than bookstores.

    • I discover new books and authors online, in the library or in my local second-hand bookstore. Not a chain bookstore.

      Major chain bookstores are only good for discovering the current bestsellers (the rest of what’s on their Top 100 Must Read list tends to be things like Tolkein, and I think it’s fair to say he’s already been ‘discovered’).

      And if, by some miracle, I do discover a new author in a bookstore… my next action is to check it on Goodreads (using their very cool barcode scanner app). If my friends have recommended it on GR, I might buy it (if it’s cheap or second-hand), but I’m equally likely to see if it’s in the library.

      Long live public libraries!

    • Seconded!

      And I don’t think midlisters are “especially” desperate to see bookstores survive. They’re the ones that benefit most from online sales; they can usually throw up a nice-sized backlist right away.

  8. So, the author wants to penalize me for embracing the ease of Amazon.

    I think “penalize” is a two way street.

    BTW, the more people attack Amazon, the more it seems I drink the Kindle kool-aid.


  9. Um, this has been happening for a while. Last year, the Wal-Mart edition of The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead contained the first chapter of the following book, The Indigo Spell. Other editions didn’t.

    Altogether, I suspect the author of the article is not fully conversant with the topic, which leads to some faulty statements and conclusions.

    • A lot of books do that, though.

      There’s a big difference between a preview of the first chapter of the next book and a chapter that will only be available in the print edition and doesn’t appear in book 2 or any ebook edition.

  10. It is both foolish and shortsighted to claim that paper is passé. The majority of people actually reading books still prefer, and read, printed books. Thanks to dramatic surges in popularity, ebooks have garnered most of the attention, but that does not mean they control the book market.

    If you want to maximize your sales, you need to offer your books in as many different formats as possible — electronic, print, audio, etc. (audio is still a somewhat expensive option, but doable). Doing otherwise reminds me of the folks who insist they can ignore B&N, Apple, and Kobo for their ebooks because, after all, Amazon is the big kahuna. Making your books only available as ebooks merely pushes people who prefer printed books to read somebody else’s books.

  11. Sigh.

    Obviously this is nothing more than an incentive to buy from a bricks & mortar bookstore; it’s an attempt to keep their doors open & customers buying there. Personal attention, in-store book readings & the browsing experience don’t do it for everyone. We’ve all seen it before: buy from this store, & the store will give you an extra.

    No conspiracy here, no evil collusion to drive Amazon out of business. The fact that publishers can do this is evidence that Amazon doesn’t have an illegal monopoly in the book trade, so one could say it’s a good thing for Amazon.

    If it works, I predict Amazon will respond with their own extras. If it doesn’t, they’ll try something else. Either way, the reader will benefit — at least in the short term.

  12. Authors are unanimous? Says the Industry Insider. At least in the U.S., Publishers have stopped blatantly pretending that they speak for authors.

    Well, in terms of the extras, I think this is a smart marketing practice. Can’t blame them for trying. I do get the sense that the Anti-Amazon War in England feels very personal.

    Although, with the parking issues, this alone may not be enough to over-balance the convenience of Amazon.

    Regardless, none of this will stop print from fading out.

  13. The book I finished last night came to me in a roundabout way from a reviewer of the previous book I’d read. In his review, the reviewer mentioned another book, obliquely, that was read by a fictitious character. OK, I remembered this, so I thumbed through my current book and found it.

    Was it real? I searched Amazon and found that it was. I read a sample chapter, said, OH YES, and found it at my library–a little gem of a book that I’d never have found but for an Amazon review of another book. This review, by the way, did not break Amazon’s review rules.

    It’s funny, isn’t it, how you hear about books you end up enjoying.

  14. PG, your comment is the most sobering part of this article. Thanks for sharing it.

  15. The practice is common in the console gaming world.
    The way *they* do it is different chains get to offer different downloadable content so that Best Buy offers one bonus, WalMart another, and Gamestop a third. Ditto in the major UK chains.

    There was an attempt, once, to give the bonus to only one retailer. The publisher was quietly warned that the next time they’d better be prepared to sell *only* through that venue. 🙂

  16. …because of course there is no way at all that this this extra chapter could possibly wind up being available on the internet anyway. I mean, that never happens, does it? 🙂

  17. I may be wrong, but how are Amazon’s customers going to find out they were denied this extra content? Is there going to be a blurb at the end of the book with a little notice telling customers what they are missing because they purchased the book from Amazon? I also don’t understand why author’s would care where I buy my books, or in what format.

    I think tactics like that would more likely cause an author to lose readers.

    • “I also don’t understand why author’s would care where I buy my books.”

      Every author who goes Select makes a conscious choice to determine where someone buys their books.

      Konrath has just put all his books back in Select, just weeks after stating exclusivity was wrong and his books would be available on all platforms.

  18. Speaking of putting something “extra” in a book, one I recently read had a bonus section at the end that appears only in the ebook version (the bestseller Ghostman by Roger Hobbs).

    This additional material interested me because it addressed something reviewers found lacking. Many said they came away from the book feeling they knew little about the narrator (but, hey, he is the ghostman). The extra section added depth to the narrator, providing a blueprint for building the man he became. I wondered if it was the flexibility of digital publishing that prompted the author to add this (i.e. a response to the critics), or if it was part of the plan all along to do something extra for the ebook edition. I’m guessing it’s the former, not the latter.

  19. Hee.

    Yes, let me drag myself to an unpleasant physical environment well out of my way to get that extra chapter that is unnecessary to the story I actually want to read, rather than sit here and order the book I want electronically while lounging in my sweatpants.

    I can’t wait to do this. Just you try and stop me.


    ETA: of course, the alternative is that the “extra” material is necessary to the full enjoyment of the book, in which case it isn’t some proprietary bonus, it’s hostage taking. And then I just won’t buy any of those books at all.

  20. Collectors editions. Different bonus material added to each booksellers version makes each printed version a collectors edition. Gosh what a great idea. Just what I need is 15 copies of the same book with 50 pages of different extras… Yeah that was sarcasm disguised as excitement in case anyone missed “tone” As I’m wondering where I’d be putting all these books as my built in library has overflowed into the dining room, living room, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and the upstairs hallway…

  21. “Authors are unanimous on this.”

    Sounds like a bad episode of ARE YOU BEING SERVED?, but then Waterstones does rather remind me of Grace Brothers.

  22. Like PG, I suspect that mid-rank authors in the UK couldn’t give a stuff about this gimmick, because no publisher is ever going to apply it to their books tucked away spine-out at the back of the shop…

  23. Since I wouldn’t even read the — scorn quotes — “bonus” material, it sounds to me more like a scheme to lay off advertising costs on the reader.


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