October 22, 2019

Author Book Publicity and Platform: The Case of Amazon

Author Book PublicityWall Street Journal reports that Amazon “has had lots of success in book retailing. But cracking the publishing business hasn’t been as easy.” Their basis for this comment is a comparison of sales Penny Marshall’s memoir My Mother Was Nuts (7,000 units sold in its first four weeks) to Rob Lowe’s memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Macmillan, 2011; 54,000 hardcover copies sold in its first four weeks).

WSJ admits that “not every celebrity memoir is a hit, of course, and Ms. Marshall hasn’t been in the limelight for a while.”She certainly hasn’t made the publicity rounds to the same level as Lowe did last year.

The culprit to which WSJ points, however, is “the book’s … severely limited availability.” Amazon’s book did not appear in Barnes and Noble stores, Walmart, or Target. Sony’s ebook stores are not stocking the Kindle edition, either. This absence is a deliberate boycott. Amazon has not been able to sign many mega-authors after its initial flourish. You can read about this in the WSJ article.

I point in a different direction.

As long as Amazon was the world’s leading retailer of hardbacks, paperbacks, and ebooks, it could draft off the publicity efforts of each book’s publisher. It competed with other outlets on price (usually the lowest) and position (in two days with a Prime membership or overnight for $3.99).

Now it needs to schlep authors on “The View” or “Katie” or “The Daily Show” to gain visibility. It has few of these skills or connections.

Technology has made it easy to get your book printed and listed on Amazon. Self-published authors and new boutique publishers are popping up often with reasonably good books. What is lacking, however, is focused and sustained publicity–getting potential book buyers to notice, consider, and purchase a new title.

Like these much smaller entities, Amazon needs to muster intentional and sustained support to launch its new titles. If it does this consistently, then it will garner more attention from celebrities used to at least a modicum of success with each venture.


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