How Jeff Bezos takes more than just your money

Nov 14, 2022


by Martijn van Tilborgh

Over the years, I’ve worked with a good number of prominent Christian publishers who hired me to work with their authors for book launches. They wanted me to set authors up for success and sell as many books as possible, even before the official book launch date.

Through these experiences I learned a lot.

Mostly about how NOT to sell books.

You see, there is this thing called “The New York Times Best-Seller List” that tends to put a spell on both authors and publishers. A spell that makes them do irrational things. Things that a normal person would never do.

Let’s forget about the fact that it is highly unlikely (impossible really) that you will actually end up on that list. Unless your name is Joel Osteen or TD Jakes, I wouldn’t even bother trying.

Why you ask? Well there are a bunch of reason, but the one I want to focus on is Amazon.

In order for a book sale to qualify and to be reported as a legitimate order you’re going to have to sell through what they call a “reporting agency” like Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

And selling your books through Amazon or Barnes & Noble is always a bad idea!

Sure, set up your book on those platforms but never push for sales on those platforms. It simply doesn’t make sense.

Publishers would force me to come up with strategies that would push people to places like Amazon in pursuit of that dangling carrot, that dang NYT Best-Seller list.

Let me give you three reasons why this strategy is so flawed.

1) It will cost you dearly

Why in the world would anyone, spend time, energy and money on driving traffic to a retailer who has done absolutely nothing to deserve the sale?

Think about it. What did Jeff Bezos do that makes publishers and authors alike convinced that sending him our business is a good idea?

Let me do the math for you …

Let’s say your book retails for $20. Amazon will purchase your book at roughly a 55% discount from the distributor. That means that the distributor collects $9 for that book.

But of course the distributor wants a cut too which is typically 25% of that $9. So now there is $6.75 left.

But how did that book get to the distributing warehouse? I guess someone had to ship it there.

And oh … wait … the book needed to be printed. How much is that? Maybe $3-$4 depending on how many you printed and what paper quality you used?

Author warehousing? Does that cost anything? Yes, it does :)

And the thing that is the nail in the coffin is that Amazon has 90 days to sell that book. And if they don’t? Well they simply return it to the distributor who will charge the publisher a restocking fee.

By the time the publisher gets paid for a book sale through Amazon the profits are going to be south of $2. Then depending on your agreement with the publisher you get a small percentage of that.

All of that to say, it’s a financially unsustainable model to drive customers to Amazon to buy your book.

What should you do instead?

Well, the answer is simple. Control the sales process and sell the book direct to the customer. Remove all middle men from the process and you get to keep the full $20.

2) It throws off your marketing process

Let’s pretend you have an email list of 5000 addresses. You’re launching your new book. You’re feeling really good about it.

This is going to be a bestseller!

You craft an email campaign that targets the people in your database. The first email goes out telling them to buy your book on Amazon. You make some sales that day. Great!

But now what?

What am I going to say in my next email?

If I say “Buy my book on Amazon!” some will say “Why are you asking me? I did already yesterday!”

But of course you don’t know that because Jeff Bezos didn’t share that information with you. Jeff controls the sales process and therefore all the data associated with it. He won’t tell you who purchased your book. He’s smarter than that.

Why would he share with you what has been his #1 asset over the years that allowed him to build his empire?

As a result, you don’t know who to sell to, who purchased, who didn’t, who to ask for a review etc.

And even if by some miracle of God you become a bestseller and you want to release a sequel to your book and do it all over again, you simply don’t know who your readers are. In other words, you’ll have to start again from scratch.

3) You’re giving away your upsell

How many times have you purchased something on Amazon and somewhere in the process you get served other purchase opportunities that relate to the item you are purchasing?

While you’re in the “the store” you might as well also purchase hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Before you know it, that $20 purchase turns into a $183 online shopping cart!

I wanna be able to do the same! Honestly that’s where the real opportunity lies, the upsell!

When people buy my book, I want to sell them the study guide, the video course or purchase a ticket to the event I’m organizing.

I want to turn that $20 book purchase into a transaction that brings in hundreds of dollars. But I can’t do that if I’m sending people to Amazon.


Under no circumstance send people to Amazon. It just doesn’t make sense!

Send people to a place that you control. A place where you can maximize your profit margin, own the data and where you can benefit from the upsell opportunities. Develop a direct to consumer brand that engages an audience that connects with you as an influencer. A platform that allows you to talk to your people on your terms.

An audience who will buy from you again and again!