Tuesday, June 24, 2008

To sell or not to sell?

In the nine months the Short Review has been in existence we've had a lot of emails saying how much people enjoy the reviews and how they have gone and bought several of the books we reviewed. And others have said, Well, why don't you just have a Buy this Book link from the reviews?

I am conflicted: there is a difference between a site that publishes reviews and a site that sells books, no? One is commercial and one is literary/artistic. Or is this an old-fashioned view? The aim of The Short Review is to bring short story collections into the spotlight. Is it ridiculous to tease someone with a great review, and then make them spend those extra minutes searching for how to buy the book?

If the Short Review was to link directly to Amazon, then we would get some percentage of books sold. Does this affect the "objectivity" of the site, if it appears that we are attempting to push a book so that you buy it? Our reviewers are supported in whatever opinion they take of the book they are reviewing. Would this be affected?

What do you think? Have your vote in the poll on the right, and leave a comment!


SueG said...

This is a toughie, but I think it's easy enough for people to just copy the name and go to their own site of choice, or put it on their "To Be Bought" list. Although, to be honest, if you hadn't asked and the site just showed up with links to purchase, I probably would have thought -- "oh gee, that's convenient" and left it at that. It will be interesting to see what others think or if they care. But thanks for asking us!

Mark Brown One in Four said...

Using affiliate selling (like amazon etc)to raise a bit of cash isn't the same as selling the books yourself, it's a bit more like putting a big signpost up to say 'if you should want to buy this book, you might do it here'.

It's no more or no less than that. As you aren't investing in selling the book in question (you at no point ever pay money to the people who produce it or the shop that sells it) you have no real reason to worry about pushing one book or another, because you will make a small commission even if someone buys a book that was given a bad review. As you don't at any point have any stock of books yourself, there's no reason for anyone to worry that the standard or objectivity of the reviews will be compromised.

I'd say go on and get the ads up, even hosting needs paying for by someone.



Caroline said...

I like to have links, then if I want to buy I can. If not, I ignore the link. It's to do with ease.

Simple :)


Peter Cole said...

the more direct links to author's books the better for them. people have short attention spans, so if it's not convenient to buy when they're thinking to then it's less likely that they'll buy.

you'd be helping them more than yourself anyhow, because your percentage won't be very much. and the money doesn't come out of the author's pocket, it comes out of amazon's.

Merc said...

One part of me says yes, easy click to amazon. The other part of me wonders where that leaves independent booksellers. Now if there were some way to include small independent booksellers ...

Women Rule Writer said...

I'm with Merc. For various reasons some books aren't always available on Amazon but are available elsewhere.
Support your small local bookseller who can pretty much get anything from anywhere if they want to...

Sara said...

I understand the convenience of being able to click through to purchase. I see how that is useful for an author too. I don't know how you decide where to link to though. Why Amazon? Why not Waterstone's? Or an independent?

Or as WRW and Merc say, go into your local store. While you are there browse, choose something else, order what you like, isn't that better? Bookshops are struggling, I'd hate to lose them.

Is there a way to link to that author's preferred point of sale? So a Salt author would direct to Salt and so on?

Mark Brown One in Four said...

Many small independent booksellers sell through amazon marketplace, at least in the UK. Most second hand bookshops do, at the very least.

For independent publishers, selling through amazon is no different from selling through any other shop that you've managed to get your titles into.

I fully accept the 'support your local bookshop' argument, and I hope that we all do, but I'm also conscious of 'support your favourite website' requirement, too.

Everyone thinks websites are free to run , host and produce because they're free to use. They aren't free to the people who make and maintain them, or at least they aren't without some means of paying for them, such as free websites that smear ads at random etc.

The way to think of it is: The Short review can help some authors to sell some books and also help to cover its own costs a bit, or, because it's difficult to resolve outstanding debates, do neither of those things.

I'd go with the first one, for sure.



bevjackson said...

My dream for websites that sell books is that they link to the cheapest seller (and they (instead of me) have done the research) including used book stores. Writers and artists are notoriously poor and so used books/cheap books are what I dream to find.

I see no conflict with selling books here, but if I buy through Amazon it will be through a website of my own where I get the commission. So that's why I say it would be nice if it was a direct buy from the author or a discount or used book discount store.

You are reviewing new books, but used book store quickly catch up, maybe faster than people can afford to buy them. This 'unique angle' might bring return traffic too.

Tim Jones said...

I'm in favour of your having links to buy books, as long as these links are clearly marked as such. But not everyone's book is available from Amazon: my collection Transported is available through New Zealand Books Abroad, but this might not be the first place international readers think to look!

So I suggest that you link to Amazon when the book is available from Amazon, and to the author's preferred point of sale otherwise.

Tania Hershman said...

Thanks, all, for your input into this discussion. It seems from the comments and the voting, that the concensus is in favour of links to booksellers. I think I will try it, and I will provide several links, where I can - not just to Amazon, but to the publisher if they sell directly, and to a few worthy places such as and GreenMetropolis etc.. We'll give it a go and see what happens!

Tricia Dower said...

Well, I'm disappointed at this decision. Plus, I left a comment and, for some reason, it didn't show up.

Tania Hershman said...

Tricia - I am sorry your comment didn't appear, I don't know why that was. Please tell us what your feelings are and why you are disappointed.


Tricia Dower said...

Hi Tania,

My concerns are the first two "no's" in your poll. I think linking to Amazon would damage your credibility as an independent, reliable source of honest reviews. I also find Amazon frustrating. They don't restock quickly and can leave potential buyers with the impression the book is not available. If you link to an author's website, readers should be able to find out where to buy the book that way. Also, by restricting the link to Amazon, you do cut out the independent bookstores who can probably order any book if they have the ISBN number. It is your decision, of course. Thanks for asking for your readers' opinions.

Anonymous said...

It might undermine the independence of The Short Review (or be perceived to undermine its independence). What happens when revenues are down and the bills are piling up by the door? Presumably reviewers would be under some pressure (even implicit pressure) to drive sales to Amazon or whoever. The Short Review has built up a great reputation in no time at all - it'd be a shame to compromise that.

Tania Hershman said...

Thanks Tricia and Anon. Tricia - to answer your concerns, I am planning to link to several booksellers, not just Amazon. This is definitely more work, but I think that this is the right thing to do - if I decide to sell.

Anon - there are no revenues! And fortunately, the bills are just the hosting costs, this is not a source of income for me or anyone else involved so I would hope we wouldn't get into this situation. But if it could be perceived to be affecting our independence, then this is something worth taking into account. Thanks.

Liz P said...

In the States, independent bookstores are an endangered species. I encourage everyone to buy from them, and I know several other authors who do as well. Not all authors support Amazon simply because it may boost their sales.

In stead of linking to Amazon, why not link to Booksense, or at least suggest that people look for the collection at their friendly neighborhood bookstore?

Besides, anyone who navigates their way to The Short Review is well aware of Amazon's existence. They can just open another screen, type in their address, and order away. There's no need for the short review to give passive (or not-so-passive) support to their business.

my two cents or pence or agorot --


theButt said...

I think that if people want to be able to buy a book they've read a review of on your site, they're much more likely to do so if you make it easy for them.

I also think this works in favor of the authors who may otherwise miss out on a sale.

I'm sure that readers who are committed to their local independent book seller will still continue to buy there but a random browser of your site, who read about something may be lazier about following through on a purchase. I say do it for the authors.

PS the your poll wouldn't refresh on my page :-(

LizP said...

It's true that people who already buy from their independent bookstores will continue to do so and not be swayed by an Amazon link. But to ensure their survival, it requires that people other than the already converted understand the importance (and joy!)of the independent bookstore.

If people aren't already invested in local booksellers, then of course they'll just take the easiest option and click on an Amazon link. But what if we, instead, encourage them to go up to their neighborhood bookstore (maybe even walk!), and interact with real people, real people who are passionate about books. Sometimes what is good for a community, good for an industry, takes a little extra effort, but is ultimately more fulfilling.


Elizabeth Baines said...

Hi Tania, from my perspective as an author a link to the bookseller would be great: although people might automatically link on their own accord to Amazon, they are less likely to do so to the publisher - yet it's much more lucrative for the publisher to sell direct rather than via Amazon (and we want to keep our independent publishers going!) While I'm all for local independent bookstores I'm afraid that the reality is that they don't all stock my book and someone making the effort to go up the road and look for it is often going to have to make the effort to ask the bookshop to order it and then go up again... or just not bother after all.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi T

Sorry... I hardly look at the email account the notification of this debate went to...

My views are split (as ever!) Firstly, sure, if it makes it easier to click n buy my book, then as a writer, I'm all for that.

However... a while back we were debating self-published collections here. And is it really as simple to create as easy a method of purchase for those? Or even for those collections that do not have a presence on Amazon, etc?

I do understand the 'independence' argument... but I think you are always going to have people beating when there is no need to bleat, and others balancing it out with a pat on the back for doing such a wonderful thing for the short story.

So on balance, go for it.