Can author websites compete online with Amazon?

Power of adventure

Launching with a direct focus on books in 1994, Amazon pushed rapidly to gain market share. With huge choice, rapid distribution and low costs, they turned the traditional publishing industry upside down.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, they introduced e-books through the Kindle.

In the space of a few years, Amazon became the market leader in book sales across all formats and dominated e-books with over 90% share.

Yet publishers shouldn’t hang their boots up and stop trying to compete with Amazon.  Here are three options worth considering that could also work for other sectors.

  1. Generate new stories to bring in new readers
    The published book is only one aspect of the story.  The wider stories behind the book – the research, history, family backdrop- even the process and challenges of writing the novel.  Bringing existing readers closer to the author through this deeper, extra content is something that Amazon cannot match.  It can also provide a route into the books for new readers.
  2. Use fans to reach new fans
    The author’s website can offer opportunities to engage with fans through clubs, special events, sales and signings.  Through close integration of social media channels, existing fans can project the message to new fans.  Amazon can’t do this for every author but publishers can.
  3. Create a more engaging environment
    Although Amazon may dominate search results, its website misses a deeper involvement as the user is only ever a click away from the latest last minute deals.  Authors create stories to immerse their readers in a different world.  Their websites should be designed and built to engage with existing fans and attract new readers.

Whilst people will still buy through Amazon – the above ideas are fully within the control of authors and publishers.  Implementation will increase brand visibility, opportunities for engagement and could also drive further online sales.  Improved author websites with clear digital strategies could even demand improved website real estate on other third-party sales platforms such as Amazon.

Investment in digital could also create an author owned sales platform and a larger social audience for future engagement.  This lowers risks and provides an alternative communications and sales route that is not controlled by third-party sales channels. 

Competition from Amazon and other online brands is unlikely to slow as new audiences are more familiar with researching and buying online.   

It is possible for publishers to look to a future beyond sales on Amazon, re-focus their approach and provide additional value that will appeal to customers who are increasingly happy to buy online.

Threekey worked with worldwide best-selling author Wilbur Smith to create his new content-rich, immersive website in September 2018.  Visit to find out more.