Many authors ask me if they should choose a POD publisher based on the traffic the publisher’s website gets. This is what I tell them:
A common misconception among new authors is, “If I put it online, it will sell!”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality about having a book appear on any website (publisher or bookstore) is that the vast majority of the people who will buy your book there are people YOU will send there through YOUR own marketing efforts. This holds true with any website, including Amazon. Just because Amazon is a big website doesn’t mean people are going to find and/or buy your book just because it appears there. There are countless books appearing on Amazon and other bookstores and, yes, even publisher websites, that have sold ZERO copies.
There are so many books for sale online now that the chances that someone will stumble on your book and buy it, when it is surrounded by thousands (or millions) of other books, are remote, regardless how popular the website is.
So, any POD publisher claiming they have great “website traffic”, as a way to try to convince you to use their services, is blowing hot air. Most of that traffic is likely being generated either by their own authors, who are sending their readers to their specific book pages (not to YOUR book page!), or by the POD publisher itself, marketing its POD services to authors. This means authors, not general book buyers, are more likely frequenting the site. Some POD publishers have discussion forums for authors and they may even use those visits in their “traffic” figures.
Furthering the “traffic doesn’t sell books” argument is the fact that most POD publishers (with the exception of Booklocker!) dedicate the homepage of their websites to selling services to authors…not to selling their authors’ books. This provides even further proof that they are more interested in attracting authors, and selling publishing services, than they are in selling books to the public. Many of them run ads in magazines and elsewhere, and, again, they are counting their author traffic in the website traffic figures they’re spouting to new authors, who may assume that means that’s how many public book buyers are frequenting the site each day.
So, never assume that a POD publisher’s website traffic is any indication of how well your book can sell, or even of how many book buyers are visiting their website. Most, if not all, of the people who buy your book from your publisher’s website, or from any specific online bookstore, will buy it there because YOU told them to, not because they happened to stumble on your book.
Another troubling aspect of POD publishers that devote their homepages to their own expensive services is that, when you do send one of your customers to their site, your customer will know you paid to have your book published. And, while that’s not such black eye in the industry anymore, and is, in fact, a respectable and profitable way for professional authors who successfully build businesses around their books, it still may not sit well with some of the general reading public.
Because we DO care about book sales at Booklocker.com (the largest portion of our revenue comes from public book sales), our homepage is and has always been a bookstore, featuring our best sellers and new releases, along with our internal search engine for book buyers, list of categories, and more. Authors should avoid POD publishers whose homepages make it obvious they care more about removing authors’ money from their pockets than they care about book sales.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers that features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is one of the top-rated POD publishers in the industry.