Think Before You Link

When I set up the Store page of my website, I considered whether I wanted to include links to Amazon. Of course, everyone links to Amazon, right? But I’m a big fan of using alternatives to Amazon whenever possible. What? There are alternatives to Amazon? Believe it or not, yes. Like Barnes & Noble. Independent bookstores. Chain stores.

Many readers these days tend to default to Amazon when they’re thinking about buying a book. Why? In part, at least, because authors tend to default to Amazon when they’re wanting to sell their books.

Publishers Weekly recently ran an article by Mary Laura Philpot titled “Hey, Websites: Think Before You Link to Amazon.” She writes, “Authors appeal to bookstores for book tours and sales but announce their books on Facebook with Amazon links.” When an entertainment site asked one bookstore owner to contribute to an article on what books their employees were most excited about, his list of favorite books included links to Amazon. Wow, way to drum up business for your bookstore, dude. No doubt he was just doing what came naturally, out of habit.

Philpot adds, “Individuals who publish compelling content exert some control over the cultural conversation. With their choice of links, they drive consumer behavior as well. … When people click those links, a habit forms. Book-loving social media users, bloggers, and editors have the power to shape those habits.”

On the Store page of my website, I have multiple links for each of my books. It took a few extra minutes to research where my books were available and to gather those extra links. But I wanted to make the point that Amazon is not the only place to buy books. As a matter of fact, I’ve often found a better price at one of the alternative sites.

Philpot had additional suggestions. “What if book titles in online media linked to each book’s page on its publisher’s site instead, where the ‘buy’ button offers multiple options? Or what if titles linked to, the online shopping site managed by the American Booksellers Association, which connects users to the independent shops nearest them as well as indies that ship nationwide?”

As an author, you may not think it matters much where someone buys your book. And Amazon’s affiliate program, which pays websites to use its links, is an offer some authors find hard to resist. But too many brick-and-mortar bookstores have already shut down. As Philpot laments, this means “no more story times, no more author signings, no more gathering place to browse books that haven’t been served to you by an algorithm. No more revenue going back into your neighborhood, either. … Your decision plays a role in whether or not your community continues to have a bookstore.”

When a website link connects readers to or a bookstore, they’ll find out what’s going on in their communities. They might even go visit a store and discover something new.

At the very least, if you write an article supporting independent bookstores, don’t put links to Amazon in it.