Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Barefoot Books made some noise last week when they announced they were pulling out of Amazon.
In her note, CEO Nancy Traversy writes:
“We are committed to cultural and economic diversity; and this is reflected in both our publishing program and in our business model. With this philosophy at the heart of our company, we have decided to end our relationship with Amazon.”
She goes on to commend Amazon for their innovation. But feels Barefoot Books will be better off not doing business with Amazon.
How can Barefoot afford to give up on Amazon?
Why they will succeed:
1) Not dependent on any one retailer: Barefoot stopped selling to B&N and Borders in 2006. This doesn’t seem to have hurt them. Many publishers lost a lot of money when Borders went bust. Barefoot had little/no loss and disruption of business. By not relying on the big accounts to dominate, Barefoot controls their own future. B&N has recently been cutting back hurting publishers. But, Barefoot is immune from it.
2) Customers as the sales force: Barefoot has an active branch of “Ambassadors” who sell their books through parties. This is similar to the Tupperware model. It isn’t feasible for most publishers, but selling physical books this way has been successful. Children’s books are perfect for this.
3) Signature Barefoot store: They have a kiosk in one of the most famous toy store in the country, the FAO Schwarz flagship in NYC. Over 4-million people a year frequent the store, many tourists. It is a great way to brand.
4) Branding via company stores: Barefoot has two “Company Studios.” Located in MA and UK – These retail outlets look like fun places. They have birthday parties and a pottery studio. More branding.
5) Quality of the physical books: Many publishers cut back on the quality. Barefoot Books has not. It makes a difference when holding the book. I think Candlewick also does a great job with the quality of the physical book.
6) Digital is not dependent on Amazon: As more illustrated books become digital, Apple devices will deliver a much better user experience. Plus, apps may be the right delivery method for children’s books.
7) Alternative outlets: Will receive stronger support from independent bookstores, gift stores and children’s bookstores. Keeping the books out of the big box stores gives the smaller stores “exclusives.” In the gift world, many times when a product goes into Target, it is done with the independent stores.
8) Selling direct from their own website: They don’t have to worry about Amazon price competition nor B&N complaining about selling against them. As more people buy on the Internet, selling direct makes more and more sense.
9) Community: Building a community around the values of the Barefoot brand. They have listed their “Core Values” on their site. These include, Imagine; Explore; Create; Connect and Give Back. There is also a fine mission statement.
Not every publisher can give up Amazon. It takes a publisher that is not dependent on Amazon for selling eBooks or digital growth. Publishers that are dependent on bestsellers, media-driven titles, most fiction genres and many narrative non-fiction titles would have a difficult time making it without Amazon. It also is important to have an established network for selling books outside of Amazon.
Barefoot Books has left Amazon.
I think they will thrive.