Bookshop.org’s founder and CEO, Andy Hunter, could be viewed as prescient. The bookstore site launched in January 2020, just before COVID forced physical stores to lock their doors. Before Amazon downgraded the priority of shipping books and upped the priority on items needed in response to the pandemic. And then, in summer 2020,George Floyd’s murder propelled readers to independent bookstores to buy books about race. Black-owned bookstores especially saw a strong surge in sales. All three events caused the beginning of Bookshop.org to launch like a rocket headed to the moon.
What is Bookshop.org?
Bookshop.org was founded to give readers a one-stop shopping experience to buy books from local bookstores online. On the home page, you can browse for a local bookstore to make sure whatever you buy is “from” that store. (Plans are afoot for the inventory to come directly from a specific store, but aren’t in place yet.) An article in Publishers Weekly that introduced bookshop.org to readers stated the site was founded “to generate meaningful revenue for both indies and for book media, can positively affect bookstores’ bottom line. Twice a year, 10% of Bookshop’s sales revenue will be divided among…member stores that have signed up to become affiliates. They can earn an additional 25% of the list price on books whose sales they drive.”
Financially supporting bookstores is part and parcel of Bookshop.org’s purpose for existing. A counter on its home page indicates how much money has been disbursed to bookstores. When I looked, it indicated $15,752,805.83.
You can check out the site here.
What distinguishes Bookshop.org from Amazon?
Giving money back to bookstores is, of course, the most profound difference. But, probably because of the ongoing demand for books on race and an uptick in consciously reading books by BIPOC authors, the best-selling lists on Bookshop.org bear little resemblance to Amazon’s lists. Many (most?) are by people of color. Of the top 10 highest earning bookstore sites on Bookshop, six are Black-owned.
“Our bestseller list does not look like the typical list,” Hunter explains. “It reflects the diversity and iconoclastic nature of the community we serve.”
What does that mean for inspirational titles?
While Christian titles aren’t front-and-center on the site, they are robustly available. Search for Francine Rivers or Sarah Young, and you’ll find a hefty catalog of their titles. As a matter of fact, every title or author I searched for, including those who have only book, were available.
Can an individual author set up an affiliation?
Yes, indeed, and the process looks easy. You can read more about it here. Authors earn 10 percent back from each sale–and an additional 10 percent is given to independent bookstores. Authors can set up their own pages and can create lists of recommended books. Social media links and website links are part of their profile.
In addition to author, others also can set up an affiliation. Currently Bookshop.org has 26,000 affiliates, including magazines, media, and influencers, which generated $3 million in sales in 2020. “Oprah, Time, the Atlantic, are all selling books through us,” Hunter said. “A year ago they all would have linked to Amazon, but we pay twice as much as Amazon does for affiliate sales.”
To read more about Bookshop.org’s growth in 2020 and currently, check out this Publishers Weekly article.
Can you see yourself buying books through Bookshop.org? What interests you about it as an author?
Bookshop.org set out to change online book shopping. So far, they’re succeeding. Click to tweet.
Sales continue to skyrocket for Bookshop.org. What’s the key to their success? Click to tweet.
Author affiliates can earn twice what they do on Amazon by using Bookshop.org. Click to tweet.
I frequently tell people about bookshop.org. Even as a reasonably successful indie, all 10 of the volumes of my Light in the Empire series are there in both paperback and hardcover editions. I’m delighted that there is an online option for readers who want to support local bookstores when they shop.
I hadn’t been aware of the option of an author setting up a profile there or as an affiliate. Thanks for that info!
Carol, thanks for giving us a self-pubbed author perspective on Bookshop.org. Glad I could expand your knowledge about additional ways you can use it.
Virginia Sue Graham
Awesome! Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome. Glad it was helpful.
This really does look like a plan,
but not, I think, for me,
’cause as a slant-eyed Eastern man,
the whole diversity
thing has tossed me underneath
the creaky Wuhan bus,
kicked ad nauseum in the teeth,
“Look what you’ve done to us!”
And so I’m going to stay away,
for conflict ain’t my cup of meat,
and will look forward to the day
when I can warm a friendly seat
with my Chinaman’s behind
in a world that’s colour-blind.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Oh, wow! What I usually do for physical book purchases (for myself, I read Nook books) is order what I want from our local bookstore and they get it in for me. But this is great, too. Love this idea!
Glad I could introduce Bookshop.org to you, Kristen.