Imagine you give birth to a story that comes from the deepest part of yourself. The place where divine creativity resides. As a new parent your baby cries in the middle of the night as your characters keep you up while staring at the ceiling or show up in your dreams. The birthing process of your new creation could take more time than giving birth to an elephant. What keeps you going is the passion of your idea and how you just know people are waiting for your new book.
To make sure your child looks good, you create a jaw-dropping cover and have the story edited by professionals. And to protect your creation you have taken care to have your work copyrighted and registered at the Library of Congress.
Then comes the christening day when your bright, shiny newly minted child is published and comes out into the world. Where do you present your new work to the world? Well, on-line of course.
Most authors sell their books on Amazon.com because it is the biggest on-line bookstore. The behemoth of books provides an extensive inventory of books ranging from bargain books, children’s books, textbooks and digital books. Good for the book buyer however not so good for authors.
The Independent Book Sellers Association sent out an announcement recently, “If you are an Ingram, Create Space or any other print on demand service, Amazon is pushing down your “buy button” to the bottom of the “order the book” options list.
On March 1, 2017 Amazon enacted a policy that allows third-party sellers to compete for the Buy Box for books in new condition. Where books are concerned, the Default Buy Box has always belonged to publisher. When you buy a book, Amazon would pay the publisher 45% of the list price. This means your purchase is supporting the entity that published the book, namely the publisher, and authors are making a profit (albiet small) every time you buy because the publisher is paying an author a royalty on each sale.
Now Amazon is giving that priority spot to third-party sellers, relegating the publisher button to a far less favorable positon, below the landing page screen line, often last in a list of third-party sellers offering the book for a significantly lower cost in addition to free shipping.
The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) believes Amazon’s policy change, allowing third-party sellers to compete for the Buy Box for books in “new condition,” hurts authors and publishers. Here’s why:
- Amazon, once again, is attempting to drive down the value of books, and therefore
intellectual property and creative work in general. Under the new policy, Amazon is
rewarding the seller that conforms to its rules (“competitive pricing”) by granting them the coveted Buy Box. Often this means dropping the publisher listing, and it’s not unlikely that publisher listings may fall off the buy page completely—at Amazon’s discretion.
- When a book is not obviously for sale by its publisher on Amazon, the author may not be making royalties. Although for now, it seems that publisher listings are on Amazon, it takes a savvy consumer to even understand what they’re buying—and most will go for the lowest cost item, especially if it’s in the coveted Buy Box position.
In all cases, the books sold on Amazon would not qualify as sales for the purposes of author royalties because they’ve already been sold or originally existed as promotional
copies. And even for those third-party sellers buying books through wholesale channels, the question arises of how Amazon is measuring “new condition.”
If consumers don’t see the option to buy new, from the publisher, then Amazon is promoting piracy. Authors get nothing from used books because the consumer is buying something that’s already been bought and tracked as a sale. If this new policy takes hold for most backlist books, authors’ and publishers’ revenue will dry up, and more and more books are at risk of going out of print more quickly. Publishers will not be able to afford to keep books in print that are not selling on Amazon. So, this policy is essentially driving books to an earlier death—and thereby hurting authors.
Amazon suggests that one of the ways you can win the Buy Box is to keep books “in stock.”
This poses a major problem for self-published authors and any backlist author whose books are print-on-demand. Print-on-demand automatically means there’s no stock. The books are printed to order. If Amazon is penalizing books that are set up as POD titles and favoring third-party sellers who have stock due to any of the abovementioned means of procurement, authors will again be dinged when their own listing, or publisher listing, ranks low on the list of “Other Sellers on Amazon.” We can only suppose that Amazon will not penalize or remove books that are listed with CreateSpace—and as Amazon moves away from CreateSpace to consolidate its print and e-book self-publishing program onto Kindle, it will be interesting to note how often those books get the coveted Buy Box position for doing business with Amazon.
If indie publishers can’t get into bookstores and are being cut off at the knees by Amazon induced piracy, then the future is grim indeed. As a community of indie publishers, we should be very bothered by this new policy. Amazon is a mammoth player in the publishing space and it can do much to either help or hurt the publishing industry. Their new third party seller policy is potentially terrorizing, in that it is likely to result in publishers selling fewer copies and ultimately being forced to declare backlist books out of print.
My book, “Do You Have a Dream Workbook 5 Keys to Realize Your Dream” went on sale last week for $9.95. Today there are five third-party booksellers listed with a low price of $7.32. Where did they get the books to sell? I have not seen a sale to them. Maybe they are selling at a low cost to get you into their bookstore. All I know is that I will not see one penny from this book pirate. My hard work and money invested in raising my child has ripped from me, stolen. Now, what can an indie author like me do when they sell on Amazon?
Grace is a successful award-winning author, modern Christian mystic, wellness consultant, business development adviser, marketing coach and workshop facilitator. She has faced many life challenges, including a life-threatening disease, and used what she encountered as a stimulus to gain greater happiness and fulfillment. She lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband John Blair, and maintains a private health and success coaching practice.
Do You Have a Dream Workbook? 5 Keys to Realize Your Dream
by Ms. Grace Allison
4408 14 Street
Lubbock, Texas 79416
[Grace The Mystic, Award Winning Author] The Book Pirates of Amazon
Amazon’s actions here are beyond shocking but unfortunately just the latest example of Amazon taking care of itself at everyone else’s expense. Authors and industry groups should resist this with all their might and work to find other, more profitable channels from which to sell books. Michele DeFilippo