Amazon, My Ass!

Hoist with his own petard” is an expression used by Shakespeare in Hamlet. It means, roughly, “to fall into one’s own trap.”  Which is exactly what happened to me when I uploaded the manuscript of Marketing, My Ass to Amazon last month. Happy to announce its availability as a print-on-demand book, I was then astonished to hear from my Canadian readers that they had to pay a hefty delivery price on the already over-inflated price set by Amazon to begin with.

Let me explain: When I uploaded the print-ready book file to Amazon, I was asked to set a price. I thought $15 would be a fair price for my book, given the time and effort required to complete it (not to mention the generosity of Shaune in designing the cover and proofreading the content, and George’s excellent editing suggestions). But Amazon would not let me set the price lower than $24.95. If I set it at this minimum price, it meant I received nothing in return. In other words, the author keeps anything over $24.95.

Since this book is more about getting the message out than making money (although it would be nice to have the funds to print my own copies), I set the price at $29.95, meaning that I get a $4 royalty on each sale. From this, Amazon keeps an amazing 80% of the revenue. Ouch.

When I enquired about the high delivery rates (it cost my sister in Victoria almost double the price of the book once they threw in postage), Amazon noted that, while they have an agreement with a POD (print on demand) printer in the USA, they do not have a similar agreement with one in Canada. The books have to travel far and cross the border, adding to the cost considerably.

To make matters worse, books uploaded via CreateSpace, the manuscript application I chose to use, cannot be listed on Amazon Canada. No reason offered. They also started playing with the price shortly after the book launch (by “they”, I mean the automated system that Amazon has in place. There are, as far as I know, no little minions secretly watching my sales activities and reporting back to a bigger minion). Today, as an example, my book is on sale for only $12.95. The system is probably programmed to respond to slow sales with discount prices. But shouldn’t authors have a say in this? And is that fair to the person who paid full price? The answers from Amazon are “no”, and “so what?” 

All of this means my Canadian readers are being unfairly charged for a policy that authors and readers have no control over, something that Internet users are getting more and more used to, as in “desensitized.” Alex Shephard, a former bookseller, wrote a well-researched piece in July of this year, called “Monopoly achieved: An invincible Amazon begins raising prices.” 

While I continue to work on the eBook version (which can be priced much lower, since no trees are needed for the paper, no ink for the printer, etc.) and find another, more cost-effective way to sell the print version, I am rapping myself on the knuckles for not having done my research more thoroughly prior to launch.

On the other hand, this is a good way to show you, the reader, what the average book-seller is up against. In terms of marketing, Amazon has secured the global market and become the dominant on-line source for millions of readers. We have to thank them for providing worldwide distribution of books that we might not have had access to before, but we need to ensure that we have other choices out there as well. When competition creates monopolies, it’s never good for the consumer. That’s just the swing of the pendulum, and smart shoppers have to push back. 

As technology continues to serve and deserve us, I’ll be keeping a close eye on subtle shifts such as the ones that Amazon and Facebook are now imposing on their considerably large and growing captive audiences. Hopefully I’ll soon be able to advise you of a more cost-effective way to get and read the print book, should you be interested in owning one. 

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2 thoughts on “Amazon, My Ass!

  1. There was something on the net a year or so ago about some print on demand technology that some Icelander had invented. I will try to get the info on that.. Likely that Amazon bought him out and shutit down .. That seems to be the way of the world.. everyone is a monsanto wanna be. xo

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