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What is Amazon up to now?
Yeah, I saw that on Tuesday. Amazon is allowing resellers to “win” buy buttons on their book pages, which means some books will no longer be for sale directly through Amazon. The resellers are only allowed to do this with “brand new” books. But, what does that mean exactly and how will this affect publishers, authors, and literary agents?
Amazon has reiterated to Publisher’s Weekly that they only allow resellers to list books if they are “brand new.”
But, what does “brand new” mean? Is it a book that has never been read? Could it be a used book in excellent condition? Could it be a remaindered book that’s also in excellent condition? Let’s face it…there are tons of resellers on Amazon selling “brand new” books that are anything but! I know because I’ve bought “brand new” books from Amazon resellers that not only weren’t new, but had frayed pages and notes written in them!
HOW THIS CAN AFFECT TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOKS:
Traditional publishers, traditionally published authors, and literary agents appear to be upset because Amazon’s resellers can buy wholesale or remaindered books at a fraction of the original cost, and sell them as new (since, essentially, they haven’t been read so they are “new” copies).
When a publisher sells a book to a retailer, they credit the literary agent or author with the royalties. If the book has an agent, the royalties are paid to the agent, who then sends the author’s portion to them. Many traditionally published authors don’t have literary agents so they are paid directly by the publisher.
When a book is remaindered, it’s typically returned to the publisher, who then gives the books a remainder mark (a magic marker slash made across the pages of a closed book near the spine), and sells them to a wholesaler, who will then sell these now-non-returnable books at a fraction of the original cost. When these books were initially “returned” to the publisher, they gave credit to the bookstore for the returned books, and they then deducted the royalties from their authors future payments.
But, what if a bookstore requests a credit from the publisher, and then sends those remainders to a wholesaler on behalf of the publisher? What if they do NOT mark those books as remainders? These books then appear to be “brand new.” They can be purchased by an Amazon reseller, and sold as brand new, despite the fact that the publisher, agent and author have now not earned any money on the sale of those books (or a fraction of what they’d have earned if the books were never remaindered).
To put it succinctly, two things have traditional publishers, authors, and agents up in arms about this:
1. Resellers may be putting these books up for sale online, which compete with brand new books that were previously sold directly by Amazon. Publishers, agents, and authors earn far less on these copies in the end…or nothing at all.
2. Many folks are perfectly happy ordering from Amazon directly but they don’t know these resellers and, thus, may not trust them. So, not having a book available for order directly through Amazon hurts sales.
HOW THIS CAN AFFECT SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS MANUFACTURED THROUGH PRINT ON DEMAND TECHNOLOGY?:
For many print on demand book listings, these resellers are listing “new” books for sale that…don’t even exist yet. Yes, that’s right. They won’t order a copy from the distributor or publisher until/unless somebody orders a copy of that book from them. Only then will they place an order themselves. This is bad because it encourages the resellers to hijack the Amazon pages with “brand new” books for sale that, again, don’t even exist yet.
When Amazon removes their buy button, and instead refers book buyers to these resellers, they’re hurting book sales for print on demand books because, again, many people are comfortable buying from Amazon directly but far fewer trust unknown resellers on Amazon’s site. Also, if Amazon isn’t selling a book directly, that may create doubt in the buyer’s mind about the quality of that book itself.
This is just another example of Amazon doing business that hurts authors and publishers. People who don’t like it should buy their books directly from the publisher, or from a different online book retailer, like BarnesandNoble.com, Powells.com, or chapters.indigo.ca. Many authors sell books directly through their own websites so please consider that option as well when shopping for books online.
Do you have a writing- or publishing-related question for Angela? Contact her RIGHT HERE.
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