Bookstores

Search Inside Lifeliner on Amazon.com

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Amazon.com has recently added a popular feature to my book page — “Search Inside.”

With “Search Inside” a curious customer can click on the image of Lifeliner‘s front cover and get a peek at actual sections of my book. For some books, this feature allows a person to see the entire inside of the book, but for mine, it shows the Front Cover, Table of Contents, Copyright page, an Excerpt, the Back Cover, and “Surprise Me!”

I like the way they executed this feature as it doesn’t show the entire text of Lifeliner, yet does allow a person the electronic equivalent of flipping through the book to see what it’s about.

Bookstores

BookLocker Has Sued Amazon in a Class Action Antitrust Lawsuit

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Being involved in the wrap-up of my own lawsuit during the last couple of months, I haven’t kept up to date with how small publishers are dealing with the Amazon Ultimatum. The last I heard was that the American Society of Journalists and Authors, among other organizations, had joined the fight to prevent Amazon from monopolizing the book retailing and printing market.

Turns out BookLocker filed a class action antitrust lawsuit against Amazon and BookSurge in May (the latter is the print-on-demand company that Amazon bought and which requires all print-on-demand or POD publishers to use). The thing that hadn’t really sunk in when I first started following this story was that Amazon is not only forcing small publishers to use their printer BookSurge in order to sell books on Amazon, but that they are also putting the screws on publishers to give Amazon more of a discount than any other wholesaler or retailer or even the publisher itself through their own bookstore.

At the moment, the person who gets the smallest part of the pie is the author. With Amazon insisting on even tighter margins for the publisher and author, guess whose tiny pie piece is going to shrink even more? Yup, the author’s.

Publishers already work on thin margins, and so it will be very difficult for them to absorb giving more of the price to Amazon and having less of it for themselves. Thus, in time, the author will more than likely be asked to take a smaller royalty percentage under the new Amazon model. Right now, the numbers are like this: If, for example, a book sells for $20 retail, and Amazon gets a 50% discount, then that means Amazon pays $10 for the book, but like all retailers, it still prices the book at the printed retail price of $20. However, with such a deep discount (wholesalers get 36%), Amazon has the leeway to sometimes offer a better price to customers than what’s printed on the book. Let’s say they discount it 30%, that’s $6 off. Amazon would then net $4 from the sale. (If it doesn’t offer a discount, it’ll net $10.) In comparison, the author receives a royalty of 10 to 20%, depending on the publisher, on the $10 Amazon wholesale price — not the retail price — which is $1 to $2. Seem fair that the company who simply retails the book earns 2 to 5x more than the author who created it? No, not to me either.

Now, Amazon apparently wants more. And it’s trying to get the class action lawsuit dismissed, standard operating procedure. If Amazon gets its way, then the author will earn a royalty on less than $10 per book sold through Amazon, so even less than the $1 to $2 they receive now.

iUniverse has an interesting deal with Barnes & Noble for its authors. Any book sold through B&N, and only through B&N, receives a much larger royalty rate of 25%. Now Amazon may be more of a book retailing juggernaut than B&N, but B&N has far more consideration for authors, the very people who make their business and Amazon’s possible, if I may be so blunt.

This looks like it’s going to be a long fight. Money is a powerful incentive for Amazon to try to shaft small publishers and authors for as long as possible. What’s an author to do? What’s a consumer to do?

Here in Canada, we have Chapters Indigo as an alternative to Amazon for buying books online. I’ve found the Chapters community in-house support for authors very good; there isn’t the equivalent from Amazon as far as I can see. Even Facebook provides more advice and support for budding authors than Amazon does. As for customer support, I’ve always received good service from Chapters Indigo. I found Amazon.ca actually to be slower in delivery than Chapters Indigo. In the US, you have B&N. I’m not familiar with their customer support, but I’ve heard that they’ve been improving their online presence. For Britain, I’m afraid I don’t know what your online alternatives are. But if anyone has good suggestions for Britain or any other non-North American country, please leave them in the Comments section!

As for me, I’ll be leaving my Orders page as is. First off, decision making is no longer my forté (thank you stupid drivers), and second I really don’t know what is best for me as an author. The thing that concerns me the most is that Amazon.com is the only place that has reviews on my book. B&N does have one review, but Chapters has zip, not even a rating. Reviews and ratings are very helpful for would-be readers to determine if a book is worth buying. And, as well, Amazon has the most informative affiliate links. Even if people don’t use them, the information contained in the Amazon affiliate links is far more helpful than the Chapters affiliate links (just a graphic, big deal). Plus, after doing a quick check on my Amazon rankings, it looks like people are ordering from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca, but alas not Amazon.co.uk. (Now if only someone would buy the darn copy at Book City…) Eventually, I’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, I’ll probably post updates about this issue every so often. Stay posted!

Bookstores

Another Good Review!

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I’m starting to feel like a critically acclaimed movie: lots of good words, not the commensurate number of sales. Still, the review of Lifeliner I just stumbled across was a real upper.

When I searched for “jeejeebhoy” on Amazon.com, I did a double take when I saw next to the title of my book “4 reviews.” Four? Didn’t I have three? I clicked on the “Customer Reviews” link and first noticed that at least one person had found Gloria Oren’s review helpful. That was new. Gloria had reviewed Lifeliner back in February and had awarded it 5 stars. Then I scrolled down and discovered that there really was a new review of my book, posted just two days ago on May 24th.

Diana Rohini LaVigne, Online Editor of Indian Life & Style Magazine and India-West Magazine and the South Asian Journalists Association Bay Area Chapter Coordinator, had succinctly and kindly reviewed my book on Saturday, giving it 4 stars. Cool! She’d summarized Lifeliner and commented briefly on the kind of research I’d done, then wrote:

“Arranged in chronological order, readers are taken on the journey with Judy; experiencing her triumphs and her challenges. Reading it will make you laugh, smile, cringe, cry and most importantly, think.”

Wow! But her last paragraph really blew me away:

“Once you finish the book, you will take stock of your own health and that of your family’s. If you want inspiration, Lifeliner has no shortage packed into its pages. An excellent book to read and pass along to anyone from those interested in true stories, medical history and those interested in anything to do with health. Lifeliner isn’t just a book, but a voyage about TPN, living with adversity and the power of human will.”

News

Amazon Continues to Squeeze Authors and Small Publishers with BookSurge Ultimatum

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I wrote earlier about Amazon attempting to force print-on-demand publishers like iUniverse and Lulu and other small-press publishers to use BookSurge to print all books sold through Amazon. Essentially, the retailer is also the printer and wants deep discounts from publishers for the privilege of printing through them. The discounts will lead to lower royalties for authors. In other words, authors will be hit the hardest by Amazon’s latest move, authors who already struggle to make every sale and an income from their books. Since I first wrote on this breaking story, there have been further developments, which you can read about on WritersWeekly website. There is some confusion as to which POD and small-press publishers have acquiesced to Amazon’s demands; it doesn’t help that Author Solutions — the parent company of iUniverse — issued an incomprehensible (to me!) statement. WritersWeekly is keeping everyone up to date about breaking developments, a welcome service as many of us are not being kept up to date by our own publishers.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), a respected organization that advocates on behalf of authors and journalists in the United States, issued a press release yesterday. Their stand against this move by Amazon could not be clearer. The Authors Guild, the society representing published book authors, wrote to their members denouncing Amazon’s move and has made that e-mail message public. I’ve reproduced them both here in full. They bring up different points as to why this is a really bad idea on Amazon’s part.

ASJA Press Release

CONTACT:
Russell Wild, ASJA president, 610-530-0078
Salley Shannon, ASJA vice president, 301-740-2819

April 4, 2008

Big, rich Amazon now gouging independent publishers — and writers, most of all

The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the nation’s trade association for freelance nonfiction writers, is disgusted with Amazon’s announced move requiring that all print-on-demand (POD) books sold on Amazon’s site be printed by their own print-on-demand house, BookSurge.

As of April 1, Amazon is requiring small publishers to sign a contract agreeing to such demands.

At first, Amazon representatives denied they were threatening small booksellers with having the “buy it” buttons for their books turned off if they didn’t sign on the dotted line. Later this week, Amazon admitted the move, as reported in Writer’s Weekly and The Wall Street Journal. The contract being offered to print-on-demand publishers, which ASJA officers have seen, also includes a confidentiality clause forbidding disclosure of not just specific contract terms, as is typical, but any discussion at all. Thus, small publishers who have signed the contract may not say so, much less reveal the pressure they were under.

In addition, Amazon is punishing publishers who sell their books at a discount from cover price directly on their publisher’s websites. It is taking that discounted price as the book’s “cover price” and then applying their own discounts accordingly.

“We applauded when Jeff Bezos and Amazon gave small publishers and even writers who self-published a way to get their books before the public,” observed ASJA President Russell Wild. “With these grabby, strong-arm tactics, Amazon negates all that — and the years of goodwill it has built up with writers, who ultimately will bear the brunt of any price increases in the printing of independently published books.”

ASJA joins PMA, the independent book publishers association, which also has spoken out against Amazon’s move to forcibly get business for its own BookSurge subsidiary. The writer’s group also will urge the Washington state attorney general’s office to investigate whether Amazon’s move constitutes restraint of trade or otherwise violates anti-trust laws.

Authors Guild Message to Members

Amazon Tightens Grip on Long Tail
Text of April 4, 2008 e-mail to members:

Last week Amazon announced that it would be requiring that all books that it sells that are produced through on-demand means be printed by BookSurge, their in-house on-demand printer/publisher. Amazon pitched this as a customer service matter, a means for more speedily delivering print-on-demand books and allowing for the bundling of shipments with other items purchased at the same time from Amazon. It also put a bit of environmental spin on the move, claiming less transportation fuel is used (this is unlikely, but that’s another story) when all items are shipped directly from Amazon.

We, and many others, think something else is afoot. Ingram Industries’ Lightning Source is currently the dominant printer for on-demand titles, and appears to be quite efficient at its task. They ship on-demand titles shortly after they are ordered through Amazon directly to the customer. It’s a nice business for Ingram, since they get a percentage of the sales and a printing fee for every on-demand book they ship. Amazon would be foolish not to covet that business.

What’s the rub? Once Amazon owns the supply chain, it has effective control of much of the “long tail” of publishing — the enormous number of titles that sell in low volumes but which, in aggregate, make a lot of money for the aggregator. Since Amazon has a firm grip on the retailing of these books (it’s uneconomic for physical book stores to stock many of these titles), owning the supply chain would allow it to easily increase its profit margins on these books: it need only insist on buying at a deeper discount — or it can choose to charge more for its printing of the books — to increase its profits. Most publishers could do little but grumble and comply.

We suspect this maneuver by Amazon is far more about profit margin than it is about customer service or fossil fuels. The potential big losers (other than Ingram) if Amazon does impose greater discounts on the industry, are authors — since many are paid for on-demand sales based on the publisher’s gross revenues — and publishers.

We’re reviewing the antitrust and other legal implications of Amazon’s bold move. If you have any information on this matter that you think could be helpful to us, please call us at (212) 563-5904 and ask for the legal services department, or send an e-mail to [Subject=RE: Request for Information: Amazon Moves to Seize the Long Tail ]legalservices@authorsguild.org.

Feel free to post or forward this message in its entirety.

———————–

Copyright 2008, The Authors Guild. The Authors Guild is the nation’s largest society of published book authors.

The Authors Guild is the nation’s largest and oldest society of published authors and the leading writers’ advocate for fair compensation, effective copyright protection, and free expression.

News

Amazon BookSurge Ultimatum

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Just when you think selling books couldn’t get any harder, along comes the wonderful news that Amazon is using its hefty muscle to force POD publishers to use BookSurge (which it owns) to print their print-on-demand (POD) books else risk having the Buy button for their authors’ books turned off. Sure, you can still purchase said books through Amazon Marketplace, but not new through Amazon itself, along with all the benefits that includes like free shipping and one-click shopping. As one person put it, that’s like saying “if I want Wal-Mart to sell my toys, I have to use Wal-Mart’s toy-making company.” WritersWeekly wrote up a comprehensive article on this issue, which I recommend reading in order to understand why this situation is terrible for authors like me and the future of book publishing.

Most POD publishers use Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingram — the large book distributor, through which my book is distributed to bookstores all over. Without access to Ingram, you, my readers, could not purchase Lifeliner through your local bookstore. So you could see that switching to BookSurge would mean double-printing: one printing for Amazon, one for Ingram for bookstores. That’s daft. How on earth can publishers and authors make any money doing that?

This story seems to have hit the fan today, although apparently it’s been brewing for awhile. I checked and so far the Buy button is still active for Lifeliner on Amazon, but as others have pointed out, there are plenty of other online retailers — in Canada Chapters.ca, and in the US BarnesandNoble.com — in case iUniverse joins PublishAmerica on Amazon’s hit list.

Bookstores

In Indigo, and Amazon Shorts

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Time isn’t a smooth, linear line; it’s a logarithmic curve that crawls and then gathers steam, until that big day, once barely visible in the far distant future, rushes upon us all of a sudden.

Indigo at Bay and Bloor will stock Lifeliner: The Judy Taylor Story, starting on Tuesday, February 19 and ending 8 weeks later on April 14 or 15 (I don’t know the exact date) unless all of my wonderful readers spread the word to buy books steadily and in good numbers during that entire period. If sales are good and steady, then Indigo will continue to stock the book beyond the 8-week period, according to what I’ve been told anyway.

To honour the occasion, there will be a book signing at an intimate café in the Yorkville area. Details to follow!

In other news: I’m pleased to announce that my first short story Angelica is up and available on Amazon Shorts in digital format. This piece is entirely fictional — unlike Lifeliner, which is entirely non-fictional.

Marketing

Linking Can Be Amusing

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Beta is code for screwed up. One must remember that!

I decided to give Amazon.ca’s Context Links (Beta) widget a try, thinking it’ll pick up my name or the title of my book. Ha! It picked up on Judy’s name first. Only problem was it went to “Judy Taylor” the author of Dudley Dormouse, a book so old that its cover isn’t even on the book’s page at Amazon. “University of Toronto” begets Ivory Tower Blues (hmmm… is there a message there?). And “Sid Smith” the bunker of a building we psych majors spent way too many hours in, begets a really, really old book about an American hostage. Now, that one is funny!

I’ve e-mailed Amazon for help. In the meantime, I’ll leave the Context Links up cause I’m just too tired to remove them. I’ll get back to it next week, and if they don’t improve, off they go into the virtual round file. (I wonder what they’ll link to in this post?)

Bookstores

My First Amazon Review

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I’ve received my first Amazon review! It’s on the UK Amazon site, and I’m still chuffed about it!! It was strange to see four stars all lit up for something of mine and awfully humbling to read what he wrote.

I’ve always liked to see how readers interpret my stories, and it’s no different for the book. The reviewer’s last line, for me, was unexpected: “…and a shout of encouragement to doctors who _dare_ to try.” As usual, a reader sees something that I didn’t consciously think of but was probably in the back of my mind, which proves my idea that a published work is not complete until it is read. It’s also why I’m loathe to discuss what I was thinking when I wrote such-and-such, unless I think the reader is really, really off base! I figure everything I wanted to say is written down. That probably makes me one of those annoying authors who drive people nuts in their refusal to discuss their work(s)! Ah well. I may change.

Lifeliner

I’m on Amazon!

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Holy cow, I’m on Amazon! And I haven’t even seen my own copies yet. I’m supposed to keep it all hush-hush — yeah, right, like that’s working out well — until I see my own copies to ensure there are no printer errors. But now Amazon.com, bless them, has put three copies up for sale — three in-stock-copies, wow! — Amazon.ca has listed it and shown the better Canadian price — whoo hoo at our soaring dollar! — and interestingly enough Amazon.co.uk has in stock four paperback copies and five hard covers. More hard covers than paperbacks? I guess the Brits prefer their books with more polish. Isn’t it ironic that only the Canadian site shows it as listed but not in stock? Rather typical, I think. More evidence of that is the fact that Chapters.Indigo.ca has not listed it yet; Amazon, an American company, has beaten them to it.

So what to do? What to do? Hold off telling people about it for another week, about the time it’ll take before I see my own copies, or start blaring from the rooftops by signing up as an Amazon affiliate and putting badges all over my site? I’m going for blaring! I can always blame my brain injury for lack of impulse control on this!!