Amazon and me

I’ve been concerned about Amazon charging the full retail price of $24.50 for Matcher Rules, as I mentioned before and I’ve niggled away at the problem, and I’ve (sort of) solved it. I sell the paperbacks myself, on Amazon, at a lower price.

Amazon does not do price matching for books, and it took quite a bit of pounding around on their site to find this out, because the back end of Amazon is not as well-organized as the front end. True, it’s better than Lulu, but Amazon does have more money. I got a definitive answer from a chat session with an Amazon rep. One of my friends who has his privately printed memoirs for sale on Amazon gave me some pointers and I set myself up as a seller. So when you go to Amazon for Matcher Rules there is a choice of prices for the paperback. Remember I have to buy the copies from Lulu and get them shipped to me, so I’m cautiously offering them at $18.00 plus shipping so my costs are covered.

There’s no answer on Lulu as to why they are not listed as a seller on Amazon, with their discounted prices. My guess: Lulu has a legal agreement with Amazon which precludes them doing this, and I suppose it makes sense because it’s always possible to buy a book directly from a publisher but you don’t see those publishers as sellers on Amazon. Also, Amazon has a contract with Lulu as a POD supplier where orders through Amazon get 24-hour fulfillment, unlike the rest of the orders including those from authors.

However, according to other authors on Lulu’s discussion forums, Amazon will lower their prices without notice and at random, leading to the bizarre situation where it can be cheaper to purchase copies of your own book from Amazon and pay less than you pay to Lulu. There may be some time limit or other trigger event affecting the price, which can then re-set to full retail. The mysterious ways of supply and demand? Phases of the moon?

Right now, the cheapest way to buy a paperback of Matcher Rules is on Lulu, followed by ordering it from me via Amazon, then directly from Amazon. And no, you can’t send me an email and order the book directly because I’d like as much ISBN-tracking as possible for statistical purposes and (ahem) tax records. Right now if I read the rules correctly this qualifies as a hobby but perhaps in the future it won’t. I can hope.

Smashwords, iBooks, and Amazon

Oh, distribution is a learning experience. With the ebook files created on Smashwords, I’d checked all the boxes to distribute to Kobo and Amazon’s Kindle and the iBookstore and there is a neat chart about the status of each channel. All the places I was vaguely aware of, but had never used, such as Kobo, sailed right through. iBooks and Amazon stuck, although there was a note Smashwords and Amazon were working on “technical integration”.

Then the file was sent to iBooks and never showed up. After two months, I queried Smashwords and eventually received a response: they’d re-sent the file. And, less than two weeks later, it was up. Which left Amazon.

Amazon has a new ebook program called the Kindle Lending Library, with increased payments to authors and other goodies. The catch: you have to distribute with Amazon exclusively. Since Smashwords’ entire business model creates ebook files in multiple formats for multiple ebook readers they aren’t too happy with this. According to the Smashwords blog Amazon is denying them ‘agency rights’ and there’s your technical issues in a nutshell.

Before I go any further, I should say how much I appreciate Smashwords. They charge an author NOTHING. I followed their clear instructions, created a file, uploaded it to their site, and multiple, correct files came out the other end. There is no obligation to use them for distribution and it’s possible to pick and chose which sources they send your book to.

So I reluctantly un-checked the Amazon box, created an id/password on Kindle Direct Publishing, worked through a few info screens, and uploaded my book to Amazon using their Kindle authoring tool. Naturally, Amazon uses a format no one else does. But it went through without a hitch, as did my cover, and the whole thing took about 20 minutes. I was extremely careful NOT to opt-in to the Kindle Lending Library, which is of course the default, and accepted the lower revenue percentage. It’s always nice to see the knife before the corporation stabs you in the back. So the ebook is “in review” at Amazon and should be available in a day or so. As soon as it goes live I’ll post a link here.

The paperback is also up on Amazon. Lulu was true to their word (“can take 2 months”) and all the data is there. Oddly, the book description lagged by over a day. There is no reason I can see for this, unless Amazon is treating book descriptions as reviews and sending them through a text filter to take out porno. And the price is, crazily, the full retail price of $24.50. I’ve sent them a note trying to get this changed to approximately the Lulu price of $14.70 because I will sell absolutely nothing at hardback prices. Again, I’ll put up a link here when things stabilize.