Monday, November 12, 2007

Fighting That 900 Pound Gorilla


I noticed that recently another ePublisher went belly-up. Chippewa/ LAP is the latest in a series of casualties. Mardi Gras Press, which seemed to be picking up a number of experienced eBook authors, closed up shop within the last few months as well. Last year Inara Press and Scherezade Press closed.

I noticed this on the index page of the Chippewa site:

Chippewa Publishing has closed its doors. Thank you for all your business and support. Please visit one of our wonderful competitors at amazon.com.

Is the problem the competitors or Amazon.com? I suspect the latter. Amazon.com has been described as the 900 pound gorilla in bookselling, and I’ve seen the results myself. If the book isn’t on Amazon, it lacks credibility which hurts sales. If it is on Amazon and your publisher isn’t willing to offer a huge discount, it won’t sell either.

Whiskey Creek Press isn’t exactly taking on the 900 pounder directly, but they list their books on Amazon reluctantly. One of my contacts who was once employed by WCP mentioned that they avoid listing new releases with other vendors for a while, hoping that eager buyers will come to the WCP site and purchase at full price, which is better for the publisher and the author.

Amazon is a “lose, lose scenario” for authors with smaller publishers like mine, because the books are so overpriced in either an attempt to preserve profit or in a futile attempt to drive customers to the publisher’s own site. Recently, I noticed that Trinity on Tylos is now “in stock” at Amazon; a feature I paid for over a year ago, but the price is $23.96, a price that’s $10.01 over publisher’s list. Probably that odd ball price covers shipping and handling from the publisher to Amazon and from Amazon to the customer. Alas, there are no customers at that price. The average hardcover costs far less, so the #3,243,149 in Books sales ranking for Trinity on Tylos comes at no surprise.

The Gift Horse does a bit better, no doubt due to lower costs at Booklocker. The royalty is half as much for sales at Amazon, and they don’t get to me for at least six months, but it is in dollars rather than cents, and the book is listed at cover price rather than being up-priced.

One of my author-friends has a book with a small publisher which offers a discount at Amazon, and her book sells reasonably well there, so the only way to win is to control costs so well that the book makes a bit of money even when placed with the 900 pound gorilla. As the saying goes, you can’t fight it, so you have to find a way to deal with it.

Unfortunately, some publishers (and their authors) just can’t win, but they try until the bitter end.

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2 Comments:

At Dec 10, 2007, 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Sun Singer said...

Talk is lately that we'll be seeing the end of the road for most hardcover books soon. They're so heavily discounted when new that the profit margin isn't good. It's not uncommon on Amazon to see new hardcovers with a $29.00 list selling for $18.00.

That, of course, has an impact on POD paperbacks which are already priced higher than their mainstream counterparts. So, when my 130,000-word novel was new, it cost more on Amazon than a 350,000-word hardback.

It's hard to compete when the big names are cheaper than the midlist authors as well.

Malcolm

 
At Dec 25, 2007, 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Pamela J. Dodd said...

I was not aware that hardcovers are now in jeopardy. Trade paperbacks are now the industry leader in sales, so I understand, but those are usually priced around $12.00. My publisher's printer is going up yet another dollar a copy on their prices in 08; which means what I pay will increase by that much. Since price at Amazon is much higher than "cover" price, I imagine that it will be even more expensive.

Best wishes on finding a good publisher for your new manuscript.

 

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