I want to get up on my soapbox and rant about Amazon’s market manipulation, but I can’t because I’m an accountant who understands how the free market works: Badly and for the detriment of the poor and uneducated—but that’s not my rant.
More specifically, I’d like to complain about Amazon Createspace’s deliberate price manipulation of paper editions of our books.As a few of you may be aware, I have a continuing Regency romance series that was bought by a major publisher years ago. Due to the economic climate at the time, the last two books never made it into print even though they’d been edited and paid for. Thanks to the wonderful crew here at BVC, I’ve been able to make these stories available in e-book format. (Irish Duchess will be out November 6th here at BVC)
The series is selling exceptionally well, thank you, everyone. But my readers have been reading my historical romances since the early 80’s. Some of them simply cannot make the technological leap to e-readers. Others want the entire series in print on their shelves. I am reluctant to dump this loyal print audience if there is any way of complying with their wishes.
So very reluctantly, because I’ve been watching other authors enter into this painful process, I decided to experiment with turning my e-books into print. Lightning Source is probably the best means of doing so, but they’re set up to deal with large publishers. BVC isn’t there yet.
Vanity presses are another option. I am not arrogant enough to believe the demand for my print books will be high, and I have no intention of selling them out of my trunk, so there is unlikely to be enough profit to pay anyone to turn them into print.
That leaves Createspace as my best alternative for print publishing. They cost nothing. They’re simple. They’re set up for the indie author. And they actually do a terrific job of putting together a very nice book. I respect the fact that they should be rewarded for their forward thinking and excellent programmers. B&N has certainly made no strides in this direction.
But in return, Amazon demands loyalty to their customer base or pay the price. I might understand if they set their distribution up so that every book sold had the same profit percentage. Obviously, a single POD print book will cost far, far more than an e-book. I accept that my $6.99 e-book will cost $10.99 to print. I make a great deal more money on the e-book and pennies on the print, but this is about pleasing my customers. Unfortunately, this is not how Createspace works.
If I dare to pay Amazon to distribute my book to Ingram’s and other wholesalers, Amazon wants 40% of my retail price, over and above the cost of publication. (It actually only costs them about $4.50 to print. The rest is their profit and my pennies.) Do the math. If I’m making pennies of profit at $10.99 and have to pay Createspace $4.40 to sell the book at B&N, I’m losing $4 a book. So I have to list the book at $14.99, not $10.99 to sell anywhere but at Amazon.
Which leaves me on the horns of a dilemma—do I keep my price low and sell only through Amazon, or insist on market competition, raise the price, and sell everywhere? You know what Amazon is betting on. Does it matter to you where you buy your books?