The WTF of publishing a book

Yesterday, January 5, was the release date for my first novel, Before the Time Machine.

It had been available for pre-order for a week or two, and during that time had taken its place on several vendor websites, including A-zon, at my suggested price of $9.99 for the paperback.

I got up in the morning and the price had been changed to $12.59, and the main page for the book had that price with the book sold by Book Depository rather than A-zon directly. An hour later, the price was over $16 with the same vendor. In order to get to the $9.99 price, you had to click the tiny “2 New from $9.99”, which popped up a window with A-zon itself selling the book.

I was irate, and posted in an author group for help. I was led to an article from 2017 about how upset publishers and authors were that Amazon allowed third-party vendors to purchase the “buy button” page. When I wondered why they would let another company usurp their sales, I was told that Book Depository is owned by A-zon anyway.

Now my paperback is printed by Ingram, so no matter what price a retailer sets I get $3.07 per sale. My profit doesn’t change regardless of the retail price. So Book Depository, if they sold anything at that absurd price, would make a clear profit of at least $13 for doing nothing but being the vendor ordering from Ingram.

But it gets weirder. Today, A-zon is no longer listed at all as a vendor for the book, and there is no $9.99 option. The paperback looks unavailable on the main page, and is only listed at $18.70 (!) with one vendor: a “californiabooks” with a residential address in San Francisco. If she sells any, that will be $15 profit for reselling my work.

I knew this wasn’t going to be fair, and I’ve read plenty of horror stories about the way booksellers mess with prices, and how the author can do nothing about the price of her book. I know that Ingram doesn’t allow the author to choose vendors. And I deliberately chose to publish with Ingram and vend at A-zon rather than have A-zon do the print publishing, and perhaps I am being punished for that (the listing for the Kindle version is okie dokie and at the original price). But I did not expect A-zon to refuse to sell my paperback all together, foisting it off onto a reseller who will sell nothing at their inflated price.

My whole intention was to get the book out there for people to enjoy, and like it or not, most people shop at A-zon and anyone who wants to buy my book will likely look there despite the fact that Barnes & Noble, Blackwell’s, and (support your local bookshop!) are carrying it at the right price.

All I can say at this point is that this is disheartening in a whole twisty way compared to the disheartening experience I was prepared for.