Monday, December 26, 2011

Moving Toward Amazon Only

by L.J. Sellers, bestselling author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

I suspect that blogging during the week after Christmas will be a lot like going into the office at this time—eerily quiet, with only a few other diehards around. But I'm trying to keep the site live during the break, so I'll be posting all week and running some favorites. But to start with, here's a recent (and updated) post from my own blog.

And the craziness continues! Last week The Sex Club, which is selling well again (after the giveaway), was suddenly being discounted on Amazon from $2.99 to $.99. Which means, I was suddenly making a third of the money. After cursing loud and long, I tracked down the culprit. Kobo was selling the title at $.99—even though I requested the retailer take it down two weeks ago.

I asked for the takedown because I had enrolled The Sex Club in the Kindle Select program and it requires exclusivity. So the fact that it was still selling there could have gotten me kicked out of the program. I did everything possible to correct it—including sending a legal "cease and desist" letter—but retailers are notoriously slow about taking down books, especially if they’re selling. (After 10 days, they finally removed it.)

I distribute to Kobo, Sony, Apple, and various other retailers through INgrooves, and this was not the first time I’ve had to deal with the discounting issue. For those not familiar, here’s the short version: Amazon will not be underpriced. If a competitor puts an ebook on sale, Amazon matches the price. This can be a serious problem for authors who make most of their money from Amazon and need to control what price their books sell for on Amazon.

When I starting losing money on Amazon, I see my mortgage payment for the next month disappearing. Which led me to finally withdraw all my books from INgrooves. The small amount of money I make from other retailers is offset by the profit I lose from the discounting issue.

My only hesitation, as always, was readers. I want them to have full access to my books, regardless of their e-reader device. But I’m running a small publishing business (Spellbinder Press), and I have to make smart business decisions. I have to be able to track and predict profit.
Also, I have to remind readers that my most of my ebooks are available for purchase from my website.
Other writers tell me I should upload to Smashwords as my distributor, but that doesn’t fix the discounting issue. And I’m tired of continuously having to scan the other retailers to ensure they’re not undercutting my ability to make a living from Kindle sales.

Pulling my books from INgrooves leaves me with ebooks available only on Kindle and Nook. But what I sell on B&N/Nook every month won’t even pay my cell phone bill.

After I see my first bonus payment from Amazon for enrolling in the Select program, I’ll have to decide whether keeping my Detective Jackson books on B&N is actually worth it. I predict I’ll be exclusive to Amazon by the end of the next year. Some people may see this as a sell out. But I have to make a living, and I’m worth more than minimum wage.

Readers: Can you sympathize with this decision?
Writers: How do you deal with the discounting issue?


  1. I too, make most of my money on Amazon sales. However, I use Smashwords as a distributor to Apple, Sony and everywhere else they send books with the exception of Barnes & Noble, where I upload the books myself. I've never seen any of my books discounted unless I've initiated the price change. Maybe you have to be more "famous" than I am to have an e-tailer want to drop your book prices.

    However, I'm a Nook owner, and with so many choices there, I simply will NOT buy an Amazon exclusive. It's too much of a bother to have to download, covert, and upload. There are enough books to keep me reading long after I'm dead at the Nook store.

    (And I don't think you're allowed to sell your exclusives at your own website if you've opted in to the Amazon exclusive deal.)

    I have a new book I'm working on, and I figure that by the time it's ready for production, there will be enough reports on how much the Amazon Select program is actually putting in authors' pockets, especially since you have to pay something like $80 to be allowed to borrow those books.

    Keep us posted, please!

    Meanwhile, my books are still all over the e-stores.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. All I know is I'm tickled pink with my Fire, and the fact that I have an Amazon Prime membership for thirty days. Believe me, I will be using it like crazy.

    I'll be getting serious about making a decision in a few months regarding where and how to sell my first release. At that time, who knows what will have changed? I've decided, for the moment, to take everything that's current with the grain of salt it's likely to be by the time I'm ready.

    Thank, L.J., for keeping CFC "live."

  3. LJ, as always, you provide invaluable experience and insights to other authors who self-publish through Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, etc., or are thinking of taking that route. I'll be sending several of my clients here and to your blog to read about your personal experiences with Amazon and others. Thanks for this! And thanks for keeping our blog up and running over the holidays!

  4. L.J., I love your books - have all of them on my Kindle. I think you need to do what is best for you in the long run. If that is doing an Amazon exclusive, so be it. Just do what you need to do to keep writing!

  5. Thanks, everyone, for stopping in and commenting. The only thing in this business that is certain is that change will keep coming. I hope to keep adapting with it.

    And thanks, Gina, that's my goal too: To make enough money from my fiction to have the time to keep writing more fiction!

  6. I think Gina has it right. You have to do what works best for you, L.J. This industry is changing faster than any of us can blink, and it's become quite a challenge trying to keep up. In this day and age we are no longer just authors; we are publicists, bookkeepers, publishers, wholesalers, distributors-- the list goes on and on. It's wild ride and none of us really knows where it will end. All we can do is hang on and hope to stay on board.

  7. L.J.,
    You have to do what works best for you. Writing is a business, and as Drew mentioned, the author business "skills" have expanded with self-publishing. But with freedom comes choices to be made.

  8. Another great post L.J., you give me a lot to think about. I agree with Drew that in the end we are in a business and you have to make decisions that best suit your model. It might just mean a different marketing approach for you to direct readers to you. Keep us posted. Tom

  9. You don't have to go solely with Amazon to control the discounting issue. I use BookBaby and get paid 70% of the price I set - from Amazon - no matter what price they sell it for. The same goes for all retailers. BookBaby does not deliver to Kobo or Diesel, only to Apple, Amazon, B&N, and Sony. BookBaby charges a $99 setup fee, but takes no percentage of book sales. One other benefit; the author is not responsible for formatting, BookBaby does it.

    I realize BookBaby is not a perfect solution for everyone, though they do solve the discounting problem.


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