Selling books on Amazon: what’s going on?

I got a phone call: ‘Do you know someone is charging £50 for one of your novels on Amazon?’ I didn’t know whether to be flattered or horrified, so I settled for being confused. I checked on my Mac, and the information was what I expected: the Kindle versions of my books were there, front and centre, but the paperback version took another few clicks to access. I also noted that Hoad Press – that’s my own imprint – was only one of a list of sellers, some of whom were charging very odd prices. I guess that’s just Amazon punishing us small sellers for not giving them the fulfillment role which makes them lots more money than hosting other sellers.

But then I went onto the Amazon books site using my ipad and completely different windows came up. A friend who tried on her ipad got different information again. ‘Try ABEBooks’, she said. ‘They’re owned by Amazon, so they should carry your books too.’ No such luck. Hoad Press don’t exist according to them, and an odd collection of my education books appeared, some of them seriously dated. As we talked and checked these anomalies, I realised that I could spend all my time trying to sort it all out. I also understood why the number of Amazon paperback orders which was only ever a trickle has recently dried up completely. Not for the first time I reflected on the fact that I can sell ten books in ten minutes at a book group or library talk, of which I do quite a few in the Cumbria area, and make as much money as I would earn through Amazon ‘real book’ sales in several months. With my time precious, how would I rather spend it, sending off plaintive emails to Amazon and receiving stock responses back, or meeting the people who want to hand over their money to the author herself? No contest, which probably demonstrates only what an amateur I am.

When the big breakthrough comes, when Richard and Judy are singing my praises, when agents are beating a path to my door and the film rights are up for grabs, maybe then I’ll trust Amazon with ‘fulfillment’ and not even think about it. But for now, I’ll keep plugging away at selling through my website and Paypal, and doing what I enjoy – writing, talking about writing and selling to my readers direct whenever I can.

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