Thursday, 12 November 2009

SMALL PUBLISHERS v AMAZON – THE FACTS

Thanks to Nicola Morgan’s wonderful helpful (and often funny) blog Help! I Need a Publisher, here are some facts and figures about Amazon and how their tactics are helping to close down small publishers. And while they line their own pockets, they keep funds from writers as well as publishers.
Lynne Mitchell of one of the newest and smallest of small publishers, Linen Press HERE, talks about the struggle to keep going, and says:

The financial challenge for a small publisher is formidable. Let me give you some figures:
- One book costs £4 to produce because I do small runs of 1000. I refuse to compromise on quality and I use environmentally friendly paper and ink.
- I charge £10 a copy
- Amazon takes 60% and I pay £1.75 to replace the book. If you do the sums, that's £6 for Amazon, plus £1.75 p&p, and the £4 production costs, so I am actually paying Amazon £1.75 for every book they sell. If readers ordered from my website I would make £6.
- The big book stores charge me 50% mark up get a book onto one of those tables where people stop and browse. If I sell a copy, I make £1.


Frightening, isn’t it? READ THE WHOLE POST HERE

I’d like to see all writers dropping their Amazon adverts and links, please. WHAT are we doing??? They aren’t helping anyone but themselves, they aren’t good employers, nor are they ‘green’ in their practices. For the sake of a penny or two, writers. DROP THE LINKS. And pass on this message, and the facts above to all the writer-types who blog.
Anyway, if you want a copy of Short Circuit or Words from a Glass Bubble please go straight to the publisher HERE. And get a 20% discount on the price, which for once is more than the dreaded monster chargeth.

16 comments:

SueG said...

I do agree with you, V, but there are 2 problems that I found with my book. First, people - especially those in the States - want a quick and easy way to get the book. If the book isn't in their local shop (which it probably won't be), then they're not going to write down the name and website of the publisher and so they are less likely to get the book. To be able to say "it's on Amazon" makes it more likely to happen. Sad but true. And also, small presses usually don't have staff and so they get inundated with sales orders. Maybe that was just a problem with bluechrome, but lots of people who ordered from there had to wait forever for the book or never got it at all. I'd love to get rid of Amazon. I believe my website links to the book depository. But I'm afraid to jettison Amazon completely.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Yes, I've always thought this so I haven't tended to link to Amazon. I did once briefly because everyone else seemed to be doing it, and I wondered if I was missing something. Even Salt link to Amazon on their Cyclone Virtual tour pages and I guess there's no getting away from the fact that Amazon is a damn good showcase.

sunnydunny said...

I took a decision a couple of years ago that I wouldn't sell through Amazon, or anyone else that demands more than 35% discount. My pricing structure is, I think, spot on as far as buyers are concerned, but only if I sell through my website (http://www.calderwoodpress.com). If I have to factor in bigger discounts then my retail price has to go up, and my sales will go down. It's that simple. Colin Will

Julia Bohanna said...

I ordered three books from Salt. They accidentally sent one and I gave a friendly phone call to ask for the other two. I spoke to a really lovely man and hey presto, two were delivered with a note of apology, plus a Salt bag for the inconvenience (although there wasn't really any...the whole thing was so relaxed.) Human voices...I made a connection and I got real, efficient and personal service. Sorry but the slave-packed parcels from Amazon don't stack up against that. Especially if they make a mistake and you have to do battle with a faceless Empire.

I want small publishers to thrive because I want to reward them for taking risks. But also because I can say that I enjoyed my transaction with Salt. I actually told them that the book looked fantastic and they were chuffed. They really cared....

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Good points, both. But why dont the small publishers make it easier to buy from them? Why not create an online hub for small publishers that becomes known for quality and speed?
Sue, sadly the bluechrome business just underlined the Fred Carno aspect of some small publishing... something they ought to hide, not pile on more and more books and render themselves unable to service customer demand. (I know the sad circumstances... and feel sorry for the man, but the way the writers were handled beggared belief.)
Yes, I link to Amazon on my website. But I'm questioning if its right. It seems we all do it becasue we all do it... so what would happen if we all stopped, instead?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Helllo Colin, thanks for dropping in. I had not known of your outfit, and just spent a few moments browsing... Much enjoyed meeting new work, especially:

"Slowly, painfully let my frail hands move
Over these worn typefaces - I love them as old friends "

What good things small publishers bring to us. Thank you.

tworavenspress said...

At Two Ravens Press we refuse to supply Amazon direct - we can't make it work at 60%. But we creep in through a wholesaler's, Gardners, at 50% discount. It's still tough. We wish more than anything in the world that people would buy direct from our website - where we have fast, efficient (and discounted, because there's no middle man to take half the RRP) service - but very few people do. We advertise ourselves everywhere we can, but the truth is Amazon is just so EASY. Actually, the big chain stores such as Waterstone's are much more dangerous - not just high discounts, but crippling returns. Ho hum...

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

One of my books is out of print and only available (reliably) on Amazon. The rest of my links on my blog are to the publisher (Salt) or to Kenny's Irish Book Shop (for the Irish published ones).
I rarely buy new books on Amazon - usually second hand.
My local bookshop charges me a 40% discount on books that I buy from Salt at a 35% discount.

Charles Lambert said...

Well, what appals me most about the economics of all this is that the person who actually wrote the book isn't even factored in! If the book doesn't generate some kind of reward for the writer it ought to cost more in the first place.

Susannah Rickards said...

V, I'm in serious talks with some web designers to see how much it would cost to set up a One Stop Shop website for Indie Publishers, where readers can browse the books and then buy direct from the publishers (maybe eventually buy from the site - but that's down the line.

It would be a place where medium and small publishers can publicise their new titles and existing stock. It can feature interviews, reviews. Much more magaziney and overtly shop-like than T's Short review but with a similar ethos. To support and foster the small presses.

With Facebook, Twitter and writer's forums it wouldn't take long for word of mouth to spread about it and I bet Guardian Review, LRB. TLS would all give page space to the launch of such a venture.

I think it's time for the tinies to fight the big boys in the playground. Strength in numbers....

I'd love to hear people's response to this idea, especially from Eyeores who think it can't work, so we can foresee and resolve problems before it's set up.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Fantastic.... Im in a conversation with Charles Christian on facebook, who thinks it is the small publishers themselves who might be arsy! Eeek. I hope not... S this is a brilliant idea. All strength to you.

Susannah Rickards said...

If small publishers are arsy about it then they are welcome to stockpile their books and not sell them. they already can't sell through Amazon and Waterstones because they make a loss if they do. they already can't win big lit proizes because the cost of a big enough run will put them out of business. If they get snooty at a midway online shop which can only help and has an inbuilt profit for both parties then they might want to examine their motives...

minniebeaniste said...

Excellent post, Vanessa - a real eye-opener. And, of course, a call to action. All this is new to me. I dislike Amazon, anyway: too vast and too corporate; these creatures deserve a good kicking from the grass roots - which is where any genuine growth and change will happen. The big boys just carry on like juggernauts, running over new, interesting books so that the likes of Ms K Price's latest ghostwriter may thrive.

Ossian said...

Our experience with Pretend Genius Press print on demand system is that we're thinking of closing our own online shop and going over 100% to sale through online booksellers, including Amazon but also Barnes & Noble, Powells and others. The reason for this is simple: (a) it costs money to run the online shop, money we are not recouping from sales - even though the margin from sales is higher and (b) when people order from the likes of Amazon, the post and packing and customer services is all done for us. We don't work full time at publishing so this is an important issue. There are other marketing advantages, the facilities Amazon can provide online that we couldn't hope to match, the placement in charts that lends a sort of kudos we don't get through private sales and so on. It works well for the customers, is international and convenient and allows us to get on not only with our day jobs but also with our writing and editing.

Ossian said...

Another little tip: If you are going to have links to Amazon, sign up as an Amazon partner - it's free - and they will give you a special code you can add to your links so that when somebody follows your link and then buys something - anything - from Amazon, you get a commission. It's not much but if you have a popular website it could be worth having. I have had a grand total of £12 from them from links for the past few years. Another fairly painless thing authors can do to make a bit of dosh is to sign up to Google Adsense and put their widget on your blog. This is much more lucrative than the Amazon links. They only pay when you reach a trigger amount, so it builds up till then. I'm currently on about £40 waiting to hit £60 when a payment transfer will be triggered. That's after nearly a year. Still, worth having.

Jessica said...

Hi Vanessa

You might find this article useful.


http://www.thebookseller.com/news/103517-booksellers-association-to-import-us-indiebound-initiative-to-uk-.html

Jessica