February 18th, 2010 / 1:33 pm
Behind the Scenes

People think if a book is at Amazon it is somehow more “legitimate”

Below is an excerpt from a paper I wrote about some of the business aspects of publishing. Let me know if you have any questions.

As the buzz on Light Boxes picked up last spring, I found it increasingly difficult to keep up with fulfillment. Even Amazon, who had previously been sending Purchase Orders for 2-3 books at a time, started to send orders in the dozens every week, and for shipment to multiple distribution centers. This policy of theirs is extremely frustrating, because for one thing, they don’t pay for shipping even while they demand a 55% discount. For a publisher participating in their “Advantage” program, this structure is backbreaking. Having to mail books to four places, in special packaging (since they’ll destroy any book they deem unsellable), eliminates the already-tiny margin and drives up the cost to the user. For instance, a paperback book like Light Boxes, at 167 pages, stretches product value with a $14.95 price tag. At that amount, though, PG is paid $6.73 per copy. Okay, that isn’t too bad. Subtract from that the cost of production (including printing, design, art rights, cataloging numbers, promotional items and copies and so on), the amount PG earns is closer to $2.25. Now consider Amazon’s tendency to order books to four different locations, which means that shipping has to be paid four times, and the result is that it actually costs about $.30 to sell a book with them. Separately, Amazon charges the customer (or enduser) $3.99 for shipping, which means that the cheapest Light Boxes will sell for through them is $18.94. Having paid this kind of money can cause readers to have certain expectations, and I am always afraid that the shortness of the book will disappoint them.

The fact of the matter is, though, that authors want to see their book listed on Amazon’s site. Even the writers in PG’s catalog, who are generally savvy enough to understand the problems with the system, find it important. I don’t blame them, of course, because it does seem to be legitimating to be cataloged in the world’s biggest store. Also, when your uncle or neighbor asks where they can get your book, it is a great place to name. Similarly, when someone who is not affiliated with the author, press, or independent publishing in general catches wind of a book, it is unlikely that they’ll think to shop at the publisher’s website, or even a retailer with policies that are more fair, like Powell’s or Small Press Distribution (both of whom PG works with). The “average” reader will look for a book at Amazon first, so it has to be there. It is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario.

What I find most irksome is that people consider a book somehow illegitimate if it isn’t for sale through Amazon. The fact is that there are no requirements; anyone can join their Advantage program and sell books through them. It is actually de-legitimizing to implement a bad business practice, but this is certainly not an argument to put before a prospective readership.

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142 Comments

  1. Roxane Gay

      Good question Jesus. We have tried using undergrads and the young students mean well, they do, but they are not a reliable quantity. All too often we end up having to follow up on their work and at that point, we might as well do it ourselves. Unlike most magazines, we’re more independent than university affiliated and we’re not attached to an MFA program so we don’t have a group of graduate students who are genuinely interested in working on a literary magazine. We drafted a few undregrads to help with the huge mailing we did a couple weeks ago and they were fantastic but day to day order fulfillment is done by Matt and myself and we also read all the slush. We’ve recently started expanding our editorial staff with people who are not local with varying results. In the near future we’ll consider bringing on some outside slush readers to because our submissions are getting a bit out of control. When I worked at Prairie Schooner, the opposite was the case. Grad students such as myself did the day to day work as editorial assistants while the editors oversaw our efforts and handled decision making and from year to year there was a steady supply of reliable staff.

  2. Derek White

      i used to hate Amazon but now I love them. they make life really easy. yeah, if you are concerned about making money then they suck, but they’ve got the business of getting books from the publisher to your doorstep down. dealing with bookstores directly is a pain in the ass and they rarely ever pay which is a lot worse than 55%. the only alternative is Powell’s but people seem comfortable with Amazon and yeah of course would be great if people bought directly from publishers but that is a lot to expect from people.

      oh, and Gian, yeah, you shouldn’t be paying $40 a month, something’s wrong there. i don’t get charged anything, all they do is deposit money into my bank account each month without me even having to ask. i’ve never even had the need to deal with a human at Amazon.

  3. Derek White

      i used to hate Amazon but now I love them. they make life really easy. yeah, if you are concerned about making money then they suck, but they’ve got the business of getting books from the publisher to your doorstep down. dealing with bookstores directly is a pain in the ass and they rarely ever pay which is a lot worse than 55%. the only alternative is Powell’s but people seem comfortable with Amazon and yeah of course would be great if people bought directly from publishers but that is a lot to expect from people.

      oh, and Gian, yeah, you shouldn’t be paying $40 a month, something’s wrong there. i don’t get charged anything, all they do is deposit money into my bank account each month without me even having to ask. i’ve never even had the need to deal with a human at Amazon.

  4. Dorothee

      my 2 cents (or: euros)
      i’m living “abroad” of english books (in germany) – and i’m not sure how they can do this, but amazon manages to ship US / UK books here without charging anything extra. plus, in germany, amazon delivers books for free. even if it’s just a 4 Euro book – it’s one of their major sale arguments here, and indeed makes abroad books easier to access and order.

      about getting small press books into Amazon with ISBN — it seems there is a way to get an extra ISBN-option via one of the Print-on-Demand-services (Lulu), which then makes the books accessible through Amazon (that’s unfortunatelty Amazon.com only, i guess it’s a deal between Lulu and Amazon.com). i am currently checking this out and testing this for blueprintpress, will see how this works in reality. if this works, it might be an interesting option to make small press books available to a wider audience (meaning: those readers who generally order at amazon, and are hesitant to order anywhere else.)

  5. Dorothee

      my 2 cents (or: euros)
      i’m living “abroad” of english books (in germany) – and i’m not sure how they can do this, but amazon manages to ship US / UK books here without charging anything extra. plus, in germany, amazon delivers books for free. even if it’s just a 4 Euro book – it’s one of their major sale arguments here, and indeed makes abroad books easier to access and order.

      about getting small press books into Amazon with ISBN — it seems there is a way to get an extra ISBN-option via one of the Print-on-Demand-services (Lulu), which then makes the books accessible through Amazon (that’s unfortunatelty Amazon.com only, i guess it’s a deal between Lulu and Amazon.com). i am currently checking this out and testing this for blueprintpress, will see how this works in reality. if this works, it might be an interesting option to make small press books available to a wider audience (meaning: those readers who generally order at amazon, and are hesitant to order anywhere else.)

  6. Adam Robinson

      I think it’s still $29.95 a year though, isn’t it?

  7. Adam Robinson

      I think it’s still $29.95 a year though, isn’t it?

  8. Dorothee
  9. Dorothee
  10. Brent Cunningham

      Great piece, AR. It’d be great if more people dug into these sometimes unglamorous but really vital issues for poetry & publishing.

      For those who care about a vibrant small press and think it’s important, these issues about Advantage & Amazon matter very much. But at the same time I think there’s a way to think of it from a somewhat more macro perspective. Here’s the problem: even if Amazon was suddenly better about the cut they give back, the fact is the dynamics of manufacturing mean that the per-book cost for a smaller print run is much, much higher than when you do a larger print run. You said your cost of production was $4.48 and you did, what, 1,000 copies? A publisher doing an initial run of 4,000 might be looking at something like one third of that. Yet you are put into the same economic chain that the other press is put into.

      What I’m suggesting is that small press material is, on the one hand, in some ways like organic & locally-produced produce: it costs more to make and deliver it. Yet, on the other hand, there’s pretty much zero awareness out there among customers that a small press book is different from a mid-sized or large press books the way there’s awareness about organic/local food. Books are just books to most shoppers, and since many of those shoppers are broke poets you can sympathize. But still: if you were able to raise your list price to $19.95, and if people accepted it as a “gourmet” kind of item the return from Amazon would suddenly be worth it to you (and, frankly, the return from SPD on most our sales would come even closer to rewarding our presses for their heroic labors). However, right now, book buyers have to be pretty sophisticated to even notice who the publisher is, much less understand these backend issues of book production.

      I don’t have the answer to this problem. Part of it, as large and daunting as it would be, is perhaps to scheme some way to present small press material as more local, rare, gourmet, special, community-based, etc.–which it is! Another answer, very well articulated in these comments already, is to get people to buy direct as much as possible. Other answers are still, no doubt, out there & in the brainstorming stage, & so these kinds of discussions are critical!

      yrs,

      Brent Cunningham
      SPD Operations Director

  11. Brent Cunningham

      Great piece, AR. It’d be great if more people dug into these sometimes unglamorous but really vital issues for poetry & publishing.

      For those who care about a vibrant small press and think it’s important, these issues about Advantage & Amazon matter very much. But at the same time I think there’s a way to think of it from a somewhat more macro perspective. Here’s the problem: even if Amazon was suddenly better about the cut they give back, the fact is the dynamics of manufacturing mean that the per-book cost for a smaller print run is much, much higher than when you do a larger print run. You said your cost of production was $4.48 and you did, what, 1,000 copies? A publisher doing an initial run of 4,000 might be looking at something like one third of that. Yet you are put into the same economic chain that the other press is put into.

      What I’m suggesting is that small press material is, on the one hand, in some ways like organic & locally-produced produce: it costs more to make and deliver it. Yet, on the other hand, there’s pretty much zero awareness out there among customers that a small press book is different from a mid-sized or large press books the way there’s awareness about organic/local food. Books are just books to most shoppers, and since many of those shoppers are broke poets you can sympathize. But still: if you were able to raise your list price to $19.95, and if people accepted it as a “gourmet” kind of item the return from Amazon would suddenly be worth it to you (and, frankly, the return from SPD on most our sales would come even closer to rewarding our presses for their heroic labors). However, right now, book buyers have to be pretty sophisticated to even notice who the publisher is, much less understand these backend issues of book production.

      I don’t have the answer to this problem. Part of it, as large and daunting as it would be, is perhaps to scheme some way to present small press material as more local, rare, gourmet, special, community-based, etc.–which it is! Another answer, very well articulated in these comments already, is to get people to buy direct as much as possible. Other answers are still, no doubt, out there & in the brainstorming stage, & so these kinds of discussions are critical!

      yrs,

      Brent Cunningham
      SPD Operations Director

  12. Derek White

      maybe, i remember an initial charge but i can’t remember now. I have some other “services” that Amazon provides me [like virtual storage space] so i get them all mixed up. but i think maybe they just deduct it on one of the months or something [just checked and yeah, they deduct in May for everyone].

      Oh, it also helps to sign up for the Affiliate program or whatever the program is that you can link to books and get kickback, so at least if people are clicking a link from your site you get an additional 6% for the referral. every little bit helps.

      And also the “Seller Central” that allows you to upload PDFs for the look inside feature. I wish they’d consolidate all these though as there are different logins and interfaces for each. I think the Seller Central allows you to become a reseller so technically you could sell your own books through Amazon [be one of the choices that comes up] but i haven’t tried that, i think there may be a charge for that, i know people that have set up one of those accounts than go to estate sales and whatnot finding books and reselling them on their amazon seller accounts and make a bunch of cash.. but i think you’d have to sell a lot to make that to make it worthwhile.

      the bottom line is, Amazon is the one providing these integrated services that makes this all happen, love it or hate it….

  13. Derek White

      maybe, i remember an initial charge but i can’t remember now. I have some other “services” that Amazon provides me [like virtual storage space] so i get them all mixed up. but i think maybe they just deduct it on one of the months or something [just checked and yeah, they deduct in May for everyone].

      Oh, it also helps to sign up for the Affiliate program or whatever the program is that you can link to books and get kickback, so at least if people are clicking a link from your site you get an additional 6% for the referral. every little bit helps.

      And also the “Seller Central” that allows you to upload PDFs for the look inside feature. I wish they’d consolidate all these though as there are different logins and interfaces for each. I think the Seller Central allows you to become a reseller so technically you could sell your own books through Amazon [be one of the choices that comes up] but i haven’t tried that, i think there may be a charge for that, i know people that have set up one of those accounts than go to estate sales and whatnot finding books and reselling them on their amazon seller accounts and make a bunch of cash.. but i think you’d have to sell a lot to make that to make it worthwhile.

      the bottom line is, Amazon is the one providing these integrated services that makes this all happen, love it or hate it….

  14. Derek White

      oh, the other thing i meant to say Adam, is that sometimes i’ll wait a few days to see if another order comes in and then i just combine them into one package, and of course use media mail. a year or two ago they seem to want them shipped all over the place, but lately 90% of mine go Whitestown, Indiana. Which i think must’ve replaced the one in Lexington, KY because i never get them anymore…

  15. Derek White

      oh, the other thing i meant to say Adam, is that sometimes i’ll wait a few days to see if another order comes in and then i just combine them into one package, and of course use media mail. a year or two ago they seem to want them shipped all over the place, but lately 90% of mine go Whitestown, Indiana. Which i think must’ve replaced the one in Lexington, KY because i never get them anymore…

  16. mykle

      I, and my publisher, make decent money selling not-so-many books through Amazon. Amazon is really good at selling my books, but also we print POD through LightningSource, and are therefore distributed by Ingram, who own LS and are apparently big enough to cut a good deal with Amazon. That deal makes all the difference.

      Clearly, independent small-press publishers aren’t getting that deal. Amazon makes you ship to four different locations? Ludicrous! They are simply pushing the cost of their free shipping policy onto the publisher. Bail on that bullshit. Selling books at a loss in order to spread word of your work is a losing proposition: if you ever do succeed at it, you’ll go bankrupt.

      Interestingly, I also sell a book at Powells.com, just because it’s in the small press section at Powell’s Books in Portland, and Powell’s entire stock shows up on Amazon. The two websites entered into some unholy union a year ago. So that book sells through Amazon, but then Powells.com actually ships it, and I get my current, fairer Powell’s rate. I sure hope this works out for Powell’s; it works great for me.

      Many other booksellers have similar parasitic relationships with Amazon.com, so making a partner of such a bookseller could get you that coveted Amazon exposure, while simplifying your distribution problems.

      Amazon is a big scary machine that I often hate, but frankly they are driving my entire career right now. It only works because of the POD/Ingram hookup; I often wonder if Amazon even realizes what a good deal they’re giving us. It seems like some mistake.

  17. mykle

      I, and my publisher, make decent money selling not-so-many books through Amazon. Amazon is really good at selling my books, but also we print POD through LightningSource, and are therefore distributed by Ingram, who own LS and are apparently big enough to cut a good deal with Amazon. That deal makes all the difference.

      Clearly, independent small-press publishers aren’t getting that deal. Amazon makes you ship to four different locations? Ludicrous! They are simply pushing the cost of their free shipping policy onto the publisher. Bail on that bullshit. Selling books at a loss in order to spread word of your work is a losing proposition: if you ever do succeed at it, you’ll go bankrupt.

      Interestingly, I also sell a book at Powells.com, just because it’s in the small press section at Powell’s Books in Portland, and Powell’s entire stock shows up on Amazon. The two websites entered into some unholy union a year ago. So that book sells through Amazon, but then Powells.com actually ships it, and I get my current, fairer Powell’s rate. I sure hope this works out for Powell’s; it works great for me.

      Many other booksellers have similar parasitic relationships with Amazon.com, so making a partner of such a bookseller could get you that coveted Amazon exposure, while simplifying your distribution problems.

      Amazon is a big scary machine that I often hate, but frankly they are driving my entire career right now. It only works because of the POD/Ingram hookup; I often wonder if Amazon even realizes what a good deal they’re giving us. It seems like some mistake.

  18. PHM

      It might be that SDP or a new group of publishers need to band together to lighten the load for all independent presses. A yearly-fee or a small fee on each book and a deal with Amazon, something. Like: okay Amazon, we all ship from one location to your four locations, and we only ship three days a week, but the upside for you is that you only have to drop your orders and get your information from one location. And in return, Amazon, you give us a bigger share, like 55 instead of 45%.

      Seems like having volume as a bargaining chip, and having all indies have access to it, would make this better. Like how smaller record labels used to go through that Chicago label because they had all the facilities and were willing to let others use them at a cost. Seems like a bargaining chip is what’s missing here, because Amazon knows you need it, but you have no way of creating a situation wherein you don’t need Amazon.

  19. PHM

      It might be that SDP or a new group of publishers need to band together to lighten the load for all independent presses. A yearly-fee or a small fee on each book and a deal with Amazon, something. Like: okay Amazon, we all ship from one location to your four locations, and we only ship three days a week, but the upside for you is that you only have to drop your orders and get your information from one location. And in return, Amazon, you give us a bigger share, like 55 instead of 45%.

      Seems like having volume as a bargaining chip, and having all indies have access to it, would make this better. Like how smaller record labels used to go through that Chicago label because they had all the facilities and were willing to let others use them at a cost. Seems like a bargaining chip is what’s missing here, because Amazon knows you need it, but you have no way of creating a situation wherein you don’t need Amazon.

  20. Erik Marcus

      I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Amazon’s subsidary CreateSpace.com as a way to sell books on Amazon. Startup costs are minimal, Amazon prints a POD copy for each book ordered, and you get a hefty royalty (I make almost six bucks on my $14.95 book.) Once you get your book carried by CreateSpace, Amazon automatically creates a page for it, and offers free 24-hour Super Saver shipping just like any other book.

      What’s more, I have no shipping or inventory expenses, nor any losses for damaged books. CreateSpace is the way to go; I think you’d have to be a masochist to use Amazon’s Advantage program.

  21. Erik Marcus

      I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Amazon’s subsidary CreateSpace.com as a way to sell books on Amazon. Startup costs are minimal, Amazon prints a POD copy for each book ordered, and you get a hefty royalty (I make almost six bucks on my $14.95 book.) Once you get your book carried by CreateSpace, Amazon automatically creates a page for it, and offers free 24-hour Super Saver shipping just like any other book.

      What’s more, I have no shipping or inventory expenses, nor any losses for damaged books. CreateSpace is the way to go; I think you’d have to be a masochist to use Amazon’s Advantage program.

  22. Nat Gertler

      You’re looking at some of your math wrong:
      “Subtract from that the cost of production (including printing, design, art rights, cataloging numbers, promotional items and copies and so on), the amount PG earns is closer to $2.25.”
      Thing is – the money you’ve spent on design, art rights, cataloging numbers, and promotional items is gone. Those aren’t marginal costs (unless you’ve arranged for the art rights on a royalty basis.) In proper economics, those are things you calculate in deciding whether to do a project, but they shouldn’t effect the actual price. So each additional order you try to generate, you have to look at the cost of fulfilling that order versus the money gained.
      In the case of dealing with Amazon, you have to balance how much you make off of selling through them versus how much you weren’t on there – how many sales would you lose versus how many folks would seek out your publisher site instead.
      I run my own small publishing company, been doing so for a decade. I went through the Amazon Advantage program before getting a proper book market distributor, and it did quite well for us… but part of that is that our key book at the time was one that would show up easily in searches (it involved a number of big names, so if you were searching for, say, “Neil Gaiman”, our book would be in the search results.) As it is, Amazon is still our biggest single customer. We don’t do direct-from-publisher sales; it’s too much of an interruption. I’d rather folks order through Amazon – it’s less work for us, I don’t need to worry about how to take credit cards, yes I get less of the money but I doubt I’d do enough business to make it worthwhile. Besides, when we steer people to Amazon, we do it through an Amazon Associates link, so we get 5% or so of the Amazon price for the sale along with anything else one orders at the same time. And the existence of Associates links encourages other people to link to the book as well.
      People are comfortable with Amazon. They already have their account set up there. And while you may think, hey, a $15 book with free shipping isn’t that good a deal because people have to order $10 to reach the $25 free shipping minimum, that overlooks one advantage: the person thinking “hey, what can I add to get free shipping” may not be the person who was otherwise buying your book; she may be the person who was probably not going to buy your book until she realized it would help her get free shipping on some other item she was buying.

  23. Nat Gertler

      You’re looking at some of your math wrong:
      “Subtract from that the cost of production (including printing, design, art rights, cataloging numbers, promotional items and copies and so on), the amount PG earns is closer to $2.25.”
      Thing is – the money you’ve spent on design, art rights, cataloging numbers, and promotional items is gone. Those aren’t marginal costs (unless you’ve arranged for the art rights on a royalty basis.) In proper economics, those are things you calculate in deciding whether to do a project, but they shouldn’t effect the actual price. So each additional order you try to generate, you have to look at the cost of fulfilling that order versus the money gained.
      In the case of dealing with Amazon, you have to balance how much you make off of selling through them versus how much you weren’t on there – how many sales would you lose versus how many folks would seek out your publisher site instead.
      I run my own small publishing company, been doing so for a decade. I went through the Amazon Advantage program before getting a proper book market distributor, and it did quite well for us… but part of that is that our key book at the time was one that would show up easily in searches (it involved a number of big names, so if you were searching for, say, “Neil Gaiman”, our book would be in the search results.) As it is, Amazon is still our biggest single customer. We don’t do direct-from-publisher sales; it’s too much of an interruption. I’d rather folks order through Amazon – it’s less work for us, I don’t need to worry about how to take credit cards, yes I get less of the money but I doubt I’d do enough business to make it worthwhile. Besides, when we steer people to Amazon, we do it through an Amazon Associates link, so we get 5% or so of the Amazon price for the sale along with anything else one orders at the same time. And the existence of Associates links encourages other people to link to the book as well.
      People are comfortable with Amazon. They already have their account set up there. And while you may think, hey, a $15 book with free shipping isn’t that good a deal because people have to order $10 to reach the $25 free shipping minimum, that overlooks one advantage: the person thinking “hey, what can I add to get free shipping” may not be the person who was otherwise buying your book; she may be the person who was probably not going to buy your book until she realized it would help her get free shipping on some other item she was buying.

  24. claybanes
  25. claybanes
  26. David Ronin

      I’m with a start-up publisher, and found this thread fascinating.

      Some comments:

      1. My firm (Bold Type Press, Inc.) has yet to find a distributor that demands less than 65%. And that’s if you can find a distributor (which for a start-up, small-time press without big bucks for promotion, has been extremely difficult). So I was astounded to see someone has a distributor that only takes 50%.

      2. Unless I missed something, no one mentioned the Amazon Marketplace. True, you have to do your own shipping when using Marketplace. But at least you don’t have to ship to Amazon. Plus, you get the buyer’s name and e-mail address, which means YOU can do follow-up promotional mailings for other items. When you let Amazon sell for you, Amazon is the one that gets to do the follow-up, and is not about to do anything special for you. Yes, fulfillment operations are a pain. But you can add a charge for shipping, just as Amazon does, to help defray the cost. (We will be shipping via Priority Mail, mostly.)

      3. Someone did mention that if you have a web site with a link to Amazon, you get a commission from Amazon that knocks Amazon’s take down to 49%. Plus, you don’t have to worry about all the games distributors/retailers play: taking as long as a year to return copies, returning damaged copies and insisting on full credit, and of course the godawful delay in getting paid (if you do get paid at all).

      4. I don’t know if Amazon has even turned a profit yet. But they have found a way to maximize revenues at the expense of publishers—while undercutting the normal distributor/retailer middlemen. It’s too much to expect Amazon to give up much of that. I resent how much they take, but there are the benefits several who posted mentioned, that hugely reduce the hassles and arguably make the high commission worthwhile.

      5. What my firm is going to do is price high, knowing full well that Amazon will sell at a 10%-20% discount if we go through Amazon Advantage, etc., rather than through Amazon Marketplace. The customer will experience the equivalent of sticker shock at the list price, but won’t mind that upon seeing the discounted price…we believe.

      6. Last, even the big publishers don’t make any serious money on books. Everyone knows why. Small publishers, which can’t take advantage of economies of scale and favorable relationships with periodicals that do reviews, can’t help but expect that their bottom line will be even more disappointing than that of the majors. Authors rarely make any serious money on books. Those who make serious money usually do so from spin-off products and services that the books function as a drawing card for. For at least two of our authors, we’ve set it up at the outset that there will be follow-up products and services of a non-book nature. Our firm will provide the capital, promotion, etc., in return for a piece of the action. We doubt we’ll turn much of a profit on the books, but the margin on the non-book goods and services will, we hope, more than make up for that.

  27. hungry joe

      You’re still making $1.95 a book, right? That’s not exactly losing money on every sale.

  28. hungry joe

      You’re still making $1.95 a book, right? That’s not exactly losing money on every sale.

  29. david erlewine

      learned a lot from this. thanks.

  30. david erlewine

      learned a lot from this. thanks.

  31. PHM

      Loaded statement, Joe. The question is, how many runs would it take, at that rate, to make the press solvent to the level that it paid for itself? Light Boxes was probably a fluke, although PG has a knack for press connectivity. That being said, the initial run was (I happen to know) 600 copies. All those copies were sold, minus those that the author took. So we’re talking about $1200. That’s not as much as it cost to print the book, so right now we know for a fact that we cannot afford to print another run based only on the profits from the last book, and we have to keep in mind that the original costs came from somewhere else (mortgages, car payments, trips to AWP) in the investor (Adam Robinson)’s finances. So, the truth of the matter is that PG would have to sell out of all copies of every run for about four to five print runs (or more, since we still haven’t factored in the writer’s portion of the proceeds) in order to reach the black, and once there they’d have to maintain the sort of time commitment and what not that seems to come so naturally with your first project, because books don’t sell themselves–Shane wrote hundreds of personal letters to people, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another writer with that kind of motivation, even when he possibly knows that a shot at the majors is on the line.

      The number of print runs required would be lessened if the publisher/author’s share were increased, and this can be done a number of ways, but the the methods these other guys are mentioning are not legitimate. Print-on-Demand implies that the reader should pay the full cost of the book every time. If the publisher can foot the bill in bigger runs, as the guy from SPD said, then the reader can get a better deal (as well as the publisher). Nobody’s going to become solvent with a POD system, but working the distributor world just right might yield real-time profits.

      I still think that the best solution will be some sort of communal effort. One front which represents 100s of smaller fronts is probably the best way to go. I know that AK Press stocks most of the tiny radical presses and helps them deal with Amazon directly. I remember the days when “distro” catalogs were pretty standard. I don’t see why we can’t macro that concept into the new world with Amazon.

      Here, Amazon: you’re only allowed to shop for our stuff here.

  32. PHM

      Loaded statement, Joe. The question is, how many runs would it take, at that rate, to make the press solvent to the level that it paid for itself? Light Boxes was probably a fluke, although PG has a knack for press connectivity. That being said, the initial run was (I happen to know) 600 copies. All those copies were sold, minus those that the author took. So we’re talking about $1200. That’s not as much as it cost to print the book, so right now we know for a fact that we cannot afford to print another run based only on the profits from the last book, and we have to keep in mind that the original costs came from somewhere else (mortgages, car payments, trips to AWP) in the investor (Adam Robinson)’s finances. So, the truth of the matter is that PG would have to sell out of all copies of every run for about four to five print runs (or more, since we still haven’t factored in the writer’s portion of the proceeds) in order to reach the black, and once there they’d have to maintain the sort of time commitment and what not that seems to come so naturally with your first project, because books don’t sell themselves–Shane wrote hundreds of personal letters to people, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another writer with that kind of motivation, even when he possibly knows that a shot at the majors is on the line.

      The number of print runs required would be lessened if the publisher/author’s share were increased, and this can be done a number of ways, but the the methods these other guys are mentioning are not legitimate. Print-on-Demand implies that the reader should pay the full cost of the book every time. If the publisher can foot the bill in bigger runs, as the guy from SPD said, then the reader can get a better deal (as well as the publisher). Nobody’s going to become solvent with a POD system, but working the distributor world just right might yield real-time profits.

      I still think that the best solution will be some sort of communal effort. One front which represents 100s of smaller fronts is probably the best way to go. I know that AK Press stocks most of the tiny radical presses and helps them deal with Amazon directly. I remember the days when “distro” catalogs were pretty standard. I don’t see why we can’t macro that concept into the new world with Amazon.

      Here, Amazon: you’re only allowed to shop for our stuff here.

  33. Christian Bolstad

      If your customers and propects find that $18.94 including shipping and handling is a to high price for your 160-page book then the fault probably IS NOT in the distribution chain.

  34. Christian Bolstad

      If your customers and propects find that $18.94 including shipping and handling is a to high price for your 160-page book then the fault probably IS NOT in the distribution chain.

  35. Kevin Reichard

      Amazon has the same exact terms offered by Partners (one of the largest distributors) and Baker & Taylor — 55% discount — while some of the booksellers who buy direct offer better terms. Amazon is the same as everyone else. Not quite sure where the complaint is; no offense, but if you’re doing a 600-unit press run you’ll never make money. Period.

  36. Kevin Reichard

      Amazon has the same exact terms offered by Partners (one of the largest distributors) and Baker & Taylor — 55% discount — while some of the booksellers who buy direct offer better terms. Amazon is the same as everyone else. Not quite sure where the complaint is; no offense, but if you’re doing a 600-unit press run you’ll never make money. Period.

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