Friday, December 11, 2009

My First Holiday Season as a Published Author Rather Than a Bookseller

I've been a published writer for more than 20 years, and since the late 1980s, I've written fiction for children and adults, including five or six children's middle grade novels, a fat, strange novel for adults, and the world's most horrible romance novel. In 1998, I decided to add "online used and out-of-print bookseller" to my resume and called this new business, "Junebug Books," after a nickname from my childhood. So in addition to writing books, for a long time, I sold the used books of others online, beginning in the days before this was common.

Holiday season 2009 marks my first as a published author with my own book for sale in bookstores and at websites including, where I was one of their first third-party booksellers. Now I get to see my own brand new novel, Gone From These Woods, listed on right next to used and even new copies from third-party booksellers who are constantly engaged in price-dropping wars.

So how do I feel about this as an author?

Of course I don't like it. Like my publisher, Random House, I want buyers to purchase new copies of my book from at their discounted price. That should be good enough, right?

Let's go back a moment, to third-party book selling on Amazon before our used, rare and out-of-print copies were moved to positions right beside the new from the publisher copies. Back in those days, in the late 1990s, our books were in "z-shops" and were only visible to buyers if they knew the web address of our Amazon z-shop or they searched for an out-of-print copy using the Amazon home page search box. And in the beginning, we actually had a tab on Amazon's home page that said, "z-shops." This led buyers to our books. In addition to z-shops, many of us sold our OP books directly to Amazon. They mailed us actual checks.

Then we got Marketplace and our books were moved to the pages where new from publisher books were sold and the rest is history. Booksellers, many with almost no knowledge of the book selling business, multiplied. Prices dropped. And the book business as I knew it was gone forever, forcing many small time booksellers out of business and reducing revenues for the ones who were left. Through this all, I continued to write with the goal of selling my own books someday, instead of the books of others.

Now, back to the present, holiday season 2009. I now can go to the website and see my new book, Gone From These Woods, listed for sale at a discounted by Amazon price (a definite thrill for a first time published author, I must say). And on the same page, there are numerous new and used copies at a much lower price that drops (due to their use of automatic pricing software) constantly.

I never would have chosen to have my used book listings on the same pages as new books on Amazon. When I was a bookseller there, I wondered, along with all the other booksellers, how anyone could make any money from a book priced at $1.99 or $.01? There is a "shipping allowance" given to booksellers for each book sale to help offset the cost of postage to ship orders. However, Amazon also charges each seller a commission, which is a percentage of the selling price.

Why do they keep dropping the book prices? Well, as my husband has pointed out to me many times, that's capitalism. But as an author who sees her own book price dropping on Amazon, I say it's another word that I won't type into a G rated blog. I'm in favor of booksellers and authors making a living (and I admit that I also buy these cheaper books sometimes). But selling recently-published books for $1.99 or $.01 isn't the way. What do you think?