On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lowering Amazon's List Price

Amazon discounts DTBs (dead tree books -- with a real cover and paper pages). However, it doesn't discount all of them.

When my book was released this summer my publisher offered a 50% discount -- this meant that when a store such as amazon bought the book to fulfill orders, they only had to pay the publisher half the retail price of the book. In the industry this is considered typical -- publishers almost always offer a substantial discount to sellers. Since the publisher also pays for printing the book, the net profit to the publisher can potentially be small.

Since the release, my book has been listed on amazon at its full retail price of 15.95, despite this 50% discount. This meant that even though my publisher only received 8.00 and paid much of that money for costs, Amazon took the entire rest of the 8.00 selling price. I wanted amazon to pass on that publisher discount to the buyer in the form of a reduced sale price, so spent over an hour talking with people in customer service who knew NOTHING! They didn't even know who set the prices, much less how I could ask for price changes to be considered.

My friend Grace, who is also a publisher, suggested that I sell the book at a lower price on my website. Amazon has a button on each book listing for which the person can alert amazon the book is selling cheaper -- and amazon who wants to be the lowest seller will bump the price down. Fabulous idea, but sadly for a number of reasons I wasn't able to implement this.

Another friend suggested that I offer the book on Smashwords for any price I want, and since Smashwords feeds into amazon they would also lower their price. This was another super idea except for two reasons: 1. Smashwords offers only e-books, not DTBs. 2. Smashwords holds onto the right to sell the book *forever* -- so any changes of rights, say a different publisher, wouldn't allow someone to remove the book from Smashwords.

I had practically resigned myself to having amazon make eight dollars off of each sale, but in desperation wrote to one other publisher friend and asked him if he knew anything. In the email I misspoke to say my publisher was considering "raising the discount." What I meant to say "lower the discount," from 50% to, say, 20%. The publisher would then keep 80% of the retail book price: 12.80 per book instead of 8.00. Even a 20% discount offered from the publisher will normally result in amazon just charging the retail price. (A lower discount will mean amazon will charge more than retail, since it also needs to make money). By saying the publisher would RAISE the discount I was saying that the publisher would take even less money per sale.

My friend jumped on that and said it was a good thought. He checked through his own catalog (he is a subsidy publisher, so the individuals each choose their own discount) and found that those giving a 55% discount received a discounted price on amazon, whereas anything lower did not get a lower price.


My publisher raised the discount to 55%, and a week later the list price for my book on amazon dropped to 12.44.

No one else, including the printer, publishers, or amazon people, could give me a straight answer, but here it is for anyone trying to figure this problem out: IF YOU WANT AMAZON TO DISCOUNT THE LIST PRICE OF YOUR DTB, HAVE YOUR PUBLISHER OFFER A DISCOUNT OF 55%.

I hope I've just saved you a lot of aggravation.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amy,

    I'm not sure where you got the idea that "Smashwords holds onto the right to sell the book *forever*" Did you read the Terms of Service page? In particular note section 2c:


    2c. How to "Unpublish" Works from Smashwords. Smashwords may Publish the Work until Author of the Work decides to unpublish the work (to unpublish, log in to the system, click on “Dashboard” and then click “unpublish”). If author is unable to access the site, the author may notify Smashwords in writing to remove the Work. After that notice, Smashwords will remove the work from Smashwords.com within five business days.