On that first morning I received an email from the publisher with orders, which I then had to send to a distributor, first class post, the same day, so they could deliver a copy to a customer.
As the days progressed, I was selling books to friends, neighbours and work colleagues, either on my doorstep or theirs; in the pub or at the sports and social club where I run a weekly Quiz night. I was emptying boxes like an end of pier comedian who had been optimistically booked into the Palladium.
The Amazon status on my paperback was still showing the same message and friends and potential customers who had pre-ordered were coming to me direct, saying they were getting emails about problems with stock and they could either hang on or cancel their order. This didn’t make sense, so I contacted the publisher and asked him to follow it up.
After posting off half a dozen copies to the distributors I was also quickly realising the numbers didn’t add up! It had cost me about £3.75 per copy to have the book printed and delivered; then £2.50 for postage to the distributor. The distributors had agreed to pay £6.00 to the publisher for the item marked at £7.99 on Amazon (a pretty standard discount ). Naturally, the publisher wanted a handling charge for each invoice he passed to me, so I quickly totted up the figures and realised I stood to lose over a pound on every book I sold via that route. Terrific! This didn’t make sense either, so I contacted the publisher AGAIN and asked him how I could improve things.
The status problem at Amazon for the paperback was never satisfactorily resolved; they told us there were problems at the distributors with the ISBN but we weren’t convinced. Then it was suggested I set myself up with a Seller Account on Amazon and list my book, with the stock I had remaining, at the original price of £7.99. That way, if customers ordered via my link, Amazon would advise me, and then I could download the delivery details for the customer and post it off direct, cutting out the middle man. You do the maths! I was going to make something on each copy, not a lot but something at least!
I was successfully installed as a Seller within 48 hours and I checked my account to see if there were any orders. I immediately spotted that Amazon don’t do ‘level playing fields’. On the page where my book was listed, the status had miraculously altered to ‘Temporarily out of stock’ and invited you to ‘Order now; we will deliver when available’ at ‘£7.99 delivered free within the UK’. Directly below was a second offer, my offer, which was listed as ‘£7.99 plus £2.80 p&p within the UK’ which was ‘Available now’.
Well, I don’t know about you, but if I read that then my reaction would be to ignore the £10.79 item and keep a weather eye out for the ‘Temporarily out of stock’ status to alter to take advantage of the free delivery? This is when I realised the establishment doesn’t stop at the mainstream publishers and literary agents.
My ‘direct’ sales were still going along steadily and my available stock was down to about 60 so I had an idea! I adjusted the stock level on my Seller Account and reduced the price to £5.20 bringing my ‘total’ offer pretty much in line with the original listing. I was providing a level playing field. Big mistake!
I checked the page the morning after I had adjusted my stock level and offer price and guess what? Amazon had adjusted the original £7.99 price which we had agreed with them, DOWN to £5.20 ‘Delivered free within the UK’ without so much as a by your leave! In other words they had re-established the inflated postage differential so that my offer was as unattractive as it had been before!
After a few swear words and a quick email to the publisher I put my price back up and overnight so did they!
Come back for the next instalment – BUILDING THE FUTURE