A runaway best-seller…

This one of the nicest reviews I’ve ever got:

I have this mental image of CUTTLEFISH sprinting down the road shrieking ‘run away, RUN AWAY! we’re doomed!!’

Yes, well I have always had these crazy ideas, and compared to the wild dream where, you know, all I had to do was write a good book and somehow natural selection would do the rest, that one is quite sane. That is of course how it should work, but we’re a fair way from there. And even the very best of best-sellers, may sell 1 copy for every ten households. Still, on my little island, I was, I suspect, finally coming close… admittedly a runaway best-seller on a remote rural island with 350 families is… 35 copies. But the book has scene set on the island, with several ‘in’ jokes, Barbs and I are relatively well known and oddly popular residents, and, in a conservative rural community it’s still OK to buy fantasy or ‘syfy’ for kids (and then read it yourself of course. But you have an excuse) and as it is YA, they have reason. The local newsagent/draper/whitegoods/and book store as a sideline owner read it, showed that bit to several friends — and said she was going to put it in her little store. And told me the horrendous price they were going to charge her for the five copies she wanted. A pity, because even without a mark-up that was going to set her back… about $25 a copy.

And I, foolishly, said: “I get an author’s discount. I’ll get it at a better price. After all, it costs $9.97 on Amazon. I don’t want to make money out of it, but I’d love to see it sold here.”

And she said “Oh great, I’ll take twenty if you can get them at under $14, and sell them at $15. They should fly out.”

So I went to look at the little letter that came with my author’s copies. Look, 20 sales *4 readers per book (which is what the average is, I believe) is, besides administering to my vanity, probably a bunch of future sales. The biggest problem an author faces is getting into contact with readers in the first place. There isn’t a lot of spare money in the author kitty, and given publishers happy little habit of paying late, caution is a watchword, but I stood to get my money back… Lois would pay me straight up front, before taking the books.

Except, well, the publisher was offering me 35% off on the cover price of $16.95 for purchases of 1-24 copies. More or less $11 + shipping, which for 10 books they had spent $100. They saved 10% in royalty payments too, so de facto they were getting $12.71 + shipping.

So I e-mailed Author Author, a bookstore who apparently not only give your author discount, but also you get your royalty and the figure gets added onto the distributor figures, which helps you sell to the publisher if no one else. Well, they’re not keen on shipping to Australia, because of customs hassles affecting delivery – and while they can do it through Ingrams… they charge 6.95 per item.

So my option, in reality, is to order – or get an American friend to order – 20 copies from Amazon. It’s free US shipping for that value order. Cheapest shipping by US mail will be IIRC $61 for 20 pounds = 20 books. I still get the full 10% royalty. The figures will boost my Amazon rankings, and may even affect bookscan. In effect my publisher will be making… whatever discount they give Amazon, less my royalty.

In other words, had the publisher sold them to me at $8.28 and not paid me a royalty… I would have ordered from them. If they charged me $9.97 and paid me a royalty (probably absorbed by the advance) I probably would have too. At $8.28 they’d have made just as much money… and because psychology works like that I’d have taken 30 copies… And, as they’ve complained about dealing with the 800 pound gorilla… sending the traffic another route would have represented a win for them.

This is called ‘competition’. It’s what you have to do to win, or even be in the race. On the overall scale of things the $20.00 they would have got by me not checking the Amazon price… and then finding it later… is it worth it? Plainly not if you value the goodwill of your authors at more than $20. It’s either that, or not doing any thinking. Ah well. As O’Mike keeps saying “Shh. No logic!”

Still, it’s plain that Harlequin have been thinking. Thinking that dishonesty is the best policy in my opinion. Thinking that it’s worth stealing from their authors and that author goodwill is worthless and replaceable. My conclusion – either their CEO is woefully uninformed (in which case why are they paying her? Her board ought to dismiss her) or lying (as you cannot not know about a class-action suit. There is a requirement for notification and negotiation. Apparently both have happened. They thought they could stonewall and the authors would fail to find the money to sue.) Frankly, I hope they lose, and lose big. I hope their board finally sees sense at the close specter of bankruptcy, as that is what it would take to start the reform process that traditional publishing needs. I hope the authors cannot now be bought off and silenced, as this seems SOP for these lovely people. Rip off until you’re caught, pay hush money so all the other victims don’t find out, and continue to behave in the same way.

Anyway, I hope you all love Harlequin now.
Addendum. Since I checked it out – AMAZON have upped their price.

4 thoughts on “A runaway best-seller…

  1. So do you have the Amazon US shipping bit sorted out. I might be able to do it if no one else volunteers but I’ll need to know soonest cos I’m flying out out of the US next Sunday.

    PS I bought the last (only?) copy of Cuttlefish at the local Barnes & Noble in Carlsbad.

    1. I do indeed have it sorted, thank you. (And um, I had to look up where Carlsbad was. The only one I knew began with a K and probably does have a B&N)

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