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by Peter Moskos

September 20, 2009

Amazon Mysteries and How Much I Make From My Book (II)

I like Amazon.com. I buy a lot of stuff from them. I don't have a good local independent bookstore. Plus Amazon brings stuff right to my door. For free. But Amazon is a strange a mysterious place.

Authors have no website to logon to and check out how many copies they've sold. So I got a good feeling I'm not the only author who checks out Amazon's mysterious "sales rank" to see how things are going (right now I'm at #13,100 -- down 2,000 since the first draft of this post). But Amazon doesn't tell you how many copies you've sold, just how your book is selling in relation to every other book they sell. So ultimately it's very frustrating because it doesn't tell you anything concrete.

For instance, my wife's book had a serious jump in "sales rank" last week. And the book isn't even out yet! Was this the start of good things to come? Well... maybe... until we found out my mom bought 15 copies though Amazon, thus single-handedly cornering the Forking Fantastic market.

Here's an author's dirty secret: unless you write pulp fiction or the New Testament (or a great cookbook), your book won't sell much. My book, considered a decent success, has sold about 6,500 copies through June. From that I've made (including my advance) about $13,000 since I signed a contract in 2005. I'm not complaining, but it's not like I can quit my day job and live on $3,250 a year.

[Just FYI, since I believe people should talk more about how much money they make, I make 10% from paperback sales. But that comes from the price the press sells the book wholesale, and not the price you buy book. So if you really want to help me, buy 1,000 copies straight from the publisher!]

Cop in the Hood was selling for $12.20 on Amazon (what a bargain!!!). That was a nice low price. Then about one month ago Amazon stopped discounting my book and jacked the price up to $16.91, a full four cents off the cover price. So I asked my press to ask Amazon why and they basically said, "mind your own business."

I couldn't help but think my book, as a required reading, probably sells more at the start of the school semester (always be suspicious of professors who assign their own book). So they jacked up the price.

Well now that the semester is underway and students have mostly bought their books, Amazon has resumed their full discount.

I guess that's their business.

At least by next semester there will be lots of used copies out their for students to buy.

1 comment:

Louise said...

I retired from the publishing biz. When people used to ask me how to get their book published, my answer was always, "Don't bother. It's too much work for too little pay."

That being said, because I sold to a very small niche market, I refused to offer Amazon the 55% discount they "required" from publishers. My standard wholesale discount was 5%, take it or leave it. When they squawked, I shrugged and said, "YOU'RE the ones who want to say you offer every book published on your website. So you need something from me, not vice versa. 5% or nothing, your choice." The vast majority of my sales were direct to libraries, not through Amazon.

It's nice when your business model allows you to give the big boys the finger :-)

Oh, and in case you're interested, this is the company where I worked for 10 years, then owned for 3 years, then sold:


Statistical reference books. Not exactly Amazon's hottest titles. The company's best seller is ranked #3,923,194 on Amazon. I hope that makes you feel better, Pete :-)