Monday, September 8, 2014

Fire sale: another way of burning books

Message From Customer Service

Your Account

Hello Margaret,

I regret that we haven't been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction.

However, our decision to discount books is based on a number of strategic considerations, which can vary over time. As a result, we cannot confirm how long your title will be discounted.

Amazon may choose to discount a list price, and in this case you'll see both a List Price and a final Price on the Detail page for your book.

I can assure you that many people work to make our pricing calculations as competitive as possible for both you and your readers.

Please also be assured that the discount does not affect the royalties you receive for sales made while the book is discounted. Royalties will continue to be calculated from the list price provided by your publisher, which you can see listed here above the discounted price on your book's Detail page:

I request you to contact your publisher to make any further changes to the price of your book.

If you've self-published your book through a company like CreateSpace and would like to make a change to the list price of your book, you may update the price through your self-publishing company. If your books are traditionally published, I encourage you to contact your publisher to update the list price for you.

Once the publisher provides Amazon with the book's new list price, the Detail page will be updated within 3-5 days to reflect this change.

It's possible that a future change will result in the discount's removal from your title. In that case, the discount will disappear automatically and immediately.

We won't be able to provide further insight or assistance for your request.
We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Best regards,
Preethi H

Thank you.

The story: while setting up a more stylish-looking link to my Amazon page, I realized to my horror that the price of The Glass Character had been lowered from the list price of $19.95 to $4.73. That's right: $4.73, when it is a paper book that has been out for only five months. Kindle format goes for $7.96, and a used copy may be had for $16.21.

The correspondence above represents my fourth attempt to get through to Amazon for an explanation. At one point I was on the phone, and if I hadn't been so furious it would have been funny: the lady trying to direct me to the right department had the most buoyant Southern accent I've ever heard, and kept calling me "sweetie" and "hon". Over and over again, Amazon tells me they don't know why they are selling my new novel for $4.73 instead of $19.95. They keep repeating that I should contact my publisher for updated information on the list price and to convey that updated information to them: WTF? Updated? The list price is the same now as it has always been. I have absolutely no desire to change it. My publisher has absolutely no desire to change it. It will not be changed for ANY reason! But Amazon's implication is that they've only lowered their price because the LIST PRICE has gone down. Or at very least, because I don't know anything about how prices work and have somehow got it wrong, that the list price is really only two dollars or something. It's simple, silly!

I'm trying to see all this in a favorable light. On the bad side, the book now looks almost worthless, a cheap piece of pulp fiction that they are obviously trying to get rid of at church-rummage-sale prices. It has only been out for five months, and obviously it is already obsolete. On the good side, I just found out I get the same royalties on each copy, no matter what price it sells for. Or at least, that's what Amazon told me.

I am embarrassed, chagrinned, and full of pain and grief over this. I will never publish again. It's not my publisher's fault, as they are the only house in Canada who would take a chance on me. And they are doing what they can against the juggernaut. But I am tired of being casually mauled this way. I am sick of the hustling, the posturing, the rah-rah and other things I feel I should be doing. I am sick of the sense I am never doing enough, or never doing it right, the discomfort, the squirming shame for something I can't even articulate. I am tired of being told I should thank reviewers who have eviscerated me. Kiss the whip! And to do this whether I really mean it or not. And I am REALLY tired of those who take a wrench and a saw and try to "fix" the problem, rather than listening to me and trying to help me figure out what is really going on, and how I can be authentic in the middle of an insane game.

This whole industry has turned so poisonous that I can no longer be part of it. I stand behind The Glass Character because I still think it kicks ass, no matter who tells me what about it. I loved writing it, and so far the writing of it has been practically the only reward (that, and seeing my grandkids watch Harold Lloyd climb the building at the launch). But after this, no more. Four copies for the price of one just hurts me, and it has nothing to do with greed or how much I will "make" or how much I will be "known" or ANYTHING like that. I swear, I have not been able to get across to a single person why this bothers me so much. I'm trying to yell under a bell jar again.

I've been publishing short fiction on my blog for several years now, and it has been gratifying, though a "real book" somehow always seems to carry more - what, cachet? I don't know. It lifts you out of the realm of hobbyist. But If I feel another novel coming on, I will go and lie down for a while, and if it's really bad I'll take a little vacation. Like my very good friend Matt Paust, who keeps me laughing at all this insanity no matter what, I will blog my next novel, chapter by chapter. If someone reads it, great. If no one does, I don't much care because I have no control over that anyway, and I will save myself an enormous amount of stress.

My readership here is extremely uneven, mostly rather sparse, but with one post garnering nearly 100,000 views, and several others over 10,000. (Why? Hell if I know. This thing is anything but hip and high-tech, because I despise those things. The day it turns slick, I will either unplug my computer for good or finally jump out of my psychiatrist's 17th-floor window.) Being a published author was my dream, and after a ridiculous amount of work and grief and tears and perseverence, it actually came true three times. But by the time the third one came out, everyone who could hold a pencil was a published author, whether they could cobble together a coherent sentence or not. As Moxy Fruvous put it, "Everyone's a novelist, and everyone can sing/But no one talks when the TV's on."

What they're asking for is product, the more uniform the better. I just don't see the advantage in contributing something that has already been contributed over, and over, and over again, and shoved in people's faces the same way. But I hear it in my ear all the time: well, that's what you gotta do now, sweetheart. A writer has to hustle.

A former post is recreating itself, growing back like a chopped-off limb. It was such a howl of grief and rage, so nerve-baringly honest, that I knew I had to delete it. But it's back again because, by God, I was not put here on this earth to dissemble. I am an oddball, I do not belong, and so be it. Do not try to convince me otherwise because it will make me insane. This is all about dignity, and identity, and dreams. It's all about those in power casually poking holes in those dreams, and slapping down hope. I've asked a few other writers about this situation and have had four or five different variations on "well, what can you do?" Our powerlessness appalls me.

$4.73, folks. Or you could get a used copy - that's always a better bargain, isn't it? It will only set you back $16.21. The Kindle, if you can afford it, is $7.96. They must want you to buy the paper version - or do they just want to unload it? Fire sale prices, obviously. I don't know what to think.

Dear sir or madam, please buy four or five of these books for the price of one. I don't care what you do with them after that. I just don't want them to be pulped like the other two. Anything but that.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
It took me years to write, will you take a look. . .

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