It could be that Amazon has (temporarily, one hopes) decided to solve the problem of books being listed at less than the sell-for price, which doesn't do anyone any favors. I had a book that was listed at $2.39 though I re-set the asking price to $1.99.
A solution to this would be to eliminate the discount across the board. That has happened to my titles. I just now reduced the price of the least-seller to see if the asking price would follow the list price down. (It had been $1.24 to yield an asking price of 99 cents. I've now reduced it to 99 cents.
This is bad business for us. Amazon shoppers are accustomed to a discount.
I normally don't play the optimist, but I'm hoping that this is - as you said - temporary. It's possible Amazon is redoing some of the underlying algorithms and so on for their pricing and some other things, and those changes might involve removing the discounts. For now. That's what I'm hoping, anyway.
Has anybody seen books (Kindle or print) by mainstream publishers that aren't discounted? I've only made a cursory look...
[i]"I have had problems recently with the 20% percent discount not being applied to my new books. I just noticed that it has been removed from my older titles as well. Does anyone know what is going on? "[/i]
[b]Obviously none of you guys have ever been discriminated against before--it's fekkin' obvious what's going on.[/b]
We need our discounts restored to us [u]immediately[/u] or we won't be able sell product, so, once again, we need to work together on this issue. We'll have to use the same techniques we used to get our March payments: relentless e-mails and irate and indignant phone calls: [i]email@example.com[/i] + carbon copy [i]firstname.lastname@example.org[/i] (and also try [i]email@example.com[/i] for safe measure). As to phone calls: [i]any muddersucker who answers[/i].
On your mark...
it started off with only new titles not getting the discount.. But now it does indeed look like all of my previous titles also have lost the discount. I have emailed Amazon. Let us know if any of you hear back from them.
[i]Okay...confusion here...is the 20% supposed to be applied across the board to everyone? Or is this something that Amazon only does for the big publishers? Do you have to ask for it to be applied?
Correct, in the past the discount has been applied in almost every case (I did have a title that was undiscounted for months, but it eventually sorted itself out). It's not for mainstream publishers only, and you don't ask for it.
But now alas it has vanished, at least for me and for a number of others. As posted, I suspect that this was an emergency fix because the software choked. It wouldn't affect mainstream publishers because they enter the system through a different platform than the DTP.
The more emails Amz gets on this subject, the better. Jeff wants to sell books as much as we do. If he decides to ditch the independent publishers (and I wouldn't blame him, given the stomach-turning stuff that I see on the catalog), he wouldn't be using such a roundabout method. All he has to shut is shut it down!
However that may be, I'm going to stop pushing the Kindle on my websites. Like the Amazon Associates in North Carolina and Hawaii (thrown out of the program because their legislatures tried to tax Amazon sales based on the presence of the website advertisers in those states) we may be thrown under the bus sooner or later.
I have, BTW, raised the Digital List Price for my title that wound up selling for more than the list price.
[i]"Jeff wants to sell books as much as we do. If he decides to ditch the independent publishers (and I wouldn't blame him, given the stomach-turning stuff that I see on the catalog), he wouldn't be using such a roundabout method. All he has to shut is shut it down..."[/i]
Enough with this unedited holier-than-thou crap, pal--obviously your ever-so-honorable Jeffie thinks that your titles are garbage, too, or he wouldn't be attempting to censor them and to sabotage your sales with the rest of us lowly hedonists. Said this many times before, but it bears repeating again: [u]We have to work together to solve all these wrongs [/u]and your petty moralisms only serve to undermine team spirit. So if you're not with us just "shut is shut it" your mouth.
[b]STRATEGY/Step One: We need the public to be aware of what's going on here PRONTO. Presently they think we're the greedy ones with our now high-priced undiscounted titles and they don't know that the pricing mechanisms are fixed so that we have no ability anymore to influence or adjust the sell-at prices of them. We have to accept that we're not going to be able to sell in this hostile marketplace anyway, so we'll have to all slash our MSRP's right now to .99 cents, no matter what Amazon has the final prices of our products stuck at, and no matter what the actual value of the items are that will be adversely affected. This will instantly direct the consumers' scrutiny and criticism to the proper party--Amazon.
Everyone also needs to review their files again. Amazon messed with the platform this past week and a few author's interior files in our own publishing account/s were thus tainted. The number one complaint from Kindle owners is bad formatting, heretofore a problem of which the major publishers were most guilty. We Indies must continue to outshine them in our product manufacturing because no matter how much Amazon attempts to illicitly assist the big guys, if their ebooks remain inferior to ours it won't be of any use to them in the long run. GO CHECK YOUR FILES RIGHT NOW. You can do this by simply clicking the preview button.
Regardless of the outcome of these distressing maneuvers against the Independent Publishing community, each of us should seriously consider reporting the many endless obstacles that have been thrown our way here by Amazon. The Better Business Bureau can handle online complaints regarding improper transaction reporting, price-fixing, rank-rigging, and economic sabotage. So can your state's Attorney General and the Justice Department.[/b]
Wishing you all the best of luck,
Fifth Column Press
Dan (Cub06h) is correct: if Amazon wanted to "off" the indie publishers from the Kindle store, they would just close down DTP and claim it was a great experiment that just didn't pan out. But I believe that they're making enough money off of DTP at this point that it wouldn't make good business sense for the Kindle project overall to shut it down. A huge percentage of the 300,000 titles in the Kindle store that Amazon likes to tout are indie publishers/authors going through DTP.
Further, Dan's observation about the poor quality of many indie-published books (on DTP or otherwise) isn't "petty moralism" or "holier-than-thou crap" - it's a simple statement of fact, if not put in quite the terms I would use myself. The quality issue is the biggest obstacle for indie authors and publishers in reaching mainstream audiences in numbers comparable with traditionally published books. However, I don't believe that this has anything to do with what we're seeing right now. If it was, it would have been dealt with a long time ago.
I hope that what we are seeing is a transient phenomenon driven mainly by database and system changes that we are not privy to; the main thing is that we just don't know, and are left to speculate (and assume the worst). If I could change one single thing about the way business is done via DTP, it would be a much greater degree of transparency in what's going on behind the scenes.
When you say that we should report the "many endless obstacles" Amazon has thrown before us, let's consider a couple of things. Note that I am not an apologist for Amazon, but I believe these are pretty straightforward facts:
1. Amazon made DTP available for us to begin with. It is FREE for us to use. Yes, Amazon makes a nice profit from sales, but it's hard for us to complain about a FREE service after we sign the user agreement and accept the terms and conditions (and everyone did read those, yes?).
2. While Amazon has done the publishers a disservice by not making the fact glaringly obvious in the sign up process, the DTP platform remains in the beta software stage (that's why you see that "beta" in the upper left when you're in the main dashboard area). For those who aren't familiar with the term, here's a blurb from Wikipedia:
"Beta" is a nickname for software which has passed the alpha testing stage of development and has been released to users for software testing before its official release. It is the prototype of the software that is released to the public. Beta testing allows the software to undergo usability testing with users who provide feedback, so that any malfunctions these users find in the software can be reported to the developers and fixed. Beta software can be unstable and could cause crashes or data loss.
So, the system will inevitably have major bugs to sort out, and technically we're all beta testers! And in truth, the developers have made a lot of progress on it since when I first started using it early last year.
3. If you want to complain to the Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General and so on, by all means do so, but just make sure that you have solid ground to stand on. Saying that Amazon is engaged in price-fixing, rank-rigging, and economic sabotage is - in my opinion, not being a lawyer - simply untenable. Amazon has the right to set the price at whatever they want (you gave them that right as soon as you accepted the terms and conditions); they have the right to use whatever algorithm they want to establish the rankings (they are an independent company, not a democratic government entity); they have the right to remove products from the ranking system entirely (such as they did with books in the erotica category - again, they're not a democracy, they're a corporation).
4. While the system is far from perfect and they're monkeying with it in a way that is troubling, I'm still very happy that a resource like DTP is available to us: it gave me a way to get my first book published, and has turned out to be my most productive source of sales. Is it perfect? No. But I'm still glad Amazon made it available, warts and all.
5. If you don't like DTP, try publishing your books through Mobipocket. I don't know if that will matter in terms of the price discount issue (as all of my books are published to the Kindle store through DTP, and not from Mobipocket to the Kindle store), but that is another option that's open to you. And, like DTP, publishing your book is free. There are other pros and cons, and Mobipocket is owned by Amazon, but it's something to consider.
All I'm saying is, please carefully consider what you really have a right to complain about in light of what you agreed to by signing up for DTP. There are certainly very valid grounds for complaints, particularly if you haven't been paid, but I think a lot of what is upsetting folks right now is within the bounds of the terms and conditions we signed up to. Do I like everything Amazon is doing? No. But business isn't always pretty, and it's definitely not always fair.
What I plan on doing is trying to communicate with the DTP folks (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the digital rights department (email@example.com) to try and get some ground truth on whether these changes are temporary or permanent. I doubt they'll be able to tell us (they're very clammed-up when it comes to talking about business operations), but I plan on asking, and continuing to ask.
What cub suggests has happened would be a common technology group response. Part of the system isn't working but otherwise functionality is fine, then shut down, fix and restore only the problematic part. Where dtp's technology group deviates from common and accepted practice is not giving notice to system users that the change is in place. That is very poor service and not a best practice.
A concentrated effort of system users to inform Amazon powers-that-be where their system has issues - the biggest consistently being communication - would likely produce better results than the rampant paranoia and overblown sense of entitlement that seems to prevail on these boards.
Wow, this board almost sounds like the Used Booksellers board (one of my relatives is a used book dealer on Amazon).
Posters to that forum constantly speculate that Amazon wants to get rid of the little guys. Rumors and complaints about this have circulated there for [i]years[/i], at least since 2003, when my relative became a dealer. Each time Amazon rolls out a new change, the cry goes up over there that it's a conspiracy to get rid of the little seller, because the changes often make it more difficult for him or her to compete with the big guys. In reality, though some of the changes do impact the little sellers negatively, others actually force them to be more businesslike, more like the big guys.
It's true, the little guy can't compete with a big book publisher, at least not in terms of the concessions the mega publishers can win for themselves in the business world, not just with Amazon, but in the brick and mortar world, as well. I mean, think it through. Can Joe's Hardware Store compete purely on price with WalMart? No. Not without Joe going out of business, because Joe doesn't do the type of volume WalMart does. It's sad, but business doesn't care; it just is.
You can complain all you like, but it's money that talks. That includes the flow of money and resources in and out. Right now, independent publishers are flowing into Kindle with their titles and that inflow represents money, not just from sales of individual books, but sales of the Kindle device itself. What good is a Kindle if you don't have anything to read on it? Even if some close-minded person were to claim that every indie title on this site is unworthy of being published, it doesn't matter. What matters today, as Amazon wrests for top position in the eBook market with its competitors, and future competitors, is the sheer volume of books available for the Kindle. It's the numbers, baby. They've got what, 300,000 titles so far? That is a drop in the bucket compared to what you're likely to see here 3 to 5 years from now. Not every major publisher is totally on board with epublishing either. I seriously doubt Amazon is going to be throwing us out, at least until they can drag traditional publishing, screaming and kicking, more fully into the digital publishing world.
At the moment, traditional publishing is in a slow moving panic. They're seeing their share of the marketplace shrinking as the number of people who want to buy paper books also shrinks. Yet this is an industry that has always acted and thought collectively like dinosaurs. They are extremely old school in the way they market their product (or [i]don't[/i] market their product in most cases). While new media and ways to communicate have exploded over the last fifteen years, traditional publishing has largely sat on the beach, refusing to ride the wave. They are not a proactive bunch.
What we can do that many of the big guys aren't doing (at least not with tremendous zeal), is grab our pieces of the eBook market share and grow them. We're publishing the nonfiction and fiction that traditional publishers won't, either because it's not profitable enough for them on a scale that's profitable for us, or they think there isn't a market out there for what we publish. How many times have you gone to the bookstore looking for something to read and all you see is the same old junk repackaged again and again? We're different. We're the outsiders, the improbable events, publishing's Black Swans. When we succeed we'll be proving them wrong.
Try to look ahead at that 3 to 5 year window. How many of us publishing eBooks today have the opportunity to become extremely successful because we're here now? We have an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and roll with it. There are plenty of people who already jumped on a few miles ago, but there's still room. If eBook readers start to really take off the way any number of hand held devices have in the past, it's going to get extremely crowded before long.
That's why I'm going to say, yeah, the glitches are annoying, but Amazon is a behemoth. It's an electronic bureaucracy and nothing ever goes smoothly in a bureaucracy. Glitches have occurred for the used booksellers for years, but the sellers who want to make a living at it just keep chugging along. The only factor truly threatening the used book marketplace is oversaturation, as every unemployed American desperate for bucks puts their library of books for sale online. My thought is that it will be a little while yet before the publishing equivalent happens to our marketplace, but it will happen.
In the meantime, dig in and make a name for yourself! You don't have to like everything about the way this world works, but you've been handed a tremendous opportunity.