No good deed goes unpunished

I was looking over the Amazon page for Catskinner’s Book last night and I noticed that they have changed the price for the paperback from $9.99 (which is what I set on Create Space) to $8.99.  The reason seems to be that a third party seller has a new copy listed for $5.99.

From Amazon 05 June 2013

From Amazon 05 June 2013

Interesting, said I.

As it happens, I have never actually sold a new copy through Create Space.  All of the copies that Create Space has printed have been shipped to me.  Some of them I have placed with a local bookshop, All On The Same Page Books, the rest I have given away in various promotions.  (GoodReads, Story Cartel, and Cu’s Book Giveaways.)

Now, if I assume that this third party storefront isn’t buying copies from All On The Same Page’s online store and then reselling them at a loss, I’m left with the conclusion that someone who received a promotional copy of my novel turned around and sold it to an online store, which is listing it as new.

I’m not happy with that, for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that Amazon is now undercutting the paperback price that I have set for All On The Same Page, and part of the deal I have with them is that I set my Create Space price for the paperback to the same as they sell it in their store.  I have done that, it’s still listed as $9.99 on Create Space, but because this other vendor is selling one of my promotional copies as new for $5.99 (plus $3.99 shipping, BTW) Amazon has dropped their price.

I’ve got an e-mail into Amazon, but I’m not expecting them to disable their price match algorithms for me.

Now, it may not actually be illegal to sell items received as promotions.  If the book was unopened, it may not even be illegal to sell it as new.  But it’s a dick move, ethically.

If all that I am figuring is right, and it is a promotional copy, then I am pretty sure it came from GoodReads.  The Story Cartel giveaway was limited to be people who had already published a review of the e-book, and  presumably actually wanted the book.  The Cu’s Book Blog giveaway copies were signed.

I never got any reviews, or, in fact, any acknowledgement that the winners received their copies at all from GoodReads. I have already decided that it wasn’t worth signing up for another one for Cannibal Hearts.

Now I’m wondering, though, do people just sign up for every giveaway that shows up on GoodReads, and then just sell the books when they get them?  That would explain why so many people signed up for the Catskinner’s Book giveaway, and why so many of the profiles I checked of  people who had signed up seemed to be people with no obvious interest in science fiction.

Or maybe the on-line bookseller is one of the winners himself.  The business e-mail doesn’t match any of my winners’ e-mails, but that proves nothing.  As pure speculation, would there be anything to stop an on-line bookseller from signing up for GoodReads giveaways with the intent to resell any books he wins?

In any event, I don’t really see anything to do at this point.  It’s not as if my sales of the paperback are large enough that Amazon dropping the price a dollar is going to hurt me financially.  I may buy the copy from that on-line bookstore, just to get it out of his inventory.

However, if I do any other paperback giveaways, I am going to buy a stamp that says PROMOTIONAL COPY NOT FOR RESALE, and make sure that any copies I give away are liberally marked that way.

EDIT: Just received a reply from the seller. He bought the copy at a yard sale, and he apologized and promised to take it down right away.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to No good deed goes unpunished

  1. I just realized that my paperback is down a dollar, but there’s no sign of it being auctioned off somewhere. I had something like this happen with my first self-publishing attempt about 8 years ago. Books turned up on Amazon auction sites ranging from $1.99 to $75.99. I had counted up the books and compared it to my sale information. I had sold 3 books and there were 11 out there for sale. I had given no promotional books away. With me, I think these unethical people that thrive in the auctions put up about my book without buying it. If it sold then they would buy the book and send it out to whoever was foolish enough to buy it. Though, it could easily be the promotion thing too. My book was being sold by ‘companies’ and not individuals.

    I do think a lot of people leap at the giveaways just to get something for free. It could be for reselling, a free gift for a friend, or the simple pride of winning. There are people who are disturbingly obsessed with winning even if it’s something they don’t want. Like a person entering a raffle to win a year’s supply of car wax, but they don’t own a car.

  2. I don’t know if this is relevant, but when I go to my own Amazon book page, I find that there are a bunch of “new” copies going for several dollars below the list price from assorted online retailers (see here: Maybe something to do with that caused your price drop? Or not. I have absolutely no idea how Amazon pricing algorithms work.

    As for the giveaways … again, only drawing from personal experience here, but my own giveaway worked really well. I wonder if it’s because my genre is YA, and people don’t think of entering those giveaways unless they actually, genuinely like YA? Whereas sci-fi is a broader topic, and thus might attract a more diverse audience?

    Anyhoo, sorry about your price drop 😦 On the plus side, a lower list price might encourage more people to buy it! So … shiny silver lining?

  3. Many of these third-party sellers still order POD IF they have a sale – they don’t have them in stock, in spite of what their pages say. This is why you aren’t seeing the sales figures. Also, a lot of them make their money on shipping and also use selected books – at different times – as “loss leaders,” just like a storefront sale. Their profit is in volume, not a particular book, and Amazon’s lower price doesn’t effect your royalties.

  4. ABE says:

    I’m sitting here wondering if this happens to the big authors – say Konrath, or even David Gaughan.

    I’ll make a habit of checking lower-priced print books out from now on when I go buy a book on Amazon.

    If you are correct – and I don’t see how you are anything but correct – not only is it unethical, but it should be something Amazon actively discourages.

  5. Pingback: More on the mystery | mishaburnett

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