There seems to be a misconception by many authors that the books re-sold on Amazon are by reviewers. Although this is true in many aspects, resellers come in other forms. Aside from actual readers that buy the book to read and then sell it, there are speculators.
For example, look at the Amazon listing for Rewriting Life Scripts (a book I recently co-authored) and you will note new and used books for sale. When you click on the "new" you will see a list of resellers and their prices. Interestingly enough, someone is selling our $19.95 book for as much as $32.99. When you click on "used" you will see the same resellers.
In reality none of these resellers have the book in stock. They know that Ingram can deliver a book because they watch the Ingram news feeds for new book announcements. The serious resellers know they can undersell Amazon to make money without having to stock the book. Keep in mind that it's not exclusive to POD books, they are equal opportunity sellers. You will also find books published by major traditional publishers sold the same way.
So, let's do a little math here to see what really happens. Standard bookstore discount is 40%, which means Amazon paid Ingram $11.97 for our $19.95 book. In reality there is a $7.98 profit margin. The speculating reseller (the lowest priced one for our book) can also buy the book from Ingram for $11.97, but is selling it on Amazon for $16.46 and pocketing $4.49. The buyer of the book pays for the shipping/handling costs therefore there is no other output by the reseller except time and a small listing fee. Sounds like a lucrative business to me.
I've heard from many angry authors that refuse to list their book on Amazon or feel they aren't making any money when books are sold through that site. In fact, some have written nasty (and I mean NASTY) emails telling me they refuse to deal with us because we give links to Amazon so potential readers can buy the book. To me, this is shooting oneself in the foot. I don't get it. As a successful business person my mind is telling me that my best move would be to become a reseller of my own book and undercut the bottom line seller. For example, I can get the $19.95 book for about $11.77 (including shipping) directly from the publisher and if I resell it for one cent less than the bottom price I can pocket $4.69. On top of that, the buyer pays $3.99 for shipping/handling and if I send the book media mail (using recycled packaging) I can ship it for $2.39. Although Amazon takes a fee for the listing once the book is sold, it is covered in the allotment for shipping. and I can usually receive an additional 50 cents. I'm a happy camper with $5.19 because it's certainly a lot more than I would be getting in royalities if another reseller sells my book.
This is just part of the bookselling ecosystem and is perfectly ethical. It's all part of doing business. It's part of selling your own book.
So, what's the bottom line? Wallow, and blame? Become a reseller of your own book? Or, just be darn happy someone is selling your book?
I want to hear your thoughts.
PS - If you are wondering about how some resellers could sell under your cost it's because they buy up remainders or returns from $1.00 to $5.00 a box. As well, some reviewers sell books by the box to resellers (including used book stores) for $10 to $30 a box.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.