The Problem with the Amazon ADD TO CART Button and What You Can Do
Thank you to guest blogger Amy Collins for this week’s post on the issues with the Amazon ADD TO CART button and what authors can do. Amy is the owner of New Shelves Books, one of the fastest-growing book distribution, sales and marketing companies in North America.
Let’s see…. What shall we talk about this month? What is on author’s minds more than anything else right now? Well, if you are reading my email, here is an item that is worrying authors at the moment. For this month’s DO THIS NOT THAT we will focus on the Amazon ADD TO CART button and what we can do.
What Is Bothering Some Folks About the Amazon ADD TO CART Button
More and more authors are seeing that the ADD TO CART button does not place an order with the author/publisher like it used to. This is not a new phenomenon, but for the last year, Amazon has been awarding the button to the lowest-priced seller and that is often not the author. This has, in some cases, resulted in a dramatic drop in their Amazon sales.
How Is This a Thing?
Amazon’s computer brain reviews books every day and takes retail price and shipping speed into account when awarding the precious BUY button. The person who can make an Amazon customer the most happy AND make Amazon the most money will win the button. So retailers, knowing this, take a look at new books released each week and look them up on INGRAM to see if they can order at a 20% discount or more. If an author has put their book up on IngramSpark or KDP Expanded Distribution, then their book will be available to ANY retailer at a 20-40% discount.
All the retailer has to do is list the book, drop the price a bit and when an order comes in, grab the book from Ingram. Please understand that most of the retailers listing a book 20 cents below the retail price do not actually have the book.
How Does This Affect Authors?
If a book is purchased on Amazon directly from the publisher/author, then the publisher/author will make almost TWICE as much profit as if they sell the book to a retailer through Ingram.
KDP gives an author 60% of the retail price of the book when selling to an Amazon customer, but only can give the author 45% of the retail price of the book when the order and printing goes to IngramSpark. When you factor in the printing costs, that will often mean the difference between $4 profit and $2 profit.
In addition, the book’s front and center positioning looks weak when going through a third party retailer because the book shown has a button that may not offer overnight or PRIME option.
Another problem with this scenario for authors? Once these guys get an order, they will need to order, pay and have the book printed and shipped to an Amazon customer. This will often cause grumpy readers.
What You Should Do
If this is happening to you, I recommend that you shut OFF Expanded Distribution. If you want to open YOUR OWN IngramSpark account (and I highly recommend that you do), then you can set the discount you want for other retailers. YOU are in charge of what competing retailers get from Ingram (and that feels good….)
You can set the discount to 30% which will mean that retailers will not get a 20% discount when buying your book and they will not want to list your book.
Amazon will still have your book available from KDP and you will make more money on each sale.
Things To Keep In Mind
If you want bookstores to stock and sell your books, then you will have very little choice but to offer the full 55% discount to Ingram Wholesaler so that bookstores can get the 40% discount that they require. This means that ALL retailers can get that discount and you will be right back where you started.
For a lot of authors, the loss of profits from Amazon is NOT worth the bookstore sales that come from a full discount relationship with IngramSpark. For some, bookstores and other retailers ARE worth the Amazon button loss…. It is a decision for us each to make individually.
Second item to remember? This only works with paperback. Remember that KDP does not offer hardcover books at the moment.
Another thing to keep in mind? It is NOT Ingram or IngramSpark’s fault that Amazon awards the button to the best priced book option. And it is not their fault that retailers will use that fact to gain more sales. Heck it is not even the retailers/third party button stealer’s fault that this system works in their favor. They are just trying to sell books.
Remember that YOU STILL GET PAID for every book that Amazon sells no matter WHO owns your button. The stores that get the order that you feel belongs to you will STILL have to order the books from Ingram and you will still get paid. Just not as much as if you had gotten the order from KDP directly.
(Updated April 2019 to reflect the merger of CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing.)
How I Got My Book Listed Before the Amazon Resellers
Grace Allison, author (member of TxAuthors) of Do You Have a Dream and Einstein’s Compass, read the recent article by Amy Collins about the issues authors are experiencing with the Amazon ADD TO CART button and what to do about it. Grace generously offered to share her solution to the issue, one that put her book on the ADD TO CART button and ensured she received her royalties.
Grace’s Solution: Contact the Resellers
First she went to her Amazon page for Do You Have a Dream Workbook: 5 Keys to Realize Your Dream. She took note of the book resellers who had her paperback edition for sale. Grace then contacted each reseller to let them know that they were selling her book for a lower price than she was able to sell it for, and asked them to pay her a royalty.
Then she waited.
Unsure what to expect, Grace was pleasantly surprised to receive the following replies (names of resellers are deleted for privacy):
You have received a message from the Amazon Seller – xxxxx
We received a message indicating that we were listing the products of your brand in our inventory and we sincerely apologize for this matter. Our intention was not to infringe your rights.
We have just deleted the concerned listings from our inventory and you can be assured that we won’t list it anymore.
In case you see reminding articles, please contact us and we will remove it immediately. Thank you for your kind understanding and cooperation regarding this matter. Best regards,
You have received a message from the Amazon Seller – yyyyyyy
Dear Ms. Grace
Thank you for the below email regarding the book ISBN: 0998830801. We want to apologize; it is not our intent to infringe on publisher/authors rights. We have researched this matter and, although the title was included as inventory of a trusted and reliable supplier; we would like to reassure you that we take such matters very seriously and would never list such items intentionally.
We have taken the following steps to correct this infringement:
We have permanently removed this title from our listings and quarantined it from being re-listed.
We have sequestered all copies of this title and will return to the supplier.
We have forwarded details of this matter onto our supplier so they can also take appropriate action.
If you have other listings that you would like us to remove please provide us with a complete list of ISBN’s or the prefix (1st four digits of the ISBN – identifying the publisher) and we will be happy to remove those from our listings as well.
For any questions about your royalties, you should reach out to your publisher. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.
Today, if you go to Grace’s book sales page on Amazon, you will find that the resellers have adjusted their pricing so that, at $6.39, Grace’s is now the lowest price available and is listed by the ADD TO CART button. By taking these steps, Grace has also ensured that she will be paid her royalty.
________________________________________ How to contact the resellers:
1. Go to your Amazon page where your book is for sale. Grace’s book sales page, as an example, is https://amzn.to/2JZpvBl
2. You will notice in blue writing under the “Paperback” price for your book, “# New from $6.39.”
3. Click on the blue copy. On the next page, you will find the list of resellers.
4. Click on a reseller link (listed under the Seller Information column), and you will find a button to contact the reseller.
The issues with Amazon’s new payment structure for self-published authors
On July 1, 2015, Amazon.com changed how royalties for self-published Kindle books are structured. Rather than paying authors when a book is downloaded, it will pay for the number of digital pages that are turned (so to speak). Thus, if a book is downloaded but goes unread, the author gets nothing. If the buyer only reads the first 100 pages and puts it away, the author gets paid for 100 pages, even though the book might be 300 pages in length. Authors don’t get paid extra if someone re-reads a book.
Put another way, Amazon will pay authors based on their share of total page views of books in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. KDP Select All-Star bonuses will also be affected. This new plan affects only those authors who self-published their books on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform.
Amazon says the scheme is based on feedback from self-published authors, who asked the company to “better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.” Apparently authors are happy because the opportunity exists to get paid more through this royalty structure than the traditional one; however, there are a number of issues.
First, it’s just creepy. Amazon has bestowed itself the “right” to track what individuals read. Amazon already knows what you read because it tracks what you have downloaded, but now it will know which pages of that Kindle book you read. It follows therefore, that Amazon will know what content appeals most to readers; it will not be enough to know that 50 Shades of Grey was a popular book, but it will know which particular scenes held the most attraction. How long did you spend on a particular page? On what page did you finally stop reading? In what chapter do most readers put down the book, never to pick it up again? The danger of turning printed pages into electronic bits and bytes that can be stored in a database, searched, and tabulated, is that we lose control of what happens to that knowledge. Obviously, Amazon will use it to better target advertising and suggested reads to customers, but by coming up with an algorithm based on most popular content, plot lines, character traits, locations and more, can computer-generated novels be far away?
Right now, not all self-published authors are affected. But once this technology is perfected, how long will it be before Amazon and other companies implement it for all eBooks? Traditional authors and publishers must be shaking in their boots.
This payments structure has the potential to change book content. The longer the book, the more an author gets paid; to own a greater chunk of the total page view pool, authors will either need to write longer books or more books. (FYI: Amazon has fixed it so that authors cannot get away with using a bigger font to achieve a longer book length, but they will include in the page count, pages that contain pictures, charts and diagrams.) Assuming that, in the future, authors get feedback on what content appeals most, will authors write what is popular or write for artistry? As David Sanderson wrote in The Times of London, the ideal book “will now be a 700-pager with a cliffhanger every few pages and a couple of pictures in each chapter.”
Then there’s the issue of fairness. Amazon is paid for each eBook in full regardless of whether or not the book is read. If they believe this to be a better model, then Amazon’s compensation should also be calculated per page read, no? Amazon is taking care of itself at the expense of the very people responsible for its revenue—authors—and at the expense of their customers’ privacy as well.
If you want to learn more about the new royalties structure for Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, refer to this page on the Amazon.com website.