Home » Agents, Amazon, Big Publishing, Bookstores » It’s Time for Bookstores to Stop Boycotting Amazon Publishing

It’s Time for Bookstores to Stop Boycotting Amazon Publishing

16 February 2016

From agent Andrew Zack via Huffington Post:

When Amazon.com announced it was going to start publishing books as well as selling them, my reaction, like many in the publishing world, was mixed. On the one hand, I loved the idea of a new market to which to license the rights to my clients’ works. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine any other bookstore–chain or independent–ever selling a book published by Amazon, which would mean that books published by Amazon would be sold only by Amazon. Would that be enough?

I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I’m not alone in this, of course. Publishers dislike Amazon for certain practices, such as mucking around with pricing and devaluing books by charging too little. But publishers also love Amazon because it nearly single-handedly began the business of selling books online, creating a sales channel that has provided great rewards for publishers.

As predicted, bookstores–chain and independent–have mostly chosen not to carry the books published by Amazon Publishing. But has the time come to end the refusal to stock Amazon Publishing’s books? Has the position simply become more one of spite and petulance than principle?

Let’s be honest. The boycott by traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores of Amazon Publishing’s titles hasn’t hurt Amazon at all, but it may be hurting the authors it publishes. Some publishers may say “Good! They should never have done a deal with Amazon.” But as an agent I have represented books published by Amazon and I welcomed the offers from Amazon’s editors. In fact, I was excited to see what it would look like to see a book published by Amazon.

. . . .

The irony is that by not ordering books published by Amazon, bookstores are helping to increase the profitability of those titles for Amazon. Let’s not forget how the publishing industry works. It’s one where bookstores order books and return books that don’t sell. Yet Amazon pretty much doesn’t have to worry about returns, because few bookstores are ordering its titles. If Amazon had to suffer the ignominy brought on by the utter failure of titles it publishes, to be bloodied in the marketplace on a level playing ground, perhaps it might develop a new appreciation for the difficulties regular publishers face. Perhaps it might even take a different tack in its dealings with them. Or perhaps it would just shutter its imprints, deciding it was a foolish endeavor to start publishing its own titles. Some might see that as a “win” for traditional publishing. Many would certainly find it ironic.

But, for now, traditional bookstore owners and chain buyers should give the titles published by Amazon’s imprints the same consideration they give those published by traditional publishers, not because failing to do so hurts Amazon, but because failing to do so hurts the authors of those books.

Link to the rest at Huffington Post

 

Agents, Amazon, Big Publishing, Bookstores

30 Comments to “It’s Time for Bookstores to Stop Boycotting Amazon Publishing”

  1. Shaking my head at the tone of this.

    This agent is sitting on a very sharp fence, and trying to balance: he has to hate Amazon, and ask for fair consideration for Amazon at the same time, and hope that Amazon doesn’t ding HIS clients for the way he talks about Amazon.

    He is SO lucky Amazon is focused on serving customers, because every petty thing he says (“Amazon pretty much doesn’t have to worry about returns, because few bookstores are ordering its titles…”) would make me want to not do business with HIM.

    It’s a good thing I’m not Amazon, because my feelings would be hurt.

  2. …to see if Amazon would take and fill those orders. There’s a part of me that doesn’t think Amazon would be happy to suddenly get thousands of orders–returnable–from booksellers.

    Would Amazon necessarily adopt the same terms used by trad pub? If the Amazon imprints are not eagerly pounding on the doors of brick-and-mortar stores, perhaps their execs would be willing to simply say “no” until they were offered terms that they like.

    • This

      Why would Amazon — who knows how to do it better — tie themselves to bookstore returns?

      “Order/Buy what you think you can sell and eat your own errors.”

      Is most likely what Amazon told the bookstores. As most bookstores have even less idea of what will sell than the qig5, they don’t want to play that game.

      Just another HuffPo exclusive …

      • In one of the comments on the post, a bookseller indicates they can’t do returns on Amazon-published titles. That makes your scenario exactly right.

        • And with how fast Amazon delivers they could buy two and replace them if/when they sell. As there was never a way to do anything but bulk orders with the qig5, the bookstores have no idea how to handle someone with a fast turnaround on order/delivery on small requests.

          I could see small/independent bookstores adapting, but not the chains.

    • Thinking the same thing.Publishers should stop taking returns. That would make bookstores have to actually work at selling books, or they lose $$. Amazon would be stupid to accept returns. I wouldn’t. You buy it, you sell it.

      • Yeah, but trad-pubs can’t send a bookstore just two books same/next day when they actually/accidentally sell something …

        • Amazon actually sells tradpub titles to Indie stores. Cheaper and faster than Ingram and B&T on occasion.

      • This is what annoys me about bookstores. They have it great compared to other retailers and they still complain. They sell products and keep around 50% of the sale price – this is fantastic! The products are non-perishable, and easily stackable and stored. On top of that, they can return any unsold product and get their money back!

        But usually all we hear is “woe is me, it’s all so hard”.

        • Part of the problem is that some bookstore owners are more cultists than businesspersons. Running a retail business these days requires a clear focus on product and customer service. Too many small stores are practically hobbies or a public service if you believe the statements from the owners. 🙂

  3. This might matter if people still relied on B&M bookstores for books, but they don’t.

  4. The best part about this article is that the guy thinks that Amazon would be bound by the same constraints as the Big 5. Amazon isn’t stuck with the silly supply chain issues that legacy publishers are.

    I don’t see Amazon sending out a million copies of “The God’s Eye View” all at once (sorry, Barry, ain’t gonna happen). Amazon has, you know, data. And data scientists. And a very efficient distribution system. And they run this thing called Prime Now. I don’t think returns are going to be much of a problem for Amazon.

    • Amazon isn’t stuck with the silly supply chain issues that legacy publishers are.

      😀

      Indeed.

    • The ABA has been pushing a change from “Order and Return” to one of “Order to Restock” for some time now. Most stores are adopting it and returns have fallen to record lows.

      You just don’t see multiple copies of any book on the shelves anymore. With the falling cost of POD and the rapid order/shipment systems in place now they can stock one copy of a book and when it sells order another to replace it, usually getting it the next day. Its a win-win. The stores can now stock a greater number of titles and optimize every inch of shelf space without the labor intensive problem of handling returns.

      I think this has more to do with the discount % and the added accounting issues than it does “hating Amazon”, not that I would rule this out. Hater gonna hate.

      Edit: I now see that Karen already mentioned this below. Great minds, Karen! 🙂

  5. “The irony is that by not ordering books published by Amazon, bookstores are helping to increase the profitability of those titles for Amazon.”

    Yup, their lose, Amazon gain — the ‘only’ bit this ‘agent’ got right!

    “Let’s not forget how the publishing industry works. It’s one where bookstores order books and return books that don’t sell.”

    Nope, that was old model, Amazon does it better! Adapt or die guys.

    “Yet Amazon pretty much doesn’t have to worry about returns, because few bookstores are ordering its titles.”

    Another good thing for Amazon, only order what you want/need, no need for returns …

    “If Amazon had to suffer the ignominy brought on by the utter failure of titles it publishes, to be bloodied in the marketplace on a level playing ground, perhaps it might develop a new appreciation for the difficulties regular publishers face.”

    But Amazon isn’t stupid like the qig5, and it seems to be growing, not ‘suffering the ignominy brought on by the utter failure’ this idiot seems to think.

    “Perhaps it might even take a different tack in its dealings with them.”

    Why? they seem to be growing better than trad-pub.

    “Or perhaps it would just shutter its imprints, deciding it was a foolish endeavor to start publishing its own titles.”

    Deities but this guy is wishful …

    “Some might see that as a “win” for traditional publishing.”

    Only those that have drank from the trad-pub kool-ade bowl …

    “Many would certainly find it ironic.”

    Or this whole thing just sad …

  6. Bookstores should sell the books their customers want to read, regardless of who publishes them? Madness, I say! Madness!

  7. As KKR reports elsewhere, the ABA has been training indie bookstores to do JIT (just in time) book orders, so no need to stock dozens and do returns, if you just stock one or two and order more in onesies as needed.

    • That’s cool, since it saves a lot of money invested in inventory. Even if they can destroy and ‘return’ inventory it is still a waste to have multiple copies of stuff that won’t move for years on the shelf. Especially when most bookstores are getting shipments almost daily anyway.

  8. The sad thing is, indie booksellers and indie authors should be natural partners in our battle against “the big guys.” We could do each other a lot of good. When we eliminate publishers (and agents) from the equation, the author and bookseller each stand to get a bigger slice of the profits on print books.

    Okay, they hate CreateSpace, I get it. We’re never going to change that. But what about an outfit like Ingram? IIRC, Ingram tried to get something going in 2014 when they signed a print-only deal with Barbara Freethy. Whatever happened with that? If indie booksellers were to reach out to top-selling indie ebook authors and partner with them on print exclusives, they could develop a potentially lucrative new revenue stream, bypassing both the Big 5 and Amazon.

    C’mon, ABA. Let’s team up for some disruptive innovation.

    • Ain’t gonna happen for a while if ever.

      I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen stories of indie authors approaching local indie, and regular, bookstores with consignment deals(no cost on the bookstore’s side) only to be turned away like they smelled.

      There are stores that feature local authors but they seem to be the exception not the rule. To be fair there can be problems if there’s no bar codes since that means training staff, and other issues.

      But it seems to be more often an issue of ‘real authors are traditionally published authors, and the most serious authors are published by famous imprints’.

      • Too right, Wayne. I had the same issues with local bookstores with my small-press published TBP books. Which, by the way, had barcodes, ISBNs, the whole enchilada. I, too, was turned away like I hadn’t showered that morning.

        ETA: independent bookstores were not that off-putting, and still seem pleased when I come in with books.

  9. It’s too bad Andy Weir didn’t stick with self-publishing The Martian, and issue it on Createspace (no offense intended to Mr. Weir, who deserves his success). Bookstores might have been forced by sheer weight of requests to order and carry these print books, despite a no-return policy.

    Eventually, I hope, bookstores will wise up instead of sending their customers to on-line competition, but it may take a huge bestseller to do the trick.

    It might also occur to bookstore owners that there’s a big advantage. Currently, publishers are often reluctant to reissue early books in a series, despite later popularity. They don’t know how many copies will be sent back that are still sitting around on some bookstore shelf, or how many of the reprints will be returned. Thus sales are lost to authors and booksellers. With POD, there’s no reason for a book to go out of print.

    Time to ditch the outmoded fully-refundable publishing model.

  10. I’ll wager that any Amazon sales through (non-Amazon) bookstores would be a miniscule portion of its total book sales. And I doubt Amazon would care much as they ramp up more Amazon Bookstores.

  11. I went into a local Waterstones after Fat Chance was published and, for a giggle, I went and asked at the counter if it was in stock. The shop assistant looked like I’d just s**t in her hand when I asked for Nick Spalding’s Fat Chance… Published by Amazon. I guess there must be a training day when they’re shown videos of Amazon executives strangling puppies, or something similar.

  12. I know our Borders store stocked local books by indie authors and local publishers who brought in con signment deals. But you know, the ‘big box stores is teh EEEvullz’ was strong too…

  13. Al the Great and Powerful

    I know our Borders store stocked local books by indie authors and local publishers who brought in consignment deals. But you know, the ‘big box stores is teh EEEvullz’ was strong too…

    • They missed their chance at an era of worship. If B&N had collapsed first then Borders would be the savior of humanity.

  14. I’m glad I saw this article! I am an author, and considered selling/ producing my books on Amazon. Now, this has left me feeling lost & confused.

  15. Sandy, it depends on your personal-business objectives. If you want to get a book out there into the bookstores (possibly), and are willing to wait years for your project to grind through the agent/editor/two-years-from-contract-to-release mill, then you’d be better going the traditional publishing route.

    If, however, your business goal is to see your book in the hands of readers on a much shorter production schedule, with you doing the promo, assigning cover artist and editor, and going direct to the reader without multiple middlemen, your clear choice is indie publishing. Perhaps you’ll choose Amazon, plus-or-minus the other intermediaries such as Kobo or Draft2Digital. However, these books stand a small chance, if any, of appearing on the shelves of B&N or big-box stores.

    Like so many things in life, “it depends.”

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