People kept telling me they bought my books online. For the first while, I assumed this meant they bought it off my site. But then, being the one that took the names and addresses to post each copy, I realised they were still getting them somewhere else. Some readers said they’d gotten it as an e-book so I put it down to a hangover from the Kindle experiment or the publishing house still (illegally) selling the digital versions.
Soon though, it became apparent that there were Paperback copies of my books available online that weren’t being sold through me. I couldn’t figure out how this was possible since I was, supposedly, the only one selling the physical novels.
One or two people claimed to have gotten them on Amazon so I decided to take a look. I went through the process of what happens when you set out to buy one of my books using the Internet. This is what I saw:
There were no less than 9 companies selling Paperback copies of my novel El Niño on Amazon without my knowledge or consent. Granted, some of them claim to be secondhand online bookstores but – how many copies could they possibly have? The majority of the sellers are in the UK and the US so maybe some of the books I sold internationally online, or to tourists, ended up on the secondhand market. Even if this were true, it can’t possibly account for 9 stores consistently selling the book. They might have one or two contributed copies but after that, where are the books coming from?
More worrying, is the ones advertising the books as new. Where are they getting NEW copies of my novel when I’m the only one on the planet that orders any copies to be printed? One possible explanation is they got hold of the PDF copies of the manuscript (and cover) and are printing it themselves and they most likely got it from the time El Niño was for sale on Kindle.
I contacted Amazon to complain. Nothing back. I contacted the sellers and told them to take it down or pay me royalties. One of them took it down for a day, then put it back up again. There seems to be an algorithm to their pricing too. For instance, I’d had a Play converted into a film (Radio Luxembourg/TigerRaid) and it was premiered at Tribeca film festival in New York. Immediately, the price of El Niño went up to over a $100 in the US and £80 in the UK. So it appears they have bots that search the internet and work out a book’s apparent popularity/success to increase their profits.
My only option was to compete and sell it on Amazon myself. So I researched how to get set up and it turned out to be relatively simple. I discovered a site called CreateSpace which offered a Print on Demand Service. It was very similar to the Kindle process except the buyer receives the book in Paperback via post.
1 You upload your manuscript and cover (or use the Cover Creator.)
2 Choose your genre.
3 Fill out some biographical details.
4 Chose the price.
5 And hit publish.
CreateSpace is an Amazon company so they prioritise material sold through their site – as opposed to promoting the second hand hawkers.
The ideal thing is that the book doesn’t exist until someone buys it. If they buy one copy, then only one copy is printed and sent. If they buy two, then only two are printed and sent, and so on…..your book is not infinitely available for the world to see. If they want it, they have to pay for it. And they only get it in Paperback which cuts out the digital sharing and copyright theft (or at least makes it more difficult). The pricing is also convenient because you can undercut the scammers and, when people buy it, you’ll get the royalties. Lastly, it meant I didn’t have to call up Pamela’s factory and order 300 copies at a time. CreateSpace take care of all the printing, shipping and processing and you get a decent cut at the end. It’s the best possible Indie solution when it comes to time, profit, and efficiency. There’s no upfront cost which is crucial.
It was bit late for El Niño since it was already widely for sale. Still, at least Amazon rate my link as the top option when people search for it. To combat this, some of the illegals started to advertise their copies as signed – by God knows who.
My second novel Fisherman’s Blues has not yet been pirated. Although if the bots start finding these blogposts, I’m sure they’ll do their best. If you want to support indie authors by buying their book on Amazon – the best possible thing is buy from Amazon direct as opposed to the secondhand sellers.
*Reblog from May 2018.