There are a lot of predatory practices in the publishing industry, but one I only discovered after I published my first novel is the prevalence of book resellers. What’s a book reseller? Well, they’re just like any reseller. They buy things cheap or at-cost, then mark up the price and skim the profit off the top for themselves. They’re nothing new. Back when I worked retail in my college days, we’d have resellers who would come in and buy all our printers when they went on sale. It got to the point where managers would limit them to one per person because they knew nobody needed THAT many of the same printer and that they were just turning around and selling them for a higher price on eBay. Book resellers work in pretty much the same way. They’ll make a listing on eBay, Amazon, and other 3rd-party market websites and offer YOUR physical book at a higher price than you sell it for.
Wait where are they getting my book? I keep track of my sales. How are they doing this? Where are they getting their stock?
The answer – from you.
That’s right. They don’t actually have any “physical” copies of your book, not yet. They wait until they get an order, then they buy the book at-cost directly from the cheapest source. And if you’re an Indy publisher/author, that’s usually directly from your Amazon/Smashwords/Lulu/Nook, etc.
To be fair, they’re not hurting you (the author). You still make your sale. You still get your royalties. So what’s the problem?
The problem is they’re taking advantage of your readers, and that really pisses me off. As a small-time author, my readers are very important to me. I list my books at the lowest price I can manage (hell, if you’ve seen my last post, I even give them away for free). I don’t want scammy resellers taking advantage of my readers and swindling them out of their hard-earned money. Why should my readers pay extra when they can get my books at-cost (or free) directly from me, the officially listed selling source?
The sad thing is, there’s nothing you can do about resellers. As far as I’m aware, they’re not breaking any laws. People are allowed to sell things at a profit, and the author still gets paid, so they’re not stealing. The person who gets left holding the check is the reader, and so the only thing you can do is make sure you have an author website where you list all of your books for sale from your own market platforms with their official listing links. When you market your book on social media, remind them that sale prices, and official listing prices, can be found directly from your links or your website and warn them not to buy your work from people who mark up the price. Always let your readers know exactly how much your book costs, that way if you say; “Hey my book costs $10,” and they search the markets, they’ll know not to buy from the sellers listing your book at $12-14 because that’s not how much you said it would cost. They’ll know to keep looking for the cheapest source, which is usually you.
Oh, but it gets worse. These resellers are also scalpers! Yep.
One of my readers noticed a small typo in Torn Apart, and so I had to “temporarily” unlist my paperbacks to fix the mistake. In the one week it took for my book to be re-listed, these resellers went NUTS! I’m not kidding; I was seeing copies of my novel from these same sellers being sold for upwards of $400! Holy shit! They were listing my work as “out-of-print,” and “rare.” I doubt most of these scalpers even had physical copies.
How shitty would it be if one of my readers saw one of these scalper’s listings and was like; “Oh no, I wanted to buy a paperback, and now they don’t make them anymore!” and proceeds to pay a scalper’s price? Thankfully, that would never happen to me. HA! My readers know damn well my work isn’t worth THAT kind of money, and I’m 100% confident that nobody paid those scalpers any of those ridiculous prices. But just to be safe, I did warn my readers on my social media that Torn Apart would be back in paperback at the usual listing price of $10 and not to fall for any of those scalper’s bullshit. While I was safe from scalpers robbing my readers, these predators might have better luck with more popular authors if readers aren’t notified of where and when they can purchase your physical copies. Just remember – keep your readers informed!