book sales, Uncategorized

Does Amazon Help You Sell Books?

Other than being the largest warehouse of books in the history of literate societies, does Amazon actually help writers sell books? Or are Amazon algorithms designed to maximize their profits regardless of the effect on individual authors and publishers?

I hear both from other authors. And there’s nothing wrong with maximizing profits. That’s how Amazon gets the cash to provide its services.
But, how well do they serve authors?

One author says, “The DAY I launched both titles there was someone selling paperback new and used copies of my books below my price. I had not sold or printed a copy (other than my own proof copies … which are still in my possession). There were simply no copies in existence.”
Now, how does that happen? Seems to me that copying and selling an author’s new book without paying the author is or should be illegal.

Other authors love Amazon. What has been your experience?

[Disclaimer. My own book, still available at retailers linked from, was on Amazon until they quarreled with my publisher.]


32 thoughts on “Does Amazon Help You Sell Books?

  1. I would be curious to know with whom the author you note above had published. I’ve heard this from several people, and part of me wonders if an employee (or employees) of a particular publisher may be stealing proofs to distribute them at a cut-rate, thereby stealing the author’s royalties. It wouldn’t be hard to do – all an employee would have to do is make a copy of the proof then do their own print run. Perhaps we ought to start gathering/sharing that kind of information… along with the Amazon vendor or vendors who are offering the books (screen captures to be specific). If it happens to me when I launch in September, I will be obnoxiously vocal about it, as should everyone. I don’t think it would take an investigative unit to figure it out; Amazon may listen to us if we present a compelling case with documented evidence. I suspect they’re too lazy – er, busy? – to suss it out themselves. Evidence is much harder to ignore…

    Liked by 2 people

    • atthysgage says:

      Very often, those don’t represent actual copies. There are lots of these so-called second hand booksellers who are just fishing for clicks using a sort of bait-and-switch technique. The book you were looking for isn’t really there, or at least not at that price, but then they’ve got you into their site and maybe you’l buy something else, or they can use your email. I don’t honestly understand it, but I know there are more paperbacks of my books seemingly available second-hand, than were ever sold new.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. GD Deckard says:

    Dang, Atthys, I didn’t know that was happening to you.
    Kris is right, something should be done.

    Authors may have to encourage hungry lawyers to file a class action suit against a well heeled corporation before the practice is curtailed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • atthysgage says:

      I’ve never given it too much thought. If somebody tries to order a book of mine from these guys, and if they get cheated, and if they blame Amazon (or even me), well, that hurts me. But it’d be very difficult for me to prove that it happened (or even to know that it happened.) Frankly, I doubt it happens very often, if only because I’m pretty sure my kindle numbers would be a lot higher if there were a significant number of people searching for the paperbacks. I know, I should probably be concerned just on the principle of thing, but I wouldn’t have any idea how to even begin to fight back against this sort of thing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m a bit of a jackass, so I’d likely pose as a lawyer and send a cease and desist letter to the vendor. If it’s rampant, I’d send emails to Amazon every day until I annoy them into doing something. In the case G. D. noted, I’d take a screen shot of the vendor and ask Amazon how it’s possible that they have new and used copies on launch day… I’d also ask the POD publisher the same question, especially if I go with CreateSpace (which is through Amazon itself).

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: Does Amazon Help You Sell Books? | Michaelphelps1's Blog

  4. My books are listed on Amazon – then I see on AMAZON:
    “New and Used from $19.95 to $229.00 (Second hand book sellers). I ask myself IF I can get my book from Amazon – NEW at $19.95 – WHY would I pay $229.00 – MAYBE IF the book were signed by my friend, DAVID JANSSEN – YES, I would pay the $229.00 – just to find out how he signed it – he has been deceased for 37 years!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    I am mystified by this business. Truly mystified. I’ll follow some of these links and try to figure it out. Why would anyone pirate a book by an unknown? This makes no sense to me. Somebody explain it to me.

    Michael Phelps, maybe you have a name, but the rest of us?

    I will check out your offerings on Amazon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      I’m guessing here but it could be a problem with bots. A bot is an application that performs an automated task:
      CNN uses bots to show top news headlines uses bots to order flowers
      Amazon Bots are used to search for products on Amazon

      Wikipedia explains:
      An Internet bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots.

      Note that astounding last sentence.

      Liked by 3 people

    • But that’s just it, Mimi–they’re not. In most instances (all?) a scammer is simply listing your book (along with thousands of other titles) at a ridiculously low price in order to lure buyers into ordering the book from them. Then they stall you until your payment clears. They never ship anything; it’s all fantasy inventory. Once a certain number of complaints are made and Amazon kicks them off the site, they’re back the next day or week pulling the same scam under a different name.

      Liked by 6 people

      • GD Deckard says:

        Interesting, Carl. Are you saying they are bogus offerings and no books are sold?
        And that Amazon can & does kick off the scammers but then allows them back on?

        Liked by 2 people

        • That seems to be the gist of many of the threads I’ve read. And applying the principle of Occam’s Razor here it seems to be the most likely explanation for some of this weirdness. (As to why new writers’ books are listed, instead of venerable classics from acclaimed masters of the craft–perhaps these ne’er-do-wells are using a bot to cull through new books listings and building their fake inventory lists accordingly.)

          Liked by 2 people

    • I would consider two things: (1) Does the seller have a record of satisfied customers, and (2) Does this price seem too good to be true?

      I’ve purchased books from new, low-, and high-volume sellers on Amazon. It’s a crap-shoot. I’ve picked up leather bound volumes for $5 from new sellers, and had experienced sellers send me “as-new” books that were heavily underlined throughout the text. (“Sorry! I forgot to open that one before shipping.”)

      I think the lesson here is “Let the buyer be weird.” (Hold on . . . may have gotten that wrong. . . .)

      Liked by 2 people

  6. DocTom says:

    Hello All,
    Sad to see these things happening in book world, but none of them are particularly new.
    Telemarketing scams have been hijacking phone numbers for a while now, just as they used to hijack e-mail addresses (I once checked my office e-mail only to find about a hundred “replies” to unsubscribe from future e-mails, along with a few threats to find me and punch me out if I didn’t stop sending this crap. All in response to something I knew nothing about!)
    Offers too good to be true? Pick any good semi-pro digital SLR and google search for a price – you’ll find some that are hundred’s less than average (they take your credit card info, charge your card, and send you a note that the item is currently out of stock, but as soon as one comes in….), or even as much as only half the price (oh, you wanted the dedicated battery with that? And the charger? Well, those are an extra….).
    For older books you also need to be careful of print-on-demand. The prices of many antiquarian books that are used as references has plummeted due to the ease of scan-and-print publishing. I know this also affects textbooks – they call them “international copies,” cheaply produced knock-offs.
    I’d find it hard to believe that there’s much profit margin in copying even mildly successful novels – but that assumes that they send you anything after receiving your payment.
    So, as Carl said, buyer beware!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. mimispeike says:

    GD, you’re a trooper. I’ve tried and tried to start a piece with no luck. I am worn out from a variety of household problems.

    Nothing major-major (broken toilet, garden out of control, time to renew the health insurance, that always sends me into a tizzy, find that Human Resources password, etc.), but I’m not functioning terribly well.

    Oh yeah, then there’s the cat problem. Someone dumped a mama cat and four kittens off at my job, outside, on the grounds. I made the mistake of telling my husband. He insists we will take them – all! – rather than let them go to a shelter. We have four. We would have nine. He is an animal fanatic, and I love him for it. Well, our all time high was sixteen cats, thanks to other strays taken in, one of them pregnant. A creep neighbor moved away, abandoning her cats. How can anyone do that?

    I see your post coming up, and I want to read what your friend is reading, and comment. What is the name of the book? This sounds like fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      M’s a prolific reader. Now, she’s on to The Mill On The Floss by George Eliot (aka Mary Anne Evans.) Same thing though, in that the author uses words we no longer use in order to more accurately express her thoughts.

      You must run across this in your reading, Mimi.
      I suspect that writers from your research eras wrote not for the masses, but for an educated class.
      When you compare their writing to modern writing, do you think modern writers no longer express some thoughts because their readers lack the vocabulary to understand the nuances?

      P.S. Hopefully you can adopt out the kittens 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Recently finished The Mill on the Floss as part of my quest to fill the gaping holes in my knowledge of the classics. And a classic it is indeed. The way she dissects the characters’ psychology, capturing every nuance, is a pure delight. Of course, it’s only rarely attempted these days, so obsessed are we with show, not tell.

        Liked by 1 person

        • GD Deckard says:

          @ Curtis
          I suspect the culprit responsible for “show don’t tell” is movies/TV. They can only show what they can show, after all.

          (Wasn’t there a song, “Video Killed the Radio Star?”

          Liked by 1 person

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