24. The Amazon jungle

ON SUNDAY I achieved the unique feat of staging a book launch without any books!

Having ordered a shipment from my two suppliers, Createspace and Ingram Spark, neither of them arrived in time for Sunday’s knees-up celebration down the pub.

I managed to prevent the glitterati arriving from far and wide with a note to say the event was cancelled on Facebook. Still, a few friends and family did turn up and we had a great time “wetting the baby’s head”.

Later, I discovered that I had sent my Ingram order to America, when it could have been fulfilled by their European branch Lightning Source, in Milton Keynes 50 miles away!

Crossing The Whitewash has been out there a week now and that was just one of a few glitches I have experienced as an Indie publisher.

Despite this, I’m getting a fantastic response from those who have already read the book. Only today a reader contacted me to say it was one of those books you can’t put down and to get on with the sequel (thanks Margaret!) If only I had the time. At the moment I am still getting to the bottom of the whole murky marketing minefield and discovering glitches to the system as I go.

The one that really puzzled me was courtesy of my biggest shop window at the moment – Amazon. The Kindle and Paperback versions are both on sale now, but if you go to the link and click on the paperback it tells readers it is out of stock.

Now for anyone in the selling game (not that I profess to be an expert) the worst thing that can happen is if you don’t have your “product” available when people want to buy it. Colleagues of my alter-ego in the newspaper industry can vouch for this, having been frustrated by seeing their products missing from the newspaper carousel because they’ve sold out and not been replaced.

To see the “out of stock” label next to my book was pretty alarming, really. On the first day it was on sale I was able to order the book with 24-hours notice as a Prime customer and it turned up on the dot.

Investigating this strange quirk, I noticed the price had been reduced by a pound to £7.99. Then it dawned on me I had managed to muck things up myself.

A mate of mine, when ordering the book, said he was told it will arrive between August 15-17, a whole fortnight later. Looking into this I remembered that when I used the Amazon company, Createspace, to publish the novel I had set the price at £8.99. Then, when I loaded the book up to Ingram Spark, for some reason I was feeling generous and dropped the price by a pound.

I guess it’s in the DNA of Amazon to offer the lowest price out there and because they don’t own Lightning Source they cannot guarantee when the book will be delivered so cover their back by saying it is out of stock. Only by reading the very small print on the Amazon page can you find an arrow that takes you to an “alternative” paperback version, on sale at £8.99, which they can guarantee will be delivered within a day to Prime customers. I can only hope the out-of-stock notice doesn’t affect sales too much.

Meanwhile, when my big delivery of books DOES arrive, I will be sending copies out to reviewers and the very kind Independent shops who have agreed to stock it. Then I will set my sights on the big guns like Waterstones and Foyles.

One thing that I hope will help but involves a sizeable one-off investment is something called Net Galley which book reviewers, bloggers and the like view regularly for new releases they can investigate. But more about that later. Meanwhile I am putting up a few screen grabs to try to demonstrate my Amazon problem.

By the way, don’t touch the “nearly new” and “used” buttons on Amazon with a barge pole. They may be offering the book cheaper but once you see the delivery fees they are charging you can work out the scam these people are trying to pull. The way I understand it is they don’t have any books at the moment. Only when they get orders will they order the book themselves then ship them out at an outrageous cost.

Amazonone

Hopefully these screens explain the Amazon conundrum. You are given two options as a buyer, Kindle or paperback, and if you click the cross by paperback it says out of stock.

amazontwo

Click on paperback anyway however and you will notice something at the top which says ‘See all 3 formats and editions’…

amazonthree

Click on the all formats arrow and it still only offers you the out-of-stock £7.99 paperback. However there is a little arrow on the left where it says paperback. Click that and it opens to reveal the £8.99 version. Again click on that and…

Voila: below you will see it says that the paperback is in stock and Prime customers can get it within a day if they are prepared to pay an extra pound for early delivery, which is free.

Amazonfour

Anyone with any other quirks or advice as a self-publisher, let me know by commenting on the post and I will spread the love.

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