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Author Topic: About those Marketplace sellers  (Read 1475 times)  

Offline notjohn

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About those Marketplace sellers
« on: April 21, 2017, 09:16:37 AM »
Over on the KDP forums, there is interesting speculation about those Marketplace sellers who instantly match (or underprice or offer books higher than) our retail price for paperbacks. I'd always brushed them off as an annoyance somewhere south of the fly that's buzzing around my screen. But the hypothesis is that they are buying wholesale through Createspace, hence sharply reducing our royalty. I don't get many "expanded distribution" sales -- they seem to come in lumps every three months or so -- and I've always assumed they were all or mostly from Barnes & Noble online.

Does CreateSpace sell directly to booksellers through their general catalog? Would their discount be great enough to pay for shipping and still allow for a profit? (I'm not talking about the "CreateSpace Store" that authors can set up. There's no discount there for the shopper.) Don't forget that the Marketplace seller pays a fairly stiff commission to Amazon. Like most things Amazon, the payout started well but got chipped away as time went on.
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Offline ilamont

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2017, 11:53:05 AM »
I think there are two things going on:

1. Some are basically drop-shipping through Ingram's catalogue, using the discount set by authors/publishers via Spark or Lightning Source. Although money still goes to the author, it can undercut Amazon sales that would net more for the author. I had this situation going on for a long time, until I reduced the discount in Ingram.

2. Another trend that's extremely disturbing are pirates leveraging Createspace or other POD services to reprint books without permission and take over the "buy box" on Amazon. I know of two authors who have reported this: Dave Burgess (pirated copy of "Talk Like a Pirate" pictured here) and Bill Pollock (picture of pirated copy of "Python for Kids" here

Offline KelliWolfe

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2017, 12:50:33 PM »
Oh, wow. If they're doing that with tradpub books the big publishers are going to start squealing in a hurry. That might actually get some attention.

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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2017, 01:05:20 PM »
Just to clarify a few points:

One, anyone who wishes to start a bookselling business can set up with Createspace to buy books directly. If you look in your settings under channels, one of them is Createspace Direct. If you are genuinely that concerned about it, turn off that option. Problem solved.

Two, yes, expanded distribution sales will always appear in lumps because they are sales to RETAILERS not CONSUMERS. If B&N buys ten copies of your book to keep in inventory, those sales will be recorded when B&N buys the books. It might take them 10 months to sell those books. But it doesn't matter. You get paid when the retailer buys the book.

Three, no, trade publishers do not have the same set-up with Amazon that we do. They have a traditional wholesale arrangement. Amazon pays X for the books and then sells them for whatever they want. So SImon and Schuster doesn't particularly care if Jane Doe the 3rd party seller undercuts Amazon's price. They got their money from Amazon already for the wholesale books.

Four, indies tend to set their paperback prices way too low anyway. Set your paperback prices at normal retail rates and you can make a decent profit regardless of who sells it. If your margins are so low that you can't make money on third-party or expanded distro sales, you aren't pricing correctly. The thing is: print sales are driven by the appearance of sales. Set your prices at normal retail and then PRAY the retailers place your book on sale. Because your royalty on PRINT is based on your retail price, not the price the book sells for.

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Offline notjohn

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2017, 10:41:47 AM »
Quote
Four, indies tend to set their paperback prices way too low anyway. Set your paperback prices at normal retail rates and you can make a decent profit regardless of who sells it. If your margins are so low that you can't make money on third-party or expanded distro sales, you aren't pricing correctly. The thing is: print sales are driven by the appearance of sales. Set your prices at normal retail and then PRAY the retailers place your book on sale. Because your royalty on PRINT is based on your retail price, not the price the book sells for.

Interesting point. I used to strive hard to keep the price at $9.95, because ten bucks seemed too much. Then I had to price one at $10.95, and guess what? -- it looked perfectly acceptable, maybe even preferable.

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Offline LilyBLily

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2017, 11:42:25 AM »
People who want to buy a paperback book over a less expensive ebook are not going to quibble over a book being priced at $12.99 instead of $9.99. I moved up all my CreateSpace prices and I still get the same number of sales--which is to say, only a few of the fiction, and a steady stream of the nonfiction.

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2017, 03:12:32 PM »
Interesting point. I used to strive hard to keep the price at $9.95, because ten bucks seemed too much. Then I had to price one at $10.95, and guess what? -- it looked perfectly acceptable, maybe even preferable.

I price my createspace books so that I get a $3 royalty through extended distribution.

Offline Write.Dream.Repeat.

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2017, 03:16:38 PM »
I price ~400 page epic fantasy at 14.99, and it's never been a problem.


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Offline Lefevre

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2017, 01:41:42 AM »
I always kill the expanded distribution category in CS because this is often abused by drop shippers. Why should they get to use my sales page and leverage my marketing efforts? Eliminate the opportunity.
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Offline SidK

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2017, 05:24:41 AM »
Four, indies tend to set their paperback prices way too low anyway. Set your paperback prices at normal retail rates and you can make a decent profit regardless of who sells it. If your margins are so low that you can't make money on third-party or expanded distro sales, you aren't pricing correctly. The thing is: print sales are driven by the appearance of sales. Set your prices at normal retail and then PRAY the retailers place your book on sale. Because your royalty on PRINT is based on your retail price, not the price the book sells for.

I raised my prices on paperbacks from $9.99 and $12.95 all the way to $14.95 after reading that article on your website. But do you think the price of $14.95 is too high?

Offline BillSmithBooksDotCom

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2017, 05:16:41 PM »
I would think the way to go with paperback pricing is to take an "it is what it is" approach: You have to price so that you make a decent profit through whatever sales channel you sell through, including wholesalers.

Sure, that may seem like a premium price to you, but lots of mainstream publishers' trade paperbacks are $15-20.

Honestly, with CreateSpace, book stores are generally not going to order your book (because of lower discount and non-returnable) ... most of your sales will be through Amazon and sales you handsell at cons.

Even with Ingram Spark, most stores are not going to STOCK your book, they will only special order ... so the vast majority of those sales will be through Amazon or B&N mail order.

By pricing your paperbacks as outlined above, it makes the ebook look like an even better value.
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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2017, 05:45:17 AM »
I raised my prices on paperbacks from $9.99 and $12.95 all the way to $14.95 after reading that article on your website. But do you think the price of $14.95 is too high?

There is some fluctuation between genres. What I always tell people is look at the LIST prices (not the sale prices) of trade published books in your genre. Use that as your baseline.  If the norm for your genre is $14.99, price at $14.99. If the norm is $12.99, use that price. But make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If the average book in your genre is 300 pages and your book is only 100, adjust accordingly. Try to compare against the trade paperback format, not the hardcover or mass market sizes. You will NEVER be able to match mass market sizes with a trade publisher.

Mass market books are not priced based on the size, but the quality of construction. It is the advantage a large publisher has when it comes to pricing. If you are using a POD service, your book is has a fixed price (cost of cover + cost per page) regardless of the page size. Because POD printing can't use cheaper quality paper like offset printing can. Mass market books tend to use cheaper cover stock and cheaper paper, allowing for cheaper prices. The development of the mass market paperback was a MARKETING decision. It was a way of making books available cheap. The traditional release schedule was Hardcover first. A few months later, the trade paperback would be released (with really hot titles, the trade paperback would be released simultaneously with the hardcover). Then six months or a year later, the mass market paperback would be released.

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Offline notjohn

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2017, 09:52:40 AM »
People who want to buy a paperback book over a less expensive ebook are not going to quibble over a book being priced at $12.99 instead of $9.99. I moved up all my CreateSpace prices and I still get the same number of sales--which is to say, only a few of the fiction, and a steady stream of the nonfiction.

Interesting -- that's my experience too, that nonfiction sells better. I only occasionally sell a paperback novel, though I publish them as a courtesy to those who don't do ebooks. But in most cases where there is both a print and a digital edition, the paperback outsells the ebook. (The exception is my formatting guide, for obvious reasons.)

It's not expanded distribution per se that feeds books to third-party marketers. It's the CreateSpace Direct option underneath expanded distribution, and that can be unchecked without affecting B&N etc. I am now doing that for all my books. I had previously confused that with the CreateSpace Estore, which is for us to sell directly to fans.
 
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Offline blerg et al.

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2017, 11:08:33 AM »
It's not expanded distribution per se that feeds books to third-party marketers. It's the CreateSpace Direct option underneath expanded distribution, and that can be unchecked without affecting B&N etc.
Well they haven't bought a physical copy.
Does that mean I can uncheck that option, raise my price by fifteen bucks, purchase their listing and the seller will be unable to fulfill the offer and still make a profit, have to take their listing down?

Not that it bothers me enough to do that.

Offline brkingsolver

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2017, 11:39:18 AM »
My royalty through CreateSpace Direct is much higher than I get from Amazon, and far, far higher than what I get through expanded distribution. If people want to pay me for my books, distribute them and promote them, I'm all in favor of it.

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Offline notjohn

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2017, 06:50:57 AM »
Okay, as an experiment I raised the price of a book two dollars and unchecked the CreateSpace Direct option. I was interested in seeing how long it would take for the new price to show on Amazon, whether there would be any interruption in availability, and what the effect would be on the Marketplacers. (I hasten to add that I too am a Marketplace seller, though likely to abandon the program because Amazon now takes about 40 percent of the retail price, $6 on a fifteen-dollar book. That 50 percent more than what it was a year or two ago. Once Amazon owns a market, it bites the people who put it there.)

I did this yesterday morning and checked every three or four hours through the day: no change, still available. This morning it was $9.95. Alas, I have no way of knowing that it didn't go off sales overnight, but at most it would have been a matter of hours. As to price: all but one (and that one in the UK) Marketplacer seems to have raised the price. This rather confirms what I had earlier suspected, that these offerings are on autopilot, either using Amazon's or a third-party software.

One of them of course is the Book Depository, a company I'm very fond of, and which obviously can get the book as a legitimate bookstore without needing to patronize CS Direct. Presumably there are others, but I trust not most of them.

Thanks to all who responded.

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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2017, 09:30:57 AM »
Okay, as an experiment I raised the price of a book two dollars and unchecked the CreateSpace Direct option. I was interested in seeing how long it would take for the new price to show on Amazon, whether there would be any interruption in availability, and what the effect would be on the Marketplacers. (I hasten to add that I too am a Marketplace seller, though likely to abandon the program because Amazon now takes about 40 percent of the retail price, $6 on a fifteen-dollar book. That 50 percent more than what it was a year or two ago. Once Amazon owns a market, it bites the people who put it there.)

You are assuming print prices can change as quickly as ebooks. They don't. Amazon prices can change quickly because CS feeds directly into Amazon. But expanded? Those prices may not change for a week or more depending on when Ingram pushes out updates. Same thing with CS Direct. If you think updates are pushed out one at a time immediately, you'd be wrong. They will generally be batched and pushed out on a schedule (it could be daily, of course, depending on the set-up) If you think about it from a logistics perspective, they would have to batch report because individual updates would overload most vendor systems. Particularly the way indies love to make constant tweaks. Can you imagine a vendor getting three or four updates a week for the same book? Compound that by the hundreds of titles being processed weekly.

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Offline VayneLine

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2017, 04:08:48 PM »


Mass market books are not priced based on the size, but the quality of construction. It is the advantage a large publisher has when it comes to pricing. If you are using a POD service, your book is has a fixed price (cost of cover + cost per page) regardless of the page size. Because POD printing can't use cheaper quality paper like offset printing can. Mass market books tend to use cheaper cover stock and cheaper paper, allowing for cheaper prices. The development of the mass market paperback was a MARKETING decision. It was a way of making books available cheap. The traditional release schedule was Hardcover first. A few months later, the trade paperback would be released (with really hot titles, the trade paperback would be released simultaneously with the hardcover). Then six months or a year later, the mass market paperback would be released.

Interesting info.  Is it safe to say from this, do NOT look as the mass market price?  I see similar books go for about 17$, whereas the MM are like 7, I can't even charge less than 10 on CS.

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Offline Jena H

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2017, 04:22:14 PM »
Okay, call me oblivious, but...  does this mean that anyone can set up an account on CreateSpace, and buy any other CreateSpace item (like MY book) for 'cost'??  (i.e., what I pay for my own books)  My flabber is well and truly gasted.   ???
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Offline Anma Natsu

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2017, 09:41:24 PM »
Interesting info.  Is it safe to say from this, do NOT look as the mass market price?  I see similar books go for about 17$, whereas the MM are like 7, I can't even charge less than 10 on CS.

Correct.  :)  Compare to trade paperback prices, since that's what we're doing via CreateSpace as well.

Okay, call me oblivious, but...  does this mean that anyone can set up an account on CreateSpace, and buy any other CreateSpace item (like MY book) for 'cost'??  (i.e., what I pay for my own books)  My flabber is well and truly gasted.   ???

No, not at the same cost as it is to you, but with a wholesale discount off the retail price (I've seen it mentioned that its 35% off the retail price but couldn't find the exact percentage at CreateSpace itself).  There is an application process, and they must have a valid state tax permit unless its a library.

Offline Jena H

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2017, 04:00:06 AM »
Correct.  :)  Compare to trade paperback prices, since that's what we're doing via CreateSpace as well.

No, not at the same cost as it is to you, but with a wholesale discount off the retail price (I've seen it mentioned that its 35% off the retail price but couldn't find the exact percentage at CreateSpace itself).  There is an application process, and they must have a valid state tax permit unless its a library.

Okay, thanks for the explanation.  I guess that's one of the goals of those with print books-- to have our books available in brick-and-mortar outlets somewhere (stores, libraries, etc) and those places would buy wholesale.  I just hit the panic button a little early.

And based on this thread, maybe I need to raise my paperback prices......     ;)
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Offline notjohn

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2017, 07:32:12 AM »
Interesting info.  Is it safe to say from this, do NOT look as the mass market price?  I see similar books go for about 17$, whereas the MM are like 7, I can't even charge less than 10 on CS.

POD books actually have a lot in common with mass-market paperbacks. They're perfect bound, hence more likely to split if someone tries to open them wide (or when they get old). And the paper, especially the cover, isn't as good. On the plus side, they're larger and generally more legible than the stuff you see in racks on newsstands and in railroad stations (assuming the author-publisher doesn't use 10 point type). In the case above, I'd probably go with $12.95 or $14.95.

Like some others, I have raised some of my POD prices on the basis of this thread. Thank you all!
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Offline Deke

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2017, 07:57:02 AM »
I never both with expanded distribution. If you use that option, it forces the retail price of the book much higher in order to provide a wholesale price that allows retailers to make their profit. My experience is most retailer will never carry indie-published fiction anyway.

Of course, there may be instances (non-fiction, educational) where that distro channel is very much desired.

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Offline notjohn

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Re: About those Marketplace sellers
« Reply #23 on: July 30, 2017, 01:08:28 PM »
Further to my pricing experiment, I first noticed today that the book I republished three months ago has only now turned up on the Book Depository. (This is a UK site that ships anywhere in the world for list price, give or take a dollar, so is a great option for shoppers in countries without an Amazon store.) So it was off sale there since the end of April.

The earlier, $9.95 version still is listed there, as unavailable, with a link to ABE Books.

And there is no cover image on the $15.95 version, so I emailed them one, as I have previously had occasion to do.
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