Monitoring Amazon’s Buy Buttons: Why is someone else selling my book?

Here’s the first question we hear from authors, when their books first appear on Amazon: Why is someone else selling my book?

Amazon add to cart sidebar area example
Here’s what we like to see—a healthy Amazon Buy Button! Click this one to learn more about Faith Fowler’s popular This Far by Faith.

Answer: Amazon is designed to encourage individuals and companies to market products on the vast retail platform. Perhaps you’re a registered seller on Amazon yourself. You’re not alone! More than 2 million registered sellers account for 40 percent of Amazon’s business. We welcome that open-door marketplace.

In the publishing industry, however, resellers now immediately list their own copies of new and used books in an often automated system in which resellers hope to make a profit. That system is too complex to detail in this column, but Big Five publishers who launch new books with a wave of free review copies believe that some of those wind up in resellers’ hands—undercutting author royalties. That particular concern does not substantially affect Front Edge books, because we don’t send out big waves of free review copies. We encourage much more targeted marketing.

In other words, even if a reseller is listing one of our author’s books, someone had to purchase that book in the first place.

We are more concerned about resellers capturing the Buy Button.

What does capturing the Buy Button mean? When readers click to make a purchase on Amazon’s main book page, we prefer that they buy directly from Front Edge and our authors. Instead, Amazon now allows resellers to capture that bright golden-yellow button through another complex list of values. For example, a hiccup in the supply chain could make it seem that the Front Edge book isn’t available for a while. A reseller could appear to be a ready supplier and Amazon would let that reseller capture the main button.

A recent issue of Publishers Weekly magazine estimates that, at any given time, resellers control between 5 and 15 percent of book Buy Buttons.

Why do authors care about the Amazon Buy Button?

Here’s why authors care: Selling on Amazon is a complex process involving automated listings without any access to personal representatives who could sort out what’s happening (or not happening) with your book page. If a glitch occurs in Amazon’s system—and they do—your book can seem to be unavailable. Poof! One day your book is on sale—the next, it seems to be out of print. If a reseller captures your Buy Button and then that reseller winds up complicating fulfillment of orders—then your book distribution pipeline has hit a major clog.

The first thing Front Edge Publishing does to protect our authors is an automated Buy Button monitoring system we use to scan all of our authors’ Amazon pages. We immediately spot problems and can begin to address them through the system of alerts and appeals that is equally complex.

Are you weary of reading that word: complex? We hear you! Amazon can wear out individual authors trying to distribute their own books!

And that’s our point! Front Edge pays attention daily to the distribution system to remove clogs or recapture buttons.

Amazon’s Policy Is Here to Stay

Screenshot of Front Edge Publishing’s online bookstore
Another sales option for customers of Front Edge books: Our own bookstore, which ensures books are always available to our readers. Click on the image to visit our Bookstore.

Get used to this!

That was the main message in Publishers Weekly‘s recent coverage of this challenging issue, reporting:

A number of industry members who have followed this issue say that the policy is not going away. … For one thing, Amazon allows third-party sellers to compete for Buy Buttons in all of its other retail categories. … Among the factors Amazon uses to determine who wins the Buy Button are price, availability, and delivery time.

We are sharing this newsy update, this week, because questions about Amazon’s Buy Buttons are among the most frequent queries we receive from authors.

Bottom line: We share your concern. Monitoring and maintaining book sales are high priorities every day at Front Edge.

About David Crumm

David Crumm is founding Editor of Front Edge Publishing. Nationally, he is known as a veteran journalist—a top writer and editor—with experience both in the U.S. and overseas. He is based in Canton, Michigan, where he also serves as Editor of Read the Spirit online magazine. His columns on trends in media appear twice a month on our Front Edge Publishing website.

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