Amazon change could threaten authors’ earnings

Amazon has said that the main ‘buy’ button on any book listing could, in future, be ‘won’ by a second-hand seller so that it links to their copy rather than one sold by the publisher. Authors do not receive royalties on books bought in this way.

When challenged in the US, Amazon said ‘our bookstore now works like the rest of Amazon, where third party sellers compete with Amazon for the sale of new items.’

The SoA joins the Authors Guild of America in expressing our concerns that traditional sales – the ones that pay authors a royalty – would be heavily undermined by such a change, significantly damaging the incomes of publishers, booksellers and authors.

Keeping backlist titles in print may become impractical for many, further diminishing authors’ earnings, and future publications may become unviable, reducing authors’ opportunities.

It is our view that Amazon’s ebook market dominance gives them too much influence over the pricing of books already. As of now we will be campaigning to persuade them to drop this change, and if they don’t then authors will be looking to their publishers to take firm action.

Publishers and ‘Special’ Sales

For a second-hand seller to ‘win’ the right to be listed as the primary seller, the copies they sell have to be in pristine condition. These sellers buy such copies in bulk from publishers at very high discounts, usually authorised when the author signs a contract with clauses like ‘book club and similar’, ‘co-edition’, ‘mail order’, ‘supermarket’, or ‘non-traditional retail outlets’.

Publishers often claim that special sales don’t directly compete with conventional sales. Whether or not one subscribes to that view, Amazon’s proposed change would put them in direct competition. It is our view that, for the sake of individuals and the publishing industry as a whole, publishers should give the author a right to veto any deal that offers an ultra-high discount on copies of their book.


Mel (15/07/2017 12:06)
" This article is a misrepresentation of the issue. Under the first sale doctrine, third party sellers are allowed to sell used books (and DVDs, movies, etc.). Self-published authors: If a third party seller is selling your book, it's one that was already purchased from you - meaning you've already received royalties for it - or one the third party seller will have to purchase from you before they can sell it - at which time you will receive royalties. Or, as is stated in the article, the author signed a contract that allows the publisher to sell their books at huge discounts. If you signed to approve it, you can't really get upset when it happens.

Authors all over the internet are in panic mode due to misrepresentations such as this. I'd encourage authors to do some research before panicking. One author bragged of sending DMCA notices to Amazon, which resulted in the third party seller being suspended while Amazon investigated. That's terribly bad form. It's perfectly legal for third party sellers to sell used books.

The only exceptions to this would be if 1) you sent out paperback review copies that the recipient decided to sell on Amazon (or eBay), or 2) you have remaindered copies out there. Remaindered copies are copies that were stocked on store shelves and didn't sell. Your publisher either instructed those books be returned to the publisher, or destroyed. Some sneaky criminal might decide to sell them on Amazon instead.

This could impact big, as in NY Big 5 publishers and authors to some extent, but small presses and self-published authors don't tend to send paperbacks for review, and unfortunately also don't tend to have an overabundance of books on brick-and-mortar bookstore shelves.

Deep breath. We'll be okay."
Millie Vigor (20/05/2017 12:46)
" Digital publishers and Amazon are in the business of exploiting writers. Should I work for 6 months to a year or longer to produce a manuscript only to find that the digital publisher I am foolish enough to submit to will release it on Amazon who will put it on line for free for five days and after that sell it for pennies. Amazon also make it available free to their subscribers. If that's not exploitation I don't know what is. Because a book is only available on Amazon and not in bookshops there are no copies available for a book launch or signing. How am I supposed to help in providing some publicity?
Millie Vigor"
Neil Behrmann (12/05/2017 09:46)
" The SoA and Guild protests appear to be working:
Regarding my previous comment, I complained to Amazon once again. Here's the response:

"I have investigated your case and I can see that the detail page for the old version has not been removed because the seller is selling used books which were published within the first edition.

Since you claim that all rights to the book were reverted to you and New End Books, I would kindly advise you to report infringement. You can do so via link bellow:

Once you submit the infringement form, it is directly forwarded to the relevant team who are reviewing this kind of issues. After thorough revision of your request, you will be contacted by the relevant department.

Unfortunately, we are not able to remove the incorrect detail page at the moment. We can remove it only after the relevant team reviews your infringement form. In the meantime, I have marked the new edition as the newer version of the old edition so your page is the first one which appears when searching for the product.

I hope that the above explanation brings a little clarity into the matter.

I am very sorry for your inconvenience."
Neil Behrmann (11/05/2017 06:51)
" I have experienced this problem for some time. HandE, my former publisher failed and after full reversion of rights, I took over Trader Jack-The Story of Jack Miner. It is now published as a second edition, under my company New End Books Ltd. Unfortunately the HandE page of the first edition, is the first Trader Jack item, following either a Google or Amazon search. Three booksellers are claiming that they have the book. The HandE page has damaged marketing and sales considerably. Despite several requests, neither Amazon, nor the former MD of HandE have so far responded to several requests to eliminate the page. I also asked Amazon to change the search algorithm, but without success.

I am quite sure that numerous authors are in the same boat, but am unsure what can be done legally.

Grateful for advice

Many thanks

Neil Behrmann"

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