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Here's the general question: How does a book published via CreateSpace end up being sold blindingly fast by other booksellers?

I edited two self-help books, one targeted to small businesses and the other to Christian leaders. Both authors published through CreateSpace. Author #1 used his own imprint; and author #2 used the CreateSpace imprint. Within days (or maybe even hours?) of going live on Amazon, both books were offered via other booksellers on Amazon on the new and used reseller page.

For example, the business book is being resold by Any Book, Brooke Books, and Wordery USA. The Christian leadership book is being resold by PBShop UK, Books Mela, and Peach Media.

Neither author has done anything special to promote their book. I.e., just announcements on their websites and emails to their subscribers.

Here are the specific questions:

  1. How and why does that happen?
  2. Are those resellers buying the books at a discount from Amazon?
  3. What is the impact on author royalties?
3

They make their profit either by buying at a discount the same as other retailers, or by selling at a premium to buyers who don't notice that the book is available at a lower price.

How they buy books:

  • At the retail price from CreateSpace's or Amazon's store, same as any other retail customer.
  • At the wholesale price (60% discount from retail price) through CreateSpace's extended distribution program, same as any other retailer.

How they do this:

  • They use automation or cheap labor to watch CreateSpace, and when a new book appears, they use automation or cheap labor to list it. So their cost to list a new book is very, very low.
  • Because the books they list are print-on-demand, they do not need to stock books. So their cost to carry a book in their "inventory" is very, very low.
  • They often apply a large markup. I have seen some of my $4.99 books listed at $30 or more.

Why they do this: Their costs are so low that they can make a profit even at very low volume, even at very low markup.

How this affects your royalties: Your royalty is the same as any other book sold through CreateSpace (retail or wholesale) or Amazon:

  • If the bookseller buys the book through CreateSpace's retail store, you get the same royalty as if CreateSpace had sold the book to any other retail customer (list price minus printing costs).
  • If the bookseller buys from Amazon, you get the same royalty as if Amazon had sold the book to any other retail customer (list price, minus Amazon's 40% cut, minus printing costs).
  • If the bookseller buys through CreateSpace's extended distribution program, you get the same royalty as if CreateSpace had sold the book to any other retailer (list price, minus the retailer's 60% "extended distribution" discount, minus printing costs).
  • 2
    Key point: Most of these on-line sellers don't stock any books. They find a book is available, they list it, if someone buys it, they get a copy and ship it. I've seen my books turn up available as "used" within days of being published. Either someone ordered a copy, read it the day it arrived in the mail and promptly put it up for sale as used, or they're just listing used copies because they think people will assume that's a bargain. – Jay Apr 28 '16 at 14:01
  • Thanks for adding that, Jay. Another thing I neglected: Some of these sellers may be legit booksellers, buying through the usual distribution channels just like any other book store. When you use CreateSpace's extended distribution, your book is added to distribution lists that go to lots and lots and lots of booksellers. – Dale Hartley Emery Apr 28 '16 at 21:45
  • Yes. I have no evidence that any of these pass-through sellers are actively dishonest, but I'm not sure what added value most of them provide. If someone creates a book-selling website that provides information about books not available elsewhere, like reviews and criticism, methods of finding books you may like, etc, that could be a service that has value and for which they deserve to be compensated, even if they don't really process orders. ... – Jay Apr 29 '16 at 4:41
  • ... If a company stocks books that sell well, but in order to give their customers a bigger selection they also list books that they don't stock and for these that just essentially forward the order to Amazon, there's nothing inherently dishonest about that. Etc. I judge any vendor by the net quality of the product or service I end up getting compared to the price they charge. How they get there may be amusing but is ultimately irrelevant. – Jay Apr 29 '16 at 4:42
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I am in the process of removing 60 alternate seller pages. Those 60 pages are reporting zero sales on those alternate ASIN numbers. They are selling new copies despite there being no expanded distribution on those titles.

The pages correspond to titles sold on Amazon.cn which is a small percentage of my titles. The pages correspond to reports of what are probably pirate copies being sold in Asia, Europe and Australia with smudged in and poor printing quality.

Check the alternate Amazon sites like Amazon.uk. There are about 15 such sites.The response from Amazon and from Createspace suggest a conspiracy to defraud authors of royalties. They ignore my questions.

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I have just noticed that Wordery USA and half adozen other companies are selling what they claimed to be used new condition copies of a book that I have just published at about 7 dollars below the retail value. I believe that they are not getting them from expanded distribution because the author (me)has not selected expanded distribution as a distribution option. I think that they are new copies obtained directly from the printer. I have noticed that Amazon have a complex system of bots that checks my site every few hours and puts my books in the purchase cart. Every book. The point of this seems to be to check the final price. I think Amazon uses this system to sell CreateSpace books at a discount and undercut the author and the author's publisher. Because these are being sold as used books the author isn't getting royalties and they are taking the bulk of the sales because they are undercutting the authors.

  • 2
    Welcome to Writers. This is more of a speculation than a response to the question. If you haven't already, please consider watching out site tour to get an idea of how Stack Exchange sites work. – Neil Fein Sep 4 '16 at 17:45

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