A Small Plea

Today is October 13, and it marks the first day that Bounty from the Box is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major well-known outlets through which consumers commonly buy books. In many ways, it is a watershed day—what is known in book publicity parlance as the “official release date,” even though Bounty has been available […]

Today is October 13, and it marks the first day that Bounty from the Box is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major well-known outlets through which consumers commonly buy books. In many ways, it is a watershed day—what is known in book publicity parlance as the “official release date,” even though Bounty has been available directly from me for about a month now.

I’d like to make a small plea here: Buy my book directly from me. The reason has to do with economic fairness. Most people don’t know that for me, as a self-published author, entities like Amazon and B&N take anywhere from 40% to 55% wholesale discount right off the top of my book’s retail price of $35.00. That part I will never see, and I cannot negotiate that.

On top of this, most bookstores are reluctant to carry books if they know that they can’t get rid of unsold stock at the end of a season. And rightly so, as they need to make way for newer or better-selling products. So there exists what is called a returns program, in which the bookstore returns unsold books back to the publishing company or self-published author—but it’s at their cost. In other words, I need to pay for having my unsold books shipped back to me. I also pay the costs of them going out to the stores in the first place. And print books tend to be quite heavy; postage and shipping are not cheap. By the time these returns get to me, they are often thumbed-through, battered, and bent, so that is inventory that’s usually unsellable a second time around. Another loss.

So the end result is that by the time all is said and done, it’s very difficult for me to make any money when my books are sold through Amazon and B&N. In fact, with my first cookbook, I actually lost money each time they sold a copy, because it’s not just what’s left over that is my profit—it’s all the costs I incurred to make that book, like the printing, inventory storage, fulfilment, website, marketing and advertising costs, sales staff, and everything else it takes to keep the business of selling books going.

And let me be clear on something: I don’t consider Amazon to be the Ultimate Evil, as many people tend to do. I think Amazon is an incredibly amazing resource in that it allows people all over the globe to easily access millions of print and ebook titles that they might otherwise never hear about. That’s really terrific for us self-published authors. And its customer review system is enormously valuable, potentially enabling readers to make informed decisions before they buy. And let’s face it, not everyone has the money to pay full price for every book they want to acquire. In less affluent times, I myself have purchased many titles (especially used books) over the years from Amazon because I simply couldn’t afford otherwise.

That said, there is another problem with Amazon. It has to do with its habit of slashing prices, especially for its Prime members. I know that within a couple months, Amazon will cut the retail price of my book by several dollars to attract more people to buy it. This tends to happen especially for the holidays or when they want to move product faster. I don’t get less money for these discounted books, as I always get paid the same rate for all of the books I sell to them. But the problem comes when I tell people about my book and its price, and then people immediately (and automatically) go to Amazon and realize they can get it for cheaper there. Before you know it, I’m competing with Amazon for sales of my own book. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Another thing is that the vast majority of bookstores (both chain and local brick-and-mortar) also order from Amazon themselves, or they use big book distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor. That again is an economic decision on their part, and it’s also much easier for them in terms of consolidating accounting. With profit margins being as razor-thin as they are in publishing and bookselling these days, again I don’t blame them. But I also sometimes wholesale my book directly to the local independent bookstores, and there again I run into these realities of numbers, whereby I compete directly with the distributors that take such huge discounts.

You may ask, if I lose so much money this way, why have my book available in Amazon and B&N, and through Ingram and other distributors in the first place? Well, it’s a matter of marketing visibility, consumer accessibility, and how broad book distribution works in North America. Many stores (and libraries too) simply will not carry a book at all if it is not available through Amazon, Ingram, or other major book carriers or distributors. I have approached many stores in the past with my first book, and they refused to even consider it until it was available through the particular suppliers they used.

Average consumers have absolutely no idea that all this is going on behind the scenes. When I tell people about these numbers, they are invariably shocked. People in general want to do “the right thing” and support the author directly. And it’s all a matter of balance—I don’t mind some books selling through Amazon or the larger distributors and big-box stores, but for all the time, capital, and other investments I’ve put into my book over the past few years (and continue to), I certainly would like to reap more of the profits when I can.

So I respectfully ask that if you can afford to, please order the book directly from this website: https://bountyfromthebox.com/buy-book/csa-farm-cookbook/. Or ask your local bookstore to contact me directly at miae@bountyfromthebox.com. That way I get to keep all (or at least a whole lot more) of the profits. Think of it this way: It is no different than using a CSA program to buy your food directly from the farmer, rather than shopping in a grocery store, where much of the money goes to expensive middlemen.

Thank you, and gratitude.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Mi Ae, for methodically bringing to light the backside of booksellers, the challenges of the self-publisher. I laud writers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses for their dedication, and hard work, in bringing their products and services to us. And, I appreciate the folks who tell it like it is, so that we are cognizant of the behind-the-scenes of business, and can make informed decisions about where we want our dollars to go. Kudos! to you.


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