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More cautions for Australian authors: Amazon reviews and a conspiracy theory.

I don’t know if I’ve missed something people have already commented on in other blogs or forums – should I have known this already?  – anyway, I have just grasped another big problem for Australian authors publishing on Amazon. If your Australian readers are in Amazon.com.au, buy your e-book and leave a review, that is where it will appear. Australian reviews will not appear on the US site. So unless you find a way to get  readers to leave reviews specifically on the US site, your book will languish unattended in the world’s biggest English-language market. Why don’t the Australian reviews appear on the US site? Why has Amazon apparently co-operated in recreating the kind of geo-restrictions which global digital communications was supposed to end?

I am generally not given to conspiracy theories, but it does look to me like some kind of deal was done when Amazon first made a push to enter the Australian market. I recollect there was vast opposition from the regulation publishers and literary players – oh dear no, we don’t want that horrible Amazon behemoth here, we must preserve our national cultural authenticity – now it turns out that the only books available through Amazon here in Australia are Kindle versions.  Since Australian readers have been brainwashed to believe that print books purchased through bookshops are far more worthy than e-books anyway, this ensures that traditional print publishers retain a dominant position in the market.

I worked this out just recently when I was reminded to get hold of the late Bob Ellis’s collected/curated writings, posthumously published in late 2016. bob-ellis-book-coverIt is a collection of previously published articles and personal memoirs, many going back to the 1970s, assembled by his wife Anne Brooksbank as a kind of memorial volume.

Googling, there were plenty of paperback copies available from different booksellers in Australia. The price was uniformly above $30.00. Booksellers’ sites listed only the print version. Kinokuniya in Sydney listed the on-line price at $34.99. At first I thought this referred to an e-book version but no, that was the price if you ordered the print book online as against through the bookstores “card members” price.

As far as I could see, there was NO e-book version available through any of the Australian booksellers. As I have a firm policy of never ever buying a print version if there is an e-version available, I thought I would try Amazon.  I have always kept the Amazon.com US site as my main site. So there it was: Bob Ellis In His Own Words at $11.87.  That is pretty high for a Kindle book, but way better than $34 or $35. And yes, there is a Kindle version on the Australian site, at $16.14. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited in Australia, for subscribers. But the US paperback is priced at US$34.99, which would make it over $40 for an Australian purchaser who would then also have to pay the very expensive postage.

So somehow Amazon is able to trade in Australia without significantly disturbing the traditional publishing ecology. Publishers and booksellers maintain the impression that there are no e-book versions. Amazon offers a Kindle version in Australia, but no print version, and in the US the print version is priced too high for any Australian purchaser to bother with it. A kind of cartel agreement, or just a happy accident to keep the Australian publishers happy? Whatever, the total effect is to disenfranchise Australian authors trying to write and publish outside the limits of the good-old-boys-and-girls publishing environment in Australia. So if you want to be a success at independent publishing, you really need to get up there on the US site and attract the  US readers. Your e-book will turn up on the Australian Amazon site but only if the reader knows to look for it there.  How this assists our national cultural authenticity I don’t know, especially when Australian publishers are unwilling to publish anything from new writers and are reducing their lists all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by firstly deciding not to make any self-published Create Space books available in Australia

Create Space and Australian Authors: Amazon replies -“Expanded Distribution”

After finally getting that Australian author’s titles printed on Create Space would not be available in the Amazon Australian store, I decided to ask why not. Here’s the answer:

“We do not currently distribute to Amazon.au. We welcome future opportunities for new international marketplaces helping you reach more customers worldwide.

“We offer an option to enroll eligible titles in the Expanded Distribution Channel at no cost.  Enrolling can allow your book to appear on Amazon Australia or on any of the other sites not directly supported through us at the moment. The availability of your books on these sites is at the discretion of retailers who purchase your books through the Expanded Distribution Channel. We cannot guarantee your book(s) will appear on Amazon Australia.

Once you have successfully enrolled your title in Expanded Distribution, it may take up to six to eight weeks for your title to begin populating in the distribution channels you have selected.”

Right, so even if I do enrol in Expanded Distribution that doesn’t guarantee that my book will be on the Australian Amazon site, and it may take two months to turn up on any of the distribution channels which may decide to list the book.  WHAT???

I have read lots of threads on forums and blogs trying to explain what all this means and I already knew that there was a very important reason why you SHOULDN’T enrol your Create Space printed book with Amazon’s Expanded Distribution. No booksellers or libraries will buy it. I found some old notes I’d made to myself months ago explaining why you should print through Ingram Spark if you want to reach these wider channels. I already knew this was a recommended strategy but it still didn’t mean your book would be available at any booksellers in Australia. Ingram Spark doesn’t guarantee your print books will be on bookshelves. It does mean a reader who has already heard of your book can order it from a bookshop. But just in case a bookseller DOES want to stock it you have to set the price for all copies with around a 50% discount.

I someone has already heard of your book, why can’t they buy it from your author website? They can,  but you have to have a Paypal button and then post it to them. That’s a nuisance especially if the books start selling well. You should be so lucky!

The real problem is that most dedicated and enthuiastic Australian readers only find out about books from places like Arts TV shows (yes, Jennifer Byrne et al) or from national newspapers and magazines who only ever talk about trad pub books so they are not going to hear about your book or find your website in the first place. Unless you are writing about golf, or fishing, and advertise your book in specialist magazines. I hear that can work really well.

But if you are writing literary fiction or at least decent genre fiction you are out on a flimsy limb.hawk_out_on_a_limb_at_lake_woodruff_-_flickr_-_andrea_westmoreland Australian traditional publishers don’t want authors who haven’t gone through the secret accreditation process which dominates the business. Australian agents won’t represent them. They can write books and publish them on Amazon but Amazon won’t sell the print copies in Australia. Australian booksellers stick with the traditional imprints, mostly from the Big Five international houses. Many dedicated Australian readers can’t or don’t do e-books and/or hate Amazon because they’ve been told that Amazon is the enemy.

In the US, the large chain bookstores are in trouble: Borders closed, and Barnes and Noble is struggling. Lonely authors wait for someone – anyone – to come and buy their books.

borders
“Snooki” Polizzi: a reality TV star turned author – actually she is doing quite well even if Borders is no longer with us

Small independent publishing seems the way to go, but how to get the books into the bookshops where Australian readers still want to shop for books? Dedicated readers seem to love their bookshops here. But booksellers needs books which are in some way curated for quality:  you can be sure they don’t want badly written junk with naked alpha billionaires on the cover. Whichever way you look, it’s a minefield.