Episode 6: That Time I Sold A Book

365 Dates of Travel with Fran Heap Podcast

Transcript for Episode 6: That Time I Sold A Book

Hello. Welcome to 365 Dates of Travel with Fran. I’m Fran. Welcome to my podcast. 

Introduction

This week I’m going to be talking about book sales. So that time I sold my first book or that time I sold a book, that is what I have done since our last podcast. I have sold books both at work and online, and I had no idea what a minefield though it was going to be. So most of this podcast is in the end, going to be talking about what happened after my book became available online. 

Soft Launch

As I mentioned last week, I did a soft launch, which meant I had everything uploaded before my actual official launch date of the 26 March. So that was to allow time, as everything I’d read said to “iron out all the kinks” and make sure everything’s perfect by the time you’ve actually told people it’s available. Well, no one in all my research ever explained exactly what that meant. Now I know what it meant and it was just awful and I was so confused and it’s just so messy. And I wish I’d known a little bit more about what was potentially about to happen once my book went live on Amazon. 

Live on Amazon

So it took maybe two days, just over two days from the time I pressed go till the time my book appeared on Amazon. But when it first appeared on Amazon, it wasn’t what I was expecting. I just assumed you could buy it from Amazon and it would be available. From my author’s Amazon account, I can see different views for the different websites. So the American website, the Australian website, the UK website, and so forth, directly from one click in my little author dashboard. So this is what I did once I got the confirmation that “your book is now live”. Of course I wanted to see exactly what it looked like. This is what I’ve been waiting for, my book available on Amazon. Not that I told anybody about it. 

And now I understand why you cannot tell anybody about it straight away. So when you’re doing the Amazon process of uploading your book and setting up, you choose prices, and you choose prices for every different country. Or you can set one price and just tell Amazon to base all the other countries on the one price you gave. All that had been set up and was going. 

Third Party Sellers

However, the first time I looked at amazon.com, so the American market, all I could find was a company called Super Book Deals selling my book. They were the only seller. Amazon at that point wasn’t an option. And I was very confused because this Super Book Deal company was saying they had ten copies in stock. I went to my order section or my reporting section and nobody had bought my book yet. So how could this company say they had ten copies of my book in stock. Now, the other point is, they were selling it for $123. I’m like what? How can they sell my book for $123? Nobody’s going to buy my book for $123. I wouldn’t buy my book for $123. I was so confused. They also were saying they had a used copy. Well, unless someone borrowed one of the proof copies from my house, there is no such thing as a used copy. So this opened up a world of extra things I needed to Google to understand what was going on. And I was just so glad nobody knew it was online yet. 

I also went on the UK website and that said, temporarily out of stock. So slightly better than selling at $123. My book is also set as print on demand, which means it doesn’t get printed unless somebody orders it. So temporarily out of stock shouldn’t be something that should come up, because the moment someone presses order, that sends a message to the publisher, the publisher prints it and sends out the book. So it is not something that should be in stock, particularly from some third party seller who I’ve never sold my book to. 

So what I learned from my Google searching, and thankfully, a few of the people who I have learned from leading up to this also had stories on this. I guess I just didn’t know to search for anything along these lines to have ever actually come across the answers and the explanations. But it’s not something that just happened to me. It wasn’t a glitch in the system. This is how things work. 

Any third party seller can pretend they have my book. Basically, they troll through the Internet and find all the new books that have come out. And they add it to their catalog to make their catalog and database look bigger than it is. So they don’t buy my book until someone clicks on the buy link they’ve set up. So if you click on this $123 copy of my book—thank you, but I don’t think I would ever get those royalties—they send an order to Amazon and then they send it on to you. So they don’t have it in stock. They don’t have it in their inventory or anything. It is just literally an online advertising for my book. Or picture of my book, really. It’s not  advertising. It’s a picture of my book that they can access and do whatever they like with once it’s online, which is scary. But the idea is just to make them look like they have anything and everything. 

The super duper price is because they know no one’s going to pay that price. They don’t expect anyone to pay that price. It’s just part of how they make themselves look bigger. They know over time, the official Amazon copies are going to be available, other sellers are going to be available and obviously they can’t keep the book marked at that price. So it wasn’t long, and I’m talking hours before that $123 price just disappeared. 

It seemed to stop at about $18.87 or $18 something. This is American dollars. And that was not the price that I had set. I had set the price at $12.99 in the US market. So $18, obviously lower than $123, but it was still a lot more than I was expecting Americans to pay. So I didn’t want anybody to know that was the price. I would be mortified if someone I knew in America had jumped online because I’d told them it was available and paid the trumped up price of $18 plus shipping unless they were part of all the Amazon Prime and those sort of memberships. I was literally mortified. And so glad though, that technically nobody knew that it was available. 

And I was disappointed about the UK site. I have friends in the UK and it was not available. So I’m glad again that I hadn’t told them it was available and be disappointed when they went to the shop and bought it. 

By the time the price was coming down, other sellers were coming online saying that they had the book as well. I was going backwards and forwards between the American site, the English site and the Australian site. So the Australian site was a lot more stable. I have to say. It never really changed. It was at the price that I set it for both the Kindle and the ebook. And it was only Amazon who was selling it. 

Once the UK version out of stock notification came down, other companies came online being Abe Books and the Book Depository. So these are two sellers I’m pretty sure I’ve bought from over the years. And again, they hadn’t bought my book, but they were selling it and they had the used copy option as well. 

Used or new

My Googling told me that the logic, which isn’t logical if you ask me, to the used book option, it will say, “used book-just like new”. And the reason it’s just like new is because it’s not a used book. They’re trying to say that because they’re a second seller, so Amazon’s the first seller and then these third party sellers is the second seller that they can advertise it as a used book. 

I will definitely never buy a book the same way again. Please. When you’re shopping, look at every possible option you have to decide what you’re going to buy. But I can say if it is a book that is published with Amazon, buying directly from Amazon will most likely be the best or the most accurate price, particularly when it comes to what amount the author is going to be paid from each book.  

Changing prices

Amazon can actually make the price cheaper if they want to. Again, which I didn’t learn until I was looking into it after I’d pressed “Go Live”, but it’s very clear everybody who had something about this online said the royalties to the authors don’t change. So it’s up to Amazon to give up its payment, basically. So if it sees that a book is selling well, it will drop the price to increase the sales even further, to encourage more people to buy it and make it even more popular and then later go back up to the original price. So, in a way, Amazon’s trying to help you make extra sales in that way. And like I said, everyone was very clear that it didn’t change your royalties. It was Amazon giving up some of its money in the hope that by selling more, they would end up with a higher percentage overall. 

I also learnt that sometimes the price you see on the page isn’t the best price. You might assume it’s the best price. I think I have always assumed that they would advertise the lowest price. But if there’s that new and that used little tiny buttons underneath the bigger button giving the price, then it is worth looking at those, because third party sellers can actually “bid for the button” or something like that it’s called. This means they can pay money to have their price set as the default price. But it doesn’t mean that’s the cheapest price or the Amazon price. So what I was seeing with my book over those first few days was that it was third party sellers dictating what the price was. Amazon didn’t even appear until further down the track. 

It’s about location

I then also learned that because I’m not located in America or the UK, they were sometimes only showing me sellers that would post the book from the UK or the US to Australia, which Amazon doesn’t do. Amazon will only ship it to Australia from its Australian website. So it was a little bit of an over panic potentially, because I wasn’t seeing Amazon UK or Amazon America as an option for people to buy, because that wasn’t an option to be shipped to my address. Even though I was the author and I was looking at it through my author dashboard, it still didn’t give me an accurate vision of what people in America or what people in the UK were seeing. So I have to admit, I’m not sure when Amazon became available for either of those sellers. I’m assuming it’s there now. It’s definitely there on the Australian website and so, fingers crossed, everything has sorted itself out. But it was extremely scary for a while. 

Owned by Amazon

Just an FYI I mentioned earlier, Abe Books and Book Depository, again, in my research I discovered, even though it looks like they’re a third party seller, they’re both actually owned by Amazon. I’m assuming they were different companies started by somebody else, and later Amazon has bought them. But I could be wrong. So either way you’re still buying from Amazon, if you buy through Abe Books or Book Depository. 

Amazon Prime and Next Day Delivery Factors

The other reason that Amazon doesn’t come up as the first available place to buy my book even though the publisher is Amazon for all the copies sold on Amazon, is because they’re offering people around the world with their Amazon Prime and next day delivery and all these sort of things. They can’t provide that service as soon as a book becomes available online. So it may take a day or two or three or even four for Amazon to show up as Amazon as an option to buy, because in the background, they are secretly printing their own copies of the books in their varying locations. So the UK office is printing books in the UK. The American office is printing books in America. So that if someone buys the book and they have access to that guaranteed next day delivery, or they want to pay for that next day delivery, that the books are already in stock, so they can send it out. 

If they wait for an order to come in and then have to press print and then post it, then they’re unlikely to be able to fulfill their promise of next day delivery. So it’s for their benefit, has nothing to do with me, and I don’t get any charges for those books that they’ve bought, and they don’t appear as sales until they’re actually sold. 

So potentially there are copies of my books out there that Amazon has in its warehouses around the world that may never see the light of day. I mean, hopefully someone buys them before they get to the point where they go to the shredder. But I will get no money for those books. And Amazon is taking the responsibility of printing those books and whatever will happen to them. Once someone orders the book, then Amazon will attribute the sale to my account and they’ll send the book out to that customer with a happy next day delivery guarantee. 

So again, I had no idea that was possible. And that’s why the third party sellers come online first because they don’t have those guarantees and promises to any of their clients. So once someone buys the book, they just send Amazon a message, Amazon prints it and they send it out without having to do it within that sort of 24 hours next day time frame. So to them, it doesn’t matter that they don’t have the book already in print.

Will I change the plan for my next book launch?

The more I looked into everything, the worse it got. I had some people saying it can take a couple of weeks for the pricing to settle down, which is just ridiculous. Everything I’d heard was no more than a week for a soft launch. Some are only doing two or three days before their official launch date and I definitely would not feel comfortable doing two or three days for my next book. I think I will stick with the one week. As far as I can tell, everything was sorted out over the week. That was my soft launch to my official launch. So I will most likely do something very similar or 95% the same as what I have done with this book for my next book. 

But I’m really glad my next book is going to be so easy compared to this first book. All the learning curve has been done and it’s been steep and constant, but thankfully I never have to learn everything again. Obviously other things will come up that hasn’t happened this time around, but the main big things I already know and I’ll never have to relearn and the next launch is going to be so much more relaxing. I’ll let you know in June if that is actually true, or if it was just as scary and frightening as the first one. 

Launch Day Sales

I did get some sales on Launch Day, which was very exciting. And Launch Day obviously goes around the world because Launch Day in Australia and Launch Day in America are two different dates, but the American sales on that date do end up transferring back into the Australian time sales. So it looks like it happened on the 26 March rather than actually being the 27 March by the time it was ordered here in Australia. 

So that was very exciting. It’s the first time, I mean, I’ve obviously looked around on my author dashboard and different pages and accounts and obviously the sales page was always very blank. So it was very exciting to actually see some sales on there. And you get a little estimate of your royalties and the amount of books that have been bought. It doesn’t tell you well, not at this point anyway, where the books have been bought from, or what type of book. Based on the royalties that I’m seeing, I’m assuming the books that have been bought online are ebooks, which is good because obviously you can’t buy ebooks directly from me, although there are ways of doing that, but we’re not going down that track anytime soon. So I’m just assuming they’re ebook sales, because there is a higher return on an ebook sale than there is a paperback sale. So we’ll see what happens over time with all the sales and what happens. I was just thrilled to actually get sales on Launch Day. 

The other thing is actually they’re guaranteed to be ebook sales because paperback sales will not turn up in my account as a sale until they’ve actually been shipped. So if someone orders, it could be a couple of days or longer before it actually ships and it won’t turn up into my account until it’s shipped from the warehouse. 

There is a definite delay. You cannot sit there on launch day watching sales come in because you’re unlikely to see any or many. But it doesn’t mean that sales haven’t occurred. It’s just if they’re paperback books, they will not show up till further down the track. And sometimes it can apparently take up to a month, not necessarily with Amazon, but with any sort of book distributor, to actually see a sale appear in your account. So it’s not a live update that you can see and you can follow along with. 

Sofitel Hotel

Hence why in the end, it didn’t matter that I had been rostered on for the night shift on the Saturday night before my Sunday launch. At first I was disappointed. I did not request to work the night before my book launch. But that’s what I was rostered on for. And then I realised it didn’t really matter. There was nothing I actually had to do on Launch Day. I wasn’t having a Launch Party, obviously that would have been different. It was just the day it became hopefully available everywhere that I’d hoped to be able to sell it. 

So it didn’t matter that I slept most of the day and it didn’t matter that I decided to treat myself and checked into the Sofitel Hotel for the night to celebrate my achievement of reaching book launch. And that was a really fun thing to do and I’m really glad I did it. So it may become a tradition from now on. We’ll see. But I’d always wanted to stay in that hotel. I remember when it opened back in 1981 and I used to check out the lobby, scared to go in when I was a pre-teen going into the city to meet friends on the weekends. So it was very exciting to actually walk through and stay there and it is absolutely beautiful. I can highly recommend a night at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne. 

Ingram Spark – other distributor

Amazon is not the only distributor that I’m working with. The other company I’m working with is, from my perspective, is more for book sales into bookstores and libraries because a lot of bookstores and libraries don’t buy from Amazon, which I completely understand. It also has another ebook distribution channel which will get it into other places again that aren’t Amazon, such as Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and so forth. And I think in particular, it’s the place that will probably take a month, if not more, to actually see sales. And I will admit I’ve had no sales through that channel at this time, but I believe it is the one that is the slowest to actually tell me that somebody has bought my paperback or my ebook. 

Libraries

Every day in this soft launch period, I was Googling my book to see what came up when I searched for it and what other people might see when they were searching for it. And every day something different would come up that wasn’t there the day before. So one day I was very surprised to find that a library in California was advertising my book as something they could lend. So for free. It was the ebook version, not the paperback version. But again, there were no sales, which obviously now I know probably won’t show up for a while, even if they have been made. But I was so confused. How can they have my book in the library catalog in a town in California? 

More Googling ensued and I found my answer. There are a multitude of companies out there which this other distributor besides Amazon, called Ingram Spark, can place my ebook with. And I had no idea everywhere was so many options. So one of the options is that it goes to a company that has access, I guess, to all the ebooks that are possible to be downloaded. And so it’s added all the ebooks that are potentially available to their catalog. And then libraries can access that catalog, pushing it into their library catalog. It doesn’t mean they’ve paid for anything. But if somebody goes to that library, searches for my book and clicks it, as in they want to borrow it, then the library is charged by this third party company who is then going back to my distributor to buy the book. 

Don’t ask me what sort of price royalty I will get from that or what it costs. I have absolutely no idea. I do know for paperback books, libraries are charged basically two and a half times the full cost of the paperback book. So selling to libraries is almost like selling five copies of your paperback book. Obviously a lot more than five people might read your book, but it’s a good rate of royalty for a book. 

Bookstores

What is the worst royalty price for a book? Which surprised me and kind of horrifies me, is a bookstore. If you buy my book in a bookstore, so in an Australian bookstore where the price has been set as $24.95, out of that $24.95, I will get $0.28. So any book bought in a bookstore, I will only receive $0.28, which is horrifying. There’s no way I can charge any more for the book. I already feel bad charging $24.95 for the book. But you have GST and Ingram Spark trying to make profit. In the bookstore case, you have the printing costs and obviously the bookstore has to make money. 

So bookstores, I mean, I would oh, it would be amazing to walk in a bookstore and find my book on the shelf. That would be absolutely completely be a dream come true. But on the other side, I don’t know if it’s necessarily a good thing. Definitely not good financially. So if all my book sales end up being from bookstores, I will have to sell literally thousands or even millions to make any sort of salary. So I will not be leaving nursing anytime soon. 

Prolific Writer

I decided very early on that I was never going to be or didn’t want to be a one book wonder. Even if it was bestseller, it wasn’t what I was wanting from my career as a writer. I would much rather be a prolific writer. Obviously, if one of my books becomes a bestseller, then that is fantastic. But I would want to keep following it up with lots of books. And I’ve said all along, my travel books are my practice books. I have so many other books that will hopefully be written and coming out in the years to come. 

Creative Brain

It’s like every week I come up with a whole different series of books. It’s just once your creative brain gets started, or mine anyway, it just doesn’t stop. I basically plotted out a whole series of books last week just based on an idea I got from an unsolicited email. It’s one of those ad emails that you get in your Google account or your Gmail account, and from that one email, there’s literally basically six, seven, eight book series that I’ve come up with, with a brilliant ending. I’m really happy with the ending, but I got the idea from the email. Within half an hour I had it planned out and that was before work. And so I’m driving to work and the ending comes to me and I’m just thrilled with it. So watch this space. There’s lots of things coming and my creative brain cannot be turned off now it has been started. 

Ebooks Only?

So obviously the more books you have, the more chance you’ve got of making some money. And look, I have to admit, I want to see paperbacks of my book, but down the track, I don’t believe all my books will have a paperback version. There’s just a lot more involved with the paperback, and it definitely has lower financial gains for the extra stress and situations that you have to deal with being a paperback. So some of my books down the track will probably only ever come out as an ebook. 

A comment I read from one author was interesting. The only reason he offers the option of a paperback is so that people who buy the ebook feel like they’re getting a discount because you can sell the ebook for a cheaper amount because no printing costs. And the royalties are higher because there’s no printing costs and no postage and things like that. So I just find that funny. That’s the only reason he does it, because it’s definitely a cheaper price than the paperback. And actually the author will get a higher amount of royalties from each copy sold. 

I can see why a lot of people don’t even bother with a paperback. So we’ll see what happens. It’s hard because obviously I don’t want to see bookstores closing down because I love going into bookstores. I love going into libraries, and it’s different. I do read a lot of ebooks, but I do like to read a paperback at the same time, and I like to pick up paperbacks and hold them. And if people stop making paperbacks, then bookstores aren’t going to stay open. Bookstores are already struggling, even though they take more money than the author does for each book they sell. It’s going to be interesting what happens. But I can absolutely understand why some writers don’t offer paperbacks for their books.

Wrap-up

So there’s a little bit of an insight into what my last week has been like and what I’ve had to go through in order to sell some books. But I’m very proud to say I have made sales, therefore I have made money from my writing, from selling my books. So I can very proudly say I am a paid author. Yay. It’s very exciting. And, yes, thank you for coming along with my journey. 

I hope something I’ve said tonight has been interesting. I know I will never buy a book the same way again, and I’m guessing maybe some of you will think a little bit more about what you’re doing when you’re buying a book, and how to buy the book, or where to buy the book. It’s definitely been an interesting learning curve this last week. 

Thank you!

And just a quick shout out to those people out there who have bought my book. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. You have made my dreams come true.

Next week, we’re back to the regular programming, where I will be reading dates from the December chapter of the book, “365 Dates of Travel: The First Six Months, which is, of course, now out in varying places, as you’ve heard tonight. So I will leave it there by wishing you an interesting day.

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