It’s been a couple of days since I got to this series, and in that time I’ve been doing (a) my day job, including a quick trip to talk to folks at the Rochester Institute of Technology about their very ambitious plans to incorporate writing into a range of endeavors there, and (b) obsessively doing what every author should not do:
Checking Amazon on an hourly basis to see what has happened to their book’s ranking. Newton and the Counterfeiter hasn’t even been officially published yet (the due date is June 4), but Amazon has been taking pre-orders for a while and started shipping copies last week.
Now trust me — and I’ll write more about this as the inevitable psychosis deepens — it is unbelievably stupid to look at the Amazon rank, if for no other reason that leaps or falls of thousands can turn on one or a handful of sales of yours or someone else’s book. It is also terribly hard not to do.
But that’s not what got my goat when I noticed this on Thursday, on one of my six or fourteen refreshes of the page. It is what showed up in the line just below the delivery notice at the top of the page. That’s where Amazon offers you the choice of other vendors…”x new” starting at some price, $16.50 for Newton as I write this… — .and then five used (as of this morning) starting at $14.25.
Now remember — the book is not yet officially out. Most brick and mortar booksellers don’t have copies. Those few hundred brave souls who pre-ordered theirs from Amazon or another online retailer are receiving their copies more or less now. So where could these “used” copies be coming from?
From the book trade itself — from people who have received advance copies for review. Now these are unsolicited copies, in one sense (that is, mostly potential reviewers/opinion makers don’t ask to be sent one particular book.
But at the same time, accepting these books does carry, it seems to me, an implicit obligation: you get a free book, and if you don’t choose to take notice of it, at least do it no harm. Don’t take it down to your corner used book website and undercut whatever meager hopes of a profit-making sale anyone so foolish as to write a trade book may yet harbor.
Remember. These are free books, sent out to folks, many of them writers themselves, to help create some public interest in new work. The only way that as-new copies show up in the used trade is if someone in the business decides to score a few bucks — and really it’s a trivial sum, maybe five, at most seven or eight for a typical hard cover — before at title has had even a month or so out in the market to see if it can get a little traction.
So this is my diary for the day: here I am, on the Sunday of a long weekend, supposed to be relaxing with a beer in one hand, and a good book that I actually paid for in another — and instead I’m cursing some unknown person, even money or better another writer, who has just in some small way stabbed me in the back.
You know who you are, whoever fobbed off your copy of Newton and the Counterfeiter to somebody flogging it for $2.25 below the deepest discounted legitimate price. I hope that the price of a burger was worth it. And I will keep my deepest hopes for the fate of your next book, if ever it comes into existence, discreetly to myself.