Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's Going on With Amazon and Lightning Source? I'll Be Moving My Book to CreateSpace

I really don't like being treated like I am irrelevant, even if I am. I don't like being told what to do. Does anyone? For the most part, I like Amazon. As an Amazon customer I have no complaints. Amazon deserves its reputation as a customer centric business. 

As a CreateSpace customer I have no complaints. There have been problems at times, but CreateSpace has always resolved the problem to my satisfaction. Today, in a day and age where talking to a human on the phone to resolve a customer problem is rare, I talked to not one, but three, CreateSpace employees! Questions answered and issue resolved in less than 7 minutes!

Right now I am not very happy with Amazon as a tiny self-publisher. My best selling book, Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball, is my lone book with Lightning Source. June is a terrible month for books sales for me, yet this title sold briskly. In fact, Amazon sold out its entire stock of the book.

At the time, I watched with interest as the number of books listed as remaining in stock dwindled, and in the month of June no less! Then it happened. The dreaded notice of ships in 2 to 3 weeks appeared. Amazon did not order copies to replace those it had just sold.

To make matters worse, August is when coaches go back to school and sales for this title begin to pick up with a peak for the year in the months of October, when practice starts, November and December. Now is not the time for this book to not be available.

Thank goodness for the Kindle version as it is selling well, but I still sell about 4 POD copies to each Kindle copy. At least I did until Amazon seemingly pulled the plug on Lightning Source.

It would seem I am not the only author experiencing this change with books printed and distributed through Lightning Source. Amazon has quietly been allowing its stock of books from LSI to sell out and then list as shipping in two or three weeks. Amazon is not talking about this current business tactic and there are quite a few self-published authors who use LSI and rely on Amazon for the bulk of their sales. LSI, when asked, is not more forthcoming with details either.

After following the ongoing discussion at the POD Publishers group on Yahoo, I have decided to utilize what Aaron Shepard refers to on his blog post on this important subject as Plan B. I am moving my book to CreateSpace for Amazon sales and leaving the title at LSI for Barnes and Nobles sales. I won't make as much per copy, but I will be selling copies.

Barnes and Noble does not generate very many sales for any of my titles and I doubt, after spending 2.5 years of "Aiming at Amazon" I can drive my sales to B and N in time to take advantage of the annual peak buying season for this title. I think my time and efforts are better spent writing more books and doing other things.

I have worked to hard to let this book die before it is ready. As of this morning it held the number four spot in the search rankings for books on the topic of coaching basketball. With no sales in the last three weeks, it won't be long before the title begins to decline in its sales ranking.

One consolation is I will be able to obtain copies directly from CreateSpace at a lower cost per copy than LSI. I sell copies when I speak at coaching clinics so this is an advantage of sorts. At least that is what I am telling myself.

More than the slightly lower profit per copy, I don't like being forced to go to "Plan B." I don't like being not informed by Amazon what is going on and I like even less like my tiny publishing firm are unimportant (though in the grand scheme of things it is and I know it). This is my business. I have worked hard and invested many hours and money that could have been spent elsewhere.

I am certain I am not the only self-published author who has watched in horror the events of the past four to six weeks as Amazon has put this plan into effect. Our efforts matter to us and Amazon could at least communicate in some form what is happening and if this is a permanent change or not.

In the mean time, I don't feel like I have a choice. This book is too valuable to me to let it die because of a change in Amazon stocking policy. So, I will do what must be done and make the change.

Amazon, love it and hate it. What's a self-publisher to do? Even if CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, at least I like them and you can talk to someone at CreateSpace.