Lately I’ve been looking at Amazon’s listing of our book daily, to see if it’s in stock. Finally, today, it is, for the first time ever, a mere 40 days after its release. Not our publisher’s fault at all (A.K. Peters rules, OK?), and the book’s not that popular (AFAIK); it evidently just takes awhile for the books delivered to percolate out into Amazon’s system. Amazon under-ordered, so I believe by the time the books they first ordered made it to the distribution centers, they were already sold out, making the book again out of stock. Lather, rinse, repeat. So maybe I should be sad that it’s now in stock.
Anyway, the amusing part of visiting each day has been looking at the discount given on the book. It’s nice to see a discount at all, as Amazon didn’t discount our previous book for the first few years. With the current 28% discount, it means our new edition is effectively $5 less than the previous edition’s original price. Which cheers me up, as I like to imagine that students are saving money; my older son will be in college next year, and any royalties I make from our book will effectively get recycled over the next four years in buying his texts. His one book for a summer course this year was a black & white softbound book, 567 pages, and cost an astounding (to me) $115, and that was “discounted” from $128.95. I’m now encouraging my younger son to skip college and go into the lucrative field of transistor repair.
Amazon’s discount has varied like a random walk among four values: 0%, 22%, 28%, and 33%. Originally, in July, it was list price, then the discount was set at 33% (so Amazon was paying more for the book than they were selling it for), then back to normal, then 33%. Around August 14th I started checking once a week or so and also looking at Associates sales (a program I recommend if you’re a book author, as it’s found money – it pays for this website). Again the book went back to no discount, then on August 20th started at 0%, went to 22% off, then 33% off, all in the same day. The next day there was no discount, then the day after it went back to 33%. August 28, when I checked again, it was at 22%, and this discount held through the end of the month. On September 1st it went up to 28% off, and there it’s been for a whole 9 days.
The oddest bit was that, in searching around for prices (Amazon’s is indeed the best, at least as of today), I noticed that the first edition of our book, from 1999, sells used for twice as much or more than our new book. Funny world.
By the way, if you are looking to write a book and want to understand royalties and going rates a little bit better, see my old article on this topic. Really, it’s not my article, it’s a collection of responses from authors I know. Some of it’s a bit confrontational and might make you a little paranoid, but I think it’s worth a read. If you’re writing technical books to get rich, you’re fooling yourself, but on the other hand there’s no reason to let someone take advantage of you. My favorite author joke, from Michael Cohen via John Wallace, is that there are dozens of dollars to be made writing a book, dozens I tell you. It can be a bit better than that if you’re lucky, but still comes out to about minimum wage when divided by the time spent. But for me it’s a lot more fun and educational work than flipping burgers, and the money is not why we wrote our book. We did it for the wild parties and glamorous lifestyle.
Update: heh, that didn’t last long. I wrote this entry Sept. 9th. As of the 10th, the book is (a) out of stock again and (b) down to a 2% discount. 2%?! Truly obscure.