I woke up one morning about a month ago to find that An Enemy Like Me was listed as "temporarily out of stock" on Amazon. Of course, I immediately contacted my publisher. Unfortunately, not only could they do nothing, but the situation grew worse.
The Initial Situation Explained
I am an independent author who has chosen a hybrid publisher (Atmosphere Press) to help get my books into print. This has been a wonderful relationship so far, and they've been very helpful, especially in terms of running all the technical things related to putting my book on Amazon and other retail sites. I've always been grateful that I didn't have to learn the back end. Trust me when I say that I have enough to do with writing and marketing!
I chose to have An Enemy Like Me printed through Ingram Sparks. There are several reasons, and I'll go over these later in the post. With Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, I chose to use KDP. I had no reason other than I didn't even know I had another choice. I was clueless when publishing my first.
All was going along smoothly for about six months, and then I noticed that Amazon had the book listed as "temporarily out of stock." This makes no sense because, as a print on demand book using a print on demand service, the book is always available. So, I did what I always do when there is what I thought was a technical problem. I contacted my publisher.
What I Learned
Atmosphere Press put in a ticket for Ingram Sparks. Ingram got back to them, stating the following:
I can appreciate the frustration and the disappointment caused by how Amazon is listing the title.
As you can see, there was little I could do. Ingram Sparks said they had no control. Amazon stated that it had to do with demand. However, this was not true because An Enemy Like Me was selling as well as Sunflowers Beneath the Snow (KDP/Amazon printer) and had no issues. They suggested that if the book had 'more demand,' then they might change it. No guarantee. Of course, there couldn't be greater demand because anyone going to purchase it would see that it was out of stock and change their mind.
Another option was to allow for unlimited returns. This is really hard for small authors like me because I take on a lot of risk. Bookstores could purchase the book, and then return them because they didn't sell. However, they don't really return them. They just dispose of them. This means that I have to pay back Amazon for the books sold AND I don't even get the product back. Plus, even allowing for those kinds of returns was no guarantee that Amazon would list An Enemy Like Me as in stock.
My First Move
My first move was to ask my readers to 'generate interest." I sent out a newsletter and put a plea on social media for people to go to the An Enemy Like Me listing and click on it, save the book for later, add a review, and simply search for it on Amazon. I hoped this would increase the interest level and get Amazon to rethink their strategy. Unfortunately, it didn't work.
I also contacted Amazon on my own. They refused to speak to me because I was not the publisher.
I asked my publisher to speak directly to Amazon. They were told that the reason might (once again, nothing definite) be that we had lowered the price for a sale and then raised it back up. If I agreed to lower the price permanently, it was possible that the book could potentially be listed as available again. Of course, no guarantees.
I even considered adding "This book is print on demand and always available" to the listing. However, before I could give that a try, Amazon went one step further. An Enemy Like Me was no longer available as a print publication unless through a third party reseller.
#researchjunkie to the Rescue
Now, I was angry. A big company like Amazon could really hurt a small author for no real reason and offering me no recourse. I just had to deal with it. Except, I don't just deal with things. Instead, I began to research. Certainly, I was not the first author that had this happen to them.
I learned that Amazon could do what they wanted. But I also learned something else. They rarely, if ever, stopped selling a book printed by KDP - their own company. With An Enemy Like Me already with Ingram Sparks, did I have any options? Why, yes! Yes, I did!
I learned that a book can have more than one printer, and that it was not only possible, but likely better, to have both Ingram Sparks and KDP as printers for the book. So, once again, I contacted Atmosphere Press with my findings and an article explaining how to do it, and they responded, stating that, yes, they could help. So, as of today, An Enemy Like Me has both a KDP and an IS listing and is available on Amazon for print.
I do not understand all the ins and outs. I do know that because we waited so long between the Ingram Sparks printing and the KDP printing, that I needed another ISBN number. However, we were able to connect them both to my author profile AND keep all my reviews. I'm told that if we use Ingram at first and then add KDP on the day the book launches, I won't need two ISBN numbers for Daughters of Green Mountain Gap. I'll keep you posted.
Why Authors Need Both
You may be wondering why an author would choose to print with both KDP and Ingram Sparks. If Amazon doesn't like IS, then why not just stick with KDP? Here's what I've learned over the last 18 months.
KDP is the Amazon printing arm. When an author prints through KDP, they get the following benefits;
So, when you use both, you get everything. In fact, by listing both, even if KDP gets backlogged in printing, they will order through IS, meaning the book is more likely to arrive in a timely manner.
I highly recommend that independent authors use both KDP and IS. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
I also want to thank Cameron Finch at Atmosphere Press for all her hard work helping me get this entire fiasco under control.
Teri M Brown, author of An Enemy Like Me and Sunflowers Beneath the Snow connects readers with characters they'd love to invite to lunch.
Follow the Blog Using the RSS Feed link below: