Publishing Behind-the-Scenes: Pricing

November 11th, 2014 by Potato

I have a few posts on the publishing process in the drafts folder, but I don’t plan on getting into that until a month or two after the book is released. However, I did want to talk briefly about pricing because I’m worried about a potential scam and other issues with the retailer listings of The Value of Simple.

The potential scam is that Indigo has a “used and rare” edition of the Value of Simple for sale. Rare is right — there are precisely 8 copies in existence* that are not currently in front of me. However, unless one of three reviewers has decided to flip their copy, the others are either accounted for or are still in the mail. The odds that someone actually has a copy at this point to be selling used is virtually zero — and they’re charging more for the used one than a new one, which also suggests a scam attempt.

The other pricing issue is that I set up the book’s barcode to encode a Canadian price of $16.95. It says in plain text “Canada $16.95” on the back (which you can clearly see in the back cover image on Amazon). It is listed (from what I can see) in Ingram’s distribution catalog as having a Canadian price of $16.95, and the Library and Archives Canada ISBN service has it at $16.95. The price, in other words, is clearly intended to be $16.95 in Canada. Yet Indigo has it at an “online price” of $17.05 (“regular $17.95”) and at a whopping $19.xx! I’m not too concerned about ten cents at Indigo, so I haven’t been bugging them, but Amazon could make people angry by charging so much more than the clearly labelled price (and I don’t want them angry with me!)

It seems that there’s a behind-the-scenes aspect to Canadian pricing that I wasn’t told and didn’t consider: Amazon, and maybe even Chapters, may not pay the Canadian price when they buy the book wholesale from the distributor. Often, books have what I sometimes call “FU Canada” pricing, where the price is higher in Canada, and by a fair bit more than the fair exchange rate would suggest. I figured this is my book and it’s not for Americans so I wouldn’t set a USD price at all. At the last stage in listing it with Ingram for distribution I found I had to include a US price (their “choose only those markets you wish to distribute to” turned out to mean “choose only those markets in addition to the US that you wish to distribute to”). So, on the fly, I set a price a bit higher than simply the fair exchange rate (also to try to discourage an unwary US bookstore owner who didn’t read the description closely enough from ordering it and disappointing an American buyer). This seems to have backfired as now the Canadian stores (and are using prices higher than what’s listed. I’ve tried contacting Amazon. I had a friend try contacting Amazon as a concerned customer, and they told him the “manufacturer” (I thought for books the term was printer or publisher?) set $19.xx as the MSRP and they do not “fix the price.” Retailers are of course free to set their own prices above MSRP if they so choose and can make money doing it, but I don’t like the fact that Amazon seem to be saying that $19.xx** is the MSRP when clearly — clearly — it is not. Update: Amazon has lowered the price to $17.05. Close enough.

Hopefully that will get sorted out after release. And while I will welcome any sale through Amazon, so far I’m only linking to the (correct!) [the Kindle listing was correct out of the box:] Kindle listing because I don’t feel right pointing people to a price that’s incorrect by such a margin.

In the meantime, if you’d like to order a copy at the “proper” price of $16.95 (plus a nickle in rounding fees) there’s always my own store — and pre-orders will get free shipping and no tax. After the pre-order period though, if you have a lot of things on your shopping list (or even just multiple copies of the Value of Simple) it may be better to pay slightly more at the retailers because they’ll give you free shipping if your order is large enough (and through dark magicks and unholy pacts they can make a parcel arrive in a day whereas Canada Post will take at least four to deliver the ones I send).

Finally, a while ago (when I was still pushing Potato’s Short Guide to DIY Investing) I set up an author account at Goodreads. The way they handle common names (like mine) is quite frustrating: neither of my books is actually linked to my profile, and despite submitting two trouble tickets with their “librarians”, I’m still listed as authoring just one work: Is That Cat Dead?: And Other Questions about Poison Plants, which I didn’t actually write. I know what you’re thinking: “but Potato, are you sure you didn’t write that? It does sound exactly like the kind of book you would have written in March 2010 when you were procrastinating on submitting your doctoral thesis and were seriously sleep-deprived. You might just not remember.” And ok, there are blocks of time that I can’t really account for during that period, but I’m pretty sure I lost them to StarCraft 2 and Facebook, not writing a book about cats and poison plants.

* Outside of the Ingram printing facility, as I just got the email that the first print run is done.
** The $*.xx here is because the price is fluctuating ($19.34 one day, $19.29 the next), which also suggests that they are doing some funny conversion and mark-up math on the USD price rather than using the CAD price.

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