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Amazon fallout: Talking to publishers about being unavailable from the site

by  in Comic News Comment

As reported earlier this week, Amazon.com removed the “buy” button from all of the graphic novels it lists that are distributed by Diamond Book Distributors, including books from Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, IDW, SLG Publishing, AdHouse Books, Avatar and many other publishers, most likely as a result of last weekend’s price glitch. As of this morning, a few titles seem to be listed again — like Zombies Calling from SLG, for instance — but the majority are still only available from resellers.

Yesterday I reached out to a few publishers to see how this was affecting them and to see if they’d heard an update on when the issue would be resolved. I heard back from two of them, and below are their responses. I’ll follow up with any additional ones that may come in later, or with any response from Diamond, who I also emailed yesterday.

Dan Vado, Publisher, SLG Publishing

JK: If I’m not mistaken, you’re in a different boat than a lot of the other impacted publishers, as you sell your books directly to Amazon vs. going through Diamond. So how did you guys end up being caught up in all this?

Dan: Diamond uploads data to Amazon for everything it carries, our stuff included. Even though we are Amazon’s primary source for our books, they might still buy occasional books from Diamond. We also cannot list our books on Amazon way in advance while Diamond can.

JK: How much of an impact does this have on your business?

Dan: In the first quarter of 2010 Amazon has far and away outstripped Diamond on sales of our backlist titles (backlist, Diamond obviously sells more of our new releases). Right now I have negative sales to Diamond due to bookstore returns, but Amazon sales are consistent and non-returnable. Not being able to sell to through Amazon is a real killer as that channel is slowly becoming not only as important to us as the other sources, but in some ways more important.


JK: Do you think any sales you missed will be made up once they are relisted, or do you feel these lost opportunities to sell your product will never quite be made up?

Dan: I don’t think so. A lot of sales will go to third party vendors. Those sales often are used books which have already been bought and paid for from us some time ago. On top of that a lot of third party people list books they do not have in stock at tremendous discounts. Or, in another example, some joker has listed Animal Crackers, the Gene Yang collection, at $72. Not sure why, but I do know it is impossible for them to have the book since it just left our warehouse on Monday. Not every third party vendor is on the up and up or on top of their game. Someone may have seen an opportunity to create a false sense of value in these books. I don’t know. But long term, if this does not get fixed soon I think the sales lost will be lost forever.

JK: Have you received word from Amazon as to when your books will be available again?

Dan: No, neither Amazon through the Advantage program nor Diamond has said anything. They have yet to even acknowledge a problem to their publishers.

JK: Do you see any changes to your current business model as a result of this?

Dan: Depending on how this shakes out, we may have to reconsider Diamond as our distributor to the book trade. I mean this should not even be an issue for us.

For that matter, depending on how this shakes out, this could sink Diamond, or at least Diamond Books, altogether.

*****

Chris Pitzer, Publisher, AdHouse Books


JK: Amazon removed the “buy” button from your books, so currently anyone going to the site can only buy them through a reseller. How much of an impact does this have on your business?

Chris: I guess it depends on how long the buy button might be removed? I know customers like their Amazon. So, I hope it doesn’t last too long.

JK: Do you think any sales you missed will be made up once they are relisted, or do you feel these lost opportunities to sell your product will never quite be made up?

Chris: Well, the one instance that comes to mind is Afrodisiac. As our “newest” book, we’ve been hitting the press hard and the results have been really good. So, it kind of stings to have a buying option taken away at this time. If customers are savvy, hopefully they’ll think to check with their local comic shop if Amazon isn’t an option.

JK: Have you received word from Diamond or Amazon as to when your books will be available again?

Chris: Nothing yet.

JK: Do you see any changes to your current business model as a result of this?

Chris: Well, I guess that depends on how long this lasts. If the option of selling through Diamond to Amazon goes away, then yeah, we’ll have to make adjustments. I’d be surprised if that happens, but you never know.

My thanks to both Dan and Chris for their responses!