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My Discoveries at Amazon: A Cautionary Tale

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Vedanta Press is a small but
respected publisher of books on Vedanta, a branch of Hinduism. We service a
niche within a niche with about 20 of our own titles and maybe 500 that we
import from India as the exclusive distributor in the United States.

 

In the last few years, fewer and
fewer bookstores have carried our books (lots went out of business), but with
the aid of the Internet, our retail mail-order Vedanta Catalog became our best
sales channel. Baker & Taylor used to be our second biggest; then, strange
to say, Amazon.com moved strongly into second place.

 

Last month, I reluctantly decided
that the only way to expand our presence at Amazon was to enroll our unlisted
titles in the Advantage program. This article is the story of what I
discovered.

 

Adding so many titles to Amazon is
no joke, since it is up to the publisher to provide the cover picture and do
the writeups. As I went through Amazon’s site to see what was already there, I
found many of our titles listed, but not as sold by us!

 

Two Vedanta Press titles were
listed as published by other companies—outright illegal editions. One title is
from a firm in India that apparently figured it was too far away for us to sue
and didn’t care that we already had a legal edition in India. The other is from
a U.S. publisher, in two versions, one with the title misspelled.

 

Moving on, I discovered that
several of the other books we carry were listed on Amazon and sold as new by
other parties, often for two or three times our retail price, while titles that
Amazon had purchased from us were listed only as special-order books. I found
titles with spelling and punctuation errors and one title that didn’t even
match the ISBN listed for it.

 

Almost all the titles had no cover
photo and minimal writeups; some had no writeups at all. It amazed me that
Amazon was doing a good job of selling our books anyway.

 

What This Means for
Publishers

 

It may be obvious, but you should
go to Amazon.com and check the information posted for every title you publish.
Use its search engine and look by title in case there’s an illegal edition
listed.

 

Is everything correct? Does a full
writeup appear? Amazon lets you provide a description, publisher’s comments,
author comments, an author bio, a table of contents, inside-flap copy,
back-cover copy, fair-use citations from reviews (source and review, 20 words
maximum for review), and an excerpt/first chapter (not to exceed one chapter).

 

Is there a cover of your book on
the page? You can FTP your book covers to Amazon for inclusion with the
writeup.

 

You can go to <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.amazon.com/publishers

to add information, make corrections, upload book covers, etc. You don’t have
to be in the Advantage program to use the page.

 

It will be interesting to see how
much more our sales improve at Amazon once we have our titles fully and
correctly listed there.

 

Bob Adjemian is general
manager at Vedanta Press.

 

 

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