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Director’s Desk:
The Cost and Changing Face of Doing Business

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Recently Amazon.com sent an announcement to many of the publishers they’ve been working with announcing some changes. One important change involves the way they want to pay publishers in the future.

If you want to continue being paid by check, Amazon.com will comply–but at a cost. They will not write checks until the dollar amount owed to you reaches or exceeds $100 and they have tacked on a cost of $8 for each written check.

You do have another option, however. It’s having them electronically transfer the dollars to your account. This will be done at no charge and the money will be transferred as soon as they receive it.


Getting Banks on Board

To me, this sounded like a no-brainer. Do I want my money right away and not have to pay for it, or do I prefer to pay $8 to get a check in the mail, which may take weeks or longer? I couldn’t understand why many publishers were outraged about the electronic transfer. I have been paying my bills by transferring funds from my account into other accounts for ages. It’s easier for me to do this. Lots of times, I’m on the road during key bill-paying times and I forget to write the checks before I leave. Then I spend the entire traveling time worrying about that which I forgot. To avoid this problem, I spoke with my local banker and set up electronic transfer to pay my bills. And if anyone wants to deposit dollars into my account, they can do so by electronic transfer as well. (Unfortunately, no one has opted for the latter yet!)

What I hadn’t realized is that some banks charge people for electronic transfers of funds. One PMA member told me it would cost her $10 each time an electronic transfer occurred. Now I could better understand why many publishers were getting upset by this new Amazon.com policy. I suggested that she visit her bank and talk with them about waiving this charge, as I had done with my bank many years ago.

I think that some banks have moved into the 21st century faster than others. I do believe that 10 years down the road (maybe even sooner), electronic transfers of funds will be the accepted way to do business. It certainly makes more economic sense to be able to have access to your money in real time rather than waiting for USPS to deliver it to you. It’s kind of like being able to use your ATM card rather than a credit card when making purchases today. More and more retail establishments are offering both options, but originally the ATM card was used only for immediate deposit and withdrawal of funds from your account at a specified ATM in your area.

As you can see, I’m in favor of getting money into an account in a fast, efficient manner. I also believe that this is what Amazon.com is offering publishers, as long as we can also make our banks work with us.


About that Fee for Listing

Another policy that is being implemented by Amazon.com is a charge of $49 to list titles on their site. As with similar programs other companies have instituted, this is not sitting well with our publishers, who have not had to pay anything in the past. What many people seem to forget is that Amazon.com is a profit-making business and they do not have the same passion about publishing as publishers do. Books, to them, are a commodity, not a love.

Amazon.com will be very happy with books as long as they bring in the expected profit. If something else hits the scene and begins to bring in more profit than books, believe me, books will be put on the back shelf. I’m not sure how I feel about this $49 charge. In one way, I look at it as a cost of marketing and/or advertising. And it’s really a small cost if you consider how many books you send out for review that probably never even get looked at. I bet you have more than $49 invested in areas that have no traceable return factor. At least on Amazon.com, the consumer can see your title, read about its contents, and order it immediately.

On the other hand, I wonder if they’re charging everyone $49 to be listed. I tend to think not. Maybe they use some sort of formula like the one bookstores use to determine if they want to continue stocking titles on their shelves. I know that one of the things that bookstores look for is consistency of sales. The sales figure for a book doesn’t have to be large, but it must be constant. It would be interesting if we could find out from Amazon.com their policy on this $49 charge. Is it universal or selective?


Looking Ahead

Maybe many of these and other questions will be answered during PMA’s Publishing University May 27-29 and then on the floor of BookExpo America, May 30, 31, and June 1. The world of book publishing and bookselling is definitely changing–rather dramatically in some cases–and the publishers and vendors who can question, understand, and move with the changes may end up writing new pages in the manual about book publishing in the 21st century.

I look forward to seeing you all and speaking with you at the Publishing University and/or BEA. Please stop by and say hello. I know so many of you by your voices or your books. I’d like to put faces with both!



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