I’m an advocate of using Lightning Source rather than CreateSpace to print your books if you’re trying to be a true self-publisher. LS will give you better royalty rates, YOUR COMPANY and not Amazon will be the publisher of note, meaning you own the ISBN, and most importantly, I never think it’s a good idea to give one company too much power over your financial future. My goal is to sell books, not to help Amazon become a monopoly so it can screw everyone over.
So when I read about the availability of successful self-published books being unavailable to purchase at the world’s largest book retailer, I understandably smelled something fishy.
Hat tip to Henry Baum at Self-Publishing Review for this:
Over the past month or two (or three?), Amazon.com has quietly been letting its stock of many Lightning Source books dwindle and disappear. It has then been assigning many of those out-of-stock books an availability status of 2-3 weeks. In more rare instances, a book shows no direct availability from Amazon at all.
This is very different from how Amazon has operated in the past. For some time now, Amazon has kept substantial stock on hand for all books that sold even marginally—about three weeks worth, the last times I tested it. More importantly, though, Lightning books out of stock at Amazon have still been listed as “in stock” with an availability status of 1-2 days. This has been based on Amazon’s practice of drop shipping such books fromIngram Book Company, as well as on Lightning’s ability to supply Ingram with the required books overnight. But Amazon apparently now feels that its drop shipping arrangement with Ingram is no longer essential or economical.
The situation has become more obvious as more and more Lightning books have gone out of stock. (I would have seen it much earlier myself if Amazon had not carelessly torpedoed Sales Rank Express some months ago.) Though some small publishers still cling to the hope that this is all due to a glitch, the chance of that seems less and less likely.
Lightning Source is aware of the problem, to the extent that it has developed a stock answer for reps to supply to client publishers:
“We are aware that Amazon has changed the availability of some LSI titles resulting in 1-3 week delivery status. Currently, we are continuing to look into the issue and are evaluating our options to address it. We will update you as soon as we have more information.”
Meanwhile, Amazon has started to issue this caveat to inquiring publishers:
“Please note that making your titles available through a wholesale vendor and/or distributor does not guarantee an ‘In Stock’ availability message on our site.”
The result of all this is that small publishers are seeing sales of some titles dwindle or even plummet due to poor availability. Interestingly, other titles with the same status seem to still be doing well—possibly due to good availability through Amazon Marketplace. Still, having your books show poor availability on Amazon is an uncomfortable position for any publisher (not to mention one like me, who publishes books about getting your books on Amazon!), and you would have to expect long-term effects, or at least need to prepare for such.
Read the rest at Aaron Sheperd’s blog, where he suggests a solution that involves using both CreateSpace and Lightning Source to publish a book using the same ISBN. My question about this is: doesn’t CreatSpace require you to list them as the publisher and use their ISBN? I’m not familiar enough with actually using their system — my decision to go with LS was based on comparisons of other authors who had looked at the terms of both.
What does everyone else think? Is this a worrisome trend, or am I being too doom and gloom here?