Do Some Spring Cleaning

When we started publishing books via our Endpapers Press imprints, we had to hit the ground running in a lot of different directions.  From ISBNs to LCCNs, it’s all been quite the adventure.

One of the things it has really highlighted for me is how much “junk” there is on Amazon.  Amazon has an amazing database and it pulls data from other systems and also allows original entries.  And some of these entries are just junk.

Take Distant Valor, for instance.  For a while, I noticed an entry for ISBN 0788166239, but by “G. X. Moreau” and published by Diane Publishing.  I wrote to Diane Publishing and asked them to provide me a copy of the license for the work.  They wrote back that they didn’t have one and that they had purchased about twenty copies used and that an intern had made an error in assigning the ISBN to it.  But the entry lives on.  I’ve written to Bookwire (part of Bowker) and to Amazon and asked that it be removed.  We’ll see . . .

In another case, several titles that we reissued have entries that are just ASINs and aren’t tied to any ISBN.  These are, in fact, used books and in one case the UK edition that shouldn’t be for sale in the US (but since it’s a used book, I’d guess one can’t stop it).  What’s happening is that third-party sellers of used and even new books create these entries but don’t use the appropriate links.  There is a “Have one to sell?” link on pretty much every book.  If you click that, it allows you to create a new entry that links to the existing entry for the book.  And I like that.  If used books must be sold right next to the new one, let’s keep it all tidy, eh?

Now, I don’t know if these non-linked ASINs are actually erroneous entries or if the people using them are just trying to game the system somehow.  Perhaps used-book sellers don’t want links to the new editions or Kindle edition?  I don’t know.  But I wrote to Amazon about a bunch of them and I’ll be curious to see if anything gets cleaned up, e.g., do all of those used editions under some random ASIN suddenly show up under the right ISBN (paperback or hardcover) for the book.

Regardless of what the result is, though, I do suggest that authors do their own spring cleaning.  Get on Amazon, Bookwire, BN, Audible, etc., and look up your books.  Perhaps include Amazon UK, CA, DE, JP, etc., and see what editions are yours there.  See an edition you don’t remember authorizing?  Ask your agent or publisher if they licensed the rights.  If you can’t figure it out, then have your agent or publisher (or do it yourself if rights have reverted and you have no agent) write to the publisher listed or seller listed and see if you can figure it out.  There’s a chance that there’s foreign rights income due you or that you have found a pirate.  If you really can’t get to the bottom of it, write to the Amazon site itself and explain the situation.  If there’s actual copyright infringement going on, I’d expect the title to be pulled.

Next, pull out all of your contracts for rights, e.g., translation, audio, etc. and review the reversion clauses.  Many contracts are for a set number of years and others can be cancelled if sales don’t exceed a certain number.  Books that are under contract but not selling are lost money.  Many translation rights contracts say nothing about eBooks.  Talk to your agent about getting rights back and licensing again to another foreign publisher who will also produce eBooks.

Too many authors let things slide, I find.  Sure, if you have an agent, the agent has an incentive to stay on top of reversions, but the process of checking all of your titles on Amazon and inquiring about suspicious listings is a time-consuming one that will forever be a low priority.  So take a couple of hours and do that yourself.  In the end, it may help not only make your listing on Amazon and other booksellers look better, but to also sell more books!


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