Monday, April 02, 2007

Highway robbery at

April Fool's Day is over, so I don't think this was meant as a joke. But anyone who buys one of my books from an reseller called ANNABANANASEARCH is clearly a fool.

As you can see in this photo (click to enlarge it), my second book is being advertised for a whopping $35.00 ($34.00 in another listing), while my first book is going for a still-outrageous $23.00. Neither price includes shipping. That'll set you back another $3.50.

Are the books rare? Are they valuable? Well, let's just say that in the primary listings (the ones that show the books' covers, publishing details, and customer reviews), both books are available in gently-used condition for as little as a penny. (The sellers make their profits by charging $3.50 for shipping, which represents more than three times the actual cost of packaging and mailing a small paperback book inside the U.S.)

If I autographed a brand-new book and then tucked a twenty-dollar bill next to the title page, it would still not be worth anything near $35.00. So are these stratospheric prices some kind of mistake, or is ANNABANANASEARCH hoping somebody will be stupid enough to click on one of their listings and belive there's only one copy of my little book to be had, and that they'll have to pay through the nose to get it? If the latter, it's too ridiculous to be even remotely flattering. Not even my mom would ever want a copy that badly.

Leave a comment if you have any ideas about what might be going on, or if you've seen this kind of thing before. I'm baffled. (By the way, I have no idea how Airport 77 got stuck in the middle of a listing of my books.)


Anonymous said...

Sellers on do not get a choice on the amount charged for shipping. It's a set amount. Sellers selling books for one penny, by the time takes its cut, and they purchase envelopes and postage for sending your book on its merry way through the USPS, are not really making much.

Brenda Coulter said...

I'm aware of that. But many people wonder how those "penny-sellers" can afford to offer books so cheaply, so I answered that question before someone asked it here in the comments.

It is a fact that the penny-sellers make their profits off the Amazon-inflated shipping prices. Given the sheer number of penny-sellers at Amazon, I think we can reasonably conclude the sellers believe there's money to be made by operating in that fashion. And lest there be any misunderstanding, this post's title, "Highway robbery..." was not a reference to those sellers but to ANNABANANASEARCH and the ridiculous prices they're asking for my books.

Laurie Breton said...

Don't feel bad, Brenda. Secondhand sellers are listing used copies of my first published book for $295. Granted, it is rare (few copies were ever printed, and the publisher subsequently went out of business), but come on now, let's be serious. Three hundred bucks? When I'm not even dead yet? All I can say is, if anybody was foolish enough to actually pay that kind of money, they must have rocks in their head.

Great blog, by the way!

Brenda Coulter said...

Many thanks, Laurie. I'm glad you stopped by.

I just found a friend's book, another paperback with the same cover price as mine, going for $109.00. Again, the reseller is ANNABANANASEARCH. What on earth are those people up to?

We ought to have a contest. Can anybody "beat" Laurie's $295?

Bonnie Calhoun said... is someone *snort* secretly making you rich...LOL...this is too funny.

I've been working under a rock, and didn't know this kind of enterprise was going on in the real world!

Brenda Coulter said... is someone *snort* secretly making you rich...LOL...this is too funny.

Oh, don't I wish? Too bad I don't make any royalties on a secondhand sale.

Anonymous said...

Please don't judge the majority of Amazon sellers by these examples. Most of the sellers on Amazon are pricing books at reasonable market prices. (penny-sellers included in some instances)
There are a few sellers however, that inflate the price of a book in the hopes that someone will think that price reflects quality. Many of those buyers end up dissappointed and the feedback shows this.
The best thing to do is check out the feedback and really read what the customers said in rating the seller. It should make you think twice about buying something from them.

Brenda Coulter said...

Please don't judge the majority of Amazon sellers by these examples.

Oh, I don't. I'm sure most of them are nice people trying to make an honest buck. I don't judge the penny-sellers, either. But I have some serious doubts about ANNABANANASEARCH.

Thanks for stopping by.

cmoorecole said...

I'm sure you don't want another indignant reaction from another Amazon seller but when some blogger makes a comment like that about shipping you do us harm because perception is everything and most are going to perceive what you wrote as some kind of truth. Amazon takes approx. a third of that 3.50. It takes me pretty much all of my share of the shipping fee to ship a paperback. Penny sellers barely package an order with no investment in protecting the buyer's purchase and they don't survive unless they can mail at the bulk rate. I use new bubble mailers, tissue paper, plastic bag and clear shipping tape - all purchased wholesale. I recycle cardboard to provide filler to prevent bending by the postal carrier (they like to wad your books up and stuff them into your mailbox). A paperback, packaged up weighs 8oz and Media Mail shipping with a very necessary delivery confirmation is 1.73, that includes .14 for the DC which I only get that cheap because I have a Pitney Bowes acct to print my own postage. Wholesale cost on a mailer that size is around .30-.35 = that's already totalling over $2, not counting the cost of all the other incidentals for packaging. I don't get rediculous and try to charge for the cost of gas to the PO loading dock or for my time that's involved in getting there. I don't even give much thought to the time it takes me to fill the order. But, clearly, my cut of the shipping barely covers a paperback and I didn't get anything extra when I shipped a 3pound edition of works by the Bronte sisters. The penny sellers who make anything at all are selling at least 200 pc. a day so they can get the bulk rate which is something like .80 per pc. They don't do anything to protect your books with packaging, because what do they have to lose at a penny a book? They clear maybe $1.25 per book and are really good at dodging requests for refunds. I suspect they even resell returns regardless of condition. They have to put a lot of work into keeping up the inventory to sell that many books and can you imagine filling the orders? They have to be paying someone to do it or working in teams, unless they are simply dumping books into manilla envelopes at the rate of 50-60 per hour and getting labels on them with a high rate of error. I spend hours filling a handful of orders and the rest of my time is spent acquiring, inspecting, cleaning, repairing and listing books on 6 sales channels (Amazon, eBay, etc.). I work about 60 hrs a week on top of a part time teaching job. I'd much rather sell 10 books for $10 a piece than 100 books for nothing. All that just cheapens the entire business and their lousy practices make it tougher for those of us who sell because books are our lives in more ways than one. If any of those penny sellers succeed it will be because they can turn over "product" fast and hard. If I succeed, it's because I work hard, am generous to my customers and because I know and love books. I must be succeeding - this is my 5th year of steady growth.

Brenda Coulter said...

I'm sure you don't want another indignant reaction from another Amazon seller but when some blogger makes a comment like that about shipping you do us harm because perception is everything and most are going to perceive what you wrote as some kind of truth.

Carole, what I wrote is the truth, and I can't imagine why you are offended. A more careful reading of my post and the comments I posted afterward will show that I never intended to malign honest people like yourself who sell through Amazon. I'm sure you do work very hard.

Anonymous said...

I am a seller on Amazon and there is no such thing as too high of S&H.

When I sell a book that weighs 4 lbs,,, I get the same as a 5 oz book. Now it is $3.99.

But lets do a real book. Here is one for 49 cents. By the time the fees are taken by Amazon. You get $3.06. Now the cost of the packaging and the PO charges are about $2.50. Hello ! Hello ! Who is losing ?! The cost of gas is not even factored in.

Brenda Coulter said...

I'm getting a little weary of saying this, but I have not accused any Amazon seller of making obscene profits on S&H. Also, this discussion took place long before yesterday, when the new postage rates went into effect.

I have mailed scores of paperback books in expensive little bubble-wrap envelopes and paid the first-class rate to ship them. Until postage went up this week, it cost me $1.35 to mail a book anywhere in the U.S. The envelopes usually cost me about 75 cents each, unless I go bargain-hunting. I could buy Tyvek envelopes MUCH cheaper, but I need the bubble-wrap because I usually tuck in a ballpoint pen when I mail the books. So any way you slice that, it comes to $2.10, not the $2.50 you claim--and I'm doing it the most expensive way possible. ;-) If you bought cheaper packaging, purchased it in bulk, and sold hundreds of books--as the penny sellers surely must--you could make a profit on the business. If, as you say, Amazon leaves you with $3.06 to package and ship the book, then even doing things the most expensive way possible, you'd make almost a dollar on every sale ($0.96, to be exact).

Yes, it would cost you something in terms of time and gasoline. But if you were a penny-seller taking lots of orders, you'd hardly process one book at a time and then take it to the post office and then come home to process another one. Do a large enough volume and gas prices would become negligible. (You'd go to the post office perhaps three times a week, max, and you'd probably combine that trip with something else--maybe you'd stop at the bank or the grocery store while you were out. Or maybe you'd just swing by the post office on your way home from work.)

If there weren't profits to be made by taking advantage of Amazon's S&H fee, there wouldn't be penny-sellers. That has been my point from the beginning.

Brenda Coulter said...

One more thing. Let's be sure we're not comparing apples to oranges here. We haven't been talking about shipping heavy hardback books, but about the mass-market paperbacks that sell for a penny at Amazon. I suppose it happens, but I've never seen a hardback or even a large softcover being sold for a penny.

Anonymous said...


I know this post is a few months old, but I just came across it.

I've been selling very low volumes on Amazon for about a year now. It's mostly just a hobby, so I'm certainly not an expert, but I have a pretty good idea of what ANNABANANASEARCH and some other sellers are doing. These sellers are known as "dropsellers". They don't actually have a copy of your book. In fact they don't have any books at all. Instead they create listings for thousands or even millions of books ALL at ridiculous prices. I doubt they really spend much time doing's probably all automated with a computer program. If someone accidentally buys a book from them, then they will go right back and buy the book from another Amazon seller (probably one of those selling the book for a penny) and then have that seller send the book to the customer who paid the ridiculous price. So there you go. ANNABANANASEARCH gets to keep the difference without even having to go to the post office to mail out the book.

Brenda Coulter said...

I suspected that might be the case, Anyonymous. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

interesting, I still think it is worldcom style economics, especially when you start adding up the numbers, drop shipping is an interesting idea though. What happens when the pyramid of drop shippers drops the ball on this one?

Sue Collins said...

Hi Brenda,

I also came across this post although its already months old. I used to buy lots of used books or CD's from Amazon site. But now I have become more savvy with online shopping and wishes to share with you and many other online shoppers. There are other alternative bookselling sites out there offers better prices with same high quality merchandises (books, Cds, Dvds) and great services and also great Guaranteed purchases policy like Amazon. Check them out at, and Abebooks. Many times when I compared the prices, the sales prices offered by these bookselling websites are waaaaayyyy cheaper than Amazon. I guessed Amazon has all the traffics and leaving inventory very slow moving in these other sites and thus forcing sellers there to lower their prices to ridiculous level. Site loyalty for Amazon has given privileges to Amazon market sellers to raise their prices to ridiculous levels. I was a victim once to such 'unpoliced' practises. But I am the customer and the consumer, I guessed I can say I am happy to benefit from more money savings now that I have come to know other bookselling sites.. Just wanted to share.

sandy said...

Bravo Carole....One million booksellsers couldn't have said it better!!!!

When I package a book, trade paperback, hardcover, cloth or whatever I get a box...bigger than the book (this is real important for the box to be bigger)...then I bubble wrap the book...then I fill the bottom and the sides with newspaper or tissue paper...then I put more tissue/newspaper on top. I clear tape the entire box. The book is protected from evil postal workers and the buyers are very happy. I learned the hard way books don't always survive the trip without protection. My books are packaged like Roseville pottery. The cost of all this for just a trade paperback is 2.65....that DOES NOT include the bubblewrap (which I buy) and any other packing materials that I work very hard to get free or inexpensive. It takes dedication and time to package just one book.

Don't think there are .01 hardcover books on Amazon?.....ha.....think again!

Lets do some math:
.01 selling price
3.99 shipping
4.00 total
.60 + 1.35 + .99=2.94 (amazon Comm)
4.00 - 2.94 = 1.06 (that amazon gives you for the book AND shipping...only 1.06 now for the book and shipping)
Add 1.00 to that if the seller is a pro merchant so thats 2.06 left to ship the book and cover cost of book)
If the price of the book is .01 the amazon commission comes out of that 3.99 shipping..comprehend?
One can only ask...just what are they takes time to package and label books..even if they bulk ship for .80 per package thats only .20 cents per seller and 1.26 per book for pro merchants. I would much rather sell one book for 100.00, which I occasionally do, than 100 books for 1.00. Thats thinking smarter I would say.

There are many insane booksellers lurking about amazon, ebay, etc. I am really glad that Carole and I have kept our wits about us.

Anonymous said...

Actually I can't sell a book on Amazon for less than $6 and break even these days. And I'm not even including cost of the envelope--only postage. Of course I don't ship media mail, so maybe that's why.

Anonymous said...

There are too many reasons for why it would be listed as that much. Maybe they were the first to list a used copy and all the new copy's were sold out. So they set their own price thinking that it was very rare.
But don't assume the worst of a person just because they price something high. The only way you will know for sure is getting an answer from the seller. By dragging ANNABANANASEARCH name (which you could have left anonymous) out into public scrutiny is not going to get you the real answer, just possible mud slinging at someone that may have made a mistake.
It doesn't speak well of your own writing abilities if you can't consider your work to possibly be worth that much.
And you deserve every bit of prodding for stating that shipping is 1/3 the price charged. Rates are even higher now and Amazon has done nothing to accommodate for this increase. The penny sellers are having a hard enough time as it is making about .25 - .35 cents per sale without comments like yours leaving the impression they are making bank.
The whole point is why should this be even blogged about? What someone prices a book is their business, and if someone pays that much it's the buyers business. Nobody else, if they get screwed then they need to learn to shop around.
I price several of my books high simply because I would like to read them before they sell, and if they do I would like to be able to afford another copy if I am not finished. And when I am done reading I do adjust to a more competitive price. Why should I leave out the possibility that all the new and used copys are sold out and I would be the only seller with a copy available? Am I raping or gouging the customer because I'm priced high, if you think so then you need to go back to economics 101 and read the chapter on supply and demand.

Anonymous said...

I think they jack the prices up in a secondary account that way their primary seller account with the same book listing looks cheapskate and they buyer is duped into thinking they are getting a great bargain.