The Dirty Little Secrets of the Book Publishing Industry

From 50% to 70% of the cost of a book on represents income by anonymous middlemen and distributors in the “Global Marketplace.” Authors now typically receive only a few cents per book, even though they did all of the work. Simultaneously, books sales are plummeting, because people just can’t afford the steep increases in book prices.

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

(Image Above) Pages 140 and 141 of Lessons Learned . . . A Native American Architect’s Visual Journey Through Five Decades – Amazon refused to accept this book from my publisher, unless we used the cheapest possible paper and ink in the printing process . . . so Amazon could make the greatest amount of profit. Being that the photographs and architectural renderings were “everything” in this intensely illustrated book, I told Amazon to screw it. The book is only being sold from my publisher’s website.

Do you remember back in 1995, when Amazon pioneered the marketing of books online in order to reduce the excessive profits added by retail bookstores? In 1998, Amazon added the sales of music CD’s, videos and computer games. It has really been in the past 12 years that Amazon has become the mega-marketplace of the world.

Retail giants, such as Waldens Books and Barnes Noble had stores in about every city and mall in the United States. They ignored the threat from Amazon until it was too late. They also expanded to online marketing, but Amazon had already grabbed much of the market and its logistics were designed for online sales only.

In the process, Amazon has put most retail bookstores out of business. It is now the largest book retailer in the world and has over 130 million books available for online purchase.

Americans have been brain-washed into thinking that with size comes “economy of scale.” Nope . . . with a scale that large, comes a MONOPOLY. It is not just Amazon, who is gouging the price by charging publishers an access fee to sell on Amazon. There are hidden hands all along the process, grabbing money from the printing press to your front door, where an Amazon Prime box, holding your new book, is dropped off. My publisher vaguely describes the highway robbery as “marketing, distribution and access costs.” It is not their actual printing costs, which have gone up, also.

Yesterday, I was informed by my publisher that as of November 9, 2022, they would have to sell my book, Fort Caroline . . . the Search for America’s Lost Heritage for $100 in the US and $120 in Canada for me to earn $1 in royalty. Four years ago, someone in Canada, could have bought the book from the publisher’s Montreal printing plant for $36 ($CAN). Printing costs have gone up about 10%, but most of the inflation is attributed to “participation in the global marketing process.”

Say what? Someone in Canada will still be shipped the Fort Caroline book from a press, located in Canada. Indigo (Canada only), Amazon, Barnes Noble, etc. will not even have to store the book in their warehouse. So who is getting the money for me to have the right to sell in Canada a book, printed in Canada? The Author’s Support Agents for my publisher, who are now based in India and barely speak English . . . won’t tell me.

Enough is enough. This “Global Marketplace” has been a financial disaster for both me and the publisher. It is obvious that their sales are way down. I really don’t care, if I can no longer brag about “being on Amazon.”

I earned a lot more income from my books, when they cost 60% less. Amazon jacked up my prices then only paid me 36 cents to $1.03 a book . . . even as the number of books sold, steadily shrank with each price increase. I have notified my publisher that I wish to remove all 16 books from the Global Marketplace (whatever that is) and drop the book prices at least 50%.

Some anonymous employee replied that I would have to republish the books. I don’t believe that! There is no difference in the appearance of the books before and after they urged me to place the books in the “Global Marketplace” so I could “dramatically increase sales.” (Hogwash) The lesson learned is that when someone says that you are going to make a lot of money by changing the way you market a product . . . it is not necessarily so. More likely, someone else is going to make a lot more money off your hard work.

My most recent book, Lessons Learned, is not on the Global Marketplace. That is intentional and its price will not change. I wanted the book to be a legacy of my past life experiences, as I move into a new high-tech professional activity . . . virtual reality animation of ancient cities and architecture. However, this time around, it was my decision, not some mega-corporation, that I use the highest quality non-acid paper and the highest quality color printing process. Well, I keep on learning lessons.

And now you know . . .


  1. One of the more amusing experiences, when I suddenly moved from a rat-invested hovel near Dahlonega to a prestigious development in the highly desirable Nacoochee Valley of Georgia, was the disbelief by locals that I had many unusual experiences in my life. A local Habersham County matron warned me, “Don’t tell people that you were once a nationally famous goat cheese maker, met Julia Child and lived in a big Colonial house in Virginia . . . or that you once worked in Sweden and had a Swedish girlfriend. Everybody will think you are crazy.” LOL

    Liked by 2 people

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