In which I discover someone’s selling a book of mine for $4896.01

The other day I was blown away to discover someone was trying to sell one of my books, new on Amazon, for $4896.01. Plus shipping.

Yes, it's a four-figure sum for one of my books. Amazing. Click to enlarge.
Yes, it’s a four-figure sum for one of my books. Amazing. Click to enlarge.

The Reed Illustrated History of New Zealand has been out of print nearly a decade, and I’m not sure where the vendor got their stock from. I don’t see a cent for it, of course – I’ll have fielded the $1.50 royalty (less tax and expenses) when it was originally sold. Thing is, I’ve got a couple of copies myself, new, and I’ll happily undercut that vendor. Let’s say $US4895. I’ll even throw in the shipping, free. Call me.

I discovered this while sorting out my Amazon author page. It was time. I’ve got an awful lot going on just now. My book Man Of Secrets was released by Penguin Random House at the end of January, and last week the first in a series of reissues from my military-historical back list became available. Next week my book The New Zealand Wars (Libro International 2014) will be released in print for the North American market. And I’m also contributing to an Australian science-fiction compilation, which I expect will be published later this year.

So it’s all happening, and I thought I’d better get my own online arrangements in order. Starting with my Amazon author page. Check it out for yourself.

My Amazon author page. Click to check it out.
My Amazon author page. Click to check it out.

Some authors are known for one ‘thing’ – a specific non-fiction subject or a fiction genre, and eyebrows get raised if they do something else. I’ve never felt limited by such things. My work breaks into three categories: (a) military-historical non-fiction; (b) social-historical non-fiction; and (c) fiction. I’ve negotiated a partial re-release of my back-list in (a), but new stuff is primarily (b) and (c).

I’ve also set up a Facebook author page – which I cordially invite you to ‘like’, if you haven’t already. It’ll be populated with the latest news and other stuff related to what I’m doing – or what I find interesting.

Watch those spaces. And this one.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


23 thoughts on “In which I discover someone’s selling a book of mine for $4896.01

    1. Both! And impoverished! I actually doubt the vendor will sell it at that price, and what I can’t quite fathom is how they arrived at it. Was there a bidding war or something that’s been reflected in the Amazon store figure?

  1. Anything you can do about this, Matthew, other than sell him one of your copies at a great profit to you? 😉 I am guessing the seller is seeing it as a “rare” book because it is out of print. I am a bit of an aficionado of “rare” books–I used to do some price checking when I worked at a public library–I have seen some extraordinary prices for history books, in particular. I have no doubt of the quality of the book–I know your work–to be honest I had not considered the author losing out but that is now obvious. Maybe another post on this????? Wow, Matthew.

    1. The book is the illustrated history of New Zealand I wrote for Reed NZ Ltd, published in 2004. It hit the best-seller lists (was reprinted even before release, on the basis of initial market uptake) and eventually sold out around 2007. There’s a brisk second hand market in such things, for sure – all traded between third-party vendors in which the author doesn’t get a look in. I would have been paid in the usual way via royalty when the ‘new’ copy on sale was originally sold – about $1.50, I think, for that title – but that’s all. The inflated price now, I guess, is a product of the desirability of rare books to certain collectors. I see another of my older books is in the same “third-party” situation on Amazon at $173. Yes, if only there was a way authors could field some of the returns that this market is making! Definitely worth a post. I’ll put one together.

  2. Aw heck – if they’re not offering free shipping with a book costing $4896, I might just as well buy direct from the author. Much better deal and it saves me at least $4.99.

  3. Wow, that is incredible! Who would pay that much for a book though? I don’t think there will be any buyers. You will win out on that one by selling them directly to fans. Best of luck.

    1. I don’t think it’d sell at that price. I certainly wouldn’t buy it (though, of course, I already know what’s in it…). It’s amazing what third-party vendors seem to think they can get for authors’ work. From my perspective, as author, I’d far rather see a lot more people get hold of my books at reasonable prices – and draw interest, pleasure, education etc from them.

  4. I have seen this quite a lot – as another poster said, often with history books, but also in my own field of fabric art ,as well with authors I really like, especially Charles deLint, one of my favorite UF authors. Some of his early works, the originals of course, much of his back catalog has been republished, can run to four figures as well.

      1. It is a ‘market’ thing. When products are rare, they sell for more. Back in 1928 when my Nash was built, I am sure it didn’t run $10,000 – but that is what I sold it for a few years ago. Original wooden wheels, original interior, the works. (yes, the buyer got a steal, but I was hard up for cash right away)

        1. That WAS a bargain for your Nash! Cool that you owned one! To some extent true too for this book I suspect. Though the price seems wldly disproportionate to the apparent value second hand. I doubt anyone would pay it.

          1. Exactly. I have seen some obscenely priced books offered on Amazon, that I also saw in other places for nearly the cover price. As you say, I doubt anyone is going to pay what those people are asking . . . can we all say “greedy buggers”?

  5. I actually saw that book just the other day while browsing your author page. I was actually looking for On Shaky Ground, but it doesn’t appear to be available for Kindle?

    I’ve seen several instances of second-hand books selling for these preposterous prices on Amazon. I am also very curious at how they get to those prices.

    1. I have no idea how they gain that value – market theory boosts value with rarity, sure, but the same book is available second hand at $28. Does “new” have such a magic effect as to ramp up the price by 17,357 percent? I did run into somebody once who was basically OCD about owning books that were in effect “untouched by human hands” – he didn’t even want to have had the covers bent back and used to get told off by store owners for pawing through copies until he found a “perfect” one. But even so… I also have to be a bit cynical about where the Amazon vendor can have got a “new” one. It was totally sold out in New Zealand by 2007 and there were no overseas sales I was aware of. I suppose the vendor could have bought it back then and kept it.

      When it was originally published it sold like hotcakes. Terry Pratchett was visiting NZ and signing his own books in the main Wellington bookstore, right next to an enormous pile of “The Reed Illustrated History”. I barged in with a couple of friends, veered left as we reached the great man (snubbing him totally) and they began leafing through the stack of MY books…

      “On Shaky Ground” doesn’t seem to be available electronically yet, or on Amazon. I’ll let you know when it is.

      1. It’s a bit like art, you have to be willing to pay a lot of money for taking a risk and we never know how the work might multiply or decline in the future, spare a thought for those penniless artists whom people today are making millions off, you’re in league with Van Gogh if that seller makes a sale, the next time your book is offered it may have risen to $10,000 🙂

  6. There’s an online forum which might answer the high price mystery. In some US states you can offset the value of your unsold inventory against profit, thus reducing your tax bill. To quote the forum:

    ‘A very high priced item will not sell, and at the end of the year my inventory value exceeded my profit, leading to a bigger tax break. . . Individual sellers can use non sold items as a tax write off also, depending on their income.’

    Sounds plausible to me. Tax avoidance!


  7. Congratulations on having so many words in the mix! In our age of narrow branding, it’s so great that you’ve never let yourself be limited by categorization. Follow the muse, baby, follow the muse! (of course you may have to grab hold of said muse by the hair and drag her/him along with you through the mud when there’s a deadline involved lolz)

    ps: I’m assuming the Amazon seller underlined all the ‘good parts’ with liquid gold and just wants to break even ~wink

    1. Thanks! Yes, it confuses the hell out of reviewers, particularly, when I come up with something different from what I did just before. Apparently people are supposed to be narrow! I even recall having an argument, on radio interview, with an interviewer who thought I was uppity to write a history of New Zealand’s South Island, when I actually came from the North Island. How was this even possible? I had to explain that research and writing is a transferable skill… And absolutely, I follow that muse (dragging it sometimes behind me). There is SO MUCH out there in the world to be interested in, SO MUCH to discover.

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