Why Amazon is anti-indie: Part One…

I’ve been analyzing why my book sales on Amazon are so low. They never were great, but now they’re terrible. Yeah, I don’t play the review game very well, but almost all my reviews are serious 4- and 5-star ones and not the short product endorsements that Amazon encourages. I don’t have endorsements by V.I.P. authors; I don’t know many Big Five authors—I’m not sure I’d want their endorsements anyway.  And I can’t afford much PR and marketing, not that it seems to matter.

When I first started publishing 10+ years ago, I tried the traditional route. Frankly, I was a newbie to publishing (although not for writing), and I didn’t know anything else. After over 1000 rejections from literary agents (not quite as bad as real estate agents) and editors (especially those from major publishers), I didn’t give up—I went indie and tried POD. Both Xlibris and Infinity did nothing for me, although the latter people treated me better than the former.  Xlibris has since become part of the Random House consortium and gobbled up other PODs, showing its true colors. I then jumped on the ebook bandwagon, found my wonderful Canadian friends at Carrick Publishing, and started publishing what I, not some agent or editor, wanted to publish.  I could never have published so many ebooks without having gone indie, but now I’m assessing where I go from here.

Readers might have problems with my stories because I don’t write fluffy fiction and I do consider serious themes.  I won’t write cozy mysteries or romantic fantasies.  But I’m 96% an indie author (I have one book, Rembrandt’s Angel, that’s traditionally published by Penmore, a small press run by a great bunch of people), and I value the independence.  That’s all segue to why I’m writing this post.

Amazon is now anti-indie.  Mark Coker of Smashwords has made a great argument for doing ditching Amazon exclusivity because of this in his yearly analysis of the ebook industry. I came to the same conclusion a while ago. This post much more about explaining my decision than supporting Coker and Smashwords. Butto begin, let’s have a quote from him: “Authors who now derive 100% of their sales from Amazon are no longer indie authors.”

Why is that? Because indie means independent, and authors who are exclusive to Amazon, a retailer that’s anti-indie, have given up their independence.  They’ve been lured to exclusivity by KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, magical spells Amazon has cast on the indie community that will eventually lead to authors paying Amazon to be read (I think Coker already proposed this dystopian vision of publishing, but it’s an obvious extrapolation).

Of course, Coker has an axe to grind: Smashwords and their affiliated retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, and so forth) and lenders (Overdrive, Sribd, CloudLibrary, and so forth) are being murdered by Amazon, a retailer whose ruthless business model is to undercut everyone else in any way possible and put them out of business. Europe has cracked down on such retailers (Apple, Facebook, Google, and so forth, but not Amazon); America doesn’t do that (and with a GOP Executive, Congress, and Supreme Court, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon).

Does this affect readers at all? Probably only in the long run because they’ll see less content being produced.  And why should readers care that Amazon is so anti-indie? They can read anything they want with Kindle Unlimited and delude themselves into thinking it’s free, and they can look forward to the future when authors will pay them to read their books. Ray Bradbury is rolling over in his grave. It’s not book-burning, though; it’s just evil Amazon doing its thing.

As Coker rightly points out, authors are punished for not being exclusive on Amazon.  I came to the same conclusion.  I made all my ebooks non-exclusive and added almost all of them to Smashwords.  Guess where I make most of my royalties now?  Not on Amazon!  I suspect Amazon is punishing me for my choice, of course, but let’s be fair: Amazon has been the capo of the publishing underworld for a long time.

On Thursday, I will list Amazon’s features and compare them to Smashwords’s—stay tuned!


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In libris libertas!

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