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On Just Being Amazon

“At least it’s a good reason and not just Amazon being Amazon.” – Seen on Twitter

I saw that come across my Twitter feed this morning, and it gave me pause. Mostly because I wasn’t sure what it meant.

I know that Amazon is reknowned within Internet pop-culture for being both secretive and autocratic in it’s operations. They Just Do Stuff, often in a fashion that seems counter-intuitive to both common sense and “popular opinion”.

I know that Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, has pretty much run the traditional publishing model off a cliff in the past decade. From everything that I’ve read, it pretty much seems a case of “since they wouldn’t let him join them, he decided to beat them”.

I know that the Interwebs are “full” of “I know someone” anecdotes of horrid customer service from Amazon.

I know that a lot of authors, myself included, were eyeing the “KDP Select” program dubiously. Exclusive publishing rights in exchange for vaguely worded benefits from a lending library? Do you really expect us to abandon the Nook, the iBookStore, etc?

So I guess we can conclude that Amazon is the Evil Bookstore Overlord, yah?

Hang up there, a moment.

Take a moment, and go take a look at the Kindle section, and just show books for a dollar or less. See every one of those titles, and authors? They never would have been published without Amazon.

I know, you’re thinking “oh, someone else would have built this kind of system, if not them”. Well, hold up there. See, the Big Six were trying to build their own eBook distribution … the same process for getting books to market, at about the same prices, only no paper. The authors were not going to get any more royalties, more authors were not going to get a crack at the piniata, and readers were not going to see price benefits.

Amazon trashed that “it’s business as usual  only paperless” concept right out of hand. Go read my blog post on “Lost Le Carres“, and you’ll see how well “business as usual” favors the new writer.

Sure, there is a lot of junk out there. There is an easy solution for that; go read “the ten line review” and “your friend left you a note” and you can be part of the solution.

The way I see it, Amazon is sort of like Democracy … it’s badly broken, but it still works better than the solutions we had before.

I went and took a look at my own sales numbers for The Sauder Diaries, both “By Any Other Name” and “A Bloodier Rose“. When I released each title, I had a lot of folks saying they didn’t want to buy from Amazon, and could I have versions for iBookStore and Kobo available? I had done a run with “KDP Select” of “By Any Other Name” to no visible effect, and decided that the right answer was to cut that off and open my product to other platforms.

So, I went through the process of re-formatting both books from the required stylesheet for Amazon to a version for Smashwords. I then used Smashwords aggregator service to publish to a total of 9 new platforms, plus Smashwords itself.

That was September. Total sales outside Amazon thus far? Zero. My weekly Amazon sales, on the other hand, are steady if slow.

Most amusing? At least three of the people saying they wanted Kobo or iBookStore versions bought from Amazon, either in Kindle or Trade Paperback format.

So, the short version is that “just being Amazon“, right now, to me equates to “just being the only viable large-scale, trusted eBook sales platform that spans multiple markets“.

Now, I know there are those folks who are going to say I’m an Amazon fanboy. Nope; however, I am a fanboy of empirical evidence. So, if you’re going to tell me I’m wrong, do me a favor and bring me your numbers and lets talk.

In the meantime, I’m going to be revisiting my decision to close out of KDP Select in favor of distributing outside of Amazon. At this stage of my writing career, I need visibility. From some of the reading I’ve been doing by blog authors who left KDP Select, there is a noticeable difference in visibility if you are in or out of the program.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences both pro and con. Take a look how far TV has come in the last nearly 90 years and keep in mind that eBook publishing is barely a decade old. We’re all learning at the speed of change.


Published inAuthor Space


  1. As an update to my own story, this morning I discovered I had sold 5 copies in four months, all through the iBookstore via Smashwords. Sales were split between the US and Australian markets.
    By comparison, the week before Christmas, I nearly sold more than in India alone via Amazon.

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