Quit Whining About Amazon and Start Doing Something Already (Including Self-Pub And Small Press!)

You heard me.

Sometimes I’ve been wrong about Amazon – they’ve not exercised their used digital sales patent as aggressively as I thought they would – but I think my main prediction about Amazon’s behavior has been borne out by their behavior again and again.

Amazon is the Wal*Mart of Booksellers.

Look, we know that Amazon is not above shoving around the little guy when they feel like it. And that Amazon – both through the use of DRM and through Kindle sales – has been cornering the digital market.  As I wrote here:

The practice of getting consumers to use a device preferentially with a particular storefront gives that storefront a layer of traction otherwise unavailable in the digital marketplace.

And those factors mean that we totally should have expected Amazon to keep screwing over publishers.  This is the third round of this.  It’s only going to get more frequent.

If you think that being a small press or self-pub author means you’re safe… well, no.  It doesn’t.

Sure, it means you’re out of the current battles being waged.  But remember, in 2012 the target was Independent Publisher’s Group.

It’s pretty obvious what’s going on now.  Small and indie publishing is vitally important to Amazon right now… because it’s using us as leverage against the big corporations.

When the big publishers are cowed, our usefulness will be ended.

This scene keeps running through my head.

So what the hell should we do?

Readers: Buy from independent bookstores when you can.  Indiebound is a good place to start.  Or even better, buy direct from the publisher – something that nearly every small publisher has set up (like mine here).  Need to know how to get your eBooks onto your device?  There’s a handy guide here:  https://alliterationink.com/loading.html 

Publishers and Indie Authors:

  • Lose the partisan “Amazon is evil” or “Amazon is a friend to authors” mindset.  Amazon is a business.  Period.  They are a business, and can be expected to act in their own best interests.  Sometimes that’s our best interests as well.  Sometimes not.
  • Realize that taking down Amazon links isn’t going to change much.  Yes, I’ve done it myself in the past.  And I realized that people just left my site to go search Amazon instead of following my links.
  • Diversify!  There is no excuse for your eBooks to not be available at your website, DriveThru Fiction, Google, B&N, and Kobo.    None of those places charge you for having the book there.  There is NO BLOODY EXCUSE.  NOT A SINGLE ONE.


    Yes, most of my sales as a publisher are through Amazon.  With Amazon regularly pulling access to books as a negotiating tactic, there is no way in hell that I will lock any author of mine into only that single storefront. 

    And don’t complain about how you just made it as a Kindle formatted book.  Make your eBooks as ePub – it’s easier to tweak and fix errors – and then convert them to Kindle formats with Calibre or Kindlegen.  It works great.

    And yes, this also means that I’m shifting more of my printing business away from Amazon-owned companies, for similar reasons.)

    You can even sell eBooks directly to consumers (and in person).  There’s a pretty cool program called Bitlit I just signed up for that blows Matchbook out of the water (you aren’t tied to a specific retailer!).  And my “How to Load eBooks” page is CC-licensed, so feel free to use it as a template to get your fans started.

  • Tell your readers what’s going on.  Tell them that there’s more places to get your book.  Get them invested in buying the book in ways that get the most money to the people who made the book happen.  If the success of crowdfunding has taught us nothing else, it’s that the public likes rewarding the people who make creative, enjoyable things happen.

Authors With Publishers:  Ask them why the hell they aren’t selling (at least) digital copies of books from their own websites.  Ask them why they’re playing into Amazon’s hands by insisting on DRM that effectively just guarantees Amazon more sales

If there is a single trend we can identify about businesses in the last thirty years, it’s that loyalty is no longer rewarded.  Loyalty marks you as a sucker.

We can either acknowledge that fact and adapt, or….


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