The Fashion of Hating Amazon

//The Fashion of Hating Amazon

The Fashion of Hating Amazon

It’s become quite fashionable throughout the publishing industry to publicly bash Amazon. They’re destroying independent bookstores! They’re running roughshod over publishers! They’re hurting indie authors by locking them into exclusivity!

I have seen numerous blog posts expounding upon all these claims, and for the most part, I don’t dispute them. Is Amazon destroying independent bookstores? Yes, but in the sense that they have become more efficient at the process of getting books into readers’ hands than those bookstores. Is that Amazon’s fault? Or is it just marketplace competition? I tend to think the latter. Are there things bookstores can do that Amazon cannot? Absolutely. There will always be a place for specialty stores, just like there will always be people like me who prefer to buy their meat from an actual butcher than out of a Wal-Mart refrigerator case.

Is Amazon running roughshod over publishers by trying to dictate terms? Well, yes. As a retailer, they have the option to carry or not carry media produced by a third party. If said third party doesn’t like the terms, there are other venues where they can sell their books. Likewise, if Amazon doesn’t like the terms a third party vendor offers, they can limit exposure or not sell those products. It’s business, plain and simple.

The last one is the one I really want to talk about though. Is Amazon harming indie authors by locking them into exclusivity? The program is called KDP Select, and a requirement to be part of it is that the items enrolled in it cannot be available from competing retailers. In return, Amazon displays KDP Select items higher in search rankings, makes them available to download for free to Amazon Prime customers, and pays a portion per download once a Prime customer has read past ten percent, whether or not they finish the book. But is this harming indie authors?

I decided to try an experiment. I had some books expiring from their three-month commitment to KDP Select, so when the time was up, I removed them from the program. At the time I did so, I was averaging approximately 10 paid sales per say across the board, meaning I was receiving royalties from ten transactions, either as borrows, ten-percent reads, or paid sales. Upon removing them from KDP Select, I placed those items with other, competing retailers as well as leaving them on Amazon.

In the space of two days, my author ranking (where I rank in terms of paid sales compared to other authors on Amazon) dropped from roughly 20k to 60k, and eventually bottomed out at 90k. My average paid sales per day dropped from ten to four. By removing my work from KDP Select, I lost 60% of my sales immediately. Did I recoup any of those sales from the competing retailers?

No. Not one.

I let it ride for a couple of weeks but couldn’t stand the lost revenue. Businesses close over that kind of sales drop, and I am not ready to shutter Local Hero just yet. I re-enrolled. Since then, my author ranking has climbed back to around 30k and my sales per day average is now over five. I expect it may take a month or two to regain my former levels, or at least until I release Champion.

So what happened?

It all comes down to the success of Amazon in the field of ebook delivery. Between the affordable Kindle units and free apps that will run on any platform, they have literally perfected the availability and accessibility of ebooks. I personally am a great example. I don’t own a Kindle. In fact, I have a Nook, but I haven’t used it in ages. I have an Android tablet made for Kobo, which is another ebook retailer. I have the following ebook apps on my tablet: Kindle, Nook, Aldiko. I probably use the Kindle app 80-90% of the time, with Aldiko filling in the balance.

I am not an atypical customer for ebooks. I suspect the great majority of ebook readers are like me, using Amazon because it is easy. And when you throw in the Amazon Prime benefits of free ebook for a monthly subscription rate, they become the primary customer destination. By dropping out of KDP Select, I literally lost sixty percent of my customer base in return for access to a wider variety of retailers whose customers are more likely using Kindles and Kindle apps anyway.

For the foreseeable future, I will keep my novels in KDP Select. Why would I risk losing a huge customer base?

Why would anyone?

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*This post originally appeared on www.ianthealy.com; reprinted with permission*

By | 2014-09-14T22:17:38+00:00 September 14th, 2014|Ian Thomas Healy|2 Comments

About the Author:

Ian Thomas Healy is a prolific writer who dabbles in many different speculative genres. He’s a ten-time participant and winner of National Novel Writing Month where he’s tackled such diverse subjects as sentient alien farts, competitive forklift racing, a religion-powered rabbit-themed superhero, cyberpunk mercenaries, cowboy elves, and an unlikely combination of vampires with minor league hockey. His popular superhero fiction series, the Just Cause Universe, is ever-expanding, as is his western fantasy epic The Pariah of Verigo. He is also the creator of the Writing Better Action Through Cinematic Techniques workshop, which helps writers to improve their action scenes.Ian also created the longest-running superhero webcomic done in LEGO, The Adventures of the S-Team, which ran from 2006-2012.When not writing, which is rare, he enjoys watching hockey, reading comic books (and serious books, too), and living in the great state of Colorado, which he shares with his wife, children, house-pets, and approximately five million other people. Check out his exclusive publishing imprint, Local Hero Press.

2 Comments

  1. bigjeff5 September 27, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    As an avid reader, I despise Kindle and Amazon’s lock-in. I want to use the app I like to read on, on the device I like to read on, and those are obviously not a Kindle or the Kindle app or I probably wouldn’t be posting this.

    If I buy a book from anyone but Amazon, I can use it on any reader I want, on any app I want, on any device I want. If I buy a book from Amazon, I have to use a Kindle or the Kindle app. Period. Therefore I don’t buy ebooks from Amazon. Period.

    I haven’t read any of your stuff yet, so this hasn’t actually turned into a lost sale from me. But the potential is there, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Though I could be in a small enough minority for you to reasonably ignore, so you should definitely do what’s best for you, and I don’t blame you for it.

    I do think the lockin and popularity of Amazon is potentially harmful to the industry, as any competition limiting mechanism can be. All I really want though is for Amazon to sell books in the epub format, or at least a format open to all, and I’m not going to touch them until they do.

  2. Hatter57 October 2, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Hi bigjeff5,

    You are certainly right about the lock-in when you purchase from Amazon. However, from a writer’s perspective, there’s a much bigger point. We’re in a business, in search of consumers for our product. Ideally, it would be great to get to know those people and all that, but first, they’ve got to be able to find our works. So while there is a downside, losing out on the opportunity to introduce you and other non-adopters of the technology to our stories, it just doesn’t make sense to opt out of the one venue that an overwhelming percentage of readers use and appear to enjoy.

    I have to admit, I’m a little curious. I think there’s always a tendency to rag on the big guys on the block. I think there’s a perception that they’re using their power unfairly. But let us not forget that it was Steve Jobs and Apple that were trying to fix book prices, not Amazon. As far as I can see, Amazon has effectively developed delivery methods that get more books into my hands at a better price than any other retailer. And hasn’t that always been the magic formula in salesmanship? I’m just not sure where the menace comes into the picture.

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