Every author knows that Amazon is a key player in the book biz. Most of us get more sales from them than any other retailer—and sometimes Amazon sales can be greater than all other retailers combined. But for many, it’s a love/hate relationship. Why is that when Amazon paved the way for self publishing and is the largest retailer of books, regardless of publishing route? Many points can be debated, but I’ll address two issues here: control and fairness.
Because Amazon is so large, they control the market. That happens in the business world across all industries. However, unlike Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and the like, Amazon is not limited to books, rather they sell all kinds of things from vitamins to tools to you-name-it. They can afford to seriously undercut the competition because publishing related products are not their only source of income. Not to mention the battles they’ve gotten into with the big New York publishing houses and tactics they’ve taken during negotiations (regardless of which side of the argument you were for), when a RETAILER has that much control over what happens in the publishing industry, it’s a scary thing.
But, I can hear you now… Amazon is also a publisher. That falls into the fairness category. Am I glad there’s another publisher out there for me, as a writer, to consider working with? Sure. But is it truly fair that the largest retailer of books is now publishing their own lines that would obviously be given prime exposure? Only time will tell what kind of impact that will have on the industry as a whole.
As for those of us who also self-publish, Amazon’s fairness issue is more obvious. Besides the cherry-picking of authors who get special treatment (those authors don’t have to go exclusive with Amazon to take advantage of the KDP “Select” features), amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program (book subscription service) goes a step further in separating the haves from the have-nots. It has been noted by several big named self-published authors that income is down because of this new program (H.M. Ward stated hers dropped 70%), but unless, you’re one of their white-glove authors, you also have to be exclusive with Amazon to participate. So not only are average self-publishers earning less at Amazon, they also have to remove those books from other retailers, dropping that income 100%. I get that Amazon has a right to try new things with the changing times, and unlike some others, I did not come out of the gate complaining about this new service, instead choosing to look for ways it could benefit me. This is, after all, my career and it’s best for me to strategize first. BUT why do self-published author in Kindle Unlimited have to earn part of a “fund” that we have no idea how much we actually earned until two weeks after the sales reporting month, while “traditionally” published authors still get their regular royalty, regardless of how the reader chose to acquire the book? There are different rules for different authors.
For a company that touted authors’ rights to control their own career, they sure are holding most of those cards.