The Reality of Amazon and the Digital Publishing World

As a potentially published author, I’ve been watching the ebook revolution with interest. Just before I attended my first writers’ conference last year, Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking came on my radar. Suddenly, self-pubbing was no longer the dregs of the book world. When we talked about all this with people at the conference, they mostly just shrugged. Not all of them, of course, some felt the same excitement and frustrations we did. Why are we fighting to make it onto a traditional publishers list for miniscule profits and diminishing sales? It may still take another 5 years (10 at the outside), but books are going almost exclusively digital. The music industry didn’t believe it, yet this is the last year they will make cds.

The first self-pubbed ebook I bought (and loved) was Elisa Lorello’s Faking It. Before it got picked up by Amazon Encore. It gave me hope. They all proved it could be done without the Big 6, that books formerly rejected as “not marketable” could appeal directly to customers for sales with much higher royalty rates. Who wouldn’t want that?

The Gatekeepers.

A lot of people in the industry hate Amazon. They’ve become the Wal-Mart of their world. But I (and a few others) are on their side cheering them on. Before Amazon, I rarely bought books. I never developed a loyalty to an author or genre enough to part with my hard earned money on a regular basis. The library was my friend.

Then I got a Kindle.

I agree with Bob Mayer, co-creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing.

Amazon is a business…[and] active rather than reactive.  Amazon was founded in 1994.  Went on-line in 1995.  Only 17 years on-line.  I had to ask myself, how much had I changed my business model in 17 years?

Like it or not, Amazon changed the business of buying and selling books.

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After I’d written this, but prior to its being published, Kristen Lamb posted this about Amazon.

Amazon right now is in the courting phase with writers, and it is using us (writers) as a weapon to kill our former masters. Ah, but if Amazon really gets its way…what then?

Unlike NY, Amazon isn’t searching through all the millions of wanna-bes for a handful of investments. Anyone can publish quickly and cheaply. Writers are running to them! The problem with this is they get all the benefits of being a publisher without any real sacrifice.

A lawyer friend of mine noted that when writers publish on Amazon, we all agree to the same blanket contract. This gives Amazon all the perks of being a publisher without concerning itself with any of the traditional protections for the writer.

And, I understand that writers haven’t been treated all that great in the past, but we need to ask the tough question. Is this future better? Is trading one dictator for another a good plan?

Amazon having total control is a particularly frightening scenario for indie and self-published authors, because many aren’t repped by agents with the legal know-how to fight any injustice. Oh, I suppose we could sue, but Amazon has armies of high-powered attorneys to make a lesson out of any of us who tried.

Pessimistic and Orwellian to be sure (as she concedes), but plausible. I, personally, don’t think Amazon will be the only one left standing after the dust settles with this publishing revolution. But it is one more reminder that this whole thing is a business. The only real person who can truly look out for your interests as a writer, is you.

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