The Fine Print of Self-Publishing fifth edition

Occupy Amazon?

Watching the Occupy Insert-Big-City-Name-Here protests, got me thinking: “What if all of the angry, independent authors out there started an Occupy Amazon movement?” It’s now trendy to make a homemade sign, throw on some dirty clothes, rumble run down to wherever protestors congest traffic in your town, and fight “The Man.”

Amazon.com is the Bank of America of book selling. Unlike choosing another bank, independent authors don’t have many viable options for distribution to the masses. Yes, in theory, authors can sell books and ebooks on a number of sites like BN.com, etc. But, at the end of the day, there’s Amazon and there’s everyone else. If your book isn’t on Amazon, in many ways it doesn’t really exist.

Banks have smartly made switching to another bank a huge pain in the ass. I think my bank sucks, but I don’t think it sucks enough to upload all of my automatic bill pay information to another bank. Amazon has made it nearly impossible to not have your book for sale on its site. Until Amazon gets hit (if ever) with a viable anti-trust case (not like Booklocker’s lawsuit a few years ago), it can do whatever it wants to small independent publishers and authors. Amazon has to kiss the ass of publishers of books that everyone wants to read. It’s not jacking around Simon & Schuster on the Steve Jobs book, nor will it.

Amazon first said it wouldn’t make print-on-demand books available as “in stock” unless the books were printed with Amazon’s Createspace. Authors went crazy and that threat seems to have gone away (at least with authors I’ve worked with). Then Amazon makes reviews disappear from what appear to be the Amazon pages of mostly self-published or independently published authors. The blogs and chat rooms are abuzz with this latest insult. Bank of America lost something like 750,000 customers over a $5.00 a month fee increase. Unlike Bank of American, Amazon isn’t going to lose one single author. Not one of us.

Amazon does this stuff because ultimately it doesn’t care or need independent authors or publishers (except to the extent that they use Createspace). If Amazon was really making a lot of money from the customers who bought our books (e.g. those customers ordering more books at the same time or becoming Amazon customers for the first time), Amazon wouldn’t do these things. Individually, we are the proverbial speck of sand on Amazon’s beach. Collectively, we’re a small clump of sand on that same beach. And, in its defense, Amazon doesn’t owe us anything. It didn’t make any promises to any of us about how how it will make POD books not printed by Createspace available. It also didn’t promise to not ever remove reviews. We all just got comfortable in our relationship with Amazon. Amazon.com is a tyrant that we all created by buying everything we could on it. And, tyrants are tyrants because they amass so much power without any check that they do whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want.

I’ve had reviews of my book randomly disappear, but I’d rather spend my time marketing my book instead of blogging about how Amazon.com screwed me over. The point of this post is do your thing and don’t rely on Amazon to help sell your book.

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