Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brave new world

By: Joelle Charbonneau

If you read blogs, publishing trade magazines, or are on Facebook or Twitter I’m certain you’ve seen the words “New World” in regards to publishing. Traditional publishing is still around and I think that the reports of its demise are largely overstated (which I’m hoping is true because—heck, I’m traditionally published), but for authors there is what feels like a new frontier.


Or I guess I should say Indie publishing because so many people take umbrage with the phrase self-publishing (although I’m not sure why since it does accurately state the publishing archetype pretty well). And yes, indie publishing or self-publishing or whatever you want to call it publishing is a valid option these days. Lots of authors I know have made decent money riding the wave of cheap kindle downloads. Hurrah! Personally, I think money is a good thing. It puts food on the table (unless, of course, you want to shoot and field dress your own cow), it pays the utility bills and keeps gas in the car. (Don’t get me started on the price of gas right now. Oy!) Money is good and because Indie publishing is helping authors make money and find audiences, I will never claim it is bad.

More often than not, I’m amazed at the bravery required to be an Indie author. Sink or swim – they’ve done it all on their own. Which is pretty awesome. And let’s face it, while Smashwords and Nook and Google books are all platforms on which you can sell your Indie book, the real money is being made on Amazon.

Amazon has created all sorts of bells and whistles and appealing marketing tools to help Indie authors get noticed. They have the new Amazon Prime lending program, which requires participating authors to exclusively publish with them. They are working hard to make authors depend solely on them for their publishing success and any income they make.

Which kind of scares me.

I mean, look at the recent news involving Amazon. First, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Chapters Indigo and all Indie stores have told Amazon they won’t carry their traditional titles on their shelves. Which is kind of sad for those authors, but understandable considering the way Amazon has tried to put all brick and mortar stores out of business. (I’m not saying they are wrong in trying to be the only game in town. Business can be a war. Amazon has waged war and has turned a tidy profit in doing so. No crime there.) But then there is this - Amazon pulled 5000 e-book titles from a Chicago distributor because the distributor didn’t want to sell their product at lower rates to Amazon.

Why does this worry me? Well, Amazon is a pretty awesome deal for authors. They allow you to cut out the publishing middleman and reach the consumer. Not only that, they allow you to make decent money doing it. But Amazon’s success has come from being the place where you can buy everything. What happens when Amazon attempts to strong arm other publishers and distributors into cutting their rates? I get that Amazon wants to make a profit, but they’ve already been doing that. What they really want to do is tank publishing as we know it and literally be the only game in town.

While I know some Indie authors would cheer at the demise of traditional publishing, I can’t think of anything scarier for the Indie paradigm. Why? Well, Amazon has a long standing business relationship with publishers. They were able to build their self-publishing program to great success due to reputation they established as the place to buy traditionally published books on the internet. Now after all these years, they want to dictate new terms to their traditional publishing partners—very unfavorable terms as far as distributors and publishers are concerned.

What’s wrong with that? Well, who’s to say that Amazon will continue to give such favorable terms to authors? They have encouraged authors to be exclusive with them, thereby limiting the author’s ability to gain a foothold with non-Kindle users. Authors who become dependent on Amazon will no doubt make money now….but one day Amazon might decide to take some of that money back. Or insist you pay them to put up your title and give them a cut of the profits, too. Or refuse to allow you to publish with them if you don’t use their editorial staff services.

What happens then?

Got me. I’m betting Amazon knows. I’m also betting they aren’t going to tell anyone what that plan is until after they’ve solidified the Indie business model that requires all Amazon Indie authors (Amazon Prime lending or not) to be exclusive with them. And then all bets are off for the Indie author. Sure the first thing Amazon asks of you won’t seem so bad. Maybe the second thing is something you can justify as well….but the third? What happens when what terms they ask from you is too much?

Yes, this is all speculation and NO, I’m not saying authors shouldn’t take advantage of the fabulous Indie programs out there now. But I am saying that putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t always the best idea and that while this is a brave new publishing world, there are still gate keepers. Right now they are letting everyone come in free of charge. But some day…. Well, some day the price might be higher than any of us can imagine.


Laura Roberts @ Buttontapper Press said...

I hope you're wrong about Amazon asking authors to publish exclusively with them, but unfortunately I suspect you're right. They're already trying to get us to comply with that plan by dangling the carrot of the KDP Select Fund in front of us ("You too can have a share in 700,000 bucks!"), though I have to wonder how much time and resources they will spend (waste) to enforce exclusivity. Technically, if I publish the same title at Smashwords, it's a different title per the industry's own standards, because they each assign unique ISBNs, right? And even if that's not true, if I own the content, why shouldn't I be allowed to do whatever I please with it? Amazon is already forcing us to set a certain price for our books if we want a 70% royalty instead of an insulting 30%, so it's clear they are manipulating users toward ultimately doing what they want them to do. If we don't like the game, we can always take our ball and go home, but the question is where we will go if Amazon starts making truly unreasonable demands. They're not quite a monopoly yet, but they're working hard to get there, so I think it's definitely important to have other options. Smashwords makes your book available on multiple platforms (including Amazon), so to me that's much preferable to following rules and regs that will put money in another corporation's coffers. If Amazon tells us all to take a hike, I can still publish with Smashwords, though I wonder if they'll de-list all the Smashwords submissions at some point. Curious to see how it'll all develop.

Cat Russell said...

I've already, as a reader, experienced the way Amazon has limited options. I wanted to purchase an ebook (of which I buy MANY) for my NOOK, but it was only available in Kindle format. It was priced rather high, so I asked the author if it would be coming out in epub for NOOK anytime soon. Their answer was that Amazon's publishing terms meant it was only ever available in Kindle. Soooo... no sale. I wonder how this will impact other authors when their readers don't use Kindle either.

Anonymous said...

Back in June 2011 I made the comment on Daniel B. O'Shea's blog comparing the Amazon Kindle vs. traditional publishing phenomenon to the demise of the Hollywood studio system. I must have been on the right track because six months later in December 2011 Richard Russo was saying the same thing. Regardless of who's running the show there is something inherent in the fields of fiction writing and entertainment in general: a "star system" that selects out a few standouts like Richard Russo, Dennis Lehane, Stephen King, and yes, Joelle Charbonneau for success. As many times as I try telling myself it's all a matter of luck or promotion I am forced to conclude that it has a great deal more to do with talent. Speaking as an all-but-unknown private in the vast Amazon army of "indie-stimulators," like the little boy in the song whose father took away his toy sergeants, I'll play with my privates instead.

Thomas Pluck said...

Amazon is a publisher. Right now they are offering excellent royalties. I would avoid Kindle Select (their exclusive program) like any other non-compete clause. Why limit where you can sell?
It is wise to be wary with any big corporation you want to sign a contract with, Amazon included. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
It's all about the contracts. I highly recommend getting Michael Levin's book on negotiating a book contract, and limiting non-compete and first option clauses as specifically as possible (echoing advice from Kristine Rusch). And reading the Amazon KDP contract carefully.
I know authors who've had great success so far with Kindle Select, but I don't want to be locked in to any one publisher.

John McFetridge said...

I'm having some fun with this. I have a new book coming out next week distributed by IPG.

The week my last book came out from St. Martins they had their fight with Amazon and pulled their books (or maybe Amazon pulled the books, I forget).

The McMillan fight with Amazon got worked out and I hope the IPG fight gets worked out, too.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

originaloflaura - I really fear that the carrots Amazon is dangling will ultimately lead them to ask for exclusivity. And if you refuse you will no longer be allowed to publish with them. I hope I'm wrong because that would be bad business for everyone!

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Catherine - yeah, I'm sorry to say you aren't the only one I've heard that complaint from. In fact, we have a Nook in our house and have noticed that same limitation for some titles. It's sad.

Malachi - I always love when you put me in the same category as best-sellers. You make me feel all warm and tingly. And yes - Dan's post on Amazon is spectacular! Everyone should read it.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Thomas - it is about the contracts and that is what I'm hoping people will realize. The best rule of thumb in publishing contracts is to keep as many rights as possible so you stay in control of your work. Here is hoping people don't allow Amazon to dictate poor contract options in the future. Right now the contract options look really good....but when the market for Indie books becomes tighter (and I think we all know that not all Indie book avenues will survive as the market grows and changes) I really believe the contract terms for Amazon will change.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

John - I remember when Amazon pulled the buy buttons for MacMillan titles. Oy! It is hard to believe you've been struck by the same lightning bolt twice. Here's hoping the IPG negotiations with Amazon take a turn for the positive for you!

Anonymous said...

Everytime a new 800-pound gorilla comes on the scene, I keep hearing paraphrases of the old Biblical tome, "Who is like this Beast? Who can stand against him?"

But it never lasts. Perfect example: Walmart. Yes, they can stomp all over anyone with impunity right now, but before them, it was K-Mart, which toppled Sears, which toppled Montgomery Ward. Or Microsoft. Where are they in the smartphone/tablet wars? Fourth place.

History dictates it will happen with Amazon.

But then the Big Six need to wake up and see they're headed down the same path as the recording industry, which deserves every bad thing that's happened to it.

Veronica said...

This sounds like something an abusive boyfriend would say. "sure it looks good now, but you'll never find someone who loves you like I do. If you leave, you'll be miserable." etc...

The fact is, the big six offer nothing other than bragging rights to 99.9% of the authors they publish. Knowing this, is it really smart of you to put all your eggs in this particular basket? How many books are you selling of each title? 4000 copies? 5000 copies? I'm guessing those estimates are much higher than the real numbers since people aren't buying fiction paper books as much these days. And it's not just you. Most low to mid list traditionally published authors aren't selling right now because the majority of avid fiction readers are moving to ebooks, and their publishers are fighting that change as much as they can.

Knowing this, I'm surprised to see you defending the traditional publishing model. Or even implying that it's a good choice and that you should put all your eggs in their basket.

Here's a question: How many books do you think you'll sell in two years when there are no more bookstores?

If you think I'm being doom and gloom, think again. B&N has been actively pushing their customers out of their store with the nook, and independents are closing every day. The ones who survive will have to sell a combination of new and used books because it'll be the only way they can survive. It's grim out there, and it's not going to get better.

So, what are you left with? If all the avid fiction readers are moving to ebooks, what do you do? Do you keep turning over manuscripts to the big six for smaller and smaller advances and lower sales, or do you pull up your big kid pants and take charge of your own career?

You talk about feeling bad for the authors who publish with Amazon's traditional imprints, but a lot of those authors are quitting their day jobs, hitting national bestseller lists, and selling tens or even hundreds of thousands of copies of their books without having many paper copies in stores. Believe me, you don't have to feel bad for those authors. I've self published two novels, and I would melt into a bubbling puddle of joy if Amazon wanted to publish my books.

It's an entirely new world, and Amazon is leading the charge. They understand that the only people who matter are readers and writers, and that's why they've floated so much negative propaganda out there right now. The industry is doing it's best to build public support because they know they can't compete on a business level.

As a book lover, it is sad to see bookstores go, but as a writer and a reader, this is the most exciting and promising thing to happen in my lifetime.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Veronica - I'm not defending either model. I'm just saying that monopolies are never good and if Amazon ends up creating a monopoly where they get to dictate all terms - well, those terms might not be all that good for authors. This is not about defending the tradtiional model. I have reasons why I have gone that route and really I am lucky since I can support myself with what I earn on that is currently my choice to go traditional, but that doesn't mean I think it is the only choice.

And while I appreciate that you are an advocate for Indie publishing, I believe in your advocation you are missing the point. Amazon is showing how they do business...just because they haven't turned their guns on indie authors yet doesn't mean they won't. That also isn't saying they will. I just think that being aware is an important thing for all business people...and authors, whether they want to be or not, are business people.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

eviljwinter - I do think that Amazon will end up stumbling. I'm just hoping it won't take a lot of authors down with it when it does.

And YES! Traditional publishing is slow to change which is not to its advantage. They need to be more flexible and acknowledge change and be willing to adapt more quickly. Sadly, as a musician, I will say I watched the music industry collapse with interest and sadness. To my way of thinking, musicians got screwed the worst in that business model collapse. Let's hope writers do better as this industry continues to grow and change!

Laura K. Curtis said...

As a consumer, I love Amazon. Really. But you couldn't pay me to publish with them, and I mean that in the most literal sense. If you *gave me money* I wouldn't publish with them. I'd far rather self-publish (and no, I don't call it "indie publishing") and distribute through someone who offers distribution on all platforms. In fact, one of these days, when I get around to getting them professionally edited, I have a couple of mysteries I'd like to do that with. But that's another story.

If you don't think that Amazon is already causing problems for those who publish with them, take a look at what passes for cover art on most of the Amazon-imprint books. Take a look at what passes for editing. Take a look at what passes for copy writing for their own descriptions compared to the descriptions supplied by other publishers. (And no, I don't just mean Big Six, or even just traditional publishers. There are plenty of e-publishers out there who manage to do good copy.)

Being "published by Amazon" is the same as being self-published except you get better distribution terms because they push the product. And you don't have nearly the flexibility.

Amazon is a sales machine, a business, a corporation. They're damn good at what they do, but they're not book people. For all their faults, and they are many, traditional publishers *are* book people. It's possibly why they're frequently not good businesspeople.

Amazon is playing the benevolent dictator at the moment, but there's no question that they *are* dictators. No one else in the industry refuses to let people share contract details or sales numbers. Amazon does. The only reason for that is to prevent competition.

And competition is good. Very good. Not only does it drive prices down for consumers and up for authors, it keeps quality higher.

As a reader, I like traditional publishing. Sorry, self-pub authors, but you have to work harder to get my money because I've been burned so many times. I know that if I become a self-pub author, I will have to work harder to earn people's trust as well.

Currently, I'm a small press author. For the most part, I aspire to a traditional publishing path, with either small or large presses. But I am not against self-publishing under the right circumstances.

I just wouldn't be an "Amazon author."

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Laura - benevolent dictator is a good way of putting the current behavior toward Indie authors. Not-so-benevolent better describes their current model with traditional publishers. Which is why I'm concerned with what might come down the road.

I think the one area you have highlighted that I find most important is that Amazon IS in the business of selling stuff. They sell books because books sell. Not becuase they have a huge love of books. They want to make money. Veronica made the point that Amazon places importance on readers and writers. I argue that logic is false. Amazon wants to make money. Currently, they are pulling in huge amounts of cash by providing a publishing method. They don't have to do any work. Congrats to them. Not having to work for cash is a neat trick and they've successfully created a model that allows them to cash in on authors and readers. Anyone who believes that their interest lies in the health and well-being of authors and readers as opposed to the money they are making is doomed for disappointment.

The publishing industry is a hard road to navigate. The best way to survive it is to keep yours eyes open and make the choices that seem smartest for your career.

It sounds like you've already made the choice that works for you!

Veronica said...

just because they haven't turned their guns on indie authors yet doesn't mean they won't.

But why would they? Nobody seems to have an answer for this. Jeff Bezos has always been passionate about Books. After Amazon reshapes the industry, why would they crush the people who create those books? And again, can you really see them being worse than what traditional publishers who pay pennies to authors then drop them without a thought when they're not profitable? I can't see it happening like that with Amazon. Turning their guns on the content providers they need is just bad business, and if there's one thing Amazon is not, it's bad at business.

Laura K Curtis: Being "published by Amazon" is the same as being self-published except you get better distribution terms because they push the product. And you don't have nearly the flexibility.

Obviously, you don't understand the difference between traditional publishing (big 6 and Amazon Publishing) and self publishing. With Self publishing, you are responsible for everything. You create the cover, the back copy, you format the book, edit the book, and you promote the book by yourself. A traditional publisher (including Amazon) will do all of this for you with their own art dept., editors, and publicists to help.

I'm curious what "distribution terms" these authors get. Can you share what you know? It's hard to find this information online.

I agree that I wish Amazon was more open with their contract details and sales numbers. I've exchanged emails with a few Amazon published authors to see if they had pointers on how I could get my book in front of an editor at Amazon, and I've learned some interesting things, all off the record, and it's left no doubt in my mind that I want to publish with them above anyone else. If both Random House and Amazon offered me a traditional deal, there is no way in the world I'd go with Random House unless they were paying me millions. It's just not worth it because they can't sell books from new writers as well as Amazon can, and being able to get my book in front of as many readers as possible is my primary goal. If it comes down to having a pretty cover and selling 4000 books, or a mediocre cover and selling 40,000 books, I'll go with the latter every time. I want to be read, and the bragging rights of being published by the big 6 mean less and less every day.

Speaking of covers, I went out and looked at some Amazon published books, and I don't think their covers are too bad. Some are corny, but a lot of big 6 covers are just as bad. Which ones are you looking at that you think are so awful?

Will Entrekin said...

I get the reservations and hesitations, but when it comes right down to it, and as you rightly point out, "This is all speculation." Which isn't to say that your reservations are unfounded. It's likely that, as the business model of publishing continues to evolve, Amazon's terms will continue to change. Especially when Barnes & Noble spins off Nook and then shutters its stores (which is arguably not just speculation but probable).

It's also interesting to see the anti-Amazon spin on the IPG dispute. All the language I've seen is that "Amazon pulled titles," like they're just being a big bully. The fact of the matter, though, is that a contract was up for renewal, and Amazon--like any business--tried to get better terms that were more beneficial to them. IPG decided those terms weren't beneficial to them--and maybe they weren't. I can't tell. I haven't seen the terms offered. But when IPG rejected the new terms Amazon pursued and the contract expired, Amazon lost rights to sell IPG's digital content.

I've had a great experience with Amazon so far, and I look forward to seeing how the terms and model evolve. My hope is that the terms will in general remain more favorable than those offered by publishing corporations. I don't know what the future will hold, but I know, by current terms, Amazon's are among the best.

John McFetridge said...

There's certainly no reason for Amazon to change the way they do business now, but things can change. If Amazon becomes unable to offer automated uploads and needs to screen books individually, if something like this plagarism problem becomes even bigger:

Or for some other reason, then they'll do whatever they have to to protect their business.

Veronica said...

Veronica made the point that Amazon places importance on readers and writers. I argue that logic is false.

I think yore talking about self published authors, and I'm talking about Amazon's stable of authors who they publish on their imprints. I read a post on kindle boards a while back talking about how Amazon sees self published authors the same as any other vendor who sells a product on their website. If this is true, Amazon might not have a vested interest in their future, but they will want to keep them happy since, as you said, they make a lot of money off them for very little work.

I do think it's different for the professional authors who publish with Amazon's in-house imprints and have a personal relationship with them, but I might be wrong. Maybe they are evil, and maybe all these pro writers who have turned down big 6 contracts to publish with Amazon are making a mistake. We'll see. All we can do now is argue both sides based on opinion and speculation instead of facts.

I'd love to see a post on this blog from someone who actually knows how Amazon works.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Veronica - I think several years ago, people who have argued there would be no reason for Amazon to change the terms of their contracts with traditional publishers and distributors. And yet.... I'm not saying Amazon is bad. In fact, I'm delighted that authors do well selling there. Heck, I am part of two short story collections through this blog that are self-pubbed! It's a good thing.

And I think that saying all traditionally pubbed authors or all indie pubbed authors are wrong in their choices is short sighted. We are all doing what is best for our careers. I'm fortunate that my current titles are selling well and that my upcoming series have offered me contracts I couldn't say no to. That doesn't mean I will never venture into self-publishing. I might...some day.

I just think it is wrong to always believe that a business (whether Amazon or traditional publishers) are looking out for you. Writers want to look at Amazon as a savior of publishing, but they are a business and as John put it in his last commment - they will do whatever they have to do to protect their business. If that means changing contracts on Indie authors, then that's what they'll do. Only time will tell.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

And yes - it would be interesting to see what authors who have pubbed with their traditional imprints have seen. I think it might be too soon to tell hard numbers since some of their genre titles started coming out last fall, but I'd love to see numbers!\

And don't get me wrong, I have friends and a fellow DSD blogmate who is pubbing with the Amazon traditional model. I am thrilled for them!

Laura K. Curtis said...

Veronica -

There are multiple reasons I wouldn't put Amazon in the same category with EITHER traditional OR self-pub.

Traditional isn't just "Big 6." You can't base an argument on them or consider your "traditional" career over without a Big 6 contract. Plenty of people refuse Big 6 because of Agency pricing. Traditional publishing includes a host of other options, including both small presses and big publishers like Harlequin who aren't "Big 6."

Amazon's covers? Off the top of my head, the first I think of is Barry Eisler. His books used to be cleanly edited with nice covers. With a single Photoshop class behind me, I could do a better cover than the one Amazon did for him. Or if you prefer a romance, check out the cover for "She Can Run."

I don't make career decisions lightly. As I said, I don't have anything against self-pub, by which I mean hiring a cover artist and an editor. I'd probably use a service to help me do the formatting, but I'd expect to pay for it. So yes, I do completely understand the difference.

I am more interested in why you think you'd do well to get your book in front of an Amazon acquisitions editor. None of their books I've read (and I read for a living, so I've read a lot) have shown much in the way of book editing, so I am assuming acquisitions is their major/only editorial function. I'm not talking about grammar. I mean the things a real book editor does to help shape your work into its best form.

If you already have a following, like Barry Eisler does, I doubt you'll lose anyone. The question is whether someone coming to you for the *first time,* seeing that cover, that "published by Amazon," and reading the (less well-edited) book will continue to be a loyal follower.

Even self-published authors who publish through Amazon's self-pub services are having terms dictated to them, which is why I'd rather go with someone else who can produce a Kindle version.

As far as contract terms with Amazon, their non-disclosure stuff is the only thing they are willing to release about their contracts. The fact that I could lose my contract if I discussed how many copies of my book I sold is repulsive to me.

By "better distribution" I mean that on Amazon's pages, they promote their own authors. They hire publicists to send out some stuff for review (which is why I have a pile of their books that I've looked at, if not actually read). They might be able to get their into libraries, which is often impossible for self-pub authors. (Though not so for micro-press books if you work at it.)

That might be appealing to me if the rest of their business dealings with authors didn't bother me so much. And if I didn't think I could get so much a nicer looking, better quality book by producing it myself. To me, it comes down to my name and the length of my career: I want my name associated with the best possible thing I can create, and I want my career under my own control. I don't get either of those with Amazon.

As a reader, when I see "published by Amazon" or one of their imprints, I skip the book unless it's from an author I know and trust from another source. I've tossed too many of their books into the trash to believe they have any idea of what makes a competently-told story.

I'm not against Amazon as a business. I wish I could have had half their success running my own business. And as a reader, I love the ease of downloading stuff to my Kindle. I'm a rabid Kindle-aholic.

But as a publisher, that's something else entirely.

I wish you the best of luck with whatever path you choose. But monopolies of any kind make me nervous, and I wouldn't want to place myself in the hands of a company that's actively working to become one.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Who knew Blogger had a character limit on comments? LOL!

As to "why would Amazon crush their authors"...ask WalMart. They've been doing it for years. Once they got big enough, they forced their suppliers to take less and less for everything until many of those suppliers went out of business.

At that point, WalMart became the manufacturer as well as the distributor. They make a lot more money having, say, combination locks made at their own factories in China than they did buying from suppliers here in the US.

Once Amazon isn't fighting other publishers, why *shouldn't* they force authors into lousy contracts? They are a business, and businesses want to make money.

It's like HMOs. We think of them as our insurance companies, but they are actually profit-centered corporations and their primary responsibility is *to their shareholders.* If they don't do everything possible to make as much money for their shareholders as possible, they aren't doing their job and they can be penalized.

Right now, it's in Amazon's interest to build a stable of authors who go around saying how great Amazon is. (And even now, if you couldn't tell, I don't think they're doing such a great job of helping their authors.) If they become a monopoly, that won't be the case.


Of course, anyone who says they are absolutely sure what the future holds is on crack. If Amazon doesn't succeed in becoming a monopoly, they may be forced to up their game. I would be very happy if that happened.

As I said earlier, competition is good.

Anonymous said...

Amazon's covers? Off the top of my head, the first I think of is Barry Eisler. His books used to be cleanly edited with nice covers. With a single Photoshop class behind me, I could do a better cover than the one Amazon did for him.

I can't find the link, but somewhere Barry mentioned that he had total control over his cover as part of his amazon deal, and he hired the same cover designer who did all his previous Rain books.

Can't pin that one on Amazon.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Actually, no. It's not the same designer. If you look on Eisler's site,, you'll see that he says the same guy has done all his AMAZON books / ebooks, but not the Rain books that came out when he was with his original publisher. The cover is hideous and crappy, but if he had total control over it, then he's to blame; you're absolutely right.

Me, I assumed that since the vast majority of the stuff we get from Amazon looks like that, with bad fonts and odd proportions, they'd had an in-house designer do it.

Thomas Pluck said...

Competition is good. Right now Amazon is a pretty good deal. Make the best of it, but don't get locked in, any more than you should sign away your rights to anyone.
Just as Harlequin cut e-book royalties and tried to force it down authors' throats, big companies think of contracts like toilet paper. They're only good if you can afford a lawyer to enforce it.
The large print giveth and the small print taketh away (Tom Waits)

What irks me is how polarizing this issue is. Some folks project their love of books onto conglomerates who really don't care about stories, just sales. And others look at the relative freedom Amazon offers as a frontier that lets them feel like a pioneer or a prospector.
In reality, they are neither. They are in business to make a profit. Bezos chose books because of ISBNs and barcodes. Publishers may have loved books once, but the big ones are just a cog in a media machine.
But we need them, to a degree. Keep your cards and rights close to your chest, and be mercenary. Fight the urge for instant gratification.
As much as I like Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch's business advice, Dean also says "edit? feh, don't edit too much. You can't improve it until you get better by practice. Just upload and it write another book. When you have 5 or so, the money starts a-rollin' in!"
I disagree with him on that. Book 5 may be great, but when your reader buys all 5 books and four suck, what happens?
Editors still have a place in this world.

Nick said...

Sure. Amazon may look good now, but what if they continue to ask for more and more? What if they start cutting into your share and start taking more? Sure it's great to get seventy percent, but how long before Amazon starts taking more and more? Soon, if they go unchecked, they'll flip that and leave you less than thirty percent for all your hard work, just like the Big Six do now. How terrible it would be if Amazon begins to behave like the Big Six. And one they do that, what's to stop them? We must stand up and stop them. When they came for the horror writers, I said nothing because I do not write horror. When they came for the romance authors, I said nothing because I do not write romance. What happens if Amazon demands exclusive rights? In the KDP Select they offer benefits but require exclusivity for ninety days. Egads! What if they make that one hundred days? Like the original post says, what's to stop them? Sure, they're so much better than the Big Six now, but what's to stop them from requiring exclusivity forever? What's to stop them from cutting your share? What's to stop them from demanding final say in your book covers? What's to stop them from only paying you once a year instead of quarterly? What's to stop them from breaking into your house and fucking your parakeets?

Jeffrey A. Garrett said...

Some day the world will end.

The sun will go nova, or an asteroid will strike the earth, or Darkseid will send his Parademons to ravage the planet.

So what's the point of doing anything?

You have at your disposal the greatest innovation in publishing since Gutenberg, and all you people are fretting about it like a lot of nervous nellies--either that or deeply resentful that others are able to bust through the gates. Writers of the past would fall down to their knees and weep if they were given the tools we have now. Get some perspective--it's a useful tool for a writer.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Jeffrey - I'm not saying the sky is falling. I never said not to publishing via Amazon. However, a smart business person - and that is what all published authors are no matter what avenue you publish through - keeps his or her eyes open. The more information you have the more in control of your career you are. And isn't that the whole point?

Jeffrey A. Garrett said...


Of course you should keep your eyes open--but shouldn't they be focused on things that are currently happening?

What suggestions do you have for authors regarding possible changes in Amazon's policies in the future, other than "casting a wary eye"? Also, what suggestions do you have for authors regarding to possible future changes in agent and traditional publisher policies?

I also wonder, who do you think is in more control of their careers right now--writers who go through the traditional publishing system and who must submit to their publisher's whims regarding content, covers, print run, promotion, etc., or those who publish through Amazon?

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Jeffery - Technically, I am pointing a finger to what is happening now. Amazon is strong arming the publisher and distributors that they once were very happy partners with. It is a good idea for all authors to watch this as it progresses.

As for me, I admit I'm not a cover expert. So I am happy to let those that understand covers better than I do that job. And my editorial notes that I most recently worked on were incredibly brilliant. They made the book so much stronger. While that isn't something every traditional author can say, I feel much more in control of the work that readers see when I know I have been pushed to make it the best book possible.

That is just me! Not everyone feels that way. I respect that everyone has differing opinions on what makes them feel in control of their career and what makes them happy. I think that if we share information, keep our eyes on what is happening in publishing and keep the conversation from being "your're wrong for publishing traditionally" or "you're wrong for going indie" we'll all be better off for the discussion we can have. I respect the right of all authors to take the path best for them.