Thursday, August 17, 2017

Amazon vs the Author

Good afternoon, everyone! Thanks for checking in at Too Many Books to Count today. I really look forward to seeing what you guys think of my posts, and this series has (strangely) been a lot of fun.

Since last time I talked about things that RAD has had to deal with concerning Amazon, I thought the logical progression would be to talk about my own dealings with the company.

Now, remember, when I first published Telekinetic, it was through Xlibris. I paid them to publish my novel, to edit it, and to market it. And Xlibris works with Amazon, in what little capacity they can. Xlibris sells their books on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, pretty much all over the place. They also jack the price up so that they’ll make money on it, which lowers the amount of buyers and lessens the amount of money an author can make through their work... but I digress.

Amazon vs. the Author

In publishing through Xlibris, I initially thought I was working with a company that could work with Amazon, a company that was used to dealing with them.

Here’s the thing with Amazon though. Because they set the prices, because they’re determined to have the lowest prices around for every book they sell, the people who publish through Createspace sell their books for pennies. I’m not even joking. You’ve seen it. You can get the ebook for under a dollar, or the paperback for twenty.

Xlibris couldn’t compete with that. They couldn’t afford to sell the ebook for such a small price. And I’ll tell you why. While people will tell you that ebooks are pure profit, that nothing goes into making them, it’s a complete and utter lie. Time goes into it. The time you took to write your novel, and the time to edit it. The time it took to format it, to insert the scene spacers and make everything look pretty. Not to mention the money you paid your editor.

Unless you publish through Createspace (and skip the editor), there’s just no way for it to be worth it.

That’s my personal experience with them. I manage my own KDP account, I put out ads and do everything I can to get people to buy the book, but it generally amounts to nothing. And why? Because people would rather pay ninety-nine cents than five dollars. And I can’t say that I blame them, but those people are not the readers I’m looking for, the people I want to buy my books.

My books are long. They just are. They’re five times the length of the average kindle book. Yeah, I’m not even joking.

Thing is, even when I’ve tried catering to readers who like longer works, I’ve struggled to get any traction on Amazon. Why? Because Amazon doesn’t like to push sales from anyone who isn’t published through Createspace. Oh, sure, you can pay for them to advertise, but you’ll have to pay an arm and leg to reach the same level of exposure they automatically give to their authors.

And again, it makes great business sense! Amazon is a very smart company. They’re really good at what they do. But they’re also pushing everyone else out of the way while they do it.

Think about it: when’s the last time you bought a book that wasn’t on Amazon?

That right there was the biggest problem I had with Amazon. There are millions of authors on there, most of whom published through Createspace, and most of whom are willing to sell their book for a pittance of what it’s worth.

I can’t bring myself to sell out. I just can’t. I can’t price my book lower than what it’s worth. And I can’t bring myself to work with a company that doesn’t want my business anyway.

Can you?


{Rani Divine}

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Selling Through the Beast

Hey all! I hope you all had wonderful weekends, and that you’re well-rested for this week. I, for one, am not. And so, I have a bit of a rant for you today.

First things first though.

What I’m going to talk about today relates to RAD Writing. I’ve gotten permission from their senior editor, Kristina, to talk about this stuff—but only pertaining to my first book, Coetir. From what I understand, Amazon's system hasn’t changed in the slightest. From the research I’ve done over the weekend, nothing has altered since this data was gathered, a couple years ago. I’m not allowed to say exactly when it’s from. Sorry about that. But this is a topic that I thought you all ought to hear, and one that I thought might help to inform some of why I started this series in the first place.

Selling Paperbacks through Amazon

In case you hadn’t noticed, RAD doesn’t do this. Their books, while available on Amazon, are not available in print. That’s what I want to discuss today, through the lens of my book. Coetir has been out for a few years now, so I thought it was time to discuss.

See, I would very much like to have the paperbacks on Amazon. I would. It would be an extra bit of exposure, which I would like to have. Right now, Coetir is only available in a few places. We’re working toward getting it in more, but it’s a process. It takes time.

Thing is, in order to have the Coetir paperbacks on Amazon, RAD had to lose $2.00 per sale. Not even counting shipping costs.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain how utterly ridiculous that is, or tell you what bad business it would’ve been for RAD, if they’d stuck with it. Obviously, we can’t be losing money on every sale. The point of sales is to make money, not lose it. Duh.

We tried other methods, too. We tried Amazon Advantage, we tried making our own storefront within Amazon, we tried all sorts of things—but no matter what we did, we ended up losing money on every sale.

That’s what Amazon is about, if you’re not working through Createspace. If you’re working with their self-publishing company, then of course you’ll make a little bit of money. Otherwise, they’re going to milk you dry.

Again, as a business strategy, it’s brilliant. It limits what other companies are able to work through Amazon without losing money, and prevents the little guys from gaining any traction against them. But that’s also exactly why it’s a bad thing for us, the authors and small presses. Amazon is doing their level best to prevent us from doing what we want to do, and making money on it, unless we’re working through them.

But remember, Createspace is the easy way out. It’s giving up. And we don’t want to do that.

Amazon knows this. They know that a lot of authors struggle with the idea of self-publishing, of doing it on their own without an editor and a business to back them. So they worked it out to make it nearly impossible for authors to work with them, unless those authors published through Createspace.

Brilliant on their part, right?

Which is exactly why we should be avoiding them. They’re creating a monopoly for themselves, making themselves the most appealing way for authors to be published. Monopolies mean Amazon is controlling far more than we even know. Monopolies mean we, the little guys, will hardly make a thing in the end.

I see it. Do you?

Amazon is a control freak. They want to have the power. Obviously. They want to be the giant of book sales, no matter what, and we're letting them do it. Too many authors buy into the lie that Amazon is the only place to sell, to the point that it's quickly leaning more toward true. And why? Because authors have bought into Amazon's lie. 

You've been marketed to. All of you. And many of you bought it, because you didn't know what to look out for. 

There's nothing wrong with that. Seriously. It's happened to me, too. But it's time we thought for ourselves, time we realized that Amazon isn't the only venue to sell through, and time we recognize the monopoly that's building right in front of our eyes. 

Monopolies are bad for business, or didn't you know? 


{Rani Divine}

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It's Time You Make Your Own Decisions

It’s Thursday! We’ve made it through most of the week. I’m going to assume that means we’re ready to take on another tough topic, another subject that a lot of us don’t like to think about—much less talk about, for fear of being called a conspiracy theorist.

I’d say I’m just enough of a conspiracy theorist that this was an easy one for me to grasp. Let’s see how you guys do with it.

Amazon decides what you’re going to read.

Now, I don’t mean that they’re going to pick one specific book and get you to read it. I mean that they’re going to give you a list of maybe (and I stress the word maybe) fifteen books that they’ve handpicked just for you, and they’re reasonably sure that you’re going to read them. Oh yeah, and they’re right most of the time. Oh, yeah, and those books are the ones they're going to make the most money off you buying.

See, I know it’s something nobody likes to think about, but we’re being watched all the time. We really are. The difference between being watched in the US and being watched in Europe is that in Europe, they’re at least polite enough to tell you. Here, we pretend it isn’t happening. But I’m not talking about the government watching you. I’m talking about businesses.

Amazon is watching you, and they have been since you signed up for an account with them. They know what you like to watch, what kind of music you listen to, and yes, what kinds of books you read. And they’re going to use this information to push the titles that will make them the most money.

Let me give you an example.

I went on a hunt recently, on Amazon, for a book one of my friends had told me about. Only I couldn’t remember the name, and I couldn’t remember the author. I knew what was on the cover, what the book was about, and it was all fairly unique, so I thought it couldn’t be that hard to find. I searched for the genre, refined my results down by what I knew about the book, and do you know what I found?

Nearly all the results were Createspace books.

I thought that was a little strange, being that I was looking for something by an established author who’d been published through a large publishing house.

Then I thought about it a little more, and it all began to make sense.

See, when Amazon works with other companies, like Random House, for example, they don’t make as much money. They have to give some of the profit to the other company, and so they lose something in the transaction.

On the other hand, when they’re only working with an author, they don’t have any overhead charges. There’s no secondary company they have to work with to make that sale. It’s simple profit for them, with a little handout to the author on the side.

It’s a brilliant business strategy, if I’m being honest. Amazon is really good about those, and that’s what’s built them up into such a big business to begin with.

The problem is, they’re preventing us from finding books that have been edited, that have gone through the real process and have reached their full potential. Instead, they’re pushing books that aren’t properly edited, books that still need some help, stories that have plot holes hidden in their subplots.

Some readers won’t notice. That’s true. But the real readers, the devout readers that we’re all striving to reach, they’ll notice. And those are the ones who won’t come back. They’re the best kinds of fans to have, and they’re the ones we have to fight to keep once we get them.

Amazon is doing everything they can think of to keep those fans from reaching us. Everything. It’s up to us to stop them, to step in and make our own decisions on what is and is not good writing.

Don’t let Amazon tell you what to read. Don’t let Amazon’s pages be the only ones you look at when you’re deciding what you want to read.

Go to a bookstore. Check out other websites. Go look at direct from publisher sites, see what else is out there that Amazon would never allow you to see. There’s some gold out there, hidden amid the drivel.

All you have to do is find it—but Amazon’s not going to help you do it.


{Rani D.}