#IWSG: Amazon – Big is Neither Good Nor Bad, It’s Just Big

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InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is where you can see posts from a group of writers who share their success, fear, and advice with you on the first Wednesday of each month. This month, I have only a brief message; about a subject I’ve been avoiding, but there has been so much in the media about it the past several months, I’ve decided to be silent no longer.

In American politics, there are a number of topics that arouse intense debate whenever they’re brought up: immigration, gun control, gay marriage, social security, to name a few. In the publishing world, though, among publishers and writers, there seems to be only one subject that does this: Amazon.

The ‘Zon seems to be the third rail of the publishing world—especially when it comes to indie writers and publishers. Everyone has an opinion on it, and all opinions seem to be at one pole or another; Amazon is either a behemoth that is devouring publishing as we know it, or it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Let me give you my view, for what it’s worth. Amazon is big. It’s huge. And, while big is not necessarily better, it’s also not necessarily bad. Sure, Amazon’s a business, and the business of business is to make money. Amazon has become big because it’s been good at doing that. And, it’s made all that money by supplying what customers want. Along with the thousands of other products available for sale on Amazon.com and its other sites around the world, are tons of books in all forms, from hardcover to e-Book (to audiobook), all of them available at the click of a few keys on your computer; available, I might add, often at relatively reasonable prices. Reasonable prices attract more customers, which means more sales, which means more income—or so Amazon’s reasoning seems to be.

Now, one of the arguments against Amazon has been that it is creating a monopoly which will restrict the availability of books, which will hurt authors. Looking at what’s available for sale on Amazon and my own book sales over the past year, I have a hard time believing that argument. Will Amazon help or hurt writers, especially indie writers? I think the answer to that is, it depends. If you have a large backlist and your books are pretty good, I think Amazon’s business model will benefit you. Take my own case, for example. My books are so-so popular (I have a few diehard fans), and I have a backlist of 60+. Amazon’s new model, which pays authors for total pages read, has caused a 25% increase in my monthly revenue. Why? Simple really; the more you have available to be read, the more will be read. For example, if you have four books and readers read 75% of each, you still won’t do as well as I will with 60 and readers only reading 35% of each. Don’t believe me; do the math.

The same can be said of many of Amazon’s other business models, such as KDP Select, where you make a book exclusive to Amazon for a period of time. It’s easier to do that if you have several books, and can chose which ones you want to make exclusive, and which ones you want available on other platforms (and, I’m talking e-Books here, as paperbacks aren’t exclusive).

So, briefly put, Amazon is in the business of making money. If you’re an author, you should be in the business of gaining readers, and you do that by offering a wide audience of readers a wide selection of things to read. Amazon is the platform to do that. Not the only one, by any means, but a good one. So, rather than getting embroiled in the debate, get to writing.

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2 thoughts on “#IWSG: Amazon – Big is Neither Good Nor Bad, It’s Just Big

    Jacqui Murray said:
    October 7, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    It’s that love-hate. I wouldn’t be in business without Amazon, but the way they treat sellers is disconcerting at times. Throwing out comments they deem fake, their response to problems–oh never mind. I’m better off moving on than dwelling on that stuff!

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    ccyager said:
    October 8, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for your post, Charles. I had not really given this issue any thought. Amazon is Amazon, just as any business is what it is. They are businesses that want to make money and will do what they can to do that. I think it certainly doesn’t hurt for vendors that supply Amazon, including writers, to keep an eye on how Amazon treats them, though, just as vendors would for any business they supply. Amazon knows it’s not the only place that sells what it sells. It certainly doesn’t hurt to call out Amazon for its business practices that may be unfair or smelling of a monopoly on one product or another. Let’s keep Amazon honest! Having said that, I have an e-book on sale at Amazon (and B&N and Kobo) and I’m grateful for the efforts Amazon made to promote my book, without me asking them to for the first few months it was on sale. B&N didn’t do that. Neither did Kobo. ‘Nuf said. Thanks.

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