Corporations Are Not Your Friends

Once every month, right after our KDP reports come out, indie authors everywhere go a little crazy. Rightfully so. A lot of indie authors have chosen to go into the Select program with Amazon which allows their books to be in Kindle Unlimited, KU for short. KU pays for pages read instead of a flat percentage of your book. I’ve been in and out of the program over the past few years. It was really good for me until it wasn’t. Just like a lot of others. Some are still doing well. KU loves some authors, some genres more than others, it seems.

This month, the KU payout for pages read dropped to its lowest since the program was introduced. In fact, over the past five months (maybe) the payout has gone down. Some are blaming scammers. Some are blaming the very faulty program itself. Others are blaming Amazon. It’s getting harder and harder to gain traction as a published writer and most seem to believe that being exclusive with Amazon is the only way to survive and thrive as an author. I have many thoughts on that, but I’ll save that for a future rant.

So, anyway…

I lurk on a few writer message boards and follow the discussions each month. If there is one thing that makes me want to come out of the shadows of lurkerdom it is this: (to paraphrase some sentiments, not direct quotes) Indie authors made Amazon, we bring customers to the storefront, why are they doing this to us?, they’re treating us like we don’t matter, and etc. Now, that’s how I interpreted the tone, and it’s something I want to address briefly. Because it’s morning and I got shit to do.

First: Amazon existed long before self-published authors ever showed up on the scene. They’ll exist long after. ┬áIndies are only one thing to Amazon: vendors. That’s it. You’re not special. You’re not important. If you take your toys and go home, the zon won’t notice. Maybe you think I’m harsh for saying so, but it’s always a good idea to keep your ego in check (that includes me, yo).

Second: My uneducated guess is that Prime brings all the boys to the yard, not indie authors. But, hey, while I’m here, let’s look at some books. Convenience, kindles, shipping, all that keeps customers returning. The zon is customer focused, not vendor focused (something I find puzzling because in places I’ve worked, vendors were the customers). Think about this: if they really cared about writers and publishing, do you think they would have taken on the Big 5 publishing companies like they did over book pricing? If they were willing to let Harper Collins or Penguin Random House walk, why do you think they care about a single author publisher like yourself, myself?

Third: Why are they doing this to indies? *shrugs* Are they doing this specifically to indies or are they just doing business, thinking of their bottom line, their customer satisfaction? Maybe it looks like a bait and switch (and that’s how it looks to me, but I’m naturally cynical) but maybe it’s because indies are just a minuscule slice of the Amazon pie and don’t matter to them as much as we like to think.

Look, I’m not trying to be a hard ass. I’m only trying to be a hard ass. Because I care. I want all of us to succeed, traditional or indie. It’s unfortunate that the other vendors, I’m looking at you Barnes and Noble, oh, and Apple, you have what it takes to topple these guys…what are you waiting for? aren’t stepping up their game. I’d love to have an even playing field. But, until then, let’s be realistic: Amazon isn’t your friend. And that’s not to disparage them in any way. Even if it sounds like I’m coming down on them, I’m not. I’m really just trying to give some straight talk to indies. Corporations have to think of their business practices first. We, as content providers (because let’s be honest, that’s what we are), are just a small blip to a corporation the size of Amazon. The minute you get comfortable with that is the minute you set yourself free and adjust your business plan accordingly. Matter to yourself first. Make your books, your work matter. Think of Amazon as part of your business plan, not your entire plan. It’s becoming a costly mistake to rely on one vendor, even while the other ones suck. Amazon isn’t the enemy but it’s not your friend either.

Publish long and prosper.