There is a lot of talk going around about the “Evil Empire that is Amazon”. It’s the same talk as a year or two ago, about how evil Amazon is, how its forcing brick and mortar stores to close, and how its hurting the traditional publishers and now, the traditionally published authors.
Let me tell you about my experience with Amazon.
Were it not for Amazon and the KDP program, I would not be where I am today. I would still be stuck in a dead end job that I did not like.
Were it not for Amazon, I wouldn’t have been given the chance to publish my books. Ever. Because, according to New York/Traditional publishing houses, the romance genre is dead, series books don’t sell, and no one reads historical fiction/historical romance anymore. And ‘clean’ romance novels don’t sell at all. (I write Scottish Historical Fiction/Romance, now have two series, and all my books are ‘clean’ compared to many in this genre.)
In 2011 I published my first book. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Not. One. Clue. But, because Amazon made it so easy, I was able to get this little book, that in truth was only meant as a gift to my mom, published. That was December of 2011. In the book world, I was an unknown. Just a woman with a story to tell. My goal at that time was to sell ten copies in my entire lifetime. I would have been over-the-moon happy with selling just ten copies.
By February of 2012 — just two months after hitting that lovely ‘publish’ button — my book was #2 on Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers List in Scottish Historical Romance. I kept thinking that Amazon would call and say it was a mistake. That I wasn’t really selling 250+ copies of that book a day, and don’t give up your day job.
Amazon did call me in March or April of 2012, but it wasn’t to tell me it was a mistake. They called to congratulate me and give me my own KDP representative. Yes, it blew my mind too!
By October of 2012, I was able to give up my day job. I was earning so much more at writing than at my day job. In fact, one month my royalty check was the equivalent of 10 month’s salary at day job. That’s right. It would have taken me ten months of working 8 to 5, five days a week, to earn what I made in one month as a writer. The decision to give up the day job was settled.
Were it not for the KDP program and Amazon, I would not have thousands of devoted readers. I wouldn’t be adding on a 24 x 30 room addition to our home (paying cash for it, no loans). I wouldn’t be able to pay for all my mom’s medicine that medicare doesn’t pay for— and trust me that gets very expensive! I wouldn’t be able to help my kids through college, and pay down our debt. I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things that I’ve been able to do in the past two and a half years. I’d still be stuck in my dead end job. And writing full time would still only be a dream. A wish I’d make when blowing out birthday candles or on a falling star.
Were it not for Amazon, I wouldn’t have made all the wonderful friendships with so many of my readers. I wouldn’t have forged friendships with fellow authors. I wouldn’t know who Hugh Howey is, or Liliana Hart, or Tanya Anne Crosby or Kathryn LeVeque or the countless other awe inspiring people I’ve met along the way.
In my humble opinion, the big, traditional publishing houses are worried that they’re losing their stronghold on publishing. The Kindle has opened up new territories for readers. And were it not for readers, none of us, not the traditionally published authors or the indie authors, would be here. It is the reader who makes us all successful. And that is who I think is getting lost in this argument.
Readers are not as stupid as New York likes to think they are. They’re intelligent people who love a great story. And many readers are probably like I was three years ago: limited funds to spend on books. Before becoming a writer, I had a monthly book budget. I could read three to six books a week depending on the length of the book and free time. For me, I would rather read ten good books in a month than just one. So if I could get ten books for ten bucks, that made more sense than spending ten bucks on one book. I love James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Lisa Gardner, and John Grisham. They’re wonderful story tellers. But honestly, I couldn’t afford $10 to $20 for an ebook. I just couldn’t. So I would get their books from the library and spend my book money on less expensive — but equally beautiful and wonderfully written — ebooks. I think many of my readers are in the same boat that I was. We want to read. We want to read a lot. We read many different genres and many different authors.
The traditional publishers just don’t get that. And the traditionally published authors don’t get it either, at least not the big named authors. What they’re forgetting is the reader.
I can’t tell you the number of times a reader has contacted me via Facebook or email or blog and when I respond to them, they are stunned. “I can’t believe you answered my email!” or “I can’t believe you’re talking to me on Facebook!” Indie authors understand that the relationship between us and the reader is important. Our readers are important. We do our best to give them good stories and we love hearing from them and talking to them. The indie author isn’t afraid to form a friendship with their readers, to ask questions about what they like or didn’t like about our books, or what they’d like to see next.
I often get asked “Why are your books so inexpensive?”
I keep my prices low for a couple of reasons. One and foremost is for my readers. If they’re on book budgets like I was a couple of years ago, I want them to be able to afford my books. The second reason is this: I’d rather sell 10,000 copies of a $2.99 cent book each month, than 10 copies of a book priced at $12.99. It just makes good economic sense for me.
I owe Amazon a great deal. Because of them, I have so many opportunities to write, to publish, to reach my readers. Amazon has literally changed my life. I would not have the income that I have with a traditional publisher. Authors with traditional publishing houses make between 2% to 12% of sales. Indie authors get 35% or 70% (depending on what we price our books at.) So which would I rather have? 2% of an ebook priced at $8, or 70% of an ebook priced at $3.99? And when Amazon discounts a paperback, I still get the same royalty as if they hadn’t. Trad houses don’t do that. They don’t treat their authors with the respect they deserve, they don’t pay them enough to give up their day jobs, and they certainly do not treat them as well as Amazon treats the indie author.
I have a few questions: Why must Amazon be the one to give in? Why not Hatchette? Why does Hatchette insist that Amazon raise its prices? Why shouldn't Hatchette lower thiers?
I'd also like to know -- and I received this question/though from another author on a different forum -- should I boycott Barnes & Noble because they won't put my indie books in their stores?
Thanks for letting me have my two cents. :D