The Destruction of the Independent Author
No one took us seriously at first. Big publishers thumbed their noses up at us and laughed at our efforts. It wasn't until independent authors on Amazon.com began to make serious headway in the book publishing industry. That's when big publishers started to take notice. Why accept countless rejection letters from big publishers, when you can publish a book yourself? Many writers took on the entrepreneurial spirit and began self publishing. Companies like Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble got their fair share of royalties, but the author still came out better with higher royalties.
But some of these companies have become greedy. Amazon started to realize the profit to be made off independent publishers and began to offer marketing and publishing services to self-publishing authors. That was an asset to the independent author until recently. When a new author first publishes a title on Amazon, the first thing they are going to notice is the lack of exposure for their title. Unless the author comes through the gate with a substantial fan base, the book is going to be buried under countless other titles.
Once the author realizes his or her book is "buried", then it's up to them to create a buzz for the title. Amazon then has opportunities for the author to dig up their title through advertising services they offer. This sounds great, right? It only gets deeper. The author then has to set a budget and bid against other authors trying to do the same thing. "This still isn't a bad deal," the independent author tells themselves. Recently Amazon has completely changed the game. The company has begun to pay authors only for the pages a customer reads! Yes. This is a fact. If a customer starts a book, has some unforeseen crisis and doesn't finish the book, Amazon is only going to pay the author for the pages the customer read.
The problem with this is the fact that it was the author's hard work that got the sale for Amazon. The author spent his hard-earned money on advertising, marketing, publishing, book-cover design, and the countless other expenses that go into publishing a book. The question I have is Amazon going to give the customers their money back for not finishing a book? I seriously doubt it. If I buy a sandwich and only eat half of it, can I take it back to Subway and get half of my money back? Will Subway dock the employee's pay who made the sandwich? If those questions sound ridiculous, it's the same tactic Amazon is using against independent authors.
Why do I think this new policy only hurts independent authors? It's due to the fact that independent authors have to go up against big publishers. If an author is being published through a big publisher, you better believe the publisher has launched an extensive marketing campaign for that project, created a fan base for the author, and the author immediately starts selling books on Amazon. With the fan base the big publisher has created, the customer is almost certain to finish the book, even if the book isn't that great. This is another area of concern. Does anybody really want Amazon monitoring what they do online that close? Just think about it for a moment. When you are reading an eBook on your smartphone, tablet, or iPad, do you really want someone looking over your shoulder, monitoring your reading habits, marking every page you turn, and you don't even realize it's happening? This new, aggressive policy starts to raise questions about invasion of privacy of customers.
With the new pay policy Amazon has established for authors, independent authors will really suffer. This new policy is going to do either two things. Other publishing platforms will adopt Amazon's strategy and reduce the pay of mainly independent authors, or other companies will capitalize off the decision Amazon has made and start attracting their independent authors. Two companies that are definitely in a position to take advantage of Amazons new policy are Apple and Barnes & Noble. These two companies have made no apologies for wanting to be more competitive against Amazon's book sales. With Amazon's new policy, this could be the end for independent publishing. Or this could be an opportunity for independent authors to find other platforms to sell their books and receive royalties they deserve. In the meantime independent authors need to work on building a strong fan base, even before publishing their books. This will ensure the author is going to sell books and have quality customers that will finish the entire book. One thing is for sure. When companies get too greedy and only focus on profits, they only end up losing in the end. Self publishers are definitely Amazon customers, and they are not happy right now.
Edgar Alan Cole, M.B.A.
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