Amazon–Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts


Last week, I picked on The Big Six in Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm, so today we are going to talk about Amazon. There seem to be two camps when it comes to Amazon. Either they are a tool of Satan and are actually responsible for the cute kitten trafficking to fund drug cartels in Guatemala, or they are the great and benevolent Optimus Amazon Prime, the one to free the enslaved creatives from their oppressive Big Six Masters.

Which is the truth? More on that in a moment. A little story first to help this sink in…

Some of you may or may not care know that I actually earned my B.A. in International Relations with a heavy emphasis on political economy (specifically dealing with the Middle East and North Africa). Back in the day, I wanted to be a foreign service officer or an analyst. So what did I do? I booked a flight to Syria.

The day after graduation, a cohort and I boarded a plane to Damascus. Our goal was to modernize a small paper company. We sought to streamline production and minimize inefficiencies. We were young, we were smart, we were…seriously dumb out of our depth.

Our plan was to help a paper plant stuck in the 60s come join the rest of the world in the 90s. We believed we could help them become competitive in a digital world so they could be competitive in the 21st century. (Sound familiar?)

Yes, that was the plan. What did we actually do?

We spent most of our time waiting on our driver to come pick us up from the refugee camp where we were staying. Yep, waiting…and more waiting…and counting goats. And, beyond that? We tried to chew ourselves free from the bureaucratic red tape that kept us from doing anything meaningful…and we drank a lot of Turkish coffee.

Why the trip down Memory Lane? 

Little did I know back in 1999, that, a decade later I would become a voice for writers in a new paradigm. See, back then I thought my passion was politics, but it was actually people all along. I traveled halfway across the globe to one of the most dangerous places for a blonde with a big mouth and zero common sense to be. And, though I failed back then, I am better prepared now…to help you guys.

Huh? I’ll explain.

The Problem with a Monopoly

Here is the thing. Syria is a dictatorship, and being a dictatorship, they really don’t care for a free market system despite any rhetoric about wanting to modernize. The paper company we wanted to streamline? They were the ONLY paper company, so anyone who wanted to wipe their tush or blow their nose, HAD to buy it from this company.

Those at the top were, well, on top. They didn’t need to listen to well-meaning college graduates who might have actually helped them be more efficient and make more money. They already had a lot of money and they controlled anything paper.

Failure will teach us far more than success ever will…

That time in Syria taught me a lot. Aside from the sound pop on the snoot to teach me I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, I got a solid dose of the downfalls of a monopoly. You see,  success was the paper company’s worst enemy. They had a lock on an important commodity and no competition. With no competition, they got lazy. There were gross inefficiencies in production and distribution and quality control was dismal at best.

But why would they change? There was no one else consumers could go to.

Talk is Cheap

I also learned that talk is cheap. Companies can say they care, that they want to be efficient, that they want to offer good products. Heck they can say it until the cows come home and that doesn’t mean a thing. It is generally only when there is an outside threat that these companies will get their act together.

So what does this have to do with publishing?

Part of why The Big Six have been able to be so grotesquely inefficient has been due to the fact that, historically, they’ve controlled distribution. They held the keys to the kingdom. Big Publishing didn’t have any decent competition, so no credible threat, thus there was no real impetus to do things faster, better, cheaper.

Oh, but that has changed. Yet with all these changes and innovations, does the future look brighter for the publishing industry and for writers?

Not so hasty…

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Amazon is the 500 pound gorilla in the room, only we can’t see it because it is hidden neatly inside a giant digital Trojan Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I buy plenty of stuff off Amazon, and they have done a lot to help shake up the industry and get New York hopping. Without them, I don’t believe we would have seen so many miraculous changes so quickly.

Ah, but every fairy tale has a dark side…

I really hope New York gets its act together, because, once the competition falls away and Amazon burns New York to the ground? What happens to the writer? What happens when we fall asleep and it is safe for Amazon’s Trojan Horse to unleash the gorilla?

Amazon right now is in the courting phase with writers, and it is using us (writers) as a weapon to kill our former masters. Ah, but if Amazon really gets its way…what then?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? And they already have a nasty reputation. They pulled that little stunt with a publisher who dared to cross them. Two years ago, they removed all the “Buy Buttons” off all the Macmillan titles. So, if Amazon will use the brass knuckles on a major publisher that crossed their path…what about us? The little guys? What happens when a writer miffs them and they unleash the gorilla?

Lord Acton so eloquently said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and that statement is as relevant today in 2012 as it was in 1887, because while industries change and technology changes, humans are timeless. So what happens when it’s Amazon’s turn to hold all the keys to the kingdom? Will they use them any differently than those they crushed to gain them?

The Perks without the Works

Unlike NY, Amazon isn’t searching through all the millions of wanna-bes for a handful of investments. Anyone can publish quickly and cheaply. Writers are running to them! The problem with this is they get all the benefits of being a publisher without any real sacrifice.

A lawyer friend of mine noted that when writers publish on Amazon, we all agree to the same blanket contract. This gives Amazon all the perks of being a publisher without concerning itself with any of the traditional protections for the writer.

And, I understand that writers haven’t been treated all that great in the past, but we need to ask the tough question. Is this future better? Is trading one dictator for another a good plan?

Amazon having total control is a particularly frightening scenario for indie and self-published authors, because many aren’t repped by agents with the legal know-how to fight any injustice. Oh, I suppose we could sue, but Amazon has armies of high-powered attorneys to make a lesson out of any of us who tried.

I know this sounds a little Orwellian, but when everyone else is gone, what is to stop Amazon from having “technical errors” that just happen to lose YOUR books? What’s to stop another “Buy Button” glitch? What’s to stop them from demanding we all sell our books for $2.99 and if we don’t comply, we suddenly start having “technical errors”?

Yes, I read a lot of Asimov in my formative years.

Amazon is great at selling the cheapest stuff. They sell everything from camping equipment to push-up bras. Books are just another commodity…right?

Books are not TVs and Writers are not Camping Equipment

See, NY has its share of problems, but one thing NY has going for it is the LOVE of the written word. They VALUE it. Now, they might be valuing it in a way that isn’t competitive, but at the end of the day, they still VALUE it in a way that I believe eludes Amazon.

To Amazon? The gorilla doesn’t have the same sentimental connection. The bottom line and making money is all that matters, and, sure, they love selling motorcycles, but the romance genre alone is worth BILLIONS.

Caveat Emptor

Some people say, “It’s just business.” Yet, Amazon has not had any problem going to the mattresses to dominate the market and drive competitors out of the game. I guarantee you that, if Amazon does manage to finish off the major competition, they will soon open their own brick-and-mortar bookstores on Barnes & Noble’s grave. Why do I say this? In my book, the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. How will we writers feel about this type of “business” when we land in the cross-hairs?

You will know them by their works…

Great, Amazon wants to bring affordable and convenient shopping to the consumer. Awesome. But the question becomes, what are they willing to do to increase their profit margin?

Publishers Weekly announced on February 1st of 2012 that:

Amazon is continuing to report record growth. The electronic and general merchandise segment that includes the Kindle devices posted a 51% fourth quarter increase and a 57% gain for 2011.

So, as a former wanna-be analyst and paper salesperson (post-Syria), what do these numbers say to me? They spell potential big trouble in the future. See, I know what it is like to be the sales guy. Sure, when you are opening up into a new territory with no competition and you have a 57% gain in a quarter, you are hailed a genius! A hero!

Ah, but the numbers always look good when penetrating a new market. It’s like turning on a water hose to fill an empty pool. Every drop looks awesome. But once the pool is full?

Those numbers don’t look as impressive and the board of directors want to know where you, the salesperson failed. Why aren’t we seeing the same profits? What do we need to do to see 57% gains every quarter? The shareholders want to see profits!

And this is usually where the trouble begins.

This is the point that the benevolent dictatorship monopoly turns into a tyrant, because it is all about the bottom line and the spreadsheets. They lose all sense of reality and fail to see that no company can make 57% gains every quarter into perpetuity. This is where they start gutting geese writers for golden eggs best-selling books.

Sure, Amazon is great now that everyone is allowed to publish, but what if, in a few years, they no longer like that business model and they only want shiny darlings like Eisler and Konrath? What’s to stop them from becoming Big Six 2.0? What’s to stop them from jerking around our royalty rates? What’s to stand in their way and keep them from trafficking cute kittens to fund Guatemalan drug cartels?


We seem to be the ones that get left out, but we are the most important. We weren’t well-represented at Digital Book World or even the recent ToC (Porter Anderson explores this in depth in the latest Writing on the Ether.) Yet, without writers there are no stories, no books to sell.

Take heart, my peeps. We hold more power than we know.

How do we make New York wake up, snap in line and treat us better than they have in the past? How do we keep the belly of the Amazon Trojan Horse closed and the greedy gorilla at bay? How can we help ensure that the indies popping up all over have a viable marketplace to grow and put down roots and fairly compete?

We band together, we get educated, and we become empowered. Our author platform is the most powerful tool at our disposal. It makes NY take us seriously, and it will help keep Amazon playing nice. I would even be so bold as to say that our platforms will determine the future landscape of publishing.

An author with a platform is a citizen, an author without one is a subject.

There are too many authors who want to just write and hand the books and the business to someone else. That is a dangerous and risky plan.

No Platform=No Options

An author with a viable social media platform is empowered, and is more than just an author. Writers plugged into the WANA community are transformed. They are a new breed of faster, smarter and strangely good-looking writers. They are a WANAuthor. WANAuthors are citizens of the new publishing paradigm with a voice and a vote.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead

We Are Not Alone

Writers! Remember, We Are Not Alone (WANA) and together we are stronger. This is a great time to be a writer, and the future looks bright, but we are in this together. We are no longer indie, self-pub or traditional…we are WRITER-KIND. One global race comprised of storytellers, inspirers and educators with one mission…to fill the world with amazing books.

In a world where power corrupts and talk is cheap, we need each other more than ever. Our platforms and our voice keep the despots in check because we have the power to remove them from office take our business elsewhere.

What are your thoughts? Fears? Concerns? What do you see on the horizon and what are your solutions or suggestions? Hey, together we are stronger, but we are also smarter. I read every comment, so raise your voice!

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Those Who Can’t Self-Publish, Really? by Girls with Pens

The Big Six Publishers are Dead-6 Critical Factors for the Future by Richard Monro

Speak Strength to Yourself by Shelli Johnson

100 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt by Matthew Turner at Jane Friedman’s place

NYTBSA Bob Mayer has another perspective about Amazon over at his place.  The Reality of Amazon and the Digital Publishing World.

Publication–Perfection Not Required by the amazing Jody Hedlund.

25 Things I Want to Say to So-Called ‘Aspiring Writers’ by the word-pirate Chuck Wendig

Let the Good Times Roll AWESOME post by the talented Ingrid Schaffenburg

Women Peeing Outdoors by Natalie Hartford. Hey! It’s funny and makes the mash-up eclectic.

Jenny Hansen has an AWESOME lesson about Triberr (Triberr is a tool to manage all those blogs you like to read).


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    • D.J. Lutz on February 22, 2012 at 5:46 am
    • Reply

    I think that large scale, single entity retailers (how’s that for not naming names?) have pandered to our greed as consumers and ego as writers to our own detriment. You have said it very eloquently. I would have gone more into the kitten trafficking, myself. Seriously, though, excellent thoughts and unfortunately, probably foretelling of the truth.

    1. Great post, Kristen
      Supermarkets have impoverished framers and growers and Amazon will do the same to us writers.
      If you disagree with the Wal-Marts of this world you get taken off their shelves.
      Conventional publishers and bookshops are in the business because they love books. So they love writers.
      We need as much love as we can get.
      Oh, and efficiency isn’t really an issue. If I am investing my time in reading a book I don’t care whether it’s 99p or £5.99.

      1. My editor has been sacked after letting the typo in the above post through.
        I did of course mean framers and growlers, not farmers and growers.

      2. Well, yes and no. The conventional publishers have deserved the pop on the nose. They weren’t valuing writers the way that they should. We have a staggering failure rate. Only 1 out of 10 traditionally published authors will see a second book in print. Very few writers make enough money to write full time and in this paradigm that is unacceptable. The trads could have led the charge into the digital age, minimized waste, given better royalties and more book deals…but they didn’t. And yes, Amazon is kicking their tails for good reason. Yet, we need to learn from the past and take steps to ensure that Amazon remains a partner not a predator.

  1. Well, your theory about Amazon will be tested soon enough, Kristen, let’s see if they remove the purchase button from your titles : p

    I like your forward thinking, monopoly is always bad for creative industries

  2. Kristen, I really enjoyed reading this. I think Amazon’s shake up of publishing is good but like you I also have doubts about what the future holds with Amazon as the big monopoly. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    I’ve got your book on my blog and linked back to your blog. I’ve also shared this post on FB and Twitter.


  3. I am in awe, Kristin. The most sensible post I’ve read about Amazon in a long while.

    It’s a business, not our best friend. Konrath and co may have a special place at the top table, but for normal folk we and our books are just commodities, and our sales just data for their algorithms.

    Sadly it seems anyone who dares suggest Amazon is not God’s gift to writers is rounded upon as some sort of apologist for the worst practices of the Big Six.

    Amazon is a wonderful company doing fantastic things for writers, and especially new writers. But it will always be about the profit margins.

    And your point about technical glitches is well made: “What is to stop Amazon from having “technical errors” that just happen to lose YOUR books?”

    Amazon’s technical errors lost our best-selling title for almost a month. Nothing sinister about it – a genuine glitch and they fixed it eventually – but it cost us thousands of sales and devastated our rankings. The title has never fully recovered. Imagine that if you were in Select and Amazon was your only platform…

    Best post yet, Kristen!

    1. Ah, but if you’re not in KDP select… rankings are going to go down. They’ve even confirmed as much.

      I still think digital competition to Amazon would be quickly forthcoming if they tried anything too terrible.

        • Rachel Thompson on March 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm
        • Reply

        The mantra, ‘It’s just business,” is the worst thing that has ever happen to common humanity. Justification of sycophantic practices is just ‘business as usual,’ too. At least some publishers actually care about the people they publish.

        1. Yes, it is bad. But in this “new world” of social networking (like Kristin says), the players that GIVE the most, GET the most. Read “What Would Google Do” or “Delivering Happiness.”
          (I know, I know. I’ve become an optimist. So gauche for a writer.)

            • Yvette on March 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

            There’s nothing gauche about it Mollie. I’m with you. The older I get the more optimistic I become, and I love that!
            Yvette Carol

          1. LOL. Setting a new trend is all, ;).

  4. Great post, Kristen. A sensible response to Amazon’s programs, offers and growing power is best — let’s all take advantage of it while we can, but keep a watchful eye for any news, policy changes, “technical glitches” (love that, Mark) and other signs that what started out as a symbiotic relationship might just be turning parasitic.

    Also love the concept of “writer-kind!” We’re totally on board with a move toward writers supporting writers — after all, no matter our genre, publishing path or whatever, we really are all in this together!

  5. ^^^ What Mark said! Great post Kristen and another reminder of why writers should NEVER EVER totally isolate themselves.

    We know all too well just how good AND bad for us Amazon can be.

    I suspect that there will be some writers in the not too distant digital future that may just be kicking themselves for committing totally to the power of the ‘Zon.

  6. Look at the Tea Party and the Occupy group. With the social media connections, I have confidence that we, as writers, can stay educated, band together and keep a watchful eye on Amazon. We are a strong voice when united. We are smart. We are not alone. Go Wana!!! Thanks for this enlightening post.

  7. I do agree with you, Kristen. I firmly believe Amazon has something big up its sleeves. It comes like a thief in the night, taking small nibbles here and there, hoping no one will notice. The latest nibble was the KDP. I don’t see the benefit in this for us, as authors. What this has done is effectively removed from us, the ability to sell our eBooks elsewhere. So, for stretches of three months at a time, Amazon has effectively hijacked our books and there isn’t a damn thing we could do about it. In Amazon’s defense, I have to admit to realizing most of my sales with them. My books are listed on B&N and other sellers, but none even come close. The question I have is why does B&N just sit back and not promote their products as Amazon is doing? I’m guilty of patronizing Amazon more than B&N, but that’s because Amazon advertises heavily, and makes the entire shopping process smooth and cheap. With B&N you have to wait, their products are not readily available and there are quite a few glitches on their website. As a case, I forgot my password for my accounts with B&N and I tried and tried, and could not get an email sent to me, which would’ve allowed me to reset my password, to date. I have not shopped since.

  8. I read that Amazon takes a huge chunk of the authors money.. Jeez, doesn’t Amazon make enough everywhere else?

    I have heard so many bad things about authors self publishing and selling their books through Amazon.

    And then I see authors posting things like, “I made my book FREE on Amazon and now it is the 5th ranked on the romance list!”
    Well, that’s awesome… But, as a writer, my main goal is to make a living entertaining people.

    Great post, Kristen.

  9. It’s important that we do realize WANA. I see many comments on writers are great but focus on readers. Well every writer is a reader first. But they are also your best support. Because they get it.

    Confidence is the key. As a strategist I work with agents all the time for my clients. They also know I’m an author…one that has said I’m not pursuing and agent. This makes them comfortable and helps me build relationships.

    Why do I do this? Cause I’m the Greek gift in the southern belle wrapping paper. While I really am not pursuing and agent I always have that as an option in my back pocket. To call on that relationship.

    So we should listen to Kristen. Brilliant points hun.

  10. Great post. It is a worry if Amazon or any publisher controls it all. And sounds like you’ve had some interesting experiences in your lives.

  11. I love the way you twist analogies. Had a good laugh this morning. I agree – who wouldn’t want a monopoly? Who wouldn’t take it if offered, and writers seem to be begging Amazon to lead them – like the Pied Piper. But that didn’t end well for the rats. There’s good in both indie and traditional publishing – but neither is a silver bullet to the New York Times bestseller list. Thanks for the blog mention 🙂

  12. Kristen, you have such a delightful way of stating the obvious. I love it. Yes indeed, Amazon is a business and their only true purpose is to make money for the shareholders. The marketplace needs competition and that’s one reason I will always put my work up on Smashwords as well. Sales there are much smaller than on Amazon, but they’re growing and we, as writers, need to support that growth and the competitive marketplace. Thanks for another great thought provoking post.

  13. The thing about Amazon is they do a lot of things right. They are successful because they are smart and cater to their end customers (the ones who buy, not the ones who sell). I love Amazon because of this.

    The problem is, as you stated, monopolies are bad. I hope Amazon continues its success. they just can’t be the only ones selling books.

  14. Anyone who’s studied history can give examples of what happens when the challenger becomes the king, but I don’t think they can make it as humorous as you, Kristin. The lesson has become sticky, i.e., it’s sticking in the gray matter, sticking around so we can really think about it. Thanks.

    Oh, and about being Asimovian? Isaac Asimov knew human nature, he knew our faults and our blind spots and the power of the herd. That’s why his science fiction was so believable: he was showing us to ourselves. BUT, he also knew the power of one (read “one small group of intelligent free-thinkers”) to disrupt the herd mentality. I think you’ve started that with WANA. and WANAuthors (Catchy label, btw). Remember, a small pebble can start an avalanche.

  15. “blonde with a big mouth and zero common sense.”


    Sorry Cassandra I misunderstood
    Now the last day is dawning
    Some of us wanted but none of us could
    Listen to words of warning

    Amazon have already shown me, (an Amazon prime member) that they can be utterly ruthless when they choose. Kristen is absolutely right, we should be careful of monopolies.


    *lyrics excerpted from Cassandra, by Abba.

  16. Kristen, your posts this month have really grabbed my attention–thank you for sharing a fresh, informed look at what’s happening with publishing now. I completely related to your experience out of college. No, I didn’t go to Syria! But, growing up American, it’s difficult to understand not every country enjoys the same liberties we do. My parents were very good about teaching us this.

    Monopolies are great…for the one in control. They stink for everyone else.

    Two years ago, we were sounding the warning bells to new writers to watch out for predatory publishers who were vanity publishers in disguise. Oh, how publishing has changed! Now I can barely urge a newer writer to really study her publlshing options without getting accused of being out of touch with current realitiy. I’ve read ten times (maybe 100!) the amount of blogs and articles on self-publishing, the big 6, e-publishing that they have, but I’m the one who is out of touch. I just shut my mouth.

    Again, thanks for this post.

  17. “In a world where power corrupts and talk is cheap, we need each other more than ever. Our platforms and our voice keep the despots in check because we have the power to remove them from office take our business elsewhere.”

    I worry that when Amazon is finished gutting the Big 6, there will be no ‘elsewhere.’ I think writers need to be *very* careful before agreeing to things like KDP select that forces them to grant it exclusivity in return for what may turn out to be lots of downloads and little true readership.

    The other thing I worry about (among many–I’m a worrier!) is the naive assumption many writers make of Amazon=good, Traditional pub=evil mentality. Both aspects of getting stories into the brains of readers is a business. Just because Amazon is happy to make money allowing indie writers to publish doesn’t mean they are your champion.

    Excellent post, as always.

    1. Totally agree, there does seem to be a growing resentment towards the Big 6 which I have previously put down to unpublished authors’ bitterness. But I think there is a justification for this when it comes to digital publishing. There was nothing to stop them digitally publishing every book that came their way in a suitable format and, in fact, there still isn’t anything stopping them. Of course that doesn’t make them evil and this mentality simply makes it easier for Amazon to dominate. In reality there is no good and evil in this story and we need both Amazon and the Big 6 for the industry to thrive.

  18. Kristen, why, WHY do I see a serious analogy here for the “Grapes of Wrath”? The “Grapes of Wrath” show sharecroppers who flock to towns that promise “higher pay” and they go there. Yet, when the masses arrive, the pay suddenly decreases.

    Competition in the marketplace is a great thing. Thanks for the wonderful insight 🙂

  19. Kristen: I feel a new day is coming. And fast. I can see it. We WANAers are connected and have a great way to share information and resources. A change is a comin’. I just can’t believe someone in NY hasn’t snatched you up to fix everything.

    You know: “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”

    You are probably too young to know old Genesis.

    1. what a great song!

  20. I’ve been really torn over whether to enroll my next book in KDP Select. Many authors have talked about how it benefited them and increased overall sales, but I don’t like Amazon’s attitude. I have some amazing fans who don’t have a Kindle, and I hate the idea of punishing them.

    Even if the Big 6 die, I have hope Smashwords could rise up to take their place.

  21. I’ve been thinking a lot about the issues of Amazon and the Big Six. I like what you said about N.Y. pubs loving authors and words — I believe it’s true and I also believe that Amazon does see us a commodity, no love there. Thanks so much for bringing this to us with such insight and clarity. Thanks for creating one hell of a community of writers with platforms, together we are stronger. I’m so happy to be a part of it.

  22. Oh my god! {{{running around screaming}}}

    Thanks for the info. I need a strong dose of facts sometimes.

    1. LOL. Cracked me up. No need to scream. Just hang out and stay tuned. Things are about to get jiggy ;).

  23. A lot of problems in the publishing industry has appeared because of Amazon. I agree, the Big Six need to get their butts moving to get the industry rolling in a new direction. But Amazon sells used books on a huge scale. Did you know that Gamestop is hurting the video game industry on the mode? There are of course other factors, but it doesn’t help when you have big names selling a lot of used items, which means the author, the agent, the editor, and the publisher are not making money on titles they could be selling new instead. I can’t stop Amazon, nor do I want to, but I can suggest to you all: New and recent titles, please buy them new. Don’t wait to see it on the used shelf, you are helping so many.

  24. I’ve got to say, Kristen, that you seem to be one of the small handful who “get it.” All of us writers, publishers, agents, editors, etc.need to focus on the future because the future starts tomorrow. i haven’t paid much attention to WANA since I’ve been reading your blog, but I think I need to sign up (assuming it’s signuppable). Great post. Keep preaching the new gospel. We all need to hear it. So I’ll post a link on my modest blog.


  25. Kristen, thanks for putting Amazon in perspective. It’s more important than ever that the Big Six get off their high proverbial horse and make some dramatic changes to their business model. We need the Big Six to succeed in a BIG WAY, but not in the same way they have in the past. Yes, Amazon can be very attractive to writers like me, but I appreciate the reminder that we still need NY – and NY still needs us, probably more so than we realize. I, for one, do not want to become a commodity. So like you said, it’s starts with our platform. A platform means that we take our work seriously. And if we take our work seriously, so will the world.

  26. Excellent post – I’m building!

  27. *removing cold cloth from forehead* – This is a sensible and smart shoulder shake! There is a lot to think about here and fortunately you’ve laid it all out very clearly. Bottom line -“We band together, we get educated, and we become empowered.” Lead on, Kristen!

  28. Amazing post Kristen (and thanks for the FAB shout out)! So well said and spoken. I think we all need to stay ever conscious that Amazon is a business and like any business, is all about the bottom line. The future is scary. So much unknown. I think your perspective for authors to be ever committed to each other and to building an author platform will be key to keeping our future bright and protected!

  29. “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss?”

    Kristen, you’re right, as far as you go. Unopposed monopolies are dangerous beasts (did you know that all apes, thanks to the way their muscles at anchored, are inordinately stronger than another animal-or human?)

    There’s a reason that utility companies are regulated – their industry takes SO much investment in infrastructure, it just doesn’t make sense to have competition – can you imagine different companies power lines snaking everywhere?

    The book industry of the past had a lot more in common with that example than the digital industry we’re shifting to. It takes very little ‘brick and mortar’ investment to start up a digital publishing arm. In fact, I’d make the case that it takes less for a small start up than Amazon’s huge, world-wide strutcture.

    So I see it more like the banking industry. Banks start tiny, serving a group of consumers who are sick of the faceless big bank, with their phone trees, low customer service. They grow, while the big bank wanes, unable to compete with good customer service. The little bank expands, taking the big bank’s place. . . with the same issues. They fail, leaving room for another little guys.

    You don’t have to look farther than Walmart. Everyone thought they’d decimate the lower end market. But Target is thriving.

    If small presses, or epubs become known as specialists; purveyors of quality in a genre (like Harlequin has, with romance.) That’s a way they could build value.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

  30. This was great. Made a lot of sense, a good warning. I hope New York publishers get their acts together and survive. My agent just helped me self-publish on amazon, BN, etc., but agents and editors do love writers and books. I hope they stick around.

  31. Ditto what others said above – another wonderful, thought-provoking post. You’ve hit the nail on the head and pointed out a solution for writers – band together and stick together. Thank you.

  32. If you keep this up, Kristen, Amazon will be begging YOU for a book of essays–when’s the last time anyone wanted to publish essays (yeah, exactly)–this is such a cogent call to arms with pens in hand or fingers at the keyboard that any self-respecting monopoly would see its potential, for as you point out, a monopoly by definition loves itself most, perhaps the only chance we have.

    To me, WANA and Margaret Mead share a fundamental belief in being human the best we can, which really is to love ourselves so we can create a world that loves itself. Blog by blog, you share WANA methods because you know a healthy writing industry means writers writing their best. You even published some of these blogs and principles in actual books for those who still find reading more of tactile experience

    Your clear, thoughtful prose continues to inspire Kristen, one author platform at a time, plank by plank.


    1. Thanks for the lovely compliment. I know the past couple posts have been on the long side, but things are happening SO QUICKLY!!! And if writers don’t understand the shift and what they need to do to remain relevant, all could be lost. We have the tools to create a new and better future for writer-kind, but we need each other. We can’t afford to waste time bickering and we must be wary who we pledge allegiance to.

  33. The prospect of an Amazon monopoly really scares me as a reader. I cannot even imagine how my book buying habits are going to change if bookstores disappear or stop carrying new titles.

    I wish we had a convention for indie authors, where they all brought ten paper copies of their books and set them up in a faux bookstore so the readers could browse. With coffee in hand. And big squashy chairs nearby. Maybe the new bookstores will be something like that, a showcase for the e-goods. They’d work the way furniture stores work–you browse in the store, jump on the mattress a bit, and decide which pieces you want. Then you place your order and the items show up at your home later on.

    I wish my local bookstores had an indie author section where they showcased indie books that I could purchase online. Authors could send out sample copies, readers would get to thumb through them. So many of my purchases are impulse, and I just don’t get the same desire when browsing online. If I were an indie author, that’s what I’d do–send samples to willing, local bookstores.

    Sorry, this turned out to be a bit off-topic. But this is all I think about when I see “Amazon” and “monopoly” in the same post. I need the physical browsing to help decide what to buy. Can Amazon provide that for readers?

  34. You know what I think about all this from conversations we’ve had, Kristen. We need to awaken the New York publishers to e-publishing. Your multi-tiered idea is probably the way for them to go.

    How to get their attention? I don’t know, but I think we need to enlist the heirs of people like Louis L’Amour, John D. MacDonald and Erle Stanley Gardner. They’re missing out on $$ millions in royalties since the books are pretty well out of print and no one is e-pubbing them. Surely the heirs of a few big-time writers could get the attention of the publishing industry.

    Meanwhile, you and Bob Mayer and James Rollins need to keep pounding on their doorsteps, and the rest of us need to keep building our platforms. As you implied, that makes us harder to ignore – especially if enough of us can build big enough platforms.

  35. Have enjoyed your Tweets and was delighted to be referred to your blog today by a writer friend. Excellent! Thanks for all you do for writers. Judy Christie

    • Mark Hennon on February 22, 2012 at 11:28 am
    • Reply

    Good for you, Kristen! I live in Seattle, and I do not trust Amazon, either. After all, Amazon’s a corporation, which is a guise for greedy people to do nasty things.

    Your column today is completely on-topic. Author platforms are the answer. Thank you for your valiant efforts — I know how hard it is to put out a daily column. And congratulations on all the good ideas you give us for free. You rock!


  36. I think I’m gonna have to read that again after I’ve had a vat of coffee…




  37. Love your take on this. It’s easy to demonize the Big Six because of their past (and current) sins, but we need to be careful that we’re not trading one tyrant for another. Nobody should jump on a boat without first checking where that boat plans to go, but I feel like Amazon has done a great job of talking writers into only seeing the immediate – which, admittedly, looks pretty good. The present, however, never lasts very long, and unless we get really good at seeing the Big Picture, we could find ourselves at the mercy of, as you put it, a 500 pound gorilla.

  38. While I don’t always agree with Amazon’s tactics (that stupid “tell us a lower price in-store app” around December comes to mind), I don’t question their innovation or knack for staying several steps ahead of their competition. When KDP Select first appeared, I remember how Smashwords responded. It was the equivalent of “Amazon is killing all the cute little puppies.” No, it’s not. Amazon is trying to do what all business people, including self-published authors, want to do; earn a profit with the tools at our disposal.

    My greatest fear is that one day every self-published author will have to enroll in KDP Select to even remain visible on the site (when Select appeared in December, my sales were decimated), or to continue enjoying a 70% royalty. I asked Mark Coker, for those of us who earn at least 90% of our income as writers from Amazon, what SW was going to do to tackle KDP Select. Still haven’t seen an answer or approach from SW, Pubit, etc. that provides authors similar tools for exposure. International authors still can’t use Pubit; how silly is that? These other companies have to step up their game, otherwise Amazon is just going to be / remain the more attractive option.

  39. Just saw this in the Publisher’s Lunch email:

    >>President of the second-largest independent book distributor Independent Publishers Group (IPG) Mark Suchomel said in an e-mail alert yesterday, “I am disappointed to report that has failed to renew its agreement with IPG to sell Kindle titles.” As of yesterday, Suchomel says, Amazon has taken down all IPG ebooks from its site, though they continue to sell print books from the distributor’s clients. (Our own check confirms that Kindle editions are missing for IPG titles, complete with the standard box to “tell the publisher!” you would like to read this book on Kindle. Individual Kindle hyperlinks now result in error messages.)

    >>Suchomel writes: “ is putting pressure on publishers and distributors to change their terms for electronic and print books to be more favorable toward Amazon.

    Thought it was relevant to today’s post.

  40. Hi Kristen, this post was as sobering as your post on bracing for impact. I’m willing to believe that your focus on grass-roots platform building is sound, and I’m doing just that, to the best of my humble ability, using your books and a couple of others as guides.

    However, there does seem to be a certain amount of fear-mongering going on here. As you say, human nature is timeless, and it may seem like a good idea to try and somehow “prop up” the flagging cartel of traditional publishers. After all, they’re the only ones with the mega-clout necessary to stay in the boxing ring with the up & coming contender, our resident 800 lb. Gorilla, correct? The discussion going on right now seems to cast us, the writers, as just a mob of terrified citizens, fleeing for our lives as Godzilla battles it out with King Ghidora above the ruins of the destroyed skyline. Which one will we cheer on? And why should either of them care? Both will turn their radioactive breath upon us after one or the other is victorious.

    One indie publisher said something to the effect of “I keep expecting them to work it all out and then squash us like bugs.”

    In respectful contrast to this post, I would like to offer up for consideration David Gaughran’s discussion on why Amazon isn’t as close to securing a monopoly over publishing as many people think:

    At the very least it may serve as food for thought. I’m not immune to the fear of being squashed like a bug, and David’s post offered a great deal of reassurance.

    1. I will check it out and thanks! I don’t care for fear or fear-based decisions. This is why I push writers to connect and support each other and become empowered. Empowered professionals are not reactive from fear. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter WHO is running publishing. We need to make sure they are working to our best interests and set clear boundaries of acceptable behavior. I challenge writers to be sober. Don’t look to traditional publishing with rosy nostalgia and forget that they have made some dumb business decisions. They haven’t been the best at taking care of writers, but that CAN change if we rise up as peers. Amazon has offered a lot of excellent changes to the industry, but they are not a panacea. They are run by humans so they are fallible. They can be just as bad, so stay educated and united and that will keep them better in line.

  41. “when Select appeared in December, my sales were decimated”

    Lisa Yarde,

    You lost 10% of sales?


  42. Amen. I haven’t seen profits from any of my three Kindle books, yet. Maybe the publisher walked off with the monies? Barbara

  43. A wise, balanced look at things as they stand now. Amazon looked so benevolent six months ago that a lot of writers got caught up in either/or, Big 6 vs. Amazon thinking. But they’re all big corporations. They do what big corporations do–look at the bottom line and make money for their shareholders. Writers need to educate ourselves, keep on top of the news, and resist complacency. Six months from now we may be talking about how big, bad Kobo is taking over the world market. The survivors of all this upheaval will be the ones who are quick on their feet.

    Syria. You lived in Syria. I’m so impressed. This, you’ve gotta write about.

    1. I thought about it, but they already have “An Idiot Abroad” on the Science Channel, LOL.

  44. Kristen – you are one of the few people who can talk sense I understand. This is a great, thought-provoking post with the little touches of humour I love. Thank you so much.

  45. This post reminds us to be aware of changes in our field and to be prepared. “Forewarned is forearmed. Knowledge of imminent danger can prepare us to overcome it.” J. Arderne. (Not to be an alarmist).

    I’m glad to also see the post by CJ Parmenter,

    “In respectful contrast to this post, I would like to offer up for consideration David Gaughran’s discussion on why Amazon isn’t as close to securing a monopoly over publishing as many people think:”

    Take both posts, make your own decision.
    The philosophy of “Writer-Kind,” resonates and is relevant whether you agree with either post. Thanks for your insightful words.

  46. This sums up a lot of my concerns about the current publishing industry. Well said. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement. This kind of thing gives me hope that not all of us are running with blinders on. Happy writing!

  47. Thanks, great food for thought.

    • Ed on February 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, I think I love you even more now. I’m about to graduate with a B.A. in international relations, too. I have always been passingly interested in politics, but I am 95% sure that my passion is actually in the people you meet from other places (and writing about those experiences) rather than the politics themselves.

    It’s just that a B.A. in international relations sounded a lot more pragmatic than one in English or creative writing (not that I put much stock in university courses for creative writing, anyway.

    Anyway, I’m a long way from being published (I should actually get off WordPress and go– you know– write my book), but I really appreciate you bringing up this excellent point. When I learned about Amazon’s golden ticket for writers through epublishing, I was a bit caught up in shiny-eyed wonder at the prospect, but you have brought us down to earth with a dose of good old-fashioned realism.

    I sincerely hope that the traditional publishers don’t completely disappear, since it has always been my ambition to be able to find my work in an actual store (and I love the experience of a visit to a bookstore, anyway). I’m with you in hoping that they can get their act together and give Amazon a run for its money.

    Yay competitive, free-market capitalism! 😉

  48. Nice to see someone talk some bloody sense. I get tired of the pro-Amazon troll blogs. The fact that Big Six Publishing didn’t work for some people in the past does not make Amazon into the Savior of All Writer-kind, Jesus Christ and all the Apostles rolled into one ball of sticky rice.

  49. I’m suddenly picturing a scene out of some movie, where all are thumping their swords against their armor – and a roar goes up! 😀

    You know, my editor at my small press publishers said how Amazon treats them well when they and their authors, including me, have been ignored and forgotten by NY reviewers and bookstores, but she also said something to the effect that she knows “they could very well turn on us at any time.” But I do know this: without Amazon, I’d not be selling anywhere near as many books as I am now even when I first naively thought all my love of bookstores and libraries would culminate in their return love. Amazon’s “Power” to sell my books is hard to ignore. Would I want to be published and adored by the Big 6 at this point? In bookstores galore and loved by NY Reviewers? Maybe; maybe not; probably; I dunno; sounds sweet, but will it last? I used to think that was all I wanted, now, well, I’m really just discombobulated *laugh*

    This is a powerful post and I really am curious and hopeful and worried and happy and scared and everything all at once.

  50. If I wasn’t already a fan of yours, the comment “Yes, I read a lot of Asimov in my formative years” would have made me one. 😉

    Right now, I’m still struggling to get one of my novels completed (totally edited and ready to go) so I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the business end of things. But that’s why I read your blog, and the blogs of editors, agents, and other authors in the know: so I’ll be armed and ready to fight when I get to the battlefield.

  51. I think I understood this on some instinctive level but I never could have explained it, and maybe not even seen the need to. I love encountering people like you who do see the need and then sit down and explain it so well even a business dunce like me can understand it. Thanks for being in my world. My writing blog is here -> <- I write it like I see it, but I'm still learning. If I don't happen to win your book I may have to buy it. I blog on Friday. With your permission, I'd like to use chunks of this post there. It really is very important to understand.

  52. Amazon may not even be waiting for Barnes and Noble in the grave to open their book stores:

    I do like that this post is from the negative angle without the overreaching rhetoric many of the publishing industry have put out against Amazon lately. It’s especially questionable when the same people screaming at Amazon’s monopoly are defending both Apple and Barnes and Noble as ‘good.’ All three businesses operated on very similar terms with middle men and content creators over the years. None is perfect. Amazon is the big man now, but that’s because Amazon is innovating in the publishing industry, not just the bookselling and music industries that Amazon and B&N were known for.

    I’m sure I’ve made it clear over time, at the moment, I’m fully in Amazon’s court, not because I don’t think they’ll ever turn bad, but because right now, they are the agent of change in an increasingly stagnant market. When that stops being true, I’ll be backing the next company pushing for innovation.

    Amazon’s tactics are definitely questionable, but unfortunately, perfectly legal. They’re also not the first to try it (How many stories do we have of the well put together independent novels in the ‘old days’ being denied in book stores simply because they weren’t associated with an imprint with enough clout?).

    I can’t wait for enough consumers to become aware of the seal the kindle format puts on purchasing decisions and that feedback opens the kindle as a platform, allowing writers even more options on how to sell, and to whom.

  53. I so agree. Amazon is great in that it’s provided a way for indies to publish their work and become their own masters when NY became old school. But as a monopoly? Gah, that’s a scary thought. However, we writers are a creative bunch. There will always be another innovation, another revolution, people parting with the crowd to blaze their own trails. Things might get tough, but we’ll always carve out a way for ourselves and find what makes us happy.

    • darci on February 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm
    • Reply

    I just had to go and join twitter so I can watch this #mywana thing have its big bang 🙂

  54. Fantastic post. Though I’m still in the writing stage any information on the battle ahead is appreciated.

  55. Powerful, insightful blog post. Thanks.

  56. I agree that the few Indie books I have published without a real publisher (I have three with a publisher), make a nice 75%, however; like most Indie writers 75% X 7 purchases still does not a rich girl make. However, you have a point that history has proven that most leviathans do take advantage of the masses at each and every opportunity and we do leave ourselves open for the “take over” whenever they choose to take such advantage, just by “being there” and vulnerable. However, until and unless more publishers actually read what many wanna be authors write, Amazon is the ONLY DOG IN TOWN who will take up the banner. I have “followed” you and you have a way with words which will encourage me to read whatever you write and send henceforth….so do keep us informed if the “Powermonger” begins to advance if you find it out before we do.

  57. Hear hear Kristen. The thought of one major player in publishing is absolutely terrifying.This is the thing that’s so worrying, is that we tend generally not to think ahead, to the implications. We live in a world of instant gratification and to hell with the consequences. Thank you for climbing the ladder to peek over the wall for us.
    More and more, I am convinced to build my brand, as you’ve said in the past. For right now, I am doing the step of least resistance, commenting on blogs and becoming part of the network community. Although I align myself with this world at my own pace, I am here, and part of the groundswell of the revolution!
    Thanks for the thought-provoking posts, keep em coming!
    Yvette Carol

  58. An author friend of mine works for a literary agency and took a contract with Amazon because it seemed like his only option. (He’d been passed on my lots of agents, not because his book isn’t great, but because they didn’t seem to know how to market it.) He said he would never sign with Amazon otherwise… That said a lot to me, seeing as he works in the thick of NY agency-land.

    Such great points here, Kristen—a post I’ll no doubt read again.

  59. WELL! Now I feel a lot more comfortable with the WANA idea! No, We Are Not Alone!

  60. kristen,

    thanks for a fascinating post – your analogy to your paper sales days (and isn’t that ironic it was paper, the very commodity that seems to be rendering so many of our old ways obsolete) should be a rallying call. i agree we writers need to band together and support each other. i’ve been really happy with amazon’s author central and their service, but we do need to keep our options open. i remain a proponent of brick and mortar bookstores. i believe we need to give support to all members of our community, including booksellers and publishers as well as writers.


    Things are happening so fast it’s unbelievable.

    1. oh, no!

    2. Oh, wait, that article is dated 2010?

      1. B&N has been having trouble for some time. I hope the Nook helps them recover. Competition is good for all.

  62. You just summed up my thoughts on the supply side beautifully. I’ve been mulling over how to be a good book-buying citizen in the face of looming monopoly (, but I think the practical aspect of how to support diversity in the marketplace is really challenging. I try to spread out how I buy books to a variety of avenues, but I confess, I get really bummed if I think about this too much. I am waiting for “the next big thing” to come along and mix things up.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post!

  63. ” ccmackenzie – not sure articles from 2010 count.

  64. I believe this may have been said above, but I’ll reiterate, “Competition is key.” WANA is key, also.That, and writing a kickass story, of course. Thanks for the balanced, eyes-wide-open review of today’s publishing climate, Kristen. Much appreciated.

  65. What a wonderful and insightful article. I’ve been leery of the Amazon thing, but felt I couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Now I have the facts, figures, and support to make a better decision.

    Thank you!

  66. Kristen, I’ve been saying this all along (not as eloquently as you) and you wouldn’t believe the writers who have pooh-poohed me or called me a conspiracy theorist. I’m not even that smart, but the writing’s on the wall…I’ll be tweeting this!

  67. You make some excellent points and your analogy to history is right on. Unfortunately, most people, if history serves us, will not heed your warning. It is too convenient to put one’s head in the sand. I, for one, don’t want to be a lamb led to the slaughter. Thanks for watching my 6.

  68. I’m not too worried, frankly. Why spend energy wondering IF Amazon is going to become a big bad monster? Also… I just got my Kobo sales statement. I sold several dozen copies of one of my stories through them in January… most in Canada, plus sales in Singapore and the Phillipines, two places where Amazon doesn’t even have any market penetration.

    I think it’s easy to see the hugeness of Amazon in the US, and extrapolate it as taking over the world, but frankly, there’s plenty of competition out there for them. And if they start treating writers badly, writers will jump. They have a vested interest in playing fair, in my opinion.

    1. There are plenty more out there!

      Kobo is the one to watch. They reach far more countries than Amazon, and with the recent takeover they have the money to expand rapidly.

      No doubt the USA will remain the biggest market for English-language books, but they are way behind internationally,and their policy of blocking countries from buying and surcharging others means they will stay that way.

  69. Had to keep reading as soon as you said International Relations. I too earned a BA in IR. 🙂 And I had the role of Syria In the Model UN–how’s that for IR geekdom? I wish now I had paid more attention in my Politics of International Economics class. I have already been amazed at the impressive talent out there in the WANA blogosphere. Stories are so central, even crucial, to our existence as humans. But not just anyone can tell a story and have it resonate, invoke emotion, and teach us something. You have a gift WANAmama! You keep telling the truth.

    1. I am totally using WANAMama! Thanks for the comment and wow!

  70. I so appreciate your optimism with a double spoonful of reality. This connection of writer’s being asked and sold to do different projects reminds me of Mitch Hedburg’s joke about being a comedian. The business wanted him to write a whole script when all he did was stand up comedy. he said, “That’s like asking a cook, ‘Ok, you can cook, now can you farm!'” 🙂

    • Debra Eve on February 22, 2012 at 10:15 pm
    • Reply

    Exactly why I’m not quitting my day job any time soon. Although I’m starting to make a nice income on Amazon, I find the idea of having all my income eggs in one basket too chilling. Hopefully the Big Six will wake up to the ideas in your last post and keep diversity alive.

  71. I’m so glad you wrote this up, Kristen! Your experience is more informative than mine, but as a business school grad, I was very wary to accept the yummy candy from the nice Amazon stranger. I took some and self-published a book with them as well as other vendors, but I’m quite keen to keep my eyes and ears open for all the ways and all the places that readers are finding books so I can get out of dodge if I need to without dumping my career.

    Great post!!

  72. Bravo, bravo!!!!!!!

    It’s creepy how things you say out loud have been stewing in my brain. Really creepy.

    I’ve been in sales for a long time Kristen. I don’t like conglomerates. Amazon has scared me for a long, long time. Me, who has never liked Amazon just bought a Kindle last month. HUH? I know. Don’t tell anyone. LOL!

    But seriously, this makes things so hard for a new writer tryng to figure out the best place to expose their work. You’ve got the old archaic paperpushers who unless you are in the top ten percent don’t like to push your book and then there’s Amazon. And if you don’t have a backlist to sell, how do you sell your e-book? And who will take advantage of you the most? Who will be the one to eat you up and spit you out? It seems like a dog eat dog world out there Kristen.

    Thanks for going to battle for us! Viva le resistance!!!!! 🙂

  73. I think writers need to make SURE they are taking advantage of all the outlets available. It’s not just the Big 6 and then Amazon. As self-publishers, don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Don’t buy into and perpetuate the idea that there’s only one place to sell — that just plays right into the “Amazon as monopoly” fear. We have power to diversify. Use it.

    For example – here are all the places I have uploaded my work:

    Smashwords for Sony, Apple, and Diesel
    Amazon via KDP (not Select, tyvm)
    B&N via Pubit
    AllRomance ebooks
    DriveThru Fiction (specialize in fantasy and Sci-fi)
    Books on Board
    XinXii (European site)

    Coming soon: Redroom, and Bookstrand if they get their policies re-sorted.

    1. Thank you Anthea, I have a feeling the list you’ve provided here is going to become invaluable to me once I’ve gotten my WIP ready to face the world!

    • cy on February 23, 2012 at 12:16 am
    • Reply

    Laughable!!! Amazon is featured as the monopoly ONLY because no one else is willing to play in the sandbox. Yes, at the end of the day, Amazon is business…Big Business! It’s growth is not solely because of the self-publishing onslaught but consistent focus on what drives the customer.

    This was yet another (veiled) Amazon is evil post. Seriously, just stop publishing on Amazon and that will cure all that ails you.

    1. Any business is evil if left unchecked. B&N did its share of predatory practices in the 90s. And no, it isn’t an “Amazon is evil” post. I like Amazon and do a lot of business with them (as I said in the post). It is a “writer beware and don’t all run to Amazon thinking you have a savior” post. It is a “Sorry, the days of Hemingway when writers didn’t have to think like business people is over so get used to it and get educated and pay attention to the fine print” post.

      And last week addressed the issue that Amazon is taking over only because NY wants to keep its head stuffed in the sand. And no, us all stopping publishing on Amazon wouldn’t cure all that ails us, because the other place we brought our business would grow, get a big head and present the same problem. Writers don’t have the luxury of just writing books and not paying attention to the market any more. Anyone has the potential to take advantage of us if we have no platform, no knowledge and no options, including the traditionally published author who has zero social platform and is banking everything on a traditional publisher to take care of her (ignoring the 9 out of 10 failure rate).

      “It’s growth is not solely because of the self-publishing onslaught but consistent focus on what drives the customer.”

      Cheap prices and lots of them are what drive Amazon, and that can be awesome. Yes, they want to serve the reader (customer). I do too! But not at the expense of writers being able to make a living and being paid fairly for what often takes YEARS to create. I want to serve the reader, but my goal here is to serve the artists, too.

    2. And you might want to check this out. Doesn’t make me laugh at all.

  74. An Amazon monopoly scares me, primarily because I’ve seen how they’ve treated publishers. That is not a happy world.

  75. Kristen, this is a really thought – provoking post, and probably quite true, once they have a stranglehold. What are the chances that a dozen big-name authors get together and raise some capital to start a competitive business. If i knew i gould get my favourite dozen authors from an alternative site, I would. You and Bob Maher have already made a start with “who Dares Wins.” why not expand that? Best wishes, and I do enjoy reading your stuff. I just ordered the WANA book. cheers 🙂

  76. My loins are now well and truly girded . . .

    • seclectic on February 23, 2012 at 6:14 am
    • Reply

    Congratulations on this post. I found it very thought provoking.
    On a lighter note I thought you might like to know that in the UK we are well aware of the dangers of monopolies. However, we may have made a mistake by only having one Monopolies Commission.

  77. Thanks for keeping us informed Kristen. So far my book is only available on Amazon and this is he kick in the behind I need to get it into other markets.

  78. THIS. Absolutely THIS.

  79. Yet another great post Kristen. Love to link this and other stuff you’ve written but I shut down my blog site. Got cold feet and took my debut book of kindle and started the hunt for an agent (no pun intended) for my CIA thriller. Entered the Amazon breakthrough novel competition and no bite (today were the lists the authors who made the cut). It really is catch-22 and you point out some frightening/thought provoking aspects to all of this “brave new world” in your blog and this post.

    One of your key themes on your blog is to build up a fan base. Trouble I’m having is that I’d prefer to use a pen name given my subject matter (terrorism, al Qaeda etc) but know using my real name will give me credibility.
    One way or another I’ve got to make a decision. Would welcome your insights on this…I too was in Syria in 1991 🙂 Great people/place…
    Reading your latest piece is making me rethink this path as an author. It seems authors are the step children of this entire process. Doesn’t make much sense as you point out it is their sweat and toil which enables the publishers (whatever the medium) to prosper. No problem with that as long as its fair across the board for all involved in this process.
    Thanks again for your thoughts and posts.

    1. My advice for you would be to use a pen name and build a persona. We don’t need your real name to get that you know what you are talking about. That will come through in your writing, and in your case, I think a pen name would add excitement and mystery. Unlike other people who really need to rely on intimate networks, you don’t have that luxury so you won’t be losing anything when choosing a pen name.

      1. Daer manana (thank you in Pashto) Kristen…you’re a gem.
        Wish you were an agent (no pun intended!).

  80. Kristin, I love your moxy girl, but I have to say I have tried for nearly 20 years to get the small publishers to band together in order to facilitate some change in the book industry………..for God’s sake, what other industry do you know of where you put your product on consignment and then wait for it to be shipped back to you damaged………..

    Seems no one ever wants to work together to facilitate change because they are afraid of rocking the boat……….but I do want to stay in touch in case you can get something going, and I would love to help in any capacity I can…………..Rita


    With perfect timing Kindle gives 5000 titles the chop because Amazon and the publisher couldn’t agree.

  82. Excellent, inspiring post. Collaboration is the key to everything, especially these days. My early experience of the self-publishing community has been 100% positive: it’s an intelligent, optimistic and supportive group of talented, free-thinking individuals and I’m proud to be joining it. Sometimes though, I do think the only way you can truly beat the money-makers is by avoiding money all together. To write and distribute for free: that would be nice wouldn’t it? Impractical, but nice.

    1. Go, fly, be free Adrian! It’s not such a squirly idea, according to Paulo Coelho who is a champion of piracy. He will often give his books away for free (as a “pirate”) and the amazing result is that it boosts his actual sales instead of damaging them as one would expect. Check him out on his blog.
      Yvette Carol

      1. That’s exactly what I’m doing Yvette, at least for a few days next week (Kristen…I won’t post a promo link here, unless you say it’s OK!)

        1. Yeah yeah Adrian. You go! Let us know the results 🙂
          Yvette Carol

  83. Brilliant post! You’re laying out a realistic future. Lets hope that the Big 6 and Barnes & Nobles stay in the picture and challenge Amazon.

    I also loved the personal story about Syria.

  84. Hi Kristen,

    You’ve summed up my thoughts about Amazon perfectly. I remember filling out an Amazon survey ages ago. One of the questions was whether they should sell items other than books! Now they sell they sell everything from Rice Krispy Treats to drawer pulls. They’ve mastered the art of sourcing and distribution.What amazes me is that while independent bookstores and big chain bookstores changed their marketing strategies to counter their lost sales to Amazon, the traditional publishers lumbered on as if nothing had changed. Self-publishing has been around long before Amazon entered the game. But Amazon had the foresight to see its potential, that there were lots of authors who were willing to for go the traditional path to publishing in order to publish. I applaud the success of Amazon’s self-pubbed authors. But it was a matter of time before Amazon changed the rules of the game to their advantage. Power breeds arrogance. And if something is too good to be true, it usually is.

    Thank you for another fabulous post.

    • Janette Harjo on February 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen! This is an absolutely FABULOUS Article! Thank you so much for the enlightment!


  85. This is shocking, enlightening and a bit perplexing. I had something to say & I said it. Nothing about the process, tools or resources was easy. Here I am still at the beginning, not willing to admit defeat – EVER – and yet already questioning my choice to self-publish. I prefer honest feedback to kind feedback. I don’t even need validation just some sign that it wasn’t all for nothing. Characters with their endless dialog waking me at all hours, over-thinking the use of expletives – then no expletives – then….well damn it, maybe just a few. My non-tech, grammatically challenged, exhausted self finally getting my book out there for the world to see. Now what? Offense, defense, punt? I am not in this for the money. I also don’t want to be on the .99 cent rack before I have even sold 100 copies. My god, I’ve almost given away that many. Quantity over quality…I get it. Please, someone save me from myself. (At least stop me before I write again!)

  86. So very well said. I’ve been preaching this to my peers in the industry since I saw the writing on the wall a couple years back. Selling my books through Amazon is a necessary evil, but I do my shopping with Barnes & Noble in hopes they can remain a healthy competitor and keep Amazon from carrying through with their business model where Amazon sets the price, not the authors or publishers. Most small presses and any author not regularly appearing on NYT bestseller’s list, will find their ability to sell books at $14.99 or $9.99 seriously crippled. I can’t imagine where I’d be as an author today if my first book had been posted at $14.99 as an ebook, right next to Nora Robert’s latest in print for $7.99

    1. I bought a Nook for the same reason. Sure, maybe it isn’t as convenient or cheap, but it is an investment in a healthy marketplace. Thanks for the comment!

  87. It’s good to know WANA.
    As a consumer and soon-to-be-published author, I love Amazon. As a reader, I’m not so sure.

    With the future “gatekeepers” being readers themselves, survival of the fittest in the new slush pile will hinge on marketing to a greater degree. And that kind of sucks. While there are those of us (writers) who will never change from being perfectionists, we *will* lose market share to those who are just “good enough”, but louder or more prolific (as evidenced by the number of 5-star reviews on books whose grammar sounds worse than nails on a chalk board). Amazon has given voice to authors in a way that gives them little incentive to improve their craft.

    Unlike other optimists, I don’t believe the terrible authors will fall by the wayside, allowing those previously undiscovered gems to shine. I believe the waters have muddied because the new “gatekeepers” don’t really care and neither will the authors. I realize I sound like the Big 6. I don’t mean to. I don’t have anything against self publishing, I just wish more authors resisted the lure until their work was polished.

    As a writer, I have to remind myself of the recently self-published books I’ve read that I felt weren’t quite ready. How many more reviews will I give that state “this book needed one more round with a good editor”? I, too, feel the rush to get my work out there to start making money. If my work sells and all my reviews are “good”, who (aside from my own conscience) will make me take that extra time to really put out the best possible product?

    • Allure Van Sanz on February 24, 2012 at 9:40 am
    • Reply

    I’m excited and anxious for the future of publishing. I dislike monopolies because the lack of options are scary. But I think we live in a time of trends. Technology moves so fast, I don’t believe anyone can be sure of their footing for long. Thanks for your post. I agree with your perspective, but posts like these might be the saviors we are all looking for. Awareness must always come before action.
    All my best to authors everywhere,

  88. Watching cases between the industry giants lately is akin to a bad remake of a B the Titans Battle movie. Of course when one considers Gates’ monopoly quote, it is no wonder that the companies are each fighting to hold on to their (large) piece of their respective pie. Your posts are spot on.

    Each has their own complaint, and complaint against them. There appears to be little if no government oversight (one has to wonder if and why the antitrust laws are no longer actively pursued, it took the EU Commission’s investigation to spur the DOJ to investigate e-book pricing).

    These are interesting times, one has to wonder if there will be a scape goat in the end, or if the giants will end up negotiating a way to stay cool, and in power. Will the ‘traditional’ publishing industry integrate or come up with a different paradigm.

    Great post and blog

  89. Kristen, you manage to frighten and encourage me at the same time- quite a talent! Thanks for blending pragmatism with humor- otherwise I might give up altogether. I’m linking your posts about the future of publishing to my blog, hoping to spread the encouraging word.

  90. As always, Kristen, important food for thought. Thanks for sharing this perspective. Sales are not my thing and I don’t consider the downside to pretty much anything. You continue to open my eyes. Thnx again.

    1. Forgive me, but there are some things I don’t understand. Probably they’re simple things, things that everyone understands but me. But…I’m at a loss.

      Because the way I see it, losing 25% of book sales by not agreeing to Amazon’s terms is nothing compared to the loss they’d be taking if they did agree to them. So why aren’t the publishers playing hardball right back? Why aren’t they, I dunno, opening e-bookstores where they can sell Kindle-compatible ebooks for a fair price and cut Amazon out of the picture?

      The only reason I bought a Kindle is because the B&N Nook I had was just such a piece of crap. I’m talking about my particular Nook–my friend’s Nook works fine. But mine? Yeesh. It was a nightmare. After several failed attempts at troubleshooting with customer service (during which time I was told to “wait on it”, in regards to my Nook being frozen. I’ve been waiting a month; it’s still frozen), I asked B&N corporate if they could give me any reason, any reason at all, not to buy a Kindle. They responded by listing all the different ways I must have mistreated my Nook to make it not work like it should.

      So I bought a Kindle.

      And here’s where I’m going with this. In a lot of ways, I feel like this monopoly Amazon’s got going on isn’t just Amazon being the bad guy. It’s also the other players just being stubborn. The books I bought for my Nook are encoded with DRM, so I can’t switch them over to .mobi format in Calibre. This means I can’t buy ebooks from Barnes & Noble. I can’t buy ebooks from anyone, really, except Amazon.

      Not because Amazon made it that way. Sure, they made it more difficult, but not going with a standard .epub file. But I think traditional publishers and other chain bookstores are only adding to the problem by not offering readers other options.

      It’s crossed my mind that there are more factors at play here than just B&N/BAMM/etc. not wanting to sell Kindle-compatible ebooks. And that’s why I’m asking for clarification. Because to me, the answer is simple: if Amazon won’t play nice, don’t play with Amazon.

      It’s what they would do, after all.

      1. Actually you are very correct, and if you check out last Wednesday’s post, I lodged my foot in B&N and the Big 6’s keisters. Amazon is taking over, for sure, but we don’t have to HELP them. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.

  91. For Elizabeth (@lizwritesbooks) . They (the publishers) could sell them as PDFs, couldn’t they? It’s a universal format, and if you really want to hold the paper version, you can print it yourself. what’s stopping them?

  92. Well said of course. I made a folder called ” Occupy Amazon” where I will gather your words of wisdom and will look into WANA. Thank you, Vera M.

  93. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who understands the dangers of Amazon. I refuse to purchase anything remotely book-related from Amazon because of their business practices. CreateSpace could be a wonderful option for me, but I’m not going to use it. Running my own publishing company will certainly be harder, and cost more up front, but I won’t be contributing to the monster that Amazon has become.

  94. American car manufacturers had a monopoly and blew it. The big 6 had their run and blew it for the same reason: quality issues, lack of innovation and high prices. I’m not a fan of all Amazon does but at least they’re doing. Pride gives birth to a sense of entitlement. The old guard does not deserve to remain in business if they cannot change with the market. Apple could purchase the big 6… for cash and hasn’t. This tells us all we need to know about the market value of conventional publishing.

    • Rachel Thompson on February 29, 2012 at 10:02 am
    • Reply

    My background is business, specifically 30 years in construction engagement. I’m now a freelance writer and novelist. What I’ve learned about business is that the publishing industry is no different than construction or any other business. Out-fits like Amazon are a few notches worse than the types of industries that care about the product they produce.
    The writer here is correct, all signs show that Amazon is a heartless monster that will bite your head off at first profitable opportunity. This behavior is not a theory, its a matter of fact in the business world.
    Here is a news flash, the captains of industry and our politicians are generally sociopaths or they could not gain the high ground. Scum floats to the top but in the publishing industry some times people that love the product float to the top, yet they too must operate like a sociopath to compete. Publishers generally care more about writers than is safe for business. Amazon executives can’t care at all- it’s the nature of business.

  95. Fantastic post, Kristen! I’ve been worried about the growing power of Amazon for a while, and you perfectly expressed my reasons why. Thank you for this.

  96. I totally agree that this is Amazon’s plan. It’s painfully obvious that they’re taking a huge hit on self-published books. However, nothing can stop the internet and I believe that just as soon as people aren’t getting paid by them anymore, we’ll be finding more ways to funnel traffic to our own websites and sell our books and e-books ourselves. And maybe Google will step in and get in on the action, too — or another huge internet company.

    It’s funny – – Amazon is playing the monopoly game even though it’s been proven not to work in the so-called “digital age.”

    E-books will never be a rarity like the paper in your analogy.

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