Amazon vs Indie Authors? Not.

I have read a few blogs on this recently. (http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/2012/11/self-published-authors-get-ready-youre-being-dumped/  &  http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/11/amazon-grinch-who-stole-christmas.html ) about how Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin ) is using indie authors to seize a greater market share while they work to punish those same authors by deleting positive reviews from their book pages and using other sneaky tricks to favor authors published by the Big 6 traditional publishing houses. Underlying it all seems to be the algorithms Amazon uses to decide who gets what level of promotion and who doesn’t.

Frankly, based on my own experience over the several years I’ve been authoring and selling my novels, I believe about one half of what’s being said. The other half – way in the back of my capitalist, self-serving mind – is screaming “Sour grapes!”

Amazon’s KDP Select is a powerhouse, and the Big 6 have finally come ‘round to realizing this. Traditional publishers see  eBooks as serious competition to their stables of authors, and since the vast majority of that competition is coming from indie authors they want it quashed one way or the other. That’s reasonable,  if somewhat hard on indie authors.

But it is not just the Big 6 making all the noise about Amazon’s KDP Select program. I’ve heard a great deal about Smashwords ( http://www.smashwords.com/ ), and most of it is very positive. Some of it isn’t. Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ ) is familiar to just about everyone alive in the world today, and KOBO (http://www.kobobooks.com ) is a growing competitor, as well. And every one of them, right along with many others in the rapidly growing eBook market, all want to seize a growing share of the market and hold onto it for as long as they can.

And every one of them sees Amazon as their one, common, enemy.

So they have Amazon surrounded. Then again, Amazon finds itself in a target rich environment. Guess it all depends on your point of view.

So that first half of what’s being said is probably essentially true; Kindle Direct Publishing IS using indie authors to grow their market share, and they are using their free promotion service to increase readership for their eBook authors (and it’s all  a foul plot to sell Kindles, of course), and Amazon DOES have 1-click, no-fuss downloading technology that puts them worlds ahead of their competition.

Good for Amazon. It’s also very, very good for their indie authors. It is not yet illegal to be successful, but it sure does irritate the competition.

If your market just happens to be readers who own and use the Kindle eReader platform, KDP is the place to put your books, and the Kindle Select Platform is just the place for you as an author. True, you do have to agree to giving KDP exclusivity in return. So what? If you are using Amazon’s KDP program to grow your readership, why would you not do this? Personally, I cannot see any reason to run from such a good deal.

But the competition sees all sorts of reasons why indie authors should avoid KDP Select like the plague. Of course they do. Exclusivity is a marketing decision, as is publishing across several platforms simultaneously. To go one way or the other is a decision each author has to make. Amazon/KDP is not a predator – it is a money-making machine. Which is very close to actually being a predator, I must admit. But if you are an author, you too, are a predator, and then it’s not such a bad thing, is it? Boys and Girls, the goal of selling books is to make money, and it is a sad fact that if your books sell better than the next author, you are taking money away from that other author. In other words, your marketing skills are better than his (or hers).

Good for you, too bad for them.

There are very good reasons for each course of action, and several reasons to avoid one over the other. Do your own research – lots and lots of research (ie, don’t read just one blog).

Each author has to make that decision for himself or herself. Authors – based on their own ability to market their work to the readers – will succeed or fail no matter how they decide – KDP Select or general distribution across many platforms. Amazon is not inherently evil (I know of several indie authors who will swear in Court that Amazon is the Devil Incarnate), and KDP is a great platform with plenty to offer indie authors.

Will I stick with KDP for the rest of my publishing career? Probably not, but at this point I have no intention of spreading my work across several platforms. Kindle is still the 900-Lb gorilla in the eReader room, and since that is where my readers are, that is where I will focus my marketing efforts (the majority of which are provided for free by KDP and Amazon, by the way).

For sure, I will not run away from KDP right at the start of the Christmas/Hanukkah selling season as those bloggers suggest. Keep in mind that everyone complaining about how Amazon/KDP is screwing their Indie Authors is connected one way or the other with the competition. I don’t blame them, or anyone else who yells and complains about the abuse heaped upon indie authors by KDP; they have the right to speak their minds and attempt to persuade their readers to their point of view.

But, Dear Reader, do your own research across many platforms and many bloggers and seek out the advice of many indie authors BEFORE you make a decision about where to invest your marketing time and money. It really does not matter which you chose – KDP Select or broad platform distribution. Either way, YOU are still going to be responsible for marketing your work (getting eyes on YOUR product and closing deals with EACH reader). If you succeed, Kudos to you; if you fail, there is no one to blame but yourself.

It’s not the platform, Boys and Girls. It is your ability to recognize opportunities and take advantage of them – or not.

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About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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