Monday, May 12, 2014 – My Overview

Disclaimer: I have researched this topic to ensure all my information is correct. However, in this ever-changing industry, it’s possible that some of my facts may be outdated. If you spot anything that is, please let me know so I can correct this post.

I mentioned in a previous post that Amazon is one of the distributors with which I publish. However, this does not mean that I’m particularly fond of the company. To me, it seems very much as if Amazon deliberately sabotages many of its authors.

Why would I publish with a company I don’t like all that much? To put it simply, I was forced to publish at Amazon or have my books pirated there. People were pirating my free books – selling the complete books (with my author name still on them) on Amazon – and the company refused to remove those books when requested to do so. Amazon wanted me to prove that I’m the author, but how to do that? I didn’t exactly record myself writing, and having published the work elsewhere didn’t seem to mean much to the company. I also couldn’t publish those five free books at Amazon because they had already been published there! I mentioned this problem to some fans, who kicked up such a stink Amazon was forced to remove the pirated books. Then I published all my books at Amazon to avoid them being pirated there again.

One of the things that irk me the most about Amazon is the high royalty fee the company takes – a whopping 70% of your royalties! Basically, they take almost as much as places like Smashwords give authors. For example, if I sell a book for $4, I see less than $1 profit for that book. What’s next? Asking for our rights, too?

Amazon also puts its own prices on your books quite often. If you object to your books being sold at a higher price than they are elsewhere, the only thing you can do about it is go onto your book page on Amazon and click ‘report lower price’. The price is then lowered – but only for a time. You have to do this continuously. Just imagine: you’re a reader and purchase a book on Amazon, only to discover afterwards that it’s half the price (or free) somewhere else. That would seriously pee me off! Yet authors have little or no control over this.

For authors who opt in for Amazon’s KDP Select programme, Amazon offers a host of perks. This means that you have to release your books exclusively on Amazon for the first 90 days, at least. For me, this would be publishing suicide, because I make more money with other distributors. Other authors, however, swear that this pushed up their sales quite drastically.

Authors who have permanently free books (or free for a limited time) on offer lose out with Amazon, because the company tries to discourage free books, going as far as to penalise affiliate websites if they send too much traffic to free books on Amazon. Most authors know that making your books free (whether permanently or for a limited time) can increase sales quite drastically. If a reader enjoys the free Book 1 in a series, for example, he or she is likely to purchase the rest of the series, but may not have read the first book if it hadn’t been free.

The way I see it, Amazon is shooting itself in the foot by not wanting to promote free books, because Amazon, too, would make money (more than me, in fact) from increased sales of my other books. I suspect that Amazon works this way because too many traditional publishers are complaining about the competition they’re now faced with in this age of digital publishing, where anyone can publish and sell a book.

Another thing Amazon does that ‘sabotages’ authors is that it no longer allows authors to post reviews on other authors’ books. To me, this is incredibly unfair. Authors are readers too, and, if I read a book and want to post a review, I am just as entitled to do so as the next reader (but not according to Amazon). In fact, peer reviews often mean more to sales than normal reader reviews. I can understand if an author posts a flame review, but if it’s a positive review, what’s the harm? Readers are not idiots and they will notice if your author friends are posting rave reviews on rubbish books, so those reviews will not do the author in question any favours.

The problem isn’t just with peer reviews either. One author last year had a 5-star review on one of his books removed by Amazon, for no apparent reason. The review had been up for weeks and contained nothing that could be seen as offensive. When the author asked Amazon for an explanation, the company flatly refused to give one. What’s scary for authors is that this isn’t the only author to experience this. It could happen to you, ‘just because’.

However, authors are not the only ones losing out. Readers, too, are experiencing problems downloading and reading books bought on Amazon. One reader purchased a book from Amazon, but was unable to open the book to read it. After trying various ways to read the ebook, the reader contacted Amazon. As with many large corporations, the helpdesk reply was useless, filled with generic information that had nothing to do with his problem.

The reader in question says that Amazon’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) app is to blame for the fact that he purchased a book he cannot read on his tablet. DRM refers to technology used to control the use of digital devices and content after purchase.

Some people and companies insist that this app is vital to prevent digital copyright infringements, but others say there is no evidence of this. What there is evidence of, however, is that DRM protection is often a huge inconvenience to legitimate purchasers, and, some say, puts smaller businesses at a disadvantage.

Most importantly, if the DRM service is discontinued or the scheme changed, ebooks and other digital content could become permanently unavailable to those who purchased them. The choice of whether or not to use it is mine, but I do choose to use the added DRM protection, since pirating is so rife these days.

I’d love to hear your opinions on anything Amazon-related, even if they differ to mine.

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