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As I've said several times on this blog, the publishing business is a business. Being a published author isn't all writing, social media, cozy coffee shop book signings, and royalty checks, it is a business.
It's easy for authors to get bogged down inside their own heads and miss what is going on in areas that can directly affect them and their writing future. Another thing that's easy for authors to do is jump on bandwagons and join lynch mobs, especially when it comes to one company we love--and love to hate.
I know it's hard to stay on top of industry news and trends. Many of us turn to trusted news outlets, blogs, and pundits for their information, but sometimes you have to be careful and consider the source. There are two sides to everything and a horror story for every success story.
This week, I've asked my trusted source--my hubby Jim Brown--to provide some information to help you wade across the demilitarized zone between the latest volley between pro-Amazon and anti-Amazon forces.
Read on and then you decide. Please do comment below because we'd love to hear your opinions, thoughts, and experiences with Amazon.
“Amazon Ate My Ebook!”
The Truth About What Amazon Can and
Can’t Do With Your Ebook
By Jim Brown
There’s a lot of Amazon bashing going on.... Everyone needs to know the truth about the relationship they may have as authors and/or publishers with the retail giant, and not the hyped up, information-shy vitriol that is pumped out in the media. So let’s look at the hard facts about the Amazon ebook publishing setup: what’s good about it, what’s bad about it, and how you can turn it in your favour.
A number of years ago, I wrote a short article about ebook publishing for a group I belonged to. I wrote that Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle ebook reader was going to change the publishing industry, and that ebooks would be mainstream very soon. I added that, with the inevitable competition, it would be readers who drove the market, not publishers or booksellers.
Fast forward to today. Amazon grabbed the lead, almost forcing the likes of Apple and Barnes and Noble to join the fray for fear of allowing Amazon to grab the entire market. As it turns out, Amazon almost certainly has the lion’s share. Incidentally, it was Sony who, of the global names, had the early decent e-readers (I still have my metal-case Sony ebook reader), and an ebook store—all before Kindle. But sadly, Sony never did anything with that initial lead in the ebook race and has all but dropped out now. Ebook prices have dropped as approximately 3000 new books enter the market every week, and self-publishers desperately fight for sales. With so much choice, it is now very much a buyer’s market.
Let me, at this point, say that I am neither a supporter, nor naysayer, of Amazon. I simply view Amazon as a tool that can be used to sell products. Amazon is huge, and as a result, there are a lot of Amazon-haters, but Amazon is just a reseller, that’s all. They offer to sell your product based on terms and conditions just as any reseller anywhere in the world does. In fact, their terms (actually, their choice of terms) for publishers and authors is far better than it has ever been in the publishing industry. This is a revolution, and Amazon is leading the way, like it or not.
People’s biggest, current complaint about Amazon is that they are allowed to do too much with your ebooks: give them away, lend them, allow others to let friends read them. When you see headline-grabbers like that, it’s easy to just jump on the Amazon-is-the-Devil bandwagon and ride along with it. Recently I had to write two posts on Linked-In to correct some misinformation about Amazon’s terms and what Amazon can or can’t do with your ebooks. One of these misinformed posts was from a HarperCollins employee. Hmmm...
The truth is you can restrict, almost completely, what Amazon can do with your product, and all within Amazon’s terms and conditions. Remember: they actually give you a choice of terms. Amazon would like to use your product (or, to better explain it, ebooks as a whole) to persuade more and more people to stay with Amazon and their Amazon Prime feature. How do they do this? Well, under their specific terms, you give Amazon the right let Prime users borrow and read your book for free in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. But Amazon also does something similar for digital video. Prime users get to watch some programs for free.
There’s also the new Kindle Unlimited subscription program. Subscribers can read as many Kindle ebooks as they want for their subscription, and authors/publishers can be rewarded through the Global Fund that Amazon has had set up for a long time now; essentially taking a share of that fund depending on how often their ebooks are read.
But you might be reading all this and think, “No way. I do not want Amazon to have this much control over the books I publish.” Well, you don’t need to! That’s the beauty of Amazon’s terms. They aren’t as predatory as some people would have you believe, and this is where a lot of (sometimes deliberate) misinformation exists. If one is going to consider Amazon as a viable reseller of ebook product, then one has to act like a business and do what suits one’s business model. After all, that’s what Amazon is doing. So why shouldn’t you?
Here’s the important breakdown of the three choices you have as an author/publisher of ebooks:
Amazon’s 70% royalty option
This is what Amazon would prefer you to choose. It’s a juicy carrot. For every dollar in sales, you get 70 cents. That’s a sweet deal, but it’s under this deal that Amazon gets to use your ebooks for their own business benefit.
Amazon’s 35% royalty option
This is the option that gives you, the book author/publisher, the most control over your product, hence the lesser “reward.”
Amazon’s KDP Select program
Amazon would be in heaven if everyone chose to utilise their exclusive KDP Select program. THIS is where the anti-Amazon brigade get their information from. It is this program that allows Amazon the most control over your ebooks—but you are not forced to use it.
Are things starting to look a little clearer now? Amazon wants to get the best business benefit from your product, so they offer something in order to get it.
That’s called business, people.
It would be far different if Amazon only had one set of Amazon-favourable terms. But that is not the case. You have choices in your role as author and/or publisher. If you want to retain almost full control over your product, choose the 35% option, opt-out of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and don’t enroll in KDP Select. Amazon can’t allow anyone to read it for free and has to pay you based on the list price. The other options allow various levels of control to be handed over to Amazon.
The cold, hard fact is that Amazon has played the game very intelligently. The publishing industry, as a whole, has been stuck in the same setup since the Great Depression. Amazon saw a huge gap in the market for ebooks (and print books) while the others were laughing at “the amateur” ebook industry. Amazon opened it up to the world.
It’s up to you to choose what is best for you. USE Amazon’s terms to suit your business model.
Next month I plan to publish another article that centres around Amazon and print books.
Jim Brown is the founder/owner of JimandZetta.com providing customized publishing services for individual authors and publishing companies since 2008. He has personally converted over 8,000 manuscripts into various ebook formats. Jim has been a publisher of ebooks since 2003 with his publishing houses LL-Publications and Logical-Lust Publications. Former secretary, and vice president of EPIC (the Electronically Published Internet Coalition), in addition to his publisher services, Jim is available for guest blogs, speaking events, and industry consultation.
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©2014. Zetta Brown is an editor and the author of several published short stories and the erotic romance novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. She also provides editing services through JimandZetta.com. If you like this post, then stop by her editing blog Zetta’s Desk or Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts.