Indie Thoughts: Authors, We Are Not Amazon

Angry-Tiger-tigers-31737545-1920-1440Sometimes I think some of us indies get this weird attachment syndrome and start thinking we’re Amazon.

Joe Konrath recently hosted a blog-conversation with Lee Child about the whole Amazon vs. traditional publishers thing. The Passive Voice had an active discussion about it as well.  Kudos to Lee Child for yet again showing up and injecting a new perspective into the conversation. It can indeed become something of an echo chamber in the main indie blogs, which I love, but which nevertheless do still tend to sometimes echo. Having someone with his experience come engage and share his two cents was helpful.

One thing his comments reiterated to me is that neither Amazon nor the publishers are in this as the author’s let’s-get-pinky-rings BFF.

I’m not going to carry an ounce of water for Amazon in their fight with Hachette. I’m not going to carry an ounce for the trad publishers either.

I think it’s helpful for all of us to try to understand the truth about the business, and spread that to other authors, but that’s very different from this knee-jerk Defender of Amazon thing that goes on, which seems so very much like Republicans and Democrats turning a blind eye to their own candidates and fixating a hyper-critical one the others.

Case in point: here’s a link to a description of Amazon’s Gazelle Project.

Why do indie authors care? Because we’re Amazon vendors as well.

Look, I love what Amazon has enabled me to do. I love that Nook and Apple are helping enable it as well. But was this Gazelle Project a good thing? A bad thing? If we stand by and cheer Amazon in such tactics, are we essentially standing by and cheering as Germany takes Austria, France, and Poland? Or are we like England cheering the USA coming in with their troops and bombers?

I’m NOT a traditional publisher. And I’m NOT Amazon, or any other retailer. Even when I contract with them. None of us are. I sometimes wonder if some of us have gotten a bit confused about this.

Konrath says don’t worry about the tiger (Amazon) when a wolf (traditional publishers) is gnawing on your leg. But if you’re an indie writer, you have no wolf gnawing on your leg. That’s someone else’s problem. But we are indeed in bed with the tiger.

Why haven’t we seen more posts about the Gazelle Project on the big indie blogs? Lee Child, darling of the traditional publishers, has to point me in its direction? Why haven’t we been more curious about this tiger’s behavior?

Let’s make hay while the sun shines. The tiger seems to be fairly decent right now. He’s not perfect. For example, eBay strangely enough only charges 15% to sell via their site while Amazon charges 30%. But let’s not forget that as decent as he is, he’s still a tiger. And he’s probably not like those poor guys being made to do tricks by Ringling Brothers.

Ringling_brothers_over_the_top_tiger

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6 Responses to Indie Thoughts: Authors, We Are Not Amazon

  1. Mike Coville says:

    But was this Gazelle Project a good thing? A bad thing?

    What do you think? Was it a good thing or a bad thing, and why?

    I don’t want to read too much into your comments and would rather hear your plain, honest opinion on the Gazelle Project.

  2. James says:

    This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. It feels like many indie authors side with Amazon on every issue just because, and many traditionally published authors side against Amazon for the same reason. They act like to agree with the other side on any one issue is a defeat. I don’t get it. I love indie because it means more books for me to read that otherwise would never be published, but at the same time I don’t like Amazon pricing rules (they should let the market decide what is the appropriate price for ebooks, not the the supreme court).

  3. John Brown says:

    James,

    Here’s what I think drives the knee-jerk response.

    #1. Group identity. Amazon is a blessed partner to many indie authors. It’s perceived as being part of the indie group, or at least as a super friendly ally. And so when the buddy gets attacked, there’s an urge to stand up and defend him.

    #2. This attachment can be stronger for those who feel like trad pub screwed or rejected them. How many indie authors who were once with trad pub feel they weren’t treated well? How many never got welcomed into the building by trad pub, but were received with open arms by Amazon?

    Of course we think about the fates of other authors in general. I don’t think there’s one motivation. But from all the comments I read and those I make myself, it seems there’s a knee-jerk defense of Amazon. And I think simple group dynamics are driving a large part of it.

  4. John Brown says:

    Mike,

    I don’t know if it’s good, bad, or neutral. That’s why I think it would benefit from a lot of discussion.

    On the one hand, it’s a bit troubling to hear Amazon characterizing its vendors/partners that way. Why wouldn’t they view us indies the same way?

    On the other, is KDP a major feature of Amazon’s attempt to take-down the wounded gazelles and this all about courting authors?

    Has Amazon done this elsewhere?

    And what can authors do now to make hay, but minimize the risk should Amazon turn on them?

    I think these lines of questioning are so much more fruitful than pages and pages and pages about Hachette.

    Personally, I hope Hachette wins because I think the higher prices make it easier for indies to compete.

  5. Shane Roberts says:

    I’m a huge fan of Douglass Preston (and his co-author Lincoln Child), and upon reading his petition I found myself agreeing with the spirit of it. That being said, I firmly believe that indie publishing is the future, and that it’s an exciting future that probably doesn’t include traditional publishers (at least in their current incarnation). Amazon is an engine propelling that exciting future forward, and part of me is rooting for them.

    Reading Lee Child’s post on the subject, I think Amazon is probably behaving in a way that is unprofessional. Using their platform to punish publishers that don’t agree to more favorable terms (though it’s no doubt their right to do it) feels icky. Hachette should call their bluff and walk. I have no doubt they would/will use the same tactics on indie authors when the need arises.

  6. John Brown says:

    But it’s hard to walk when something like 40% of your revenue is tied up there 🙂 Where are they going to find those sales?

    At the same time, if Amazon doesn’t carry folks like James Patterson, that will ding them. Their model depends on being THE place to find what you’re looking for.

    I am very interested to see where this goes. In the meantime, I gotta make me some hay.