Is Amazon Good For Books?

Exactly one year ago today I wrote this post asking the exact same question. But if you happen to click the link you’ll find that there was no discussion at the time. One Like and no comments. Which is funny because the post I published just two days later currently has 109 Likes and 189 comments. Just how these things go sometimes. And honestly, I’ve wanted to revisit this particular topic for a long time now. Partly because last year’s post went unnoticed and because a lot has changed in the last 365 days.

Let me also say something very important. I know some of you will read this question as “Is Amazon good for publishing?” Don’t. I’m looking big picture here. Writers. Readers. Publishers. All of it.

First, I’d like for you to simply answer the question. A simple yes or no will suffice for now.

Got your answer? Great. Let me begin.

Now I’m going to list out all of the programs and things that Amazon has done related to books. If I feel a particular topic requires more information, then I’ll say what I want to say.

I’ll reveal my overall take at the end.

Amazon Kindle

The premier eReader. Period. I have the super old Kindle Keyboard and it works like new. The Kindle Paperwhite was a major step in the right direction and then it was followed by the Kindle Voyage. It’s hard to keep making these better, but they do.

And let’s not forget that the Kindle changed publishing and how books are accessed.

CreateSpace

Yes I used CreateSpace for my first book, but ask anyone and you’ll find that it is the most used and the easiest to use self publishing platform.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Want to publish your book on Kindle and see what happens? This is what you’ll likely use.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon’s eBook subscription service. You’ve likely read somewhere about how it’s taking money out of authors’ pockets and how all these authors are having to go back to their day job. Come on. The titles in Kindle Unlimited are self published or Amazon Publishing titles. These aren’t your super authors. The authors in the program are probably not making seven figures from their book sales. So let’s give it a rest.

Kindle First

Gives you access to four titles a month before their release date for a discounted price on Kindle. Or free if you’re a Prime member.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA)

The annual contest is no longer run, but it was the single most lucrative publishing contest in America during its time. The grand prize winner would receive a $50,000 publishing contract. And oh by the way, I’ve looked into some of the past winners and they’re very high in the Kindle store and have thousands of reviews.

Kindle Scout

This is why the ABNA is no longer conducted. It was replaced. Now Amazon has given the power to the readers. All an author has to do is enroll their unreleased book into the program and readers will be able to read a sample for a 30 day period and vote which books they believe should be published. If a book is chosen for publishing the author receives a $1,500 advance and a shortened timeline to publication.

Amazon Publishing

These are traditional publishers under the Amazon umbrella. Thomas & Mercer. AmazonCrossing. AmazonEncore. 47North. Montlake Romance. AmazonPublishing. Grand Harbor Press. Little A. Jet City Comics. Two Lions. Skyscape. Lake Union Publishing. StoryFront. Waterfall Press. Each imprint publishes different genres from the others.

Kindle Convert

You can convert your print books into Kindle books.

Audible

Audiobooks.

AbeBooks

The site on which you can find those rare books you can’t find elsewhere.

Goodreads

Bet you didn’t know Amazon owned this, did ya? Yep.

I think that’s it. I came up with this list off the top of my head, so feel free to tell me if I forgot anything. Now I think you’ve figured out which side of the fence I’m on. I’m Team Amazon. All the way. Let’s just go down the list real quick.

There’s nothing to be said about the Kindle. It’s great and continues to be great.

CreateSpace gives so many writers the opportunity to see their book in print. And who knows, there’s gotta be another Hugh Howey coming along. If you look at the other self-publishing platforms, there really is no match. Even if you think self-publishing as a whole is no good, it’s here to stay…might as well use the best platform.

KDP gives the writers who don’t care to see their book in print the opportunity to sell their book in the Kindle store, and they don’t even have to pay for anything if they’re comfortable with their cover and formatting.

Kindle Unlimited has the potential to be great, but not one of the Big Five has their titles included in the program. I’d say it’s just an eh for now.

Kindle First. I actually really like this. I’ve downloaded four new books for free in the last couple of weeks because I’m a Prime member. I’ll have more info once I read one of the books. But the idea is great and the books chosen for the program shoot to the top of the Kindle store immediately. People seem to like free and discounted books. Surprise, right?

ABNA was the most lucrative publishing contest during its run. Don’t tell me you have something negative to say, especially if you entered every year. And Kindle Scout is one of those programs that many writers dream of. Because let’s face it, there are A LOT of writers out there writing books who will never be published by a traditional publisher. I’m probably one of them. But you could have a blog or nice social media presence or some really cool friends and family members go and nominate your book for publishing. And guess what, there’s a chance that it actually gets published. The Amazon editors have the final say, but anyone who enters their book into this program has absolutely nothing to lose and the chance of a lifetime.

Amazon Publishing has a lot of imprints. For every kind of author. The downside of publishing with one of their imprints is that your books won’t be sold by Barnes and Noble or most other retailers. The plus side is your book will get a significant amount of Amazon marketing. I know because an author I really enjoy went from a Big Five publisher to an Amazon publisher and instead of having 50 reviews as he did on his previous books, he’s in the thousands. So he’s selling a lot of books.

Kindle Convert sucks and it’s stupid.

Audible. There are a few audiobook makers out there, and I haven’t listened to one in more than a decade. So eh.

AbeBooks is great. I once had a handful of books written by a favorite author of mine that I could not find anywhere. I even asked the author! He didn’t know. But then I was referred to AbeBooks and BAM I got my books.

Goodreads is actually Amazon’s second foray into the book social networking realm. Shelfari was their first, and if you’re still using that site….you’re behind the times. Way behind. And yes, I know Amazon didn’t create Goodreads. But they still own it so it belongs on the list.

All in all, if you look at what Amazon has done for readers, at the opportunities they provide authors, and at the newfound competition between traditional publishers that have had a stranglehold on the publishing industry for more than a century….I don’t see how one can conclude they’re bad for books. But I’m certain that this will be a mixed bag of responses.

Unleash your thoughts on the matter!

The Stigma of Self Publishing

Photo Credit: Indies Unlimited

Are you a self published author? Or maybe an aspiring writer considering self publishing once you polish that manuscript of yours? There are a few things that you should know before taking the step to self publish your book.

Lesser

This is probably the most difficult assumption about self publishing to overcome. No matter if the person you’re talking to says it or not, a great number of people still believe that self published authors write worse than traditionally published authors. To the unknowing person, this is inherent in self publishing. You’ll likely then receive countless questions about the editing and cover art and physical makeup of the book that traditionally published authors will not. Have you ever been to a book signing or event for a popular author and had someone ask about the editing of the book? I haven’t and I’ve been to several.

The look

You’re probably wondering what the heck ‘the look’ is. It’s simple. It’s the look you get upon first revealing to someone that you’re self published. It essentially tells me the thoughts of the other person. It says, “Oh. So then you’re not good enough to go the regular route.” By no means are people trying to discourage or put you down, ‘the look’ is almost involuntary. I know plenty of great people who displayed it when I first told them that my book was self published. When you start telling someone about your newly released book, what it is the first question they ask? Who published it? I’ve probably been asked that question more than any other. It’s even asked by non-readers.

Selling

This isn’t necessarily a part of the stigma associated with self publishing, but it’s still worth mentioning. When you self publish, assuming that you didn’t make your own imprint doing so, it is quite difficult to find sales channels. If you use CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing then your book becomes one of millions available from Amazon. Which is great, but let me repeat that it becomes one of millions of books available from the online giant. Just being on Amazon is not enough. But also Barnes and Noble will not carry the book in its stores if the book is self published. Their shelves are reserved for the major publishing companies that have done business with the company for decades.

Readers

There are plenty of readers out there who don’t care whether a book is self published or not because it’s all about the quality to them. BUT, there are plenty of readers out there who will never ever ever ever ever purchase a self published book. This kind of goes with my first point about people believing that self published authors’ writing is lesser than that of traditionally published authors. This means that your free book on Amazon may be overlooked by a hardcore reader simply because it’s free. This means that your $0.99 book will be overlooked just the same. The point is that it may be difficult to find readers for your book, no matter how well written it is.

Don’t let these discourage you! If self publishing feels like a good fit for you, then I say go for it.

Is Amazon Good for Books?

ImageBefore I begin I would first like to make it known that I am a huge fan of Amazon. The paperback edition of my book is sold by CreateSpace and the Kindle version is sold by Kindle Direct Publishing, which are both Amazon companies. But I’ll try to be objective.

I’ve read several articles recently about the impact that Amazon has had on the publishing industry. Most often the takeaway seems to be that Amazon is not good for books for a number of reasons like the discounts they receive from publishers or how low they’re able to sell their e-books. There are plenty more but there’s no need for me to be exhaustive at this point.

Jeff Bezos started the company all the way back in 1994 as a bookstore. In the 20 years since then independent bookstores have been cut in half and the mega-chain Borders has shut its doors. But is it really smart to blame Amazon for both or either of those? Maybe. But what about the fact that indies were always under fire from big chains like Barnes and Noble and Borders? Or what about the fact that most indie bookstores have no place in the e-book market? Amazon is constantly blamed for the failure of indie bookstores in recent years, but there’s always more to it.

Several articles estimated that roughly seven percent of all of Amazon’s annual revenue comes from books, which puts the number around $5 billion. It’s easy for critics to throw that number out there and make a fuss about Amazon’s bookselling practices because they seem to be doing it better than any other company at the moment. But let’s think about what they’ve managed to accomplish to help the reader. First, the customer will  never pay list price of a book on the site, no matter if it’s hardcover or paperback. Compare that to walking into your neighborhood Barnes and Noble bookstore and paying exactly what it says on the back cover. Second, the selection that Amazon is able to offer is far and away the most vast there is in the world today. Most readers have experienced the turmoil of wanting an obscure book that may be long out of print only to find that Barnes and Noble doesn’t have it online or in-store. And third, if Amazon didn’t have a place in the bookselling world then what would stop Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million from selling books at cover price. Or Kobo or Apple from selling e-books at higher prices. I mean, all four companies already struggle to compete with Amazon in the book marketplace, but they are competing.

Amazon also has several publishing imprints that operate just as any other traditional publisher and back the most lucrative book writing contest in the country, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which gives its grand prize winner a $50,000 publishing contract along with several $15,000 publishing deals given out to the genre winners.

Lastly, Amazon revolutionized the publishing world with its Kindle. No company has been able to develop an e-reader quite like it, which is why Amazon holds a roughly 67% percent e-book market share.

I’m not here to defend Amazon, but I would like for the site’s critics to be fair. Amazon’s competition in the marketplace helps drive prices of all books down for the reader. They changed the publishing world when they released their Kindle e-reader which has evolved into a full-use tablet comparable to any other. And they offer a selection of books that no other company can. So if I had to answer the question as to whether or not Amazon is good for books, well I think you know my answer by now. Yes.