Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adventures in Self-Publishing - Amazon

I'll get back to covers later, but I'm making a slight detour to talk about where to sell your ebooks.  The first and most obvious place is Amazon, via their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program.

First, let's talk about the bad things people have said about Amazon.

They're an evil corporation that is using it's size to undercut other businesses, like Walmart or Blockbuster.  Once they have total control of the ebook market, they will raise prices and lower royalties.

This is more true for brick and mortar stores than ebooks, I think.  Unlike physical stores, it doesn't take near as much infrastructure to sell ebooks.  If Amazon jacked up the price of ebooks, someone would step in and undercut them in turn.  In general, Amazon can be compared to a benevolent dictator - harmless for now, but not to be trusted.  I can understand someone taking a principled stand and not selling at Amazon.

Amazon screws publishers

Maybe.  Amazon does the same thing cable companies do when they're having contract negotiations, and it makes them sound like a divorced parent in a custody dispute.  Amazon delays shipping for a publisher that won't play by their rules, and the publisher illegally colludes to raise prices.  I have a hard time feeling sorry for publishers that want to sell ebooks for more than paperbacks and screw their authors in the process.

Amazon won't let me post my book for free

I'd love it if they did, but they don't.  There is a hack (give away book for free somewhere else, ask Amazon to price-match), but it hasn't worked for me.  Other markets (B&N, iTunes, etc) have no problem setting books to free right out of the gate.

Amazon posted my book for free when I didn't want them to

The opposite of above.  There's this nasty trick that publishers and/or author's do, where they post a book for free, but it turns out it's just a sample chapter and they don't tell you this in the title.  This has fooled me before, and evidently it's fooled Amazon's "price match" computers, causing the entire book to be free until the authors complained.  Serves them right.

Amazon censors arbitrarily

Amazon can drop you or your books for pretty much any reason they want.  They're a bit vague ("What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.on what is allowed and what isn't"), and people expect to have an objective measure.  This is their actual, unstated policy: "We want to make money off your book, but if it gives us bad press or possible legal attention, we will cut if off".  They don't care if the Greeks did it, or it's in the Bible, or whatever.  I've published some pretty vile filth myself, so I kind of shudder to think what might get authors "banned".

I think it just autoflags (or puts it under an Adult filter) by keyword, which is why we get terms like "multi-species" or "inter-generational".  I also think there is a plagiarism filter - the times I've packaged short stories separately from previously published collections, its taken an extra day to be approved.

Just remember, nobody at Amazon is reading every book that gets submitted.  There is maybe a computer program that searches for suspect text, and I imagine some poor intern has to scan the covers looking for dirty pictures, but that's it.

Amazon will proclaim they don't allow pornography, then add erotica categories at the same time.  They ban various genres wholesale after a bad news report comes out, and then quietly allow them
My attitude is: if they sell it, they sell it.  If they don't want to sell it, I'm in the same place as if I didn't submit it.

Amazon starts new programs without letting you know or letting you opt out

I was chuffed with this myself.  I get an email, as a customer, letting me know about the new Kindle Unlimited program.  A couple hours later I get an email, as a publisher, letting me know about the program, and that my KDP Select books have automatically been included.  I look at the KDP website and there is a page that said authors may opt out of their KDP Select contract if they wish, providing directions and a link.

I was in the process of trying out other markets, so I followed the procedure to opt out early.  The response was that I couldn't get out early, and the original web page had been taken down.

I'm sure in their terms and services they have language allowing them to do it, but I was annoyed at not being informed earlier, and by the illusion that I had some say in it.  Other authors that actually sold books, and sold them for a higher profit margin than KU gets them, would have even more reason to be pissed.

Amazon sucks at mobile apps

I've heard someone else describe their phone as a great method for buying things from Amazon, not so great at being a phone.  The same goes for everything else Amazon does in the mobile world.  They gave me $10 to spend in their app store and I ended up having to contact support to get back real money and delete everything Amazon related from my phone.  You don't have any control over payment methods, they spam you with push notification ads, apps disappear from your home screen every update, and their Kindle app WON'T KEEP YOUR F%$&ING PLACE in the F%*#%ING BOOK!  What should be a glorified text reader loses my place and occasionally deletes all my bookmarks every time it gets updated, which is like three times a week.  I don't even try to use it anymore, it's so frustrating.

The actual Kindle works fine, but as tablets get cheaper they're going to go the way of PDAs and MP3 players.  Reminds me of the days of paying money for PC games, only to be forced to download the hack to get around the absurd security features.  Third party ereader software works so much better.

Of course, anyone can read multiple formats of whatever they want, but it's easier to stick with one format and one ereader.  If I only read books off the Kindle app, I would have switched to Nook a long time ago.

Amazon is ripping me off!  My facebook friends and the janitor at work and the lady that rides my bus and the barista at my Starbucks all told me they bought it, but it's not showing up!

Yes, they're also blocking your phone and deleting your texts, which is why you can't get a date.

These blogs are all written by Amazon apologists trying to get affiliate $!

Yes, they are, and thanks to someone buying some absurdly overpriced Legos a week before Christmas, I finally broke that $10 barrier!

Seriously, if you don't want to sell though them, don't.  If they piss you off, you can leave anytime you want.  Talk to any author about how hard it is to leave a traditional publisher and ask them if they could leave within minutes and retain all their rights.

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