Does @Amazon Really Have the Self-Publishing Author’s Best Interest in Mind?
Posted by Maegan Provan
We’ve all had that one author friend that has had trouble with Amazon, and thought that maybe their issue was just a fluke. Then we hear about it from another author, and another. How can Amazon be affecting so many authors? Surely, we‘ll be okay. Then it happens to us.
I am hearing more and more lately about authors having one issue, or another with the Distribution King of the self-publishing industry. They know that as self-publishing authors, we come to them because ewveryone uses Amazon, the biggest ereader is the Kindle, and we rely on them to cover the bulk of our distribution. We could rely on the other platforms, but we know that we won’t get near the exposure. They use those facts to toy with not only us as authors, but our livelihood as well.
Personally, my biggest issue with Amazon has been pricing. I have two permanently free short stories that have had their prices changed 3 different times now. The stories are free on every other platform, including Barnes and Noble. The first (and second) time the prices were modified, Amazon’s excuse was that they reevaluate the price every so often to ensure accuracy. Um, really? If the stories are free literally everywhere else, then your price is not accurate. The third time, however, I had to write them and get serious. I was (surprisingly) responded to pretty quickly and the issue was resolved. But how long before it happens again?
I have to, of course, go back to my feud with a certain ertoica self-pub author. I don’t like to dwell on it, but I honestly learned a lot from that situation. During the worst of our fight, she had the nerve to use my name and my first novel as tags on her books. Whenever you searched “Maegan Provan” or “The Night Touched Chronicles” her name and that book came up. If you searched for her, my book came up. I spent almost two weeks on the phone with Amazon fighting about it. They said that she needed to call in and tell them why she had used me and my work as tags, and it became a huge mess. Now it’s resolved, but they made it a lot harder than it should have been.
The worst horror story from the crypts of Amazon comes from author Elaine Raco Chase. She recently had a flood of new reviews for her book appear on Amazon. 148 new reviews to be exact. Like any author, to see a sudden intake of reviews is thrilling. Once Ms. Chase started looking at the reviews, she saw that all of her new fans weren’t really her’s at all. The new reviews were actually for a non-fiction work that happened to have its wires crossed with her book. She contacted Amazon and they were quick to help her. Except, of course, that they took 10 legitimate reviews when they cleaned house, leaving Ms. Chase short and those readers without an opinion on her book. She has attempted to contact Amazon multiple times to resolve the issue, and now they’re basically refusing to help. In fact, they’re threatening her. The latest communication from Amazon was this:
If you can’t supply us with the direct link to the missing 10 reviews we can’t help you. Please do not contact us about this problem again.
What the hell, Amazon? I do not know a single author (at least not personally) that would sit and bookmark their reviews. How the hell is she supposed to directly link them to something when she doesn’t know where they moved it to? It is not the author’s responsibility to ensure that Amazon’s website functions the way that their coders wrote it to function. It is not the author’s responsibility to bookmark every single review they get. Please name one author, game developer, clothing designer (etc.) selling on Amazon today that does that. And how dare their customer service talk to an author like that. Do you know what would happen to a customer service rep that spoke to someone with Harper Collins, or Penguin, or Random House (etc.) like that? They would be fired!!
Just because we do the work ourselves does not make us any lesser than the big houses. To be completely honest, I think that we’re a lot more important than those companies. That might be a bold statement, but hear me out. Those big publishing houses have departments for marketing, cover design, editing, and even the actual process of publishing. We do all of that ourselves. We do not, and cannot rely on anyone else or nothing would get done because we are self published. I think that makes us pretty damn important.
So what can we do? Too many of our readers are comfortable and familiar with Amazon. If we cut ties, we would be alienating a whole group of readers. Amazon is close to running a monopoly on the self-publishing industry and they know it. Barnes & Noble can’t really provide too much of a competition because the Nook is not widely used. They don’t have a stable footing in the ereader field. As long as we continue to self-publish, even directing people to other sites like Smashwords, Kobo, and the others, there is still a Kindle format, which means that Amazon is still getting some cut of the profits. A good portion of self-publishing authors offer print books, which can be created and distributed at no upfront cost through Createspace, which is owned by Amazon. We’re kind of stuck. We can’t exactly stop publishing our books, that would be counterproductive.
It would be nice to see at least one big name company have some level of concern or care for self-published authors. It would be nice to know that we are not considered second rate authors that only self-publish because we can’t get picked up by a traditional publishing company. We are just as valuable as the big wigs, like Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling (etc.) and we deserved to be treated a lot better than we are.
Do you have an Amazon self-publishing horror story? What are your thoughts? Comment below. Don’t forget to like and reblog, because I would greatly appreciate it!