Big Brother of the Publishing World

Lots of buzz going around about Amazon lately. They bought Goodreads, the readers social networking site. Stephen King has refused to let his latest book be turned into an ebook. Amazon is supposedly offering a refund to anyone who bought Jaime McGuire’s book now that she is going with a traditional publisher (the refund is at her expense of course). Amazon is trying to corner the new domain market for things such as dot books (.books).  Amazon has acquired a patent for a means to sell “used” ebooks. Amazon and Warner are teaming up to create a fan fiction platform so fans can make money off their derivative fiction. And on and on and on.

I don’t know what of that is true. Some, of course, maybe even all of it. But the overlying truth is that Amazon is the largest retailer on the planet, and they sbookseem to have no plans to curtail their expansion. (People hate Walmart. Why don’t they hate Amazon? I’ve never been able to figure that out. Maybe because Walmart has competition so people can afford to hate Walmart but Amazon is a force beyond reckoning? Or because Walmart has salespeople we see where Amazon’s employees are hidden behind computer screeens?)

As the world’s largest retailer, Amazon has become the controlling partner in the publishing industry, having a say in almost every facet of the business.

Major publishers fight Amazon and bow to them at the same time since their books are sold in great numbers on the site.

Small presses need Amazon, both its Create Space printing arm and its ability to reach readers.

Self-publishers love Amazon because it allows them to “publish” without ever having to do the work of actually publishing their book. (They compare themselves to Dickens and Grisham, though both those men published their books and peddled them on their own without the help of a super-giant monolithic business.)

People think of Amazon as a sales platform, similar to a blog platform, when Amazon is no such thing. They are a retailer, taking the works that others have created, and selling them (or even giving them away). Because people don’t understand the business of Amazon (the business of Amazon is Amazon) they tend to think that it is a service, and when Amazon flexes its considerable financial muscle, these people start complaining.

My publisher uses Amazon, of course. In this book climate, it’s suicidal not to. And as long as my publisher is willing to publish my books, that’s the way things will be, but if they ever turn me loose, I have no intention of republishing on Amazon. I’m not even sure I’d turn my books into ebooks. I might truly self-publish via Crate Space as I’ve heard it called — pay to have the books printed up — and then . . . well, no point in getting ahead of myself. I have a publisher for now, and maybe forever.

A friend, however, is planning on taking her ebook rights back from her publisher and self-publishing via Amazon since she is convinced she can do a better job on her own, and perhaps she might. At the moment, Amazon seems to be favoring self-published authors, and yet, what Amazon gives, Amazon can take away.

I’ll leave you with the same advice I gave her: be careful. You might be fine, but just be aware that Amazon/Kindle isn’t the sinecure it sometimes seems.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.