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Amazon Attacks Again – There’s A New Publisher On The Block


I've given the company a hard time for its failure to clean out its Mobi closet, but people aren't perfect so I can hardly expect a company to achieve perfection.  Lord knows, I'm the poster child for flaws.  So I'm not saying that Amazon is perfect, but this week it took huge strides in becoming close enough to perfect for me.  Amazon just proved once again that it is the indie writer's best friend. 

This week, Amazon's indie writer's subsidiary, CreateSpace, entered the publishing biz.  CS has signed distribution deals with Ingram's Lightning Source and Baker & Taylor which will make books widely available to retailers and bookstores as well as to schools and libraries.  It's a big, big deal done quietly, almost under the radar. 

This quiet deal promises to change the face of publishing.   

Amazon first championed indie writers with its Kindle platform.  Yes, big publishers and major authors - if they're smart - publish on Kindle.  But the costs of such big named books brings big costs to Amazon as well.  There have been numerous stories speculating that the big e-tailer loses about $2 on each work of a Royal-published author that appears on Kindle.  Invariably those stories reach the flawed conclusion that the weight of these losses will drag down Kindle and Amazon.  Of course, the stories never mention the horde of indie work published on Kindle.

For each indie work, Amazon bears no up-front cost.  The writer sets the purchase price and Amazon collects 65% of that price for each book sold.   And more and more, buyers don't care whether the book has been vetted by a big publishing company.  Buyers want to decide for themselves and they're starting to hit the buy button more and more often for the indie works.  Each time an indie work sells, the e-tailer and the indie author profit. Big publishing shills cries of bankruptcy ahoy aside, I think Amazon is laughing all the way to the bank.  

What's the proof that Amazon is profitting from being the indie advocate?  Why, 'tis this week's new deal, of course.  Under the terms, any indie writer published on CS who purchases the pro-plan, at a cost of $39.00 per year, can enter their work in the new distribution channels.  And that's the best value out there for indie writers.

Often the cost factor will prevent authors from signing with Lightning Source or Baker & Taylor.  Those distributors require the writer to own the ISBN and then to pay a set up fee.  ISBNs are purchased in a block of 10 for somewhere between $250-$300.  Then there is a set up fee, of say $75, for each book.  That's too big a chunk of change for many indie writers, especially in this economy.  Lord knows, I blogged previously about my desire to get my books out there through LS. But in times when my family can't pay all its bills, laying out big bucks for distribution of books just wasn't happening.

So like many other indie writers, I was anticipating the day when I could get my work out there in the big, wide world.  On that day, my books could sit out there on store shelves beside works of romance authors like Julia Quinn, Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts.  And my new books, the contemporaries where love and law intersect, they could one day sit beside John Grisham's work.  Heck, my last name (Graham) is even alphabetically close to his.  Well, thanks to Amazon, today is the future.

I was already published through CS and already enrolled in the pro-plan.  So Amazon made the path to my dream as easy as checking a box.  To other indie writers, I'd note that CS has no set up fees, they provide and own the ISBN, and the pro plan is only $39.00 per year.  For that price, you already got bigger royalties on Amazon.  Today, it also gives you the keys to the world.  Even I can afford $39.00 per year and my current economic balance sheets are as gloomy as anyone's. 

The move pits Amazon against the traditional publishing companies.  But it doesn't do it by attacking the walls of the Royal's castles.  Amazon has built a new castle and thrown open the gates.  It doesn't set up Amazon or CS as judge and jury.  The companies aren't screening works or deciding what Americans want.  Instead, they're banking on a future where Americans decide the next big thing for themselves, one purchase at a time. 

This move makes Amazon the Ellis Island for indie authors.  The company's Kindle success, fueled by profits made more from indies than the establishment, convinced the giant that the huddled masses did yearn to breathe free.  And in freedom, there is both choice and profit.  Our country was built on those principals and when it remembers that America is the country free enterprise built, happy days will return for everyone.  For now, at least Amazon has remembered.

Once again, traditional publishing's insular, short-sighted protectionism has brought the Royals a step closer to their own demise.  The companies could have seen the rise of devices like the Kindle as a low cost way to sell more books to more people.  The publishing Royals could have negotiated new  contracts with lower advance money and bigger writer royalties.  That would mean the writers shared not only the risk, but the reward as well.  But of course, publishers didn't do that.

Instead, the publishers closed ranks and circled the wagons.  They said, no big discounts to Amazon, never, not in a million years.  In fact, we're going to delay the release of new e-books so that we can bank bigger profits on our paper versions.  Take that, Amazon, they cried.

And Amazon took the publisher's sword and impaled them on it. 

So, book buyers everywhere, keep an eye on the shelves of your favorite bookstore, supermarket or drug store.  Within the next few weeks, if the owners of those stores and markets are smarter than the publishers, those shelves will bloom with books as wide and varied and different as the dreams and personalities of the shoppers. 

So once again, Amazon steps forward as the advocate for change and choice and the future.  Maybe an Amazon World wouldn't be such a bad place after all.