I was never published by Samhain Publishing, but was saddened by news of its decision to close. Samhain published romance and one of the things I love about romance is it usually sells even when nothing else does. My recent experience has already made me question that, so I searched the news stories to learn what the publisher said about the brand's decision to cease operations. Their reason confirmed my experience with the current state of e-publishing, which is this: Amazon is the only game in town.
Yes, I realize other vendors do business nominally, including Apple. That fact led me to leave the Kindle Select program when my books aged out - around February 9th. I left them for sale on Amazon, of course, but also distributed through Draft2Digital. Sales have been abysmal within the exact definition of that word - "extremely or hopelessly bad." That's bad for my finances, especially at a time when hubby and I are "all in" and trying to save up to purchase an RV type camping trailer for hubby's home away from home. It will save him 5 hours of driving a day, which is an insane commute to work. My leaving Select to increase sales has hurt our effort, and we can't take the hit for much longer.
I was already wavering on whether to stay with wide distribution or go back to Select, when I read about the death of Samhain. The owner of the brand, Christina Brashear, wrote a letter explaining the decision. It blames steadily declining sales and specifically notes the following:
We’ve tried to renegotiate terms with Amazon in order to buy better placement within their site and perhaps regain some of the lost traction from the early days but have been met with silence. Other retail sites are trying, but the sales have never risen to the level of Amazon and are declining as well.
Amazon has been busy building its Kindle Unlimited service, and, I expect, would lack the financial stake to motivate it to highlight the Samhain books. But, basically what we have here is a publisher saying that so much of its sales base was through Amazon that even a boost from other retailers couldn't sustain its business. Why? Because the other retailers are struggling with sales too.
Authors need to stay wide to keep the market healthy, but the market can't stay healthy if customers only shop from one site. If every single citizen of Town America buys groceries at Shop All, soon, the grocery stores who are not Shop All will go out of business. Then Shop All becomes the only game in town. If Amazon is not at that point already, it's very, very close.
I'll likely leave my books wide for a few more days, and if sales do not improve, I'll take them out of wide distribution and enroll them in Select and go back to being exclusive to Amazon. If customers don't vote otherwise with their dollars, then Amazon will own the entire market. And Amazon is a great site. I shop there a lot. Heck, I'm a Prime member. But the market does best when it stays varied, because that allows customers to control the market. When there is only a single vendor, then that vendor controls the customers.
In the recent publishing war, it appears that Amazon is the one tin soldier who survives the battle and rides away.