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Self Published Authors Get Ready, You’re Being Dumped

dumpedIf you’re a self published author, get ready for some disappointing news. Your usefulness is coming to an end. Yes, you have all worked very hard for very little return in building an empire to be exploited by multinational enterprises, but sadly, your job is almost done and it’s time now for you to be given the ‘boot’.

It all started a year or so back with the Amazon’s KDP Select program that offered ‘manna from heaven‘ in exchange for granting Amazon exclusivity to your books. And yes, it was very nice for a few months, until the rules were changed. Without notice of course. You see, the problem was that self published titles were just way too popular, so their ‘weighting’ on bestseller lists had to be reduced. From 100% down to 10% of their value.

Yet even after this dramatic change, these pesky self published titles managed to claw their way to the top of bestselling lists. Not something that would have pleased the Big Six I’m sure. So more work needed to be done.

The next move came with the massive deletions of reviews on self published titles. No, not the paid reviews by registered Amazon reviewers working on Fiverr, but those nasty reviews written by pesky self published authors who actually read a book and honestly posted a review. Clearly Amazon believed that this was just not right that authors should be allowed to review books, even though major publishers have wrought  the book review system for decades and habitually use well known authors to write book reviews. But what’s a little hypocrisy when an end needs a means.

If these measures weren’t enough to ‘kill off’ these pesky Indies, then came this new move.

‘Add to all this the unexplained changes in Amazon’s algorithms that keep the books in the KDP program from competing with publishing house titles as best-sellers.’ Source: http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2012/11/15/velvet-rope-a-dope/

My understanding of this last change was to preclude self published titles from appearing alongside major published titles in the ‘Customers Also Bought’ widget on Amazon book pages. Judging by my own ebook sales, it has worked spectacularly well, as my unit sales have dropped off a cliff from October to November.

So what happens after the destruction of self publishing?

To fill the new void that is going to be created by ‘killing off’ the Indies and genuine self published authors, the Big Six are now offering their own self publishing services. Simon & Schuster are the latest to offer this …..

This is not self publishing. It is old fashioned vanity publishing that charges anywhere between $1,500 and $25,000 to publish a book, with little chance of success. In fact it is a very old fox in new sheep’s clothing – Author Solutions and Author House. My advice has always been, do not walk away from them, run away! Vanity publishing has such a bad reputation, but as it has now been renamed and re-marketed as self publishing, everything is ok. Right? Wrong!

If you’re a self published author, the message is clear, and get ready for more bad news in the near future. All your free ebook giveaways were for nothing. You were all just way too popular for the good of the publishing industry, who are now struggling to afford their champagne lunches every day. But boy, did you help sell millions of Kindles. Well done. But you’ve served your purpose, now pack your bags and get the hell out of publishing!

Of course, I could be completely wrong about all this.

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  1. Yvonne Hertzberger

    It certainly is beginning to look like persecution by the old boys network, isn’t it. What next?

    1. Derek Haines

      Who knows Yvonne. But I think the review ‘kill’ was the most certain sign of trouble. One thing is for sure, my focus will not be on Kindle from now on. I’ll leave my books there but concentrate on marketing elsewhere.

  2. Yezall Strongheart

    I think you nailed it. I have made the same observations myself lately. Luckily I just signed with a publisher, an honest one, no payment upfront. They will be taking the lion’s share of the profits, but I won’t be paying for an ISBN. It’s a give and take. We’ll see.

    1. pooks

      Congrats, Yezall. But I’m curious–what do you mean by an honest one, no payment up front? Oh, wait, you mean YOU didn’t have to pay the publisher? Got it. (I thought you meant the publisher didn’t pay you an advance and I couldn’t figure out how that it made it an “honest” one.)

  3. Micheal Rivers (@micheal_rivers)

    There has been many signs along the way of this happening. I’ve pulled two thirds of my self published titles from KDP select as of last June. The last one had a free run a couple weeks ago and hit #6 top 100 free and the post effect was quite diminished from any other free promos I ran. The only upside was the borrows, for some reason that was significantly higher. I’ve been looking into other avenues as well. Thanks Derek, great post!

  4. Steve Umstead

    Good stuff, Derek – all I can offer as advice to writers is this: stay flexible. Adapt, improvise, and overcome. The business landscape is ever-changing, and those who don’t keep up (or pine for how good it *used* to be) will be left behind. And those who put every egg they could find into the Select basket and forgot how to market elsewhere will be the first left on the side of the road as the book train moves on.

    ~Steve

    1. Derek Haines

      True Steve. Being adaptable and flexible is the key. Amazon’s attempt to stop this attitude has failed badly, so now the shackles are off for those Indies who are prepared to experiment.

    2. Lisa McCourt Hollar

      Steve, I remember you saying way back when… don’t put your eggs all in one basket. I was one of the skeptics… I wasn’t selling elsewhere, so why not do KDP? Well I have all my books on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and am putting them anywhere else that I find. After the initial surge… and everyone offering a free book every few days… it just wasn’t worth it. And I am happy to say that while sales in Kindle may have declined, they are rising in the other markets. There is a market out there for indie authors. We need to stop expecting Amazon to be the answer.

      1. Steve Umstead

        KDP Select had its run, and those who got in for the first couple of months (and did it right) were able to take advantage of it. Since then it’s basically collapsed as a viable “sole” outlet option. I’ll be curious to see what they plan to do now that the one year Select “trial” has now ended. Are they re-upping it for another year? Hmmm.

  5. Ashley Fontainne

    Fantastic post and unfortunately, I believe right on the nose. You know, the bloodied nose each of us are currently sporting.

    All of my novels are in the KDP program, but when each one expires out of the 90 day enrollment, I will not sign up for the program again. I will concentrate on B&N, Google Books, Goodreads, etc. for additional avenues for the electronic versions. A few months ago, I was a champion for the KDP program, but after the events you discussed above, I am no longer cheering Amazon on from the sidelines. Perhaps that is because these last few blows have knocked me out of the rink?

    I lost a few reviews during the initial crackdown and like many others, emailed Amazon to find out why. I received the same stock “blather” email response from customer service about policies, procedures, rules and regulations. None of the reviews that were removed violated any of the rules, yet they were ripped away. I attempted to converse via email and plead my case, but failed. Rather than expend much needed book marketing energy on fighting the giant, I accepted that I lost that particular skirmish and went about my business.

    Then, less than one week after my electronic sparring regarding said removal of legitimate reviews, my sales tanked. Borrows halted. Emails from Amazon touting my novels ceased (according to my friends/family/fellow authors that would let me know when they received an email suggesting my titles).

    The very hand that lifted me out of obscurity has now punched me square in the face. The big six bullies must have intimidated Amazon and now our prior promoter has turned on us all. I find this quite disheartening, since THOUSANDS of Indie ebooks have been sold during the last year. Profit that went straight into the eager coffers of Amazon.

    So, as each novel is released from KDP jail, they will be made available on other electronic platforms.

    Even the biggest giant will fall if enough ants bite.

    1. Derek Haines

      I have to tell you Ashley, I didn’t bother waiting to get out of kDP Select ‘jail’. I just published elsewhere once these factors hit. If Amazon can change their rules, so can I. Very simple. I refuse to play in a game where only one side can change the rules at a whim.

    2. Dani Collins

      What strikes me as crazy is you’d think Amazon would follow the money. If indies make money, so do they. If sales nosedive, so does their 30%. (Although that ‘sold a lot of kindles’ remark makes too much sense. ouch)

      Great post and comments everyone. I’m new to KDP and already planned to ride out my exclusive then jump on the other platforms. Will still do that due to time constraints, but this is excellent info for a newbie indie.

      thanks :)

      1. Sue Lange

        “…you’d think Amazon would follow the money.”

        Right. Where were you when Amazon first opened shop? When they ran in the red for years selling books cheaper than anyone else. After a lot of bookstores and (other merchants trying to actually make money) went out of business, and Amazon was clearly winning the book business, they ended free shipping and other incentives to snag business. You really think Amazon is going to go for the easy money instead of building a plan that somehow subverts a system to their advantage in the end? You have got to be kidding.

        The only thing you can be sure of when it comes to Amazon is that they will continuously position themselves to be the only game in town. Remember that and support Mark Coker when the time comes that Amazon feels he’s a threat.

        1. Derek Haines

          It’s interesting Sue that Mark Coker has been in negotiations with Amazon almost since he opened shop, but Amazon refuse to play ball. It is about control in my view, as on the surface it would have made life easier for Amazon in many respects.

          But I believe, as I have for a long time, that Amazon’s attitude to self publishing has everything to do with selling Kindles and nothing to do with books. Ebooks are just digital content, and by coercing self publishers to offer their ebooks for free, this further enhanced Kindle device sales.

          Yes, Amazon take a long term view to market monopolisation, and books, publishing, ebooks and self publishing are only mere tools that Amazon are using to build the Kindle platform and be competitive against the Apple iPad platform in the tablet war.

      2. Tara Mills

        I was listening to On the Media on NPR this past weekend and they were talking about the book business and publishing from various angles and it was fascinating and infuriating. There was one guy on there who specifically said that Amazon isn’t necessarily interested in the book biz per se either. It’s merely a means to an end as far as dominating markets and making sales on related items etc. I forget the specifics of his point — it’s been days — but well worth searching for the program. I can’t do his commentary justice. They also discussed J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore (?) – how she was able to take back the reins of her enormously popular series. Just thought I’d share this here.

        1. Derek Haines

          Thanks for sharing Tara. Another interesting point is the new change to copyright laws that will come into effect in January 2013. Many ‘stabled’ authors will get their publishing rights back. Another little problem for the gatekeepers!

  6. Robynn Gabel

    You are right on. But the bright side is, as the ocean of indie’s recognize what Amazon is up to, we can use our collective power to bring these same sales to Barnes & Noble, or where ever we find the best exposure. I see it as a revolution that has started and will not be stopped. They can use all the old models for sales, try to control the loss, but the bottom line? It will affect Amazon’s bottom line.

    Your article was well written, informative and fact filled. Thank you.

    1. Derek Haines

      I’m not sure who will be the next Indie supporter Robyn. But one thing is for sure, whoever it is will be on a winner. My money is on Smashwords right now, but we’ll see how things pan out.

      1. Steve Umstead

        My money’s strongly on Kobo.

        BN can’t seem to figure out the mechanics of a good website for consumers to shop in, Apple doesn’t seem to want to put any effort behind their book program (and if they did, they’d be the 800 pound gorilla right away with their iTunes infrastructure/credit card accounts and devices), and to respectfully disagree Derek, I think Smashwords is still headed in the wrong direction. They may be friendly to authors, but they are a disaster to the average reader who simply wants to turn on their Kindle/Nook/iPad/Kobo and shop/download/read.

        No one but other authors (may be too general, but there it is) uses Smashwords. Average readers will never ‘stoop’ to having to sideload files via USB, no sync across device capability, etc. Readers want to read, not plug stuff in. Smashwords to me is a VCR with a blinking red 12:00 and tangled tapes, while the capabilities offered by the others are DVRs.

        Kobo’s new platform, though young, is excellent, publishing time very quick, and they are *global*, not to mention are keeping up with the device market quite well (their new line of Kobo ereaders and tablets are quite the bang for the buck, and their tablets aren’t locked down to an Amazon/BN interface).

        ~Steve

        1. Derek Haines

          I have to say Steve, that I have just discovered that when I download a book from Smashwords in epub, it automatically loads in iBooks. So, as good as ‘one click’ for me.I just wish Apple would open their iBooks platform outside of iOS. But I agree that Kobo is making the right moves.

          1. Steve Umstead

            But (and I may be wrong), that’s because you visited smashwords.com using the iPad/iPhone and downloaded using the device, correct? Not using a PC browser?

            The device sees it as an ePub and opens it in iBooks by default, just as it would if you received an ePub via email. But it won’t sync (again I may be wrong) unless you manually put it into iTunes and tell it to sync across devices, which is a couple extra steps, and doesn’t work for people using Kindles/Nooks, which is still the lion’s share of ereaders out there. I’m fairly certain even a Kindle Fire/Nook HD can’t visit smashwords.com and download a file, and certainly not the e-ink devices.

            Hey…I may be wrong… :) Love discussing this with you, one of the very few blogs I visit on a regular basis, sir!

            ~Steve

            1. Derek Haines

              True Steve. ‘One click’ is what has made Kindle the most popular ereader. But things will change as others adapt to this mode. But Kindle also uses DRM, so the little extra effort of buying from Smashwords means that you own the ebook forever. As has been seen recently with B&N deleting download rights when your credit card expires and Amazon wiping a Norwegians woman’s Kindle, DRM ebooks are not yours. When readers understand this, things WILL change.

            2. Melinda Griffith

              As a reader, I find using Smashword with Android a real pain in the a**.I can never get it to load where I want and end up reading online.

              1. Derek Haines

                I’m not familiar with Android Melinda, but I would have thought a .mobi version would open in kindle.app without any effort.

            3. Tymber Dalton

              You can simply email the epub or pdf file to yourself and then click on the link in the email, and the iPad will ask if you want to open the file in iBooks. Simple.

              And neither Nooks nor Kindles are locked to their respective stores. You just have to buy the right format and load it via cable. Takes me all of 30 seconds or less to do.

              I find Kobo’s store lacking compared to Nook. Although Nook’s search feature sucks. I make the bulk of my sales through Kindle unfortunately. Although I don’t use the KDP. Smashwords needs to fix the meat grinder. Files that render perfectly on other devices when I convert to their native format are a bitch and a half to format so their “converter” doesn’t mangle it. And I resent Smashword’s requirement to put the published at Smashwords addendum on the copyright page. It’s advertising they aren’t paying me to do. Plus it’s extra formatting. So I skip their premium catalog and leave it out. I do my own Kindle and Nook and Kobo uploads anyway, and can reach iStore through AllRomanceEbooks/OmniBooks if I so choose.

        2. Rich Meyer

          I can’t see sideloading, etc. as a big deterent to Smashwords. I am by no means a Smashwords proponent, but I am a reader first and if I want to read a book, I will find a way to get it on my e-reader. Anyone who’s gone to the expense of buying an e-reader will. Sure it can be a little confusing at times, but if I can figure it out, anyone can.

          I have a few titles with Smashwords, and use their premium channesl, but I plan to start using Kobo’s own site for my newer ones next year. I don’t see B&N as a major e-book force (and I trust them less than any of the e-distributors) so I’ll continue to just let me titles trickle there through Smashwords. Their meatgrinder used to not be able to handle my books (I write quiz books in a format that requires the use of literally thousands of page breaks, which mystified the program for over a year), but it seems to be working properly now. At least the epubs and mobis of my uploads came out looking better than Amazon’s.

          My qualm with them has always been not allowing us to list our books with active links to any other sites but Smashwords. I dislike that sort of proprietary protectionism.

  7. Melinda Griffith

    It may but I guess I’m either not enough of a techie or just need my kids to do it for me.

    1. Derek Haines

      Always get kids to figure out the techie stuff Melinda! :)

  8. Lp Johnson

    Wow. Am I glad I followed that little voice inside me, when pondering where to begin with my book. As a complete newbie in self-publishing, my first thought was of course KDP, given my familiarity with Amazon. A bit of research brought across my attention that ‘exclusivity’ matter – an instant put off. So I published on Lulu instead, and only later went back to research further – finally deciding to add my book to Kindle sans the ‘select’ feature, for the lesser royalty. Happy happy am I that I’m not locked in to promoting/selling on that one site! Even more glad to have found your Blog, Derek! I’ll be keeping up with discussions here for sure. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  9. sydneyjanebaily

    Argh, I wrote a nice long comment, then at the bottom it told me to register and I clicked that and it led me away from the comment box and then . . . poof, gone. And now I don’t see the RSS feed that for some reason was appearing from my own blog. Anyway . . .

    Just wanted to add that I’m a newly self-published author, as of Oct. I’m trying to get to five reviews, because there are places that I can advertise with five reviews; other places need 25. However, every time I get a review on Amazon after the third I already have, they delete it. Very frustrating. All their new changes and restrictions seem, as you say, designed to kick indies to the curb.

    Also wanted you to know I clicked on your RSS feed to get your posts. I noticed you’re a WP blog. Mine is, too. A couple days ago, I installed a widget called “Follow.” It creates a friendly “Follow” button that floats in the lower right-hand corner of screen. Person clicks it, enters email, and voila, just like RSS. I found that some people still don’t know what RSS is or what the icon means, so don’t click it. Just thought I’d mention it.

    Best wishes,
    Sydney

  10. Rick Carufel

    Amazon is going to cause two things to happen. They are creating a new market for indies and self-publishers and whoever steps in to fill the gap will be the next Amazon. They are also practicing some very questionable business policies that sooner or later are going to be legally challenged. Just as for you Derek my sales have gone to zero sales so far this month. Until November my books had been making me money every month consistently Clearly Amazon is intentionally causing financial damages to authors. This is going to come to a head soon with a class action suit that will have millions of plaintiffs seeking monetary damages. Amazon is also guilty of discriminatory business practices by the way it treats some authors one way and other authors completely differently.

    We all know where this is gonna end. The entrenched publishing world is crumbling and this latest move by Amazon is just an attempt to forestall the inevitable. Traditional publishing’s stranglehold on who gets published and who doesn’t is over. Amazon has temporarily been bought off by the big six in a last gasp attempt to forestall their doom. It may work for a while but it is gonna hurt Amazon badly in the long run for backing the dead horse in this race.

    1. Derek Haines

      All I can say Rick, is that Mark Coker must be rubbing his hands together right now. And running around Silicon Valley looking for new investors to build Smashwords into a true competitor to Kindle. All Smashwords need is ‘One Click’ purchasing for ereading devices (and a prettier site) and they’ll really be in the market. No matter what Mark Coker says about being primarily a distributor.

    2. sydneyjanebaily

      I might be naive, but why would Amazon want to shore up the big Six? Especially now that they have their own publishing arm?

      1. Rick Carufel

        Amazon would shore up anyone who pays them. I suspect a behind the scenes deal was cut to weed out a lot of self-published books, there are a lot of bad ones, and forge a clear distinction between the traditional, professional publishers and the amateur, unprofessional self and indy publishers. The Big 6 may believe, erroneously, that if they maintain a position of being the establishment and reputable and the only legitimate way to publish, they can continue on as is. But their terrible treatment of authors and their biased, jaded, fickle selection process for publication has doomed them. Writers will no longer take getting jerked around for decades before some publisher’s toady decided to put their manuscript on the right desk. Those days are gone and if the Big 6 don’t change their ways they too will be gone.

    3. Emily Hill

      “..are sooner or later going to be legally challenged..” I publish from Seattle, home of Amazon, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that the legal challenge is going to be a ‘ways away and a tough slog.

      In October I contacted Karr Tuttle – one of the larger prestige law firms here in Seattle regarding the September/October technical meltdowns and issues brought up on the kdp Community Board thread “Are your sales reporting normally now?” which was kicked-off by UK author Tasha Harrison on 14 September . [The thread received 43,000 hits (yes, reRead THAT number) before Amazon gave ‘the Community’ the most BS response to the concerns voiced in the thread.] Karr Tuttle wouldn’t touch the issue. After a month of kicking it around the firm Priya Cloutier, atty in charge of intellectual property, told me that their firm (which specializes in Amazon cases) was too tangled to take one more case on. So I went to a similar large firm – specializing in class action suits – armed with the kdp Community Board thread, and all the URLs from threads like this one – nada! LOL ~ I even advertised for an attorney on my anti-kdp website which receives about 200 hits a day. It takes a lot of shoe leather (metaphorically speaking) to whip up interest in taking on Amazon in the courts.

      When I contacted Seattle Times regarding IndieAuthors they didn’t want the story regarding Amazon vs IndiePubs [in spite of having run two pieces on Amazon’s abuse of general-product vendors http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2019705329_amazonsellerside.html. Or maybe because OF that story i.e. over exposure of the issue of Amazon as a bully.

      It would take more than one author – fueled by the angst of the kdp Community board – to grab the type of attention necessary to make a legal challenge gel. Would. Love. To. See. The. Day. Not solely because I’m pissed off about the royalty revenue drop off, but because Bezos’ “technical glitches” problems [his words to the media] are in no way abating, and he admits/explains publicly: that for a company the size of Amazon, growing at the rate it IS growing, technical glitches are going to be a part of the landscape.

      I can’t justify expending marketing time on a platform fraught with disappearing buy-now buttons, ‘review sweeps’, vanishing UK sales boards, on and on. For me, it’s not as much an “Indies You’re About to be Dumped” issue as an “Amazon You’re About to be Dumped *by* Indies” issue. It will be oh so fascinating to see if their Q4 numbers are any better than their Q3 numbers – year to date.

      1. Rick Carufel

        Hi Emily,
        If Amazon is stealing royalties then this is no longer just a civil matter but a criminal one. Therefore the route may be to go through the Wa. Attorney General or some federal agency. In my opinion what they are doing violates the RICO act and their actions are questionable enough to warrant a federal investigation.

        1. Emily Hill

          Dear Rick Carufel,

          You’re absolutely correct about the possibility of this being a criminal case. Washington State has just elected a new Attorney General, kicking out the incumbent, and the office is in political upheaval for a month or so. About six of the authors on the kpd Amazon Community board indicated they had filed an on-line complaint with that office. I’ll file when things settle down and the newly elected AG takes office in January.

          For those interested in pursuing this route with me – the website for filing an AG complaint in Washington State is: http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx#.ULzGNaVpKfQ

          I hope you (all) will join me in the process.

          Emily Hill

      2. Derek Haines

        Bezos’ “technical glitches” is a great line Emily. So very typical of Amazon to answer any simple direst question with a galling platitude. I don’t know the ins and outs of what Amazon KDP have been up to this last year, but one thing is for sure and certain in my case. From the middle of last year up until October of this year my KDP sales were steady and even growing slowly month on month. Not huge volumes, but I was very happy with a couple or even a few hundred sales per month. Until.

        My November KDP sales were 6!! No not 600, SIX!

        Now either there was a technical glitch, my popularity fell off a cliff, or the world ended in 2012 as predicted.

        Another possibility exists though, which I have no way of discovering. Did I really sell only six Kindle ebooks in November 2102? Or was that just the number that was reported to me? I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but Amazon and KPD’s ‘cone of silence’ attitude only encourages such thinking as there is no way of getting a definitive answer.

        1. Emily Hill

          Dear Derek,

          Likewise, actually. Up until October I was selling a steadily increasing number of my Ghost Stories’ sets and had surpassed 300 sales in August, looking forward to sales numbers over Halloween to cover the costs of my translations costs and design costs for two new eBooks (French Translations… CHA-ching! ;)

          As October began, and in spite of a 30-hour/week marketing effort (I’m kind of on-line addicted, what can I say) … my sales average per day had gone from 11 ebooks a day down to six!

          Frankly, I was exhausted, and a little sad (that I wasn’t the Halloween Sweetheart I had hoped to be)… Until I went to the kdp Community Board and realized there were hundreds, if not thousands, of authors in the same boat!!

          Most of the kdp complaints were impotent complaints – to the benefit of the kdp Community Board administrator – I didn’t want to whaaa! whaaa! whaaa! to HIS benefit, so I removed most of my posts and moved on to other things, but not before building an excel spreadsheet of authors’ ‘before’ and ‘after’ sales ratios of those who had disclosed their sales numbers.

          I hope to be able to share the data with the AG’s office someday …. soon!

          Em.

    4. Tymber Dalton

      Allromanceebooks.com and their sister site, OmniBooks. They’re better than Smashwords, IMO, and can get you into the iSore as well.

      1. Derek Haines

        I’ve just checked out OmniBooks Tymber. It looks promising. Thanks for the recommendation and another alternative for Indies.

  11. Tim Miller

    Interesting thoughts. You make a lot of great points, though I feel like some of this may be a little doomsday, but it is always good to have a back up plan.

    My book hasn’t done spectacular on Amazon so far anyway. It sure as hell hasn’t been next to any major books, though mine is very different, so I guess it doesn’t match up with anything mainstream. I’ve always liked amazon and still do mostly. I did lose like 5 reviews for some reason no on ever explained to me.

    My book is with a small publisher, Vamptasy Publishing, they been around awhile and not sure how much all this will effect them. Good thing is, they have all our books also on KOBO, and some other places. So hopefully nothing Amazon does will hurt us too badly. We just need to be ready if or when Amazon does do anything weird.

    I do have to say, the John Lockes and others of his ilk, buying reviews, using sock puppet accounts, etc sure didnt’ help anyone but the big publishers. Yes, the big boys have been juking the system for years, but its the indies who had the credibility problems with poorly edited work and such. Just when we were starting to gain traction, that scandal hit and it all went out the window.

    1. Marie Loughin

      Thanks for saying that last bit, Tim. I think a certain segment of the indie writing community shares the blame for the changes. Spamming,review rigging, and review and like chains have turned a lot of open-minded readers against indie writers. These approaches can also tarnish Amazon`s reputation. It`s possible that Amazon has slammed the door because they consider indies to be a failed experiment for their business, in the long term sense. After all, Amazon has a lot more at stake than book sales, and they count heavily on their review system.

      That said, patient indies can still find success, as others have indicated.

  12. Ruth Ann Nordin

    I suspected something was going on since I saw a drop in my sales and others’ sales. What you explained makes a lot of sense. I tend to think Smashwords has something going for it, especially since Mark Coker is always looking into how to improve things. Of course, as authors we have our own share of also doing what we can to be flexible and try new things to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m not sure where things are headed, but I think the same idea of writing your best possible book and getting more books out there will be a constant in this ever changing market.

  13. Shirley Wine

    Thanks for the timely post.

    I am fairly new to self-publishing but I have bitten the bullet so to speak, and after following the discussion on Amazon antics have already uploaded my books onto other selling platforms. And after reading this informative post am very glad I’ve taken this step.

    One book I’ve had with Amazon has had such a bizzare run with pricing i really think that whoever runs Amazon’s pricing department has rocks for brains.

    I really like working with Kobo. They get the thumbs up from me on several points.

    First they are an international Selling platform and as such you can sell books in all regions under the one payment plan. So If you sell x number in Europe, x number in USA or Canada and x number in other countries they are all amalgamated into one sales figure and when the cumulative sales figure reached the set minimum figure, an author is paid. No having to reach this minimum figure on each different platform.

    The other major plus for kobo, they pay me (a New Zealand author) in NZ Dollars by direct credit into my bank account.
    Yes you read that correctly. There is no hassle with banking cheques that take 30 days to clear, or having the hassle of extracting money through Paypal. You don’t need to go through the hassle of getting an ITIN so you can publish in USA.

    Kobo have sorted all these hassle for me and once I reach the $100 threshold (regardless of which country my books are sold in) I get paid.
    If Kobo can do it why can’t all the other selling platforms?

    My money is on Kobo becoming the next big player and I sincerely hope they are following this discussion.

    1. Saoirse O'Mara

      Wow, you have to reach $100 before you get paid? Well, Amazon does have the same payout for the currencies for which they don’t offer direct deposit for me, but I only need to reach €10.- for payout for those in euros, and I get the money directly into my bank account without any hassle.

      Smashwords, I think, also has a payout threshold of only $10.-. True, I had to get an ITIN since I didn’t want to be subject to 30% tax withhold (you can publish in the USA without an ITIN, you’ll just have to pay a flat 30% tax) on my sales in the USA.

      My books are on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle (and some of them in print through CreateSpace), and I wouldn’t want to miss any of them in my mix.

      1. Shirley Wine

        For authors who don’t live inside the US, Amazon has $100 US dollars threshold before they pay out. And they don’t pay out until 60 days after the end of the first month in which sales were made.

        100 UK Pounds and 100 Euros is th threshold for these currencies as well.

        Amazon pay by cheque which is a hassle as NZ banks charge hefty fees for International cheques and there is a 30 day clearance wait.

        So hence my delight with Kobo.

        I got my ITIN which incidently cost almost $NZ200 but now to get an ITIN the US Tax department is demanding non-US residents have to send them their passports(Not Certified copies certified by our Internal Affairs Department) before they’ll issue an ITIN. (The US IRS is as wacky as Amazon at changing the the rules without any apparent reason)

        Saoirse it pays to understand all the parameters involved for non-US Residents.

        1. Derek Haines

          The treatment of non-US Kindle authors is a real pain Shirley. I have the same problems here in Switzerland. I can understand the US tax laws, so that can’t be avoided. The best solution I have found is not to apply for an ITN, and just claim back the withholding tax once a year.

          But Amazon’s insistence on sending cheques is not only archaic, it is a real slap in the face and the pocket for us who live outside the US. Having to pay anything from $10 up to $25 to have a cheque cleared is just another penalty we pay. Even worse, I get the same from Amazon UK, who also send a cheque, even though I can get electronic funds transfer for Amazon France and Germany. Where of course I sell no books.

        2. Saoirse O'Mara

          Shirley, youre right, I did not take into account that NZ doesn’t share any currency with any of the Amazon websites. In that case, I can understand why Amazon doesn’t really appeal to you.

          I’m living in Germany, so I too had to deal with the IRS (and had no problems with them apart from the waiting time to get my ITIN after I sent my application form), but I guess I’m lucky that I can receive direct transfers in euros from more than one European Amazon website. My ITIN only cost me 2.50 euros for a certified copy of my passport, plus shipping of the letter to the IRS (I applied in summer).

          I haven’t yet received any cheques, though, so I still have no clue how much trouble (and fees) that will bring….

  14. AJ Sefton

    Very informative thread. Covered aspects I had not considered. – thanks.

  15. sharkbytes

    I’ve had self-published books out there now for almost two years, and never went for KDP. I didn’t like that people had to use Kindle software exclusively. Still, I sell lots more books via Amazon than anywhere else. I’ve had a print book listed on Amazon for 7 years, and they treat authors terribly. It’s a $25 book, and I make less than $1 per copy after all their fees, royalties, shipping, etc. I sure wish someone could take a big chunk out of them. BTW, I just read today that B&N cancels all your books you’ve bought from them if your credit card expires.

    1. Steve Umstead

      Whoa, hang on – I don’t think the credit card issue with BN was cancel them all automatically if the card expires. I think it was someone who tried to redownload one they bought already but the original card they sued to buy it the first time had expired. Stupid business policy yes, but not devious delete-them-all on the spot. Otherwise that would have been happening thousands of times every year (I know my card has expired on BN at least once in the past two years).

      ~Steve

      1. Kelsy George

        Don’t know about BN cancelling automatically when credit card expires, but I will probably lose access to my 90 books bought on eReader/Fictionwise.com because I live in Canada and after the sale of Fictionwise to BN I will only be able to access books bought there if I have used a US or UK credit card. Canadian credit cards will not work. Too bad for me…90 books I bought and paid for are no longer mine to read.

        As for th books I have published on Amazon, through the Blush imprint of Elloras Cave and The Wild Rose Press, I had one book that was selling for more than $10,000.00. I was trying to get it delisted as the rights reverted to me over a year ago and I had revised the book and re-issued it through Amazon.

        My bad!

  16. Anne R. Allen

    Great post. I ran across it doing research on a similar post for my Sunday blog. I like the comments here that say Smashwords and Kobo are the places for us to go. Mark Coker has about 13 employees. Smashwords is a cottage industry and truly “indie.” He started the company because he’s an indie author himself. And Kobo has hardly even started yet. They started as nice, friendly Canadians and maybe they’ll keep that persona. I hope so.

    The Zon is just one of the Big 6 now. In fact, I sort of think the old Big 6 will have to become the Big One in order to take on Amazon. Godzilla vs. Mothra. Fun to watch, but not to be part of.

  17. Wright Forbucks

    Derek-
    Thanks for all this info. Short-term Indies are seeing a big drop, me included, but we can rise again. Amazon will not have a stranglehold on the market forever. We need to find and control our own customers. The Indies need to create their own Amazon.com. Amazon is a big co. They helped us out for awhile. That was cool. Now, it’s time to do something new.
    W4$

  18. Stephen Hise

    Excellent post, Derek. Now the Simon and Schuster/Author Final Solutions deal looks like a move to seal the exits. I am waiting to hear about someone making a move to buy Smashwords. The Big Publishing business model has failed, but they have fixated on indies as the instrument of their destruction instead of engaging in an honest re-evaluation. Thanks for this post and for the link. :)

  19. Joleene Naylor

    I think you’re 100% right. I have been saying for some time now that the frontier land of indy publishing is becoming “civilized” so to speak and soon will be like the “wild west” – because we just can’t have “freedom” where anyone can publish anything they want… What makes me sad are when I see fellow indies cheering this on to “get rid of the crap” – because ‘crap” is subjective and the day will come when THEY will be flushed along wit the rest. I hope they’re happy then.

    1. Ruth Ann Nordin

      I couldn’t agree with you more. What these people have been crying for all along will probably bite them in the you-know-what.

  20. Helen Ellis

    Thanks for all that wonderful input. I’m on Smashwords but haven’t had marvelous sales. Was thinking of putting everything on Amazon – maybe I’ll go for Kobo instead. Do they take Australian authors?

    1. Derek Haines

      In a previous comment Helen, I see that Shirley is publishing with Kobo from New Zealand, so I’m sure you can use Kobo as well. But if you are on Smashwords, your books should be available on Kobo already via their premium distribution.

      1. Shirley Wine

        Helen

        Kobo is in Australlia as well as NZ. Go into http://www.Kobowritinglife.com and register. I found it just as easy as uploading onto Amazon and I’m no techie! You upload epubs on that site and you’ll work in Australian dollars.

    2. Steve Umstead

      “maybe I’ll go for Kobo instead”

      Why wouldn’t you go *everywhere*? Authors should be publishing their books wherever they possibly can. Sticking with one outlet over the other (exclusivity) is the biggest issue with of KDP Select. Publish on Amazon, BN, Kobo, iBookstore, Smashwords, Createspace, and so on. Don’t limit your books to one or the other.

      It would be a terrible feeling for an author someone to want to buy their book and they have to say no.

      1. Steve Umstead

        *for an author if someone wants to buy…* Sorry.

  21. Emily Hill

    Dear Derek, and All,

    A Big ‘Yep’ from this corner.

    My 18 October blog post on Self-Publishing review http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/blog/2012/10/amazon-remains-mum-on-authors-fears-of-book-sales-skimming/ , my personal blog and my $90 ante-in for the website http://www.kindlegate.webstarts.com were my reactions to the realization that the Party was winding down.

    My ‘KindleGate’ website has received nearly 2500 hits since 12 November – and to this day – Still no word from Jeff Bezos on my Open Letter. Go Figure!

    Emily Hill

  22. Petula Winmill

    Speaking as a reader I will say that although I have a Smash words account I have never been able to download a book from them. I have a kindle 4. From it I can log into lots of book sites and download direct. I can get onto my smash words but not to download. I never bother even looking at smash word books now. I have downloaded from All romance , Ellora cave and plenty of others no problem. Barnes and noble won’t let me buy from them because I live in Spain. I would need a U S billing address. I double checked that yesterday because someone said they are now international.

    1. Derek Haines

      I can understand Petula. I have abandoned my Kindle because of all these restrictions and difficulties. I’m now reading on my iPad and can pick and choose which reader I use, and what store I buy from. Especially DRM free ebooks in epub format, that I can read on almost any ebook application. Kobo and Diesel are worth looking at for a good range of DRM free ebooks.

  23. margieinitaly

    Thanks for this enlightening post! I have tweeted it!

  24. A.J. Aston

    All this ties into what I have been saying on my blog, albeit in a humorous fashion to disguise my disgust and yes, despair. The publishing industry forgot that the product they earn (so much) money from is not of their own creation, that they are essentially a ‘brokerage’ industry which needs customers on both sides – the reading public (demand) on one and authors (supply) on the other. Rather than nurturing the fields to encourage new robust growth, they have devoted all their compost to existing plants which can only do so much, J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer notwithstanding. The demand goes where there is good product, regardless of who supplies it. If the reading public is, in increasing numbers, migrating to books which have been self-published, this indicates that there are many good authors out there who chose not to go the traditional publishing route, probably because the process has become so difficult. Difficult not because of the competition – (in relative terms, it is as high for the emerging writers of today as it was for J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer when they started out) but because it is permeated with an attitude of contempt, bordering on the ridiculous. It is one thing to get a rejection slip – there isn’t one author who has not been on the receiving end of those – but it is another to be given to understand that your chances at getting accepted by an agent or publisher do not lie exclusively in the quality of your writing but just as much in how big a ‘platform’ you bring to the table and whether you have shown sufficient obedience and humility by following formatting requirements to the letter. Offer up a manuscript with 1.5″ margins instead of 1.25″ and you do so at your own peril! Regardless of whether you are the next Roth or Faulkner or Hemingway, how you approach the industry, whether on sufficiently bended knee or not, has become a major deciding factor in your future success. Unwilling to be put through the ringer, writers have self-published in droves. Rather than taking this as an inditement of their attitudes, the publishing industry has, instead, set their sights on limiting if not destroying this alternative publishing avenue. The snake is swallowing it’s own tail!

  25. Rick Carufel

    I just published three of my book on Kobo since you first wrote this Derek. It was quite easy. I would advise everyone to do the same just to cover all the bases. I intend to leave my books on Amazon but also offer them to as many alternates sales outlets as possible.

    1. Derek Haines

      I’ve distributed all of my books via Smashwords Rick. I just checked and Kobo are showing 12 of my 14 titles already. So it was quite fast. I had a look at going directly with Kobo, but as Smashwords offer distribution to Apple, B&N, Sony, Diesel and few others it was easier for me to go with them. Being outside the US makes it difficult sometimes to deal directly with certain retailers, so it’s a good deal for me.

      1. Steve Umstead

        Derek, we’ve had this discussion before I believe (about outside the US). I go direct to iTunes, Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble; I want nothing to do with Smashwords for distributing to them. Outside the US many authors don’t have a choice, but if you have the ability to publish direct, I highly recommend it (for any/all of those four).

        If I upload a new book to Kobo or iTunes, it’s up for sale within a day or two. Smashwords needs weeks to go through the Premium catalog, then weeks more to distro. Smashwords also takes weeks to show sales (versus same day with the others), takes weeks to do updates (changing a description may take 2-3 weeks before it processes through to Kobo/iTunes, but direct it’s hours), *requires* (big pet peeve of mine) a Word doc to be uploaded instead of my painstakingly-crafted ePub/mobi, and invariably has issues with formatting once the book hits the end user (check out book descriptions on BN that came from Smashwords – one big run-on paragraph, and via Smashwords you can’t fix it).

        I just can’t imagine waiting weeks to get a book up and running (for example if an author today decides to get a book out by Christmas through Smashwords, it may or may not hit by Dec 25th, whereas direct it’ll be up by tomorrow evening) or trying to have a sale (price change or book description change via Smashwords could take weeks, so if I wanted to do a last minute weekend sale I couldn’t).

        Yes, publishing through Smashwords is “easier” than 3-4 direct efforts because it’s one click and you move on, but it’s not the best way to do it – and it’s only easy up front, not ongoing. Sometimes it takes a little extra work to do it the right way.

        ~Steve

        1. Rick Carufel

          I recently bought a Macbook so I can publish directly to Ibooks.

  26. lisa

    I know this is a bit against the spirit here, but what about Create Space? Yes, it’s Amazon…and yes, they are marginalizing indies which is the main issue. But I’ve not seen it mentioned as an alternative in this discussion. After doing about three months of research, this service seemed to be by far the best going?

    1. Steve Umstead

      Hey, I mentioned CreateSpace above! :)

      I’ve used them for almost two years now, excellent service, fast shipping, quality product, reasonable price. I will continue to use them, but they are for paperback/printed copies, not ebooks (which is the crux of Derek’s post I believe).

      ~Steve

      1. lisa

        Oh no! I apologize! i have a touch of the flu today but not sure how i missed that. Create Space has an ebook extension too doesn’t it? In any case It’s nice to read a positive review of the service. :)

        1. Steve Umstead

          “Create Space has an ebook extension too doesn’t it?”

          Sort of – they allow publishing to Kindle through their dashboard, but I don’t see any reason to do that over going direct to Amazon. AFAIK they don’t publish to any other ebook outlet but Kindle (being owned by Amazon and all…)

          ~Steve

          1. lisa

            Hmm. Isn’t it a bit strange? I mean, through extended distribution the titles are available to B&N, both bricks and online. I suppose submitting multiple places is an option. Not certain how that would affect the ISBN etc.

            1. Steve Umstead

              You don’t need an ISBN to distribute ebooks direct anywhere but iBookstore, and even there you can use a free Smashwords ISBN. I’ve got 11 titles published through five different outlets and have yet to buy an ISBN.

              The Extended Distribution offered by Createspace is only paperback, not ebook. CS is a paper outlet; their Kindle distro is an afterthought.

              1. Lp Johnson

                Hi Steve, I’m trying to be clear on this information. It’s true you don’t need an ISBN to distribute on KOBO or Google? I was on both sites yesterday and maybe was misunderstanding? Both asked for a #. If what you post is correct I’m going back Today.

                1. Steve Umstead

                  Amazon, BN, and Kobo all do their own internal ISBN-like numbers. You do NOT need an ISBN to publish an ebook through any of those sites. With the iBookstore you do, but if you publish through Smashwords you can obtain a free ISBN which can be used for the iBookstore.

                  I have not yet gone through Google Books; on my to-do list for 2013. However I’m almost positive you don’t need an ISBN, as they assign an internal one like the others above.

                  Again I have yet to buy an ISBN. It’s a different world…

                  ~Steve

                  1. Lp Johnson

                    Best news I’ve heard all day. I plan to get one eventually, but its just not in the cards for now. So back I go to give it another whirl – Thanks bunches!

                    1. Rick Carufel

                      Google says you don’t need to have an ISBN but if you try to publish an ebook without one it won’t work. Tried it today.

    2. Rick Carufel

      I have published nearly a dozen books through createspace and never had a problem, until now. I published a book with wrap-around art. They decided to cut off the back cover and move it up a quarter inch completely destroying the art. I have now been fighting with the for a month to put it back as it was and they absolutely refuse to do it unless I re-submit the cover and have a seasonal book removed from sale for 2 days. I finally decide to do it on Monday and today is Friday and the book is still unavailable. I told them earlier today if this isn’t resolved today I will be consulting with an attorney.

      1. Rick Carufel

        Sorry meant Thursday, still 4 days a seasonal book is unavaiable during prime sales period because of them chopping up the cover.

        1. lisa

          I have read that in order to protect *anyone* messing with the artwork (adjusting, resizing, etc)…one has to be incredibly and tediously exact in prep. Ive been an art director for 22 years but I’ve read others of a similiar vein have had problems too, even though we’ve all prepped files for printing all our professional lives. I don’t think you are alone there…especially if you had anything which pushes the boundaries of the guidelines. Or bleeds.

          1. Rick Carufel

            The whole problem started when they decided that the publishers logo on the back was outside the requirements. The guidelines clearly states that a .125 bleed is required. So rather than move the logo a bit they decided to chop off the back and move it up a 1/4 inch. But in fact the logo was within the margins they state in the guidelines. They sent me a mock-up of the problem and according to Technical Services all content must be 1/4 inch from the edge of the book not 1/8 inch as stated in the guidelines. So the problem arose because their guidelines are incorrect yet they absolutely refused to address the issue unless I re-submitted a cover and basically made the book unavailable for two day, which has now stretched to 4 days because they used the same cover they had problems with in the first place instead of the revision I sent by the same name. So this morning I sent it again with a different name. All in all it looks like the book will be unavailable for a total of 6 days because they took it upon themselves to chop up my cover because it was based on their inacurate guidelines.

  27. Kelsy George

    Oops, posted this in the wrong plac first time…so repeating here.

    Don’t know about BN cancelling automatically when credit card expires, but I will probably lose access to my 90 books bought on eReader/Fictionwise.com because I live in Canada and after the sale of Fictionwise to BN I will only be able to access books bought there if I have used a US or UK credit card. Canadian credit cards will not work. Too bad for me…90 books I bought and paid for are no longer mine to read.

    As for th books I have published on Amazon, through the Blush imprint of Elloras Cave and The Wild Rose Press, I had one book that was selling for more than $10,000.00. I was trying to get it delisted as the rights reverted to me over a year ago and I had revised the book and re-issued it through Amazon.

    My bad!

  28. Saul Tanpepper

    Looks like I’m the lone dissenter here. The rules keep changing, and they keep changing because Amazon is a business doing what businesses do. We need to stop thinking of them as Saviors of the Great Indie Movement. They are not. Indies will not die. They will not become extinct. The best indies will adapt first and the rest will follow. It’s the Big 6 (soon to be Big 5) that are the dinosaurs.

    So stop pushing the panic button. It’s not the end of the world.

    1. Rick Carufel

      Nobody is looking at Amazon as the Saviors of the Great Indie Movement, just the opposite. They are destroying it.
      “I had one book that was selling for more than $10,000.00.” What does that mean? And if it’s doing so well why would you try and delist it? Your whole post makes no sense.

      1. Saul Tanpepper

        Who are you replying to?

  29. JIm

    Do you blame Amazon for making these changes? They don’t want $.99 garbage books by untalented writers to pollute the bestseller lists when everyone knows they’re only there because of the price point. That would turn Amazon into a one stop shop of bad books. They like being able to say they have millions of ebooks, because that sells Kindles, but they also want to sell decent content. And lets face it, when less than 1% of self published books meet the base standard for decent writing, pushing them on an unsuspecting public that just spent good money on a reading device is not only bad business, but unethical.

    Self published writers should be thankful they were allowed to play at all. If they don’t like the way things are, they can always go back to writing their books and querying agents and wondering why no one will publish them.

    1. Rick Carufel

      The $.99 garbage books were OK when they were selling Kindles weren’t they? Your 1% assumption holds true for traditionally published books too. I have been an avid reader for 50 years and have read hundreds of bad books long before the eBook came along.

      1. Steve Umstead

        “Your 1% assumption holds true for traditionally published books too.”

        My eyes bled while trying to get through The Lost Symbol from Dan Brown.

        1. Rick Carufel

          He he he.

  30. Elliot

    “Of course, I could be completely wrong about all this.”

    Correct. You are wrong.

  31. J. R. Tomlin (@JRTomlinAuthor)

    That’s funny. My self-published sales are up considerably this month over last month (by about 100% and last month wasn’t that bad) and I see quite a number of indie novels that are right next to Big 6 novels on the best seller lists. As a matter of fact, one of mine is. So…

    Not so much. No.

  32. Derek Haines

    I’m just catching up with all your comments. Thank you for them as it is a very worthwhile discussion. I’d just like to point out that my post refers to ebooks and Kindle in particular. Createspace, although being owned by Amazon, perform a wonderful service for POD paperbacks and extended distribution.

    However, KDP has been playing both sides and is now looking as if it is making a decision about where their bread is buttered. Remember that KDP are the ones who encouraged $0.99 ebooks, who encouraged free ebooks, who encouraged free ebook lending and who encouraged anyone who could spell their name to publish via their platform. They also encouraged a flawed review system that had no controls at all.

    No quality control and no literary intention whatsoever. KDP was and is about selling Kindles and extending its platform against Apple’s iPad.

    But it is clear now that there has been pressure applied to Amazon by the major publishers and Amazon have mud on their face. They have played both sides and are now deciding which bed they wish to lie in. Hence Indies are being given the cold shoulder as Amazon cuddle up once again with New York.

    As I said, self publishers have served their purpose, and are now unwanted by Amazon as their Kindle platform future now lies elsewhere.

    1. Roger

      “But it is clear now that there has been pressure applied to Amazon by the major publishers and Amazon have mud on their face.”

      There is nothing at all clear about that. Interesting conspiracy theory, but it’s not grounded in anything. Sounds like a professional victim.

    2. J. R. Tomlin (@JRTomlinAuthor)

      KDP encouraged 99 cent books — by paying a lower royalty rate for them. That’s a funny way of encouraging something. Considering the hatefest the Big 5 (4 or however many their down to today) have with Amazon, that should be an interesting cozying up as well.

  33. Luke Ryman

    Derek,
    This is an interesting article, and helps bring home the message to naive indie authors that self-publishing will never bring global success or fame.
    I have been writing for a few years – but never to earn a living or make a name for myself. I write for pleasure, and if I sell a few books along the way, then so much the better.
    If any indie author seriously thinks that they’re going to make a million overnight, then they’re just totally deluded.
    I seriously believe that the well-established publishers were never threatened by Kindle Select etc., and that they’re simply waiting for the day when the implosion comes, and everything returns to normal.
    Who knows if they are right?
    Only time will tell…

    1. Derek Haines

      You are right on all your points Luke. Self publishing will not make you rich, but it is very rewarding all the same in so many other ways.

      As far as threats are concerned though, I don’t believe self publishing poses any realistic threat to traditional publishing. What does though, is Amazon’s ‘free ebook’ campaigns via KDP Select. Over 4,000 free ebooks available each and every day on Kindle was a red rag to a bull for the Big Six. And now the bull is very angry and Amazon don’t know which way to turn. Expect more strange U turns from Amazon.

      1. Jillian

        Amanda Hocking became a millionaire from her .99-$2.99 eBooks. Though, it’s a far stretch for any Joe Schmo to be that lucky, I wouldn’t say that it will not make you rich. :)

        1. Derek Haines

          Outliers pop up in all fields of endeavour Jillian. One in a million that everyone wants to emulate, but isn’t this what keeps our dreams alive? :)

          1. Jillian

            Yes, it’s exactly what keeps them alive. I just mentioned her because she has been my inspiration to keep plugging away at writing! I’m just gonna continue doing that, and dream of course. ;)

    2. Rick Carufel

      If making money selling books is your goal it can easily be done. Just research the demographics. The group to sell books to are professional women in their forties making $50k+ a year. They are single and have no children. They buy mostly sexy romance, dieting and cookbooks.
      Tell a few steamy tales of sexual encounters to illustrate your great sex part, throw in a section of low cal gourmet dishes and a list of great wines for under $50, finish off with some simple ways to keep your weight down mostly with a lot of sex and you got a winner.

      1. lisa

        Hmm. Perhaps that is one demographic…there are many others. (beware pigeonholing the female buyer…noticed a backlash on twitter recently about this) I think that one of the beautiful, untapped avenues about self-publishing is the possibilities of niche marketing. Small houses have done this well for years, why not an individual who knows his or her market. Also, traditional short-run type jobs. As a photographer…these hold special interest to me.

        1. Rick Carufel

          Amanda Hocking became a millionaire doing just that. She exploited the young adult/vampire niche and it paid off.

          1. Jillian

            Precisely. Young Adult fiction tossed with a vampires, zombies, and a dash of fairies seems to be a seller. I write Young Adult fiction, which some people to this day don’t believe that good writing is associated with this genre, but I beg to differ. It sells, and it’s fun to write!

        2. Rick Carufel

          That is the demographics of who buys the most books from Amazon. If your goal is to sell books that is the group you need to write for.

          1. Steve Umstead

            Careful about writing for what’s “hot” right now…it may not be hot next year…it could be 50 Shades of Gardening Tips or something.

  34. Tammie Gibbs

    Great post. I agree on some points and disagree on others which I suppose is not that different than any other author. Having been in business myself for over 25 years, and I consider most of what Amazon has done as experimental. Some have worked and some haven’t worked so well, but they are adapting to times that are changing. It’s often difficult for authors who are super creative to look at the business side and see anything but the extremes.

    I don’t think Amazon is after Indies. I think they are a large company with a bottom line that when you look solely at the book arm consists of two parties and in some cases three. (author, publisher, reader) Yes, they want to make their consumers happy as well and while we as authors complain about certain aspects of the business, readers complain about others and mesh that with the big publishers adding in their gripes. It’s not as simple as we would like to think to implement changes that satisfy all the players. So, what do they do…they try things, they experiment, they get blasted by one or all the parties?

    I do not consider them a savior, but I do consider them instrumental in many authors getting a chance to be read that probably never would have. I don’t have exclusives. I’m pretty much wherever my books can be except for one non-fiction title or two that is in KDP intentionally. My novels are not. My best selling novel has never been in KDP and continues to perform consistently despite the ups and downs.

    I do believe that this is an industry that continues to evolve and that many will get left behind. As quality improves so does competition, and some people are just better marketers than others. On the flip side, even if you were with a big six but in the mid-list it would be probably just as difficult to get good placement and good placement is what ultimately sells books.

    If you are looking for the sky to fall you may miss the green grass underfoot and the flowers blooming. The most any of us can do are to be on top of all of this and look for the next “big” strategy and of course never stop writing.

    1. Derek Haines

      I like your ‘experimental’ tag Tammie. Just about everything to do with publishing at present falls into this category. With recent mergers and moves by traditional publishers into vanity publishing, it’s clear even the big boys are trying new ways and means. Amazon of course is both sides of the coin by being not only a huge retailer, but now also a major publisher.

      I know my post was a little theatrical, but from the changes that Amazon have made over the last 12 months, it’s clear they are not sure how self publishing Indies fit into their scheme of things. While not being a campaign against Indies, it has proved that not even Amazon know where it is all heading and are making changes ‘on the run’ so to speak.

      The changes to the ‘weighting’ of free books was sensible, but the review fiasco was very badly managed and unfair in its application. One thing is for sure though. There will be many more changes to the rules of the game in the months and years ahead.

  35. sarahmenary

    We’ll stick it to the man somehow, maybe we need to support small publishers more, not the big six, check out the writers coffee shop publishing house The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House (TWCS) who publish mostly debut authors including 50 Shades of Grey also young adult fiction and other types too. They are only 2 years old as a business and started as a group of friends publishing the books they liked on online writing communities, so similar to self publishing and with the ethics and motivation of self publishers.
    see website: ph.writerscoffeeshop.com or search for TWCS

  36. Kathy Golden

    What I’m eager for is the competitive website that will focus exclusively on indie authors. I don’t think it’s long in coming. If self-published books are disturbing the traditional publishers this much, it means there’s a lot of indie-power out there to be harnessed and turned into a huge success for the right investors and backers. Most importantly, their success will depend on the successful selling of our books.

    1. Derek Haines

      True Kathy. There is clearly strong demand for Indie books, and ebooks in particular. I think Smashwords have a great approach and also an opportunity expand, but I really think the most pressing need is for an easier buying method.

      There are many ebook retailers who should really sell more books, but I always hear the same from ebook readers when I suggest Smashwords, Diesel or others. ‘I don’t know how to load it on my Kindle’. Read here, Nook, Sony iPad or whatever device. It is ‘once click’ buying and loading that is the real handicap and the advantage Amazon, Apple et al have.

      If this one element of buyer resistance could be overcome, I really think it could be a game changer.

  37. Kevin McLaughlin

    Ok, first off, Derek is incorrect on some of his information.

    The change was not to make indie books count for 10%. It was that FREE “sales” would only count for 10% of a full sale for purposes of moving the book up the popularity ranking. In the early months of KDP Select, freebies given away counted for a full sale, so if you have away a few thousand copies, when the book went off free it rocketed up the charts and landed on bestseller lists. This is pretty silly, if you think about it, because with so many books in Select (150k or so), the churn around the top was crazy.

    So last Spring, Amazon changed their algorithm to make free books count less. They also made price factor into the popularity ranking, which hurt some indies. A 99 cent ebook had to sell a LOT more copies than a $5.99 ebook to reach the same Amazon popularity ranking. Since popularity indexing is the default search parameter, it’s what most readers use when browsing.

    Since then, cheap books have dropped off the top hundred charts quite a lot. Some still make it there, but there are about half as many; in January, around a third of the top hundred ebooks in many genres were 99 cents. Amazon wanted to push the price up a bit, so they “encouraged” publishers to stop selling so many 99 cent books by altering the algorithm to favor somewhat higher prices.

    There are still about the same number of indie books on the bestseller lists. The only thing which has changed is that the average price is higher, and Select isn’t as good a deal as it was when it was first implemented.

    There is no doomsday scenario going on. ;)

    1. Derek Haines

      I should have been clearer I think Kevin. I was referring to KDP Select free book weighting in my post, so thank you for making the point clearly. It was a crazy situation that a free ebook counted as a full sale.

      While certainly not doomsday for Indies, the one irritation I do have with KDP is that all of these changes you have correctly outlined happened without notice. It takes a long time to track down changes Amazon make to not only their algorithms, but also their terms of use. As you say, KDP Select is certainly not as good at is was at the beginning, so hence my thought that Amazon are reducing their support for Indies.

      1. Kevin McLaughlin

        I’m not entirely convinced that KDP Select was ever really in indies’ best interest anyway, except for occasional promotion. Losing out on other growing markets seems to me to be unwise. Using Select as a tool to briefly push a book up on Amazon might make sense, but I never subscribed to the “all out” approach some writers used.

        The news was never announced, no, but that’s less a case of Amazon discriminating against indies and more a case of Amazon treating indies like they treat any other publisher. ;) Amazon has never given that sort of info out to anyone.

        In fact, indies decoded these changes before major publishers did. Before two weeks were out, people were posting solid mathematics based data on the new algorithm over on kindleboards.com and other major indie writing sites. In other words, we had our hands on a good understanding of the new algorithm months before it filtered out to most major publishers. ;)

        1. Steve Umstead

          KDP Select was *never* in the best interest of authors, it was all about helping Amazon by locking up authors, preventing them from selling elsewhere, and increasing their market share. I never got into it (limiting yourself to one sales outlet is Bad Business 101), and it drove me nuts to see authors praising Amazon for “helping out the self-published author, look how wonderful they are to us!”

  38. Karen Robiscoe

    guess I’ll be staying in the query loop. (bastids…)

  39. A C Quinn

    I have been trying to get it through everyone’s head for ages, you keep talking and acting like Amazon is the book industry, Amazon is a book store just like B&N a kindle and a Nook are simple little gadget owned by a book store, they are not global book sellers by any means, and their devices have no other use. Google Books on the other hand has the ability to download to any internet device, if you leave your Ipad at home you can read it on your phone or laptops, or anyone else laptop by logging in, you do not need to be sucked into buying a device. that, and mark my words, what happens to every device ever put on the market? it gets upgraded once they own your ass and you device is useless.

    Google doesn’t need to sell you anything or even get advertising by people coming to your book, they get a percentage of sales, and could care less who published the book. Now who do you think will get top billing in a book search? Google’s own income or B&N? now you get where the real indie industry is heading because “publishing houses will never do an exclusive deal with Google” so they can’t blackmail Google for better or exclusive rankings. Get your books on Google Books and when the other collapses you will already have your income stream up and running.

    1. Kevin O. McLaughlin

      To be fair, one can read Kindle and Nook books on every device that you can read Google books on. I read most Kindle books on my cell phone, which also has Nook and Kobo apps. The main reason Google is still such a tiny player in this market is, ironically, that their search tools on the bookstore site are the second worst in the business (Apple being worst).

      1. Derek Haines

        Google books have a long way to go yet Kevin. As yet they don’t offer ebooks on Google Play where I live, I would imagine that it’s still only a US thing. For those who live outside the US, ebooks and ebook publishing is still quite restricted.

  40. Brad Carl

    Some very interesting points. It’s extremely encouraging to see that many here realize there are other ways to market your works.

  41. Angie

    Thanks. Great article.

  42. Chaz Wood

    Thought-provoking stuff indeed. A non-writer friend of mine shared this with me and it really got me thinking.

    Hope you don’t mind, I quoted your post in my latest publisher’s/writer’s blog post:

    http://fenriswulf-books.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/the-amazon-kdp-honeymoonis-it-over.html

    Thanks for the much-needed brain food.

  43. AndyM

    I write. I aim to be self published soon – series of short stories being copyedited by my long suffering missus and 1st Novel in a Final redraft. I have read some self pub’s novels, some suffer from typo’s and a lack decent editor, some don’t. (Mind you, anyone who has read any of the late Nigel Tranter’s wonderful books on an e-format will testify that these needed a decent copy edit – that from a big publisher)
    As I write historical fiction, my editing process needs to ensure that the fact behind what I am writing is acccurate – one of the main reason’s why after three years, and thinking I had a finished product, I have had to redraft – .
    Anyway, my point – I too write for pleasure, and want to S/p because I want people to have the opportunity to read what I write. It is my hobby, I describe myself as an amateur author. Plenty of Amateur artists and musicians have that opportunity to sell their work, without scorn being heaped on them. Be an amateur author, and many professionals will poor that scorn on you – if an agent hasn’t picked up your work, it must be bad. NO . If an agent hasn’t picked up your work, that merely means that it is a genre/style that just isn’t fashionable. Write Crime/vampires instead. Publishing is a sales business – they are not interested in anything that isn’t going to shift massively fiction wise. (Yes, an early rejection letter said that to me – never mind the content of the book. It was purely genre based).
    The other critism of SP novels I feel is justified. Pro authors have people look at and copy edit their work. Us SP authors haven’t (unless we pay for it). Therefore the SP authors needs to make sure that their work is edited, edited and edited again. Kill that critisism off. Don’t let it happen.

  44. Douglas Vance Castagna

    Great and scary article. Well, not scary, typical and very disheartening. As if the job of being a self published author isn’t
    already a herculean task, we are once again being dumped upon. One would hope that we, as a community, can hold back the tide and bring about some level of fairness in these business practices.

  45. clancy tucker

    Mm, without sounding like a smart ass from down under, there is no better time, or need, for independent authors to join together in universal solidarity – just like the writers did in the USA some years back when they held the film and TV industry hostage. But, will a majority of writers and authors have the courage? I doubt it.

    Trust me. As a social activist and human rights campaigner for decades, you need the numbers to make change. Example: send 100, 000 emails to any politician in the world and he/she will sit up and bark. The first thing he/she will think of is that those emails represent 100,000 voters who may vote against his/her junket-lifestyle. The second consideration will be the thrust of the email. So, we, writers, poets, authors, musicians and playwrights have to play their game, but on our terms.

    Thanks for listening.

    I’m Clancy Tucker
    http://www.clancytucker.blog.com

  46. E.S. Wynn

    Great article, Derek! I had a sneaking suspicion this was happening, but I didn’t see any other indications of it, so I thought I was maybe just being paranoid. Then my reviews got wiped out, my best-selling book got hammered by a “don’t buy books by this author, buy books by these authors instead” one star review (that at least five people have marked as abusive and yet it stays) and then earnings tanked right about the same time yours did. That’s okay. Art will prevail over crap in the end. The Big Six are just sucking what they can out of the little guy until they collapse under their own weight.

    Keep up the good fight, brother!
    -E

    1. Derek Haines

      It’s tough playing a game when you don’t know the rules E.S. Even more difficult when these unknown rules change without you knowing that they were changed. I’ve already pulled all my ebooks out of Select, and gone back to publishing with retailers who may not sell as many copies for me, but at least I know their rules and they don’t change each week.

  47. D John.

    I’ve already lost reviews and I’ve taken the precaution of moving to LULU and Smashwords in case I get tanked on Kindle. Good thing is, I can still be used on kindle with both of these epub services. But how do I get in through retailers?

  48. John Falch

    Dear Derek, thank you for making the Kindle fiasco so clear. Like most other indie authors, my sales dropped off a cliff in October, despite great reviews and good promotion. I have tried everything to bring the ranking back up, but now I realize Amazon won’t allow that. This Christmas, Amazon is for the Big Six in New York City. We indies get stuck with coal in our stockings.

    Once again, thanks. You have have a wonderful website here, and I will be following. Cheers from John in Indonesia

    1. Derek Haines

      Thanks for confirming your KDP sales also tanked in October John. As Amazon are so secretive, it’s easy to think we are the only one having a bad month. But from comments on this post it seems there a lot of KDP authors who had their sales fall dramatically in October. We can’t all have lost our popularity overnight. So what happened?

  49. clancy tucker

    Derek,

    Great conversations here. Thanks. Hey, would you like to be a guest on my daily blog? Always looking for interesting people … you’d be one of them. My blog goes to 18 countries and much is about indies and publishing generally.

    Regards.

    Clancy Tucker

    http://www.clancytucker.blog.com

  50. C M Ellis

    I wonder if any of you have heard of Calibre? It is a program that you download books to and also convert to the format of your choice depending on your ereader, this means you have the books and no-one can take them from you. LuLu forces you to only be able to download to the ereaders of their choice.
    I notice a lot of people keep mentioning B&N, well they have also been as bad as Amazon in the book fights and now they have entered the UK market recently (taking over Waterstones and introducing us to the Nook) things will probably get worse as we have only really had Amazon to rely on for lower priced books.

    1. Derek Haines

      Calibre is a great open source program CM. In all honesty, the best way to buy ebooks is DRM free from Smashwords, Kobo or Diesel and then you can change the open epub format to suit any locked device such as Kindle or Nook. The difficult part is getting ‘One Click’ Kindle and Nook buyers to understand this. As a note though, I downloaded an epub ebook from Smashwords and it opened instantly in iBooks on my iPad. Just as easy as Amazon’s one click buying! The same happens if you buy a .mobi version for Kindle.

      Hopefully readers will learn to understand that buying locked up DRM ebooks is not buying, only renting. Buying DRM free ebooks however means you own the ebook and can use it as you wish.

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