Amazon’s Amazing Deals Are Affecting…Amazon?

I’ve been self-publishing material through Amazon for a few years. I didn’t start out that way. I was originally working with a publishing house out of Indiana before I decided to part ways with them. They put me through several channels, including Amazon, as it was the fastest-growing distributor on the Internet. At that time of my departure, I made a jump to CreateSpace’s platform. They had an intuitive program for self-publishing and I enjoyed the freedom. But then CreateSpace was reabsorbed by…well, Amazon. The entire program was taken into Amazon’s publishing platform and I, along with likely thousands of other authors, was taken up along with it.

You can probably discern the pattern by now. If you’re in the business of building a platform – as a writer – it’s difficult to avoid the goliath that is Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ company is the biggest online retailer in the United States. It’s a multi-billion dollar agency. Its reach far exceeds that of its closet competitors and every aspiring author, like myself, knows it.

That’s why so many writers inevitably find themselves within Amazon’s premier marketplace. The allure of Amazon is its possibility of overnight success. Newbies to the industry are probably thinking just that. If I can get on Amazon, then I increase my chances of selling more books. All I have to do is publish through them and get some reviews to boost the algorithm. No sweat….

There’s nothing wrong with that sort of thinking. I’ve thought it. I still do, to some extent. And if I’m thinking like that, then I know others are doing the same. Namely, those looking to take advantage of people like myself.

Recently, Amazon came under fire for selling counterfeit copies of a book through its online marketplace. An author was notified by one of its readers how there were several typos present. The situation cost the author close to $240k in possible revenue – a massive hit – but avoidable, nonetheless. Why could something like this even occur? David Streitfeld of The New York Times sums up the situation quite well:

“The company (Amazon) sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.” 

One can see the ripple effect. When you’re that big and you can do that much, it’s hard to keep tabs on everything. To Amazon’s credit, they’ve tried to address this issue, including the claims of Mr. Streitfeld. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened. In fact, it keeps happening; a reality which raises the concern as to whether Amazon will need to take further action as 2019 rolls onward.

Either way, this situation showcases one of the dangers associated with becoming such a big distributor. For the ones looking for a personal touch and a steep attention to detail – aka the aspiring author – Amazon may lose potential clients. Though many will still look to garner reviews from the tech giant, there’s no guarantee new authors will flock to Amazon for their publishing needs. Time will tell, of course. If Amazon can crack down on these problems and assure its customer base these mishaps won’t happen (at least not regularly) then that will only encourage more up-and-comers to sign with Amazon.

As for me, I like to keep my ear to the ground. Amazon does have a massive reach. Amazon does bolster an intuitive platform. And if I’m honest, I’m not really sold on other made-to-order publishers just yet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t shop around in the meantime. There’s still traditional publishing, among other alternatives for a writer with a platform. Amazon isn’t the only player in the game.

And yes, I am aware how one could say, ‘at least for now, there are options’. But I’d prefer not to end on such a morbid note. There are other online sellers like Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million providing similar publishing services. So the biggest question is not whether Amazon will rule the world, but if buyers and authors will continue to choose the Amazonian giant down the line. Can Amazon overcome its surplus of “good problems” so as to become more streamlined and author / reader friendly?

Well, that story is still an unfolding one. Happy Amazon Prime Day, everyone.