It’s a Business– Is Amazon an Enemy? Or A Potential Ally?
One thing I advise writers to do is to understand they are entering the publishing business when they become authors. They will be self-employed in that world.
Whether they self-publish, go with a small publisher or go the traditional route, there are numerous career decisions they are going to have to make. More than ever before, because there are more options for authors than ever before. Since my first novel came out in 1991, I believe the current environment is the best ever for writers.
A key to making smart decisions is to remember it’s a business and while emotion has a role to play, it shouldn’t be the bottom line. In the current publishing environment there’s a lot of passion and a lot of circling of the wagons. One of the most sensitive topics, sure to set off a debate if you put any two people in publishing in the same room is to mention the word Amazon.
Eric Hellman posted an interesting blog at Go To Hellman where he discusses Amazon.
Here is an excerpt, which he’s graciously allowed me to use, but I recommend you read the entire thing:
Amazon is fundamentally a company about scale. The common thread between AWS and the internet book seller of 1995 is the identification of markets with large inefficiencies that could be eliminated by using the internet to amass scale. Amazon has alway been willing to lose money to achieve that scale. But this isn’t predatory in the sense that having achieved market dominance, they raise prices. Instead, it’s ruthless in that once scale is achieved, the resulting efficiencies can’t be matched by anyone else.
It seems clear that Amazon has identified the publishing industry as a target ripe for further forcible efficiency improvements. But the nightmare narrative being spun by the publishing echo chamber is tragically unaware of how Amazon works. Maybe it’s because publishers imagine that Amazon will do what they would do if they had Amazon’s market power. But Amazon won’t extort huge sums of money from powerless consumers. Instead, they will ruthlessly bring efficiency to every process involved in publishing. And then they’ll invite everyone to use their ruthlessly efficient services.
What I pick up from many in publishing is that Amazon has nothing better to do but destroy publishing. I went to a sales force meeting in Seattle where Amazon was recruiting Military Academy graduates to work for them. The words book or publishing were never mentioned. China was. Often. As in building shipping centers there.
What has happened in publishing is that the business model is being turned around from distribution (which Amazon excels at) to discoverability (which Amazon also excels at).
The consignment model with bookstores was the best possible compromise that could be made given the realities of the times. Those times are fading. Because of that, the desperate need to hit a home run with a bestseller by buying placement is being replaced with unlimited shelf space. It would seem a more fundamental publishing model is not to put most resources into new titles and trying for the next big thing, but rather curating what’s already been bought, edited and is gathering dust. My company, Cool Gus Publishing, went from zero to seven figures in 18 months, primarily based on my backlist. I’m just one author. Some of the Big 6 have thousands of authors whose books they still own the rights to. In my next blog post I will describe the process by which that potential pot of gold can be mined. And they can do it using Amazon, rather than fighting Amazon.