Is Amazon the Author’s Friend or Foe?

Horror fiction by Kevin Doyle involving feral children

Some of my fellow scribes badmouth Amazon using words that would make my Mylar balloons cringe. Others view Amazon, Kindle and all, as a nice way to earn greenbacks. I’ve sat on both sides of the fence, but the spokes on that fence get thorny after a while, even with my balloons supporting me. So I decided to get off my fence, especially with Kevin Doyle’s book, The Litter, coming out. NTD is offering it for preorder on Amazon and Smashwords now, and the book goes live February 13.

Up until now, the preorder option hadn’t been available for me. But when I got the chance, I jumped at the opportunity. Given the temperament of Pennsylvania winters and the weather’s effect on power lines and servers, I wanted that book uploaded ahead of time. So I got to work on Kindle first. It came time to choose a price. I was thinking $4.99, but a window popped up with Amazon’s advice on what I should charge. They pointed out that similar books sold best at $2.99, with the worst sales being $6.00 and up. So they recommended $2.99 at the 70% option.

Here’s a secret, buckaroos. If you go with Amazon’s 70% option, you have to accept the lending option. That means readers may borrow your book for two weeks. If they finish before that time is up, they can return the book without paying a dime. Ergo, fewer sales for you. If you go with 35%, you can refuse to lend, get more sales, but only realize 35% royalties. Amazon keeps the rest.

I went with my $4.99, and refused lending. Other things play into the price of choice which I don’t think Amazon considered – the size of your following, the strength of your platform, reviews, and publicity tours.

I know one author who made fair to middling sales. Hoping to get more, he dropped his price to $2.99. His sales tanked. Why? Because sometimes it sends a message that author didn’t think his work was worth much. By the same token, I can see why Amazon doesn’t recommend prices at $6.00 and up. For Stephen King and Jonathan Maberry, most people will shell out $7.00 or more for their eBooks, but it’s a big ask for them to pony up $7.00 for an unknown author.

So with Kevin’s book going live, it’s time I got off my fence. Here are several things I’ve noticed.

  • Amazon is the self-published author’s best friend. It’s easy to upload a cover and manuscript in HTML, and simple to set up a website on Author Central. A big plus!
  • Amazon discourages an author (and publisher) from charging a decent price for eBooks, and thus devalues the worth of their hard work. Not good.
  • Amazon grants incentives to people for buying books through them, thus driving business away from bookstores, and in effect putting them out of business. This is sad, because the employees have to seek work somewhere else. I hate the repercussions.
  • During the winter months, Amazon has been my ace in the hole when I can’t get supplies at my local stores. I can often find books that I can’t get at local stores, too.
  • The KDP Select program promises sales but demands that you not use any other distributors. I tried this on a book and it didn’t improve sales. I’ve heard this observation from others.
  • CreateSpace lures authors by promising more exposure on Amazon. I notice better sales I think because Amazon’s popular with readers. They do a great job on trade paperbacks; I’ve been happy with Twilight Healer and City of Brotherly Death. With NTD magazine, I got a slightly better quality of cover with Lulu. I’ve checked out Lightning Source and note a yearly charge to distribute books before I can publish and sell. So I’d give Amazon props on this one.
  • Amazon makes it difficult for the small press publisher because of what I said earlier about the 70% option versus the 35% option. Before I pay authors, I get 35% of the sale if I want to avoid lending. Grrrrrrr!
  • The Amazon reviews offer a great boon for platform building. Prospective readers will take those reviews to heart, and that’s a big plus.
  • Amazon can be controlling. You do what they say or else reviews and like buttons disappear from your site. That stinks.

So there you have it – four good points, five bad. I have found Amazon neither friend nor foe. I consider him like a business partner who might surprise me with a Mylar balloon, but will try to sell me wolf tickets. Your thoughts?

About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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5 Comments

  1. Joseph J. Patchen

    Wow. I never knew all the nuts and bolts about Amazon. I do know they have been dumping a lot of author pages for lack of activity.

    • That doesn’t surprise me. A reviewer must have an account with Amazon before they’ll allow him to post a review. What’s more, if he posted a review but didn’t pay for the book outright (as in review copy from author), they’ll pull the review.
      Barbara of the Balloons

  2. This is excellent information which lists the pros and cons of publishing with Amazon.

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