2016 was not been a good year. People have died, Trump was elected president, the book I’ve been reading forever is bad. Yet, one of the things that has stood out at me the most are my book sales specifically my Amazon sales.
As a consumer, I love Amazon. I get cheap prices, they’re usually have what I want, and my products are shipped “free.” But as someone who publishes through them, I don’t like them at all.
Way back in 2011, I first published Catalyst. Sales were surprisingly good for a noob author. Of course, as I foolishing spent money on advertising and it took me awhile to release What Once Was One, sales tapered off. That was to be expected. I was actually fine with my Amazon sales until this last year or so.
Over the past few years, I watched Amazon changed for the indie author, and not for the better. I remember when things had to do with reviews and rankings based on actual, organic sales, but no longer. I feel like part of that is our fault. Not that I personally did it, but a large majority of indie authors tried to scam Amazon. They did everything from price-matching to try and get books to be free on Amazon but still get money for them, exchange reviews, pay for reviews, fake reviews on competing authors, have everyone order their book on launch day, and a myriad of others I’m forgetting.
Now, Amazon wants a person locked into their system. I don’t blame them for it. They got me locked into their system with Amazon Prime yet I’m not completely in as I still have things like Netflix, Hulu, PS4, order things from other sites, and go to actual, physical stores. It’s almost impossible to be 100% in their system because of their competitors like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and so on. Yet as an author, it’s a lot easier for them to coerce an author into selling their books just for them.
Depending on where you read, Amazon accounts for approximately 65% of the ebook market. That’s huge. They’re still the Big Dog. If you don’t play by their rules, they don’t need to sell or push your book at all.
It’s one thing if I was a big name. The big publishers have some power mainly because they have big name authors. People look for those authors and neither care about where they buy them from or who published them. But if you’re not one of those few, it’s a little bit tougher.
It used to make sense and be fair. Readers generally read in the same genre. For example, if you bought say, my book, and you read Brandon Sanderson, then if enough people bought my books then they would show up on the Also Boughts. That still happens but those books in the Also Boughts are either more popular authors, including indies or ones that were sponsored by Amazon. I’m seeing more and more products are now sponsored. I used to never see books sponsored but now I do. There’s a reason why people and company are sponsoring their products. It makes them visible to the consumer and they sell more.
So what does this all mean for me? Nothing. I’m just starting off the new year venting. I’ve still never been one to pay attention to sales, but after all the works I’ve put out so far, it does still hurt my fragile ego. For some reason, I still sell more books in Canada than in the USA. Thanks Kobo and my Canadian readers! It is a place I may need to move to so maybe it’s prophetic.
Writing’s so solitary. So if you enjoy an author’s work, may I suggest dropping them an email or a Tweet or something if you enjoy their work. That way, they won’t be so alone.