Those of you who follow publishing news will no doubt have read that the big chain book stores in North America recently announced that they will no longer carry books produced by Amazon Publishing in their physical stores. That means they won't carry some upcoming celebrity memoirs, James Franco's new novel, Deepak Chopra's new book, #1 NYT Bestselling non-fiction author Tim Ferriss's new books... or my upcoming YA trilogy, Deviants.
Some will say that it serves Amazon right. That a retailer has no business being a publisher. Or that their business tactics of late have been bullying. While I agree that Amazon has been throwing its considerable weight around, I do think some of the reactions have been at tad hypocritical. Certainly some of the vitriol I've read in the blogosphere has been.
It's amusing how short people's memories seem to be about who's David and who's Goliath in the publishing business. It wasn't long ago that everyone in the industry was accusing the big chain stores, which many are now rallying behind, of being bullies with unreasonable demands about discounts and returns that publishers claimed would put them out of business. And everyone was up in arms about how the chains were putting the indie book stores out of business.
Let's fact it... it wasn't long ago that the publishing industry was excited about the little tech company from Seattle who was giving the industry another way to get books into the hands of readers.
(And I won't even talk about the fact that Amazon sells the books published by B&N's publisher--Sterling Books--or that B&N also has exclusive titles and editions.)
The monopoly accusations made by some authors make me shake my head too. It's been a few years since I studied economics but if memory serves, what Amazon is doing is called vertical integration, different from a monopoly, and since B&N is pretty much the only game in town in terms of physical book stores now (along with Indigo Books in Canada) who has the monopoly? What it seems to me is going on now, is that for decades the publishing industry has been an oligopoly (a few entities dominating an industry) and Amazon is daring to threaten that oligopoly, to change industry practices, and take a bigger piece of the market.
I love book stores. Big chain ones with their variety and coffee shops. Indies with their customer service and ambiance. And when my first books came out last year it was a thrill to see them on bookstore shelves. I do not want to see book stores go under. But who's going to be hurt by this move the brick and mortar stores are making? For the most part, it won't be Amazon--they've got deep pockets--it will be their authors. Sure, if this move keeps more big-name authors from moving away from the Big Six to Amazon Publishing the strategy might hurt Amazon too but if the dominating brick & mortar retail chain is refusing to carry a publisher's books out-of-hand, regardless of each book's merit or commercial appeal, who is being the bully?
Putting my business-cap on, I think what it boils down to is that while any retailer has the right to choose what merchandise it wants to carry, and I get why they might not like the taste or feel of selling their competitors products, I don't understand why a retailer would want to force customers to go to their competitor to buy that product. A fan of Tim Ferriss, for example, who may have never bought anything at Amazon before, may now become their regular customer, if it's the only place he/she can find Ferriss's new book. If that customer has a positive shopping experience, well, that customer may decide to mostly shop at Amazon in the future.
Are bookstores simply trying to push Amazon into making their e-book titles available in Nook and Kobo formats? If so, I hope the gambit pays off because I'd like my books to be available to as many readers as possible in whatever format they prefer.
In my hopes and dreams, Amazon will make their books available across all digital platforms and the brick and mortar stores will reverse their decisions.
Whether any of these companies are acting out of smart business decisions or fear or spite, I feel like my getting into the debate risks drawing attention to what feels like pettiness--mud slinging and sandbox fights--and I like to stay out of that kind of thing when I can. But at the same time, as a newly contracted Amazon Publishing author, I couldn't keep silent. I figured friends and readers would be wondering how I feel about the whole thing.
And how do I feel? Like a kid whose parents are fighting. I just want them to stop.
From an author's perspective, it sucks to hear that your books will not be in these big chain stores, and sucks even more to have that decision be based, not on your books' merit or commercial appeal but on who published them. (Yes, I know that authors with smaller publishers and self-published titles have been suffering this for years but those reasons made sense to me as they were about distribution logistics and return issues...)
Last week an editor of a book review site, Book Riot, described a dilemma she faced when she was about to give a book she'd loved a positive review--before realizing the book was from the Amazon Publishing ecosystem. Her post is interesting. She made me feel better and worse all at once... I knew having reviewers refuse to read my books, or be predisposed to hate them, and not having the books stocked in some brick and mortar stores were risks I was taking when I chose Amazon as my publisher. (Yes, they chose me but I also chose them).
I went into this with my eyes (mostly) open. And no matter who your publisher is, there's never any certainty that the big chains or indies will carry your books. No guarantee you'll get reviews, negative or positive. I knew there would be pros and cons to choosing Amazon as a publisher, and I still hope the benefits of my choosing Amazon Publishing will outweigh this newly revealed downside--they are, after all, good at getting books in front of the right readers--but it's impossible to even guess at this point. Time will tell. Right now, hearing this news simply sucks.
Did you forget I promised you good news, too?
The same week these worrying press releases came out, I also got some fantastic news!!!
I got a fabulous quote for Deviants from a #1 NYT Bestselling author! Woo hoo!
Quote to be revealed at a future date when I feel more like celebrating. :)