Amazon has become the dominate force in the publishing industry, even more so for the self-publishing author segment. While Amazon represents a significant opportunity for authors that opportunity doesn’t necessarily come without risks. First, authors often have to play by Amazon’s rules including an inflexible pricing structure that is weighed toward the consumer. Secondly, Amazon’s dominance has weakened the other publishers giving author’s significantly less choice to shop their book.
Do you doubt Amazon’s dominance? Overall in the industry, Ebooks makeup 30% of all books sales and Amazon owns a 65% share of that segment with the remainder is divided among Apple and Barnes & Noble. Overall, all book sales represent over $5.25 billion dollars in revenue for Amazon almost 7% of their grand total. Interestingly, Indie published books represent 40% of Amazon’s Bestseller revenue with the remainder coming from big and small-mid-sized publishers. More importantly look at this statistic:
In mid-year 2014, indie-published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share (40%) of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place at 35%. (January 2015 Author Earnings Report)
Yes, Amazon has broken the tyranny of big publishing for independent authors, much for the better many will argue. As stated earlier, if you are indie or self-published author and you choose to ignore the Amazon juggernaut then you do so at your own peril.
Unfortunately, having acquired that dominance has allowed Amazon to run somewhat roughshod over their handling of indie authors. If you have published with Amazon you know what I am talking about. At BookIM we work and talk with many authors. Here’s a list of the myriad troubles I have seen with Amazon in regards to their customer support and KDP reporting:
- The Amazon support center in India seems to be struggling with the sheer volume of requests. Never mind directly talking to someone, that’s out of the question and all communication is performed by messaging and emails. Add to the mix different time zones and it’s difficult to have a coherent dialog with the same team members. It’s a frustrating process to the uninitiated and a horror show for techno-phobes! By the way I am not taking a shot at Indian-based customer service, I have worked too long in the tech industry and have found these people to be both professional and hardworking, that’s not my complaint.
- Many authors have seen some questionable reporting from Kindle KDP. Are they playing fair with the reporting and numbers? Reporting often seems far lower that what authors were expecting or ranges widely from one time period to other. Daily trends suddenly dissipate and I have seen numbers go up and down, often varying within the same day.
- Many authors complain that the final monthly payout’s are questionable at best particularly regarding the buckets of payment.
- Many authors have issues with Prime monthly pricing program and the bucket of money finally shared with the authors.
- Some authors have experienced issues with the urls of their landing pages within Amazon changing and thereby disrupting the reader traffic to their pages. This, of course, wreaks havoc on the author’s organic traffic from Google and Bing Search Engines, not to mention the resulting carnage to the author’s direct marketing campaigns no longer functioning.
Do I believe Amazon or Jeff Bezos to be pernicious in their ongoing behavior? Absolutely not but I do ascribe these troubles perhaps to growing pains, system issues, incompetence and an inflexible IT/Customer Service department that is not meeting the demands of authors.
If you are an indie published author I would love to hear your experiences and complaints regarding dealing with Amazon as well. If we can identify a pattern and with enough voices perhaps we can affect change to how Amazon treats independent authors. Please feel free to comment and get this conversation going! Remember, as an Indie and self-published author you are a big portion of Amazon’s overall sales and consequently you deserve better treatment and assurances that the reporting is fair!