Well, the benefit of thousands of people finding the previous post is that it occurred by others sharing it outside my circle rather than my original tweet, so I could mostly ignore the attention this time.
But I did see a few comments and conversations going around that seemed to…I wouldn’t say miss the point, but take away some things that were not said or implied by me at all (I don’t think).
(Also note this is specifically a follow-up to that post. There is specific context here, applicable to a very specific thing. I don’t care that you hate Amazon; I don’t care if you love it. This is about my circumstances, some shit they were doing with my books–and probably others–and the lack of options for writers in my position. If you haven’t read that last post, you don’t have the context, and I ask you to refrain from commenting.)
The Solution (or Lack Thereof)
“I’ll just buy my books from physical bookstores then!”
Oh sweet, summer child.
I am not going to get into the bullshit of the whole returns system here that physical bookstores–even indies–are apart of, but please rest assured that there is a metric ton of bullshit there too that harms writers and their ability to make a living.
I would also point out that the smug “just buy from physical indie bookstores” thing is said by people who a) have an indie bookstore (many places don’t), and b) have no idea how unwelcoming a place those stores are to certain customers. There’s a reason there are entire bookstores devoted to romance books–indie bookstore owners are often jerks to those readers. And if your bookstore owner is racist? A transphobe? Religious? Look, Amazon is a problem, but at least they’ll send you whatever the fuck you pay for.
Also, for those of us doing our print books through KDP, bookstores won’t carry or even order them because they’re printed by Amazon. So if you want to support writers like me and thousands of others who are independently published and trying to do so affordably, so we can put our profits toward things like paying rent, that doesn’t really help. It’s not a reader’s problem if they only shop in bookstores and can’t get my books–it just means they’re not my customer, and I don’t care. But if you are one of my readers, you won’t find any help at your local bookstore, and even if you could, the book return system is a fucking blight on small press and independent authors in the industry. Hands aren’t clean there either.
As I said in my post, other distributors cost a significant amount of money. Yes, there are organizations you can join that give you some free codes to upload books to Ingram, but membership fees also cost money. If that works for you: great.
But it doesn’t work for everyone. I don’t know how to explain to folks that not everyone publishing has a big chunk of money to pay for things that won’t make it back just to avoid using Amazon lol.
I freelance as a designer and formatter, I worked in publishing, so I know what I’m doing and I can make a professional-looking paperback myself–it’s just a matter of squeezing in the time. I’m happy to do that for the handful of regular readers I have who like paperbacks (or hardcovers). But the moment paperbacks are costing me money out of my pocket, that ceases to be an option for me, including joining a professional writers organization just to get upload codes.
And I am not the only one.
This is why Amazon can do whatever the fuck they want: cutting out the upload fees (and revision fees for files) and making things available at an affordable price through the largest book retailer makes paperback an option for thousands of people like me. This industry, top to bottom, favours those with high-paying day jobs and spousal support, because that gives you the financial freedom to write and pay to self-publish or sit on manuscripts while agents and editors consider them. KDP paperbacks helps level that playing field in some regards but at a tremendous cost, which I was acknowledging in my post.
Distribute Your KDP Books Through Other Channels!
Like B&N? The company that tried to get away with not paying us during the pandemic?
Distributing KDP paperbacks to other channels is possible, but it also involves a big price markup on my books. I’m not passing that cost onto my readers just so one or two people can feel good about avoiding buying print directly on Amazon. I will not make any more money and 90% of those dollars will go to distributors rather than me.
Just Don’t Use Amazon!
As I’m saying over and over in this post, every single company engages in some level of bullshit.
Whether directed at writers or readers, that is not a solution. Because everything is a problem.
I have LSI-printed paperbacks that sat on my shelf with no one touching them for five years and the binding still fell apart and laminate curled off the covers. KDP paperbacks have held up. I’ve also seen no fewer than half a dozen cases, just among my inner circle and when I worked in small press, where LSI-printed books were sent out with the right cover but a totally different book’s interior. Multiple times.
Anyone who decides to shop elsewhere due to Amazon, great, but as I noted in my post, there’s a reason many people are dependent on it. I will not shame any reader for using it–the important thing is that they buy my books, I don’t care where.
I’m a big supporter of Kobo! They treat me well! But they’re still a giant corporation I do not trust. Apple and Google are playing with digital narration now for audiobooks, fucking over human narrators. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism, everyone is engaging with some level of fuckery.
The Real Problem
What I’m trying to hammer home here is that despite folks wanting someone to give them a simple ethical solution, there is none.
Every place engages in shenanigans of some kind. Every corporation is a giant consuming beast because we’re in a late-stage capitalist hellscape.
You pick what you can live with while never, ever forgetting that corporations are not your friends and billionaires are never gonna fuck you so stop licking their boots.
Amazon was engaging in shenanigans I couldn’t find anyone else talking about and I was in a position to dig in and investigate (because hi, I’ve had private investigator training, and sleep is for the weak). That’s it. I’m not even mad? I’m mostly just tired.
I Am Not, Actually, Discouraging Anyone
I understand why hearing about these kinds of things is depressing. If you’re a new writer, or still just trying to build an audience, it’s daunting.
The whole point is just to keep your eyes open and, I’ll say it again, remember that corporations are not your friend. Whatever publication path you’re choosing, I think you need to know what to expect, good or bad–it’s the only way to navigate it.
Also, Amazon customer service reps usually don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about and have no real power to fix anything, and if you bring up something I posted about there, they’ll tell you it’s all in your head. And while I do think people immediately jump to the idea that Amazon is a sentient beast deliberately fucking with things a little too quickly, for me it’s much scarier: it’s neutral. Its only focus is keeping people dependent on the system, buying subscriptions, and it doesn’t care how it gets there.
You can’t make an informed decision about where to distribute your books or how to print them if you aren’t aware of the bad stuff along with the good. Please do not be discouraged: just remember that publishing is a business and there are no perfect decisions, just the decisions that work for you.
The only thing I would advise is to keep your ebook eggs in as many baskets as you can handle, and whenever possible, distribute directly through stores rather than use third parties to maximize what you make and ensure you’ve already got accounts set up in case a third-party distributor goes belly-up (it’s happened).
And For Readers…
Seriously, just buy wherever is convenient. All I care is that you pay for my books. Trust that if I have made a book available at a particular outlet, I’m totally cool with you buying it there and greatly appreciate the purchase.
There is a chance, when buying paperbacks, that if you’re getting a drastic discount on something (Season of the Bitch right now is like $3 as opposed to $9.99?) and it’s a KDP paperback, I won’t get paid for it. Or I might get paid much later when Amazon does an audit and realizes they’ve fucked up. No one can tell. If you want something special and signed, you can pay more through my Etsy shop, but Etsy takes a massive chunk of fees as well including from what you pay for shipping so…again, everything is a mess!
Just buy books. And hey, join that other soulless corporation called Patreon.