Monday, March 31, 2008

Writing and Amazon and Survival on the Cyber-Shelves...

It's Monday after 6pm and I haven't blogged. No, didn't forget it was "my day." Actually thought of it while I was doing a half dozen other things that were pushed backed due to my being away for several days (out of town) at a book festival. (Thank you, Lake County Library for inviting me! It was great!)

I was going to talk about the craft of writing but I'm going to take a side road and talk about the business of writing.

I'm sure many of you are aware of a recent announcement by Amazon that will require or request small press houses selling through Amazon to utilize Amazon's in-house printer, Booksurge, or be shunted to a different selling system on the site. I will right up front admit I've made neither an intensive study of the issue nor read every posting on it. I've read snippets and opinions posted on my fan group and other writer/reader sites.

So keep that in mind as you read this blog. I have not read everything and I'm no legal analyst or expert. I'm an author with a valid business background. I'm also a former small press author now published through New York.

First, Amazon can do whatever Amazon wants. It's their site, their company. If they want to only catalog books with yellow covers, they can do so. If they only want to sell books with the word "Tuesday" in the title, they can do so.

Second, life is full of things legally right but morally wrong. I learned that early on as a private detective. It's a lesson that has stuck with me. It's a valuable one.

Third, as I've posted on my private fan group, I'm a huge proponent of small press. Hell, I was one and I'm not so far up that I've forgotten my beginnings. I made some fabulous friendships in the small press and acquired many of the fans that are yet with me today. I was also screwed over royally in the small press.

Given that, I can think of several logical valid reasons why Amazon would want to control the small press products it offers--"greed" (which seems to be the pat fallback) notwithstanding. Small presses can be underfunded. They can reneg on monies due and fail to perform on shipping requirements. It doesn't matter how good their printer is. If they don't pay their printing bills, books don't ship to Amazon's warehouse. But nine times out of ten, I'll bet you dollars to donuts it's Amazon's customer service that takes the hit. So Amazon's wanting more control over a very slippery section of their inventory isn't a ridiculous goal.

Now, I can see a number of small press people getting ready to tar and feather me. I'm not saying ALL small presses don't pay their bills. But I can state from personal experience there are those that did not and therefore books did not ship and therefore customers ranted at--and blamed--Amazon.

To me, it would make more sense to no longer do business with those houses that can't fulfill inventory requests. But Amazon is Amazon and they have a right to do things as they see fit.

Do I think it sucks that the legit small presses are being tarred and feathered with the same brush? Totally. Again, I'm not saying Amazon is right or morally right. I'm just saying I'm not surprised. Their move is neither unprecedented nor illogical given that there is a segment of small press publishers with unhealthy fly-by-night tendencies.

There is also a segment of small press publishers that gather the brightest and best of talents, giving voices to stories that--at the moment--NY has chosen to ignore. I will also say that, loudly. Some of the best reads on the planet do not come out of NY houses. For examples of extraordinary talent in the small press, go here and here and here. For starters. (There are dozens more. If you want to meet them, join my Yahoo Group where they post free samples of their books.)

But sadly, small press authors rarely background the small press publishers who offer them contracts. I know. Been there, done that, am a poster child wearing the freakin' T-shirt. So because of Amazon's impending decision, many brightest and best voices may not have an avenue for expression for a while.

For as long as it takes for the small presses to organize. To counter with a "better way." A brighter idea.

Amazon is not the only game in town. There are other venues for small press books. There are indy bookstores on line. Hell, there's eBay, the ubiquitous intergalactic garage sale.

A door never closes but for another to open.

I would imagine the other POD printers--like Lightning Source--are very aware of Amazon's "Booksurge" directive. I would imagine at this very moment the head brains at Lightning Source are looking for ways to counter that and not lose clients.

I would imagine other online bookstores, previously not as popular as Amazon, are now frothing to fill the gap.

There may be a hiatus. There may be a downtime. But if Amazon is foolish enough to let some of the best reads on the planet slip through their fingers and slide off their site's pages, then rest assured there are other entreprenurial, just-as-greedy-thank-gawd book site owners ready to jump in and fill the gap.

Greed can be a wonderful thing. Be very greedy, very hungry for good books. Support those sites that provide them with your pocketbook. But recogize that Amazon has a bottom line, like any corporation. It's that bottom line that funds the brightest and best thinking that even created the online bookstore venues in the first place.

For every thing there is a season.

And remember. When life hands you lemons, go find someone to whom life handed vodka.

Namaste, ~Linnea


  1. Anonymous9:11 PM EDT

    It sounds to me like they are talking about BookSurge acting as a printer for all the small publishers they work with, not futzing with the editorial content of small press publishers. Couldn't that actually create economies of scale that would work to make the printing part of publishing less expensive and help the bottom line for the small publishers involved?


  2. I'm just now learning about small presses and ePublishers, so thanks for this! I'm privilaged to have several ePublished novels coming up for review at Enduring Romance, in fact. I'm doing Ciara Gold's Eppie-winning novel, A NOBLE SACRIFICE, and Robyn is doing Linda Bloser's GLORY GIRLS.

  3. Anonymous3:31 AM EDT

    Have u try the online bookstore to buy textbooks

    I get all my textbooks for this semester from this bookstore. All are brand new textbooks and half price discount textbooks and cheap textbooks.

    Good luck and wish some help.

    hehe ^_^