Friday, February 17, 2012

I love Amazon

I just came across this new Author's Guild post, courtesy of the Passive Guy. The article is entitled, "Amazon, innovation, and the Rewards of the Free Market." Sounds pretty benign for an article that goes on to basically say Amazon is Satan. Were I to believe the Author's Guild, I might suspect that Amazon is a freedom-destroying behemoth that wants to turn your children into slaves rather than an effective free-market warehouse (like an online version of Costco or Walmart) that cleverly manages to sell just about everything, to just about everyone.

The Guild wants me to believe Amazon destroyed competition and they're the reason we soon won't have bookstores... and this is the reason that the Author's Guild must protect Barnes & Noble at all costs. That's right. They're talking about the same B&N that ran all of the other bookstores out of business. But that's not all. It gets better. This is my favorite part:

"We aren’t Barnes & Noble’s champions, or at least we aren’t their champions by choice. We’d favor a far more diverse and robust retail landscape for books, and we encourage all readers to patronize their local bookstores as they would their farmers’ markets or any other businesses that enrich the quality of life in their towns and neighborhoods. But here’s where we are: Barnes & Noble is book publishing’s sole remaining substantial firewall. Without it, browsing in a bookstore would become a thing of the past for much of the country, and we would largely lose the most important means for new literary voices to be discovered."

Note that last line: "..we would largely lose the most important means for new literary voices to be discovered."


Where should I start? Is there anyone alive that doesn't know yet that tens of thousands of writers have published through Amazon without the benefit of a publisher? And that most of those were never published by legacy publishing houses for one reason or another? Is there anyone who can successfully argue that B&N played any role whatsoever in the discovery of new literary voices? To the contrary, B&N has enjoyed mutually exclusive relationships with publishers that allowed them to drive independent bookstores and small publishers out of business by the thousands. Big 6 publishers have dominated a landscape where bestsellers were created, not discovered, and new voices rarely appear at all, unless this year's new favorite celebrity or up-and-coming politician has decided to pen (read: farm out to ghostwriters) a new memoir. I don't consider those new voices. Do you? Apparently the Author's Guild does.

And what about this idea: People like bookstores. Would the absence of Barnes & Noble mean the end of brick and mortar stores forever and ever and ever as the Guild would have me believe, or would it actually create an opening for hundreds or thousands of small, independent, niche-based bookstores? Doesn't the absence of B&N make it easier to run a small bookstore? It does in my world. And despite the growing dominance of e-books, I have a feeling some of us will ALWAYS want to browse bookstores and go home with something on paper now and then. Does Barnes and Noble really make that easier for us, or did they somehow manage to limit our choices and then tell us they were victimized by Amazon who gave us those choices back?

Do I even need to add here that, as a writer who currently sells about 1,500 books a month, I don't even qualify to join the so-called Author's Guild? How many books do you think I need to sell? 5,000? 10,000? Don't bother guessing because it's not possible. The Author's Guild only accepts members who've been traditionally published by legacy publishing houses (read the Big Six.) They're not alone here. I can't join the Mystery & Thriller Writers of America or the Writer's Guild of America either. But right now I'm looking at AG and wondering what they offer that I would need. In fact, I'm wondering why they're called the Author's Guild in the first place, when based on their statement in this article, they're not really looking out for author's interests at all.

If I may add one more quote from the Passive Guy, because he says it better than I ever could:

"Ah, farmers markets. If the whole world would just patronize farmers markets and buy plug-in hybrids and quit paying attention to Amazon, wouldn’t all authors be better off? Maybe we could collect our royalties as bushels of organic spinach."


  1. Thanks Barbara, it really is amazing what Amazon has done. I'll admit that I worry about the "monopoly monster" as much as anyone else, but right now I don't think anyone has ever done so much for authors.

  2. The "discovering new voices" bit was the point at which I lost it and started laughing so hard that I couldn't even be angry anymore. At least 85% of the books on my Kindle are self-pubbed. I doubt that any of those authors would have broken through via the traditional model. Apparently, "discovering new voices" is code for "the discovery of new voices on the part of people who matter, you dirty unwashed masses."

  3. Thanks for the comment Mari, I think you're 100% correct. You've got me chuckling at the breakfast table now. I wonder if the Guild will face any internal conflict because of this statement...

  4. Wow, 1,500 books a month! Grats. As always, a great blog post. Amazon is what it is, a great way for indie authors to sell books.

  5. Hi Karen, thanks! It's good to hear from you. I'm posting an update on the Kindle Select results tomorrow.