Amazon has done a lot to make author dreams come true. Until Amazon, rejected manuscripts moldered in drawers, unloved and never-read. They gave authors the power to share stories with the masses.
So what has Amazon changed?
In November 2016, Amazon made two key changes to their author business model:
- They changed the rules for carrying inventory of print books. Rather than stock a minimum number of a specific title in a warehouse, they shifted focus to third-party vendors with titles on hand. Plus, they gave third-party vendors the ability to bid for the “Buy Now” button. Users don’t pay attention to who they’re buying from. Amazon orders fewer books and lowers inventory carrying costs. Customers don’t know the difference.
- Authors must pay for advertising to be seen on Amazon. Before November 2016, Amazon routinely offered users “recommended for you” or “similar books” on the product page for a particular title. Authors garnered additional sales because their books were being recommended. Now, those same slots are available for purchase through Amazon Marketing Services. Don’t have the budget to pay for pay-per-click advertising? Then nobody will see your books.
How these changes impact readers and authors
Third-party vendors often carry books obtained for free. Whether gotten through a Goodreads contest or as an advance or donated copy, many third-party vendors list books for sale when they obtained them for free. Authors don’t make a royalty on copies given in exchange for a review, used books, or copies won in a contest. Yet, both third-party vendors and Amazon are able to profit from our work. Why this matters: Most authors don’t bring in enough money to exist at the poverty level. I made more money as a twenty-two year old accounting clerk than I do today. Readers who truly care about supporting good stories shaft everyone when they buy into this system. Don’t complain about the quality of books if you’re not diligent about supporting authors who matter to you.
Authors have no way to know how many AMS clicks are legitimate. Authors can pay AMS MORE than their earned royalties. You read that right. AMS delivers thousands of impressions per ad. They know who’s likely to click on ads. Therefore, they show ads to shoppers who click, whether or not they buy. Why this matters: Amazon has touted its 70% author royalty as generous. Why publish with a traditional publisher who pays pennies per unit when you can get 70%, right? With AMS, it’s no longer that simple. In fact, it’s more likely that an author will PAY AMS more than their royalties earned in a given period. Clever to make authors pay more than they earn for the chance to be read.
Don’t want to spend money with AMS? Or participate in Kindle Unlimited? Then nobody will see your titles. In 2017, my online sales fell 90%. No, that isn’t a typo. I killed myself to keep my books high enough to be offered to shoppers as frequent alternatives. Very often, readers chose to give them a try. That exposure didn’t cost me anything, and Amazon still made money. Thanks to AMS, 2017 was my worst year as an author. (To help me turn that around in 2018, CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE).
What YOU can do to support hard-working authors
- Opt out of Kindle Unlimited.
- If you want to keep your favorite authors writing, BUY their books.
- As a corollary to 2 above, request those same authors’ books at your local libraries.
- Recommend your favorite authors’ books to other readers in your life.
- Or better yet, GIFT electronic copies to others.
- Try to buy NEW books whenever possible. Remember: Authors make NOTHING from used/won/free copies of their work.
- Communicate with your favorite authors directly. Join their e-newsletter lists. Be an enthusiastic fan. Make sure these authors know you’re on their team…..because Amazon will NEVER tell them.
- SHARE THIS POST TO EDUCATE YOUR FRIENDS.