There’s a lot of animosity for Amazon (and IngramSpark for that matter) online in the author groups these days. Authors are angry because they aren’t getting their author copies and proofs in a reasonable amount of time. One woman was experiencing a glitch on the KDP website while trying to figure out a pre-order (which is pretty common all year round, not just December) and there was so much rage in her post my laptop started smoking.
Indies have a really weird love/hate relationship with Amazon. We love them for the opportunity they gave us to bypass gatekeepers (agents) and publish our own work. We hate them for what? Spotty customer service, perhaps. Locking us into KDP Select when authors want the benefits of KU but the flexibility of still publishing wherever they like. We hate the lagging in reports on our ads dashboard, and I don’t know what else. That’s all that I can think of trying to remember what some people have complained about. We easily forget that with the invention of the Kindle and their self-publishing platform that indie publishing is what it is today. There are lots of other factors involved like other platforms coming into play (Nook, Apple, Google Play) and other distributors jumping on the bandwagon (Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, among others like Lulu and Bookbaby) and business/industry dealings I have no interest in following (pricing wars of ebooks, the big publishing houses consolidating) that have affected how indies can publish their books.
You can hate Jeff Bezos for his billions, but Amazon has made several indie author careers. Ask Mark Dawson, or Bella Andre, or Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, or any of the other huge indie authors who found their start publishing a single ebook to KDP. Many, (actually, I think all) of them have gone on to some form of traditional publishing be it in the form of new book deals or paperback only deals, or translations, what have you. Everyone knows The Martian made it to the big screen. Plus, with Amazon’s own publishing imprints, Amazon is luring away big trad authors like Dean Koontz, Sylvia Day, and Patricia Cornwall. They drank the Kool-Aid and are happier for it.
Of course, Amazon played a small role in those things–the authors can take the most credit by having a solid product that people wanted.
I see that as another reason for authors’ rage against Amazon. Amazon Advertising is blamed for taking money but not selling books. They feel ripped off, they feel like Amazon is double dipping–taking royalty money and charging for ad spend. Authors feel like they’re being played. But take a look at some of those books, and you can see why they feel that way. Their books are sub-par, they don’t follow industry standard, their covers are bad, and their books are full of telling not showing.
It’s a lot easier to blame someone else for your mistakes, isn’t it?
I experience the same glitches as everyone else. I hate when they ask you to fix the highlighted mistake, but there is no highlighted mistake. I’ve published enough books, and spoken with support, to figure out what I did wrong. My last problem was a price change that made my royalties in India 0. Amazon won’t let you do that. That section wasn’t highlighted, and it took a call to support for her to quickly look through my book’s profile and tell me what the issue was. One of the mistakes that threw me for a loop was when they stopped taking my imprint as my publisher name. I had to call and ask them why when they had in the past. They said I could list my imprint as my publisher name if I wanted to screen shot my ISBN numbers on the Bowker website and prove that my imprint name is attached to my ISBN numbers. No thanks. That was a battle I had no intention of fighting. I dislike they’re tightening their creative guidelines and I can’t run ads to my series because the covers are too steamy. It’s irritating because I don’t think the covers, in relation to other contemporary romance steamy cover, are that racy. But my ads get declined over and over and I stopped trying to slip past their moderators. It’s not worth making them mad at me.
Those are the types of things that can make a person angry, right? But the thing is, you’re running a business, and there’s no business on the face of this planet that doesn’t have some kind of issue every day. Be it employees calling in sick, or the internet is down, or a water pipe burst and your store is flooded. You’re running a small business. Things happen, and as a responsible business owner, if you’re planning a release and something happens, that’s for you to take care of, it doesn’t matter who is to blame.
The pandemic doesn’t make things any better. I don’t know how KDP sets up their support. Depending on who answers my call, it sounds like they sometimes outsource their calls. I don’t call enough to figure out when–I speak with both people with Asian accents as well as American accents. During the global pandemic, we don’t know how COVID is affecting Amazon’s employees. Maybe KDP support is working from home, or maybe they work in call centers and they are short-staffed. Their POD printers must be pumping books out like crazy, but Amazon workers oversee those and box up the copies for shipping.
Sometimes authors forget that Jeff Bezos isn’t all of Amazon. Behind Amazon’s logo are thousands of workers. They have lives. They have families. They get sick.
Your entitlement doesn’t look good on you.
Keep it out of the groups.
The bottom line is, you don’t have to publish with Amazon. You can take all your energy and ad money and use it to build a readership on other platforms. There are indie authors who do very well wide. Lindsay Buroker publishes wide and she makes a million dollars a year. Not all of that comes from Amazon. She once said that Google Play had been trying to contact her to update her banking information. When she finally got around to it, she said she had enough royalties built up there she went out and paid cash for a brand new truck. You can make other platforms work for you. Kindle Select isn’t the end-all, be-all of your publishing business. You can make money if your books aren’t in KU. You have to work for it. Just like any business owner.
Being in some of the author groups is such a drag right now. It’s all complain, complain, complain. I love being in the 20booksto50k group. Every single post is moderated and they don’t allow any negativity. That takes a lot of work. There’s a lot of negativity out there aimed at both KDP and IngramSpark. From the complaints I’ve read online, IngramSpark might be doing even more poorly than KDP. Personally, I’ve never liked IngramSpark’s website. Uploading books there is a bear and it’s the last thing I do when I publish because I hate it so much. I only do that so my paperbacks are available everywhere just in case. From my own experience, their POD quality isn’t any better than KDP Print. I use it for the distribution and that’s all. But we have to remember that IngramSpark services thousands of authors, and those authors are publishing books every day. You are not a special snowflake and you have to stop acting like you are.
I’ve worked in customer service all my life in one way or other. Going off on a customer service agent is the best way to ensure you don’t get the service and results you want. We remember you. We make notes. The second your name pops up, we cringe inside. Who knows if the customer service reps at KDP have access to a notes portion of your profile. Do you want them to say “Nice author to work with. :)” Or do you want them to say, “Angry. Yelled at me and used expletives.” The next time you call, what kind of treatment do you think you’ll receive?
Craig Martelle likes to remind us that you, as an indie author, are part of a whole. We make up that whole. You represent us. Every shitty thing you say to an Amazon rep is reflected back on indie authors. When I need to call or email, I am pleasant, I wish them a nice day. I chit chat and tell them to stay safe and healthy. I thank them for being there. They are at work to earn a paycheck to feed their families. Show some kindness. At the end of they day when they log off, they don’t care about your book. Remember that.
I’m not quite sure what I wanted to do with this post. It’s the holiday season, people are cranky because of the pandemic. Lots of us don’t have jobs, can’t buy presents for our kids this year. I’m not without my own issues this month. But it is never okay to take your anger out on someone else. If you have that much rage built up inside you that you have to go off on an Amazon rep because something happened to your pre-order, find a therapist.
There’s not much left of 2020. Make the most of it!