THE BLOG

Amazon's F-You to Indie Authors

02/11/2014 14:38 GMT | Updated 31/12/2014 10:59 GMT

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Amid all the continuing rhetoric between Amazon and Hachette over the future of book publishing, the latest victim of Amazon's practices: individual publishers and authors.

New printed copies of my book Walford State of Mind, first published in 2011, now sell for £2.05 (as of 31 Oct.). So what if the retail price's listed as £15.99? Amazon.co.uk finds it necessary to slash the price by 87%. It's dropped 15 pence since I discovered the error (or is it?) a few days ago.

At £2.05, that's a little less that it costs me to have it printed on-demand and fulfilled by Amazon.co.uk. So, in other words, if anyone buys my book I will be paying Amazon to have someone buy it there.

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I can only assume what happened to me is a microcosm of other independent authors and publishers on Amazon. Hell, it's happening to Hachette.

It's easy to get your book on Amazon, but good luck trying to get it off. I've been scrutinizing my publishing account, and I can't find a simple "Delete Title."

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It's hard to speculate why the price slash happened because Amazon won't tell me.

"While we are not able to disclose the reason behind the discounts and prices we offer to our customers, if you do have any queries in relation to the prices displayed on the website then please contact your Amazon Account manager, buyer or merchandiser," wrote Ghouse. G, who sent "warmest regards," as did the four or five equally polite responses from first-name, single-letter surnamed autobots.

Needless to say, I don't have an "Amazon Account manager, buyer or merchandiser."

Then Ghouse invites me to join "our Author Central program. Author Central is a new resource that allows authors to become more active participants in the promotion of their books."

If Gouse. G or anyone else from the "Author Central Team" understood their job, they'd know that I signed up for the programme back in 2011.

A friend who's a publishing professional wonders if the price slashing has something to do with Amazon's feud with the EU over taxation.

She also wonders if I had "independently published" the book through Amazon's self-publishing CreateSpace service, this would not have happened. In 2011 CreateSpace was not equipped to fulfill UK orders, and I made my own distribution and printing deals, which worked perfectly fine with Amazon - until recently.

Amazon originally helped independent creators - not only authors but also musicians and filmmakers - attain a distribution channel to sell their products to consumers when brick-and-mortar was unavailable to them.

Now Amazon is behaving like Wal-Mart in the US or Tesco or Waterstones in the UK. At retail, it's impossible to get shelf space based on a product's merits, especially if it's independently published. Sure, you can buy your way in, spending thousands of pounds on retailers' and distributors' marketing programmes.

E-commerce's and Amazon's promise was fulfilling the special-interest searches of "long-tail" items. Chris Anderson wrote a great book in 2006 about this very subject. Not everyone wants to buy what mostly everyone has or reads (i.e., the most popular stuff). This is especially true with books, Amazon's first product.

"Amazon.com opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995," the site's boilerplate press releases state. "The company is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking."

Jeff Bezos, I think you left out greed, the missing principle, now that your overwhelming marketshare lives up to your firm's moniker as an 800-pound gorilla.

If anyone who would like to buy Walford State of Mind through my website, I'd be happy to fulfill the order from the US across the ocean.