I’ve finally uploaded my ebook, “Drasmyr,” to Amazon. Like I’ve said before I have the business sense of a stone. It took me a while to figure out that it might be a good idea to put my work on the web-site with, oh about, 70% of the market share for on-line books, or whatever it is. Anyway, its up and available for those looking for a good read. From my understanding, Amazon doesn’t do free ebooks, so I had to sell it for a price: I decided to go with $2.99 for now. The book is still available at Smashwords for free.
On a completely different tangent than my usual posts, I figured I would relate the following mishap I had.
As most of you know, I self-published my book Drasmyr through Smashwords. They distribute ebooks to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobi, and elsewhere. They are currently working out a deal to distribute to Amazon. However, at the moment, my ebook is not available on Amazon. One of the comments on this site (I’ve looked for it, but I couldn’t find it to give proper mention) wondered why I didn’t publish with Kindle Direct. I guess my real answer is that I’ve got the business-sense of a stone. Actually, I thought there might be copyright issues if I published at both Smashwords and Amazon. Smashwords says there isn’t. I’m going to do the research on Amazon to find out if they agree. Then, I’m going to publish on Amazon.
Which brings me to my little incident.
Yesterday, I was set to work on getting my book published on Amazon. First thing to do is to get it in the right format so it uploads properly to the kindle. No problem, or so I thought. I’m looking through the information Amazon has; they’ve got everything condensed in a short book on the topic, “Building Your Ebook for the Kindle” or something like that. And it’s free. Great, I’ll just download that. For some reason or other it doesn’t want to download into my phone. Okay, fine, I’ll do it the roundabout way. I download the Kindle for the PC to my PC—much like its name implies, that is just kindle software that works on your PC. Then I download the ebook to the Kindle for the PC on my PC. So far, so good. Next, I hook up my phone to my PC via USB cable. I was thinking I could just copy it over like I had done with every book I had gotten through Smashwords. No dice. It doesn’t work. Hmmm. Let’s try the Sync function. Big Mistake. The stupid software “erased” my access to every non-Amazon book on my phone. So, basically, my phone went from storing 11 books on it, to storing 7. I lost four books. But not really. I could access them on my phone via my computer, but not via the phone. So, I copied them into the Kindle on PC. For some inexplicable reason, this actually worked. Then, I started the gruesome, and I mean gruesome, process of getting the books from my PC onto my phone.
Four and a half hours and five tech support conversations later, I finally did it. And I learned something in the process: web pages are a big pain in the tuckus to navigate through. There is so much information on every page of a big site like Amazon, it’s enough to drive you mad. At one point, I had like five different Amazon pages open on my computer, each one containing some tiny, but vital clue to the problem. Those web pages are not user-friendly and they are becoming less-so by the minute. First, Amazon and most other big sites hide their contact information because they want you to use their FAQ pages in lieu of human-to-human help—so you don’t waste their time with easily solvable problems. Well, my time is valuable too, you know, and I don’t like wading through page after page of FAQ support, looking for the correct question. They have search algorithms to find the question for you, but it didn’t work very well in my case. I had to contact them. So I did. Several times. The first guy tried a couple things, but they didn’t work. So, he told me to email the files to the special kindle e-mail address. Tried that. Managed to get my books uploaded to my Amazon account, but couldn’t get it from there to my phone. So, at this point, I have the books at every conceivable location except where I want them! Called back. This time, they tried to refer me back to Smashwords and said it was their problem, because that’s where I got the books from. I went to Smashwords sent them an e-mail, but their help desk was backlogged for the next 10 days. Yes, 10 days. Anyway, eventually, after a couple more calls to Amazon’s tech support, I finally got the books downloaded to my phone. I was elated when it finally happened. Could have kissed the guy through the phone. Well, maybe not.
Anyway, that’s my story. At least they gave me a blog post. J There is one final point to stress, though. According to Amazon, the latest version of kindle does not allow you to copy files from your computer to your kindle app or device. That was the method that Smashwords suggested. Now, it doesn’t work. I e-mailed Smashwords to let them know, but that puts a pretty big snag in the Smashwords business model. At least for now; I assume they’ll figure something out.
I admit it. I purchase most of my books from Amazon these days. However, I’m starting to rethink that. Amazon has become a monster and it looks like things are about to get worse. For those unaware, the DOJ (Department of Justice) recently filed a lawsuit against Apple and a number of the big publishing houses (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Penguin, and Macmillan). The DOJ suit accused the defendants of colluding and fixing prices. Basically, at issue is the Agency Model that Apple devised for legal agreements between itself and the other book publishers. According to this model, the publishers in question were allowed to set their own prices for ebooks as long as the price stayed consistent with other retail outlets. So, if HarperCollins wanted to sell an ebook through Apple for $12.99, that’s fine, as long as it sets the price at $12.99 when it sells through Amazon. Prior to that, Amazon had been negotiating contracts with the publishers that allowed it, as a retailer to set the price of the ebook it sells. So, it would often sell books for $9.99, or other lower prices, even willingly eating into its own profits to capture market share. It was an effective strategy that promoted faster growth for an already enormous company.
Apple’s Agency Model, however, stymied Amazon’s interest here. It prevented Amazon from undercutting other retailers and kept profits for the publishers at a reasonable level. Then, the DOJ stepped in and filed a lawsuit against Apple and those mentioned publishers. Three of the publishers settled (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group) while Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan intend to fight it out in court. The lawsuit concerns me for a number of reasons (I’m rooting for Apple, in case you were wondering).
One, the whole monopoly issue is of concern. Amazon is a monster in the retail industry. It’s kind of a habit; whenever, I want to purchase a new book on-line, I go to Amazon. It’s been that way for about ten or fifteen years or so. How many other people are like that? And now, all the regular bookstores are gone in my town. All we have is a used bookstore and our own computers. So, if we want to purchase a new book, on-line is the way to go, and Amazon is the biggest name out there.
Two, I’m also an indie writer of fantasy fiction. As a rule, indie authors have to start small and grow big (actually, all authors… actually everyone has to take that route). Anyway, since I’m not carried by a big publishing house, the biggest advantage I have over a Brandon Sanderson or a Tad Williams is my ability to set the price on my ebook low (currently it is selling for $2.99 at Smashwords). So, my question is: how long will it be before Amazon’s cost cutting practices take that advantage away? How long will it be before I’m in direct competition with Brandon Sanderson’s latest smash-hit ebook selling at a mere $1.99? I know, those are the perils of capitalism, but it is certainly a cause for concern.
Anyway, whatever the outcome of the DOJ lawsuit, one thing is clear, the book publishing industry is changing even as we speak.