By now, the four things I had listed with Amazon should have finished “unpublishing” (they become unsearchable and unbuyable, lose their price listings etc. but direct links to their pages don’t die and no one’s about to have them deleted from their Kindle libraries). They are, of course, still available through my own website, on Kindle, abacus and cave painting.
Why would I do such a thing?
If I’m going to earn next to nothing - which is the level they’re raking it in at - I’d rather do so at without anyone getting a cut, or holding on to royalty payments until they clear each $100 block (£10 for UK). (For the record, that means the piffling US sales of those four have earned nothing for me and everything for Amazon.)
Not being bound by Amazon’s “same price or lower” requirement for what they go for there means, not for these (I can’t imagine I’m going to be arsed to do anything with them now) but for future ones, I’ll be free to monkey with how they get sold or what they get sold for.
The big one, with a fat “IMO” hanging over it: the (cough, splutter) “self-publishing revolution” is all about, in public at least, “cutting out the middle man”. To do it, you still sign up with exactly that (or two, if you use an aggregator like Smashwords). Not only that, but they’re a middle man with a history of marketplace bullying (cf. their delistings of Hachette and SMP books as a ‘negotiating’ tactic in the past) and with a rapidly increasing monopoly share of distribution with a very clear intent to extend that to swallow the production part of the chain as well. Nothing good can come for anyone - writers or customers - from such a position in the long run.
As they get more and more in-house authors, I would expect this to merely consolidate the success of those authors in exactly the same way we all complain that physical bookstores only buy in the names they know will sell and so the only authors who do well are the ones who already have, or the few who get a paid-for push to break out by their publishers. Amazon effectively becomes those front-of-shop promotions in Waterstones, with the difference that they’re free to flood those promotions with their own stable of authors, and fuck the rest if they want.
Should they become the only game in town for a jobbing writer - and I’d hope and expect that they won’t, but they clearly want to be - their position to dictate terms, having a lock on distribution in particular, is only going to mean a screwing for the producers, us. That’s how it always goes. I defy you, for instance, to claim that supermarket pricing for food has wildly enriched farmers since they got a monopoly on sales, for instance, even as the ease of sale for certain produce has increased.
The only way to win that game is, until publishers get off their arses and properly step into the e-distribution business themselves, is not to play. Grow, if you will, your runner beans on your allotment and sell them at your local market for beer money, rather than kowto to the system. Getting MURDER PARK finished, for example, is something I’m likely to Kickstarter initially, and forget if there’s not enough interest, then do all manner of whacky shit with. But not through Amazon’s KDP.
I’d go into this further - I ranted drunkenly at length on the subject at FantasyCon the other weekend - but the sleeping infant on my lap is stirring and my time appears to be up for now.