The Fishing Pole: Musings on Amazon by Katherine Gilraine

This week I am thrilled to welcome my Guest Blogger, Katherine Gilraine, with her thoughts on the Amazon phenomenon

The saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he will eat for life.” We can all relate to that at one point or another in our lives, and in the world of publishing, we have to learn what constitutes the fish, and what constitutes the fishing gear, so to speak.

Self-publishing has turned the process of getting books released on its head. We the authors know it, the readers know it, and while it’s still new, we got used to the fact that self-publication is a very viable method of releasing written work. Not only that, but with gumption and hard work, it is profitable.Guest Blogger Katherine Gilraine on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Curzon"

However, in recent times, Amazon has been dominating the e-book and e-publication market to such a degree that there have been noises that it’s a monopoly, and how they’re taking over the e-book market.

Let’s be clear: it’s not. Why? It’s not a publisher. It’s a distributor, first and foremost, and an extremely effective one. Considering that its best-selling product has been the Kindle, of course it will do everything in its power in order to keep the Kindles well-stocked. Amazon has recognized the power that e-readers have on the world of reading, and it has been ensuring that there is no shortage of material for it. If it means opening up the doors to self-publishers, then by all means.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

So how, might you ask, does this relate to the fishing-pole saying?

Let’s see what Amazon symbolizes in respect to the saying. Amazon isn’t the teacher who teaches you to fish. By no means. No. Amazon is, more or less, the fishing pole and a bucket, next to a sign in the road that says, “This way to the river”.

The tools to success as an author are, without question, within the author. Story, writing skills, marketing, and perseverance. Those are the bare bones, and Amazon is only supplying you with the tools to utilize those bare-bone skills: distribution, marketing, and access. In exchange for getting the right to distribute your e-book – and this is only made exclusive with KDP Select – the tradeoff is a much greater exposure. But does Amazon, in and of itself, drive people to your book? No. That is where you, the author, employ your marketing mojo. The tools are there, and what you do with them is entirely up to you. No two people use the same fishing technique.

Now, to touch back on the monopoly issue.

It’s pretty clear: Amazon is the dominant market for e-books right now. B&N’s Nook is a second. Behind that is Apple iBooks. But in all actuality, Amazon is not discouraging competition. Far from it. It’s simply doing business and pushing out its next product. The reaction from the other e-readers and e-reader markets, theoretically, should be “Okay, I see X by Amazon and raise you Y by [competing product].” It’s just simply not happening. Instead, there have been a slew of bad decisions.

B&N had cut percentages to affiliates in digital sales. Big Six publishers have recently declined to renew their contracts with Amazon, and this is sure to have echoing implications for authors who have been traditionally published with the Big Six. On top of that the Dept. of Justice had come down on Apple and some Big Six companies over e-book pricing. And none of this does the authors any good.

So yes, authors will put their digital eggs in the Amazon basket, because they see Amazon rolling out one innovation after another, and they know that their faith will be rewarded. B&N and the Big Six are still holding onto the trad-pub and print-book-first model of publication, while Amazon has been thinking of what innovation to put into place in 2020, and it shows in their success.

My personal experience was with Amazon’s KDP Select program, which does appropriate exclusive rights to digital distribution – in other words, once in KDP Select, your book goes nowhere but Amazon in digital form for 90 days – but in exchange for it, you get a series of marketing options. Amazon Prime members would have free access (which doesn’t impact your royalty), and an option of free-copy marketing days. I had opted to make the first book of my series free, and when Amazon does promo, they do promo. All I did, really, was put the links on Facebook and Twitter.

In only 24 hours I had moved well over three hundred copies across three countries, and sold my other books – yes, as in royalty sales. The next couple of days after the freebie promo ran out, I started seeing paying sales of the first book. The ranking for the promo day, at the end, had listed my book as #6 in Science Fiction Adventure subcategory. In one day.

Apart from that I’m seeing the momentum carry forward past the one-day promo, which is resulting, directly, in sales. Needless to say, my two books will also get their turn with the free-copy promo.

But bear in mind this: Amazon had only appropriated rights to the digital distribution only with my KDP select membership. I am still the owner of my first publication copyright, being self-published, and I see the tradeoff of exclusive distribution for the sort of exposure boost that it provides as a good one.

Fact is, while Amazon isn’t a publisher, it is doing what most publishers aren’t: keeping the author and the customer in mind. Self-published authors have either been through the traditional publishing gamut or had opted out of it because it was not suitable to their needs. With the advent of Kindle and e-books, Amazon had also extended a hand of partnership towards the self-publishing world. This partnership is of very mutual profit: Amazon gains more material for distribution and potential profit, and the author gets an entire market for their work. And avid readers who want to discover new authors have the chance to do so.

Let’s cut to the chase: Amazon did not get to where it was by thinking of profit or by wanting to hold onto a business model that is rapidly growing antiquated. It has been doing nothing but its business, and it has encouraged the competition from other e-distributors, who had failed to rise to the challenge. Monopoly it is not, and a publisher it is not, but it is certainly one of the most effective distributors there is. It offers you an enormous potential, but it will not actually step forward and teach an author how to market a book. The author still has to do work.

If you have to take it back to the proverb, you can say that Amazon for a self-published author is a fishing pole with a baited line. You just have to figure out how to use it, and once you do, the possibilities are endless.

Kat Gilraine

For more information on the author, please visit http://www.katherinegilraine.com

Amazon storefront: http://amzn.to/InrIwW


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6 thoughts on “The Fishing Pole: Musings on Amazon by Katherine Gilraine

  1. i believe that amazon is a publisher. i thought that bestselling barry eisler has signed in with them to publish his books now. in fact, i know several authors who have signed with amazon.

    • Disagreed. Simple fact: publishers and publishing houses claim copyright of your work. Amazon does NOT retain copyright of the author’s work. Self-published authors, by default, retain their copyright.
      I’m also available on Amazon, but again: I retain copyright of my work, both print (my print-on-demand company is Amazon-owned) and e-book.

  2. I’m almost ready to upload my book “Losing Me” on amazon
    the article you posted was very interesting, and I believe like other sites
    including FB, blogging, etc
    promoting and marketing your own work is absolutely essential
    especially in this day and age that’s why I’m not surprised that is what is needed with Amazon. I’m actually expecting to do that. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. Pingback: Blog Tour! « Improvisations on Reality

  4. Thanks for hosting me! Just a small correction for my readers, which I just noticed: where it says “Apple is not discouraging competition” – should be Amazon. My mistake and my apologies.

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