Self published authors sell their books on Amazon for the simple reason that the site has a large number of customers - and our books need the exposure. With the number of self published authors nowadays, that means a significant number of Amazon sales are from our books. The question is, is Amazon helping self published authors, or not? Is it to our advantage that we allow Amazon to exclusively publish our books?
Jas Ward, a self-published romance author has started a petition at Change.org, calling on Amazon to change its "You know this author policy". I'm sure that's not what Amazon calls it but that's the simplest way to put it. In its quest to monitor the validity of product reviews, Amazon is now removing reviews posted by people who "know" each other. Does that creep you out?
The petition has now garnered more than 11,000 signatures and is beginning to get the hype it deserves. The topic has recently been featured on Adweek and the Guardian.
The commotion started when one self published author, Imy Santiago, was unable to post a review for a book she read. This is Amazon's reason:
That sounds very shady to me. If Amazon will enforce a policy which affects the business of self-published authors, they should at least practice transparency.
It's bad enough that they're changing how they pay royalties to authors who enroll their books on Kindle Unlimited and KOLL. In case you haven't heard of it yet, starting next month, Amazon will pay independent authors based on the number of pages read, instead of the number of times their book has been borrowed. Surely they're making a killing out of Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners' Lending Library subscriptions? And whose books are enrolled in these programs? Our books. How about sharing the bounty with the authors instead? Ah... but business is business, right? Amazon knows we need them, and they have us by the scruffs of our neck. But is that really true? Is Amazon the only way for self-published authors to sell their books? Absolutely not.
Even when we publish our books on Amazon, we still need to promote it, and sell it ourselves. So, what's stopping us from publishing on other platforms, such as Smashwords, Lulu, Barnes and Nobles, Kobo and the Google Play Store? How about we direct people to our books on those sites instead? Is there really a HUGE difference?
I think that a good book will get readers regardless of where we publish them. We can even sell it from our own websites, if we chose to. It's just that we've been brainwashed into believing that Amazon is THE ONE.
For self published authors, the sales of our books are dependent on how good we are at marketing them. We find the audience. There's no reason for us to put ourselves in the mercy of self publishing giants who obviously don't care about the business we bring them.
So what if we know the author? Indie authors network profusely, and we touch base with each other on Social Media. Mere acquaintances. Some of us help support each other on our marketing endeavors. But that shouldn't be construed as a sign that the reviews on our books are rigged. We won't even get into HOW they are tracking us. It's no wonder they're being called 'Big Brother.'
One of Amazon's criteria for raising a book's rating is the number of reviews. This is the reason we give out our books for free on promotions - so we can get the desired reviews. Our colleagues are readers too, and the support we get from them is they buy our books and leave a review. When did peer reviews become unethical?
What Amazon should be doing instead is weeding out the obviously biased and purchased reviews for ultra crappy books. One example of this is the book Wicca: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Learning Spells & Witchcraft, which I unfortunately read since it was Free. You can see my review of the book HERE. You will observe the disparity between the reviews. It's obviously one of those commercially produced eBooks written by cheap ghostwriters for business minded people who flood Amazon with these trash. Yet, there are 5 star glowing reviews. I've reported this book to Amazon (Yes, that's how offended I was by this crappy book) - to no avail. This is what Amazon should be removing, not just the reviews, but the book itself.
Given these latest developments, I think self published authors should start seriously looking into publishing their books elsewhere. For those of us living outside of the U.S., we don't even have the option to receive our earnings through bank transfer. We can only get them through check! Who wants to take a chance at that? The check might not even reach me with the shenanigans going on in the postal office.
I've published my next book, You want to be an Online Freelancer.... Now What? through Smashwords, and will also sell it on the Google Play Store. Amazon is not the only way, and we should start looking into other means. Don't believe the hype. That's all it is.
But if you really feel that you need Amazon, at least sign the petition, and help change some of their policies which make it harder for us to sell our books. View the Petition HERE.