Next time you’re tempted to join a Boycott Amazon campaign, here’s something you might want to reflect on. An Amazon trade presentation, Tweeted by a conference attendee and spread first via then by an article in The Guardian, has declared that “A Quarter of top 100 on Indie-Published.” The overall message is clear: Amazon’s platform provides a way for the little guy or gurl to step around the big behemoths and reach the readers.

As quoted by The Guardian, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the statistic focused entirely on Kindle publications in 2012 that were self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The KDP platform does accommodate smaller presses too, but self-published individual authors were obviously holding up just as well in the rankings.

Clearly, self-published authors may not fare so well when it comes to the print book realm. But they still gain a commanding position in the ebook universe without any reference to Big Publishing at all. And Amazon, under fire for monopolistic activities and tax evasion in more markets than just the UK, may want to underline its support for little people to refurbish its public image. But there is no reason to doubt that those figures are true.

Elsewhere I did write that Big Publishing could still rebuild its dominance in the ebook arena with its marketing dollars and dedicated promotional teams, and push back against the self-publishing transformation. Now it looks like I might have to eat my words. The Amazon figures certainly suggest otherwise. It looks like indie/self-publishing is holding on to and even extending its market share, and above all in the critical bestseller area that the Big Five are supposed to devote their market development resources to unlocking in order to provide the stream of big sellers that they need to fund their bloated establishments.

This could also explain a lot about the recent push by the Big Five to develop alternative direct-to-reader ebook platforms of their own. Don’t tell me it’s an attempt to capture customer data. It’s a bid to win back sales from Amazon that they don’t dare to admit to yet.

So this is why Big Publishing hates Amazon. Amazon is eating their lunch in the critical sector that matters most to them. And if you see well-funded and well-supported campaigns around to boycott Amazon, perhaps you should wonder where the money behind them came from. And oh, by the way – if you join those campaigns, you’ll be destroying the livelihoods of struggling self-publishing authors. I hope you feel proud.


  1. Quote: “Amazon’s platform provides a way for the little guy or gurl to step around the big behemoths and reach the readers.”

    Are we both reading off the same page?

    For print books, Ingram’s Lightning Books gives me a far wider reach Amazon’s CreateSpace. It makes my books available to almost every bookstore on the planet and it prints them in the US, UK, France, and Australia. It even gets my books on Amazon and has done so for almost 15 years. Small as I am, they’ve always treated me well.

    For digital books, Apple pays at least as much royalty and typically more at every price point. It pays a flat 70% from 99 cents up to $200. Not Amazon. Look at your contract. It slashes royalties to 35% for any ebook priced below $2.99 or above $9.99. And it charges a quite hefty download fee over most of that price range. For my picture-rich ebooks, that’s about 15% of the royalties, reducing my real royalty rate to about 55%. And don’t forget that Apple plays no exclusivity games. They make no effort to keep me from selling by ebooks through other channels. Amazon does.

    In short, Apple pays 70% for all my ebook titles. Amazon pays either 35% or what is effectively 50% on my titles. Could you tell me which company is looking out for “the little guy.” I think it is rather obvious.

    And that’s not even getting into Smashwords, which pays about 60% and handles the mechanics of ebook distribution to almost everyone but Amazon. They’re the ones who’re really looking out for the little guys.

    In addition, you also seem to have the rather odd view of the publishing world. The ‘behemoth’ publishers are doing nothing to prevent the sale of my books. They have absolutely no role in the distribution or sale chain at any point. They couldn’t hinder my sales even if they tried. At most, when they persuade B&N to stock one of their books, they may, at a very abstract level, be keeping on of my books from being stocked. But their attention isn’t focused on me at all. The Big Six behemoths are competing with one another.

    Some people like to claim that Steve Jobs was able to create a Reality Distortion Field around Apple products. The same seem to be true of Amazon. Somehow that giant behemoth seems to blind the eyes of some authors, making them unable to see just how poorly Amazon treats them with its variable ebook royalty pricing, download charges, and how much contempt it displays for them when it attempts to dictate just what they can and cannot do for pricing.

    I should add two additional comments:

    1. When a specialized book from a small publisher with a limited audience has to be priced over $9.99 to recoup its costs, Amazon pockets 65% of that price, leaving the publisher only 35%. Price a book $9.99 and you get $7 less that hefty download feel. Price it $11, and you get only about $3.85, again less those download fees. (Apple is paying $7.70 or almost twice as much.) Amazon is pocketing the rest.

    To restore the profit a $10 book gets from Amazon for a price that has to be over $10, a publisher has to price it above about $26. And for each dollar he raises the price, he’ll get less than 35 cents, with Amazon pocketing over 65 cents. That’s what Amazon is doing to the public and to small, speciality publishers. That’s what our Chicago-machine DOJ would be going after if it wasn’t filled with crooks.

    2. I can prove nothing, but I’ve seen some ebook pricing from major publishers that makes me strongly suspect that Amazon is cutting them specials deals they’re not giving to us “little guys.” I suspect that the behemoths have told Amazon “it’s 70% royalty at all price levels and no download fees or no deal” and Amazon has agreed.

    In short, big publishing hates Amazon for the same reason that the wiser small publishers and self-publishing authors hate it. It’s a bully that abuses its power and, were it to acquire a near monopoly on ebook distribution, rather than the current 70%, it would behave even more badly.

  2. I didn’t get from presentation, do they allow indies to get around printing begemoths only via their proprietory DRM-ed KDP e-book channel? What about Kindle without DRM? Allowing to print books at low cost if non-DRM is no-go?

  3. What Michael said.

    Amazon forces indies and small publishers into what is little more than servitude of price and distribution. Kindle Direct and its other programs’ contracts allow Amazon to shove an author into distribution deals like sharing “used” ebooks and any other scheme that is good for Amazon but not so good for an author’s bottom line.

    As long as indie authors accept such terms, Amazon will continue to be the predator.

    Paul, I really recommend that you do some serious reading at Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Rusch” blog to get a better handle on the publishing business from someone who sees both sides of the indie and traditional publishing from her own experience.

    Here’s a link:

  4. The comments section in “Part 2” of this article is cut off. Afraid of not having the last word, Paul? That’s seriously tacky and not particularly professional.

    As someone who has been around publishing for many years and authors even longer than that, I have a strong impression from the constant snideness and bile you use in all your articles about Big Publishing that you have massive sour grapes about Big Publishing refusing to publish your genius. You also have a faulty view of Big Publishing which isn’t remotely all posh offices, high wages, and martini lunches.

    A vast majority of the editorial infrastructure is paid poorly in comparison to other big business, the offices aren’t posh, and only those above the level of the real publishing make conglomerate-style high salaries.

    Amazon is the same way with the offices and the levels of payment.

    • @Marilyn and Paul, the comments section being cut off has nothing to do with Paul. That’s not something any of the authors have control over. It seems to be a glitch, and I’m trying to figure out why it’s gone and how to restore it.

  5. I’m a small publisher and don’t like Amazon. Most of their customer reviews are fake which is a disincentive to any honest business (publisher or otherwise) to make the effort to try and get them legally (in reality customers hardly post reviews) when others just do it with a small amount of cash and the click of a button.

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