Amazon Owes You Nothing

Amazon Owes You NothingEvery self-published author knows that publishing on Amazon is a must.

While no one apart from Amazon knows precisely, it is generally reported that Amazon has around 65% of the global book and ebook market, which is approaching, if not is already, a monopoly market share.

As a self-publisher or small press, it is logical and almost essential that you list and sell your books on Amazon. However, do not expect Amazon to be egalitarian.

It is a business, and as such needs to maximise profit and a return on its investment. It also has the right to decide how it uses its market monopoly muscle to its own advantage.

news story about Ellora’s Cave, a romance genre small press, who suffered a sudden 75% decrease in book sales due to a change in Amazon’s algorithm and/or book search policy or settings that had hidden many of its titles, serves as a warning. Amazon makes the rules, end of argument.

That its changes in settings affects peoples’ jobs, authors’ incomes and the viability of businesses may seem unfair, matters not. Business is business.

My own experience with the vagaries of Amazon’s algorithms, search settings or policy decisions is purely anecdotal. However, I can say that when I enrolled in its KDP Select program a few years ago, giving Amazon exclusivity over all my titles, my book sales increased dramatically.

This sales bonanza lasted for a period of about six months before my sales started to wane, slowly, but noticeably. When they plateaued back to where they were before I enrolled, I got out, and went back to publishing with other providers.

Within a month, my sales hit rock bottom, as if all my titles had been erased from Amazon, unless someone knew the direct URL link to find my books.

It took me a year to recover the monthly sales I had on aggregators such as Smashwords before my move to KDP Select, as my titles had lost rankings on Apple, B&N and Kobo over the year my books were removed from sale, due to the exclusivity Amazon demanded.

In all honesty, they have never fully recovered, as I lost not only that one year’s traction, but also the couple of years before. So in fact, I started all over again when I rejoined.

However, my sales on Amazon have recovered, very slowly over time I have to say, and are now back to somewhere close to what they were before my KDP Select experiment.

The lesson was hard learnt, though. Never put your business eggs in one basket, no matter how attractive it may look at first. The pity about the Ellora’s Cave fall is that it affects so many people. At least my decision only affected me.

Yes, you have to have your books on Amazon, but never believe that Amazon will do you any favours.

It has no obligation whatsoever to do so.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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