Response to Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing
Upon checking my email this morning, I found myself blinking at this peculiar cry for help sent to me by none other than Amazon, entitled, "A Message from the Amazon Books Team".
Curious, I took a moment to skim through it. Then I blinked once more and read it again from end to end just to make sure they weren't joking.
They apparently are not, but it certainly makes for a ridiculous bit of reading. In short, Amazon was asking me, and thousands of other self-published authors, on their behalf, to send letters of complaint to one of their competitors which had the gall to dig its heels in and call out Amazon on its predatory tactics.
I respond with the following...
Amazon, please do Shut Up. Just stop talking. Because you're doing that thing. That thing where you turn down the gas lamps bit by bit, and when your innocent wife says, "Husband, Dear, I think it is dim in here." you say, "No sweetheart, it must be your eyes. Are feeling okay? For clearly I am being reasonable and logical. Perhaps you are ill. It is so difficult living with a sick woman! Woe unto me. Die and leave me your wealth, you foul woman!"
"Gaslighting" is an actual psychology term. (Taken from that 1944 film Gaslight). It's one of the things psychopaths are known to do to their victims.
So Amazon is begging our love and support. They're doing nothing wrong! They're not killing the publishing industry bit by bit. Heavens no! If you complain that it's getting awfully dark in the publishing industry, they'll simply, calmly tell us, "No, we're fighting FOR you, not against you!"
This is a lie.
While working out the percentages on the upcoming digital editions of my Thieves & Kings graphic novels, I learned the following:
If I distribute with Amazon, I get a 70% Royalty! Gosh! How generous!
Except. . .
Here's the math:
Royalty Rate 70% x (List Price - Delivery Costs) = Royalty
On a recommended $9.99 book sale I make $1.75, and Amazon makes $8.25
What? Say that again..? How on Earth is $1.75 seventy percent of ten bucks? -I thought SEVEN dollars was 70% of ten bucks.
Clearly, some closer attention is required. Let's go through that equation more slowly...
When I sell a digital graphic novel on Amazon, because it is around 50 Mb in size, at $.15 per megabyte, I instantly owe $7.50 in so-called, "delivery charges".
And they sure do want me to sell my book at $9.99..! Says so in their letter.
So $9.99 minus a "delivery charge" of $7.50 is... $2.50
And 70% of $2.50 is $1.75
So, I get $1.75 on a ten dollar book.
Amazon gets the rest.
So in this little scenario, I'm not really getting a 70% royalty on my work. I'm getting 17.5%. Amazon, when you say I'm getting 70%, what you're actually doing is a thing we call lying.
But Amazon is good at that, aren't they? Slick, game-theory reasoning is their thing. They're good at presenting a shining public face while the wife and kids are terrorized in private. And as with any successful psychopath, their public loves them! Why? Because Amazon gives its public Lower Prices! Yay! (Heck, it's easy to keep prices low when one doesn't clothe or feed one's family. And keeps them chained in the shed. And torments them).
To be fair, a regular book without all the graphics is only about 1-4 megabytes on average, not 50 Mb like one of my graphic novels will be once converted to digital. So Amazon might make half a buck or so on "delivery" charges. -But they make that on every single sale, whether it's a $100 book or a $5 book. Thus, it becomes readily obvious that it's far more profitable for them to make lots of little sales than a few big sales.
Also, let's not forget, through the practice of downward price forcing, they are able to undercut the competition. Once their competitors are starved to death and Amazon ends up the sole provider of books, one wonders how low their prices will then remain... But for now, of course they want to sell for less while protecting their income with fixed "delivery" charges.
But.., let's be more specific. Let's take a closer look at Amazon's self-styled comparison to the Paperback at its introduction back in the 1940's...
You see, in the good old days of the paperback, distributors and publishers had to do something called, "Earning" their cut of the cover price. It was a delirious time indeed! Elbow grease was slathered and sweat perspired! People worked for their living.
The industry created books through the acts of Writing, Editing, Printing, Bankrolling, and Distributing.
Since you (Amazon) don't Write, Edit, Print or offer Advances to authors.., (oh my god, can you picture that? Amazon giving author advances? Ha ha. Oh deary me...) -You, Amazon, only Distribute books, -and if truth be told, you don't really even do that...
No, you don't. Stop making that face at me. Just listen:
Unlike the old days where distributors would use their 10% cut to pay for trucks and delivery people and warehouse employees, you just take your 30% and... Well, you have no trucks or delivery people.
But I hear you cry, "We manage warehouses and ship tons of product! We host huge internet servers! That's expensive! You're Wrong! La La La!"
Stop that. It's annoying. -And yes, you do manage warehouses and server farms, but so what? Unlike real distributors, you charge up front for those servers with your per megabyte fee, and in your physical book system, you charge the buyer up front for postage. The reader pays the USPS for delivery. You don't. You just keep your 30%. And to deserve that fee, what work have you done? Honestly? You're basically double-billing everybody, which according to anti-fraud laws is in many parts of the civilized world, also called, "theft".
What you DO do, on the physical side at least, the one thing you actually do which might be considered work, is host a website and re-package and re-ship stuff (using workers suffering under abusive conditions), -stuff which might otherwise be sent directly to the customer from the producer. But I guess then, they wouldn't get the fancy Amazon box.
In any case, none of that applies to eBook sales at all.
By contrast, back in the day of the paperback, distributors actually distributed. They owned warehouses and held proper stock levels which didn't require publishers to waste money on hundreds of small single-item shipments, they hired delivery people and they ran those trucks mentioned earlier, -which needed fueling and maintenance. And they paid for all of this out of their cut of the cover price which, it should be noted, was not 30% plus a whole bunch extra. It was around 10%. -And certainly not, as per the above example of my graphic novel, 82.58%.
So, really, you're overpaying yourselves quite dramatically for doing, well, a lot less real work than the predecessors you so heroically compare yourselves to. Honestly! Amazon doesn't Write, Edit, Print, or Distribute. They don't make anything. Amazon is nothing more than a glorified warehousing and listing service, -and they're barely even that because they don't hold bulk stock. A publisher could go quietly broke from postage costs while filling hundreds of small orders at the distributor discount. -And why does Amazon get a bulk discount anyway? They order just two or three books at a time, (which the publisher pays to ship), while a reader placing the same small order is expected to pay full price AND foot the shipping bill. Something doesn't add up. Something smells like "con-job". And yet.., somehow they've managed to shine the people of the world on into believing that they are deserving of between 30% and 80% of the ticket price on any given sale that they have added zero value to.
That's always been the way of the psychopath; getting others to do the work for them while they take the credit; a tactic right up there with Gaslighting.
It's shameful and deceitful and more than that, Amazon, you have the gall to present yourselves as some kind of revolutionary body! AND you do so while slamming George Orwell, who was exactly the kind of person capable of recognizing what you are doing. No wonder you're critical of George. He was the natural enemy of psychopathic organizations.
So, in summary... You expect the publishers to pay their printing bills and promotional bills and, (heavens!) the actual authors, illustrators and editors, from the measly scraps you allow them while you ensure that the public gets "cheap books." And what do you care? You're making out like bandits, racking up the bux on over-priced bandwidth fees. You can't lose! And please don't flash your crocodile smile, -You're not fighting for consumer affordability because you care, or because you hold any high ideals regarding the medium and public literacy. Oh dear, no! -You're doing it because you've learned how to profit by throwing creative professionals into the furnace for short term gain. Burn the industry down! The heat is pleasing unto you!
However, as psychopaths also have tremendously poor instincts when it comes to planning ahead, you also fail to see that the industry once reduced to ash will no longer feed you, let alone anybody else.
Sharing work and reward? Yeah, psychopaths just don't do that.
Let's look again at your little comparison between yourselves and the humble Paperback...
What happened next after the paperback was introduced?
Well, publishers saw the benefit of the new medium and started publishing paperbacks. Very simple. -Through the diverse distribution system, everybody profited and the industry thrived. Printers, Bookstores, Publishers, Distributors, Authors and Readers! Hooray! -It was an open industry which generally divided up the work and the profit pie fairly.
Notably absent was a gargantuan monopoly gobbling up everybody else's share of the pie, and strong arming those other players into producing just as much work as before, but for considerably less pay. There was no Amazonian slave driver at the industry helm cracking the whip and punishing those who failed to get in line. And the paperback book, it should be pointed out, was a non-proprietary invention. Unlike your Kindle device, a user of the Paperback Book could read and benefit from the words printed inside it even if no tribute fee had been paid to the Book's inventor! (Who, as an aside, was Julius Caesar. The guy invented the BOOK. But that's another story...)
In short, George Orwell wasn't wrong. He was early.
Yes. Now you may sputter and furiously throw up your hands in a show of narcissistic cognitively dissonant rage. Go hunt for my "Buy Now" buttons so that you can remove them. Sick your spin doctors on me. Except.., you'll notice I don't sell through your site. Hmm. That's awkward. It's going to be hard to strong arm me with your tactics if I'm not present.
Maybe you can strong arm my friends and family..? Maybe you can go kick over my rose bushes?
Oh, don't fret. Let me soothe your troubled soul, (or whatever facsimile you keep in place of one. A snowglobe, perhaps? A wet tennis ball?):
Amazon, oh ye great and fearsome seller of things. You are perfect! Just keep on telling yourself that you are Perfect! Keep blaming your victims! When the flames spark and the high roof crashes in, be sure to remember, "You're infallible! Indestructible!" You have no need to run for the exits. Just keep standing firm, chin proudly upturned, and gaze aloft to meet that mighty reward tumbling toward you! -For it is richly, most deservedly earned.
August 9th, 2014