Self-Publishers in the wilds of Amazon

I was going to post a Thursday Thirteen on graduating with my bachelors of science in computer science and engineering. Note the past tense. Instead, I’m going to weigh in on this ongoing hooplah about Amazon.com making a business decision that no small or self-publisher wants to hear: that print-on-demand books sold through Amazon must use Amazon’s subsidiary, BookSurge, rather than relying on the industry standard, Lightening Source.

A panic quickly ensued, and my RSS reader was flooded with blog entries about how Amazon is becoming a book monopoly. PublishAmerica was the first victim of Amazon.com’s new policy by having all of their “buy this book now” buttons removed. As such, PublishAmerica books are now only available through resellers on Amazon.com. Same with Whiskey Creek Press, which is a traditional publisher who uses print-on-demand technology to produce their books.

I am, of course, concerned. As an author who has vanity published, and plans to self-publish, Amazon.com’s contract with BookSurge doesn’t sound too attractive. To register with BookSurge, you have to pay $50 per new title in set-up fees, and Amazon.com takes 48% out of the sale price to pay for the printing of the book. If you choose to use the Advantage Program (using a POD other thank BookSurge), then you pay $29.95 a year to keep the book in print/stay a part of the Advantage Program, pay all shipping and handling to get the books to Amazon.com warehouses, plus Amazon.com still takes the usual 55% from the sale price.

It’s no wonder there’s little more than a dollar or two per book for us poor authors once the royalty check comes in the mail!

For the record, it seems that the big three print-on-demand companies have already signed the contract, so books printed through Lulu, AuthorHouse/iUniverse, and possibly Xlibris, remain available on Amazon.com. The general consensus is that Amazon.com is being really unfair to the little guys, and there is a petition to stop Amazon.com, along with an active suit against Amazon.com for becoming monopolistic. For updated information if this continuing drama, see here: http://www.writersweekly.com/amazon.php.

I do realize that this is a business decision, and a smart one on Amazon.com’s part. In fact, I’m surprised they, or Barnes and Noble.com, didn’t do this before. But it still stinks for the little guys like me, who are going into self-publishing. And now that there’s a class-action suit against Amazon.com, who knows where this will lead? This may go nowhere, and all this worry will be for naught… or, Amazon.com could win the suit, and I’ll just have to sell my book from my website and independent booksellers only… because I doubt I can afford such a cut of the sales if I want to make any sort of profit, even if only to break even. (FYI, if I break even, I consider myself a success.)

I’ll try to keep you all updated on what’s going on as I hear more, and I’m sorry for not breaking this sooner. I’ve been watching myself, hoping the entire issue would die down to reveal a mistake on the part of Amazon.com’s PR staff, or something.

In the meantime, I’ll need to take a short two week haitus as I take time to graduate, visit the extended family, start my summer internship, find a place to live for grad school, and hopefully find time to edit. See you the week of June 23!

To read more about this issue…