Amazon has been no-holds-barred in dealing with big conglomerate publishers–even making some of their books unavailable. But at least one independent publisher, whose books are often unavailable at big bookstores, thinks Amazon levels the playing field.
In truth, everyone wants more of the pie. We’ve been publishing literary fiction for 35 years, and in the past found that the chain bookstores took few if any of our titles, that distributors like Ingram demanded bigger discounts from us than they charged the publishing conglomerates, and that despite winning more literary awards per title than any other publisher in America we could not match the print review coverage afforded to authors of the five big conglomerates. (Hachette, Amazon’s chief antagonist in the current spat, is the fourth largest of the five conglomerate publishers who together–through their more than one hundred imprints–sell 85% percent of the books sold to the general public in America.) But despite these disadvantages we’re not calling these other organizations Mafia-inspired or asking for government intervention. Surely one must come to recognize that all these companies are—and should be—free to set their own terms based on their bottom lines, and publishers like Hachette might consider tempering its complaints about Amazon’s discrimination or restraint of trade. Jeff Bezos didn’t create Amazon for Hachette, and Hachette isn’t forced to use Amazon for distribution. What is Amazon anyway, other than an incredibly successful online store that sells almost every product one can think of?
As an independent publisher, I give Amazon a four star review for not only its efficiency, but for leveling the playing field, and here are reasons why:
- When you send orders to a store, distributor or wholesaler, publishers can count on returns of 20 to 80 percent. If Amazon orders books (which they do in increasingly larger numbers) it’s rare to get more than one or two percent returned. They are masters at this and consequently enable us to cut down on our print runs;
- Amazon makes it easy to post reviews of our books, whether they are online or print reviews. Nor is there any discrimination, space-wise, between the coverage we get for individual titles and that which Hachette gets. Additionally, when one of our books is ordered, they list other titles of ours that might be of interest, proving themselves to be helpful marketers of our books;
- Earnings from Kindle sales are excellent as both publisher and author find more profit (especially when we, as publishers, split eBook income on a 50:50 basis with our writers) with virtually no production costs. (Perhaps some of the authors complaining about Amazon on social media, would be better served if they complained to their publishers–if they are not getting 50% of this pie.); and
- Amazon generally pays us within 30 days, with wire transfers to our bank. Nobody else in the industry come anywhere close to this and Amazon’s efficiency enables us to keep up with printing costs and salaries.