photo by John Sandel
Lately there's been a good deal of backlash against Amazon.com. The company's been called a "bully" for holding a hard line against giant publishing companies to keep ebook prices low. Probably for other things, too, I don't know. Let's face it. Amazon is BIG.
But this is a Goliath vs. Goliath fight. New York publishing companies are monumental and impenetrable, unless you're Janet Evanovich or Stephen King or another household name.
The publishing industry is pretty scared of Amazon, and you hear a lot of "if we let 'em get away with it, they'll own the industry" kind of stuff. I don't know if that's true, but so far Amazon hasn't "gotten away with" anything illegal. In fact, it was the publishing companies who got their hands slapped by a judge for price fixing and collusion.
Now, thanks to the Abbey Bookshop in Paris, there's a Pledge of Independents, to "recruit readers, writers and bookshops worldwide in the defense of diversity and fair practices in the book trade."
"As a bookseller wanting to take the Pledge, you promise to not buy or sell any books through Amazon or its affiliates. Moreover, you are expected to give costumers (sic) that have taken the Pledge a 5 % discount..."
As a customer, "You can take the pledge if you believe in supporting independent bookshops and if you agree that most of your books should come from independent bookshops - and that no business that is dominating the market should get your support."
This disturbs me.
I don't defend Amazon, they can take care of themselves. I defend the independent author/publisher like myself, and small publishers who publish only a few titles per year. Local independent bookstores don't always carry our books. My locals have been supportive, and I appreciate it. But most readers are not aware that it costs me actual money to shelve my book in many stores, and more actual money to get a reading/signing.
There's good reason for this. Everybody and his brother can publish a book right now. This, by the way, is thanks to Amazon's CreateSpace and other reputable self-publishing sites like Lulu and Blurb, as well as hybrid publishers like SheWrites Press and Lucky Bat Books.
But small publishers are not on the same playing field as the big New York guys.
In the old days (like, 5 years ago), if you didn't have famous parents or if some junior gatekeeper in publishing didn't think your book would sell, you didn't have a chance of getting published. (This explains conventionally published, grammar-free semi-porn, as well as the "literary fiction" that's really just tales told in a dull voice and a bad mood.)
Today, if you're willing to work hard to write, publish and sell your book, you can. If you're online. If you're on Amazon.
But you can't get your book into most stores, independent or not. It doesn't matter how well-reviewed your book is. I can't walk into stores around the world and pay them to stock my titles. I can't afford the travel and stocking fees. Even if I could, most stores would refuse because they don't have the space to stock everything.
If I can't sell my book online, I can't sell it.
I suggest you support your local store when you can. If you are in the Pasadena area, you can buy Camelot & Vine at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Hoopla! in Altadena, and the Pasadena Museum of History gift shop (it'll be back at Vroman's soon).
If you don't live in Pasadena, please buy my book from the bully.