Amazon is an indispensable partner for any author. It’s also a problematic company whose dominance of the publishing business threatens everyone from independent bookstores to self-published authors.
What’s an author to do?
You could boycott Amazon completely. I have a friend who’s doing that. But if you’re an author, completely avoiding Amazon is going to cut you off from a huge swath of your audience. If you work with a traditional publisher, they will insist on making their own distribution decisions, including distributing through Amazon’s site. If you are self-published, cutting yourself off from Amazon is a big mistake. If someone goes to Amazon and is unable to find your book, not only do you lose the sale, but the buyer will wonder if your book is for real.
But that doesn’t mean you must make Amazon the default for every purchase path. Here are some ways to support its competitors, including indie bookstores.
Share links to Bookshop.org
When you post or share a buying link, use Bookshop.org. It carries nearly every book available through normal distribution, and when you place an order, that order is fulfilled through a local bookstore. Independent bookstores are struggling as we all emerge from the pandemic, and this is a simple way to support them.
If you want to buy Writing Without Bullshit, here’s the bookshop.org link to do that. (My web designer is in the process of adding that to my book page right now.)
Be aware that the bookshop price will be higher, and it won’t include free shipping for Amazon Prime members. For my book, the price difference is about five bucks. But that’s unlikely to be a major obstacle for most serious book buyers.
Send bulk book buyers to a site like Porchlight Books
If you’re doing public speaking or corporate events, your partners may want to buy books in bulk. Don’t send them to Amazon, send them to a bulk book purchase site like Porchlight Books (formerly 800CEOREAD). (Here’s a link for bulk purchases of my book.) I’ve found Porchlight to be an excellent partner. They work with traditional publishers, hybrid publishers, and self-published authors and offer significant discounts off the list price.
If you are working with a hybrid publisher, you may also be able to arrange links on your own site that allow distribution directly from the publisher.
If you are self-publishing, work with Ingram Spark
The simplest way to self-publish is with Kindle Direct Publishing, formerly known as Amazon CreateSpace. But if you go KDP, the only way a buyer can get your book will be through Amazon’s site.
You can also self-publish through Ingram Spark. If you work with a service that helps with self-publishing, such as Page Two Books or Gatekeeper Press, your publishing service most likely works with Ingram Spark.
Books published through Spark go into Ingram’s broad distribution network, which means that any bookstore can order them — including indie bookstores and bulk book services. That allows you to partner with local bookstores on events when you visit their cities.
Publish eBooks beyond Kindle
Kindle isn’t the only source for eBooks. Some buyers also use Apple iBooks, B&N’s Nook, Google Play, and Kobo.
If you’re using a self-publishing service, they’ll likely support all these forms of eBook distribution.
Make audio available outside of Audible
Audible.com dominates audio distribution, just as Amazon dominates online book distribution. But if you’re creating an audio master, there’s no rule that says you must distribute exclusively through Audible.
The simplest distribution method is Amazon’s ACX, which distributes through Audible and iTunes. But as audio distribution expert Tom Webster pointed out to me, you can create and distribute audiobooks through Findaway, Author’s Republic, Lantern, and Publish Drive.
For buyers, libro.fm allows you to purchase audiobooks through bookshop.org. You can share those links with potential audiobook listeners.
Amazon is the easiest for author and readers. That’s the problem.
The simplest way for an author to work is with Amazon. The simplest way for a reader to buy is with Amazon. It’s also often the cheapest.
Of course, if you always go this way, Amazon will get to set the rules. The rest of the industry will have to abide by its terms, and its competitors will go out of business.
I’m not ready to anoint Amazon as the benevolent dictator of the publishing business. I’d like promote some alternatives.
Maybe you should too. Lets help those other competitors to stick around long enough to keep Amazon honest.