Amazon: another perspective

As some of my readers know, I’m no fan of Amazon.   Now, of course, I’m not a raving anti-Amazon nut, but I disapprove of a few of their business practices and their treatment of certain recent problems.  However, I don’t mind hearing the other guy out in an argument and I know that a lot of authors love Amazon.  And even the company’s worst detractor would have to admit, Amazon has given a lot of writers a leg up that they might not have otherwise gotten.

Well, last week I was ran across a fellow author’s novel.  Ms. K.M. Weiland’s “Dreamlander” looked pretty good and, since I had a few dollars in my checking account, I thought I’d wander over to her site and snag it.  As it turned out, though, the e-book is Amazon only.  Preferring not to buy from them, I asked her about her reasons for using Amazon.  To my surprise, she was kind enough to carve out some time to do a bit of Q&A.

silhouette-interviewHere are the results.  They’re pretty darned interesting:

Gunter:  Since all this is about Amazon and why you chose to put your e-book version of “Dreamlander” on Amazon Kindle Select, my first question should be …. what exactly do you write?

Weiland:  I write historical and speculative fiction, often a blend of the two, although that’s not so evident in what’s published now as in what will be published in the next few years. At the moment, I have three novels out.  I also write non-fiction writing how-to, which is really the side of my writing that allows me to write full-time. My how-to books have been bestsellers on Amazon, have been translated into Japanese and Korean, and have won several awards.

Gunter:  You said “…what will be published in the next few years….” That sounds like you’re planning a fair bit more in the way of novels?

Weiland: My fiction is my passion, so even though I keep it to a relatively slow trickle to preserve the quality I want to produce, it’s always happening in the background. I try to put out a new novel every three years. The next will be a story set in 1920s Nebraska, about a barnstormer who discovers a secret in the sky after a strange woman falls out of the clouds onto his plane. I’m also just about start the first draft of a story about a historical superhero, set in Regency London.

Gunter: I’m laughing here, but it’s a good laugh. Falls out of the CLOUDS onto his PLANE? That’s a new one on me. Really original ideas are hard to come by, but you’ve managed it, all right! Next year, eh? I’ll be keeping an eye out, then.

Weiland: Thanks! If you’re interested, you can read the blurbs for both books here.

Gunter:  With all these publishing questions, as a writer, I find myself wondering… did the genre of your books have any effect on your decision to use Amazon?  I mean, did you say to yourself, “Hey, speculative fiction with this type of premise seems to do really well as a Kindle e-book!” or was it more of a cost/benefit decision based on the monetary aspect of self-publishing?

Weiland: Amazon, honestly, was never a choice for me. It was just the obvious next step in independent publishing. I took it, never looked back, and have never had even the slightest cause to regret it. They’re a fabulous company to work with (or to buy from). I sell the majority of my books off Amazon, and it’s thanks largely to them that am able to make a living as a writer and have grown my platform to what it is today.

Gunter: Interesting. So, for you, it was just as much of a no-brainer as it could possibly be? Was there ever a moment when you thought about doing it ALL on your own, rather than using an intermediary like Amazon? Or looking at other intermediaries, like Kobo or Barnes & Nobles’ Nook Press?

Weiland: I published my first novel, A Man Called Outlaw, before the whole indie boom when Amazon initially became a player. Back then, the only choice was to hire a printer to print a run of a couple hundred to a couple thousand books. It required a comparatively huge outlay in cash with no obvious outlet for sales. It was an expensive learning experience, and definitely something I would never repeat. POD and the e-book industry – of which Amazon is unquestionably the leader – is a million times more cost-productive.

Gunter: So… from the sound of that, traditional publishing was never an option for you? You automatically went to indie-publishing?

Weiland: I stumbled around the idea of traditional publishing, but ended up feeling led to give indie publishing a try first. Aside from some of those initial decisions with A Man Called Outlaw, it’s not a choice I’ve ever regretted. I would be open to exploring a traditional route with my fiction if the right opportunity ever came my way, but my publishing schedule is so tight right now that I just don’t have time between getting a novel to a publishing-worthy stage and needing to publish it to meet reader demands to do any earnest querying.

Gunter: Hold on. You say that your schedule is too tight to deal with the demands traditional publishing makes on your books, but you self-publish?!? I’ve always been under the impression that the self-publishing angle is supposed to be the much more demanding of the two routes?

Weiland: If you’re writing full-time, I think your schedule is going to pretty jammed, whether you’re trad, indie, or a toss-up. Self-publishing certainly does add some extra responsibilities, but I hire professionals to do all the things that would be done by a publishing house (cover design, typesetting, digital formatting, editing, etc.). I was really just as busy with the traditionally published Annotated Jane Eyre as I was with anything I published independently. Plus, the deadlines are much more stressful when you’re working for someone else.

Gunter: From the sound of all this,  it seems you’re not just an Amazonian (pardon my word-crafting); you’ll happily use any platform that you think will fit you? That seems to be a more and more common theme among authors now.

Weiland: Even though Amazon’s outlets account for the majority of my sales, they’re not my only distributor. I also use B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and sell direct off my own sites. Only my fiction is currently exclusive to Amazon, and that’s because the KDP Select lending option is so far making more sense money-wise than distributing the novels elsewhere, where they’ve never sold particularly brilliantly anyway.

I have been approached by traditional publishers regarding my non-fiction, but aside from a recent and very specialized outing with Writer’s Digest Books (Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic), I’m very content to keep publishing the non-fic independently. For the time being, I’m able to earn much more publishing myself than I would sharing royalties.

Thanks very much, Ms. Weiland! I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions.  It’s the first time someone who self-publishes has given me a realistic look at their situation.  I’ve talked to a few self-publishers who raved about Amazon to the point I began to suspect their bias might have been ‘artificially shifted’.  After talking with you, though, I have to say, I’m willing to look at the company somewhat more leniently than before.

10 thoughts on “Amazon: another perspective

  1. K.M. Weiland

    Thanks for the chat, Michael!

    • Thank YOU; I enjoyed it.

      I’m looking forward to acquiring “Dreamlander” sometime!

  2. I used Amazon’s CreateSpace for my book and am pretty satisfied with the result, but I don’t feel obligated to use them every time. Like Ms. Weiland, I’m all for looking into other distribution options based on the needs of my future projects. 🙂

    • I did read your blogging on the subject, but it never really had all the detail I wanted.
      Did you consider any other options before choosing CreateSpace?

      • To be honest, I wasn’t aware of many other options at the time. Lulu and CS seem to have a monopoly in the search results. 😀

        When I first began looking, Lulu didn’t seem to have as many features as CS when it came to free distribution options, but it looks like that has changed. I like that Lulu prints in so many more formats at reasonable prices.

        I recently discovered Blurb, which has some very nice features. They have some software that makes formatting book interiors a streamlined process for laymen.

        I like exploring new options as I find them; the more breadth I have, the more objective my opinions can be with time. I hope I didn’t seem like I was trying to be a “poster child” or “mascot” for any specific company.

        • I HAVE noticed that. Lulu seems to be the top search result in the POD scene. I’ve been looking at them for possible prints of a Hunter anthology and/or one of my novellas.

          No, you didn’t come across as plugging for the specific company, just as someone who had found something that worked and was telling us about it.

          Have you used Blurb, yet, or just looked at it?

  3. Very interesting! Neat look into the world of self-publishing. I’ll have to keep this in mind if I decide to self-publish one of mine.
    And I’ve been wanting to read “Dreamlander” for awhile now. 🙂

    • I’m pleased it interested you!
      Ms. Weiland was extremely informative and helpful. Answer every question I had. 😉

      Do you have any bias for Amazon one way or the other? Or have you just not gotten around to reading “Dreamlander” ’cause of time constraints?

      • I haven’t followed the Amazon drama at all, honestly. But I do like them as a company. And, you guessed it, time constraints. Big time. 🙂

        • Oh, I had problems with them long before the drama started up. Their publisher relation problems just reinforced those problems. But Ms. Weiland paints a better picture of them than I’ve seen before. 😉

          Yeah, time problems seem to be going around, eh?

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