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.
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.