Most authors want to sell as many copies of their book as humanly possible, since that gets them paid. And that generally means selling books through Amazon, unless you happen to be Jamie Clarke. Clarke is taking a novel promotional tack for his new book Vernon Downs: Begging people not to buy it off of Amazon.
Clarke’s grudge is not with Amazon’s role as pretty much the biggest bookstore in the world so much as the weight that gives them. See, if you’re a small press, Amazon apparently will just sell your book at a discount, and take the discount out of your royalties:
“Unfortunately, most indie publishers rely on Amazon to sell their books, and to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, the price is high. Indie publishers realize a fraction of the purchase price and are at the mercy of Amazon’s discounting policies. As a bookstore owner, my obvious preference is that readers buy books at bookstores, but I know a lot of readers don’t live in proximity to a bookstore.”
Obviously, there’s only so much Clarke can do; mostly he’s running this campaign until April, when the book gets an ISBN code and officially arrives on Amazon. But until then, he’s hoping to get people to buy directly and ensure the small press gets some money before Amazon sales.
To some degree, this is just the kind of bitching that goes on in publishing; twenty years ago, when Amazon was a novelty and Borders was still a going concern, you had the problem of small presses being able to get shelf space, period. The small press has never had a lot of leverage, unless it somehow stumbles onto, say, The Hunt For The Red October. And Clarke is forced to admit, at one point, that the small indie bookstore is actually doing pretty well against Amazon.
Still, Clarke does have a point in that Amazon shouldn’t be just shoving down prices without asking. It’s one thing if they want to eat the cost of buying the book and sell it at a discount, and it’s quite another to say “Screw you, you’ll take what you can get and like it.”