How Do We Solve the Problem of Amazon?
Last week I saw a graphic of Jeff Bezos net worth compared to the median household’s net worth. It was simultaneously fascinating and nauseating. That same afternoon, a box from Amazon Prime arrived on our doorstep containing probiotics for Harper and vitamins for me. I am guilty of feeding my own nausea at the net worth of Jeff Bezos.
This morning I had a conversation with my marketing wizard at Brazos. I expressed my consternation around integrity and the Amazon machine. She suggested one thing I could do to help with that internal struggle is to pull back the curtain for the non-writers who read me.
So this is me, pulling back the curtain.
There is no question that Amazon is the giant retailer of our day. It doesn’t get much better than same day free delivery at the push of a button. There are well-documented problems, though, within Amazon culture and practices. Despite these problems, for many the convenience can’t be beat, especially for those who, for various reasons, don’t have the time or luxury of a different choice. More and more in our house we’ve been trying to make a different choice. We’re in a position to do so but I don’t fault a single person who makes a different choice. I don’t believe wealth is a sin, although I do believe that kind of wealth is a sin, especially because Jeff Bezos could be doing something with his wealth, at least giving more than 0.7% of it away.). But that doesn’t make buying probiotics for my dog from Amazon a sin. There are a lot of layers of culpability between my $20 probiotics and 150 billion dollars in someone’s pocket.
Okay, so far I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. What I want to tell you is of my internal struggle with linking to A Curious Faith on Amazon.
I see a difference between buying the probiotics once a month and sending my readers to buy multiple copies of my book on Amazon. But it’s difficult because this monolith wants to be the only place people buy my book and so in order to get me (the author) to push you (the reader) to purchase on Amazon, they give me juicy incentives, like the “Number One New Release in this category” that you see authors gushing about on release day (I’m not knocking! I’ve shared it too! Who wouldn’t?). It feels good to feel like a best-seller for a hot minute. But it’s not really a bestseller in the truest sense of the word, it’s just usually been artificially puffed up by all the preorders that have been pushed their way the previous few months. That number one new release probably isn’t selling 2000 copies every day, it may just have pre-sold 2000 copies throughout all the days leading up to release day, meaning the money changed hands on release day but technically the book was sold two months ago. Are you with me?
This is how they get authors like me to push their links out to readers like you: The allure of the ranking. The gradual incline toward #1. The magic word: sales.
That gradual incline is also doing another thing too, though, and that’s telling all the other little independent booksellers out there, “Hey! Pay attention to this one! Hey, look at this title, making its way up the hill. People are gonna want this one, better get you some copies in stock!” This is a win for readers, writers, publishers, and booksellers. So Amazon isn’t the only one benefiting from their system. It’s hard to call them the enemy when we’re still drinking the milk they’re offering.
Okay, so just to keep us clear: Amazon has a vested interest in getting authors to link to their books on Amazon. An author can opt out of it, but it is going to affect their ranking overall, the likelihood of smaller booksellers noticing their book and therefore stocking it, and the little orange (inflated) “Number one new release in its category” that we all love to see, as well as limiting the number of reviews given as Amazon is mostly only letting certified buyers from Amazon review books. All of these things hurt authors. Most of them don’t affect readers at all.
Back to my consternation. I feel pretty ick about encouraging people to purchase from Amazon, especially when I know that:
1. They can get my book cheaper from Baker Book House (40% off Amazon’s price!).
2. They can get free shipping from BBH.
3. They will get their book sooner from BBH.
1. They can get my book from their local independent store, therefore supporting their local economy, and engaging with local people.
2. They can purchase it from Bookshop.org, supporting any independent bookstore across the US.
3. They can also just wait until after it releases and all the hubbub dies down and buy it right from Amazon anyway.
We’re all adults here. We have agency. I’m not here to tell you what to do. My heart says buy from Baker Book House or Bookshop.org or my friend Annie Jone’s bookstore, The Bookshelf. But my very real ego and wallet and future hope of publishing books says please buy through Amazon. (Also if you’ve already purchased it through Amazon, please don’t cancel your order =) That doesn’t really help either.)
But ultimately, the choice is up to you, dear readers. I honestly think most of us are just doing what we think is best and I really appreciated Erin’s encouragement to write this for you. I just think it’s best if you know what we’re up against as writers, readers, publishers, and people.
As for me, I’m working on not checking those ranking numbers and not counting on a fancy orange Number One New Release Banner on A Curious Faith’s page. I’m working on trusting the members of the launch community will follow through on writing reviews from wherever they purchased, in addition to sharing links and images throughout the month. I’m working on trusting that a slow and gradual release of a book over time is far better than a grand slam on release day.
Pros of buying ACF at Amazon:
Higher rankings for me
More independent booksellers stocking ACF
Ability to write and post a review on Amazon
Delivery of book on release day
Cons of buying ACF at Amazon:
Supporting the Amazon-model
Giving more of your hard earned cash to Bezos
Perpetuating the catch-22 authors find themselves in
Pros of buying ACF at Baker Book House:
40% off list price
Book arrival immediately (cutting out middleman)
Cons of buying ACF at Baker Book House:
No review option
No ranking option
Pros of buying ACF at [local/independent] bookstore:
Supports your local economy
Helps them know faith books are of interest
Gets you out in the community
Supports (hopefully) some best business practices
Cons of buy ACF at [local/independent] bookstore:
May take longer than other suppliers
Will pay full price
No review (for local bookstores, online a possibility)
I hope this is a helpful bit of information for you. Almost every author you read faces this predicament—especially Christian authors because often times their publishing houses don’t have the marketing budget many bigger houses have for their secular writers. Some authors don’t care if you buy at Amazon or anywhere else, for many reasons. Some do. I’m one of them. This is my attempt at walking in integrity.
. . .
Wherever you preorder A Curious Faith from, there are some fun preorder bonuses.
If you order two copies of ACF, you’ll get mailed a pack of stickers (pictured above) with questions from the book on them + digital printables + a special audio gift in advance of release day.
If you order just one copy, you’ll still get the printable + the audio gift, but the stickers will be a digital file for you to print on your own. Here’s the link to fill out the form for preorder bonuses. You have until August 1st to do so!