Self-Published Authors: What If There Was No Amazon?
What If Amazon Went Bust?
Thousands upon thousands (millions?) of authors, including me, have put their faith in Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which encompasses the former Createspace. In my opinion, KDP is the most powerful, flexible, and cost-effective self-publishing option. I’ve published all my books, eBooks, and now audiobooks (on Amazon’s ACX) through them.
But here’s a scary thought. What if Amazon went away? Is it possible? Unlikely for the foreseeable future. But in the very long term? Well, anything is possible I guess. We only have to look at retail giant Sears. They were the Amazon of their day, providing paradigm-shifting distribution that killed off smaller localized rivals. Now, over a century later, Sears is teetering on the brink of extinction if they can’t successfully be resurrected and evolve for the future.
While it is unlikely that Amazon will be leaving the retail or publishing landscape anytime soon, it doesn’t hurt to think about the possibility.
What if Amazon went away? I discuss in this video.
What Could Self-Published Authors Do to Protect Their Book Investments?
The good news for authors is that when you self-publish on KDP, it is a non-exclusive arrangement, meaning that you can publish it elsewhere if you wish. But while your books are published with KDP, the current caveats are that:
- If you decide to enroll your eBook titles in KDP Select, you will need to offer them exclusively on Amazon to take advantage of the KDP Select benefits.
- You cannot offer or sell your book elsewhere for less than you do on Amazon.
Should the bleak day come when Amazon isn’t what it is today, you can move the publication and distribution of your book someplace else. If you have used Amazon-issued ISBN numbers for your print books or audiobooks, you could secure and pay for new ISBN numbers that you will manage going forward, or transfer your titles to another self-publishing company that offers free ISBN numbers for their authors.
Note, since KDP issues an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) for Kindle eBooks, there wouldn’t be a similar ISBN issue. You could purchase ISBN numbers for your displaced eBooks, too.
This thought exercise shouldn’t just be done for titles that you publish through KDP. You should be thinking about this when you sign on with any self-publishing platform. In fact, it’s even more important for non-Amazon options!
Non-Amazon self-publishing companies can easily come and go, leaving you in a bind if they go out of business. So look for companies that also have a good reputation, a non-exclusive arrangement, and that won't retain any rights to your copyrighted books!
What About Bookstores? Would They Come Back?
One of the things I see in author communities is an obsession with getting self-published books sold in a bookstore... a brick-and-mortar bookstore, even in today’s Amazon and online-centred universe. I always wonder if they’re hoping that bookstores will experience a massive revival, and that Amazon and online bookselling will go away. This is not an “Amazon going away” future we’re talking about here.
Yes, I remember the days of blissfully spending an afternoon hanging out in a bookstore, sampling the books shelved there. It was a fun thing my husband and I did for years until Kindle came along. A bookstore is just no longer relevant. I could get what I got at the bookstore in a more convenient form, with a wider selection than ever before. Even if I want a print book, I can order it from Amazon and they’ll ship it from their warehouse, or print it on demand and ship it to me.
I’m not going back to being a bookstore customer. My customers aren’t either. So I am not concerned in the least that my self-published books are not on the shelves of bookstores, and you shouldn't be either. I'm also not thinking that bookstores will ever go back to being the place to buy books in the future. We're living in a virtual, digital world.
How Would You Distribute and Sell Your Books in a Non-Amazon Future?
This is the other big issue when a major retailing platform disappears. How would you sell your book? True, you might still sell online. But that would mean you would have to sell direct to customers through your website, find another retail program, or find another self-publishing platform with print on demand and digital distribution.
Selling direct to customers is a huge investment. You need to have an e-commerce capable website. You’ll need to purchase inventory. You’ll need to handle order fulfillment, sales taxes, and shipping. It is a major undertaking and should be a last resort.
The next option would be to use another retail or bookselling program that would handle order fulfillment for you, both print and digital. As with selling direct, you’d have to provide inventory for them to sell. You would share revenues with them, but it would be worth it to avoid the order fulfillment headaches.
It would be ideal if there was a self-publishing platform, similar to KDP, available that would handle your publishing needs, as well as order fulfillment and payment processing.
But with any of these options in a non-Amazon future, you would need to figure out how to advertise your books to make potential readers aware of them. There would be no go-to source for books as we now have with Amazon.
Future-Proofing Your Books
The good news is that it is very unlikely that we’ll be seeing Amazon go away anytime soon. But it doesn’t hurt to think about what you would do. We also have to remember that there may be ways to buy and consume book-like content in the future that we can’t even imagine now, from companies that are yet to be started.
This is why I suggest that authors keep tabs on trends in both retailing and consumer level technology use. See something about a hot new device or information tech? Think about how you would transform what you write to be consumed using it. Maybe even think about new content that you would create specifically for it.
The key to remaining a relevant and earning author now and in the future is having market awareness and flexibility.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2019 Heidi Thorne