Publishing & Technology: The Sixth Sign of the Amazocalypse
Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS
This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about about Amazon’s announcement of their new payment plan for authors. Well actually, it’s not for all authors. In fact it’s not even for all independent authors. In fact it’s only for a small segment of independent authors publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. But, if you didn’t notice, social media lit up like the announcement was the sixth sign of the coming Apocalypse (if you can judge by my feeds, anyway). Much of this has to do with irresponsible reporting. Half of the news sources I looked at prior to writing this post announced the story with a baiting vagueness that made it seem like Amazon was simultaneously devaluing the written word and sucker punching all writers in the gut. If you’d like to read the actual announcement from Amazon click here.
While I have no desire to wade back into the quagmire of discussing cultural agency and digital self publishing on this blog, I do find it slightly humorous that the folks making the biggest fuss about the announcement (in my feeds, anyway) are my traditionally-published author friends and my small-bookstore-owner friends, while the voices of reason that I read in such places as this Fortune article, arguing for the rightness and fairness of paying authors by words read where the same independent author apologists that seem to come to Amazon’s defense every time the giant gets caught up in a little controversy. Regardless of whether or not Amazon’s switch to paying some authors in a small segment of their self-publishing business by words read is a good thing for culture, business, and authors remains to be see, I like many of the predictions put forth by the one camp and fear many of the ones put forth by the other.
But what’s most interesting to me, as someone who’s lived through a couple of corporate takeovers in other industries, is whether or not this is the first sign of Amazon turning on the independent authors it’s worked so hard to brand apart from traditional publishing. Successful corporations have to maximize margins in every segment of the value chain, including production.