I apologize for the lateness of this post. Mea culpa.
I woke up this morning looking forward to the Barfly range trip, only to realize that I don’t get that opportunity this year. Let me ‘splain. You see, Mrs. Dave, Wee Dave (the aforementioned Working Title has received a timely and well-deserved promotion, all names and … names have been changed to protect the innocent) and I spent yesterday driving from the boggy depths of deepest southern [REDACTED] where we currently call home, to the site of LibertyCon27. We’ve never traveled with a newborn before, so the severalmany hour drive was … longer than I expected. Also, I spent the day reading Kate’s novel, ConVent, aloud, to keep Mrs. Dave from sending us all flying off the road in a ball of flaming wreckage. She likes me to read because I do the voices. Wee Dave spent most of the day sleeping. Still, we stopped far more often than I liked, as the Young Master required sustenance and the enforced exchange of certain items of his wardrobe. From time to time. And when we arrived in Chattanooga, at a time normally reserved for more relaxed activities, there was the unpacking, the feeding and diapering of newborn, and finally, the introducing of (adopted) Grandsquirm to Sarah and Dan. Which went well. He hardly screamed at all (and Wee Dave was fine, too. *rimshot*).
Before that, my parents spent a week with us, and –
Look, long story short: I woke up this morning and felt a nagging itch in the back of my head, and then remembered that I do a thing here every once in a while. So I’m doing a thing.
This is going to be brief, as I just don’t have much brain power right now.
Amazon (Kobo, Apple, etc.) don’t offer royalties, as such. We as writers often refer to them as such, but that’s a tradpub term, and not accurate to how the new world of publishing actually works. Indies, self-publishers, author-publishers, hybrid writers,
part-time adventurers don’t license to Amazon the rights to their intellectual properties. Amazon is a distributor, and it (and the rest of the yahoos) give us access to their distribution network in exchange for a cut of our sales. We have a much simpler business relationship than that of a writer and a traditional publisher.
What does that mean? We’re thinking this whole thing wrong, and it’s affecting our judgement, especially when it comes to something like Amazon renegotiating with Hatchette, and the other renegotiations that are going to happen in the nearish future. Authors are getting tripped up thinking that Amazon is solely a publisher. It does publish original works under its imprints, but that’s not what anybody seems to be thinking about.
Look at it this way: you have a widget you’ve invented. It’s shiny; it’s awesome. You’re pretty sure everybody’s going to love it. Problem being, you have no way to tell anybody about. You’ve spent your fortune developing the widget, and you live on an island in the middle of the ocean and phone calls are expensive. You met a guy a while back who expressed interest in your widget, but he wants you to
givesell him the rights to produce the widget. And incidentally, he swears he’ll promote the hell out of your shiny widget, and also make it SHINIER! You don’t really need that; you’ve got production facilities going (your island happens to house the last robotic fabrication facility from the lost Mu Empire) but you just don’t have a way to distribute the crates and crates of beautiful widgets to the downtrodden masses whose lives are poorer for lack of your widget.
Then you get a visitor.
She – because strong, female characters are important, I’m told – offers to sell your widgets, under your name, at her enormous network of widget emporia. And not to reverse-engineer them, and cut you out of the market, as she sells widgets, and has no interest in getting into widget production, because taxes. All it’ll cost is roughly a third the retail price of each widget sold.
The other guy offered you a month’s salary or so paid over a year, and maybe about 12% retail of each widget, if anybody’s interested. Oh, and you have to give him the opportunity to buy any more widgets you invent. And you can never sell your widget through anybody else. Oh, and he doesn’t actually have any storefronts. He has relationships with other people, who will also take a cut from the sales of your widget (which is not the same thing as “your widget sales”).
Which deal do you take?
The one that gives up control of your widget, or the one that offers you a distribution network in exchange for a cut of the profits?
Amazon doesn’t pay me royalties on Baptism By Fire. I own the copyright. Amazon sells copies of my book, and then forwards the profits – less their cut – to my bank account. We have a business relationship, and if they stop being willing to do business with me the way I want, I’ll go somewhere else. Like any other businessman.