E-Format Reconsidered

I posted a few days ago that I will be publishing to Amazon seven of the stories that will be in my next print collection Transmutations of Fire and Void. This act represents a change in a principle I decided upon late in 2014, namely that I no longer wished to participate in the Amazon ebook marketplace, nor any other ebook marketplace.

As to my reasons, I could not perceive that Amazon (or any other online retailer) was helping me connect with discerning, intelligent readers. To date, the only way I have achieved that is directly–by establishing direct, person-to-person communication. This has happened across a variety of media, both online and offline: I have met people on social media; I have met people at conventions; and I have met people at the writing groups I run. But if any of the people who discovered my books through Amazon were of this quality, I have yet to hear about it. They certainly didn't email me when I pulled all my ebooks from Amazon early in 2015, and they didn't post reviews, either. To be clear, I did get a number of Amazon reviews from the aforementioned awesome individuals I met through other channels, but Amazon failed to generate me a single reader through their own platform.

I attribute this situation largely to my choice not to participate in KDP Select, a program whereby in exchange for marketplace exclusivity, Amazon allows the author-publisher to access various attention-getting mechanisms for their titles, from paid advertising to allowing the setting of a price below $0.99 USD (albeit still constrained). What upset me was the discovery that opting out of KDP Select did not merely seal off access to these marketing features, but also caused Amazon to hide my books.

My motivations were noble. I wanted readers who owned any of the available ebook devices to have access to my books. I targeted six platforms in total: Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iTunes, Kobo, Google Play, and Smashwords. Sales on Amazon eked in at a slow trickle, and the other five platforms might as well have been non-existent.

Fed up and seeing no point in any of it, I pulled my books from all of these storefronts and decided to focus on print, especially since it's a medium that allows me to fully expresses my vision in terms of presentation. Electronic books are more of a hollow simulacrum, as I have zero control over font, margins, spacing, and a bevy of other stylistic toggles and levers available in print. To add insult to injury, eBooks are a time-consuming pain to build properly. I create my eBook files from scratch with the help of an application called Sigil. I refuse to convert Microsoft Word documents.

So, what has changed?

I've decided I am willing to agree to Amazon's terms for KDP Select long enough to see if there exists a readership for my work on the platform, which I now understand to be only accessible through KDP Select. If the answer turns out to be "no," I can discontinue and pull my work in three months, in which case I'm no worse off than I was before. And I no longer care about cutting out the other vendors, since they were even worse than Amazon at driving the right (or any) eyeballs to my books.

So, here I go. The seven stories going up this January are some of my best work yet. I'm immensely proud of them. Here's to hoping that second time's charm. You can find my Amazon author page here.