Did we make the right decision to quit selling through Amazon?

Over a year ago, my writing partner and I decided to pull our books from Amazon. We had various reasons, but the sticking point for me was always how they acted as a company.

Of course, they are in service to their shareholders and that many people have benefitted from them. As well, not every person or team within the company is a heartless automaton. However, I've never felt ethically comfortable supporting them.

However, as COVID-19 dragged out, I second-guessed my decision a lot.

The pandemic took a real bite out of our sales. Our best success always came from in-person events, and with those gone, so did the money we were earning. Then recently, a fellow writer showed me what he had made on Amazon throughout the pandemic, and my ethics started to sway. Sure, he'd worked his ass off and promoted the hell out of things, but his earnings were high while our numbers were nearly flat.

I started reconsidering things—but when Amazon showed up in the news again for negative reasons, that uneasy feeling of using their platform returned.

Then this week, Andy Hunter, the founder and CEO of bookshop.org, released an open letter that resonated with me:

Amazon is algorithm driven; the books promoted by Amazon are the ones that are already selling well. That makes it very difficult for new authors to build audiences. It keeps lesser known, unconventional books from reaching the readers who would appreciate them. It narrows our national conversation down to a very fine point, and sands the edges off of human ideas and creativity. It excludes marginalized voices.

Hunter continues:

Authors and publishers need to worry. Once Amazon dominates 80% of the book market, who are authors working for? Authors will effectively be producing content for Amazon to sell on commission, and Amazon will have control over the terms. Everything we’ve seen from Amazon indicates that when they have leverage, they use it to squeeze the most profit for themselves at the expense of their partners.

I think this is why I keep pursuing a different path, one that doesn't rely on Amazon or other platforms that aren't in the best interest of writers, no matter what they seem to offer.

So did I make the right decision?

I think so, but I'm still trying to prove it to myself.

Over the past year, I've struggled a lot to understand what I want to do if I don't take that path and how to get there. I've taken many missteps, but things finally seem to be making sense—partially because of seeing how others have used Amazon successfully.  I've started to define the path I need to take, and all that's left is to do the work to get there.