Over a month ago, Angie and I pulled our books off the Amazon store. If you look, there are only a few copies available from some resellers. All the paperbacks and ebooks listed by our publisher are gone.
It may be the most foolish thing we’ve ever decided, but I thought I’d share why we took this step.
1. We were never great at it.
Many people have heard the stories. Some writer self-publishes their novel through the website and strikes success. They used tools that Amazon offers and leveraged it to Money Town.
We were not those writers. Even at the end, we never figured it out.
Many writers will release enough work that one book leads into the next, to catch the algorithm wave before the previous success dissipates. Yet, we never wrote enough to gain this momentum.
Even the simple use of keywords seemed to elude us. It was almost impossible to find our novels on the site, even when you typed in our names.
Promotions and discounts through Amazon or Twitter never seemed to work. No one cared. Even when we gave our books away for free, no one seemed interested.
2. We weren’t making money
Since not a lot of people were buying our mysteries on Amazon, we had very little money coming in through sales. Even when we sold books, we didn’t make a lot for two factors:
Amazon takes a cut
The percentage an author receives depends on how much of a commitment they give to Amazon. If they are entirely exclusive for 90 days, they're offered a more significant sales percentage and receive services like Kindle Unlimited.
However, since Angie and I are listed on other services like Apple and Kobo, we couldn’t receive these features, reducing the amount we made.
I want to add that I’m not blaming Amazon for any of this. Their business has built a very massive audience, and they're allowed to profit from it. But it affected our decision.
Other authors keep the margins low
An additional challenge was that other authors would drive the price of books down. Each one is trying to entice readers to buy and read their novels, leading to low pricing and free giveaways.
For authors with many books, this works. They don’t need success from a single title but generate an income across multiple products (preferably twenty or more), which leads to financial prosperity.
Unfortunately, our three titles weren’t earning enough to make this sustainable.
It was these two factors that didn’t offer us enough financial incentive to stay with them. But a little is better than nothing, and we might have stayed if our feelings hadn't got in the way.
3. Coronavirus, Jeff Bezos, and the news
This reason was the tipping point for me.
When the pandemic first hit, there was a lot of news coming out about Amazon workers at risk. And there was a lot of concern about safety conditions and the need to close facilities for better cleaning.
But then amidst all this, there was a report talking about how Jeff Bezos was projected to reach a trillion (!) dollar income by 2026 and it just seemed too much. I didn’t feel right morally working with the company and asked Angie if she wanted to pull our writing.
During that discussion, we realized something else rather important.
4. We were doing okay without them
Now, I am not saying we’re living the big money author life. We aren’t. (P.S.: Buy our books.)
But we aren’t suffering either.
Our books sell well at markets, signings, and events. We have them in stores across the country, including the leading national chain (Indigo) plus a lot of smaller stores. We’ve been nominated and won awards on an international level. And we have a wonderful group of readers that support us.
Also, I’m proud of the quality of our books. We work with a local hybrid publisher, Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, who helps us edit, design, and market our novels, and we use Friesens for our printer, and they do fantastic work. I love the look and feel of the finished product, and I will take it over an on-demand printed copy any day.
So with those four reasons, where does that leave us?
Life after Amazon
It is too early to tell if pulling our books off Amazon’s digital shelves was the right choice. One-on-one markets have always driven our sales, and the pandemic has genuinely screwed things up. Our province is only now getting back to business. Until we can get an accurate read of our numbers, we are waiting to find out.
Everyone has to find what work best for them. Although Amazon didn’t feel right for Angie and me, it is an enormous opportunity where many people have had marvellous success. (I also know many authors who’ve never found the fortune we’ve had with one-on-one sales.)
I also don’t believe you should invest only in a single channel. Relying on one company to be your sole source of income puts you at risk. Their policies or services may change, or they might suddenly shutdown (not that I think Amazon ever will), putting your entire business in jeopardy. If anything, I will always tell a person to try out multiple services and focus on those that work.
I also think you need to focus your energies in the areas that serve your business. For us, Amazon seemed more of a time-suck than a money-maker. Add to that, it created some moral conundrum within me, and we knew it was time to take a break.
I also appreciate the independence and personal touch working with local companies. One of our best choices was when we focused less on international sales and more on our own province and country.
But even if we change our mind (and we're allowed to do that), you'll always find us and our books over at couniosandgane.com.