Friday, November 13, 2015

Surfing the waves of change

It's a dog. On a surfboard. That's pretty epic.
photo by Mike Baird, used under cc license w/attribution

I've been at this writing thing for 11 years now. The publishing thing for about half that time. And what I've learned in these years is that flexibility is the key to survival. If you live by the shore, you know that waves are going to come and keep coming. It doesn't matter what you do, the tide will roll in and roll out.

When I created my imprint Interrobang Books and took my first tentative steps into the world as an author-publisher, it was a matter of philosophy and my strong belief that I would make my work available on all platforms so that readers anywhere could have access to it. And that meant keeping out of any exclusive relationship with Amazon.

I believe monopolies are dangerous. They become mechanism of control. In nature, monoculture destroys diversity and negatively impacts long term survival. So, too, in our created structures.

And here I am, contemplating a huge shift to how I make my creative work available and agonizing over it.

From a purely business decision, keeping my books available for sale on markets other than Amazon (BN, Kobo, Google Play, smashwords, etc) makes it harder for me to survive as a writer. And as Amazon has instituted changes in its infrastructure to offer reading subscriptions, for example, the business choice become more and more obvious.

If the other platforms did any of the kind of work that Amazon does to get work in the hands of readers, I would not even be considering this shift. But more than 90% of my writing income comes via Amazon. Furthermore, by not enrolling in their exclusive plan (KDP Select), I am locked out of participating in their subscription program which pays authors when readers read their work.

In order for me to continue to create work, I need to be able to make that work financially viable, and without Amazon, that doesn't happen.

So, after a tremendous amount of thought and discussion with fellow writers and my readers, I have chosen to opt in to KDP select for a 90 day timeframe, beginning on December 1. That will give me enough time to pull the work from the other venues so that I will remain in compliance with Amazon's rules.

However, I will continue to launch new work on wide distribution, keeping it non-exclusive for the first 6 months. And I will assess the outcome before deciding to continue or opt out at the 90 day mark. Furthermore, since I do NOT employ DRM (digital rights management) in my books, users will always be free to convert it to whatever format they require. And if they are not comfortable doing so, can contact me directly for the appropriate file.

Operationally, that means that for the next few months, all my books except the newest will only be available as an eBook on Amazon. Only ITHAKA RISING and the anthology I co-edited (PEN-ULTIMATE) will be available across all platforms and sales venues. You will always be able to find a listing of all my work in print on my website: http://www.ljcohen.net

I do understand that not everyone is a fan of Amazon's universe. This is not a decision I have come to lightly. If (and perhaps when) other retailers step up and offer writers the same kind of access to audience that Amazon has, then I will reassess. In the meanwhile, I hope to continue to connect with my readers across social media and through my newsletter (both because I love to connect and because it's the only way to build a self-sustaining audience independent of any one retailer). One thing will never change, no matter how the weather and the surf conditions do: I am committed to writing and releasing the books readers have come to enjoy and share.

I welcome your comments and thoughts.

#SFWApro



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2 comments:

  1. Please share your thoughts with your other e-retail venues, so they know why you are leaving, and what they can do to retain authors, buyers, and readership.

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    Replies
    1. At least one retailer (Kobo) has a form that asks why one is removing books from their catalog. One of the possible responses is 'moving temporarily into KDP select.'

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