Thursday, March 12, 2020

At last, I'm Amazon-Free

The whole world is starting to cancel because of covid-19, and my schedule has been impacted like everyone else's. So you know what I took it upon myself to do today? Upload my last two books onto Smashwords. Why? So I can finally announce that I am DONE with Amazon.

The clincher was when a very earnest person from a non-profit fighting hunger apologized for creating a wish list for her organization that was published on Amazon. This person was only trying to make it easier for people to be able to donate shoes and other clothing to the destitute and food-insecure clients she served - one of the worthiest causes I can think of - and yet she was apologizing for being associated with a company infamous for mistreating their workers and (credibly) accused of antitrust practices.

I mean, really, how could I still justify having my books there? I couldn't, so I didn't. Several weeks ago I removed everything I had for sale there, and I had already set my Amazon Prime membership to expire. And it's funny, because now that I've liberated myself, I can more openly say, "Ugh, I hate Amazon," when someone suggests buying gift cards there or making some other purchase. "Evil" and "hatred" are the immediate replies I've heard - clearly, I'm not alone.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Putting Amazon where it belongs 

Someone is going to say that I'm full of sour grapes, and if I'd sold more successfully there, I wouldn't have wanted to leave. It's true, I was never willing to spend the increasing amounts of money that were needed to game Amazon's algorithm, because that's what it became after a while. But I can honestly say that I am glad I wasn't someone who cashed in early on the Amazon wave and then became increasingly, desperately dependent on Amazon's whims. I know people who went from being able to pay their mortgages with their book sales to needing to borrow thirty bucks before their next check came in - and that happened relatively quickly in the evolution of Amazon. But isn't that what Get Rich Quick usually ends up looking like?

I've compared the e-book wave to the mind-body fitness bubble from a decade or so before. One of the characteristics of the latter is that, if you look closely enough, you'll see that a lot of those organizations make money off of teachers in the form of trainings; there are some yoga and Pilates instructors who can pull in enough through private lessons to make a good living, but those people are far outnumbered by the people who are running from studio to studio to scrape together enough money to supplement their other gigs. Similarly, there are some superstar Amazon indies who are still making a lot of money, but the vast majority are trying to generate attention, not even sales, and are finding that they need to pay, not for teacher training, but Amazon ads if they want any traction.

(For the love of all that is good, please don't say this is why we need email lists. No, no, no. That was great advice five years ago, but since then the internet has been pretty much ruined by the constant calls for people to sign up for newsletters, and in thanks have been aggressively spammed at least once a week. If you don't have something to say once a month that's worthy of being heard - and "My life is so fascinating and/or relevant, so buy my book!" doesn't qualify - just don't.)

I feel so much better. I've had this sticky, unclean feeling for about three years, and while removing my reviews (admittedly in a fit of pique) made me feel better, I knew it wasn't enough. While I do believe that we should have the right to hold conflicting ideas about the same thing, if I'm going to be about something, I need to act accordingly. And so, finally, I have.

Deb in the City

P.S. Apologies to everyone who left me a review on Amazon that has now been deleted. I thank you again; believe me, I appreciated it more than you can know.

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