Friday, March 29, 2013

Odds and Ends

Spent some time this morning over at Goodreads, reading the reactions of their users to Amazon’s acquisition. The ten or so pages of comments I read broke down mostly 50/50, with many users of non-Kindle devices fearing they’ll be left out in the cold (they will, of course.) Many Kindle users are excited about more Goodreads - Amazon integration, however many reviewers don’t want their reviews cross-posted to Amazon, as apparently Amazon claims copyright to reviews posted to their site, and Goodreads does not.

I'll admit that in an effort to "raise my profile!" (read, sell more books) I joined Goodreads a while back and did my best to navigate my way around. I also began writing reviews and posting them both to this blog and over there. But, because I'm The Worst Social Networker in the World™ I got very little traction over there, and when Publisher's Weekly trashed me and "Applewood," my appetite for writing reviews on other people's work waned completely, because really, who the hell am I to judge?

I do remember joking here that I hadn't made any friends over there, and not long after seeing two of my sisters and a niece had joined Goodreads just to be my friend. Now, that was cool and I appreciated it, but it just showed me how silly the effort was. Finally, Goodreads became a spam machine, flooding my e-mail in-box with junk that I didn't know how to turn off, and I deleted my profile entirely. So much for THAT avenue of "getting my name out there!"

But back to Amazon's acquisition; I made oblique reference in my last post to what Amazon has been doing to folks like me, who choose not to participate in their “KDP Select” program. For the uninitiated, what KDP Select requires the independent author to do is to enroll their books exclusively at Amazon for 90 days. Within those 90 days, you are granted 5 days to offer your book for free. Your books are also available for “borrows” from Amazon Prime members for free. In return, Amazon will pay you a few bucks per borrow, which varies depending how much money Amazon puts into "the pool" for that quarter.

Of course, the end result is an army of independent authors who can’t wait to give their books away in the hope that they’ll get “exposure!” and be “noticed!” (I can’t help but recall Harlan Ellison’s eloquent diatribe against any author who gives away his work for free.)

So, since about last March, when KDP Select got off the ground, there have been somewhere between 30,000 or 40,000 (or more) books available for free at Amazon every day. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it is around that time frame when my sales at Amazon came to an almost literal halt, as users populate their Kindle with free book after free book, perhaps having a year or more's worth of reading available.

There are also some who believe that Amazon has changed their algorithms, making it more difficult to find non-KDP Select authors. Given my own fall off a cliff, you can put me in that camp too.

(I also love the fact they call it “Select,” as if these books are distinguished somehow or Amazon has “selected” them based on their quality or their writing, when in fact, it has nothing to do with that. P.T. Barnum would be proud.)

Of course, it is all in an effort for Amazon to increase their monopoly power, putting the nook and Sony and other e-readers out of business. Indeed, it was reported last Christmas that Amazon actually loses money on every Kindle sold. In an alternate universe, when a company does such a thing in an effort to put rivals out of business, something would be done about it. Alas, not in this one.

At any rate, I can’t imagine the Goodreads acquisition will be good for anyone but Amazon. Odd too Amazon would acquire a site primarily known for reviews, because lately, Amazon has been deleting reviews left and right for no apparent reason. In fact, they deleted the very first review I ever received on any of my books, on “Sumner Gardens.” The review was by someone I did not know, but she only gave it three stars, so good riddance I say!

/rant off. Let’s end with Harlan, shall we?

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