I’m giving you four stars, amazon. You lose that elusive fifth one because of your absolute resistance to removing malicious or inaccurate customer reviews, such as the one that appeared in amazon UK on my bullying book for children which called victims ‘pansies’ and said they should get in with the cool kids by smoking and doing whatever it takes.
Or the one you’re currently refusing to take down on the same book in amazon US, which slanders me as an authority on bullying by stating that I advise bullied children to hit back.
But notwithstanding such a serious shortcoming, here’s why this author still thinks you deserve four stars.
* You make all my books readily available
High Street booksellers are great at selling children’s fiction, but before you arrived, I wrote eight fantastically well-reviewed children’s self-help books which proved impossible for them to sell. If they stocked them, they didn’t know where to display them.
There wasn’t such a thing in the UK as a children’s self-help section, indeed in most shops, there wasn’t much children’s non-fiction at all, except school-type books and a handful of tired-looking hard-backs about animals.
Thanks to you, most of my self-help books are still in print and selling well, and they’re finding their way into the hands of children who need them, which is why I wrote them.
* You keep my out-of-print books available too
This is even more important nowadays because the modern publishing world can be brutal, with books going out of print within a few months if they fail to reach their projected sales.
It’s hard to write a book. Not just in terms of work, but in terms of emotional commitment. So it’s simply heart-breaking if the book you’ve taken years to write and months to sell, and then waited eighteen months to see in print, disappears without trace before it’s even had a proper chance, to make way for ever more celebrity memoirs and novelty books.
* You make it possible for me to write what I want to write
When I was first published, authors were barely aware of ‘the market’ at all. Now the decision to publish is made by marketing people who will not even have read the book, so there’s not much point writing anything that hasn’t got a strong ‘hook’ and pound signs all around it.
But what if you want to write the books you want to write, and would be happy with moderate sales so long as you could pay your bills? My most frequent feedback from publishers recently is that the book is ‘too niche for the market’ or ‘too niche to achieve bulk sales.’
This is especially hard when they’re really positive about the quality of the book, like with my most recent submission, which has so far not secured a contract: ‘this is a very fine novel, so subtle, yet sharply observed’, ‘a sensitive subject, delicately and carefully handled’, ‘compelling’, ‘highly readable’, ‘the writing is very strong.’
I would be in despair at this stage if it wasn’t for your kindle and createspace, amazon, which mean that even the most ‘niche’ book can at least find some readers, rather than ending up a typescript on a shelf.
* You make it easy for me to find any niche or out-of-print book I want to read for research
I used to rely on the library service years ago. My little local branch sought out all sorts of obscure books on dreaming and psychology for me, but it took a long time and wasn’t always successful. Now, thanks to you, I can get any book I want, delivered to my house the very next day.
I still love High Street booksellers, of course – all authors do. High Street booksellers love and know about books – they are people like us. Whereas you, amazon, love and know about money. I deplore the fact that you don’t pay your fair share of taxes; I’m dismayed by your recently well-publicised poor working conditions.
I hate your attempts to force publishers to accept deep discounting by removing their books from your catalogue, although I don’t think it’s much different from what all the major retailers do.
But I personally forgive you all this, because in a traditional publishing environment that has become increasingly difficult for a non-fiction, non-bestselling, niche author to survive in, you make a creative career feel possible.
How do you feel about amazon and the huge online booksellers? Love, hate… or a bit of both?