Recently I’ve been following a discussion on the Amazon forums about how to avoid indie authors. When I saw the title, I frowned, and clicked into it to begin reading. Considering the title, negativity was expected, but it was pretty harsh at times.
It’s no secret that the indie scene isn’t regarded very highly in almost any medium. There are a lot differences when you look at the independent creations of art forms such as books, movies, painting and the like. In each scenario though, there is usually a higher body that the public looks to find the latest and greatest. In books of course, that is traditional publishing.
Back to the topic at hand though, the prejudice in the thread was quite apparent. Readers don’t want to sift through low quality books, and want a way to remove them from what they see. Low quality isn’t what was said though, they want indie books removed, and to only be able to see books from major publishers.
That’s such a shame…
Yet there’s also an argument that can definitely be made. However, it’s being pursued wrong. The answer isn’t to be able to remove all indie books from search results, but to change the KDP publishing standards. I think changing it as follows would be an effective approach for readers, Amazon, and independent authors alike.
First, break the publishing into two categories. Free, or for sale. Books published in the free category would basically be published just like all books are published on Amazon right now. There would be no standards, and a special area of the Amazon eBook store dedicated to free titles. Those who are publishing something for a small group of friends or family, or authors who want to offer any of their books for free would be able to publish them there, using the current system.
The major change would come in when the publisher in question chooses to have the book for sale. At this point, you’d do everything just the same as now, only the book would not go up for sale shortly there after. Instead, it would go into a review process. At this point, people may start saying Amazon isn’t going to pay people to read books by independent authors, that there would be too much volume with everything added every day.
And that argument would be very valid.
However, there is a solution that could benefit all parties. Thanks to digital downloads, it’s no longer a hassle to create and send entertainment. No physical copies required, just a few mouse clicks and you have it. This is the point that should be uniting Amazon, readers, and independent authors. The review process would involve sending free copies of eBooks to well established reviewers and bloggers, or other beta readers. They check them out for quality, both in terms of story and proofreading. Each book is sent to more than one reviewer, and their reviews are gauged. Should the quality meet certain standards, in each area of criteria, not an overall score, then the book is then published for sale on Amazon.
There may be some questions for readers at this point, such as why eBooks specifically, and how can Amazon trust the word of reviewers and bloggers on what to publish. How would it be set up, maintained, etc.. Those are all valid questions that would have to be addressed with the parties in question.
What I can say though is this. Amazon would lose nothing in providing free copies of the eBooks to reviewers. What they would stand to gain is a slough of material that would be easier to convince customers to buy. The current mentality with independent publishing seems to be make a handful of money from each, and do that with every author who publishes. Wouldn’t it be much more effective though to have quality products people didn’t have to question as much before purchasing? Some people say Amazon is making money off the deal, so they don’t care. If that’s true, they should care. They may technically be gaining money with the current system, but they are losing a lot of money that could be being made. The market for independent books is damaged, and damaged markets don’t sell well.
This situation would help remedy that. By having Amazon partner with these reviewers, in exchange for money if they are willing or for other benefits such as exposure as an official Amazon partner, free books, or however it is worked out, the independent publishing world would see a boost.
Digital downloads are a great money maker, and offer the convenience of being sent to anyone Amazon wishes at no cost to them. This would encourage authors to expand into the eBook market if they currently only publish in print. eBooks are a growing trend, and Amazon recognizes that. The more digital downloads they have available, the more money they make without anything stored, packaged, and shipped.
There have been many beneficial reasons for Amazon to do this presented, but what about the indie author? What does he get out of it? What he gets is less anonymity, and a seal of approval. Those are two of the biggest hurdles for any independent author. Readers have been burned by a lot of sub-par works, stories that didn’t even seem to be spell-checked or read through after being written. Every independent author has to struggle with overcoming those two road blocks. If your books were available with those two stigmas lessened, sales would be much more likely. More sales means more recognition, and more recognition means more readers. Amazon would then be able to promote indie works, leading to more sales for them, and authors alike.
At this point, I want to point out how exactly I would envision the review process working. The books would be graded, as mentioned, on different categories. A certain score in each category would be required, which would be determined after compiling the results of each reviewers scores and notes. It wouldn’t be based on “did you like the story or not” but the quality of the writing, frequency and degree of errors, etc..
I’m not saying doing all this would be easy. Change rarely is. It’s possible things will continue on as they are, but the market could end up irreparably damaged. Amazon, and probably many other businesses that offer independent publishing services, should consider how they want to approach their publishing game.
I’m Benjamin C. Andrews, an author sharing my writing knowledge with others. Visit http://magicjarpublishing.blogspot.com/ for more writing tips and tricks, and other quality information.