OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I watched it a few days later, and as well as being highly impressed, it's also put some things in perspective for me as an indie author.
As this site is now focusing more on the creative entrepreneur, I want to share my thoughts. Even if you have issues with Amazon, you can learn from this amazing business.
Watch the video first
You should be able to see it below or watch here on YouTube
Customer service is everything … and so it should be
I'm a loyal Amazon customer for most of my online shopping because they have never disappointed me.
My bank has lost my cheques, the Post Office has failed to deliver important items, my high street stores don't have what I'm looking for, but Amazon delivers fast and on time. I'm also a Kindle junkie, and most of my entertainment income goes on books.
I still shop for physical books at Waterstones, Foyles and independent bookstores, but 99% of my own reading for pleasure is through Amazon. I also use AWS, the banks of cloud servers, to run my podcast and courses, the pricing is amazing for a small business and there's never been a reliability or technical issue. I am a very happy customer, and to see behind the scenes of the company is amazing.
I publish through Amazon KDP and Createspace and that has changed my life.
No matter how much complaining we do, it's got to be said that Amazon have changed the lives of thousands of authors, and enabled me, and many others, to quit their jobs to do this full-time.
People will always attack Amazon, but as Bezos says,
“The internet is disrupting every industry … the future is happening to bookselling.”
Amazon love pleasing readers, they want to make readers happy and they will keep coming up with innovations to improve that. I want to please readers and make them happy, so I am thrilled to have Amazon as a partner who cares first about the customer.
NY Times bestselling author CJ Lyons often quotes Jeffrey Deaver as saying, “The reader is God.” For Amazon, the customer is God. As authors, we should also keep this in mind.
Yes, we write for ourselves, but we publish for readers. Focusing on a quality product by using pro editors and designers will always be of primary importance.
Look to the long term and a return on investment in 5, 6 or 7 years
Amazon sells devices at break-even in order to make money from content. The company barely makes a profit, but Bezos talks about the long term view for shareholders being served by the immediate focus of customer satisfaction.
The most successful authors in the business, like Stephen King, have been doing this for many years. Writing and growing a readership is a long-term game. When I speak on marketing these days, I always start with asking people what their goal is. Because if you're not in this for the long-term, then writing is just a hobby. Which is valid, and marvelous, and writing for the sake of writing is brilliant. But if you're serious about this as a career, it's going to take a lot of years of effort.
As my role models, I look to people like Bob Mayer, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, David Morrell and Steven Pressfield as veterans who have lived this long-term journey and stayed the path.
Does it matter that it takes a long time? No, because the work is its own reward. [Now go read ‘Do The Work' by Steven Pressfield]
Amazon will be disrupted one day.
It's inevitable, so says Bezos. He hopes it happens after he dies, although he acknowledges that it may be sooner. I'm 38, so this is likely to happen in my lifetime – and probably yours.
I've talked before about not building your business on anyone else's platform, because they can take it away from you anytime. The same can happen with Amazon. I don't think it will be next year, or 2024, but what about 2034? I'll be in my 50s, still writing like a crazy person (maybe through some kind of brainwave device, who knows …)
How can we future-proof so our business is not decimated if/when Amazon is disrupted?
- Don't be exclusive, or at least have a mixed approach. I publish on Amazon and Kobo currently. I would use the other services if they allowed pricing by more currencies, but the problems with GBP price matching through Smashwords/BookBaby/Draft2Digital drive me crazy. They make even less sense as we move into economies like India where a USD pricing basis just isn't practical. If you're not so price sensitive in other markets, then you might also consider the other retailers, and hopefully this is something that will change in 2014 as the global, digital market expands.
- Consider selling directly from your own website. Suw Charman-Anderson's article on direct sales covers an exclusively independent route, but I recommend doing it in tandem with Amazon, Kobo and other sites. I just heard about Payhip from author Matt Wallace, who talks about it in this great Medium article on self-publishing. I'm definitely trying this in 2014.
- Build your own email list from your own website. I know you're probably sick of me mentioning this, but seriously, so many authors don't do this stuff! Here's how to get your email list sorted, so that if all else fails, you will be able to sell books to your existing fanbase.
OK, over to you. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
[But please remember, this blog has a positive spin and is all about lessons learned and how we can move forward. It is not about complaining, moaning or negativity. If you have a specific problem with Amazon, please also include what you're doing to mitigate that issue as an author in this market.]