My name is Steven Konkoly—

And I have Amazon Infatuation Syndrome.

It started nearly four years ago, when I decided to forego sending query letters to agents, after reading Joe Konrath’s blog from top to bottom.

I independently uploaded my first novel to Amazon’s various retail platforms and sold 5,000 copies (with minimal marketing) within 6 months. I quickly decided that self-publishing through Amazon presented a viable path to becoming a full-time writer. I published my second book (in a completely different genre) one year after my Amazon debut, selling 8,000 copies in six months. A new book followed every six month—all while I worked a lucrative day job and dreamed about the day I would resign to pursue full-time writing. Each book brought me closer, until I finally developed enough sales and readership velocity to escape the gravity of an easy, six figure salary job. Amazon didn’t write my books, but they played a more than nominal role in my quiet success. For that, I’m a little infatuated with Amazon.

Nate Hoelfelder at The Digital Reader thinks I’m deluded because I’m happy with Amazon. Read his article. His blog post is the latest reaction to the ongoing corporate negotiation battle between Amazon and Hachette Publishing. In essence, he says that corporations only care about the bottom line and cannot be your friend. Friend? How about business partner? How about EXCELLENT business partner? Then, he goes on to say that Amazon’s words are meaningless, because they are a corporation spewing PR desperation that should be taken for face value.

I understand the concept of “acta non verba,” which is why I judge my friends and business partners by their actions more than their words.

Here’s a run down of the actions Amazon has taken to earn my trust and friendship.

They promptly (every month) and transparently  pay 70% royalties on my titles. I can see my sales figures and calculated royalties through an always-accessible, near real-time sales report system).

They allow me to control pricing, so I can optimize product performance based on market conditions. They also provide me with real-time analytics to decide the best price point. 

They don’t require onerous contracts or knee-capping non-compete clauses. I can terminate my contract at any time. The most “draconian” non-compete measure implemented by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program requires 90 days of exclusivity, in exchange for enhanced marketing tools. Kindle exclusivity has netted me over $35,000 since its inception in late 2012. I’m feeling dewy-eyed.

I retain the necessary rights to expand in all media, like audiobooks, foreign sales, movie/TV rights. I earn a significant portion of my income from these media, and plan to expand my presence further.

Friendly and responsive customer service across all platforms. They’ve quickly resolved every issue I’ve brought to their attention

They’ve provided marketing opportunities that have allowed me to grow readership drastically.

They market my book every second of every day through customer emails, matching preferences on related books’ sales pages, and search algorithms. I didn’t sell 5,000 copies of my first book in six months through any genius marketing plan of my own.

I’ve sold 55,000 books over the past 12 months, all through Amazon.

They’re nice! I’ve personally met everyone directly involved with the different Amazon platforms. No evil smiles. This crew genuinely cares about authors, and we all share a common vision. To sell more books! As an author, if you’re suspicious of that sentiment, you have a serious problem on your hands.

BUT I DON’T JUST LIKE THEM AS AN AUTHOR!

As a customer:

They shipped a basket ball stand (60lbs at least) for free because I paid roughly $80 to be a member of Amazon Prime. I recoup at least five times the cost of membership in free shipping every year.

They provide hassle free returns on nearly every product I’ve purchased. I don’t hesitate to order an item. If I don’t like it, I print a return label, tape up the same box and get a refund immediately. I’m lazy like that. Beautiful!

The only items I can’t find on Amazon are ammunition, guns, cigarettes, booze, and pornography. Apparently Hachette’s parent company, Lagardere, had a tough first quarter this year due to the loss of cigarette sales in Hungary. Now that’s a company to be proud of! Sorry, that’s my AIS shining through. Forgot my meds.

If supporting Amazon as an author and customer means I suffer from Amazon Infatuation Syndrome, then so be it. I’m infatuated.

To read more about this curious syndrome label, and how it is utterly preposterous, please check out Hugh Howey’s most recent post and David Gaughram’s guest post at Words with JAM.

 

 

and Amazon qualifies as a good friend. Will that change?

22 Comments

Filed under Writing

22 responses to “My name is Steven Konkoly—

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve heard a handful of negative things about the service, but not from anyone who has actually published anything with Amazon. It’s nice to see positive feedback from someone who is self-publishing with Amazon.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rob. I tend to discount “first hand” knowledge gained from second hand commentators. We had a saying for this in the Navy. We called it getting your information from the “third crapper to the left.” Never trust someone passing faceless, second hand information from a bathroom stall, or in this case, from those who haven’t spent time in the self-publishing system.

  2. Well said, Steven!

    I’ve been an Amazon customer for a heck of a lot longer than I’ve been an author-publisher. I’ve been very happy with their efforts as a distributor, and whatever few complaints I’ve had as a customer were resolved very promptly. Maybe I’ve drunk too much of Kool-Aid, too, but I’ll happily sip while enjoying tons of books on my Kindle (many of them costing much less than $14.99, thanks!) or while watching shows and movies on Prime video.

  3. Sharmon

    I agree – Amazon is awesome and because of my Prime Membership, I was able to read your first book at no charge! After reading that first book “Black Flagged” I was hooked and have subsequently read everything you’ve written thus far. Thanks goodness for that great relationship you have with Amazon. Otherwise I might not have found you!

    • You didn’t pay for my first book!!!!???? Just kidding. That’s exactly what I love about Amazon’s programs. You might not have taken that chance on a new author. Thank you for jumping into the deep end and trying my books. BTW, I do get paid for those loans. Everyone wins.

  4. Michael, you can never drink too much of the Kool-Aid, as long as you understand that it’s Kool-Aid. We all have to drink it at some point. Right now, Amazon’s drink-mix tastes pretty sweet to me as an author and customer. If they start to add something sour into the mix, I’ll purse my lips and decide whether to keep drinking. That’s what adults do…though I think it’s fair to say that adults shouldn’t be drinking Kool-Aid.

    • But…but…Kool-Aid! A “juice” drink in pure sugar form without any of those annoying real fruits and nutrition. What’s not to love?

      Agreed, though! If they start mixing things up and become less of a preferred outlet, I’ll be biting the bullet and going elsewhere, as both a customer and author. Right now, I’m good with them and they do the things I need them to do.

      As a shopper, I’ve saved a ridiculous ton of money by shopping through them, and I certainly won’t complain about the 70% return on work that I’ve sold through them. I guess I’m infatuated with them? But, I was infatuated with Best Buy as a customer before them. Amazon came along and did things better and became my preferred outlet. Eventually, I’m sure, something else will come along and capture my attention. For now, I’m a rather happy Amazon Prime customer.

  5. DaveMich

    Revenues, not Royalties. You still own your asset. Amazon is not paying you a royalty.

    • Either way, they are paying me, which keeps me happy. I was going with the basic definition of royalty:

      “Definition of ‘Royalty’

      A payment to an owner for the use of property, especially patents, copyrighted works, franchises or natural resources. A royalty payment is made to the legal owner of a property, patent, copyrighted work or franchise by those who wish to make use of it for the purposes of generating revenue or other such desirable activities. In most cases, royalties are designed to compensate the owner for the asset’s use, and are legally binding.”

      You’re point is well made, in that I still own the book, which is not the case outside of independent publishing.

      • DaveMich

        Certainly, and my point still holds. Amazon does not USE the property in any way. They merely sell it for you. They pass along revenue from a sale, not a payment for use. Calling it a royalty makes Amazon look like a publisher when it is not. The reason I pick the nit is that people often levy criticism against Amazon as if it were a publisher. That, and sometimes picking nits just feels good, sorry.

  6. I’m with you on picking nits. What about the KOLL/KU borrows? And I’m not adding that to challenge. You have an in depth knowledge here.

  7. Just keep on with what you do best, Write these excellent Technothrillers!
    I enjoyed Point of Crisis, and can not wait for the next Black Flagged. Amazon is How I found you, and I personally feel that Amazon is an excellent service. Keep writing and making Money!

  8. As someone who has published a non-fiction book and is now writing a serial, I would like to chime in.

    First, having been writing articles, tech manuals and other items over my career, the thing I LOVE about the Amazon KDP is how easy it is to use. It has allowed me to write and publish a short story in less than a day. That story might never have made it into any anthology, collection or even a magazine. Not because it sucks ( it doesn’t) but because I don’t have the connections / money / time to get the attention of an agent, and go through all the hoops. Of all the obvious benefits that Steven has clearly explained, the ability to retain full rights and ownership and to publish ANYWHERE, (if one is not in KDP select) is a HUGE advantage to authors.

    Amazon is indeed a business and a company. In my view, it is the future. Once, horse and buggy whip manufacturers were a thing, and then came the automobile. Hatchett likes buggies. More power to them, their customers and the people who ‘manufacture’ those whips for them.

    But, personally, I want to ride on a starship. And the name of the ship is AMAZON.

    A.E. Williams

  9. Pingback: KINDLE BOOKS

  10. Scott

    I always like to see these success stories. Amazon has never lied to me, treated me poorly or otherwise wronged me in any way. They have however provided me with a seamless effortless buying experience in every facet of my consumer life and that’s the value I’m looking for.

    I don’t know the intricacies of the Hatchett squabble I just assumed it was over money and it’s not something I’m going to lose any sleep over. I do know that there are a lot more new to me authors popping up during this Strike (or whatever it is) than I had before. Nobody’s going to pay $25 for a book nowadays and publishers still think that they are being wronged even though they only have to actually print 10% of the books they used to. What used to be a warehouse full is now on a thumb drive. It really bugs me that college kids have to pay $80 for a textbook for 1 class in 1 semester only to find out that they can’t sell it because the new version with 10 words changed will be used the following semester. It’s a scam and its preventing a lot of our youth from attending school. They could fit 4 years worth textbooks on one kindle at a fraction of the price to everyone.

    Steven I’m glad you made this dream into a reality. Your books are wonderful to read and listen to.

  11. Hi Steven, Inspirational post…. I’m relatively new to kindle publishing and I’ve become hooked on it, my books sold are nowhere near yours, but this story definitely gives me motivation to strive for the bigger goal

  12. carol

    Amazon has done a tremendous service in enabling authors to self publish easily and cheaply. They give these authors a chance that was never there before. Whether the authors make it or not is up to them and the reader. Amazon gives them a chance that didn’t exist before. These authors that self publish have really enriched my reading experience.

    That being said, do you really want Amazon controlling the rest of the publishing world? Their attack on Hachette authors such as restricting delivery of their books should not be tolerated. Their beef with the publisher should not have led to them attacking authors, hurting them financially. Nobody gains when authors are attacked and their ability to earn a living limited by a vehemoth like Amazon.

    I am very grateful to Amazon for making independently published authors such as you readily available. I don’t understand why they have to go after more mainstream authors with other established publishers. Why does it have to be one or the other? There should be a place at Amazon for both.

    I don ‘t want a world where Amazon controls everything that is published and what we pay for it. Authors should be able to establish their own price. I regret that it seems that Amazon wants to control it all. Whether you’re independent or mainstream author, you shouldn’t want that either.

    • I think everyone is relieved to see Hachette secure a contract with Amazon. Until last week, Amazon was voluntarily selling Hachette titles under previous contract terms. It benefited both entities to continue selling books, and to arrive at a mutual agreement about selling books. It particularly benefited Hachette, whose authors needlessly suffered under Hachette’s stall tactics. Amazon twice offered to contribute to a pool of money that would be used to compensate Hachette authors while the negotiations (standard business practice) dragged on, but Hachette never responded…as in they never addressed the offers. Amazon didn’t target authors. Amazon stopped extending pre-order buttons and quit stocking Hachette titles in their warehouses, which is entirely reasonable for a retailer, when you don’t have a contract with a supplier and truly have no idea whether you’ll agree on a contract. Pre-orders represent a commitment to deliver and stocked warehouses represent inventory that can’t be moved if a business contract doesn’t arrive.

      I get passionate about this as an Indie author, but I’m joyed that this is behind the publishing industry and Amazon. I do believe authors should set the price of their books, but I also believe that a retailer has the right to sell a product at whatever rate they desire. There’s a middle ground, and it sounds like Amazon and Hachette (and Simon and Schuster) have found that middle ground. Publisher’s set the price, but are incentivized with a higher percentage of payout per sale for lower prices. Hachette can price ebooks at $40.99 if they want, but they’ll eliminate their profit. It’s a crazy industry, and Amazon seems to be the only entity involved benefiting readers. The price of ebooks and hard cover books has risen drastically over the past five years, while the cost of producing ebooks (very little…even for a big publisher) and physical books has decreased. Amazon seems to be keeping a lid on this for readers, which is why I’m a big fan.

      As an Indie writer myself, I can’t look at this with dispassionate eyes, so I admit a bias. You have to take what I say with a grain of salt. Thank you for sharing your opinion, and most importantly…for supporting Indie authors! The publishing industry has entered a new era, and it will achieve equilibrium soon enough, with a entirely new crop of authors published outside of big publishers. This is the golden age of reading…or should be…we can all be excited.

      • carol

        Maybe you missed the full page ad taken out by supporters of authors who were supporting author’s right to publish outside of AMAZON. Why should Amazon control all pricing, if as you believe, authors should be able to do that themselves, I’m greatly appreciative of the indies like you that I’ve read. Why can’t the Indies and mainstream published authors coexist? Does Amazon have to make us choose between one and the other? There needs to be more publishers rather than less. Alex would not like Amazon taking over the publishing world

  13. I hear you, Carol. Alex would not approve. I have a soft spot for Amazon, because prior to Amazon, the big publishers were a cartel that unilaterally decided what readers got to see and what they didn’t. We’ve all benefitted from an expansion of the publishing world. I think both camps can exist and thrive together. Amazon has taken the dictatorial power away from publishers, which I applaud, but at the same time watch cautiously. Amazon has never controlled the pricing of books…instead they’ve created a business environment where the author, publisher and Amazon have the best chance to maximize the number of sales. It’s a tough line to walk for both sides. It sounds like they’ve arrived at a good compromise. I hope they can put it behind them and move on to the promotion of reading.

    I did catch the ad taken out by Patterson and some VERY wealthy authors. I know what an ad like that costs. Upward of six figures. It shows that they are passionate about what they believe, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as the 10,000 signature petition signed by Indie authors in support of Amazon during the Hachette/Amazon dispute.

    I feel Alex staring over my shoulder. 😉

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