Selling books doesn’t make you a book publisher

Vanity Fair attempted an overview of the Amazon/Publishers fracus this month.

Former Amazon employee Rebecca Allen discusses the Vanity Fair article on “The Zon”

The self-pubs are interpreting both the Vanity Fair piece and Allen’s fairly neutral assessment of it at The Digital Reader with their usual Amazon-good and Publishers-bad theme.

Their commentary on Allen’s piece at The Digital Reader highlighted a belief that because Amazon has a massive system for collecting data on what sells and what doesn’t, it therefore knows far more about publishing books than publishers know.

My response below:

Bezos sells widgets. He knows how to sell stuff. Any kind of stuff. He collects massive amounts of data and he crushes vendors into the tightest contracts they can stand (or he kills them and takes their customers). It is a huge mistake to believe that because he knows how to sell certain types of pop books cheaply that he is superior at publishing books. Two different things. Now, with KDP and subscription services, also with his video and audio content, he’s building a walled garden of cheap entertainment provided by authors willing to work for the dream of big payoffs few will ever receive. Because he’s identified a few genres of fiction as big draws for a customer base that spends heavily on the more important merchandise, he’s thrilled to have self-pubs provide a tidal wave of 99 cent or free romances, thrillers, and other pop fiction that customers will eat up like popcorn. But that’s not book publishing. That’s book manufacturing. His longtail is a piecemeal factory world where authors and musicians work for pennies and Amazon reaps the rewards.

About Deborah Smith

Author, publisher, partner and V.P. of BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books NYT bestseller A PLACE TO CALL HOME, Wall Street Journal and Kindle bestseller THE CROSSROADS CAFE, also When Venus Fell, Silk and Stone, Charming Grace, and many others.
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