My primary market as an editor is made up of self-published authors. I do some work for small publishers, and some for non-publishing businesses (that’s usually combined with copy writing and consulting work), but indie authors are my favorite. One thing that I try to convey to newcomers is that they are a business now. Most understand this, but every so often something sneaks by them. Forgetting that can lead to some seriously unpleasant shocks.
There’s been discussion for a long time about whether particular support businesses are truly a good thing for self-published authors. There are book doctors and marketers and self-pub presses and more. We recently had the Hydra contract debacle as well. The most common concern,though, is Amazon, and it’s come to the fore again with the Internet sales tax initiative in the US (which Amazon is backing).
Tracy Hickman has warned many times over the last few years that Amazon is not your friend. Other writers I listen to, like Sarah Hoyt and Kris Rusch, have occasionally made similar warnings. The fact is, no one in this business is your friend. We’re businesses. We have bills to pay and things to do. With some of us smaller folks, you’ll get something closer to a friend. We’re personal, we interact closely with our clients, you get a human being when you call (please check your time zone, the missus really hates 2 AM business calls), and some times we fall in love with the project we’re working on. Just the same, we’re service providers, not bosom buddies.
Amazon is the same as any other business. They will do what they see as the best thing for themselves. I have no problem with that! At the moment, they provide an excellent (though not perfect, I hate their price controls) service for authors, and their market penetration serves our industry very well. The trouble is when legal issues, such as the execrable Internet sales tax proposal, give an artificial advantage to big, powerful companies like Amazon. It’s a great time to be an author, especially one with the gumption to self-publish, but that depends on a free and open market. Onerous regulations, complicated administrative processes, and byzantine entry requirements all give a huge advantage to big companies with big legal teams. Those kinds of barriers impede their smaller, more responsive competitors, which in turn hurts customers because it reduces competition. Being self-interested, those big companies will run with that advantage. The bigger they are and the more disconnected the administrators and executives are from interacting with their customers, the more likely they are to squeeze the maximum advantage possible out of the opportunity. That’s just the nature of business, because it’s the nature of human beings.
So whether your considering posting your work on Amazon, or hiring an editor, or paying someone to tend your lawn, always remember this. They’re not your friend, and that’s okay. Find recommendations from people you know and trust. Spread the word on how a particular business treated you, well or poorly. Don’t be afraid to walk away from an unresponsive company. Do business where you’re well-treated. It’s your business, and you deserve the best.