Indie vs. Amazon: Like Bambi vs. Godzilla, Except Godzilla Has Such Great Products…

I’m supposed to be on Bambi’s side, right? I’m a WRITER. We’re sentimental.

This week I encountered another embarrassing enlightening hurdle step in the learning curve of Indie Authorship: getting my book, The Flying Burgowski, registered with Indiebound.

Oh yeah, Indiebound–isn’t that the site which helps you locate independent bookstores near you? I’d heard of it, supported it in a knee-jerk, theoretical way, but that was all. Then a bookstore owner with whom I’m in contact about doing a reading suggested that I link my book with Indiebound and put that upfront on my website. She was actually pretty nice about it, but I could tell what she wanted to say was more like

(courtesy someecards.com)

(courtesy someecards.com)

Like, “Duh, lady–you’re asking for my support, so how about supporting ME?”

So I registered my book with Indiebound. Just like that. Or not.

See, first of all I had to learn what it WAS, exactly. This bookshop owner is clearly a busy person, so she forwarded my ridiculously naive question to a nice person at Indiebound, who sent me this answer:

IndieBound.org is not its own ecommerce platform; it is a directory that will redirect potential customers to independent bookstores’ ecommerce platforms. So while you can’t sell the book on IB.org itself, you can list the book on IB.org and independent bookstores would be more able to sell it.

 

Aha! Got it. But…hmmm. My book is published via CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Why would Indiebound want to list a book published by the company that’s trying to muscle it out of business?

The Indiebound person was just as nice as the bookshop owner, because here’s what she didn’t say:

(courtesy someecards.com)

(courtesy someecards.com)

Nope, she said this:

Publishing via CreateSpace doesn’t necessarily preclude distribution through an indie, but, depending on each store and its ownership, you may encounter pushback to fulfilling an order for a CreateSpace title, since Amazon is indies’ main competitor. It depends on each store’s policy and approach.

So, yeah. Here I am, brave, stalwart Indie author, asking all my favorite Indie bookstore owners to please help me sell my Indie book that I published thanks to the Un-indiest marketing entity in the history of ever. (OK, no, I take that back–at least Walmart doesn’t have a publishing arm. Yet.)

Chapter Two of my novel is titled “Irony,” and there the protagonist, Jocelyn Burgowski, gives her favorite teacher’s definition: “Irony = 1 part ‘Ha Ha’ + 1 part ‘Ouch’.”

Feelin’ a little that way this morning. Luckily, the “ouchy” part is largely salved by gratitude: for a life which has allowed me to become an author, and for all the people who have helped me get here, including the ongoing guidance of people like the two women mentioned above, who were clearly not members of the NSS:

8d569bca3906a50c7e33495ac496bbce

And, yes, gratitude for Godzilla Amazon’s CreateSpace. Which means gratitude for Amazon. There, I said it.

Anyone else feeling stuck in this big-vs.-small quandary? What situations make you feel like you’re choosing to put your money where your principles aren’t? (Don’t worry–I will be the last person to judge.)

12 thoughts on “Indie vs. Amazon: Like Bambi vs. Godzilla, Except Godzilla Has Such Great Products…

  1. I don’t see why a independent bookseller would care if you self-published through Amazon. Sure, it’s their main competitor, but chances are that all authors, regardless of how they’re published, are seeing a fair share of their book sales coming through Amazon. If you’re trying to support independent bookstores, I’d hope most would be all for it. We’re all in this game together. You can sell books on Amazon and through independent bookstores–they’re not mutually exclusive, in my humble opinion.

    Good luck with your journey!

  2. There is a very viable alternative to CreateSpace (or you can do both) in Lightning Source, for pickles like this one. I’ve had some issues come up this spring, too, and was checking into Lightning Source more fully. (Actually, their self-publishing branch is Ingram Spark.) They are a regular printer with facilities all over the world, making shipping a snap–and much cheaper–for those across the ocean, which was the issue I was having. I opted not to go with LS at this time because 1) it would require purchasing an ISBN, 2) there were set up fees of about $150 that just didn’t make this one-time request for 40 printed books in Australia worth the investment. Also, there are about $25 in fees each time you update your manuscript. If in the future I get more requests like this, I may consider it more carefully. But that’s a lot of money to get 9 books set up on LS when they are all already available through CreateSpace and they ship anywhere in the world for free from Book Depository. (The issue there was that BD ships large orders a bit at a time and it sometimes takes quite a while.) Yeah, this indie publishing things is constantly a learning curve.

  3. It’s always a tough call! When you get done, maybe (in the spare time you don’t have!!) you’d be willing to post a list of Indie tips for those of us who have yet to tread this path…

    • Ann, my tips would probably be more along the lines of “Well, you should probably learn more about blah-blah-blah than I did when I started…” But then again, I suppose that is a “tip” in its way. 🙂

  4. Gretchen, your post struck a nerve for me. My first loyalty is to small, independent businesses – their presence is what makes our communities unique, and on our small island, we’d sink into the Salish Sea (or have to trek to the mainland more often) if they didn’t exist. I know from talking to numerous small-business owners here just how small their profit margins are and how important each purchase that I make is to their survival. AND, I do shop (and sell my independently-published book) on Amazon, but I try to do that only when there isn’t a local option.

    Recently, my hackles rose when I learned about the AmazonSmile program that offers to make a .5% contribution to your favorite non-profit when you purchase from Amazon. Sounds like a nice thing to do, but half a percent ain’t much. What bugs me more, though, is that Amazon wants the non-profits to include its logo, and a message to buy through AmazonSmile, on their websites and promotional materials. As much as I want non-profits in my community to get a piece of the Amazon pie, I’m not thrilled about them giving the impression that they’re encouraging anything other than shopping locally. At least one non-profit I know that participates in the program added their own suggestion that people shop locally FIRST.

    As we writers navigate the dilemmas… challenges… opportunities in today’s publishing world that you describe so well, there’s much to consider. Thanks for raising these important questions and for sharing your own experience. You offer a good model of striking a fair balance.

  5. It’s hard, isn’t it? So it’s nice to find a clear-cut issue now and then, like the one you describe. Half a percent??? Give me a large break. Good for you for speaking up about that one, and thanks for sharing it. As soon as I’m Indie-registered I’m going to put something like that on my website, about shopping locally whenever possible, for books or anything. Thanks, Iris.

  6. Gretchen,

    I published my book the old, old fashioned way. I started a press and paid to have everything done. Now my book is on Indiebound, but without the cover, etc. I would LOVE to support them and the local bookstores, but on Amazon, I can update my profile, add my awesome Kirkus Review and put the cover image up. I can’t figure out how to do any of that on IndieBound. Like you said, when the Godzilla has really excellent service, and Bambi is about as clueless as the name suggests, it’s hard to support Bambi.

    Bottom line: How did you update your presence on IB.org?

    Upward and Onward,
    Mark

    • Hi, Mark. Sorry for the late response–you got lost in my inbox. 🙂 Now, to your final question: I’m going to have to get back to you on that. Since signing up with IB, I haven’t taken the time to track myself down and see if I am indeed listed the way I should be. Guess what I’m going to do tomorrow? So…thanks for the response, AND the prompt, and I will let you know what I learn.

      All the best,
      Gretchen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s