Come on, Amazon is cool.

“I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.” – Kent Brockman

In this, my love letter to Amazon, I’m going to point out a few brilliant things they are doing. This is a big deal for me, because their brilliance has a direct impact on my life as a writer.

One: They are giving Kindles away.

Not exactly, but they are selling Kindles at a loss. I got mine last Christmas (thanks, Mom!) when the price fell to $139, which I assumed was a promotional price. Wrong – they’re now $79 (sorry, Mom!). Hard to say what they spent on Kindle R&D, but the overlords at Amazon know that the ereader isn’t the moneymaker… the ebooks are. So they are moving Kindles out the door at a rate of over a million units a week. They want as many ereaders out there as possible.

And since my work so far is exclusively digital, so do I.

Two: The uploading model.

Think of all the ways Amazon could have botched this. They could have charged $200 per novel upload, or offered twelve percent royalties, or both. Instead, uploading is FREE and the author royalty is up to 70%. Authors don’t even sign a rights contract, because Amazon doesn’t ask for any rights to the manuscript.

Instead, all authors lose is “first electronic rights” by virtue of making their work available to the public online. A big question used to be: “Can a writer still score a deal with a traditional print publisher for a novel self-pubbed on the Kindle?” The answer is now YES.

Amazon leaves an unprecedented amount of decision-making to the writer: cover, jacket copy (aka product description), price (with some nudging via royalty percentage to keep it between three and twelve bucks), tagging (which is what passes nowadays for genre), and marketing.

Ah, marketing. Amazon lets the authors tear their own hair out about how to market their books, because Amazon knows that a book’s greatest advocate is its author.

And yet…

Three: The Browsing Revolution.

The Amazon sales pages, with their lists, tags, and rows of “also-boughts” are outstanding at bringing similar books to within a click or two of each other. Right there on my sales page for Outrageous Fortunes are novels by Harry Turtledove and Peter Pauzé. If I market my tail off to drive traffic to my Amazon page, some of those potential readers click over and buy books by Turtledove and Pauzé.

Well, darn. But I’ve learned to love it, because it works both ways. My work is on the sales pages of plenty of other books, and promotions by their authors help me. This interconnectedness helps get readers to the books they will obsess about, and that way, everybody sells more books. (Are you reading this, Barnes & Noble?)

Four: In 2011, my beautiful little Creative Writing MFA program, NILA, just received a $15,000 grant from Amazon. Is there an ulterior motive? Sure, Amazon wants their 30% of book sales, and perhaps better-educated writers will sell more books (and there’s this little thing called PR). In the meantime, they are funding higher education.

Now, Amazon has taken some heat from different folks lately. I try to keep up with that stuff, and while Amazon is hard on publishers and booksellers (whose inefficiencies make them soft targets), its strategies consistently revolve around treating writers and readers with respect.

#

PS: There’s mad hullabaloo about Amazon’s new KDP Select program (and what it means for Smashwords, among others). I haven’t signed up… yet. Still collecting data. More later.

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