Bewildered and confused is what I am. Over something that memory serves as something that appeared very straightforward and simple.
In 2011, I self published a paperback. I sold it via my website and in person in bookshops and at book fairs. I listed it as ‘out of stock’ on Amazon when it appeared automatically via Neilson the ISBN suppliers, because I wanted all the profits to go to charity and Amazon would’ve taken 35%. I cannot for the life of me, remember how I managed to do this – I have no recollection of setting up an account and Amazon have no knowledge of me as an author when I called the Helpline to find out what on earth I needed to do. They sent me a link to an email to ask further questions, but no telephone contact exists so that means limited and stock answers to my enquiries which basically consist of “I’m confused! Help.”
Now I’m at the stage of getting my next book published as a paperback and as an e-book. I thought it would all be very straightforward since I’ve already done it once, and this time I don’t mind Amazon taking some profit. However, things seem much more complicated this time around. For one thing, Amazon has made many changes since 2011.
My out of stock first book is now for sale on Amazon. All the suppliers listed as selling it, including one in New York, will have to ask Amazon who the distributor is, which is me, and then they will have to email me, should anyone actually want to buy it. I then have to post it, invoice them and they then forward it presumably and pay me whenever they decide to. Anything different (as in listing myself as a supplier) and I have to pay Amazon for the privilege. Getting my book removed from Amazon is long winded and far from simple, although apparently if I tell Neilson (the keepers of ISBNs) in their ‘Title Editor’ facility that I have just registered with, then they could spread the word that it is out of print.
Following so far? Me neither.
Now for e-books. My faithful printing company is doing the format for this. But Amazon do this too and so do others, but in a variety of formats. And each format requires a different ISBN. I have to make sure the format is compatible with Kindle to get it onto Amazon. But Amazon want you to use them for this so will this prove tricky? Let’s see …
To get into bed with Amazon starts with an author registration. But if I want to write some text to go with my book then that involves something else like Vendor Registration, and presumably the more useful, the more the £ signs appear. Yes, yes, nothing is for free but you pay for stuff and sign up for stuff before you know what you are actually getting and whether you’re signing up to the right thing.
To be fair, for an indie author, Amazon provide considerably better royalties than having a publisher/book deal (65% compared to 10%) and once you enter their world of ratings and reviews, you can play a savvy game and get yourself noticed by a publisher who might just take you on, or carry on as an indie, making your own cash and keeping your own rights. Amazon can print your book for you on demand (for a price), they can format and sell, sell, sell (at a price, price, price!) but I would be dealing with an email contact in America, a massive giant of a corporation who have no idea who I am, and this just doesn’t sit well with my indie sensibilities.
I need the indie publishing version of Creation records, of the Rough Trades, the Cherry Reds, the 4ADs, the Fiction and Factory labels of my beloved music. There are, actually, plenty of indie publishers out there but none that have risen to any recognisable ‘name’ that I can immediately identify with. But that’s because it’s early days at the moment in the evolution of indie publishing. Big publishers like Random House and Penguin are only just picking up on the shift toward DIY publishers and are less likely to refer to us as ‘vanity’ publishers as in years past.
It seems there are a thousand ways of doing one thing. And if you pick the right way, you could be onto a winner. If not, you are one of the millions of books rattling around the ether, invisible to all and undetected.
I’m all for doing everything myself but it looks like the phrase ‘making it up as you go along’ is my mantra at the moment. Whatever happens, my book will be available from this website but anything more and within what timescale is anyone’s guess at the moment. My preference for anonymity is certainly guaranteed for the foreseeable. And so I remain, invisibly yours…