Why Sell Through Amazon?

The self-publishing adventure continues! I now have City of Refuge available on Amazon, both as an Ebook and a Print on Demand paperback book. Occasionally I get an irate message on my Facebook feed or email, something like:

“Starhawk, I thought you were a progressive person—how can someone with your politics deal with Amazon?”

To be honest, I’ve tried for years, decades, to discourage people from buying from Amazon.  Their business model contributed to driving hundreds of independent bookstores out of business.  They are not great to their warehouse workers, and exploit them.  It’s my personal belief that having used books available on Amazon very cheaply has cut deeply into royalties for authors and revenues for publishers and made it extremely hard to make a living as an author.

IMG_6928All that is true.  Unfortunately, there is no way to effectively self-publish a book, and NOT deal with Amazon.  For that matter, even books that publishers put out get sold on Amazon.  Many of those wonderful women’s bookstores and independent bookstores are gone now, and Amazon pretty much is where you have to go if you want to sell books in any quantity.

We can blame Amazon for this—and certainly they are to blame. But so are the thousands of individuals decisions people have made, to buy something quick online instead of going out the door to their local bookstore.  But then, maybe you’re too tired to go out to the local bookstore because you’re working a job where the staff has been downsized and the workload has been increased and by the time you get home, you’re too tired to drag yourself back out the door.  And that discounted used book you get on Amazon is all you can afford, if you want to read at all.

I originally planned to have the Ebook and some version of a Print-on-demand book also available on my website. Then, in the course of the Kickstarter campaign, we discovered that most people don’t know how to download an E-book and get it into their reader. They’re used to Amazon or iTunes doing it for them.  I don’t know how, really, myself—let alone know how to tell you how. So, without support staff, it didn’t seem like a good idea.

We will eventually have the book available online in other places. Bookstores can order City of Refuge now through Ingram Book Company, but I make a very small amount per book sold through Ingram, unfortunately: $3 per book as opposed to about $7 a copy from each Ebook on Amazon and around $8 a copy for the paperbacks I sell through CreateSpace on Amazon. I encourage you all to ask your local independent bookstore to carry the book— even though I make a lot less on books sold to brick and mortar bookstores. If you or your local bookstore wants to order directly from me so that both of us make a few extra dollars, you can have them email info@starhawk.org and we will send them a link to order directly. Why was it I wanted to self-publish, again?

Of course, I could print books myself and sell them directly. I did print an extra 1000 copies above the Kickstarter run, and selling them directly is lucrative. But backbreaking. I can’t quite imagine even Amazon has a 73 year old employee with two extremely painful knees over due for surgery staggering around carrying 25 pound boxes of books. I do—and he doesn’t even get paid.  Well—he does have some special perks—he’s my husband, but a salary, pension and paid vacations are not part of the package. Come to think of it, my knees aren’t so great, either. And if I could get paid even a warehouse-worker’s wages for the four years I’ve put into the book, at this point I’d be very happy!

So, there you have it. I’d love to live in the world of City of Refuge, in an economy designed to support creativity and compassion.  But, in this world, I’ve got to do what I can to make the work sustainable for me.  If it’s not, I won’t be a very good advocate for anyone else.

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1 comment to Why Sell Through Amazon?

  • Tina Clark

    And the more widely visions like that in City of Refuge are spread around, the more likely they will spark the same in this world, and be brought into being. So yes, your last paragraph here says it all. This work really needs to get out there. I just finished reading the book and was so inspired. Thank you, Starhawk.

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