Standing up to Bullies - Why I don't publish on Amazon

Opt Out has been released for a week, and I'm pretty satisfied with the reception so far. Of course, a lot of you haven't yet finished reading it, but there's definitely more interest than I expected. Interestingly, all of the sales and download come from my website. The book has yet to gain any traction on any of the stores onto which it was posted.

I've included it on those stores mostly as an afterthought, I admit. I know that some people prefer to stick to those ecosystem. Even though I'm not a fan of proprietary devices and their ecosystems, I figured it costs me nothing and Opt Out might reach a few more people that way. In the end, it's a choice that I choose to respect.

There's one exception to this, and this exception is Amazon. If you look at any self-publishing resource, everyone loves to mention Amazon. The Internet is full of stories from writers who published on Amazon and played the algorithm right to makes a fortune.

There's one big issue there. If you want to publish on Amazon, you have to do it their way. I use Draft2digital as a service to distribute Opt Out to online stores. It saves me the hassle of having to deal with all these companies individually. It's very straightforward to distribute everywhere, except Amazon. This is the letter they wanted me to sign in order to make my book available on Amazon:

"I'm writing to confirm that I own the exclusive distribution rights for all of the works I'm publishing to Amazon. I am the legal copyright holder to these titles and I hereby authorize Draft2Digital to deliver my titles to Amazon in the language, format, and territories submitted. Furthermore, I have never had nor been denied an account with KDP. I have never had an account terminated, listings removed, or any other disciplinary action that would prevent me from reaching through Draft2Digital's publishing service. My published works are not freely available online through sources other than the vendors I've approved for distribution. I am aware of no locations on the web and if found freely available on a website other than those I've approved for publication, they would be unauthorized versions not supplied by me, the legal copyrights holder.

[signed by your name] Writing as: [pen name]"

Yup, they force anyone who'd sell on Amazon to make sure the book isn't available for free anywhere. This is incompatible with creative commons. Amazon pretty much insist they get the lowest price. Either you do things their way, or they won't carry your work.

A lot of writers just go with it. They're the biggest online store, after all. It's where most sales will come from. Honestly, maybe I am losing money by not working with them. Wouldn't it be simpler to just go with the flow?

I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it. However, I chose to publish under creative commons for a reason. It's the same reason why Opt Out is released under a pay-what-you-want model and that I accept cryptocurrency donations. I want to explore better, more ethical ways of distributing my work. Culture shouldn't be shared according to the whim of large corporations.

The larger Amazon grows, the more aggressive their bully tactics will get. Already, a lot of the services they offer to self-published writers are only available to those who make their work exclusive to Amazon. This company has a long history of bullying their suppliers.

As writers, our only recourse is to refuse to play their games. I'm well aware that on my own, having only published one book, my gesture is symbolic at best. I'm still hoping that more people stand up to the big bully. If you buy ebooks regularly, I urge you to only use Amazon as a last resort. I could go on about how they mistreat their warehouse workers, how they force small businesses out of business, or how they lock their users in a proprietary ecosystem filled with abusive anti-features. Honestly, if you made your way to either my website or the Fediverse, chances are that you have some idea of how much of a shitty company Amazon is.

In conclusion, I will not make Opt Out or any future projects available on Amazon as long as they use bully tactics in an attempt to stay at the top. The primary way to obtain my books will always be through my website. While future projects may have a minimum payment at some point, I will always accept crypto, and I will always publish under creative commons.

If you're a fellow writer, the only thing I can say is that standing up to bullies is worth it in the long run. In the short run, it can cost us, but I believe it's worth it. If Amazon grows even larger, they can decide to take a larger cut off sales, and no one can say anything about it. They could force DRM, and we'd be powerless to stop them. They could force us to include advertisement within ebooks. I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to pull any of those stunts.

Thank you to all of you who support Opt Out.