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Author pleads: Please don’t buy my new novel on Amazon

30 September 2013

From CNet:

Author Jaime Clarke’s new novel “Vernon Downs” will be available on Amazon in April of next year, but fans and new readers who heed the author’s plea can get a copy this December. His only request: Buy “Vernon Downs” straight from the publisher and not from Amazon.

In a Web site aptly named pleasedontbuymybookonamazon.com, Clarke lays out his call to support independent publishing and push back against the aggressive cost-cutting tactics of Amazon that, he says, are great for consumers but detrimental to the livelihood of independent publishing.

Clarke — who also published the novel “We’re So Famous,” edited and co-edited a number of other titles and was a founding editor of the Boston College-published literary magazine Post Road — is co-owner of an independent bookstore in Boston called Newtonville Books.

“As a bookstore owner, I see small presses come and go — they usually publish a book or two and then fold after running out of money,” Clarke writes. “For many small publishers like Roundabout, Amazon accounts for a large portion of sales, but the publisher realizes very little of the purchase price owing to Amazon’s discounting policies.”

. . . .

Q: Why would you urge people not to buy books, or at least your book, from Amazon? Is it simply that people should not buy books published from independent publishers on Amazon, or that people should avoid all book buying on Amazon because of what you think it’s done to the industry?

Clarke: My campaign to urge interested readers to purchase my novel “Vernon Downs” directly from the publisher is mostly economical, which is to say small, independent publishers like Roundabout Press need all the capital they can lay their hands on.

Unfortunately, most indie publishers rely on Amazon to sell their books, and to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, the price is high. Indie publishers realize a fraction of the purchase price and are at the mercy of Amazon’s discounting policies. As a bookstore owner, my obvious preference is that readers buy books at bookstores, but I know a lot of readers don’t live in proximity to a bookstore.

. . . .

What will happen to independent publishers and bookstores as Amazon’s hold continues to solidify?

Clarke: Amazon has done all it’s going to do to the industry, I think. It’s interesting that Amazon’s early ambitions were to be the Walmart of the Internet. Books were incidental to their plans — books just happened to be sitting in warehouses across the country ready to be shipped. It could easily have been lawn furniture.

Now that Amazon is the Walmart of the Internet, it’s clear they want to take on technology service providers like Apple. They seem to be hanging around books and publishing mostly out of spite.

Link to the rest at CNet and thanks to Barron for the tip.

PG will limit himself to commenting that when a small publisher runs out of money and folds, its authors almost never get paid.

Amazon, Bookstores

33 Comments to “Author pleads: Please don’t buy my new novel on Amazon”

  1. “I know a lot of readers don’t live in proximity to a bookstore.”


  2. ADS.

    • Oh come on now, Barbara. There’s no such thing as ADS. It’s just a snarky little term that we self-published authors invented to be able to take our little shots at the publishers 😉

      Btw, I’m still…confused by this article.

      I’m not sure if this guy knows anything about Amazon.

  3. I’m not buying then.

  4. Wonder if he feels the same way about bookstores that hamper small presses with their slow payments and outdated returns policies?

  5. At first I was concerned that Amazon Derangement Syndrome had become infectious and now non-bestselling authors were catching it, too, but then I saw that he is co-owner of an independent bookstore, and therefore it is, as they say, in his blood.

  6. I have a suggestion for this guy: publish the book yourself and you’ll suddenly discover that you LOVE Amazon.

    • +1

      • +2…
        …and if he’d framed his request in a positive way, like, “Please buy my book from your local indie bookstore if you have one, they fill an important niche in our reading culture” he would have garnered more support.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Publishing with a small press puts writers in a no-win situation. They can’t make money, they can’t gain traction, they have no control.

      • That may be true for all the new fly-by-night “small publishers” who have cropped up, but for the well-established, reputable small publishers, that is certainly not a given. My small-press publishing experience with a sci-fi/fantasy publisher that’s been publishing a few books a year since the mid-90s has been overwhelmingly positive.

  7. At least Clarke admits that Amazon does provide a service to some writers and consumers, even though he dislikes their business practices. Looking at the larger picture, I’d be curious to hear what percentage of books his store sells that are from small and indie presses and authors versus the percentage from the Big Five.

  8. Screw the readers! Save the publishers and bookstores!

  9. Meh, free country. He can advocate that readers only buy his books while standing on their hands and speaking Welsh if he wants. While his readers can listen to or ignore his request according to their own wishes.

    • Anything but Welsh. The Welsh are well known for their evil business practices. Oh wait, that’s Amazon.

      I have trouble getting my head around an author starting a sentence with “don’t buy my book…” regardless of how it ends. Is survival of a specific outlet more important than reaching readers? Guess so.

  10. I remain amazed at the efforts of some to manipulate the market. It’s sort of like trying to hold back a wave with one finger. Amazon provides access to a huge consumer base. He’s trying to have it both ways: get access to the base, but collect all maximum benefit without paying for it.

  11. “Please don’t buy my new novel on Amazon.”

    OK. No problemo. I won't. At all. From anywhere. Happy now?

    This request reeks of hypocrisy. He'll happily take any royalties from Amazon sales. If the author were sincere, he'd have taken steps to ensure his book's unavailable through Amazon.

  12. This is a brilliant marketing idea. I didn’t know who this author was before reading the blog post.

    As an aside—does anyone remember a campaign to save one-hour-photo kiosks and DVD Video stores?

  13. “Indie publishers realize a fraction of the purchase price…”

    Um… it’s 70% for ebooks. Of course, he does have a point, 7/10 is a fraction.

    • Yeah, as opposed to a bookstore that takes 40% or 50% of the cover price, 30% is just terrible, bad business. Evil Amazon.

      If he’d really wanted to be smart he could have just said” Buy my ebook here four whole months before you can get it on Amazon!” That’s called good marketing.

  14. Perhaps if his “independent publisher” published the book via CreateSpace, which is free to use up front and probably still gives better royalties than any small press…

    Ah, forget it. And forget Newtonville Books, too. I’m just a short T-ride away, but I’ll never shop there now.

  15. I don’t suppose he’s considered that Amazon can sell about 1,000 times as many as his publisher directly, and his publisher will gross many times as much because Amazon is there than they would otherwise. No, of course not…egomania has probably taken over, and he’s sure people would buy his book in the same numbers if they had to walk across the desert barefoot with no water to get it.

    People would be so much better off if they kept their mouths shut 99% of the times they want to say something.

  16. “Indie publishers realize a fraction of the purchase price and are at the mercy of Amazon’s discounting policies”

    Actually, print books are sold on a wholesale model on Amazon, meaning if Amazon discounts the book, the publisher receives the same amount as if they hadn’t discounted the book.

    But that doesn’t fit the narrative…

    • That was my thought, too, David. He’s either totally ignorant about the difference between wholesale and agency models, or is intentionally blurring the lines between the two to either gain publicity or due to ADS.

      Amazon can only discount on the wholesale model, in which case the author and publisher make the same money no matter what Amazon does. Can’t say the same about bookstores, however. As I understand it, remainders and such do net them less money.

  17. I’m buying two copies on Amazon.
    Take that!

    • For some reason this guy’s book was already on my radar and I actually considered buying it from Amazon just to spite him. I have since come to my senses and have put him on my do not buy anywhere,anytime list.

      I think this was just a marketing ploy on his part. Getting noticed might have been the entire point behind this tirade.

  18. Why is it that I never see one of these guys take this attitude to its logical conclusion?

    The difference between what he’s doing and putting a website up at “DontBuyMyBookFromAnyIndependentBookstoreButMine.com” is just a difference in degree, not philosophy.

    Of course, if he does any traditional advertising for his store, he’s already shouting “Don’t buy any book from any independent store but mine!” to the reading public, but I’m sure that’s different. Advertising is using good business sense; spending your time, effort and money in anti-advertising against one single competitor is “fighting for what’s right”.


  19. I read it as a sad marketing ploy. That backfired.


  20. Perhaps it is a marketing ploy, but not a smart one IMO. Sure, I’d never heard of him before. Neither am I likely to remember him, or buy his books. I can’t imagine turning readers away from anywhere.

  21. I believe he’s missing the boat. I know many authors who are very happy with Amazon. I love having control of my work and my late husband’s works. And he may find people will not buy his book with using this “marketing” technique.

  22. “Please don’t buy my new novel”

    Stopped reading there. At least this guy has the testicular fortitude to do what I’ve been daring his kind to do: he’s trying to avoid sales on that awful, evil Amazon site he hates. No way he’d be able to live off of sales without Amazon, but that’s his choice.

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