Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions


Publishing Thy Fearful Symmetry: In Bed With Amazon

Summer 2012Another week closer to publishing Thy Fearful Symmetry, and I’m close to having the files ready for both the novel, and the promotional chapbook His Work To See. I’m taking the foot of the gas with both for a week, to bear down on finishing a smart draft of this summer’s other book project, which is past due being turned over to the publisher.

Self-publishing, and trying to do it to a standard that will make me happy, is time consuming, I tell you.

With the book interiors nearly ready, and the covers well in hand (His Work To See will be released in July, ahead of Thy Fearful Symmetry launching in August), I’ve been investigating how I’m going to get the books made. The ebook, for most formats, is an easy decision. As I did with Cuckoo, I’ll release the book through Smashwords. This company lets you upload your novel once, formatted as they describe, and they do the rest. As well as selling DRM-free copies of the book through their own store, which is a nice extra, they also convert the book into multiple formats and ship them to all the major ebook stores. When you buy Cuckoo for the Nook, or Kobo, or other devices, it’s the Smashwords version you’re getting. Smashwords collects the income from each retailer, and pays it to me directly (taking a small cut themselves – small enough to write off). This saves me a ton of legwork trying to create multiple formats for different ebook devices, and liaising with all the different retailers.And it’s important  to have the book on sale everywhere – a self-published book from a largely unknown writer has a hard enough time getting read without people having to search to hard for the thing.

The one exception to this is Amazon. I have private concerns about Amazon’s increasing power in the publishing world, but the reason they’ve gained their dominance is undeniable. They’re very, very good at delivering things in a customer friendly way. Their tools for publishing on the Kindle are fantastic, and incredibly easy to use. Tracking sales internationally, receiving payments, modifying listings – they put all the control in the author’s hand, with a bunch of easy to use tools to make things run smoothly. Principles be damned, I’m climbing into bed with Amazon and publishing the Kindle version direct through them.

The one thing I’m staying well clear of is the KDP Select program. This is enrols a book into a catalogue of free content that can be borrowed for free by Amazon Prime members, with the author receiving payment for each loan. At the same time as your the is in the program, it can be purchased it as usual through Amazon for the Kindle. It sounds like a win-win proposition initially – another way for the book to find new readers. The problem with the scheme is that, while your book is enrolled in the KDP Select program, you aren’t allowed to sell it through any retailer other than Amazon. That’s not good. As I said, Thy Fearful Symmetry needs to be available wherever people who might buy it shop. Cuckoo is selling consistently at all retailers. Surprisingly, Amazon isn’t even where it sells the most – for reasons I don’t understand, the Nook version of the novel, sold through Barnes & Noble, is purchased far more often. Combine that with sales through iTunes particularly, and I sell more through ‘everywhere else’ (accumulated through Smashwords) than I do through Amazon. Under no circumstances then, based on where my previous readers are shopping, am I going to consider restricting the ebook version to distribution through Amazon alone.

I’ll also be using Amazon to publish the paperback of Thy Fearful Symmetry, via their Createspace self-publishing service. Again, this was how I made the paperback of Cuckoo available, and the physical book is very nice indeed. Createspace is even better, now that publishing with them guarantees in stock listing and shipping from European Amazon stores. This is quite recent. Bafflingly, when I published Cuckoo last year you could buy it in the UK from Book Depository, but not direct from That was nearly a deal breaker, but as it was my only frustration, and has now been fixed, I’ll stick with Createspace for this novel at least.

So, it appears that even as an independent self-publishing author, the ease with which Amazon will let me publish means I remain their bitch, adding in a tiny way to their market dominance. What can I say? It’s easier being in bed with them than not. I’m uneasy about that, but not so much that I’ll compromise this book at this time by making a principled stand.

Before I go – stick your email address in the form below. It subscribes you to a monthly email roundup, sent around the end of each month, and summarising stuff from me that you might have missed. As is traditional with such things, there will be monthly giveaways for subscribers. To begin with, when His Work To See is published, I’ll be drawing a name a month to receive a copy of the physical chapbook. Outside of events like Anthocon, which I’ll be turning up at in November, this will be the only way to get this as anything other than an ebook…

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