This post, by Ali Cooper, orignally appeared on her site on 9/20/11.
When Amazon launched the kindle, they offered a great new publishing opportunity to independent authors and publishers. Individual authors and small presses alike could publish their books to kindle and reach the growing audience of ebook readers.
Previously, only the biggest publishers with a high financial turnover were able to market their books to more than a handful of the book-buying public. It is no secret that they controlled the market by buying display space in shops and reviews in the national press, pushing a small selection of books under the noses of readers and tempting them with cheap deals. Small presses, by contrast, could only afford more costly short print runs, only to have their books consigned to the shadowy back shelves of bookshops – if they were stocked at all.
So the opportunity offered by Amazon levelled the playing field for small and individual publishers, allowing them to compete at a price equal to or lower than most mainstream books, along with online forums where authors or their representatives could, within reason, tell readers about their books. This was made available, first in US, then extended to authors and publishers in other countries, and, as each market developed, Amazon tempted small publishers with a larger share of the revenue.
By Easter of this year, many authors and small publishers – especially of the more mass market books – were enjoying a generous and regular income from ebooks. Almost all made their books available in a variety of formats, distributed by different retailers, but, due to the success of the kindle, combined with the opportunity to interact with readers on the Amazon forum, most found that this provided by far the biggest portion of their income. Many authors were giving up their day jobs to write full time, in order to satisfy the demand from their fans for more books. And new small presses – essential for nurturing new talent and launching new authors into the mainstream – were beginning to flourish.
Then, suddenly, without warning, Amazon called time. Forum posters were forbidden to post links to their books or to promote them on amazon.com’s site apart from in a newly-created jumbled author area. Where previously they had been on virtual shelves in a bookshop, sorted according to subject and genre, they were all thrown in a heap into one bargain bin out the back.