Amazon Causes Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Amazon has done it again. A recent change in the agreement between Amazon and its affiliates seems to have put the kibosh on the value to authors of making their books free. Specifically, the sites that authors depend on to promote their freebies will lose huge amounts of affiliate income, with the near-certainty that many of them will cease to exist.

This is possibly a very good thing. Will it mean the end of authors boasting of  “sales” in the hundreds and thousands when there have been no sales at all? Since when has a giveaway counted as a sale? Ditto with boasts of being in the top 100. Is being in the top 100 lists of freebies really something to be proud of?

Maybe it will also be the end of newly published authors who’ve been suckered into the “free is good” idiocy and then find out that it rarely leads to the expected sales. Perhaps also the end of nasty reviews by people who read nothing but freebies and feel entitled to trash them, often for the most petty of reasons.

And maybe it will be the beginning of a trend in better writing when the jump-on-the-bandwagon writers realize that thousands will read junk if it’s free, but won’t pay for it.

Free books won’t go away, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with having a promotion now and then. But hawking a book from review site to review site and then patting yourself on the back for having given away hundreds or thousands of copies? Let’s hope Amazon’s new rules give those writers a well-deserved slap upside the head. Along with the bloggers who make money from the gullibility of hopefuls.


6 thoughts on “Amazon Causes Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

  1. I’m quite certain Amazon couldn’t care less about the quality of writing these days, and I’m almost as certain that the percentage of crappy writing in books that cost money is pretty much the same as in those that are free. Most books that sell the most are awful, and this has been true for a very long time. It was true when I began selling books nearly forty years ago and probably for long before then. “Free” may not be “good”, but just because something costs money doesn’t make it any better than something that doesn’t.

    1. I agree that there’s probably just as much crap with price tags as there is free crap. But the possible side effects of Amazon’s downgrading of “free” could be: 1. Some writers who don’t see a sales upturn from free will give up writing. 2.Some writers will put more effort into editing and just generally improving their writing. Net result: fewer books. Just dreaming, of course.

      Seriously, though, the value of free on Amazon was already going down for most writers. I scour Amazon’s free lists in a few categories, and have found a few winners. But too few for the amount of time it takes, so I’m doing it less and less. I’m always looking for well-written original science fiction and hate that sf and fantasy are lumped together, since the chances of finding something that sounds interesting enough to download are just about nil. And you can’t always tell by the title and cover which is which, so that makes it that much worse.

      If you have a personal reason for going free, as I know you do, there are better ways to do it than sign on for Select and hope to catch the brass ring. Cory Doctorow has built a good part of his reputation by making his books free on his website. I just read Little Brother and Homeland and will be buying both. One permanently free book to introduce readers to your work also works, but it works just as well indendently of Amazon. Maybe better.

      1. I’m no fan of Amazon or their Select program. The company is well-named as they behave like a piranha sometimes! It’s true the pickings are slim, and I agree it’s been frustrating to try and find the few golden needles in the haystack, so I’ve become more selective as well (though I only look through Smashwords for free stuff, and filter mainly by the books’ descriptions).

        1. I don’t love Amazon, but it’s my prime shopping site, and that’s where I sell most copies of my books. But I have no intention of limiting myself to Select. I also publish on Smashwords, though they’ve turned into a dud for me. My main use for Smashwords now, besides supporting a few writers, is using a coupon to promote a new book. I was going to go with Kobo, but found out that you have to accumulate $100.00 to get paid and I know that will take me a year or more. Will probably add Ganxy, once I can figure out a practical way to use it. Eventually, I may be able to sell some books through an affiliate link on Wizzley, where I’ve just started writing.

            1. I’m not sure which one you mean, but Wizzley is a content-writing site. And one of the rare good ones. Ganxy is a new marketplace that I’ve been reading good things about.

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