I was scrolling through the updates of friends on Facebook. You know, the odd bits that show up occasionally, between all the ads and the updates by people you don’t recall knowing. Posts by people I don’t think I know perplex me, but I don’t usually pay attention to the ads. Months ago, I clicked on one for a chance to win five bottles of premium scotch. It countered my tradition of not clicking ads, but come on, scotch!
This time, my eye was drawn to an ad about Kindle publishing, a topic of interest to me.
It touted a how-to guide for getting rich publishing on Kindle.
I didn’t click the ad, so I can’t say exactly what was being offered. Based on the image of two guys who looked like they could also teach you how to count cards in Vegas, I doubt it was about how to increase Kindle sales for the book you poured your heart and soul into.
For the self-published author, who wants to write, publish, and sell a quality product that he has invested countless hours into making as good as he can make it, ads like this are a problem.
There aren’t gatekeepers on Kindle (Nook, iTunes, etc.). On balance, this is a good thing. It creates a truly free market, with no one standing in the way of anybody else’s success. But it is also a land of opportunity for those who would make a quick buck without regard to how their actions affect the rest of the market.
People using Kindle as a get-rich-quick scheme are not pursuing the dream of making a name for themselves in the literary world. They are pursuing easy money. By throwing up on Kindle whatever comes to hand and using marketing tricks to sell it, they cheapen the brand. Customers looking for satisfying reading experiences are likely to become skeptical of the medium and unwilling to trust any author who is unknown to them.
I don’t know how Amazon feels about these make-a-quick-buck publishers. In the short run, Amazon profits from their sales. In the long run, they could turn Kindle publishing into a wasteland. It is Amazon’s right to allow whatever they want on their system. It is everyone’s right to get rich by whatever legal means they choose. I would not abridge either of those rights.
Yet, I’m disappointed when I hear Kindle customers say they will only download content from familiar authors or well-known publishing companies. That cuts out a lot of authors who have worked hard toward their goals. We’re just looking for a shot, and we’re probably not as slick at sales as the hit and run content providers. When their material gets chosen we lose, and when it turns a customer off to independently published material, we lose again.
Maybe the ad I saw really was for authors who take their work seriously. I hope so. Even if it was, there are many that aren’t.
What can we do about it? Not much. Not anything besides working to put out the best quality product we can, in hopes of winning one more customer over to independently published books.