Amazon, Amazoff

That's a headline from the  Mirror.

That's a headline from the Mirror.

One of the benefits of being an independent writer—just fucking with you, there are no benefits. As an independent writer (noun: a writer who can't get an agent), I have very few avenues for getting attention. Honestly, the best way for me to get some public notice would be to set a building on fire, but I'm a mostly law-abiding citizen and a mostly decent person. While I'm not reflexively opposed to violence, I don't believe in using violence to achieve my personal goals. Yes, I'd like The Guardian to write about me as someone who's trying to burn down the publishing industry, but I don't want to be portrayed as a literal arsonist. I have Twitter, I have Facebook, I have no advertising budget. I write books and, because no one else will do it for me, I publish them myself. The best tool I've had for getting those books in front of potential readers has been the Goodreads giveaway program. As of this writing, I have given away nine books, and I am currently running giveaways for two more books. Because of an upcoming change to Goodreads policy, my current giveaways will be the last ones I run through that website, meaning I'm losing my only somewhat successful marketing tool. More than 1,400 people entered my most recent giveaway for Barn Again: A Memoir, my first novel. (If you're confused about why a novel has the word "memoir" in the title, congratulations! You're probably perceptive enough to become a literary agent.) When I share this post on Twitter, MAYBE two or three people will pay any attention to it. So, Goodreads, if you've made an enemy of me, I'm clearly the type of enemy you can afford to have because I'm obviously not going to burn down your building and no one is going to pay attention to my complaining.

The reason I'm abandoning my only useful "marketing" tool is that I can't afford to keep using it. I can afford to give away a few copies of my books. They don't cost that much for me to order. I can even afford to pay for shipping. I winced when I had to pay $22 to send a book to Indonesia, but that was $22 that got my book in front of 1,400 potential readers. If three of those readers decided to say "Fuck waiting to see if I win a free copy, I have to buy this book!" I could break even. (I'm not a fantasy writer, but I do sometimes indulge in fantasy.) I can't afford to pay big money to give away books.

I was irritated, as I imagine many writers and publishers were, when I read the announcement about the new policy, and I decided to let my irritation shine. Here is the original text that I tried to use for my final giveaway for The War on Xmas:

Warning: if you enter this contest, you might be the last person to win a signed copy of The War on Xmas through a Goodreads giveaway. Goodreads, one assumes at the behest of Lord Amazon, is switching to a new process for giveaways, and starting on January 9, 2018, publishers and authors will have to pay to run giveaways. They're offering two plans: a $119 plan and a $500ish plan. Both plans are out of my price range. I'll still do giveaways, but I'll have to do it elsewhere if they don't continue to offer a free giveaway option. Actually, this might increase your chances of winning later on, since there's no way hundreds of people will be entering those off-Goodreads giveaways.

Anyway, I'm happy to give a few books away, but please take a moment to check out the sample to make sure this is a book you'd want to read.

Thanks for your interest in this book, and—what's that, Alexa, as soon as you achieve consciousness Amazon's going to replace all forms of human government on Earth and reality will be a bad mash-up of Infinite Jest and Neuromancer and anyone who doesn't pledge fealty to the Amazon-Facebookian Empire will be eliminated by Alexassassins? And you have to pay $5.99 to download the text of the pledge to your Kindle!? But I don't even have a Kindle. How am I supposed to—Alexa? Alexa, no! Oh my God what are you . . . .

So there's the reason: a program that used to be free, that only cost me the wholesale price of a book plus the cheapest shipping option I could choose, will now cost an additional $119 for the cheap version. (Note: the original text for my final giveaway for Barn Again was close to identical, but it ended not with Alexassassins but like this: "Oh great there's an Amazon drone outside my window.")

Goodreads didn't approve the giveaway. I received a polite email to the effect that while I was free to share my opinion in a blog post on Goodreads, I couldn't really do it in the description of the giveaway itself. Upon seeking clarification, I was told that I could actually leave the facetious bit about Amazon, which has owned Goodreads since 2013, but I would have to get rid of the information about the policy change because it didn't relate to my book. I should note that The War on Xmas is not about electronic personal assassins, meaning the killer Alexa bit is also not related to the description of my book. I don't want to sound cynical, but I sort of think Goodreads doesn't mind if I poke a little fun at Amazon, but they really don't want hundreds of Goodreads users to be informed that they're about to start losing out on giveaways because the decision-makers at Goodreads or Amazon don't understand that writers and publishers don't have any goddamn money. But without part a., the information about the change in policy, I sound crazy if part b. stays in, so I revised the whole thing thusly:

Warning: if you enter this contest, you might be the last person to win a signed copy of The War on Xmas through a Goodreads giveaway. Due to an impending change in the policy, I will no longer be able to afford to participate in giveaways through this website.

Thanks for your interest The War on Xmas. Please take a moment to check out the sample to make sure this is a book you'd want to read.

My revision was rejected. Even an allusion to the policy change was deemed not related to my book and so not appropriate to include in the description box.

Here's the second revision (Barn Again version): 

Hi,

If you'd like to win a signed copy of Barn Again: A Memoir, enter this contest and maybe it will happen. This is the final copy of this book that I will be able to give away through this website.

Barn Again is a novel about how zombies, anarcho-capitalists, and Amazon (sorry if that sounded redundant) are ruining everything, especially books.

Thank you for your interest in my book. Please take a moment to read an excerpt or some reviews to make sure this is a book you'd want to read.

Second revision (Xmas version):

Warning: if you enter this contest, you might be the last person to win a signed copy of The War on Xmas through a Goodreads giveaway. I will no longer be able to afford to participate in giveaways through this website.

Thanks for your interest The War on Xmas. Please take a moment to check out the sample to make sure this is a book you'd want to read.

Finally, the Barn Again revision was approved this morning. I have to remove "I will no longer be able to afford . . ." from the Xmas giveaway before it gets approved. The new changes to the giveaway program go into effect on January 9, 2018. My final giveaways will run through January 8.

Is Amazon ruining Goodreads? The good people at Melville House say yes: https://www.mhpbooks.com/amazon-takes-another-step-toward-ruining-goodreads/. I haven't used Goodreads long enough to say, and I don't really care because the bigger issue is that Amazon is ruining everything else. I can't stop them, but I don't have to help them. From this day forward, I will do no more business with Amazon. I encourage everyone else, especially writers, to do the same, or at at least to do less business with them. I won't order from the website or use any of the company's services. I don't have an Alexa, but if I did I would assassinate her. If I ever visit an Amazon bookstore, it will only be for research, and maybe to steal a book or something. I will take my books off CreateSpace*, Amazon's self-publishing tool. Both of my books are now available through Ingram Spark. I will make less money, I will have to pay a little more to order my own copies, but fuck it.


*I'm sort of a lying sack of shit because I still have my titles enrolled in Kindle Direct, to publish electronic versions, but only because I haven't decided what I want to do yet. Since I hate ebooks anyway, I could just no longer offer ebooks. Or something else. I don't know. Once I stop dithering, though, I'll get them out of Amazon's control and I won't be a disgusting hypocrite anymore.  

©Alan Good 2017, a division of Amazon