Lucas from Empire Records is one of my favorite characters. Throughout the movie, he is the guru that observes the chaos surrounding him – the chaos he created – and interacts with it like an Eastern mystic. At one point, another character walks up to him and asks, “What’s with you today?” to which he counters, “What’s with today today?”

Confidentially, that’s sort of how I feel right now.

Amazon Unlimited. Holy hell, hath the writing sphere of the internet exploded into the rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air. I’m usually not the type to weigh in on polarizing topics because that inspires trolls, and opinions are very much like assholes. And both are just as plentiful online.

Don’t over-analyze that metaphor.

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But seeing the amount of panic one little thing has caused is enough for me finally say… Okay, guys, we’re finally getting a little out of hand here.

I don’t blame everyone. The tête-à-tête between Amazon and Hachette has caused a swirling shitstorm in an already tense standoff between author publishing and legacy publishing. And the more this debate has ensued, the more people have started drifting to one side or another in this steaming pile of rhetoric, because it is often easier to be black and white than to live in shades of gray.

I’m going to assume you know what I’m talking about here. If not, set us up the Google or visit Chuck Wendig’s blog because he’s been the one of the most neutral voices out there. (Not perfect. Just close to neutral, lest someone bestow the title of sycophant on me.) That being said, here are the problems I’ve been having with this latest explosion.

For one, nobody is actually reading the terms of service and the FAQs from Amazon’s end. My better half had a series of tweets which demystified it fairly well, and I know it took minimal amounts of time to find the pertinent information.

For two, I think at this point we’ve got the Amazon is Satan camp screaming at the Amazon is God one and the religious tenacity of both sides has gotten cacophonous. What Amazon Unlimited does is simply extend a further offer to those who already participate (and are tempted to participate) in their KDP Select program. Now, the latter is the rub, and even I’ll admit I had to groan at my decision to have only one of my books active in the KDP Select program at a time. It is a sweet-sounding siren call that, in theory, makes one wonder if they can open themselves up to a larger audience (and thus, larger profits). Especially if they’re someone like me.

There’s no proven anything. In the last few years, the author publisher or hybrid author has been in a mad race to figure out what the fuck the consumer is going to do next while still trying to preserve some semblance of the integrity of publishing. And one of the reasons why there’s a concern about this, and subsequent war of wills, in the first place is largely because of the consumer.

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The consumer demands. Amazon supplies. And while some readers are concerned about giving bookstores their patronage, the advent of the Kindle and e-reading has brought more readers into the market. Not all of them are reading Hemingway, but they’re reading. And when they’re buying books, they’re buying them cheap, or they’re buying the large name authors or the stuff they find on the daily deals. This is why large publishing houses are restructuring, author publishing has become so large, and the general publishing industry is collectively running in circles like their hair has been set on fire. Amazon changed the game because the consumer responded to what it had to offer.

And so, here we are now.

Jules the author has a problem. She wants her books accessible to as many people as possible at as cheap of a rate while still making money on her books. And while I agree with what hybrid authors especially have been preaching – that we need to diversify lest Amazon snare us and then bend us over its corporate desk – the point of fact is that they have the most alluring offer right now.

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Smashwords needs to change its storefront and become more user-friendly. Nook is sinking to the bottom of the ocean for failing to be more innovative than ‘we aren’t Amazon’. iTunes has some level of popularity because almost everyone has an Apple device. Kobo is making a case for itself and so is Google Play (guest starring as the anti-Apple). There are places out there that are offering me platforms to sell my books, but none that offer as large of a pool with as much to earn from it.

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Jules the consumer gets it. Jules the consumer is a broke-ass author who likes to read books and has four kids. I buy my stuff on discount. I buy e-books when they’re on sale for $5 or less. I buy them through Amazon. I’m that schmuck that visits Barnes and Noble, buys a latte with their membership, lets their kids buy a book from the kids’ section, and writes down the titles I’m interested in for purchase later on Amazon.com. Jules the author won’t ever price her e-books above $4.99 for this very reason. Legacy publishing has never paid my bills, so I don’t have the same horse a lot of legacy authors have in this race. I only have my experiences as a consumer. And my experiences teach me that Amazon has yet to have a viable competitor.

Does this mean I’m selling my soul to KDP? Not really. But I’m not ready to forsake it either.

I try to flirt with the middle. I keep one book on KDP Select at all times if I can help it, while making the rest available through every other market possible. I agree that if Amazon ever decides to take out the whip and chains, I am well and truly fucked as an author if I’ve surrendered my entire soul to them. They haven’t yet, though. And the suggestion that they will is starting to bear a level of ‘the end is nigh’ paranoia to it that has yet to be truly substantiated. Does that suggest they could turn on the providers of its content one day? That it’s merely a corporation looking to turn a profit or have the biggest piece of pie?

Duh.

But so are legacy publishing houses and, quite frankly, they’re pissed because they’re losing the game, not because they care about their authors. They’ve got the whip in their drawer too and have applied it liberally to many producers of their content throughout the years. Another author put it best in my opinion:

Unfortunately, the best name in the game is still Amazon.

I will still play the field. JR and I are both advocates of trying many things to see their potential outcome and what works best for us and our books and our consumers. And at this point, I’m an advocate of everyone else doing the same. In the end, when the dust settles, it isn’t our literary holy war that’s going to decide the outcome.

It’s the consumer.

So, get thee henceforth and start wooing them.

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