How I Fought the Amazon Wars and Won

Guest Post by Jim Musgrave

When I wrote my first historical detective mystery, Forevermore, I had a clear goal in mind: I wanted to write the best story for my reader to enjoy. This is the goal of every independent author out there, and the reason I want to communicate this fact of indie publishing is that many of the “big publishing houses” are not publishing the best stories for their readers. Please allow me to elucidate.

I have been published by a big publisher. It was called “Harcourt-Brace,” and it was the small professional arm of the corporation, “AP Professional Press” that published my book, The Digital Scribe: A Writer’s Guide to Electronic Media. Notice the quaint reference to “electronic media.” Back in the late nineties, we were still bedazzled by the newness of digital technology and its “multimedia” aspect. Today, digital multimedia is part and parcel of most of the “packaged novels” that get submitted by the big agents out there. They’ve already looked ahead to all the money to be made on movies, computer games, translations, Chinese edited versions, ads on the walls of urinals, and on and on with the corporate merchandising aspect of business. This was 1996, so publishing had yet to go through the gigantic and tumultuous war with the Amazons (coming soon to a screen near you!), and I was too much of a rookie to see the writing on the Amazon wall, so to speak.  Amazon, after all, was also a “big corporation.”

Flash forward to 2013, and I am completely entrenched in the “indie publishing movement.” Yes, I am politicizing this because there is a grassroots “political” movement going on that dares to stand-up to the big publishing giants and call them on their intrigues and misrepresentations. I wrote a “little mystery” that I was proud to say was a “big publisher’s worst nightmare.” Why? First of all, it was short (114 pages in paperback, 12 pt. font); it was not padded with description and useless back story; it was, in short, the best short mystery I had ever written, and it was meant to grab the readers’ interest and keep them entertained for the entire 114 real pages and 2415 Kindle pages. I used the simple and straightforward distribution method of Amazon’s (there’s that creepy name again) Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This method allowed me (ME, ME, ME, a thousand times ME) to control all of the content, all of the revisions, all of the covers, all of the entire blasted book! Oh my God! It was if I had been re-born! I now had a direct line to my reader! No longer would I have to haggle with an editor about using a drawing of a male monk in the Middle Ages on my book’s cover because, she said, “Eighty percent of readers are female, and they would not want to see a male monk.”   But, I argued, monks were male in the Middle Ages!  Anyway, I had to “compromise” and use the “hands of the monk” holding a feather pen! With KDP and those lovely Amazon ladies, I was able to make all of these big, “executive decisions” about my own book! What power! All of that concentrated energy infused my body!  (Or perhaps too much caffeine?)

Of course, I must give a spoiler alert to all you would-be indie pubbers out there. Unless you know what goes into a really good story, and you’ve consulted with other indie authors about how to set-up your book, you had better stay away from the wild forest where the Amazons roam. They will capture you, possibly castrate or dismember you, and put you in a pot for Mah Jong hors d’oeuvres later that day. Suffice it to say, get somebody to “have your back” when you go down the indie road into the dark Amazon forest of KDP or even the seemingly “friendlier” places where they Smash Words or read together with Sluggo and Little Lulu. I suggest you check-out places like Indies Unlimited. They have some crusty old buggers who have been down many of the self-publishing roads, and they are really friendly to newbies! Don’t, under any circumstances, fall for the scams out there! You thought Amazons were tough? You haven’t experienced anything until you’ve been raped by Author Solutions and its vast minions of corporate goons!

Okay, where was I?  Oh yeah, me (my favorite topic).  So I wrote this tiny little mystery that began to receive some favorable reviews on Amazon (up to 11 so far) from my readers.  These weren’t reviews from some paid author who publishes his books at the same big publisher as I do, or some “computer harvested mass of reviewers” who are paid by big publishers to receive some other “reward.”  No, these were actual readers of the book (the best kind for reviews, by the way).  I know they are the best kind because I have been hoodwinked by so-called “professional” reviewers who never read my book.  In fact, my favorite short story is “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff.  In this story, the protagonist, Enders, is a professional book reviewer of this ilk, and he receives his just desserts!

The final bullet in my brain came from my hero detective author, Lawrence Block.  He was saying how he recommended all would-be mystery writers to become independent if they want to bypass the “screwing over” that was becoming the norm in big publishing.  This is a gentleman who could practically “name his advance” in the detective mystery genre, so when he barked I sat up.

Are there independent author success stories?  I’ll let you be the judge.  This ain’t a war for nothin’, ya know!

Jim Musgrave is an author, English Professor and business owner who lives in San Diego, CA.  His most recent historical mystery series features Detective Pat O’Malley in Forevermore

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Posted on May 22, 2013, in Blogging Authors, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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