Indie vs. Big Six: The war rages on!
The following may seem controversial.
And yet, evidence looms the ‘big six’ traditional publishers may be covertly manipulating or stifling indie book sales!
The sort of tactics about to be revealed will no doubt seem underhanded, even morally repugnant. Though dubious, these may not be considered unlawful or unfair in the normal scheme of legitimate corporate business practices. Both online retailers and major publishers are in the business of selling books to make a profit. From the perspective of maintaining a profitable business model, online retailers are more likely to feature products that are perceived to have better long-term sales potential, than upstart products perceived to have little or no overall market impact. But, like any new movement, whether political or literary, there will always be resistance. It seems there is no exception when it comes to ongoing efforts on the part of the ‘big six’ to hamper the market growth of indie authors and publishers. It could very well, most indie authors are not even aware of the weapons used against them. Ultimately, it can be difficult to police tactics one may not be fully aware. After all, one cannot effectively fight an enemy that refuses to reveal itself on the battlefield.
Not too long ago, encountering a harrowing story involving an aggrieved independent ‘romance’ author, one decided to curiously investigate. What one at first found, seemed incredulous. However, under greater scrutiny, the story of this anonymous author gained credence. The indie author in question claimed to have made a shocking discovery. She found her digital sales may have been capped via what can only be described as covert skullduggery.
Though appearing to sell briskly, her book was inexplicably halted at a certain rank in the best-selling category list, while similar books affiliated with big six publishers, not selling as comparatively well over the same sales period, continued to rise. Of course, this unfairly limited her book’s visibility, which meant not only was her title capped at a certain rank, it began to plummet shortly thereafter. After employing some investigation of her own, she discovered that sales algorithms were being manipulated in favor of titles published by the big six, perceived by the online retailers to be bigger sellers over the long haul. While the author appeared to possess no ability to pursue legal recourse, this underhanded scenario may not be an isolated case. Consulting various online indie author blogs, similar experiences appeared to have been luridly detailed.
What does this ultimately mean?
BIG SIX COLLUDING WITH ONLINE RETAILERS!
It may imply unscrupulous, but apparently not unlawful collusion, between big six publishers and major online book retailers. Obviously, such continued covert practices leave indie authors out in the cold, suffering from limited visibility and loss of increased sales growth. The real story in all of this speaks to a more cogent, but less obvious analysis. While big six publishers may collude with online retailers to better position their digital titles over those of indie authors, they are also able to continually exert greater influence and control over print copy distribution and pricing.
Let’s face it, despite growing popularity for digital books, sales of print copies, in the way of paperbacks and hard covers, is still where the real revenue is generated.
Considering this aspect of the publishing business, the big six still hold a commanding advantage over their indie counterparts. Recently, an example of this reared its ugly head in an ongoing dispute between Amazon and a major publisher over print copy price fixing. Naturally, the major publisher claimed Amazon’s pricing policies per their print titles worked against their best long-term business interests. The essence of the dispute involved Amazon’s repeated efforts to discount all print titles. Seeking greater control, the big publisher invoked what is termed the ‘agency model’, meaning while Amazon’s list price was significantly lower than the publisher’s suggested price, the latter was still able to collect royalties at a higher price point, while still able to move the same number of units corresponding to the discounted rate.
One can only imagine Amazon’s jocular reaction if indie authors bravely endeavored in attempting to negotiate for themselves such a lucrative arrangement. These sorts of scenarios demonstrate the disadvantages indie authors face in open market competition against a foe possessing both superior financial and negotiating resources.
Is there no recourse for indie authors in gaining for themselves similar market leverage?
The irony in this; in obtaining favor from online retailers for ultimate control over print distribution and pricing, the big six are continually at a disadvantage when it comes to digital publications. If indie authors continue to consistently publish digital works consisting of high quality content coupled with comparatively lower pricing, ultimate victory in the long term over the big six, seems not only realistic but perhaps, inevitable!
Steven Perkins has written two engaging books that have been well received and rewarded with excellent reviews on Amazon. This guest post allows Steven to speak to an issue that has not been addressed openly but needs to be. I offered my blog as a way for Steven to pass along his insights as well as bring his work to light. As one of over 200 respected MTW authors, I am glad to give him this opportunity. You can find Steven Perkins books, Raging Falcon and American Siren, on Amazon both in paperback and Kindle Unlimited.
During MysteryThrillerWeek you can learn more about Steven and his two books when he hosts an hour on Facebook February 12th, 10:00 PM EST.
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