Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Self-Publishing Problem

 Towards the end of last year, when I decided to take on the challenge of writing and self-publishing an ebook for every month of the year, I automatically decided to use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. A writer friend had done the same when she did this challenge some time ago, and since I was already using KDP to self-publish poetry and children’s books, it was an easy choice. I went about this business as the months of 2022 went by.


Then, in June, I discovered that Amazon was refusing to remove books which promoted transphobic, homophobic and hateful material targeting the LGBTQ+ community. As the parent of two kids who are a part of this community, I was concerned. I felt that I had to do something.


That “something” ended up being the decision to look elsewhere to self-publish my ebooks. I just didn’t feel right doing business with a company that was okay with selling homophobic and transphobic material.


I chose another service for this challenge. The first ebook I self-pubbed with them went through without a hitch. The bonus was that, unlike Amazon’s KDP ebooks, the ebooks I published through them were also distributed through other online retailers, such as Apple Books, Kobo and ScribD. An even better thing that I liked was that the ebooks were available in various formats: PDF, Mobi and EPUB. (Not everyone likes reading ebooks as a PDF!)


But now, with the ebook I self-published last month, I ran into a problem.


As a self-publisher, I always take advantage of any opportunity to promote my other books, and not just those which are self-published. That said, if I have relevant titles which are only available on Amazon, then I will include them at the back of the ebooks.


Unfortunately, the service I was using doesn’t like that.


Shortly after I released the free ebook for July, I got an email from them saying they could not list my book in their Premium Catalog. When I asked why, the response was that this ebook contained links to books on Amazon. As they put it in their email to me, I was not allowed to include any links to competing retailers “of any sort.” Not only did this mean Amazon but also other retailers such as Barnes & Noble, etc.


Well, that sucks!


The reality is that there are a lot of self-publishers out there who aren’t exactly making a huge profit off of this venture. I am one of them. I have yet to earn what’s known as a “full-time living” as a self-publisher. This is WHY I use free self-publishing services for ebooks such as Amazon’s KDP or this other one. (I create my own covers but I do pay for editing.) 


Also, as a person who RELIES on sales of books in order to actually earn anything as a self-publisher, promotion of other books listed at the back of the book is important.


Especially the books that are ONLY listed on Amazon!


Now, I know that a lot of people don’t like Amazon. I know some people who refuse to shop through Amazon as a matter of principle. But, you know, Amazon is a business. And, they are just one of the many online retailers out there which sell books. (When I made the decision to stop using Amazon to self-publish ebooks, I debated asking my publishers to remove my books from Amazon as well. However, I decided not to, because even though there is a lot of controversy surrounding the company, there are A LOT of people who still use it to buy books AND ebooks for their Kindle. So, that would mean a huge loss of sales for them, which was not a good thing for me to suggest to a business that relies on sales of the books they publish in order to stay in business.)


When I self-published ebooks through KDP, I didn’t come across this problem. I included books with links to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and even Walmart, and Amazon didn’t give me any problems over that. However, it seems that this other self-publishing service I have used does have a problem with that.


And I have a problem with their having a problem with that!


So, I am trying to figure out where to go from here. I DO need to use a self-publishing service that will not charge me, but I need to be able to have the freedom to include whatever links I’d like to include anywhere in the book. Period. I also need a service that will allow me to make the ebooks available as a free download. (Some of them will be used for promotion of other books.)


I just might end up going back to using KDP for the free ebooks. I talked it over with my oldest and he told me to just do what I had to do. I may not feel comfortable with this arrangement, but given that being able to have the freedom to put whatever content and links I want to in my book is super important to me (and part of the appeal of self-publishing itself), I will choose a service that enables me to do so.

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