Back To The Days Of Brick & Mortar?

For the past few years something has plagued Amazon … that something would be sales tax and the battle surrounding it.

If you’ve ever shopped with the online retail giant, you know, part of the glory and the low price structure of the site at large is the absence of sales tax.  This goes for nearly everything in stock.  The reason Amazon could pull off such a thing when other stores can’t is simple … the entire practice of no-taxes hinges on the little law that states without a physical presence in a state, the retailer is under no obligation to charge sales tax. Hooray!

This has perhaps been part of Amazon’s appeal … especially when it comes to big ticket items like the 50 inch LCD television right down to the $200 Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the Prime free shipping … customers on the site really do pay retail and not penny above.  May shoppers, myself included, will scope out items at physical stores only to return home and order them online … Chicago has a crippling 10% tax structure in place … as you can imagine, this has saved me many a dollar over the years.

But, in the past few days this tax-free model has changed and changed drastically.  Amazon has inked a deal with California (the biggest bitcher about the tax-free stance of Amazon) as well as a handful of other states.  By fall of 2012 expect to spend a bit more on your purchases via Amazon.com if you live in one of the taxable states. So what does this potentially mean for Amazon and the consumer?

It means that Amazon may very well be taking itself offline exclusively and branching out into the trade of brick and mortar store fronts.  With no more incentives to remain captive behind your computer screen, the online retail giant may just end up taking it to the streets.

No, you won’t be able to find that obscure sock for your golf club in store if this ends up coming to fruition … Amazon is said to be exploring the idea of selling their wildly popular Kindle family as well as exclusive books in brick and mortar store fronts, and the plan is to start with their home base, Seattle.  So … yeah … in a way Amazon is going back to their roots while simultaneously exploring uncharted territory.

Lets go back to the beginning, shall we?

Amazon originally was a book store  (back in the dark ages it seems now) … and all started in the garage of Jeff Bazo’s home where he attacked the internet by offering below-retail books online.  And then, it grew.  It quickly became the Amazon we know today, offering the consumer vitamins to vacations and nearly everything in between.  But Amazon has always been, and will always be, a book retailer first and foremost, it was their bread and butter and remains steadfast in their role (don’t believe me?  Visit the site, tell me what shows up on the welcome screen) … so it seems almost natural that if they were going to break a proven, successful business model … it would be for the love of books.

The peanut gallery seems divided on this venture of Amazon’s.  Some outspoken individuals are questioning the sanity of Bezos as his plans come to light … wondering aloud why, in the dawn of brick and mortars going under at a neck-breaking pace, Bezos would gamble with a venture that seems and feels slightly ancient.  Others are just excited … and by others, I mean the independent authors who stand to have some shelf space in a store that, by all intents, could be as big (if not bigger) than Barnes & Noble where shelf space if typically reserved for the trade published.

But, why … that seems to be the million-dollar question on everyone’s lips.  Why would Amazon tinker with their success when book stores are going the way of dinosaur?  For me, the answer can be found in the behind-the-scenes antics of it all.

Last week, Barnes & Noble broke the news that they were drawing a line in sand — any book that was exclusively sold through Amazon (aka Select) wouldn’t be welcome in their stores.  And on the heels of that, Books-A-Million made a strikingly similar announcement.  Now, it’s pretty common knowledge that B&N isn’t the most Indie-friendly ground and for what it’s worth, it was exceptionally rare for an Indie to secure space in their store anyway.  In my opinion, it was no great loss for us but a tremendous loss for them.  They essentially were telling the customers, we don’t care what you want to read … we only care about having the upper hand.  This announcement was cloaked under the “fair trade” moniker … we saw the same thing with DC Comics this past Holiday season.  But, B&N is doing little more than whittling away at their own nose, since they hardly practice what they preach signing an exclusive with REAL SIMPLE and announcing it proudly mere hours after chastising Amazon for doing practically the same thing.

Whatever.

My suspicions is this: While there is a revolution in play for us writers … there is an all out war for the bookstores, one that could use the muscle and aptitude of a business like Amazon.

Amazon has always been keen on fleshing out fresh talent and growing itself as a business to include imprint publishing and a self-publishing imprint.  They are forward thinkers, always evolving to meet the needs of consumers as the consumers needs grows and changes.  And while the day of the book store may be slipping away, the era of Amazon is on the cusp of breaking free.

Amazon is creating rules as easily as they are breaking them.  They don’t look at PUBLISHING as an old-boys club where the “do-no-wrong” mantra is chanted throughout the empty halls … they look at it honestly and see the flaws … and then, they work tirelessly to correct them.  Now, they’ll do the same with BOOK STORES.  I can see them spinning B&N like a top … recreating the consumers idea of a “book store” by putting their own twist on things.  And for that, I’m excited!

 

 

 

 

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All Your Eggs, One Basket Only — Amazon Continues To Muscle The Market

Right now, the hot topic seems to be Amazon’s continual push to become the absolute end-all-be-all of the publishing world … especially when it comes successful independents.

On the forum I frequent an author recently posted about a deal with Amazon she’s been offered.  An exclusive deal where she would agree to not list her books on any other site — no B&N, no Kobo, no ePub, no iTunes — and in return for her sacrifice, Amazon would help boost her sales with special help, the kind only Amazon can offer.

The author, who also happens to be wildly successful, made note that nearly 80% of her sales happen to come from Amazon … with the other sites coming together to create the lagging 20%.  For her, it makes perfect sense.  Amazon is her readership … that’s where people find her and fall in love.  Taking the deal is simply good business … even if it means giving up the 20% in the other realms, Amazon’s muscle will probably more than make up for that on their end for her willingness.

The details of this deal remain super secret, Amazon is contacting authors privately to discuss the inner workings of their proposal, so the exact terms are unknown and they are asking those approached to keep quiet until a later date … but the floating conversation seems to swirl around the fact that signing on doesn’t mean forever and always, giving authors the back door if they ever need to escape.

It seems to me that Amazon is continuing to push the boundaries of becoming a monopoly.

When Amazon launched the Kindle, it was absolutely the best of the best of the best, and it held its place as King of The E-Readers for a good, long time.  But, B&N has seemingly caught up … along with Kobo, Apple and Sony all trailing not too far behind.

My guess is, if Amazon no longer feels they can beat them in the device market, they will attempt to outwit them in the library department by offering better books with a larger selection for a lower price.  But … they can only do that if we agree … because, lets face it, Random House, Harper Collins, Penguin and the like would never polarize their readers by making titles exclusively available through only one online resource.  Amazon … they need Indies.  We are all sort of like the wild cards, the ones that will take the crazy chances … getting an author to agree to only sell through one online source when so, so, so many are available with the simple click of a button … that’s pretty much a wild idea.  But, who better than us to take a different path?  After all, isn’t that what we do?

Amazon has always been the warm light in the Indie world.  Self-published authors will tell you, with very little prompting needed, that Amazon cares more about them, takes them more seriously, supports them more vigorously than any other outlet combined.  KPD is a true doorstep, once passed an author will find advice, a real person and someone who will help them if they need.  That alone allows them to be the front-runner for those going it alone into publishing.

But … all of your eggs?  One single basket?  I’m not so sure …

I think this it is a brilliant idea for the already published author who has a strong readership on Amazon and knows exactly (as in dollars and cents) what she would be giving up by giving up B&N, ePub and Apple.  For a new author, like myself, it’s probably not a smart business move.  My market remains untested, unknown.

Independent authors have to be more than just writers … they have to be business men and women.  When I think about this deal, I think about traditional publishers.  I think about how they conduct themselves in this literary web … which is almost as new to them as it is to us.  Would they limit themselves simply because Amazon would give them more muscle?  I doubt it.  They understand that the key to selling books is giving the reader — all readers — the opportunity to buy them.

Think about whole hoopla surrounding the release of the Fire.  Amazon was able to ink that exclusive deal with DC Comics, and B&N fired back quickly that they would no longer sell DC Comics in-store because they are all for equal opportunity.  If their Nook Color readers couldn’t buy DC Comics on their tablet, then f-it, they wouldn’t do business with DC at all.  Period.  Done.  Kaput.

When I consider self-publishing, I think of eBooks as only one avenue of sales in a city full of them.  I do want to be carried in brick and mortar stores.  I do want to give readers the chance to find me wherever it is that they find their books.  I simply could not, at this point in time, go along with Amazon.  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t support or understand how others could, nor does that mean I won’t ever reconsider when I’m working with brass-tack data.

I think the bottom line is this:

Independent authors are starting to have opportunities.  Some will help us, others will hurt us.  But, we’re being taken seriously enough by big brands that they want us all to themselves.  We’re absolutely doing something right …

**Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below**

 

 

NaNoWriMo Muse–Hedging Your Bets With Just a Little Luck.

I’m not superstitious–let me start with that so you’ll know this comes from a place of curiosity rather than deeply rooted lore.  I’ll never be one to throw salt over my shoulder.  I step on cracks all the time–and mothers back is just fine. I have no problem with ladders–I’ll climb them, walk around them, or under them.  I think black cats are adorable.

But…

Who can’t use just a little more luck?

This morning I was playing around on Etsy, a site that it supported by Indie crafters and artists–and I typed in NaNoWriMo just for fun.  Up popped a cluster of NaNoWriMo muse dolls (in my opinion they looked more like voodoo dolls…but, whatever).  The search peaked my curiosity…do people really get muses to help them through the month of NaNo?  So, what’s a girl to do but research.

Most of the pages directly linked to NaNo forum have been moved and ergo were unfound.  But, what I did see was this…

It’s not uncommon.

Some people buy CD’s…others opt for stuffed animals–or voodoo-esk dolls. But, the practice of getting something to encourage you along isn’t unheard of.

I was in Barnes and Noble looking around later and found this lovely four leaf clover paperweight.  After reading the information card on the back, I knew–I’d found my muse.  I don’t know if it will inspire me so much as capture the feel of my NaNoWriMo manuscript.  Faith, hope, love, luck….sounds a lot like NaNo to me.

Will you be using a muse this year?  Something to inspire you and encourage you along?

Meet My Muse

December First…I’ll Be Reviewing

Starting on first of December, I will begin taking on a small number of Indie books to review.  Authors, you can use me!  I’d love to read your words and give you honest feedback–honest, being the keyword (please read that word carefully and understand what it means before going any further).

Writing reviews is always something I enjoy.  I love to read–I have a reaction to reading, and yes, it’s a wordy one.  Sometimes books are salt of the Earth good, sometimes they stick in the middle, and others are just bad.  But, every story leaves a mark.  I want to give that back to you–let you know what your writing evoked.  You’ll be free to use the review in publicity campaigns and I will publish the review on both Goodreads, Amazon, B&N and right here!

I’m interested in the following genres:

-Young Adult

-Women’s Fiction

-Chick Lit

-Literary Fiction

-Biographies/Memoirs

-Horror/Ghost Stories

I’m not interested in the following genres:

-Erotica

-Epic world adventures (think steampunk, sci-fi, and the like.  That’s pretty vague, I know, so if you’re stuck wondering if you fall in this category, e-mail me)

-Fantasy

This is nothing personal, I like to read what I like to read, right?  To give this the best effort possible, I’ll stick to the comfort zone.

In order to submit your book, please e-mail me labellanovella@gmail.com.

Please include the following:

1. Your Name

2. Genre of book

3. Title

4. Length of book (pages or words will do)

5. A blurb about what you wrote, tell me your story…

6. Is your book currently for sale?  Please include the vendors…

How I decide which books to take on:

If your book is for sale on Kindle, I will order a sample.  I’ll read it.  Then, and only then, I’ll decide.  It goes back to being able to find myself drawn to your story.  Let’s face it, you want good reviews and I want to give you good reviews…so we should start on a high note.  If, for whatever reason, I don’t take on your book–it’s nothing personal.

If your book is accepted to be reviewed, the following things will happen:

1. A copy (Kindle version only, please!) will be provided to me by the author.

2. I will e-mail a series of questions for an interview after finishing the book–they will be book relevant questions…that’s right folks, you get the spot light on my homepage!  Not only will I review your book, but I’ll feature you on the La Bella Novella blog as well (win/win…right?)

***

The fine print (’cause there is always fine print):

*Reviews will be written and submitted to author prior to publishing on any format (including, but not limited to the above listed outlets).  If you’re unhappy with what I have to say–we can part ways.  You are under no obligation to use my review if you feel it doesn’t capture the best of you and your book, by doing so you will opt out of any publishing on this blog.  I will, of course, respect that and in turn, please respect the fact that I read with an open mind–where it goes, it goes.

*I make no promises of bigger and better sales.  I’m one person. I will publish the review in the above listed sites, I will also entertain publishing in other locations in accordance to requests.  Your interview/review will receive an outgoing tweet to my followers on Twitter as well.  I encourage you, the author, to do your own marketing–including Facebook announcements, Twitter, blogging and the like to let your readers know where you’ll be.

*Please be understanding that I am not a professional reviewer…I have a job, I write, and I have a family.  Unforeseen circumstances and life may delay the review process or halt it all together at any time.  I’m a good communicator, and I will let you know if anything stops me from pushing through to the end.

*Not every book will be queued, I cannot take all submissions for multiple and various reasons.  I reserve the right to kindly say “no thank you”.

*I will not read through your mistakes.  I’m not an editor.  I’m not even a beta reader.  Consider me among the hordes of readers clamoring to read your story.  What you’d expect of them, expect the same from me.  If the book is full of errors, just like any other reader, I’ll close the cover and return it.  I’ll, of course, let you know that I can’t continue.  If you choose to make the corrections, you’re more than welcome to resubmit. No bridges burnt here.

*I’ll read as quickly as possible, but I am aiming for one book every two weeks (give or take–sometimes more on the take side).  I will not continue to queue into the great abyss, forever and ever amen.  Once I reach a daunting number of “to-be-read” books, I’ll close for submissions until I can catch up.  During that time, you’re encouraged to send me feelers to blimp on my radar, but I make no commitments.

*One review will not break your book.  My opinion is just that…only my opinion.  It doesn’t really mean anything–so if I don’t review favorably, remember…I’m just one person–and many, many more will love your book!  Don’t be discouraged!

OOOKKKKKAAAAYYYY…

Now that we have all of that out of the way…I’m excited to get to interact with you all.

Check out my previous reviews and my style at:

www.goodreads.com/AshMP