This is going to sound crude and self-serving, but I got junk punched this week when Amazon decided to allow a pedophile to sell his self-published guide to pedophilia on their website. I love Amazon for a lot of reasons, but that was a bone-head move that rightly sparked a boycott movement. And, herein lies the aforementioned junk punching. The boycott affected me – I think.
My primary source of income comes from Amazon’s website. I am not an employee of Amazon. I am an entrepreneur who uses their website to publish and sell my books. I make more than a fair amount on each sale, and I have yet to find a viable alternative to the system they have created for authors like me. In short, I rely on Amazon to sell my books and help pay my mortgage.
Yesterday, when the outcry for the boycott was at a fever pitch, my sales dried up. I cannot say for certain the boycott was the reason for the dip in sales, but it did make me stop and panic. Now, you should know, I don’t sell thousands or hundreds of books every day. If I sell a dozen in a day, that’s an excellent day for me. I rely 100% on word-of-mouth and my sales have gone up year after year. In fact, I’ve already sold 30% more books than I sold last year. If I get a similar holiday bump in sales that I got last year, I’m on pace to triple my sales over last year’s numbers. Again, we’re not talking tens of thousands of books. More like thousands, and trust me, I can barely make that plural. The point is, just a little hit has a huge negative effect on my income.
Amazon is not a giant, faceless corporation – not entirely. It is a publicly traded company with seemingly as many lawyers as managers on staff, but it is so much more than that. It is a community of authors, musicians, filmmakers, small businesses, etc. trying to make a living practicing our craft of choice. We have no say in company policy. We have no voice in who the company hires. We have no power at all within their system, save one, the power to make money.
Was I happy to find out that a pedophile was using that same system to spread his vile crap? Of course not. I was disgusted. I agreed with the angry comments I read left by customers on the book’s sales page. I didn’t understand Amazon’s first amendment stance, especially when they ban pornography which is also protected under the first amendment. The move just made no sense at all. But nonetheless, I am torn. If I support a ban of the platform that is the major source of my income, I’m essentially committing retail suicide. As I said, I haven’t found a system that even comes close to Amazon for what I do. Say what you want about them, but they know ecommerce better than anyone else on the planet, and they’ve gamed the system so we artists can actually make a living doing what we love.
It is my understanding that the book is no longer on Amazon’s site, and my sales were back to normal today, but I’m still left with the metallic taste of worry in my mouth. What if this happens again? I realize I’ve made this whole unfortunate incident about me, but I never said I didn’t have narcissistic tendencies. Plus, this is how I eat.
So, what do I expect from you, the Amazon customer? Nothing. I’m not suggesting you never threaten to boycott Amazon again. But remember, when the ‘B’ word comes up again, there will be a stocky, bald little writer on the East coast feeling the brunt of the boycott through no fault of his own. And there are thousands of others like me, I might add… not that their stocky and bald. They’re just entrepreneurs trying to make a living through Amazon.