A Cry in the (Amazon) Wilderness: My Life on the Worst Sellers’ List

“Everybody wants to rule the world,” British New-Wavers Tears for Fears slyly proclaimed on their 1985 hit of the same name. Of course, there is irony there: everyone knows that most people would be happy with just a fair shake in life. But even that modest expectation seems naïve today when so many “leaders,” whether in politics or business (and really, what’s the difference?) seem more intent on dominating than on leading.

“So glad we’ve almost made it/So sad they had to fade it” (Everybody Wants to Rule the World, written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes)

Never mind for a minute the actions of a certain U.S. president whose dingbat megalomania and all-consuming need for loyalty and adoration seems to bubble up from a bottomless pool of self-hatred that is dreadful to contemplate. So yeah, never mind it. But what about those global top dogs of high-tech, so admired for their paradigm-shifting innovations? Which brings us (well, me) to Amazon. Millions, if not billions, love the we-have-everything-quickly customer-centric giant. So in the bargain for this prevelant need for ever-optimized consumer convenience, Amazon can impunitively send traditional brick-and-mortar businesses into tailspin, evade taxes, treat their warehouse employees like indentured servants subject to clinically-tested psychological pressures (making for smashing magazine exposes) and shortchange content providers big and small. Especially small. There’s no irony when CEO Jeff Bezos wracks up these headlines:

How Jeff Bezos is Hurtling Towards World Domination (Newsweek)
A Quest to Rule the Universe? Bezos Expands His Rocket Plans (L.A. Times)
Or simply,
Jeff Bezos Wants to Rule the World (take your pick across the Internet)

The content provider issue is the one that involves me, though there are hundreds if not thousands of other indie authors with similar gripes. As I put my finishing touches on my second book, “Rock Docs: A Fifty-Year Cinematic Journey” last fall, I hinted in my postscript of the potential of rock music, especially through its visual recorded history, to keep the spirit of youthful idealism alive one’s whole life through.

So off goes my tenderly nurtured labor of love off to BookLocker.com, the print-on-demand publisher I had used on my first tome, “Documentary 101: A Viewer’s Guide to Non-Fiction Film.” I try to steer would-be buyers of the book to them, a smallish and trustworthy mom-and-pop business that strikes the right balance between consumer and content provider, treating both fairly. It spreads the wealth around and puts a little extra something back in the pocket of the writer trying to make back their up front investment.

But let’s face it, Amazon is what people understand nowadays and many people will just go through them by force of habit. Imagine the dismay, when just a couple of months after being released the Bezos gang start listing my book as “Temporarily Out of Print.” Since “Rock Docs” is a print-on-demand title, this is categorically impossible.

So after a slew of emails between myself and the “Help” people at Amazon’s Author Central, I was told, with the same unnerving passive-aggressive certitude used by their CEO, that it was because they had no copies in their warehouse (and could we send them some at no charge), that the involvement of a third party slows down their preciously pursued turnaround times (even though BookLocker uses Ingram for printing, a reliably fast printer who even use Amazon shipping labels) and by the way, wouldn’t I be happier using their self-publishing services? Well, obviously I gave them a definitive No to that question, but while BookLocker gallantly play David vs. Goliath (they’ve already won one settlement against Amazon) my book take a predictable plunge in the latter’s ranking, down into the millions, a predictable predicament when the book is falsely claimed to be out of stock.

Before I go any further let me get to my main point (or plug). If you’re interested in my book (and if you’ve been visiting this blog you are probably in the target audience anyway) go visit BookLocker.com at the link below or a non-Amazon online bookseller, like Barnes & Noble at bn.com. Note that there’s a 30-page excerpt available at my BookLocker author page

http://booklocker.com/books/8905.html

Let’s spread the wealth while there’s still some left to spread. The wife-husband team that operates BookLocker are a diligent home-schooling couple who have built a nice business for themselves. I can’ but help to think that Jeff Bezos would rather have them slaving away at one of his draconian warehouses than willingly let somebody dare be in the same business as him. Maybe he’ll prove me otherwise someday, rather than making collateral damage of hundreds if not thousands of indie writers.

“Help me make the most of Freedom and of pleasure/Nothing ever lasts forever,
Everybody wants to rule the world.”

Of course, this whole thing is indicative of a larger societal problem in the upper strata: the “we can do it, so we will” mentality, where no advantage will be left untaken and no admission of fallibility or wrongdoing is possible, ever. You know, I never had a lot of time for the therapy-session pop of Tears for Fears back in the Eighties. But I did always like this song and its image of a couple “holding hands while the walls come tumbling down” in the face of a callous world. With the passage of time it’s gotten only better and I found this recent performance pretty inspiring. Ironically in terms of this post, it was produced by Spotify, infamous for compensating musical artists micro-pennies on the dollar on their streaming service. Nevertheless, great job, guys—I only hope you got paid for it.

6 comments

  1. Oh Rick – I feel for you. We too run a mom and pop style business from home and at the beginning it was great but year on year we are getting left behind as the behemoth online superstores take over. I love your book and it now sits proudly on the shelf along with the other reference material for my blog. I have actually found that because there is just so much, sometimes erroneous, info out there in cyberspace, it’s simpler to write a post using three or four trustworthy hard copies.

    The irony is that whenever I discuss the purchasing of any item with people at work, it always comes up how much cheaper it is online and how they got such a bargain BUT they then complain like crazy when one of their family members loses their job when yet another local retail business shuts up shop. Another irony of course is that with everyone and his dog now putting themselves out there as amateur writers (I hang my head in shame), and with milions of blogs in circulation, making money from the writing business is nigh impossible.

    Good song choice for this post though – I’ll see you down the draconian warehouse in my overalls!

    1. Thanks, Alyson. So glad you enjoy my book, makes it so worth it when I am putting up with stuff like this. Hopefully we’ll get thru to retirement without ever having to work for such an awful company! And hats off to you and your husband for running your own business,that’s great. Ultimately, this is no big thing for me as I have always kept my day job, put it’s the principle of the thing that is galling.

  2. I know Bezos and Trump are on the opposite side of the political spectrum, but they both seem to share the same goal; to have the rest of us live in a medieval economy where the elites live in their castles in the lap of luxury while the rest of us toil to made our overlords even richer.

  3. Agreed, Stan. It’s distressing to think that this neo-Dark Ages thinking is not restricted to one side of the ideological fence. I’m hoping to squeak thru the next 5-7 years before retirement in my supportive work environment with a fair-minded boss!

  4. Sorry to hear this Bro- the big guys like Amazon are just out for every penny they can take and if one cannot generate it for them, ba-bye. I hope Indie writers, such as yourself, and the mom-and-pops don’t lose their passion or will and just keep doing what they love and putting their passion out in this world that so needs it! Keep doing what your doing Rick!! xo

  5. Thanks, Michelle. Some good news, though. Earlier today Amazon stopped saying the book was out of stock. Maybe my determined but non-abusive complaining helped. Who knows with them.

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