The number of self-published titles keep growing by a million titles a year or more. They sell a paltry average per title, and a very small percentage sell a measurable amount at all, but cumulatively, their sales add up. Most of the revenue from that growing market segment goes to Amazon and a very small share of it goes to print or brick-and-mortar. Amazon’s growth in any way fuels their ability to be tough on terms, reducing publishers’ margins. […] And more ebooks, particularly indie ebooks, and the subscription services for ebooks also tend to force down retail prices, which puts further pressure on publishers’ margins.

–Mike Shatzkin on long-term strategies.

Y’all know when various people or whatever make those “self-publishing is devaluing literature!” posts, and everyone rolls their eyes? Well, here you go. This is what they’re actually saying.

Basically, by leveraging its status as a monopoly presiding over a monstrous, underpaid, unrepresented class of workers, Amazon is able to drive the market. And the direction Amazon wants to drive that market is more profit and power for it, and less profit and power for the people it deals with, be they big publishing houses (who still have some power) or individual indie authors (who have none whatsoever).

To put it more bluntly, indie authors are Amazon’s sweatshop; no pay, no conditions, and indoctrinated into the cult of the “flexible workforce”. The problem is, when one manufacturer in a space starts to work this way–when it churns out masses of product for pennies–then everyone else has to either, a) differentiate their brand as some kind of premium product quick fucking smart, or b) join the race to the bottom.

These strategies, incidentally, apply to the individual indie authors themselves just as much as they do publishers. Successful indie authors are successful because they either:

  1. have brand recognition on their name (this is where E.L. James started)
  2. produce large quantities of low-cost product (any long-term tradpub midlister who reclaimed a big backlist and went indie)
  3. or, most often nowadays, both.

Or, in other words, being an author is hard, being an indie author is harder, film at 11.