I've always been a champion of Amazon. As a consumer, I like the fact that you can buy practically anything under the sun on it, and normally whatever it is, arrives on time, is usually cheaper than elsewhere and you are given the option to leave feedback, which let's face it, you're not allowed to do in a shop. As an author however, I think Amazon sucks big time. I don't even want to consider their Amazon Select scheme as it limits who the books get distributed to, but I'm guessing if you opt in, you stand more of a chance of your book being listed for free. Dare to publish with anyone else, and you get left to fester in the mire, ignored by everyone.
One of the best things I've ever done is publishing with Smashwords, their distribution network is fantastic, and as I stated before, I discovered, by chance that my free books were flying off the shelves on Barnes and Noble. I received a lovely comment on my website from a lady comparing me to Lesley Pearse, and she had read my books on Kobo, which they never would have appeared on should I have stayed purely with Amazon. In my opinion, offering free books is the best way of introducing yourself to an audience. Look at this way, take a pop-star such as Adele. She is a major success on both sides of the Atlantic, but in the UK, her big breakthrough came at last year's Brit Awards, when she gave such a moving performance of 'Something Like You', people sat up and took notice. If 5 million people watched the Brits, let's break it down and say that three million had it on as background noise, one million hated Adele, and one million loved her. Of that one million, five hundred thousand would no doubt go out the next day and buy her album '21' and possibly'19' too. They tell their friends, who didn't watch the Brits and it escalates from there. All that started with someone watching her performance for free, on their television.
The same goes for books. Unless you’re already established, or else a TV or media celebrity, without the aid of major public relation campaigns and a huge marketing budget, no-one is going to know who you are or that you've published a book. Whereas if you publish a book for free, even if you get 1000 downloads, discount 500 of those, because people just love free books and don't bother to read them. But of those 500 that are left, even if 200 people don't rate your books, you are left with 300 people who want to read more of what you done. Who have friends, family and colleagues they will recommend you to. This isn't going to happen without them finding you in the first place.
I contacted Amazon, pointing out that Maudie, Mrs Osbourne Regrets and Winner Takes it All are all free on Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Sony, iTunes etc and asked if they could price match for a while, and I received a generic reply saying they controlled the pricing of their books and that they use their discretion. In other words – get stuffed! They are shooting themselves in the foot. They don't know if I'm a rubbish writer, or the next Catherine Cookson, but if they took a chance and made my books free for a week, there is always that chance that people would love my work and go on and buy other books - all of which Amazon takes a cut from. But they're not interested. Here in England they have the monopoly on online book sales and know they don't need the likes of me to boost their coffers.
Well, it's their loss, but it does sadden me that I am missing out on readers in my home country because Amazon do nothing to help promote authors who won't play ball with them. I'll goon buying things with them, and downloading books onto my Kindle. I'll even upload ‘Julia’ onto Kindle on 5th March when it's released. But I won't expect anyone to notice it. I'll just wait for it to come out on Nook.