Is Amazon past prime? I really can’t speak for all business fads, just ones American. Americans do love…business. What do we love more than business? Duh. A great business fad.
Hey, we DID invent the forty-hour work week just so we could ignore it *hair flip*.
As I mentioned in my December post Penguin SOLD: Publishing, Change & Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Oh MY! everything fluctuates. Markets don’t get a pass. The world changes, technology shifts, and business that want to survive are wise to remember this.
Businesses exist to serve the customer…which is why Blockbuster is no longer around #ByeFelicia.
Which brings me to an interesting point. In the Amazon paradigm, who exactly is the customer? Did Bezos, in his frenzy to build an empire, forget that he actually had multiple customer vectors? Or, did he believe he could build something ‘too big to fail’?
Let’s talk about this, shall we?
The Amazon Paradigm
If you want the 411 on exactly HOW Bezos built a company that very literally changed the world, please feel free to go check out this post. Because, in the beginning, Amazon really didn’t, per se, sell anything,
Initially, Bezos sought to master gathering, sorting, collating, then being able to effectively utilize information. If anyone understood the old axiom, Knowledge is power? It would be Jeff.
See, Bezos was around for Web 1.0 and understood the longterm goal to create…well, what we have now. HE wanted to be Web 2.0’s Baby Daddy…and well, he was, er is.
Thanks, Jeff. LOVE my socks.
In the early aughts, Bezos knew where the trends were heading. That Big Box stores were going to become obsolete, which was why Amazon dedicated every resource into not simply dominating the online shopping paradigm, but essentially creating it.
Amazon did what Web 1.0 failed to do. They made buying goods and services on-line so seamless, easy, safe, and affordable that they moved this buying behavior from nerd-early-adopter over to the mainstream.
Not only that, but SO many consumers began shopping online, that it was a) business suicide not to have a virtual store but also ironically b) virtual suicide for retailers to try and compete and open their OWN on-line store.
Just ask Borders. Wait, you can’t.
Amazon literally changed the commercial landscape in such a way that made pretty much every form of business with a physical product dependent on Amazon (and where Amazon got a share of their profits).
Sell t-shirts, yarn, vitamins, dog food, plumbing supplies, toupees, electronics, hair gel, camping equipment?
Are you a BIG SIX PUBLISHER? A Big FIVE? Spiffy FOUR?
Well, we’ll need a small piece of those book sales if you want to stick around.
Big Box, Big Vacuum
We’re now in 2020 and business is changing yet again and guess what, my lovelies? While writing is first and foremost an art and a craft, it is also a business.
It’s also our job to understand the business of our business…which is why I write these lovely tidbits for y’all and try to make them fun enough so you don’t want to stick your head in a blender.
It’s a good thing for authors—TRUST ME—that the Big Box bookstores went away. I wore a red dress to Border’s funeral and brought it out again for Barnes & Noble’s. The Big Box bookstore killed the small indie stores and almost obliterated the author middle class.
***If you long to know why the good old days really weren’t good at all and WHY I am a big fat meanie about B&N? Check out The Hard Truth About Publishing—What Writers & Readers NEED to Know.
All this said, Amazon did a superlative job. Mission accomplished. They restructured modern business, remolded consumer behavior, and even created this leviathan industry to support a logistical operation unlike anything witnessed in human history.
Big Trouble in Little Made in China
According to the January 2, 2020 Forbes article Is This The Beginning Of Amazon’s Meltdown?...
Last November, the world’s largest sporting goods company, Nike, announced it was leaving Amazon. It would yank all its products from Amazon.com and sell them exclusively on its online store.
Stephen McBride, The editor of RiskHedge Report
Since then, other major and respected retailers have also defected including, but not limited to Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Vans, Patagonia, North Face and even Ikea. They’ve opted to selling their own wares on their own sites instead of partnering with Amazon.
They no longer HAVE to.
Remember, when I started this post I mentioned that everything has cycles, including business. Amazon paved the way for e-commerce, but it was absurd to believe they’d ever keep a lock on it. The entire point of entrepreneurship is to look at what isn’t being offered and then fill that vacuum.
These days, there are companies that—with the major advances in technology—can make businesses competitive without having to bend the knee to Amazon.
Shopify, Wix, Squarespace allow businesses of all sizes to create a small on-line store (even an author who wants to sell books and merch 😉 . ).
These days advertising and marketing is all done via our online brand/platform (and I will blog specifically WHAT a platform for an author is, so hang tight on that).
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogs have made it where anyone can cultivate and then reach their audience.
Feel free to check out the Forbes article, but essentially everything Amazon can do? There is a small service, app, etc., that, for a small fee, will offer the same benefits—delivery, order fulfillment, online shop, refunds, online payments, etc.— without the blood-allegiance to ZON.
Amazon and Publishing
Why should writers care about all this? I am so happy y’all asked. So I KNOW not everyone has been following this blog since the Publishing Dark Ages (I have literally been blogging since Borders was alive).
I can’t find the specific post, but I know as early as 2011/2012 I was ripping my hair out with the Big Six because Amazon was doing some pretty shady s#@! to the major publishers (like making the BUY buttons vanish).
Anyway, I preached how the old school publishers DID NOT NEED AMAZON. They were selling books and learning to code early e-books…not trying to deliver earth-moving equipment for God sakes.
Not that hard to figure out.
It was NUTS for NYC to grow dependent on Amazon for almost all on-line business. B&N already had a lock on almost all their brick-and-mortar business, so the brilliant plan was to hand their digital gonads to Amazon?
***Karen needed to see a manager.
I recommended they go hire some nerds to code their paper books into ebooks and launch their own websites to sell direct. Do their own order fulfillment for paper AND digital. P.O.D. (print on demand) was already around.
The major weakness Amazon had, as I saw it, was that Amazon didn’t have a passion and a love for the written word. They also didn’t value authors. NYC did.
***Okay, more than Amazon.
I also postulated that, as the market continued to become increasingly glutted with atrocious and unvetted books, that readers would be even MORE desperate for a publisher to get into the book SELLING business.
To please, please, please STOP propping up Barnes & Noble at the expense of their own best interests and the best interests of authors and readers.
….and that went pretty much nowhere. Sighs.
Amazon Grew and Times Changed
Well, back in December, there was that single and very vague article about Penguin Random House selling off major shares and *crickets*. No further analysis. I COMBED the internet for anything.
Last night, however, I happened to be listening to one of my favorite podcasts The Art of Manliness (don’t judge me). The author, John Tierney mentioned his non-fiction book The Power of Bad was for sale and that you could find it on the website his publisher Penguin Random House set up for him.
Tierney might as well have announced he had credible pictures of Sasquatch riding Nessie full speed while mermaids waterskied behind them in formation.
I HAD to go look and HOLY SCHNIKIES!!! It was TOTES LEGIT! A publisher literally cared about an author. What was next? Cats and dogs living together?
GUESS WHO’S IN THE BOOK BUSINESS?
Penguin Random House…the site is lovely. And this is a perfect illustration of businesses defecting from Amazon because they no longer NEED them. This is a laudable example of what I’ve been begging the publishing industry to do.
RESTORE gatekeeping. Writers are wearing out. Authors cannot keep going it alone and still offer quality to readers. We NEED advocates. For the love of chocolate…
WE NEED HELP!
In a world where algorithms can be juked and manipulated, where best-selling titles can be bought, and too many storytellers have succumbed to the swarm of creatively bankrupt marketers posing as authors who wouldn’t know a subplot if it shot them in the face…
YES, Penguin Random House, you do come to the table with over a century of credibility. To be perfectly blunt, we authors are feeling rough. We need to feel good about ourselves again some way other than comparing royalty payments and rankings.
Most importantly? Readers need us working as partners…equitable partners. We’ve proven we CAN go it alone. We can, but a lot of us are tired. Y’all do your awesomeness and we’ll do ours. Teamwork? Could we try that again perhaps? For the sake of the
Anyway, I poked around the PRH site this morning and, from what I can see so far, this site is largely what I had in mind when I was urging the publishers to become more forward-thinking back in 2012.
Of course, back when I wrote that post I was also fighting the NY snobbery of a) authors don’t need to be on social media b) all writers needed was a good book c) readers would only ever want paper d) readers would only ever want to browse bookstores and would never want to shop on-line….
*screams into pillow*
Alas, we’ve discovered that humans are greedy buggers (or, rather, been reminded). We want it all. Yes, we want digital, and paper, and audio, and probably want our favorite books acted out in hand-puppets…especially when we’re sick and being clingy.
The new Penguin Random House site is stunning. I love the video…namely because it’s positive and they address authors not ONLY like actual human beings, but like business partners and investments.
Wow, we write the books. Who’da thunk? We’re valuable. Yay us! Is it a good move? Dunno. Will they do right by us and readers? Time will tell. Have I read the whole thing wrong?
I gave up doing bath salts as a New Year’s Resolution sooooo…..
Seems legit so far.
Will Others Follow?
I don’t know and really have only brushed the surface of this topic. This is cutting edge information and let me remind y’all that we’re teetering on the precipice of massive marketplace disruption.
It hasn’t happened yet. Not in its full glory. But that’s what y’all love about my blog. Knowing when to hide before the sh-parkles hit the fan.
All this said, I published my Penguin piece around Christmas, and, if you look at the bottom of the new Penguin website, the copyright is 2020. Also, if you hit the Careers tab, there are a ton of jobs that haven’t been filled.
***Maybe a few of y’all can apply? Who knows?
So for all the writers out there, remember I told you to be patient? Work on your craft, learn, read, practice, build your platform and the business would eventually sort itself out. I PROMISED you that gatekeeping would be restored. And? From the looks of things…
It is good to be right 😉 .
Ouch! GOD! Cramp patting own back! OWWWW!
What Are Your Thoughts on Amazon?
I just got back from vacation and am doing MUCH better and seemingly over the pneumonia so will be loading new classes this week. In the MEANTIME, has this been a wild fifteen years or WHAT?
I’m kind of stoked to go poke around the Random Penguin site. Seems we can earn free books (free GOOD books). The message—mission statement—seems a bit unclear to me as to what exactly they’re doing, but I haven’t done the full deep-dive yet.
Yes, I am posting before knowing ALL the things.
But, I wanted to blog on this since I discovered the Penguin Random House site relatively close on the heels of that Forbes article about the major defections of large and respected brands.
And, since, I’m not seeing a ton a buzz about some fairly HUGE retailers going it alone, it does lead me to believe the Illuminati are hiding how HUGE THIS REALLY IS.
*dons tinfoil hat*
What are your thoughts? I’ve MISSED you and am needy, so talk to me!