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Amazon’s War on Lightning Source

It appears to me that Amazon is in an undeclared war with Lightning Source (henceforth, LSI).

Before there was Bard and Book, there was the publishing endeavors of Athanatos Publishing Group.  I was set up pretty early with LSI and fairly well pleased with the arrangement.  My titles could be picked up anywhere--chiefly, though, they were purchased by Amazon.

No sooner did I get involved in publishing did I observe that Amazon liked to shift things around and change them up.  This was especially the case with their search algorithm.  I would optimize the title to make Amazon happy one day, only to discover that Amazon no longer liked it.  I discovered this by noting plummeting sales of previously successful titles, and then trying to get to the bottom of things.

You must understand what this does for a smaller press.  Can you imagine going for a time with revenues at a certain level only to have them suddenly drop by 40% or more, for no discernible reason?

The most recent obstacle (or shall I say, debacle) concerns the availability that Amazon assigns to a title.  Realize that the technology is so good these days that they can print and ship a book in a single day.  For most presses, there is no need to keep any in stock.  (Can you imagine what the publishing industry would look like today, if it had started out with this kind of technology?  I'd like to think that Bard and Book is an example.)  There certainly isn't any reason why Amazon needs to list any title available through a Print on Demand (POD) outlet like LSI as being available 7-14 days away.

People don't like to buy a book when it says it won't be available for another two weeks.  Even if you tell someone that Amazon is lying, that if you place your order you will get it shortly, they still won't do it.  A good illustration of this kind of situation is Athanatos's edition of GK Chesterton's Eugenics and Other Evils.  Look carefully:


Amazon Prime gets you the books you order within 2 days.  It says this title qualifies for Prime.  It also says it ships in 11-13 days.  How very odd.

Now, why would I suggest that this is a gambit by Amazon against LSI?  Because I notice that Amazon lists its own POD titles, serviced through Amazon-owned CreateSpace, as immediately available.  Same concept as LSI.  Same POD realities.  Same shipping options.  Same everything, except that if I, as publisher, list through CreateSpace, A., I get less money than if I list through LSI and B., Amazon gets revenue previously going to LSI.  However, I, as publisher am faced with a problem:  less money is better than no money, right?

That is to say, if I don't 'play ball' by listing my title by CreateSpace, I'll actually get nothing.  What would you do?

I tested this out with one of my titles.  I noticed that it had a long availability and this had been the case for several months after its release.  I threw it up on Createspace, which automatically cut LSI out of any sales of the title through Amazon, and BINGO, the availability instantly became immediate.

I raised these concerns with my rep at LSI (although, perhaps not the conspiratorial angle), who shared my frustration with how Amazon was handling some of their titles.  She did a couple of things on her end, and for most of my titles, after a month or so, the 'availability' improved.  You see from the above example that not every title did, though.

Even so, it is a total mystery as to why some of my titles show up well in Amazon search results and others don't, despite virtual identical treatment on my end.   Do you know how bad it is?  I've sometimes searched for my titles on Amazon and had HAIR PRODUCTS show up in front of mine, like on page 2;  and mine finally pops up on like page 5.   But perhaps this has nothing to do with LSI, and I digress.  🙂

Bottom line, I strongly suspect that Amazon is silently moving to build up CreateSpace listed titles against LSI listed ones.  Publishers--especially the small presses--are finding that their Amazon sales are plummeting, and the best way to stop the blood-letting is... surprisingly? to switch to CreateSpace, and take a pay cut.  In this 'war' between Amazon and LSI, it's going to be the 'civilians' that are hit the worst, as usual.

All this makes me all the more enthusiastic about operations such as Bard and Book publishing, as it takes both Amazon and LSI out of the picture, and lets readers directly support the authors they enjoy.  That's the ideal world right there, baby.

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