Not an "either" or an "or," but an "and"

This (via PV) is a blog post at Forbes titled "Amazon Is Ripe for Disruption") that is both insightful (e-book retail has a relatively low barrier to entry) and kind of dumb (Google does a great job!--uh, no, not if you're a supplier, it doesn't. Amazon treats everyone like shit!--uh, not really, not any worse than the other retailers do).

At the end there's a little aside I feel deserves to be highlighted:

[W]ith start-ups like Publit, it’s not actually an either/or decision, because you can both sell through Amazon, retaining scale, and sell through your own shop, retaining data.

It's true that, as the writer notes, there are certain limitations when you sell through a retailer--any retailer, actually, although the writer likes to pretend these limitations are unique to Amazon. You don't get as much access to data, and I'll add that you are also at the mercy of that retailer deciding to slash your cut of the money or suspend your account.

That said, retailers like Amazon bring a lot to the party. They attract loads of people looking to buy books. If you are hoping to sell books, that's a very good group of people for you to meet.

Which is why you can do both! Lindsay Buroker is a big fan of reaching out directly to readers, but you'll notice that she hasn't pulled her books from the retailers. Other authors sell directly to readers from their own Web sites, but they also have their books available for purchase at places like Amazon.

You can do both. You don't have to choose. That's something I sometimes struggle to convey to people new to self-publishing. I think this concept that everything's an either/or decision is part of the mentality that there's One True Path to success in publishing, which there isn't.

You don't have to choose between e-books and paper books. You don't have to choose between one retailer and another. You don't even have to choose between indie and traditional publishing.

You can decide to prioritize one over the other, or you can decide to do one first and the other later. You can even voluntarily choose to make your book exclusive to Amazon for a short period of time. But you don't have to, and just because you make a choice now doesn't mean you can't change your mind later.

That kind of freedom is new. Back when I was looking for a publisher for Trang and had decided it was a small-press book, I knew that I had to send it to only one publisher at a time. That was what you had to do in those days, because if you sent a manuscript to multiple small presses, you would get blacklisted at all of them. It didn't matter if it took each small press years to get back to you, you just had to sit on your hands like a good little girl until they did.

That's how things worked--one mistake, one tiny violation of a capricious and self-serving code of behavior designed soley to benefit publishers, and you were done for.

Things don't work that way today, and thank God for it!

People still have that fear, though, that mentality that they've only got this one shot and if they fuck it up, that's it! It's all over! You'll never recover! You're screwed forever!

Not true. A single decision nowadays (unless it's a decision to sign a bad contract) means nothing. Mistakes are reversible, and it's totally fine to focus on one aspect of your career at a time (one format, one book) and then move on to the next when it's time. If one thing doesn't work for you, or if you are uncomfortable with the limitations put on you by one way of doing business (i.e. the retailer/supplier relationship), you can expand into another (i.e. selling on your own).

You can switch from one to the other, or you can do it all. It's totally up to you.