In grad school, a professor wrote on one of my papers, “Andi, you can’t really be this much of an idealist, can you?” I can’t remember what that paper was about – Derrida, gnosticism in Toni Morrison, my loathing for James Joyce? – but I do remember that comment very well for two reasons:
- I didn’t realize that being an idealist was a bad thing.
- I was (and still am) absolutely an idealist.
So about 18 months ago, when I wrote that I was boycotting Amazon because of their practice of encouraging customers to visit brick-and-mortar stores to scan books so that Amazon could underprice them, I was sincere. I loathed that practice enough to cut Amazon out of my life.
Then, my brother bought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas, just two weeks after that post when live. Sigh.
And here was my quandary – do I honor this generous gift from my brother? Or do I honor my idealism?
The answer was easy – people first, always. So I downloaded The Singing by Allison Crogganand escaped into a back-lit land of magic.
I still don’t love Amazon. They feel monopolistic to me. And I’m still quite disappointed and angered by that, albeit brief, practice of using brick and mortar bookstores to destroy themselves. And yet . . .
And yet, I’ve made a very conscious decision over the past few months. It’s a decision about priorities, and here’s what I’ve come to.
If I want to continue to write for a living – and I do very much want to continue – I have to make some sacrifices. One of those sacrifices is my idealism about business. I would LOVE to simply write without thought to markets or pay or labels, but that ideal is simply not the reality of writing today. Today, writers have to be business people – marketing and capitalizing (ugh, it hurts to even write that word) as best they can on the meager returns on art as commodity.
So, I have signed up for the Amazon Associates program, which is where I link most of the time when I share a book. I download books to my Kindle regularly. (In fact, I just bought Billy Coffey‘s When Mockingbirds Sing.) I have ordered a few wedding items from their vast array of stuff. And my book is for sale there.
Because here’s what I’ve decided, sometimes passion has to trump ideals. My passion is for writing – for my ability to write for a living and for my friend’s ability to make some part of their living (if not all of it) from their work. My ideal, well, my ideal is that we all be able to sell enough books through independent bookstores that we can survive, but my ideal is not reality (which I’m sure it what my professor was trying to point out to me in grad school.)
Really, it’s about people first (although I’m not sure Amazon shares that philosophy). My friends and I need to have financial support to be able to continue writing books, and so if we can get that support through a rather monopolistic corporation, I need to reconcile myself to that, even as I loath it. I never want to put my beliefs, my theology, or my idealism ahead of people. Never.
I still buy as much as I can from Powells, and I make it a point to shop at independent bookstores wherever I find them. But yeah, on this I’ve compromised. I don’t sit easy with the compromise, but well, then, sacrifice is never easy is it?
What about you? What are your feelings about Amazon? Book buying? Making money as a writer?
*Folks, I’ve started a Pinterest board that features the work of my friends. I’d love to pin a copy of your book – with the sales’ link of your choice – to that board. So please, link away in the comments below and I’ll pin you up. You have always wanted to be a pin-up, haven’t you?