BE MY GUEST: Amazon VS Indie Bookstores by Author Kian Kaul

Here is an opinion piece from a very talented young author, Kian Kaul who took out time to contribute an amazing article about the publishing industry, for the readers of my blog. In his signature satirical style, he talks about how indie bookstores are refusing to work with Amazon and what that could mean for the publishing industry. His insights are worth-noticing as well as thought-provoking not only for published authors but also for those who are going to enter the big market. Read on to find out his observations and views:
Guest Post: 

Amazon VS Indie Bookstores

By Author: Kian Kaul

"What do they want from me? Why can't they leave me alone?"
"Well, they want to buy books."
"Yeah, but why me?! Why do they come to me?!"

This very funny exchange from Dylan Moran's cult sitcom "Black Books" – in which Bernard Black, a miserable independent bookstore owner, decries having to even deal with his own customers - was broadcast nearly twelve years ago, before digital piracy was an issue for publishing and recession was a lightly traded topic on late-night talk shows. Back in '00 indie bookstore owners could afford to sneer over a glass of cheap wine, indoor smoking hadn't yet been banned and Amazon was where you pre-ordered DVDs. The likes of Bernard Black could only have happened then.

But just last week the Seattle Mystery Bookshop published a blog post titled "You Can't Shake The Devil's Hand And Say You're Only Kidding" – a hotly debated explanation as to why they were no longer willing to stock titles published by Amazon. The owner went on to accuse as Amazon being "the enemy of independent book shops" and that working with them in any way would be "cutting our own throats".

Now, not only do indie shops have to watch out for the Kindle-shaped bludgeon hammering at their infrastructure (those 900 square feet would make a useful parking lot in such an attractive downtown-adjacent location!) but they risk alienating the only groundswell movement willing and able to support them – small-time writers publishing through Amazon and their affiliated self-publishing service. Better to risk stepping on a rake and stumble into on-coming traffic than cutting one's own throat, I suppose.

Sure, us indie authors who empathize could always can print our stuff through Lulu, just like you can plan your trip to the bookstore using Mapquest, pay for that new YA urban fantasy novel with your Discover card and post a review on your MySpace account… but why on earth would you? It's simply more advantageous for writers to work with the largest distributor on the planet who will publish and print their work on-demand in high quality and ship anywhere. But as any writer knows a coldly efficient virtual storefront isn't enough to gain readership in this age of community-based person-to-person interaction. Once published and printed by Amazon, those glossy books and novels are best carried by the armful to the nearest independent bookstore for signings, readings and old-fashioned monetary-based socializing among the charmingly stained carpets, slightly overpriced espresso drinks and the occasional wandering cat.

The closing of Borders and the deathbed sheet-tossing of Barnes & Noble have only driven more customers into the open animatronic arms of Amazon – like a primary school teacher with Aspergers, its embrace is coldly all-encompassing around our little frames but lacking in any of the personal warmth or rewarding camaraderie one finds at their local, corner bookshop. But once the writers have been driven away and the mass-consumers can order the new Suzanne Collins in one click with free shipping, along with a pound of fair trade coffee and a Snuggie blanket, their afternoons look pretty much set.

Soon, the only independent bookstores left will be found exclusively in the back corners of thrift stores, just past the faux-wood furniture and novelty lamps, where shelves upon shelves of Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer mix uncomfortably with LGBT collections and my novel "Stockholm"! All priced at $2 with proceeds benefiting any number of charitable causes. Who knows, maybe this is the way it should all end. Destiny or not, independent booksellers simply can't afford to throw patrons out on the street for asking questions or close early for a liquid lunch anymore than they can risk alienating the only real benefactors they have left. That sort of thing seemed to work out okay for "Bernard Black" at his fictional "Black Books", but then again they were selling absurd situation comedy.

About the Author:

Kian Kaul, born in Santa Barbara, California, has spent the last decade working in Los Angeles as a creative. An adopter of the philosophy of "the style of no style", he has found himself involved in music, new media, television, film and now literature. He considers himself an expert in nothing and aspires to know all. His first foray into long-form fiction produced "Stockholm", originally planned as a sitcom, it inexplicably became his debut novel.

To know more about him, visit his website: http://stockholmbook.com

About his Book: 


A struggling and not-so-young advertising creative, Anakin Carver meets Natasha von Ottmann, an up and coming actress working on his new campaign, and accidentally makes her famous. Now romantically involved with a celebrity, Carver finds himself connected into the landscape of popular media and entertainment; a labyrinth of mistrust, petty politics and desperate grasps for power. As he becomes instrumental in the struggle for cultural dominance, Natasha must choose between fame and idealism.

"Everything Is True. Nothing Is Permitted."

In a time of unrest and social change, Anakin Carver may become one of the most influential figures never known. As civilization moves toward both utopia and ruin, all it may need is a subtle push in either direction.

Written in an exciting new format of thirteen "episodes", rather than traditional chapters, STOCKHOLM is designed to be enjoyed like a full season of a cable television series. Each episode satirizes our culture's obsessions with social connection, class conflict, the evolving role of celebrity, the reaches of government and how one man's choices can either help enlighten or destroy our way of life. – (Courtesy: Amazon.com)

To buy his book on Amazon, click here.

You can also “Like” his Facebook page, by clicking here.


  1. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! These topics have been on my mind lately since I'm self-publishing soon. I really needed to read this. ;)

  2. Very funny and sometimes sadly true, I think it would benefit Amazon (for the long run) to work nicely with everyone (and vice versa).


  3. @Elisa: Good luck with publishing your book! Keep reading, I am going to include more helpful articles on writing and publishing.

  4. @Man of: It works both ways. Both can co-exist peacefully if they learn to shake hands. I agree with u on this.

  5. It's not about who and how your book is published anymore, it's not even about who is selling it and where. It's all about marketing. Authors have to know going in that it's going to be up to them to market the bejesus out of their titles in order to compete. The Internet and Cyber Socializing has evened the playing field.

    Sunny Frazier, Acquisitions Editor, Oak Tree Press.

  6. I've often wondered how indie book store owners plan on staying in business. Apparently the closing of Borders and the issues with Barnes and Noble was missed when the owners closed early for that liquid lunch. I'm afraid they're going to have more than a hangover when they finally wake up and smell the fair-trade coffee!

  7. I love this article, it's very well-written and very spot-on.

    Personally, I find it encouraging to see that indie authors are not looked down on and considered less worthy than traditionally published authors anymore. After all, even traditionally published authors are starting to leave their publishers in order to become independent.

    Amazon gets this, and it's high time for brick-and-mortar stores of any kind to wake up and understand (unless they really, really want to close down) that the future belongs to independent authors. So why not show us some love? After all, if we succeed, you succeed.

  8. What a great piece. The Black's Books analogy is perfect. We want to love independent stores, but a lot of them have been shooting themselves in the font for some time. My local (Central Coast of CA) indie refused to stock my small-press published books even though I offered them on consignment. So my readers went to Amazon. Duh.

    Yes, Amazon is a big, evil corporation. But it's not nearly as big and evil as the multinational conglomerates that publish most books (the Big Six.) Indie bookstores are actually conspiring with big corporations to suppress indie authors. Not smart.

    Your book sounds fascinating. Kind of dystopian Nick Hornby. I'm going over to your site now.

    Komz, thanks for hosting Kian.

  9. Hi everyone. I read the article and I wonder if it is just amazon published books that indie bookstores won't carry. I am a totally indie publisher with my own publishing company and I still find it hard to get Vampyre Kisses or Werewolf Descent in the door to a indie bookstore, even though B&N accepted them. Something they weren't aware of because five of them wouldn't even look at my synopsis. Maybe it is just a DE thing though. Perhaps not all indie bookstores are like this. But in the least I dread the day that I can not walk into an actual bookstore or library and sometimes I fear that is what it will come down to.

    Liz ^_^

  10. Thanks so much Sunny, Angela, Barbara, Anne and Elizabeth for sharing your experiences and views on this topic. I am not an author, but as a writer and blogger, I am always curious to know about various aspects of publishing and writing, and this one really surprised me. I am happy that Kian expressed his opinion leading all you to share yours. Thanks again!

  11. Thanks everyone who's responded - it's a shame creatives are forced to take political positions, but just because some indie booksellers think it's more noble to pour gasoline all over themselves it doesn't mean indie writers have to burn with them.

  12. Hi Anne - thank you for the Hornby comparison, that's something I'd never have thought of!

  13. Elizabeth - yes, you're absolutely right, I should stress that not all indie booksellers are taking this anti-Amazon position, but if enough do it's going to create unfortunate divisions and needless conflict.

    If the day comes when people can't stroll in and browse for books in an actual shop, it'll only be hastened by this.

  14. Angela - I find Borders closing to be somewhat ironic, it was the Borders location in Santa Barbara that forced the closing of the fantastic indie shop The Earthling, which used to be the jewel of downtown. I don't know how many evenings I spent there as a teenager before the shiny new monolith opened up down the street...

  15. If it is true that self-marketing is becoming so critical for writers then it would seem there will only be more indie self-published writers in our future. It will be interesting to see how the industry (and its participants)evolve.

  16. Received a CreateSpace book from Amazon this weekend and it was a very handsome product, and something I'd never have found in a store. On the other hand, I took my 3 year old to a bookstore this weekend and she tore through the kid's section. "This one, no, THIS one!" That's a sensation that can't be found online. Hoping we can have the best of both worlds for a long time to come.

  17. @Bill: Very well-said! In this age of technology, readers should be given the choice of both, online and traditional book stores.

  18. Thanks for this post. I need information like this because the world moves too fast for me. Borders is still open where I live and I still like to go in there for a good browse and then use my email coupon to buy a real book with that new-book smell. I do like Amazon but nothing will ever replace the bookstore experience. Because of that, after the fallout, I think (or rather hope) there will be a market for independent bookstores who respond to that unquenchable desire for human contact, the tactile appeal of books, and the taste of coffee.

  19. @Carol: Thanks for your detailed comment. I totally agree with you...nothing beats the experience of browsing a bookstore,holding a book in your hand, while skimming through its pages, to decide whether to buy the book or not.

  20. I spend as much in the big brick and mortars as I do in the Indies. I've even embraced electronic books, but I'm still old school and like to hold the actual book in my hands.

    Kat Hinkson

  21. I agree. Self-published authors take any avenue given to them. While being an old schooler (emphasis on old) I do prefer reading with paper in my hands (standard books) instead of electronic screens. I also spend hours every Saturday in bookstores and libraries just browsing. I do understand like the dinosaurs I'm a dying breed. To cover all bases I self-publish in any avenue which will have me.

  22. Kat and JoAnn: Dun worry, you are not the only people who are old school...and if u r (sadly enough!), then I am part of this dying group..or as JoAnn puts it, like "dinosaurs" who will get extinct soon. Since I started taking review requests, I get most of the books in e-book format. Though I enjoy reading a book on electronic devices (in my case, my netbook) I still would ALWAYS prefer a paperback any day on e-book! Maybe that's the reason, I am not tempted to buy Kindle. I have read so many books on pdf that these days, I am desperately craving for paperbacks ONLY! or maybe, its my sore eyes which do not allow me to like reading many book of 300 plus pages as an e-book. Ahh! I so love paperbacks and book stores too!


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