Wait! Everyone's right! And everyone's wrong!
Does Amazon care? The Big 5 have told us that Amazon is demanding more $$$ for visibility. Do we know what that visibility entails? And/Or where Amazon has drawn the negotiation line? I don't. But here are some things we can surmise:
The bestseller list does not discriminate. Except by weighting history more to reduce sales spikes. But that actually now punishes probably a few more trad titles that go through BookBub (yes, I know, BookBub says its acceptance is about half trad/half indie, but they also haven't broken that out between free and paid acceptances
) as well as the KDD titles. And by allowing borrows to count as sales. That's gotta knock back a lot of non-KU self-pubbed as well as trad titles.
The poplist DOES discriminate and HEAVILY weights against MANY (not ALL) of the self-pubbed authors via price bias, by weighting by list price, by not including borrows, and by barely weighting freebies. Amazon radically changed the face of the poplist between even as late as late 2012 and today.
Amazon doesn't discriminate in their recommendation engine between books that prove they can maintain rank. Well, except for featuring APub titles in the Countdown Deals display and elsewhere around the store. And the "front table" promo that the Big 5 can buy. But that's just the difference between small fry and great white sharks. Indie authors who are selling well can certainly pick up free email exposure too.
So what about actual sales? Using the raw data from the May Author Earnings report, I ran my calcs against Data Guys, and we both came up with 49% of the Top 100K (using a dataset accounting for about 55% of the books in those ranks) being Big 5 books.
Original = Data Guy's calcs; New = mine.
So, yes, I think Amazon is trying to sell books and remain the dominant market force and please customers. But it also has contractual obligations with the Big 5 on the digital side, plus the White Glove program and the other retailer opps it has for publishers on the print side. Amazon is ALSO making money by selling visibility to the Big 5 - the EFFECTIVE stuff they offer (not this CPC stuff they're selling indies) used to start at around $15K, and even then the bestselling indie authors I know who approached them money in hand were turned away. I think where it doesn't contradict contracts, indies get a fair shake. But the lion's share of profit for Amazon still, I think, comes from the Big 5.
We indies are clawing our way up and expanding market share, but we still don't have a lobbying voice where we too can sit at the negotiation table with Amazon and bicker for better terms, more visibility and better customer access. That's what indie means, of course, and I wouldn't necessarily WANT to only be one vote in a huge conglomerate because we don't all have the same goals. Maybe if there were 4 or 5 lobby groups that represented indies of different goals and interests. But until then, I think Amazon will continue to serve up what customers want, but still push what Amazon thinks they need. Because one thing I can guarantee you is that with only 2% of the available titles, APub books would not organically
be what 10% of the customers would be buying...