Samhain and Saving Seed!

I am not here. All going to plan, when this post goes live, I will be on day 6 of my farm stay adventure! Hopefully I am learning lots and enjoying myself! My big worry at the moment is blisters … I have the hardest time finding shoes that fit in Japan, and my gumboots are too big and have a tendency to rub. I have packed a ton of bandaids and support pads for my boots, but I won’t know how well this will actually works until I’m on the farm.

Anyway, today’s post! Like many in the M/M community, I was really sad to hear the news about Samhain’s planned closure — and was very happy with the subsequent ‘wait and see’ message implying there is more to come. In 2009 I submitted a space opera novella to Samhain. Although it was declined, both editors who talked to me were encouraging. Most inspiring of all, they treated me like a professional writer! That really brought home to me the idea that I could do this and encouraged me to see myself as a writer.

The news that Samhain, a respected press with a solid history, was in difficulties sent waves through the community. Fingers were pointed at Amazon, and there was a lot of discussion as to how far we should go to support small presses when shopping at Amazon is so easy, and Kindle Unlimited is such a good deal for voracious romance readers. Survival of the Fittest, as they say, right?

I disagree.

In our agricultural world, farmers have been practicing survival of the fittest with the result that in the last century, we’ve lost about 75% of our agricultural biodiversity. By continually growing and consuming the same varieties of fruits and vegetables, we are rapidly losing plant diversity. It is easy to see why it happens — we’ve selected varieties that have a good record of producing good crops or that taste delicious or are bigger than other varieties — all good things that bring a profit to farmers, keep prices low for consumers, and keep the companies who developed those varieties in business.

The problem lies in the fact that by only cultivating a few varieties, we’re putting our food sources at risk. A disease can spread rapidly through plants of the same type, devastating entire orchards, while leaving trees of a different variety untouched. Food production is increasingly dependent on chemicals to protect against pests or ward off diseases. To combat this trend, people are saving seed, returning to unprofitable heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables in order to preserve plant diversity. They believe our future doesn’t depend on the best plants but having a variety of plants.

This viewpoint makes a lot of sense to me. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to draw an overwrought agricultural parallel to show the dangers of one company achieving monopoly in a marketplace — there is plenty of rhetoric out there on the internet already. But when it comes to ebooks, I firmly believe that occasionally sacrificing convenience or spending more in order to ensure the continuation of a variety of formats and sellers benefits all of us — readers and writers alike.

As the largest seller and a stalwart of independent publishing, Amazon commands the biggest audience and its support for self-published authors has created opportunities that have changed the publishing world, giving small presses and independent authors reach to a much bigger audience than previously possible. However, Amazon is also uniquely vulnerable to attacks by hackers, spammers that damage its content, clientele, and the industry as a whole, and pressure from special interest groups. It has bowed to pressure and made it harder to find LGBTQ content within its marketplace and routine hides or removes erotica for seemingly arbitrary reasons.  Given the current political climate in the US where Amazon is based, it is easy to imagine that with a conservative government in power, Amazon could be pressured to take even more extreme measures.Not only authors, but readers would suffer if our biggest marketplace disappeared — which is why establishing viable alternatives now, before that happens, is a good thing.

Buying directly from small presses, independent authors and your local bookstores safeguards the continuation of our market. Obviously, as an author published by a small press, I earn a lot more from sales through NineStar Press than I do other retailers, but I make it a habit to buy from a variety of sources, in order to safeguard against my kindle’s eventual demise (three years in, it is still going strong! But three years is also my limit with electronic devices. I live in fear.), and cases like this. I’ve purchased ebooks from Dreamspinner Press, ARE, iBooks, Kobo, and book stores in NZ and Japan as well as Amazon, and read on my laptop, phone and kindle. It can be a pain making sure that covers show up on my non-Amazon kindle formats, but it is doable! And for me, that extra effort is rewarded by knowing that I’m supporting diversity in publishing.

This is a really topical issue, so I’m providing a link to a thread with a variety of viewpoints on Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription scheme (Despite the title of the link being negative, some fans of KU share their opinions of the program). You have to be a member of the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads to read this thread: Dear Author – I hate Kindle Unlimited. 

Jeff and Will of Jeff and Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast discuss the ramifications of Samhain closing and share their listeners responses to the question “As an author or a reader, do you use Kindle Unlimited, do you like it and why?”

Apologies too if any of these links are inactive at the point that this post goes live and also for the fact that I will not be around to reply or correct links! This post was written in advance to go up while I travelled, so may no longer be accurate/links may have been removed.

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