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Self-publishing News: Amazon Expands Its Network Of “4 Star” Stores

Self-publishing News: Amazon expands its network of “4 Star” stores

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at Amazon's 4 Star store, and what Bad Art Friend and data breaches tell us about the unpleasantries of the creative industries.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

You can now catch up with the latest Self-publishing news podcast in which Howard and I discuss, among other things, the paper shortage affecting our ability to get books into print. On tonight's #indieauthorchat at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time, we will be tackling the taboo subject of when it's time to give up on a project. And don't forget it's only just over a week to SelfPubCon. You can register for 3 days free here. Or join ALLi for free access to all SelfPubCons for as long as you are a member.

Amazon Opens First 4 Star Store outside US

The ongoing rivalry between Amazon and indie bookstores has featured here a lot in recent months. But now that the high street is open again and people have started trickling back to bricks and mortar stores, how much of a threat does Amaozn continue to pose? Well, that’s not a single story. It intersects with Amazon’s own development as a bricks and mortar retailer. First they bought Whole Foods. Then things started to get really interesting with their Go stores, which are in effect staff free zones where you scan and pay through your Amazon account.

Most recently, and most interestingly have come the 4 star stores, the first of which outside the US has just opened in the UK’s Bluewater Shopping Centre (the very first place my spouse and I went shopping together, more than 2 decades ago. We bought a soap dish!!). The idea behind the 4 star store is very simple. And you can guess it from the name. It sells only products with a 4 star or higher Amazon rating. And that includes books. in theory this is a fascinating prospect that could open some interesting doors for us. In practice it will of course lend itself to gaming and utter chaos as ratings change daily!

Salutary Lessons about Our Industry: Bad Art and Data Breaches Revealing Platforms' Dirty Secrets

Long term readers of this column will have observed my fondness for copyright law. Much of the time it can feel to most people somewhat dry although grudgingly acknowledged to be important. This week, however, it has been at the centre of one of the biggest literary stories of the year. Bad Art Friend is a lesson in what can go wrong when you write what you know. I am sure you all know the story. Larson vs Dorland is the everyday story of two writers one of whom demands love for donating a kidney. One of whom writes a story about someone who demands love for donating a kidney. And the legal and ethical wranglings that follow. I have to say the fact one of the protagonists is called Sonya didn't exactly undo my first impression that this has all the makings of a literary I, Tonya story.

It is not plagiarism, of course. And for a legal analysis I recommend you read Passive Guy. He is, after all, a copyright lawyer. But what is legally permissible covers a whole range of things that might not be wise. Some of which, to go appropriately back to overblown industry tropes, will result in you never eating lunch in this town again.

Amazon Data Breach Reveals Scale of Review Scams

Talking of acting in bad faith, something else that has caught my eye this week has been news about data breaches. Yes, data breaches are bad things. But one of the interesting things is what secrets get revealed when data gets leaked. Of course, the week started by setting the tone as the world scoured the so-called Pandora Papers, giving us the inside track on the tax secrets of billionaires. But of more interest to us are stories about the platforms creators rely on. First up was Amazon. A data breach of hundreds of thousands of vendor emails has exposed a whole sub culture of people willing to swap freebies for reviews in breach of Amazon's terms.

This story of course makes for particularly interesting reading in the context of our first story. After all, when a company opens up such massive opportunities for those who achieve a very specific metric, what do they think will happen?

Twitch Data Breach Reveals Payment Inequity

Then came the gaming streamer Twitch. A hack of the platform has revealed the scale of payment to streamers. And what it reveals is a rather unseemly world of poor algorithms and lazy bias. Rather than developing an algorithm that allows for the organic discovery of high quality content, Twitch it seems has chosen simply to throw money at its biggest existing stars and ignore anyone else. The result? A culture that makes it hard for anyone who isn't a white make to succeed.

Audio News

Storytel Making Strides Outside Scandinavia

In more positive news, it's been another bumper week for audiobooks. Storytel has announced that streaming revenue from outside Nordic markets has grown by more than a half. At the same time the Russian audiobook market is predicted to grow fourfold in the next 5 years. The streaming auudio model really is here to stay. 


From time to time I mention developments in podcasting. I know a lot of authors have podcasts. I appear on one author podcast every month here at ALLi. Writers like Joanna Penn have built businesses or sizeable side hustles by podcasting about writing. And authors like ALLi’s Henry Hyde, host of Inside Your Head, have built podcasts around the subject of their writing.

This week the expansion of opportunities for podcasting has featured in the news again. Facebook is getting in on the action, launching an audio hub that will enable creators to curate audio content including podcasting. And as AI continues to grow as a tool for discovery, Podcastle announced $7m new funding for its podcasting platform.

Amazon opens its first 4 star store outside the USA and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month


Frankfurt Conference, 11-12 Oct
Historical Novel Society Australia, Writing Bootcamp, 16-17 Oct (early bird tickets until 24 September)
Frankfurter Buchmesse, 20-24 Oct
SelfPubCon, 23 Oct

Over to You

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


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