I have refrained from writing about the Amazon-Hachette dispute for a wide variety of reasons (mostly having to do with being super-busy with some other projects) but I’ve seen several notes in the GWA newsletter. The recent update from the Garden Writers Association gave us this little nugget of the Amazon-Hachette negotiations.
The Fair Observer website wrote this, “Amazon has contributed to the public vitriol through a series of retaliations against Hachette, including removing the pre-order buttons on upcoming books by popular authors — such as Rowling’s The Silkworm, which is written under the pen name Robert Galbraith. It has delayed shipment on other books, pared down discounts on some volumes and removed certain titles from search”
“Amazon has contributed to the public vitriol” The vitriol is coming thick and fast from Hachette authors – some big name authors – who are losing sales. James Patterson – he of highest income including all movie stars – is upset he’s losing sales. Amazon offered Hachette funds to compensate authors who were losing expected sales. Hachette refused.
Most of the “vitriol” from the independent side is coming from the fisking Joe Konrath is doing.
Let’s put this in perspective.
“Removing pre-order buttons” If Amazon doesn’t conclude an agreement with Hachette – for whatever reason – it will have no ability to sell those pre-ordered books. If you were a nursery, would you order plants from a wholesaler if you weren’t sure you could sell them in the future?
It “has delayed shipment on other books,” If there’s no agreement in place, Amazon won’t stock those books at its cost. It wants Hachette to stock its own books. The delay is likely because Hachette is shitty at delivering books to Amazon for reshipping to customers.
Amazon has “pared down discounts”. Yes they did. They’re now selling the books at Hachette’s suggested retail price – you know, the price other retailers wind up selling them for. So Amazon didn’t just “pare the discounts” – it pared the losses it took. It eliminated them to sell at Hachette’s pricing. And publishers and authors got paid the full price – losing nothing in the discounting. If authors are pissed about that, then who’s to blame here? Amazon for refusing to take a loss on the sale or Hachette for pricing books so high. Frankly – I wish Amazon would discount my books! I’d make the same amount of money and have more sales.
“Removed certain titles from search” Well. maybe. But if they did, does that mean every company that has a product has the right to have it listed on Amazon? Let’s get something crystal clear – Amazon is a retailer. Nothing says a retailer has to sell anything. I don’t know a single garden center that carries every plant from Proven Winners. Should they be forced to? By whom? If not, then why is Amazon suddenly being forced to do so. I’m delighted Amazon decides to sell my books – they’re my number one retailer.
There are a ton of other thoughts roiling around the Net right now
“But what about the future? Once Amazon has the majority of sales, it will be tougher on authors.” Right. As if publishers with their lifetime rights grabs, low advances and low royalties and twice a year payments are a ton easier to make money with right now. If Amazon turns nasty, I’ll take my ebooks somewhere else and so will a lot of other authors. Many of us have them in multiple locations right now and drive many of our own sales.
“Amazon will reduce your royalties like they did with voice-books.” Maybe. But it’s still four to five times what traditional publishers pay and I still own my rights.
“Amazon is a big bully and too rich.” Have you checked out the sizes of the foreign multiBillion dollar conglomerations that own all U.S. publishing houses? All American publishers sold out to foreigners. It’s big-boy against big-boy here.
Amazon is wrecking the bookstores. Well – Amazon is probably doing some nasty damage to the big box-store bookstores (B&N) but the reports are that good small independents are having some of the best sales in years. And remember it wasn’t Amazon who endangered the community bookstores – it was the big box bookstores that whacked them. Several years ago, the boxes were the bad guys. Now they’re the good guys? Give me a break.
Here’s a balanced look from somebody I admire – David Gaughran on “Don’t Believe the Spin”
And Hugh Howey keeps on trucking with innovative ideas about publishing. (one of the sanest voices out there imho along with Gaughran.
And with that – let me simply say I had/have a choice about where I publish my writing. I’ve chosen independent for all my writing. If something changes, I’m willing to look at a hybrid system but I can’t see giving up my rights to any corporate entity for the rest of my life when I can make more money publishing it myself. And I make more money from ebooks in a single year than I ever made in a single year from traditional publishing. It may not be enough to live on by itself but it’s coming closer and closer.
Why would I support the old system?
p.s. If you read the Patterson letter you saw how many people signed his letter. Check this link out to see how many independent authors are signing a different viewpoint.