Saturday, May 24, 2014

Fisking Lilith Saintcrow and the Hachette/Amazon Situation

People often disagree with my posts, and some do it in the comments section.

This promotes healthy debate and discourse. As long as people stay civil with each other, they can post whatever they like, including insulting me. I've only had to kick a few people out over the years, after giving them multiple chances to cool off.

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is the ability for people to engage with different viewpoints and test each others' arguments.

I don't know Lilith Saintcrow. She's a writer with Hachette, and has just blogged about this situation. She's wrong, which is fine. Normally that wouldn't irk me. But in her comments section, she's disemvoweling people who disagree with her (it's a cute form of censuring where all the vowels are removed from the comment).

So now I'm going to bring the debate here, to A Newbie's Guide, by explaining in detail how wrong Lili Saintcrow is. Normally I don't take my peers to task like this, but I really dislike the way Lili is handling dissenters on her blog. She's deliberately obstructing what could have been a healthy debate.

No offense intended, Lili. I'm sure you're a wonderful person and a wonderful writer. And I do understand how you are frustrated at this situation. Your sales are suffering, and it is beyond your control, so naturally you want to place blame and voice your discontent.

But I believe you aren't looking at the big picture, and cutting off comments on your blog isn't how you, or anyone following you, can use this situation as a learning experience.

Lili's post is entitled How "Amazon" Means "Less Books For You."

Lili: Dear Readers, let me tell you about my editor.

I have been with my editor at Orbit–Devi Pillai, who Anya Devi in the Kismet books was loosely based on–for over a decade now. She shepherded me through the Valentine series, consoled me through the end of Heaven’s Spite, took a chance on the Damnation Affair, and loved a certain hedgewitch Queen so much she kept asking about it for years until she could finally buy it. She remains an editor I trust implicitly. When she sticks to her guns and insists, I generally rethink my position and trust she’s right, and (far less often, because I rarely dig my heels in unless it’s Important) vice versa. She understands my working style, leaves me the freedom I need while ensuring I get the support I often don’t know I need to turn in my best work.

Joe sez: Ok, we get it. You and your editor have a wonderful bramance going on (Get it? It's the opposite of bromance with bra = female.)

I'm sure she's excellent. She'd better be, because she and Hachette are getting 75% of net ebook royalties, and you--the one who wrote the books--only get 25%.

Lili: Not only that, but she advocates for me tirelessly in editorial and marketing meetings. She fights for my books, she fights to bring my books to you. She is everything an editor should be, and it’s largely because of her faith in me that I can write full-time and pay my mortgage.

Joe sez: Because when we're at the mercy of a giant, soul-sucking organization like Hachette (full disclosure, they published my book Afraid), we need an insider to fight for our books, or else they won't do well.

That seems... terrible.

Lili: She works for Orbit. Orbit is a part of Hachette. Amazon, the behemoth that undercut its competitors and has become not the only, but the biggest game in town, wants more money out of Hachette. So, Amazon has removed the preorder buttons on Hachette books. Including the last Bannon & Clare book, The Ripper Affair.

Joe sez: Amazon, the behemoth that turned online booksales into a multibillion dollar company, and invented the Kindle which kickstarted the ebook revolution.

Amazon, which continuously innovates and strives to please customers, and counts authors who publish via Amazon among its customers.

Amazon, which is not a monopoly, it's just very good at what it does, as opposed to Hachette, which the Department of Justice brought a successful collusion suit against for fixing ebook prices and keeping them artificially high. I believe Hachette did this to protect their paper distribution cartel by forcing Amazon to accept the Agency Model, which took away Amazon's ability to price low and took money directly out of their authors' pockets.

Amazon, which last I checked was a US company engaged in the nefarious act of capitalism.

Amazon, which can decide to sell whatever it wants to, just like Hachette can publish whomever it wants to.

Lili: Preorders are largely how publishers forecast how well a certain book will do. Those forecasts create numbers that are used when, for example, Devi makes the case to buy another series from me while I’m finishing up writing the current one. It’s not fair, but it’s the only metric the publishers have in some cases, for all sorts of reasons–frex, it can take over six months for the contracts department to get all situated. (Contracts people are by their nature picky and detail-oriented, and that’s fine, it’s just frustrating sometimes.)

Joe sez: I've blogged before about author Stockholm Syndrome. Making excuses for the bad behavior of your publisher.

Now the reverse might also be applied, that I'm making excuses for Amazon. I'm not. When Amazon behaves badly, I call them on it. Insofar as I'm aware, Amazon is not behaving badly in this case.

But I don't know for sure. The only two parties that know are Hachette and Amazon, and neither is talking. So isn't it a bit presumptuous to point fingers when we don't know what's going on?

Lili: All of this is backstory (hello, exposition!) to what I am about to tell you.

The full, nasty effect of Amazon removing buy buttons (like they did when squeezing Macmillan for more cash a few years ago) and removing the ability to preorder a publisher’s upcoming books doesn’t hit the publisher.

Joe sez: You mean when Amazon removed Macmillan's buy buttons because Macmillan was trying to force them to accept higher ebook prices? That's revisionist history, Lili.

Lili: Sure, the publisher is who Amazon can blackmail most directly–Amazon’s a huge distributor, and if they decide not to distribute, that’s lost revenue, since ease of buying is a component of consumer activity.

Joe sez: People mistake "blackmail" with "extortion" all the time. For the record, Amazon isn't blackmailing anyone, or extorting money from anyone. As far as any of us knows, they are involved in a negotiation with Hachette.

The point of negotiations is to reach an agreement both parties can accept.

It is the nature of negotiations that each party tries to get as good a deal as possible. This isn't extortion (or blackmail). This is business.

Amazon has no obligation to carry any Hachette book ever again. It is allowed to decide what it sells in its store, and for how much.

This disagreement with Hachette has apparently been going on for many months. And because Amazon has the power in this particular negotiation (Hachette needs Amazon more than Amazon needs Hachette) they are doing what anyone would do; showing that power.

It's sort of like, Lili, when you renewed your contract with Hachette and asked for a higher royalty rate and the removal of the non-compete clause, and they laughed at you. They had the power, so you were stuck with their shitty contract terms.

I hired a lawyer and got my rights back from Hachette. I recommend you do the same.

Lili: (Translation: every time you make a consumer go somewhere else, they are fractionally less willing to buy the damn item that’s costing them time and headache.) There’s also lost revenue from people who buy only through Amazon (they have their reasons, natch) and that means a publisher can’t afford to take a chance on certain authors. The publisher takes the visible hit, but the ripples spread out and hit midlist authors, or debut authors. And while I am not the latter, I am most certainly the former.

Joe sez: So instead of you getting a bunch of Hachette authors together and petitioning Michael Pietsch, the CEO, to just sign the fucking agreement, you're angry with Amazon?

Interesting. And Stockholmy.

Lili: In other words, Amazon’s behavior right now is impacting my ability to sell more books to Orbit, since when preorder numbers take this kind of hit it’s harder for Devi to fight for me in acquisition meetings.

Joe sez: So Hachette's broken publishing system--where the only books that do well are those personally championed by heroic editors--is in jeopardy because Hachette would rather lose sales right now than lose the negotiation. And you still blame Amazon for this? Is that fair? Is that logical?

Lili: The numbers for B&C were already not good enough for me to do the “B&C travel to different countries” books we were all looking forward to.

Joe sez: Here's a secret: when you self-publish, you can write the books you want. And you make 70% ebook royalties on Amazon, and you'll be able to keep your "buy button" and there won't be any shipping delays. As much as you may believe your editor is the reason you can pay your mortgage, methinks it's probably because you write good books that fans enjoy. If you need a good editor, you can hire a freelancer.

Just sayin'.

Lili: Amazon’s blackmail of my publisher makes it harder for my editor to justify taking a chance on me next time I’m up for a contract with them. (It isn’t fair, but it’s a business decision, and I understand as much.) This impacts my ability to write full-time, to continue producing those stories you love (or love to hate) at my accustomed rate. Because I have to pay my mortgage and feed my kids, and if this won’t do it, I will have to spend my time doing something else that will.

Joe sez: No one owes you a living, Lili. No one owes any writer a living. That we can make any money at all from our words is incredibly fortunate.

I know it feels bad to have your preorder button removed, but no one is entitled to have their books for sale on Amazon. It's Amazon's choice. They have no legal, or moral, duty to sell anything they don't want to sell. Practically every independent bookstore in the US won't carry my titles because I'm outspoken about self-publishing. They can do that, and I don't whine about it. (In fact, I support indie bookstores and tried to help them.)

That said, perhaps you should stop letting legacy publishers screw up your career. When I left Hachette, my income went up 10x.

Lili: Amazon is obeying the natural behaviour of corporations. Corporations are not people, but once they reach a certain size they start behaving like any greedy organism. They metastasize. The effect of this is passed down through the ecosystem to yours truly–and also to you.

Joe sez: Surely you see this same "greedy organism" argument can be applied to Hachette, right?

And I caution you against complaining directly to your fans. It doesn't come off well.

Allow me to suggest how you could have written your blog post:

To my fans: currently my publisher, Hachette, is in negotiations with Amazon, and Amazon has removed the preorder buttons to my latest book. But you can still preorder the book here (insert links). Hopefully things will be worked out soon, and I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your continued support. To show my thanks, I'll email a free short story tie-in to everyone who preorders the novel.

You can get more fans, and traffic, if you remain impartial and stiff upper-lipped. And then you won't have any detractors in the comments that you feel the need to disemvowel (honestly, that was a silly move, and it's the reason I'm blogging about you right now.)

Lili: Less time for me to write those stories means less Lili books for you to read. It means less books from other authors you may like or love, as well. If Hachette has to cave and agree to Amazon’s predatory terms, I will feel that directly, because that money will come out of budgets that take a chance on me, the midlist author.

Joe sez: Because Hachette certainly won't cut corporate salaries or benefits, move their headquarters someplace cheaper than Manhattan, stop blowing big money at BEA and other self-grandizing venues, or eliminate and/or reduce any of the many other needless expenses they have.

The author will suffer before they give up expensing their lunches. Even though Hachette is making a ton of money because of their high ebook cut.

Lili: As Elizabeth Bear said this morning, Amazon is hoping customers will turn on the publishers and force them to do Amazon’s bidding. If you’re fine with that, and with the effects I’ve described above, okay. I naturally don’t agree with you, but okay. I have Amazon links, affiliate and otherwise, on this very site for your convenience, not mine.

Joe sez: Certainly you see a bit of hypocrisy there, don't you? Condemning Amazon but still linking to them? Are you sure those links are for the fans' convenience, and not because you sell a lot of books on Amazon?

Lili: If you’re not fine with Amazon’s behavior, you can preorder The Ripper Affair (and order other books of mine) through Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or Indiebound. You can even preorder and order signed copies through Cover to Cover Books with a simple stock inquiry, they ship worldwide. You can preorder for other authors you like, too, at Barnes & Noble, at Indiebound, and at C2C though they may not be signed if they’re not mine–you get the idea.

Joe sez: This is called "burying the lede". Your post could have been this, with zero personal commentary, and you'd have been considered heroic.

Lili: Hachette has been keeping its authors apprised of developments in this situation. They’re doing their best to take care of us, because we are, after all, their bread and butter. Hachette isn’t the bad guy here. (I should hope that my regular Readers know that I’d tell you if they were, srsly, mortgage be damned.) Please think about buying somewhere other than Amazon, even if it is a little inconvenient.

Joe sez: They're doing your best to take care of you and keeping you apraised? Really? Did you get these emails from Pietsch?

May 9, 2014

Dear Hachette Book Group author,

There are stories in the press today about Hachette Book Group’s negotiations with Amazon.  We have released the following statement to the media:

“It is our normal policy not to comment on negotiations underway with any retailer.

However, we have been asked legitimate questions about why many of our books are at present marked out of stock with relatively long estimated shipping times on the Amazon website, in contrast to immediate availability on other websites and in stores.

We are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly, and notifying them constantly of forthcoming publicity events and of out-of-stock situations on their website.  Amazon is holding minimal stock and restocking some of HBG's books slowly, causing “available 2-4 weeks” messages, for reasons of their own.

We are grateful for the patience of authors and all Amazon readers as we work to reach an agreement and to encourage Amazon to be back to offering Hachette Book Group’s books within normal shipment times.” 

HBG has a long history of successful partnership with Amazon, and we are counting on the goodwill we have established over many years as we try to resolve this impasse.  I will keep you informed of any major developments in our discussions.  In the meantime, if you have questions please let me know.



May 23, 2014

Dear Author,

I am sorry to tell you that Amazon has now taken preorder capabilities away from Hachette Book Group publications.  Forthcoming books now bear a notice "currently unavailable" and a note inviting customers to ask for an email when it becomes available.  There is no preorder button, and some not-yet-published books lack a Kindle page entirely.  

Please know that we are doing everything in our power to find a solution to this difficult situation, one that best serves our authors and their work, and that preserves our ability to survive and thrive as a strong and author-centric publishing company.

As we work through this challenging period, it is extremely encouraging to see our retail partners – thousands of chain, online and independent bookstores – showing their support for HBG and our authors. The June 1 New York Times bestseller list is wonderful evidence of this: Books published by HBG include the #1 Hardcover Fiction bestseller (and 4 of the top 10 in that category), the #1 book on the Advice/How-To list, 2 of the top 10 Non-Fiction titles, and many trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook bestsellers.  

I know this is not a comfortable situation for most of you, and I appreciate your support and the many messages I’ve received. 

I'll keep you updated with important developments, but in the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions. 


Michael Pietsch
Hachette Book Group

Joe sez: Lili, where in those emails is Hachette keeping you appraised of developments? They're simply saying what you already know: shipping is delayed, and the preorder buttons are gone. Pietsch isn't saying why Amazon is doing this, even though he knows why. He's not saying what he intends to do to fix the situation. He's not stating HGB's position other than refusing not to comment.

He certainly hasn't "kept you informed of any major developments in our discussions." He hasn't shared a single development, major or otherwise, other than to confirm what is happening, and brag that HBG still has some bestsellers (none of which are yours). He didn't even say anything to HBG authors about this until 21 days ago, when it has apparently been going on since November of 2013.

If Amazon is restocking HBG's books slowly it isn't for "reasons of their own." I'd bet good money Pietsch knows those reasons, and he isn't sharing with the many concerned parties who have apparently contacted him.

If Pietsch did care, maybe he could contact all of his authors, explain Amazon's terms, and have them vote on whether they are acceptable or not. Then he could give all of his authors 70% ebook royalties. Then he could use the power of his mind to create a magical unicorn to end world hunger.

I'm not holding my breath.

Lili: In the end, dear Reader, it’s all up to you.

‘Nuff said.

Joe sez: No, it isn't up to the reader. It's up to you, the author.

Your books are suffering because your publisher owns your rights. If you owned your own rights there wouldn't be a problem. You could hire your own editor, write the books you want to, make better royalties, and never be at the mercy of another one-sided, unconscionable publishing contract or bad decision.

You don't need Hachette. Even though they tried to convince the world and themselves of their relevance. They aren't relevant. The author and the reader are the two essential parties. Everyone else is a middleman.

I hope you seriously consider what I've said here, and rethink your positions. I don't believe you should be defending your publisher in this situation, or complaining to your fans, or messing with your comments. I also think you're missing the opportunity to write the books you want to write--the B&C travel to different countries books--because you're stuck in a legacy contract.

You're welcome to respond here, Lili. Say whatever you like.

I'll even let you keep your vowels.


The inimitable Bob Mayer also has some smart things to say on this issue. Check it out.


Bob said...

My take is it's business: Complaining is not a business strategy: Bezos, Amazon & Darth Vader

Joe Konrath said...

Good points, Bob. I'm going to link to your blog at the end of mine.

I wish I'd read it earlier, because I missed some good points.

canonizer said...

Hi Joe, Nice skewering - I haven't checked out the underlying post or the disenvoweling which is an obnoxious thing to do when you invite comments.

I tend to believe that Amazon is acting monopolistically - as we have to admit that they are essentially the market for online book sales. They certainly represent an oligopoly and their tactics (certainly to the detriment of consumers, the satisfaction of which is the first commandment there) is disingenuous if nothing else. They are telling customers that books are out of stock that aren't out of stock. Also, choosing not to discount Hachette books, which was one of their initial thrusts, is a lot different than not shipping books in their inventory. It seems very 19th century robber baron to me, though, of course, that's not exactly a legal argument.

Publishers deserve much blame - they were the ones who required drm (enabling the kindle to leap to the head of the market), colluded to raise the price of ebooks, purchase the wrong books frequently, market books poorly, well, ok they do a lot wrong. They also do a lot right - I believe books are generally better for their existence (which is also debatable) and that Amazon is on the wronger side of this discussion.

Joe Konrath said...

They are telling customers that books are out of stock that aren't out of stock.

Amazon told you this?

Amazon invented the market for online book sales, and if I recall correctly they were laughed at by just about everyone.

The fear of monopolies, and why they are illegal, is because when one company controls something, it can inflate prices.

Since Amazon's inception, it has been doing whatever it can to lower prices, including selling at a loss.

Amazon can sell, and discount, what it chooses to. This isn't about what's fair. It's capitalism.

I agree that publishers dug their own hole here, and DRM probably contributed to it.

Sarra Cannon said...

I do feel for the authors who are suffering from this, but at the same time, how can they not see that it's their publisher putting them in this position? If Hachette was truly "author-centric" as they claim, would they really be punishing authors with poor pre-orders right now by denying them new contracts? If they really wanted to support their authors, they would be sending out letters saying "We promise that no one's future contracts will be damaged by poor performance during these negotiations." I doubt we'll ever see anything like that, though!

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to feel so powerless. I can't say whether Amazon will ever lower royalties for indies, but I thank my lucky stars that if they do, I have the power to adapt and control my backlist.

Here's a secret: when you self-publish, you can write the books you want. -- I love this and it's so true. I'm grateful I can do this without having to get permission. And I'm paying my mortgage just fine. :)

Sarra Cannon

canonizer said...

No - I haven't asked Amazon to confirm that the titles they report as out of stock are actually not warehoused. They rarely comment to the press and I wouldn't expect them to offer anything to me. But I don't see why Michael Pietsch would lie about saying they've shipped inventory, including your Malcolm Gladwells and the like, to Amazon's warehouses. I don't see what they gain.

It has never made sense to me that the Justice Department never took Amazon to task for anti-competitive behavior (such as losing money on so many transactions). Propped up indefinitely by financing/investors, of course they will eventually undermine the market. Your point has held true - they have generally provided great service to customers. I know you hate to read things like this but ultimately having one retailer will be bad for all of us (not just book writers/readers but consumers in general. It's worth pointing out that books are almost a sideline for Amazon these days compared to the rest of their business).

Joe Konrath said...

But I don't see why Michael Pietsch would lie about saying they've shipped inventory

According to author Michael J Sullivan:

"The matter got worse in early March when I started seeing stocking issues. From March 9th until May 8th my wife, and business manager, was having constant emails and phone conversations with my editor, publisher, and Amazon over these issues. We were getting very mixed messages. On April 29th, during a phone call with Amazon’s Author Central, the Amazon representative indicated they had more than a dozen purchase orders placed from April 21st – 24th which had not yet shipped. At that time, Hachette was indicating ship dates of May 2nd – May 10th. Hachette has continually assured us all orders were shipping “in a timely manner” and Amazon was to blame for placing small orders. We’ve asked for copies of the purchase orders and confirmation of the shipment dates from my publisher but have been told, “It is not information we would like to be shared with any third party at the current time.” Hachette would be foolish to delay orders while simultaneously accusing Amazon of doing exactly that, but perhaps their definition of “in a timely manner” is not the same as it was before the dispute."

His complete blogpost is here:

So I'm not confident in saying Amazon is delaying shipments. We just don't know what the truth is.

canonizer said...

So I'm not confident in saying Amazon is delaying shipments. We just don't know what the truth is.

fair 'nuff

Jaded Consumer said...

I think a lot of the view people take on Amazon/Hachette is related to whether they view the antitrust action against Amazon's competitors as being meritorious (i.e., what they alleged was true) or hogwash (as, e.g., the economists argued in their amicus brief when they demonstrated competition with Amazon had the effect of lowering rather than raising book prices). Once you've figured out who you think the good guys and the bad guys are in the book-selling business, I think it's pretty easy to fall into deciding they're the same good and bad guys in the Amazon/publisher contest.

Whether you view eBook prices as going up or down when Amazon's competitors pushed for the agency model will also depend which books you're looking at: the market's apparently segmented in its response.

E. R. Marrow said...

I think a lot of people that are mad at Amazon are traditionally published authors. As an indie, I wouldn't be published today if it weren't for Amazon. I do publish everywhere I can, but Amazon is the big dog.

Stephen T. Harper said...

The human mind and it’s power for self-deception is really fascinating.

I followed the link to read the comments on her blog. She clearly and somewhat vehemently believes her argument is unassailable and should be obvious to anyone. But to be honest, I’m not even sure I understand what her argument is. It’s just so vague.

I mean, I get how this dust up is bad for her and other Hatchette writers. But not seeing Hatchette’s role in that damage, and the whole "Amazon is bad for writers in general” meme… It just smacks of fear-induced tunnel-vision. Like discussing politics with someone who listens to talk-radio.

It’s an attitude like - Hey! If we just bend the laws of nature, we can stop the future from coming and nothing can get any worse!

Yeah, maybe so. But the future is going to be great for a lot of people too. Why not be be one of them. In the mean time, you’re raging at the future as it floods your house, when you should be building an ark.

Whatever makes you feel better, I suppose.

Jason Cook said...

She actually wrote the publishing company is the producer. I wonder where she is in the division of labor? Her publisher is a service, and she is paying too much for too little.

RD Meyer said...

Wow. I went over and read her original post and comments' section to get it first hand, and I came away having discovered her to be a whiny, narcissistic elitist. Someone asked her about the percentage she gets and how an indie writer can get up to 70%, and she tried to say(paraphrasing) that all that extra money for the publisher goes into editing and proofing. She then threw in a snide question about how much indie writers had to spend on that stuff. When someone informed her that he could pay for all of it with less than 500 sales, she dipped into the "you get what you pay for" trash bin. I could almost hear the sneer in her voice.

I guess she's happy to be in an abusive relationship, b/c its exclusivity keeps others from joining her club(those filthy peasants!).

Tom H. said...

Lilith Saintcrow is a sexist, ignorant, man-hater who doesn't have a clue about how publishing works despite typing up 40+ books. I'm thrilled you took her to task over this, her latest idiocy.

Kudos, Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

I came away having discovered her to be a whiny, narcissistic elitist.

What's wrong with that? I'm also a whiny, narcissistic elitist. :)

I actually don't mind her tone. I think her attitude is amusing. It's too bad she does that disemvoweling BS. It would be more fun if she engaged the critics, even if it was just calling them names.

And if you're reading this, Lili, I'm not mansplaining. I don't think you're wrong because you're a woman. I think you're wrong because your argument sucks.

You do really seem to be in denial about your role in the publishing process. Hachette is not your friend. They are not your partner. They don't care about you.

HBG is in this business to make money. So is Amazon. Like Bob Mayer, I too am not an Amazon apologist. But I have yet to be harmed by Amazon the way I've been harmed by legacy publishers. And Amazon has given me the opportunity to make a great deal of money.

P. S. Power said...


I think that it's part of human nature to look at what you have, your relationships and connections and to find ways to keep them working as well as possible. You rationalize, find ways to accept negatives and keep on rolling.

Right now your being a bit like the nosy neighbor that hears a couple bickering on occasion, recalls their own failed marriage, and then sneaks over to the wife and starts to whisper about how she could do better. She could find a man that would treat her right, or buy a toy that would easily take her current partners place...

Which, in most cases, is true.

But we also need to leave people space to work on their own lives.

If people are happy and successful with their big publishing houses, or medium ones for that matter, then we should try to understand that they see value in what they're getting from the bargain.

This doesn't mean that your wrong all the time, but failure to understand others is still a failure.

If what they get from their arrangements helps them, and they feel happy with it, then we should support them, not constantly tell them that they could do better. Not even if we truly think that's a simple fact.

Especially since my own sales have been going up a good bit since this thing started. I'm no saying that there's a connection, but superstition can sometimes be a powerful force, and influence my thoughts on things.

So, you get the idea.

I think that some people aren't buying Hatchet books, and are just moving to the next one that catches the eye, instead of looking elsewhere.


So, for goodness sake, don't tell them to abandon ship, not just yet, at least. I have a new book coming out in a week.

Chris Meadows said...

What’s more, she insists, she doesn’t disemvowel people just for disagreeing with her. She points to her comment moderation policy, which states in part, “I reserve the right to moderate comments as I see fit and to ban whoever I please.”

So, effectively, she disemvowels people because she just wants to. Yeah, that’s so much better.

Anonymous said...

Some authors need that validation only a traditional publisher can give them. Making the REAL authors. Sad really.

Joe Konrath said...

If what they get from their arrangements helps them, and they feel happy with it, then we should support them, not constantly tell them that they could do better. Not even if we truly think that's a simple fact.

That's a good rule for life, and social interactions with friends and family.

But this blog is called A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.

There are newbie authors who might read Lili's blog and think that's the only way to go.

By explaining, over and over and over, how there is a better alternative, I'm giving authors more choices.

And by telling legacy authors who have been drinking the Kool Aid for years over and over and over that there is a better way, I'm lighting a path.

That first comment by Bob Mayer, who self-publishes and has his own publishing company? He was a bestselling legacy author, and would often disagree with me when I spoke of self-pubbing. He is now a strong supporter of indie authors, and openly critical of legacy publishers. Because he is a smart guy with an open mind who wasn't afraid to try something different.

Depending on who is reading this, I'd guess other legacy authors will chime in and say that my blog helped them make the decision to try self-pubbing.

So I understand your point, P.S., and normally would agree. Just not on this particular topic. When I fisked Lili, it wasn't just for Lili. It was for the thousands of other authors who can now see both sides of this issue. Some may side with her (even though her logic was faulty and her version of reality was skewed), and some may be persuaded by me to try self-pubbing, even if they hadn't considered it before.

But then, I really don't believe my job is to persuade. My job is to hone my own ideas against those of others, then read the comments to glean more info.

Joshua James said...

It's astounding that she accepts whole-heartedly that Hatchette won't offer her a good contract for the next book because pre-orders are down as "business" but not Amazon's stance of not helping Hatchette to hurt Amazon's business...

it's just astounding...

Joe Konrath said...

She points to her comment moderation policy, which states in part, “I reserve the right to moderate comments as I see fit and to ban whoever I please.”

It's her blog, and she can make her own rules.

And that's a rule of hers I didn't like, so I fisked her.

That's the beauty of the Internet.

Joe Konrath said...

It's astounding that she accepts whole-heartedly that Hatchette won't offer her a good contract for the next book because pre-orders are down


She clearly and somewhat vehemently believes her argument is unassailable and should be obvious to anyone.


She actually wrote the publishing company is the producer.


When someone informed her that he could pay for all of it with less than 500 sales, she dipped into the "you get what you pay for" trash bin.

Denial, self-delusion, and the need for validation all are present in Stockholm Syndrome.

Read my blog back in 2005. I was convinced my publisher was my business partner, and that we had the same goals. I was very pro-publishing, and I busted my ass to sell books for my publisher.

I'm lucky that I was treated poorly enough that I recognized the opportunity Kindle presented when Amazon released it. But if my legacy publishers had gotten me on the NYT list, or given me a huge advance, I'd possibly still be signing their praises.

I hope I would have figured it out by now. But there is a chance I'd be an apologetic like Shatzkin or Saintcrow. It's tough to argue with what works for you.

That said, when you start justifying things, and making excuses for your publisher, you need to be more honest with yourself.

JKBrown said...

Great points, Joe. I actually learned about this debacle through a NYT piece this morning, and they were even more bold and irrational than lili:

And if you're reading this, Lili, I'm not mansplaining. I don't think you're wrong because you're a woman. I think you're wrong because your argument sucks.

And why would that be, Joe? Because it appears Saintcrow's argument about doom-and-gloom comes more from a legacy mentality than hers. The NYT article reveals a near-pandemic viewpoint about Amazon, ranging from the "illegalities" of your favorite group, Author's Guild, to "War against books and authors" by James Patterson.

“It has made me tell my readers to shop elsewhere — and they are and will,” Nina Laden

Saintcrow isn't the only one complaining to her readers!

As Amazon is soon-to-be my publisher for the forseeable future, and their deal with me is far better than every deal you describe legacy publishers giving, it astounds me how these authors are so dead-against Amazon.

Kylie said...

The original post is ill informed, but I have no reason to linger there so I don't particularly care. But I wonder how many potential readers she's just lost with the arrogance displayed towards commenters? She's certainly ensured I will never purchase a book from her.

Joe Konrath said...

“We are determined to protect the value of our authors’ books and our own work in editing, distributing and marketing them,” said Sophie Cottrell, a Hachette senior vice president.

Anyone care to translate that into what she's really saying?

I'll start: We don't want to share our money with Amazon, or with our authors.

When was the last time Hachette marketing a midlist title? Is putting it in the middle of the quarterly catalog, having a newbie publicist write a press release, and sending review copies to Kirkus and PW worth taking 75% or ebook royalties? They distribute ebooks by pressing a button. As for editing--any writer can hire a good freelance editor for a set fee and not have to pay a percentage FOREVER.


Joe Konrath said...

But I wonder how many potential readers she's just lost with the arrogance displayed towards commenters?

Since the Internet is forever, probably quite a few.

Not to mention those readers who love Amazon.

But my big mouth turns a lot of readers off, too. No doubt I've lost sales because of the things I say and how I say them. That's what blogging does. Can't please everyone.

Stephen T. Harper said...

“We are determined to protect the value of our authors’ books and our own work in editing, distributing and marketing them,” said Sophie Cottrell, a Hachette senior vice president.

and "Anyone care to translate that into what she's really saying?”

It’s simple, just remove the one word that doesn’t matter - “author’s” - an it’s perfectly clear.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but notice she calls Amazon a 'greedy corporation' while working for Hachette. Liberalism 101.

When are writers going to realize that worldview is a big detriment to their careers? Instead of looking for opportunity she is too busy looking for excuses.

Anonymous said...

But I wonder how many potential readers she's just lost with the arrogance displayed towards commenters?

She lost this one for sure.
I have this terrible/amusing habit of morphing nouns into alliterations as a memorization tool, learned at a very young age. So now, in my brain, this person is Sanctimonious Saintcrow. I'll never buy one of her books.

Jason Zavoda said...

H lk m tpng wtht vwls!

Sorry, it needed to be done.

Seems like this is when two business models collide or am I missing something that makes this a more complex situation? Because, really, it seems to me that the guy selling the books, in this case Amazon, should have the right to say how they want to sell the books or cut the orders back how they want or eliminate preorders, remove buttons and such-like.

As an aside I want to say thanks to Joe for giving me the motivation through this blog to finally get off my ass and put some stories up on kindle. Thanks Joe.

Burton said...

I will never understand this obsession with hating/fearing Amazon. I have my books in KDP Select because it's a great way to launch a new writer. Now that I'm half a year in, I'll be removing it to try to expand and see what happens, plus to protect myself by diversifying. I don't know what will result from this, but I am dead certain of one thing -- I would not have gotten this jumpstart if not FOR Amazon.

S. L. Jones said...

What would be interesting is if Amazon was handling a bit more of Hachette's business than they would care to admit. After all, Amazon does handle shipping for many companies and, come to think of it, they own some company that does quite a bit of printing...nah, that couldn't be, never mind...

Anonymous said...

I was a long time reader of Lilith's, but I will no longer be supporting her.

JKBrown said...

Anyone care to translate that into what she's really saying?

I'll start: We don't want to share our money with Amazon, or with our authors.

Hah! Never noticed that. Okay, I'll do my best to play along.

“(cont) We hope this difficult situation will not last a long time, but we are sparing no effort and exploring all options.”

Translated: "We don't like how our bottom line can be hurt by another big publisher. Let's do all we can to stifle them rather than compete."

“Amazon clearly has substantial market power and is abusing that market power to maintain and increase its dominance, which likely violates Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act,” said Jan Constantine, the [Author] Guild’s general counsel.

Translation: "We have no clue whether Amazon has done anything wrong or not, but we'll just throw out this antitrust accusation anyway because bullies deserve accusations."

“It appears that Amazon is doing exactly that on the German market which it has been doing on the U.S. market: using its dominant position in the market to blackmail the publishers,” said Alexander Skipis, president of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Translation: "We're getting bullied too, America! This should mean something to you... we think."

“Of course it is very comfortable for customers to be able to order over the Internet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr. Skipis said. “But with such an online structure as pursued by Amazon, a book market is being destroyed that has been nurtured over decades and centuries.”

Translation: "Amazon is a very successful marketplace, but it should be vilified because it's making our cozy jobs worthless."

I can see why you enjoy this fisking thing so much.

To the legacy crowd: I have no qualms with any of you folks, but c'mon! I'd love for you to fight Amazon with revolutionized business tactics that might lure me over to legacy publishing, rather than just tell me Amazon is bad. If I leave Amazon, I'll just publish with the other online sources, Apple being my new moneymaker. That still wouldn't help you.

To be honest, I don't know why you don't try selling books directly. You can give your authors 47.5% ebook royalties and still make the same killing profits as selling on Amazon. (75% of 70% is a 52.5% cut of listing price). You could even sink to 40/60 instead of Amazon's 30/70 (claiming 10% for your editors and formatters) and still do fairly well, along with winning over new recruits to your paper business. Last but not least, you could add a specified "indies" section for 30/70 royalties, which means claiming 30% of my price just because you own a website. You could top Amazon with 25/75! That'd make you top dogs once again.

But as long as your tactics are so dated that YOUR EBOOK PRICE IS HIGHER THAN YOUR HARDCOVER PRICE (look closely at the pic in the NYT link!), you're going to suffer. A lot.

MP McDonald said...

I'm kind of surprised I wasn't disemvoweled by her for my response to the person in her comments who said that they only received 15% royalty on sales at Amazon. I don't know if he/she made a mistake in typing that, or what, but I pointed out Amazon's royalty to indie authors and how the other 55% of her royalty must be going somewhere else. That's when someone responded about how self-pubbers have all those upfront costs.

The person I was responding to has not come back to explain the 15% though, and that's what I'm really curious about.

JKBrown said...

Small clarification on that last statement. The listed price in the pic is technically a dollar higher; however, you can see a "new" hardcover starts at just 14.00, which is a dollar lower.

Even though the blue links are people selling books instead of Amazon, that should still NEVER happen. Your ebook price should stomp used hardbacks and beat out new paperbacks.

Anonymous said...

That disemvowelling is ridiculous. It just makes people want to spend the time to figure out what made the comment so offensive. It can still be read. If you don't want to allow comments that disagree with yours, delete them. Or better yet, don't have a blog...have a newsletter. But why disemvowel?

I will say that not everyone is in a position to do well with self-publishing, even if they write great books. It costs quite a bit of money to handle everything yourself, including cover design, marketing, editing, and formatting. Authors new to the indie scene who don't already have a name from traditional publishing often struggle to find their audiences. I think there's still a lot trad publishers can do for an author's career, at least in the beginning, to break them into the industry. I get that lots of people have had a bad experience with legacy publishers, but not everyone has the budget to hire professional designers and editors and formatters, or the know-how to do everything themselves, not to mention the time. said...

I've got a hard time feeling sorry for these authors. They got in bed with the big publishers. They signed the contracts. They've given up their rights to another entity to publish their work. They also get to ride out these pissing matches.

They took one road to the top, a publishing contract, instead of the other, independent publishing. They have to take the bad with the good. It's not all wine and roses over on the other side either but if they don't like giving up control, then self-publish.

This is business and I'm not sure a lot of these authors get that or maybe they just don't want to get their hands dirty. Now Amazon or Hatchette (or both ) are playing hardball and things are getting messy. Welcome to the real world.

JKBrown said...

Well, MP, you were respectful and intriguing enough to keep her thinking that she left the comment alone. Another guy she warned she'd devowel managed to hold his ground, too. I'll translate one oddball comment to the best of my ability:

"Cut. petty, but cut. Did you see you just got your butt handed to you on Konrath's blog? He does a good job of pointing out your hypocrisy, and his blog gets hundreds of thousands of hits a day. Good job, hack."

I can understand cutting nonsense like that, even though I disagree with her and it should've been left-and-ignored or deleted. But what about:

"less books from authors with publishers, like you; more books from self-publishing authors like me. Fits me just fine, sorry to say."

What the heck is wrong with that? For one, he's right, two, she started with her snark, and three, it underlines the core problem: he has it better than she does because he isn't being suckered with a legacy contract. That's a missed opportunity that can only hurt her credibility

That disemvowelling is ridiculous. It just makes people want to spend the time to figure out what made the comment so offensive. It can still be read. If you don't want to allow comments that disagree with yours, delete them. Or better yet, don't have a blog...have a newsletter. But why disemvowel?

Couldn't agree more. I feel clever when I decypher some of those comments (as you can see)! :D

JKBrown said...

By the way, MP, I'll help answer your question about 15%, because the guy wasn't being clear enough.

If you follow my math from the post before yours, you'll see that a publisher gets 52.5% of listing price because 75% of 70%, OR they get 26.25% (35% of 70%). An author really gets screwed here, because they only get 17.5% of listing price (25% of 70%) OR they get a paltry 8.75% (25% of 35%). Any cut less than 25% is even worse. That's where you questioned his math, but he was correct. Percentages of percentages aren't so clean.

Joe Konrath said...

Reading her new comments, I'm tempted to leave this comment:

Yr blg scks.

But that would be petty.

Crissy Moss said...

Losing money on transactions is not illegal, so the DOJ can't go after them for that. If they did then they would also need to go after Walmart, who does this all the time to drive out competition, and anyone who offers coupons or other sales that are lose leaders to draw in customers. It's SOP.

Anonymous said...

went to Lillith's blog. There's about maybe 60-70 comments. About 8-10 comments oddly missing vowels which I guess one does by hitting search/find for all five vowels and then hit 'replace with' -- but adding nothing. Clever. Great trick to show to grands as makes English look like all cuss words. lol.

What I see also, all tripe aside, is that no one seems to have read any /all orig documents on either amz or hachette's 'side.' Lilith's post seems to be her eyewitness to what she knows, thinks and feels --she being a certain kind of 'insider' that is, with her editor, and prob also pub and marketing people too.

I keep wondering what the documents passed back and forth actually say in full, starting with first volley. Im fine with amazon, and hachette, both, and even though sony preceded kindle by a couple years, and bezos' first $300+ ereader was bought up by the better off gadgeteers, and then as price was jockeyed downward in part by other ereaders coming into the market, more and more bought ereader.

But, both hachette and amazon are carnivores as every corp is, and sometimes there's only one kill to fight over. Probably there will be many more fights between amz and so called 'suppliers.' Given censoring certain books and messing with McMillan, re amz, this is just another one of those fights over the dead antelope. lol

Anonymous said...

Think she's starting about you? ;)

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Lilith Saintcrow is a good writer, but I stopped buying her books a while back after she railed against readers, on her blog, who were pirating her work.

A lot of authors would agree with her, but the way she addressed it in the blog post just pissed me off.

Mir said...

I've purchased Saintcrow in the past. THe disemvoweling left a really bad taste in my mouth. It seems incredibly childish. I will not be buying another one of her books.

And I would hope folks would wait and see how this dust settles. When the first anti-Amazon articles about this Hachette thing made the rounds on FB, I told my FB pals, "Wait. You may find out the story isn't what they are making it sound like."

I totally expect some nasties on Hachette's side to come out. They've already done some nasty, greedy corporate illegal stuff, so why should we trust them on this?

David L. Shutter said...

Some points that are completely forgotten in these ADS fueled anti-Zon rants.

- BigPub has used its "Power and Position" to impose one-sides contracts on writer's for decades.

- Borders (RIP)and B&N used their "Power and Position" to exterminate most small book chains and drive the indie bookstore to the brink of extinction in the 90's and 00's.

- The Price Fix 6 and Apple used their "Power and Position" to fix book prices and attempted to coerce Amazon into doing the same. That Legacy mouthpieces STILL sympathize with the Big5 over this (the DOJ is in Bezos's pocket; Judge Cote doesn't know the law, etc) and try to paint them as victims, despite the evidence that came out (DOUBLE DELETE THIS EMIL) astounds me.

- All of the Big5 are currently using their "Power and Position" to fund, expand and ruthlessly advertise their new Vanity Pub arms (see Guaghran's blog for breakdowns, I couldn't keep up with who owns what anymore) as the best choice and the most viable solution for "indie" publishing.

All of this common knowledge, yet, we still get cruel, evil Zon and poor, victimized publishers and B&N on a weekly basis.

Some people have questioned the accuracy of the "ADS" tag lately, now that it's been popularized. Sorry, but it seems pretty fitting to me.

Anonymous said...

War of the Writers... that's what I would like to call it. And it's a really ridiculous war of words. Somebody should write a fiction around this idea. I don't know who this Lili is or what she writes, but she sure sounds like a whining writer.

w.adam mandelbaum said...

At least we can be sure she is not consonantated, as she had no problems moving her vowels.

Eric Christopherson said...

To say that "it's just business" is IMO shortsighted. There is a reason why anti trust legislation materialized in the first place, and that's because we as a society sometimes have to take a good hard look at business practices and say to ourselves, "Do we really want this? Does this business practice serve our long term interests as a society?"

Since about the Reagan era, the feds have developed a fairly narrow view of anti trust, and have left monopsonists (e.g., Walmart, and arguably Amazon in the digital book market) alone, focusing instead on monopoly power that raises prices to consumers. Will that free pass continue? That's up to the feds, to people with a stake contacting their legislators.

But what monopsonists (the only sellers that matter) do is squeeze their suppliers for extra profit. That's what Amazon is doing now with Hachette. And if all the major publishers eventually go out of business, there will be only one supplier group for Amazon left to squeeze: the authors. Right now Amazon treats authors as partners more than suppliers, but there is no guarantee that will always be the case.

[Don't take these comments to mean I support big publishing in this spat. I'm just painting the broad picture as I see it.]

JD Rhoades said...

For me it comes down to this: I can support the people who've made me more money than I ever did in legacy publishing, or I can stand behind the very company that gave me no support, no promotion, then shit-canned me when the books didn't sell. It's a pretty easy choice.

Gina Drayer said...

I can understand that Lilith is stressed about the loss of Pre-sales, but I think the worst thing she could have done is whine about it. And she just compounded the issue by arguing (and being condescending) to people in the comment sections.

I've read several of Lilith's books and this does not make me want to run out and buy more.

You were spot on with the suggested blog post. That's the way to build fans and sympathy.

MP McDonald said...

Thanks for the explanation regarding the 15% JKBrown.

I was surprised to see that Lili asked about my self-publishing experience. I hesitated to reply as I worried she would steal my vowels and leave me looking like an idiot, but decided to go ahead anyway. Maybe my experience will help a lurker on her blog. I'm not rich and famous, but I've done okay with minimal overhead. So, I posted and then held my breath. So far, I still have my vowels! ;)

petemorin said...

Throwing around terms like “extortion” and “blackmail” and “monopoly” with no factual basis pretty much destroys any credibility for me.

There’s only one party in this dispute that’s been adjudicated an anti-trust conspirator.

Joe Konrath said...

For me it comes down to this: I can support the people who've made me more money than I ever did in legacy publishing, or I can stand behind the very company that gave me no support, no promotion, then shit-canned me when the books didn't sell. It's a pretty easy choice.

True, JD.

But even beyond where our sympathies lie, and beyond Hachette being guilty in a collusion suit, when if comes down to the actual matter at hand Amazon isn't doing anything wrong, other than engaging in capitalism.

I like Amazon, and I don't like the Big 5, but if Amazon were wrong here I'd call them on it. They aren't wrong.

Joe Konrath said...

Lilith Saintcrow is a good writer, but I stopped buying her books a while back after she railed against readers, on her blog, who were pirating her work.

Why am I not surprised she's anti-pirate and vocal about it?

Anonymous said...

"Amazon is holding minimal stock and restocking some of HBG's books slowly..."

Because Amazon doesn't want to be stock with a lot of Hachette product if Hachette decides not to renew their Amazon contract.

Elka said...

Since its Lilith Saintcrow's blog, she can do what she pleases with it; she can write what she wants and if she pleases, she has every right to take the vowels out of the comments. But like everything, ever action has its reaction, and we know what kind of reactions her blog post and her behaviour got.
What I found disturbing is that the woman has authored and published 40+ books and according to her, she believes that her ability to pay her living expenses while writing depends on getting the next contract with Hachette or not:
“Amazon’s blackmail of my publisher makes it harder for my editor to justify taking a chance on me next time I’m up for a contract with them. (It isn’t fair, but it’s a business decision, and I understand as much.) This impacts my ability to write full-time, to continue producing those stories you love (or love to hate) at my accustomed rate. Because I have to pay my mortgage and feed my kids, and if this won’t do it, I will have to spend my time doing something else that will.”
Either Saintcrow has some large monthly expenses or she really, really suck in business and everybody is taking advantage of her including with her lovely and much loved publisher. (Of course, she could also be just exaggerating to get sympathy).

Anonymous said...

Reading some of the latest comments over there leads me to believe she not only writes fiction, but lives it as well.

Cripes, I though my 4 year old was obstinate....

Tally said...

Wow, I can't help but feel bad for Lilith. It sounds like her livelihood depends a lot on the whims of a ton of people besides herself. That's incredibly precarious! And yet she's just not in a place where she's willing/able to ask tough questions of her status quo and experiment with solutions. (Complaining about Amazon isn't really a solution...)

I hope she gets her rights back and takes charge of her own career!

Caleb Mason said...

Amazon is paying 30-40% of most author's royalties through their innovations aimed at improving the customer experience. But most authors are not told this by their publishers and do not see where their sales are made on royalty statements. I might respect those authors who rail so strongly against Amazon if they precluded their publisher from selling their book(s) to Amazon in their contract. (Good luck with that. ) I hear some authors quietly advising fans not to shop at Amazon yet they gladly take their money. It is just more human hypocrisy, a theme one would think most novelists in particular would understand.

William Ockham said...

Follow the link in her post the page for her book. Note the retail list price of the paper copy and the price of the ebook. Seriously, write them down or note them in the text editor of your choice. Do the same for every Hachette book that you can't preorder on Amazon. Like Silkworm, Rowling's latest.

Now, look up the pricing list that Apple set with Hachette back in January 2010. You can find it in several exhibits here:
(Look for emails from Apple on Jan 4, 2010 to the publishers. )
You will discover that all of those ebooks are priced according that list. B&N has obviously agreed to agency pricing with Hachette. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that because the 2 year restrictions on pricing under the settlement agreement for Hachette run out in Sept/Oct this year (and they don't want raise the price three months after a book comes out).

Well, there is nothing wrong with it as long as both companies agree to it independently. That is what Hachette wants from Amazon. Amazon won't agree to that because they know if they do, every other Big 5 publisher will follow suit. Hachette picked this fight and it is one they can't win.

Joe Konrath said...

That's brilliant, William.

Barry and I want to blog about this. If you'd like to be invokved, or have more to add, email me.

J. A. Hornbuckle said...

God. *my glass of cabernet poised against my lips as I read*
Really? I mean, seriously?
Maybe its me, you know a newbie author with a modicum of success in my genre. But I just freakin' want to write.
Have been approached by a couple of publishers but after listening to their pitches found I didn't like what they had to offer. In fact, it kind of felt like they were trying to pick me up at a bar. "Hey, baby. You're lookin' all good. But with me on your arm I'll make you look even bettah!" Yeah. Right.
25% versus 70%? Even I can work that one out. Re-do my covers and my story but will wait six months to get the story out? Why should I lose six months of revenue for you to 'fix' my work that is already selling? Geesh!
Joe, I think you said it very well and was even gentle when you 'coached' Lili through her, I learned a lot.
A win-win in my opinion!
~J.A. (Judy) Hornbuckle

Rob Gregory Browne said...

And by telling legacy authors who have been drinking the Kool Aid for years over and over and over that there is a better way, I'm lighting a path.

I personally thought Joe was dead wrong when he first started talking about the self-publishing thing. Then I saw more and more of his predictions coming true and saw more and more of my friends following his lead and I couldn't WAIT to get out of my then current contract to self-publish too.

Joe definitely lit that path. And many of us owe him a huge thanks.

Chris Hollis said...

Disemvowelling (dsmvwllng) seems like a lot of hard work. Couldn't she just have deleted the offending comment?

Still, got to love the creativity of the internet. I could fit more in my tweets if people could read that way.

Anonymous said...

Wow, in her defensive responses, the childish vowel thing, and now her Twitter remark, she just comes off as an arrogant, snarky, condescending ass hat. I'd never heard of her before, and this is a lousy first impression.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Mss Sntcrw's blg pst bggls th mnd. Pr thng, sh s brnwshd b mzn Drngmnt Sndrm.

'm s gld 'm slf-pblshd!

Karen A. Wyle said...

I'd like to point out one detail that Joe didn't mention: when you self-publish via Amazon, you don't (at least, most of us don't) get a preorder capability either. So on that one issue, bailing from Hachette will not solve Lilith's problems. (I'm hoping that Amazon will eventually follow Smashwords' lead and allow preorders for all its books (temporary disputes aside), self-published books included.

Sydney Katt said...

Hearing about stuff like this always makes me wonder why so many of my writer friends insist on holding out for traditional publishing instead of self-publishing now and getting their work out there. It's not like they don't know the people I use for covers and editing.

I would never remove the vowels from a comment I was moderating on my blog, I'd just remove it. Still, I'm trying to think of a single situation where I would need to delete someone's comment instead of just ignoring it if engagement didn't seem like a good option. Maybe if someone was posting home addresses for members of my family?

The ranting blog post, poor handling of comments and passive aggressive tweet make me glad this is a traditional author. For once, it's not the indies making everyone look bad.

Anonymous said...

Here's how I know she doesn't get it. She raised the idea that publishing was an ecosystem, and a commenter pointed out that in that ecosystem, readers were more important than writers, to which she replied:

5. You go on to state writers and readers are in a symbiotic relationship, where writers are fungible and largely interchangeable whereas readers are a precious resource. I am having difficulty wrapping my head around this one. Can you perhaps clarify?


Pharosian said...

I'm only just reading this blog post on Tuesday morning, so yesterday when a friend recommended a book called Fortune's Pawn to me, I had no knowledge about the Amazon-HBG conflict.

When I searched for the book on Amazon and saw the Kindle price was $9.99, I was very disappointed and decided I would get it from the library instead. I've gotten used to being able to get very good eBooks for somewhere between free and $5. When I saw the publisher is Hachette Book Group, I just rolled my eyes. McMillan has also lost sales by overpricing.

That's something these legacy-published authors don't seem to realize--that their publishers' stubborn pricing policies are losing sales.

David Darracott said...

Joe, I just turned off the tube after watching Roxana Robinson on MSNBC voicing her thoughts on the current battle between Hachette and Amazon. Her comments made it clear she is clueless about the concerns of real writers toiling out here in the hinterlands. Your recent posts on Scott Turow and the Guild, combined with her obvious weakness as a representative of writers' interests, brings the whole issue to the fore once again.

When are we writers going to finally create an organization that truly represents us? Millions of people just watched the same interview and will come away with the impression that our interests are aligned with the mammoth, corporate owned, New York houses. Who speaks for us? Who represents us, who is not in any way married to antique publishing and its corporate interests?

You, Joe, are the only individual I can think of who truly has the voice, the reach, and the spine to present the real concerns of writers to the world.

For the 99%+ of working writers, those of us who aren't deriving the benefits of membership in the New York club, no one gives voice to our concerns on the MSNBC's. Ms. Robinson clearly had little understanding of the vital issues at stake for us. Except for her lack of articulation and understanding of the issues, she might as well have been a spokesperson for a PR firm under contract with big publishing. She might be a great individual--I don't know her--but her heart and mind are in the wrong place.

You, Joe, have become the rallying point for so many writers who want to get and keep a fair share of the pie. Billions are at stake, as you well know. If you would spearhead a new writers organization--a true Writers Guild--thousands upon thousands of writers like me would join and contribute. So many of us have toiled in the trenches for so long, as you did, who would love to tune in to a major news show and see someone who actually represents us.

Otherwise, we will be left in the dust, once again, our futures determined by people who have no genuine understanding of what books and authors mean to the world as a whole.

I refute the notion that books are no different than soft drinks or tires, mere commodities for a throwaway culture. I refute the notion that writers are no more than factory workers. I refute the notion that New York publishing is the big leagues, and we are Class D farm teams. The great thinkers of the world should at least have the opportunity to earn as much as factory workers.

Will someone who has the means please lead the way? If that person is you, Joe, I, for one, will support you all the way.

Katie said...

Inviting comments and then allowing disruptive comments that take away from the conversation is counter-productive. In regards to Bob Mayer's comment that she disemvoweled, it was because he didn't offer anything other than a blog title and a link.

You don't have to agree with her comment policy, but raking her over the coals and then allowing some of the hateful comments I've seen that have nothing to do with the actual argument is exactly WHY she and other bloggers have a comment policy. She doesn't like people coming on her blog and calling her a "sexist, ignorant, man-hater who doesn't have a clue about how publishing works despite typing up 40+ books" especially since they don't add to the discussion.

So, you don't like her comment policy, you don't have to comment. And then "fisking" her blog post just because of her policy?

I try to keep an open mind when I read your posts, but calling people out for being "wrong" and then attacking something ELSE seems counter-productive as well. There has to be a better way than this.

Also, there were plenty of comments on her post that disagreed with her that she did NOT disemvowel.

Elka said...

@ Katie

I don't care how she handles her blog and the comments on them, but since she has as you said “typed up 40+ books” and despite that her livelihood is threatened because of removal of pre-order button, that yes, I would say that, yes, there is something wrong with this situation. Something just doesn't add. It's either that her knowledge of how publishing works must be low and that she's very bad at business or that there's something wrong with the publishing system which part she is, because with 40+ on her blacklist and with readers claiming that she's a good writer, her livelihood should be secured.

Anonymous said...

"She doesn't like people coming on her blog and calling her a "sexist, ignorant, man-hater who doesn't have a clue about how publishing works despite typing up 40+ books" especially since they don't add to the discussion."

Interesting story. I had never heard of Saintcrow before this entire Amazon/Hachette fiasco. I didn't agree with her take but I felt for her position.

Went to Barnes and Noble yesterday to pick up a couple of Hachette books (I couldn't get through Amazon - I tried to order and went into the 2-3 weeks shipping fiasco). Found myself wandering the aisles and actually picked up one of Ms. Saintcrow's books. Made the connection once I had it in my hand. Had a positive, fuzzy feel about it and considered picking it up. Didn't but put it on the mental list as a "next".

Went home, read a couple of reviews. Like what I was seeing.

Went to her blog.

Saw her use the term "mansplain" while talking down to and threatening a commenter.

Saw her twitter link where she and another author indicated the only thing they lacked to be an independent book author was a penis and a lack of typos.

I'm not supporting a bigot - female or male.

Her book will sit on that shelf until that Barnes and Noble closes if it's up to me.

Sympathy almost made her a sale. Bigotry and arrogance lost it.

Talk about damaging your brand.

elmaco said...

My real life experience is that when someone is defensive to the point of being rude, you can safely assume they are insecure, unsure of their current position, or secretly starting to question status-quo.

Much the same online.

It says a lot when we see so many trade authors making a ruccus.

Christopher Mercier said...

Hi Joe - great fisking of an establishment writer such as Saintcrow.

In RE: to her being a narcissistic elitist - aren't all us writers to a certain degree ;)

But I don't know if I fully agree that Saintcrow is just brainwashed or has Stockholm Syndrome - I think she's very representative of the Establishment right now. Now, it could be the old trifecta of "actually ignorant, intentionally ignorant, or evil". James Patterson is the latter (I'm going to write a post on him soon..), so the question is which one is Saintcrow?

Personally, I think she's published by Hachette, so now she's part of the chosen (lucky) few who are deemed culturally significant by her betters. I'd say it starts with Stockholm, but she fully buys into the fact the she is now better than any indie because she's been anointed. She's an authoritative personality - and now that she's with the Establishment, she'll do and say whatever she can to make sure the Establishment keeps indies out of the game.

Plus - thank you for all the great info and posts, Joe! Great site :)

Christopher Mercier said...

David L. Shutter - Good point on bringing up those reminders. Joe has always kept track of those developments here (I was a lurker here for a while), but David Gaughran's work is great, like you said.

Regarding the indie bookstores that the major chains forced out - they're coming back in decent numbers. And that is something that the Big 5 and mouthpieces are either keeping secret or , a la Patterson and Turow, outright lying about.

What your post, and Joe's site, should remind everyone is that the establishment (man!) is playing a long game here. They want to go back to the '90s when they had total control. Shoot, they want even more power than they did then.

Always good for us to be vigilant. Indies are winning battles, sure, but there's a war on, methinks.

Christopher Mercier said...

Ugh. Read some of Saintcrow's comments. They're funny, sad, and kind of maddening.

Most of her argument can be dismantled in that she's operating under the assumption that Hachette is NOT a large, billion-dollar, international corporation. Situational stupidity, or just outright hypocrisy?

Cargosquid said...

After seeing her comments, I'm glad that I read most of her work from library pickups.