Thursday, July 03, 2014

Authors Behaving Badly and Authors Who Aren't

So a bunch of legacy authors--many of them smart and who should know better--just signed a letter accusing Amazon of things that simply make no sense.

Some of the usual suspects are at the forefront. James Patterson, who continues to show he has no clue about how his own industry works. Scott Turow, whose tenure as president of the Authors Guild amounted to being a shill for Big Publishing. Douglas Preston, who once supported windowing ebook titles and keeping prices high.


Preston recently said:


"If I were Jeff Bezos, the one thing I would fear most is if authors organized themselves and took broad, concerted, sustained, and dignified public action."


Konrath replies:


"If I were Jeff Bezos, I would know that legacy authors have no power, because they signed away their rights to their publishers. Patterson, Turow, and Preston couldn't remove their books from Amazon even if they wanted to. But, strangely, I don't hear any of them demanding it, or even mentioning it."


Naturally, I'm going to fisk this letter. Then I'm going to link to a different sort of letter for authors to sign. Hugh Howey and I, along with Barry Eisler and others, have been fiddling with this letter for the last 24 hours, and it explains to readers what's really happening with the Amazon/Hachette dispute. 


But first, let's dispense some nonsense. The silly Douglas Preston letter is in bold italics, my responses in normal, level-headed font.


Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette, which owns Little Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.
But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.
Joe sez: Amazon is engaged in blatant acts of capitalism. It hasn't "targeted authors". Last I checked, Jeff Bezos isn't sending authors hate mail, or hiring people to follow authors around and push them into puddles, or making public statements about how Hachette authors are boycotting common sense.
What Amazon is doing is not allowing Hachette to control ebook prices, because Hachette wants to raise them. That was the reason they colluded with other publishers. Hachette authors may think they are being targeted. They aren't. The publisher they signed away their rights to--Hachette--isn't being targeted, either. 
Amazon, as a retailer in a free market economy, can sell whatever it wants to sell. And guess what? It is STILL selling Hachette books.
For the past month, Amazon has been:
--Boycotting Hachette authors, refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette’s authors’ books, claiming they are “unavailable.”
Joe sez: Amazon isn't "boycotting" anything. This language, like "targeting authors" is misleading and purposely inflammatory. 
Amazon removed pre-order buttons on Hachette titles. And why wouldn't they? If Amazon and Hachette don't arrive at a deal they can both live with, Amazon will no longer be selling Hahcette titles, and wouldn't be able to fulfill those pre-orders.
Also, most indie authors don't have pre-order buttons. We're supposed to weep for legacy authors for losing something we don't even have?
--Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette’s authors’ books.
Joe sez: Welcome to the midlist, where NO authors are discounted.
Hachette is the one that prints the book prices on their books. Now Amazon is charging its customers the price Hachette sets--the same price indie bookstores charge their customers--and Amazon is "refusing to discount"?
Seriously?
Patterson, Turow, and Preston regularly have their books discounted. JA Konrath, along with the vast majority of midlist and indie authors, have never had a book discounted. 
But rather than blame their publisher for setting their book prices high, they blame Amazon for selling books at the price Hachette recommends.
How did smart authors agree to this nonsense?
--Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette’s authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.
Joe sez: Why would Amazon stock Hachette's books when they may not be selling any more Hachette books if a negotiation compromised can't be reached? If Amazon no longer sells Hachette, it would have to ship all of those unsold books back, and pay for shipping. 
Instead of doing that, Amazon is passing along the orders to Hachette as they come in. Hachette is the one that takes several weeks to fulfill orders. Hachette is the one who can't deliver quickly.
As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.
Joe sez: Again, look at the purposely provocative, incendiary choice of words. ""block the sale of books" and "discourage customers" and "signal out a group of authors".
Amazon doesn't sell beer. Are they blocking the sale of beer? Amazon doesn't sell Glocks. Are they discouraging customers from buying Glocks? Amazon isn't signaling out a group of authors. They are in a business negotiation with the authors' publisher.
Hachette can end this at any time, by accepting Amazon's terms. Terms which are meant to keep book prices low, as Amazon just disclosed today.
Why aren't these authors blaming their numbskull publisher for this? If I signed a contract with a company who is supposed to make my books widely available, and that company can't come to terms with the LARGEST BOOKSELLER IN THE WORLD, I would be hiring a lawyer and getting my rights back.
Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be “Earth's most customer-centric company.”
Joe sez: Amazon isn't misleading customers. The authors who penned and signed this letter are misleading costumers with this nonsense.
In order to remain the Earth's most customer-centric company, Amazon itself said:
"When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers. Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term."
Did any of these authors even read Amazon's statement? Did they read the part where Amazon offered to compensate authors monetarily, and Hachette demurred?
All of us supported Amazon from when it was a struggling start-up. We cheered Amazon on. Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. 
Joe sez: And many of us continue to do so. Do you know why?
Because we kept our rights, and didn't allow morons like Hachette control them.
Also, I love the "we have made Amazon millions of dollars" silliness. You didn't form Amazon from the ground up. You didn't innovate the world's best online shopping experience. You didn't invent the Kindle.
Amazon has made YOU millions of dollars. Customers have chosen where and how they want to shop, and savvy writers have run with the advantages Amazon has offered us. 
This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. 
Joe says: Without taking sides?!?! This entire letter is about you taking sides!
Amazon isn't harming your livelihood. Your publisher, Hachette is. Because they care more about controlling book prices in the future than they do about selling your books in the present.
None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)
Joe sez: Tonight: Hostage Crisis in Seattle! Later: The NYT and the WSJ: Will They Ever Report Real News Again?
Barry Eisler does his own fisk laying this nonsense to waste, and his Guardian piece refuted much of this.
We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.
Joe sez: The hurting, blocking, and delaying are Hachette's fault. But you guys are too frightened of your own publisher to confront them, and too dependent on Amazon to make any real kind of stand and demand Hachette pull your titles from Amazon's virtual shelves.
Instead, you write this silly, stupid letter that misrepresents the issues and blames the wrong party.
You signed your Hachette contracts. You made your beds. Lie in them. Stop spreading nonsense and trying to gain public sympathy with your sob story of multi-million dollar authors whose books are no longer discounted. It's pathetic, beneath you, and disingenuous.
We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, c.e.o and founder of Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails from this account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.
We respectfully ask you, readers and writers, to read a letter that explains what's really happening with Hachette and Amazon.
Please read it, sign it, link to it, Tweet it, blog about it, discuss it, and help Stop the Stupid.

Addendum:

Preston posted his letter, with its 69 author signatures

http://www.prestonchild.com/storage/med/preston/220_AmazonStatement.pdf 

In about two hours, our petition has over 500 signatures.

Make that 3 hours, 1100 signatures.

Make that 3337 signatures. Preston has upped his to 388.

Note to Mr. Bezos: I apologize on behalf of my peers for those 388 authors protesting Amazon's behavior. They despise your actions so much that the right thing to do may be to remove their buy buttons, so they no longer have to endure your cruel, monopolistic ways. After all, when a relationship sours, the best thing for both parties is to sever all ties.

121 comments:

John Ellsworth said...

I signed and have several others on my FB page signing it. Thanks for making this happen, Joe, Barry, Hugh et al.

John Ellsworth

Christina Pilz said...

I plan on signing it, and tweeting the heck out of it, and FB-ing it, and making a post out of it. I will encourage all of my writer friends to do likewise.

Thank you Joe and Co for taking the time to start the petition.

Suzan Harden said...

ZOMG! No one's stopping customers from buying books from other retailers! There's a huge stack of Patterson's new book on an endcap in my local Target. (Funny thing is I drifted around that area with my shopping cart for a good fifteen minutes, and not one shopper picked up his book. Several copies of the Divergent trilogy, The Goldfinch and a handful of Harlequins were taken, but not one copy of Patterson's newest.)

Since Amazon is soooo evil, we aren't these authors supporting their local independent bookstores and encouraging readers to buy there?

Elka said...

"we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want."

Interesting. I wonder why they aren't also protesting against the bookstores who refuse to carry Amazon imprints' book then.

Joe Konrath said...

Hugh emailed a few of us late last night when he heard about the Preston letter, which apparently went "viral" before being released, and then magically appeared on many news outlets simultaneously.

Can you say "concentrated effort to manipulate public opinion"?

I have no problem with that. But we knew we wouldn't get the same media attention.

Happily, we have our blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook. I'm betting we collect more signatures than Preston does. And maybe, just maybe, someone in the media will pick up our message.

Adam Lawson said...

...

You know, I briefly tried getting signed by a big publisher. Now I'm glad I didn't for a lot of reasons; it looks like unless I was a best seller I'd be relegated to the same status I am as self published ("trying to find an audience") -- except I'd have to give up a whole lot for not a damn...

But having watched all this mess... yeah, I'll take whatever struggle I have to get my name out there, because at least I won't be allied with these pompous jerks...

Laura said...

Thank you, Joe. I read this carefully, as I was on the fence about the Preston letter. I decided to sign that one.

Laura Lippman

Joe Konrath said...

Hi Laura!

I miss singing showtunes with you. :)

Barbra Annino said...

I downloaded a sample of the book The Vanishing. I enjoyed it. Almost clicked buy until I saw the price. $15.99. A dollar more than the print book. Published by Hachette.

Joe Konrath said...

That's the price Hachette sets it at, Barb.

That's what Hachette authors seem to be fighting for.

Norma Beishir said...

Send Tweets to Stephen Colbert at @Stephenathome. Urge him to put Joe on his show....

Anonymous said...

I wonder who reads these authors? There's only so much idiocy one can tolerate. These authors are completely brainless. It's simple. Amazon is a retailer and it provides retailing services and charges for them. And it decided to raise the prices of some of its retailing services (i.e. renegotiate the terms of contract with some book publishers). Until the new terms of trade are agreed upon, Amazon cannot legally provide retailing services, can it? Nothing is for free you know.

Darren Sapp said...

I quickly scrolled the list on the Preston letter and saw B--- Eisler.

“What the…”

Looked again and realized it was Benita Eisler. Phew.

Chris Meadows said...

Let's not forget that Preston was the guy who accused consumers of having a "sense of entitlement" for wanting cheap e-books, then rather hastily backpedaled after it turned out his readers didn't like being accused of "entitlement."

Anonymous said...

I added the petition letter to slashdot.

http://slashdot.org/submission/3673105/amazon-vs-big-publishers---another-side-of-the-story

I hope it gets to the main page

michaelpatrickhicks.com said...

Man, I hadn't heard any of Preston's comments before. I guess I'm too out of the loop, but his points are nonsensical anyway. Thanks for sharing that io9 article, where he complains about American entitlement and shoppers not wanting to "pay the real price of something."

My eBook is $3.99. It was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarterfinalist, and was recently selected as a Kobo Next Read Science Fiction selection. I arrived on this price point when I released it earlier this year, because I think it's a reasonable asking price for my work. I think it falls nicely in that area that's neither too cheap, nor too expensive. Compared to trad pub pricing, it's a darn good value, if not an outright steal!

As a more-than-frequent book buyer, I keep an eye out for deals. Is it because I'm entitled, as Preston suggests? I don't think so. I just think, knowing how much it cost me to professionally edit, design, and produce my own eBook, that asking $14 or more for it is ludicrous. Hell, even the paperback copy that's available on Amazon costs less than most trad publisher's eBooks... I can buy a lot of great indie titles, like Jason Gurley's work, or Therin Knite's, or Barry Eisler's, or yours, Joe, for the same cost and have just as good, if not better, reading experience.

Frankly, I'd like to think I'm one of those authors who are not behaving badly. I'm working on producing high quality work and providing customers with an affordable read. I wish Hachette were doing both of the same, and not just one over the other.

John Hindmarsh said...

It seems to be a simple play -

If Amazon succeeds, ebook prices remain sensible, discountable, etc.

If Hachette succeeds, their ebook prices will be unacceptably high.

And then as each of the remaining big five succeeds - all trad published ebook prices will be high.

Christina Pilz said...

Just a quick comment, the signatures on the petition are going up by four every second. Every second.

Christina Pilz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne Cantwell said...

Signed. Thanks for doing this, Joe.

John Hindmarsh said...

The Preston letter said email Bezos to support Hachette

"We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of
Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think."

I used the email link to do the opposite - said to Bezos I supported Amazon.

Join in!

Paolo Amoroso said...

Joe, you may consider adding a call to action also at the top of the post.

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

Signed. I vote to stop the stupid.

Karl said...

"we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want."

Uh huh. So you guys penned a similar letter last year when Barnes & Noble kicked S&S books to the curb? Hello? *crickets*

Nirmala said...

First mention of the letter online:
http://www.thebookseller.com/news/indie-authors-launch-pro-amazon-petition.html

Joe Konrath said...

Bravo to the Bookseller for for their balanced coverage.

Joshua Simcox said...

Unless he spits in my Diet Coke and kicks my cat, I just can't be too hard on Preston here. I love his books far too much to be overly critical of any statements he makes regarding the Amazon/Hachette dispute. As far as I'm concerned, as long as he and Linc keep pumping out the Pendergast series, he can say whatever he wants about Amazon. I'm not saying he's right--and I do think he'd do well to read what's being posted here to get a more balanced view of events--but I can certainly understand the fear and anger fueling his sentiments.

A massive corporate entity now has more power than the publishers these authors once relied on and can make decisions that drastically impact how those authors' books are sold. I fully agree that Amazon has done far more good than harm for writers and readers, but when the largest book retailer in the universe chooses not to carry your titles, as an author, of course you're not going to see it that way. As misguided as their anger may be, to an extent, how can any of us expect anything less?

Bottom line is that these authors are responding to uncertainty and frustration in a very human way. Hopefully, once emotions have cooled and all information relevant to the dispute has been thoroughly considered, they'll see things differently. Until then, I hope we can be forgiving and supportive rather than light our torches, thrust our pitchforks, and chat, "Boycott Preston! Boycott Baldacci!"

- Joshua

liebjabberings said...

Signed. Pasted the link on my FB page with a few comments.

Thanks for doing the hard part. The fisking was delicious. More so for taking time away from your writing (all of you) and spending it on things that will never get you a penny and enable other writers.

It is an honor to add my name amongst the little writers and authors-in-progress.

Alicia

Joe Konrath said...

Bottom line is that these authors are responding to uncertainty and frustration in a very human way.

Unfortunately, Joshua, being human means spouting nonsense in big media outlets in order to sway public opinion with self-serving bullshit.

I understand fear and uncertainty. I am also one of the 1%.

But I try to be a populist. Preston's letter was wrong-headed, smacked of elitism, and disregarded all the good Amazon has done for authors and readers while laying no blame at all on Hachette.

You may like Pendergast, but Preston failed big time. Both, however, fall under the category of fiction.

Dan DeWitt said...

Joshua, I expect people to not lie through their teeth and use insanely inflammatory language, while proclaiming that they're "not taking sides."

Also, you mentioned that they're hurt because Amazon isn't carrying their books. That. Hasn't. Happened.

I appreciate that you're a fan of Preston's, and that makes things more difficult for you, but that has no bearing on anything. Preston and all of these disingenuous maroons that signed his letter can get screwed. I hope that Amazon does delist them, just to prove a point.

Richard Fox said...

Signed. I'll twitter/FB/etc the petition as well. And I'll send Mr. Bezos a thank you e-mail.

Keep up the good fight, Joe. You should go on Colbert and destroy him.

Anonymous said...

Another way of looking at this is that Amazon is fisking (or should that be fisting?) the public by putting competitors out of business and not paying it's fair share of tax.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/04/amazon-british-operation-corporation-tax

Now Joe might say, well this is how capitalism works. The guy with the biggest gun wins. Slavery is okay. It you don't like it, starve.

But you know what? I don't think most people want to live in the world where companies like Amazon get to suck up all the money out of society. (Yes, Joe, I conducted a survey, got a million responses but you were out kissing Amazon ass).

Sure they might pass on some cash to Joe for being a good boy and helping with the propaganda.

But while Amazon has done many good things, you'd have to be an idiot to not see the damage they are also doing.

And while in Joe's fantasy world he might argue that publishers should have invented the Kindle first, he might want to wonder whether he'd extend the same argument to other industries like medicine. Hey, I got a cancer cure, but sorry you're not having it. Maybe you should have invented it first.

No, it's lazy thinking to believe that capitalism solves all problems. It might be the best system we have, but it's not perfect. And from the luck of it, it might not be moving in the right direction.

All hail Joe!



Dan DeWitt said...

Well, that was intelligent. The "Anonymous" part lends it a certain gravitas, as well.

JKBrown said...

I keep trying to sign, but keep getting error messages. Am I doing something wrong, or is the server becoming that overwhelmed?

JKBrown said...

Figured out the problem. To anyone using Safari, try a different browser like Firefox.

Thank you Joe and Friends for this amazing opportunity. It's awesome to watch the tally grow against this bizarre Anti-Amazon movement.

Teresa Coffey said...

Maybe I'm being naive but wouldn't a little economic Darwinism settle this out pretty quick? It seems to me that Amazon can list who ever they choose. It's their business. Hachette can set their own prices. It's their business. It's the reader who decides what they are willing to spend their money on. Authors do not have to stay with Hachette any more than readers have to pay exorbitant prices for ebooks. Hachette can decide if they want to stick with their pricing or explain to their stockholders why sales tanked and their rockstar authors bailed.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:59

Quoting a UK newspaper - those bastions of quality journalism & accurate reporting - smart move!

So reading the linked article we find this:
"Amazon in the US has earned an average 3.5% profit margin over the past three years.

UK sales over the past three years, according to the SEC filings, were between £7.6bn and £10.3bn. If the same profit margin was applied, this would have generated taxable profits of £266m-£360m and yielded notional UK corporation tax of up to £100m."

In short the Guardian reporter couldn't be bothered to find out what if any profit there was in the UK operation, and decides instead to apply the reported US profit ... ?!?

Kinda not getting that bit about cancer treatment - last time I looked Amazon is a retailer?

When it comes to 'sucking up all the money', I think you're confusing Amazon with the banking sector - you know the ones who continue to snort cocaine off prostitutes, on their private yachts, at tax-payers expense, after putting millions of people out of work by speculating with their money.

Amazon actually helps people like me, who took a pay cut when we *all* chipped in to save the UK economy, to afford things like books to read.

BTW it's not Amazon's job to keep their competitors in business.

Lee Dennis said...

Someone needs to tell Mr. Preston that Jeff Bezos has nothing to fear. Authors have already taken broad, concerted, sustained and (mostly) dignified public action by conducting “Write. Publish. Repeat.” events from homes around the globe and uploading their books to Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, and more. You can watch authors organize themselves (livestream! real time!) at the blogs of Howey, Konrath, and Gaughran, at Writers' Cafe and The Passive Voice. The war's over; indies have won.

Alan Tucker said...

The "discussion" that NYPL aired is full of more ludicrous BS as well. I felt so sorry for Passive Guy to have to sit there and listen as the fertilizer level in the room rose to dangerous proportions

http://new.livestream.com/theNYPL/businessasusual

I wrote a blog post today with some of the high/low lights for anyone who doesn't have an hour and a half to spend on the video. I also linked and happily signed the petition.

http://motherearthseries.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/independence-day-for-authors-and-readers/

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Not exactly a who's who of authors signing Preston's letter.

Joshua Simcox said...

"Also, you mentioned that they're hurt because Amazon isn't carrying their books. That. Hasn't. Happened."

Nope, Dan, I didn't say that. But I do think they FEEL hurt by Amazon's actions, and they're reacting accordingly, misguided as those efforts may be.

For the longest time, Hachette had all the power. Now Amazon has more. The authors caught in the middle are confused, angry, and frightened. Hachette is the devil they know, while Amazon is the devil they don't, and because of this they're blind to whatever measure of blame belongs on Hachette's shoulders. And I get it. I sympathize. Preston and co. are directing their frustrations solely at Amazon, and I disagree with that--but I just don't see the malicious intent that you and Joe see.


"I appreciate that you're a fan of Preston's, and that makes things more difficult for you, but that has no bearing on anything. Preston and all of these disingenuous maroons that signed his letter can get screwed. I hope that Amazon does delist them, just to prove a point."

That brings us to a classic debate: Do we judge the art or the artist? In this case, I'm more willing to the give the artist a pass because of how much enjoyment his art has given me over the years. That's the one failing I bring to this debate. But if I felt Preston was truly behaving as despicably as everyone else seems to, then the art would matter much less than the character of the artist. But until I know more, I have to chalk this up to a writer struggling to adapt to a changing industry and making a few mistakes in the heat of a trying situation that's impacting his career.

And, c'mon Dan, is it really fair to casually dismiss a handful of authors representing the top tier of thriller fiction, each far more acclaimed and commercially successful than you or I, as "disingenuous maroons"? We can disagree with their take on this issue, but they deserve more respect than that.

"Unfortunately, Joshua, being human means spouting nonsense in big media outlets in order to sway public opinion with self-serving bullshit.

Preston's letter was wrong-headed, smacked of elitism, and disregarded all the good Amazon has done for authors and readers while laying no blame at all on Hachette."

I don't entirely disagree. But I thought it would be healthy offer some balance. I knew as soon as I read Preston's name in the post that immediately everyone would start waving their "F**k You, Preston!" flags, and I mean, c'mon, there's just been enough of that. Sure, I'm a fan, so naturally my first instinct is to stick up for him. I'm entitled to that. But Preston found massive success through the legacy system, and I'm sure he attributes much of that to his publisher. Of course he isn't going to view Amazon in this situation through the same lens as the rest of us. His instinct is to side with his publisher and have a less than favorable view of Amazon's decision not to carry Hachette titles. Just because he sees things this way now doesn't mean he won't have a more balanced view later. And he isn't deserving of anyone's contempt.

- Joshua

Bridget McKenna said...

Signed, Facebooked, Tweeted, Re-Tweeted, etc. Thanks so much, Joe, Barry, and Hugh for this letter. May its fame spread far and wide. Hope I can help in any small way.

Dan DeWitt said...

Joshua, you may dole out respect based upon someone's commercial success, but it's never been a factor for me. You're handicapped by your love of Preston's work, but others aren't, and can just speak to the subject at hand. In this instance, Preston sounds like a whiny, low-info, entitled ass. You've already conceded that the letter is severely misleading, so what word fits better than "disingenuous?" "Maroon" was a judgment call, but it was the cleanest thing that came to mind.

Your belief that he's just lashing out doesn't change my opinion that he's being a jackass. I now know of him for three things, and two of them are him being a jerk.

And, Jesus, stop saying that Amazon isn't carrying Hachette titles, because that's a lie.

Scott said...

I love Laura Lippman's books, but her comment implied that after reading Joe's fisking of the Preston letter, she saw something there that made her decide to support Preston. I'm wondering what that was. Or am I reading it completely wrong?

EelKat Wendy C Allen said...

I just signed and it says I'm signature # 2,032

L. R. Styles said...

Thank you for taking the time to write and post this piece. My husband and I are new indie writers to the Amazon platform and are floored by both the reigning animosity towards Amazon from some authors, as well as their apparent ignorance of how the eBook market is evolving.

A very heated debate arose lately on a LinkedIn eBook Marketing group, in which the initial poster begged authors (for the sake of writers everywhere) not to fall into the temptation of discounting their books (aka promotions) let alone offer them periodically for *gasp* free. Over 3,000 posts followed.

Thankfully, many savvy writers (that sell quite well utilizing such "tactics") responded back with lengthy posts pointing out that in such a flooded market--with new writers being born every nano-second--such complaints smack of the same kind of denial that traditional publishers displayed way back at the dawn of the eBook movement.

While the market is constantly changing, it behooves little-known/new writers to take what they can dig out of the forbidding ground with their own hands. The best place we've found to do that--as of yet--is Amazon, with their unparalleled number of consumers trolling the "free" pages. Thank goodness KDP decided to welcome indie writers and give them equal billing without charging anything upfront. We've been selling 1-4 books and hour since the beginning of March (until the summer doldrums hit) and couldn't be happier with our shoestring budget solution.

I simply do not understand the instant rancor directed towards Amazon by some authors; in fact it rather reminds me of a desert lizard that raises a skin flap around its head at the slightest provocation... even if it's just the wind.

Thank you again for your blog which regularly apprises the rest of us indies on the pule of our market.

L. R. Styles
lrstyles.wordpress.com

Joshua Simcox said...

Right there with ya, Danny.

Preston is a conceited, pompous jackass. Which explains why Dan DeWitt is beloved by millions, but absolutely no one with even the rudimentary ability to comprehend a string of two-syllable words would ever pay a nickle for a story with Douglas Preston's name on it.

Except, this being Thursday, I don't live in the alternate reality where that's taking place.

And, hey, why stop with Preston? Lee Child's name is on that list, too. You couldn't lift his balls either, but why not take a shot at him? Or anyone that has even the most miniscule complaint about any decision Amazon's ever made? (I like 'em, personally. Have no grievances to speak of.)

I only respectfully requested a bit of tolerance for an opposing viewpoint and maybe just a tiny benefit of doubt for authors in a situation over which they have little control. Be a bag of dicks to someone who deserves it.

- Joshua

Amy Eyrie said...

This Hachette/Amazon Controversy is shaping into a flashpoint for the real issue simmering beneath the surface; Status Quo authors vs Indie authors and old technology vs new technology.

What a huge and idiotic mistake the writers who signed that letter are making (sorry to see Stephen King on the list.)

The fear of technology is very real for some of these writers. King, for example, just joined Twitter and has been making haphazard forays into e books or cutting off e books altogether.

That sort of behavior reflects control issues and how ill at ease many of these writers are with technology.

They are on the wrong side of history.

Sharon Linnea said...

Amazon, or Hachette? Hitler, or Mussolini? Saccharine, or aspartame?Oh, decisions, decisions....

Anonymous said...

Retained IP rights, or life +70
70%, or 5%
Freedom, or non-compete

Hmm, tough choice.

Dan DeWitt said...

Well, looks like Mr. Simcox will go all ad hominem if you say that his hero is anything but the epitome of class and grace, and this is based upon the true measure of character: book sales.

If you were a judge, Josh, you'd have to recuse himself.

Nirmala said...

The letter is mentioned in this article also, although not in the title of the article:
http://www.wral.com/king-caro-among-those-backing-anti-amazon-letter/13785308/

Nirmala said...

And also here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/07/03/authors-weigh-in-on-amazon-hachette-dispute/

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. A bunch of mega successful authors are in favor of their traditional publishers. Meanwhile a horde of rejected, self-published nobodies are praising Amazon. Is that what's happening?

michaelpatrickhicks.com said...

I've been trying to follow some of the responses from various authors, but I thought this one was particularly telling and head-scratch worthy, if not outright demanding of a fisking.

The following link goes to Brian McClellan's blog. McClellan is an Orbit author (Hachette imprint), and by totally ignoring reality has come to the conclusion that if he had self-published his first novel on his own, it would have cost upwards of 60K.

http://www.brianmcclellan.com/blog/the-cost-of-a-good-book

WTF?! Based on my own experience with my first release, I nearly did a massive spit-take with his "estimate." What world is he living on that he think it costs anywhere near that much to self-publish? Even with quality editing, quality cover art, paid formatting, and reasonable advertising, I don't think a responsible author could approach that high of a figure on a single release. It's utterly asinine.

Even at the low end, where he estimates doing his book to his own standards rather than to Orbit's standards, he still comes up with a nearly $8000 figure.

Maybe it's just me, but this strikes me as a pure lunacy.

Or, as Joe already pointed out in regards to human behavior, maybe McClellan is just "spouting nonsense in big media outlets in order to sway public opinion with self-serving bullshit."

Of all the responses I've seen following Howey's petition, Brian's certainly takes the cake!

Laura Kirwan said...

Hachette is actually charging MORE for the ebook than the physical version? Not only is there no way an ebook costs more than paper to produce, but they're conveying a lesser property interest. Anybody who pays more for the ebook is getting ripped off. Here's why: http://www.laurakirwan.com/blog/-why-ebooks-should-cost-less-than-paper-books Honestly, the Big 5 deserve to go out of business. Their lack of regard for their customers is staggering.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Scott said, I love Laura Lippman's books, but her comment implied that after reading Joe's fisking of the Preston letter, she saw something there that made her decide to support Preston. I'm wondering what that was. Or am I reading it completely wrong?

I read it the same way, Scott, and thought it was a fairly petty remark—but didn't say anything because I thought I might have been misreading it.

I've only met Laura once or twice and interacted with her on facebook a few times, and she seems very nice. But so does Doug Preston.

I think these folks (if I read the remark correctly) are merely protective of the hand that feeds them and I can't, frankly, blame them for that—even if they're basing it on misinformation.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Let me get this straight. A bunch of mega successful authors are in favor of their traditional publishers. Meanwhile a horde of rejected, self-published nobodies are praising Amazon. Is that what's happening?

No, that isn't what's happening. Try again.

Sue Trowbridge said...

Laura did indeed sign the Preston petition. The updated version with 400+ signatures is here (PDF).

Hugh Howey said...

You and Barry do amazing tag-teams. This time, you both nailed it with separate fiskings.

Joseph Ratliff said...

Signed the Change.org petition.

The likes of Preston, Patterson etc... have gone to the well of "let's play to the public's sympathy" too many times.

I'm tired of reading their whiny responses.

Amazon is doing what they do best, keep prices low. They're not going to change that strategy because a publishing company tries to push back (who is large in size themselves, and NOT helpless at all).

Hachette has 2 choices...

1. Agree to Amazon's terms.
2. Not have their books carried by Amazon.

I cannot see where Amazon will negotiate much at all, they simply have WAY too much leverage.

That isn't a monopoly, because there is competition that can do the same.

Hachette needs to quit whining and just fold up tent already.

Sheesh.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Hachette needs to quit whining and just fold up tent already.

I suspect Hachette is just the test case here, and that the other publishers are all watching very carefully. Makes you wonder if they even feel the slightest remorse about that antitrust business...

Dan DeWitt said...

For the record, I'm certain that I could lift Lee Child's balls.

Shelly Thacker said...

Signed and shared. Thank you, Hugh, Joe and Barry for leading the charge to Stop the Stupid. Here's hoping some facts and truth make it into the mainstream news. (So sad that even Stephen Colbert can't recognize "truthiness" when it's staring him in the face!) I fear this is going to be a long battle, however, because the Price-Fix Five and their media minions have unleashed a veritable Tsunami of Stupid on us this summer.

Still, I almost hope that Hachette and their brethren win the right to overprice their ebooks. It will only hasten their demise. Stupid is as stupid dies.

Scott B. Williams said...

Signed and shared. Thank you for putting this together.

Joshua Simcox said...

"I think these folks (if I read the remark correctly) are merely protective of the hand that feeds them and I can't, frankly, blame them for that—even if they're basing it on misinformation."

That's the crux of what I've been trying to say. Thanks for putting it so succinctly, Rob.

"If you were a judge, Josh, you'd have to recuse himself."

Well, yeah, probably. I'm a little biased. No argument there. Wouldn't go quite so far as to call Preston a "hero" of mine, but he's definitely one of my top five must-reads. When you're a fan of someone being attacked, it's natural to want to defend them. I'm not defending the petition, per se--I just understand and can sympathize with the emotional response that's triggering his actions.

"Well, looks like Mr. Simcox will go all ad hominem if you say that his hero is anything but the epitome of class and grace, and this is based upon the true measure of character: book sales."

It's definitely about a lot more than book sales. But obviously a decades-long successful career in this game isn't possible without moxie, smarts, and a command of the craft. Maybe luck, too. But definitely the first three, and Preston obviously has those qualities, so I do think that entitles him to more respect than he's being shown here.

- Joshua

William Ockham said...

Instead of signing the petition, I would like to extend my personal thanks to Amazon and all the authors whose stories I have bought and read on my Kindle. Most have been self-published or Amazon published, but even the legacy published stories I have read I found via the Kindle.

I cannot begin to express how much this has meant to me and my family. New York Publishing failed me and my family. By the early 1990's I had mostly given up on reading novels. I spent hours and hours combing through bookstores every couple of weeks, but not finding much I wanted to read. I still bought books for my kids, but even the authors I loved only put out one book a year.

By the time Amazon happened, I had newborn twins, a demanding career, and this weird new thing called the internet changed my professional life. I was too busy to notice how much I missed reading for fun. But then one day a few years later, I saw an ad for a Barry Eisler thriller ebook (on a political blog) and I downloaded my first Kindle app and ebook. I have been hooked ever since. I read over 100 ebooks a year. My wife and I buy over 200 a year (I still have 4 kids with Kindles tied to my credit card). Most of the books I read would never have been published by New York and the rest were thought to be long past their sell-by date. But great stories don't spoil. My twins read "Journey to the West" this year, just for fun. Try finding that at your local bookstore. And it cost me $60 for all four volumes.

I have been working my way through Bob Mayer's backlist (and that is some backlist), reading Barry's books, even some of Joe's, not to mention a bunch of authors who never would have been published by NYC. I like many different genres, but I love reading great stories. I used to think that I was publishing's best type of customer. But in the last 5 years I have discovered that they have nothing but contempt for people like me.

Amazon, on the other hand, built their success by appealing to people like me. Their whole system is geared for people who buy and read lots of books. I can try out new authors without plunking down $20. Any time I want to read, I can find something new, even at 3am, without waking anyone. Amazon made it possible, but authors make it happen. So, again, to everyone who stuck with it and put your work out there, thank you. Even I will never read your work, I hope you bring someone the same joy I feel when I read books like M. Louisa Locke's which seem designed specifically for me.

Dan DeWitt said...

That would actually mean something if this was about his writing skills or body of work, but it's not. His career doesn't entitle him to anything other than a response to his idiotic petition. I don't care if he's bummed out; I do care that he's spreading misinformation.

Man, if he's only in your top 5, I'd love to see how you'd personally attack someone who dared to condemn something they did. As it is, I'm apparently a hack writer with barely literate idiots for readers, right? I'm still trying to figure out how or why you got there, but whatever.

Yeah, you're only a little biased.

I probably feel the same way about Steve King that you do about Preston. If King had written this, my opinion of it wouldn't change a lick.

Enjoy your night. I'm hitting the sack.

Dan DeWitt said...

"... dated to condemn something that your #1 did."

Grrrrr ...

Walter Knight said...

Please Amazon, let Hatchette sell their books at high prices. Let them learn the hard way abut how the E-book market works.

Joshua Simcox said...

"As it is, I'm apparently a hack writer with barely literate idiots for readers, right? I'm still trying to figure out how or why you got there, but whatever."

No, no, that's not what I meant. I haven't read you yet, so you could be freaking amazing for all I know. But if you'd been at this for as long as Preston has, as successfully as he has, you'd want the respect you're due and the freedom to have an unpopular opinion. And the freedom to make some very human errors in judgement during a trying time.

I have no problem with anyone that wants to criticize Preston's petition. And if the man ever chooses to become a pedophile or abuse animals, I won't defend him any more than you have. But all the name calling...I mean, c'mon, man; you're throwing out words like "jackass" and "maroon" as if he's someone that stole your girlfriend or sold you a car without functioning breaks and refused to give you a refund. I can pretty much guarantee that you've never even met him. That level of anger just seemed disproportionate.

- Joshua

Terrence OBrien said...

These authors signed away their rights. I respect their decision. This dispute is between Amazon and the party that has the rights to the books. That's not the authors.

Linda Pendleton said...

I'm pleased to sign it and share with other readers and authors. I very much appreciate Amazon and the visionary, Jeff Bezos. What Amazon has done for authors is much appreciated by me.

Dan DeWitt said...

Can't sleep.

I'm going to pretend that you didn't just start talking about Preston's "freedom" and just leave this here:

" YOU COULDN'T LIFT HIS (CHILD'S) BALLS, EITHER ... "

So please spare me any more of the "That's totes not I was saying!" bullshit. Yup, calling someone a "maroon" is way worse. Not that it bothers me, mind you, just pointing it out.

Anyway, you were saying something about disproportionate anger?

Joshua Simcox said...

"So please spare me any more of the "That's totes not I was saying!" bullshit. Yup, calling someone a "maroon" is way worse."

Eh, fair enough. But that really had nothing to do with your writing abilities. I haven't read you yet, and I absolutely wouldn't critique someone I haven't read. And if I didn't like your stuff, I wouldn't talk shit--I mean, it's not as if I'm a rip-roaring success myself.

But regardless of whether or not you're a good writer, I think it's fair to say that you're not playing at Preston or Child's level, (I'm light years from it myself.) not just in terms of craft and technique but in terms of navigating and thriving in an industry where massive odds are stacked against you from the word go. And I just can't imagine one reaching that level by being an insufferable, blithering jackass incapable of single cogent thought related to his profession.

I don't want to play the "You Started It!" game, and I can't blame my loss of temper on anyone but myself, but I never would've gone there if you hadn't hammered away mercilessly at a man you've never even met. Unless he kicked your dog, took money out of your pocket, or screwed with your career in some tangible way, you have to admit that you were a little out of line with some of the things you said.

- Joshua

Alan Spade said...

Signed and shared too.

"If I signed a contract with a company who is supposed to make my books widely available, and that company can't come to terms with the LARGEST BOOKSELLER IN THE WORLD, I would be hiring a lawyer and getting my rights back."

Joe, you expressed your personal opinion, there. I couldn't disagree more with that statement (although I rather agree with the rest). Yes, History only remembers winners. But for myself, as an idealist, I wouldn't care entering the Resistance to Amazon even if it had to make me a loser and to fall into oblivion, if I didn't agree with Amazon.

The fact is that I'm on Amazon's side on this dispute, because I do want low-priced ebooks and because Amazon help many indies to make a living (not me, by the way. I'm making a living writing, but for the moment, my Amazon sales don't account for much). This doesn't mean I will always be on Amazon's side.

I love many of Stephen King novels and short stories and I have great respect for him as a writer. But there, he's definitely taking the side of the wealthy and the writers who fear technology.

Of course, I will refrain from calling names to writers like King, even if I think there's something cynical in their stance. The irony there is that their stance is as much capitalist as Amazon's, but in another way: they try to make the most money by ebook sold, while Amazon tries to sell the largest number of ebooks.

Mir Writes said...

Nice of them to encourage us to write Jeff Bezos. I did. To thank him for years of bargains and fast shipping and great customer service when, occasionally, stuff got mixed up. And to thank him for KDP and making it possible for some author friends of mine to make some moolah and, for some, quit day jobs and be full-time writers.

I hope he whips Hachette's butt raw so that the next trad pub up for negotiations thinks twice about some skanky talking points campaign with boycott calls and unethical leaks and facts-deficient Amazon-bashing.

Not that I said that in my email. :D

Thanks to all who fight the good fight for better deals and more rights for writers, not the same old chains.

I hope Amazon gets tons of emails from indies and indie-supporters saying, "Keep KDP innovative, user-friendly, and writer-income friendly." Let's encourage them not to become exploiters of the content creators.

Dan DeWitt said...

But that really had nothing to do with your writing abilities. I haven't read you yet, and I absolutely wouldn't critique someone I haven't read. And if I didn't like your stuff, I wouldn't talk shit ...

Except, that's exactly what you did:

Which explains why Dan DeWitt is beloved by millions, but absolutely no one with even the rudimentary ability to comprehend a string of two-syllable words would ever pay a nickle for a story with Douglas Preston's name on it.

And then followed it up with the Child's thing. So just stop. You're a writer, and you know what you're doing with words, so I'm really starting to question your integrity at this point. You weren't making a rational point about levels of experience; you threw a hissy fit and attacked me, my writing, and my readers. Own it or don't, I don't give a rip at this point.

But regardless of whether or not you're a good writer, I think it's fair to say that you're not playing at Preston or Child's level ...

Once again, this doesn't matter. Who wrote the letter is irrelevant. The letter itself makes Preston sound like a whiny, entitled ass, which is what I said. It's not an insider's look at the industry, where experience matters. It's a tantrum. ONE'S WRITING SUCCESS DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY ENTITLE THEM TO RESPECT IN ALL AREAS OF LIFE, JOSHUA. Bill O'Reilly's (for example) sales don't automatically mean that whatever he says is beyond criticism.

For the record, several people have told me that Preston's a pretty nice guy, which I have no problem believing. However, nice guys still say/do stupid stuff sometimes, and should get called out on it. Firmly.

... but I never would've gone there if you hadn't hammered away mercilessly at a man you've never even met.

Using "maroon" and "jackass" is hammering away ... on the internet? First time at Joe's blog, I see. Maybe I should've used words like silly, stupid, pathetic, and disingenuous. Like Joe did. In this post. You're acting like I ran up and threw pig's blood on him. Do you think he'd ever care what I said about him? Or, for that matter, what you say?

... you have to admit that you were a little out of line with some of the things you said.

No, I don't. If this was a writer you don't care about, you never would've had a problem with anything that was said. You've been falling all over yourself to build a case that Preston is awesome and commands respect based off of nothing but your fandom and his success, neither of which have anything to do with his petition, which you already know is deliberately misleading.

The issue is your hero worship, not any minor pejoratives. I kept it focused on the petition and how it makes Preston look. You went after me personally. This was nothing until you decided to get all pissy because I don't share your fanboyism. I mean, you've already conceded that you can't be impartial about this, so why do you keep at it?

At any rate, I was bored with this a while ago. Can we stop talking to each other now?

Sheila Guthrie said...

"I only respectfully requested a bit of tolerance for an opposing viewpoint and maybe just a tiny benefit of doubt for authors in a situation over which they have little control. Be a bag of dicks to someone who deserves it."

You first.

I stopped reading the list of authors that signed the Preston letter when I got to Stephen King. Seeing his name there broke my heart.

Sadly, I'll no longer be buying any books from any author on that list.

Alan Spade said...

I've blogged about this (in French):

http://emmanuelguillot.over-blog.com/2014/07/une-petition-en-faveur-des-prix-bas-pour-les-ebooks.html

Liz Borino said...

Long time lurker here. First off, thank you, Joe, for inspiring me to go indie. It's because of you and Howey presenting the facts and possibilities that I've had the courage to self-publish.

Secondly, commenters, what are you doing? Really. I don't get the attacks on each other. In a way, Joshua is right. Preston does deserve respect, not because he's successful or talented or got lucky. (I've never read his books so I can't attest to quality.)He deserves respect for the same reason we all do: We're human. This business is scary and unpredictable enough without us turning against each other.

Do I think Preston is wrong? Yup. Do I want the government to get involved with Amazon/publishing? No! They can't handle the things they need to be involved with, and would make a decent situation worse, probably. (Or you know ignore it, but I'll stop before this becomes a political rant.) That being said, I also don't want Amazon to remove Hachett books because I would prefer that customers can get all the books they want in one place. So, I would love to see some sort of agreement where this happens.

As others have said, these authors have seen great success with the old system - and it's hard to let go of that. Success can blind your logic. Maybe if I had become a multi-millionaire with a publisher, I wouldn't be ready to launch a book on my own. I hope I'd still look at facts, but I have no idea how I would handle that so I can only guess.

Desperate, scared people resort to mudslinging. We are not those people, no matter what the 'Big 4/5/6 whatever it is today" wants us and the public to believe.

We are better than this. Let's prove it.

Josef Black said...

You've made the Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/07/03/authors-weigh-in-on-amazon-hachette-dispute/

It's good to see that despite their efforts to dominate the discourse, thanks to joe & co for once the press are reporting the fact there is a counter-viewpoint.

Josef Black said...

Guardian as well now:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/04/amazon-hachette-self-published-authors-stephen-king-james-patterson

Joe Konrath said...

The guy with the biggest gun wins. Slavery is okay. It you don't like it, starve.

That's your definition of capitalism? Now everything you say hence is suspect.

Yes, Joe, I conducted a survey, got a million responses but you were out kissing Amazon ass

I'm sure you did. Which is why you linked to the survey and commented using your name.

Pinhead.

Hey, I got a cancer cure, but sorry you're not having it. Maybe you should have invented it first.

Congrats! You've come up with the most idiotic analogy in the history of my blog comments.

All hail Joe!

Without moronic comments like this my blog wouldn't be nearly as much fun. Thank you, sincerely, for posting.

m.r. storie said...

I studied the names on the Hachette list to see if I could find a pattern. In the main, these appear to be genre authors who write 'hurry-up' books. So those who signed really are the print authors in direct competition with most Indie authors. I am sadly disappointed to see John Grisham's name on the Hachette list (John Ellsworth: write faster).

Joe Konrath said...

Meanwhile a horde of rejected, self-published nobodies are praising Amazon

Dude, some asshole hacked your computer and is posting dumb anonymous comments on my blog. Disconnect from the Internet! Hurry!

Joe Konrath said...

For the record, I'm certain that I could lift Lee Child's balls.

Lee's a nice guy, and would probably be okay with that.

He's also smart, and no doubt recognizes the letter was bunk, but in his own best interest.

The debate I've had with Lee for years is that his cognitive dissonance makes him extrapolate his extraordinary and unique publishing experience on everyone else. He believes the best writers become big successes, and it is understandable how he came to this incorrect conclusion. Lee is part of a select group of writing royalty, and royalty tends to believe they deserve their position. So he defends his position.

He's an extremely nice, generous dude. But he tends to be wrong because of his myopia. He'd no doubt say something similar about me.

Tasha Turner said...

I was surprised at how few names I recognized on the trad pub petition. It appears I'm reading way more indie than I thought or the mid-listers haven't been invited to the party or are just being invited. It is sad/frustrating how smart people aren't able to comprehend basic concepts.

@Josua anytime you visit a new place on social media it's a good idea to see what the culture is like before commenting. Joe's blog and regular commenters are not tolerant of hypocrisy or idol worship where behavior is excused because of who someone is.(rightly so IMHO). Insults and language happen here. As a first time guest it's your responsibility to take the time to learn a places culture otherwise you look foolish. I always read a number of recent blog posts and the comments before posting a first comment so I know what to expect.

I do have to say a few less mentions of balls would not have hurt this discussion in the least.

Dan DeWitt said...

Definitely not Joshua's first time here (in fact, he co-wrote a short with Joe). I was just being ever-so-slightly sarcastic.

Katherine Hajer said...

I know this will be way down in the comments list, but I have a question. The Preston letter stated that Amazon doesn't want to:
1. Use Hachette's desired (high) ebook pricing
2. Discount said (high) ebook pricing

So first they're hurting Hachette-signed authors by refusing to use inflated prices, and then they're hurting those authors by refusing to discount said inflated prices? It raises the question asked by every customer who's ever noticed certain items are always "on sale": why don't you just charge the "discount" price on the first place?

Or did I miss a step?

Rob Gregory Browne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Gregory Browne said...

Or did I miss a step?

No, Katherine, that's pretty much how it shakes out. Maybe the part that you're missing is that logic and common sense and truth don't really matter to people who feel their livelihood is threatened.

Besides, like Joe said about Lee (who, yes, is a very kind and generous guy), they probably all know it's bunk but have to think about their careers.

As much as I'm ashamed to admit it, I would probably have done the same thing in my trad pub days. Having rights and future contracts and advances hanging over your head is a very powerful inducement to swallow the Kool-Aid without bothering to engage in a little critical thinking.

Jim Self said...

I've gotten completely numb to these guys' "anguish" and "moral" outrage. Once their Big X buddies no longer have the influence to manufacture big-name authors and bestsellerdom, and those authors are forced to compete on the same level as everyone else, I'm going to be calloused even if they really are suffering.

Anonymous said...

I'm with a small e-publisher but I was once with a Big Five house. I get decent royalties and wonderful promotion in the Amazon store - once my book began selling well, Amazon began promoting it, as it does. I see it on Also Bought lists of big authors, and on best selling category lists, and sales are steady and satisfying. Yes, I'm happy with my decision not to accept a Big Five digital contract. I signed the petition. We authors with small publishers, I think, fall on the Amazon side of the debate. Please remember us! Not everyone is cut out to self publish.

Anonymous said...

You know, my Select terms are expiring this weekend, and I was prepared to expand my book series to the other channels, but now I'm thinking about leaving it in Amazon just to support them. I sell decent, but it's not going to have any impact whatsoever whether I stay or go, but all these rich NY asshole authors trying to mess with my livelihood by attempting to hit Amazon is really pissing me off.

Joshua Simcox said...

"@Josua anytime you visit a new place on social media it's a good idea to see what the culture is like before commenting. Joe's blog and regular commenters are not tolerant of hypocrisy or idol worship where behavior is excused because of who someone is.(rightly so IMHO). Insults and language happen here. As a first time guest it's your responsibility to take the time to learn a places culture otherwise you look foolish. I always read a number of recent blog posts and the comments before posting a first comment so I know what to expect."

I've been hanging out here for some time now, and I absolutely knew what I was getting into. It's a common thing for Joe to call out well-known authors and prominent individuals within the publishing industry for one reason or another. Sometimes I get it (Turow, Shatzkin), sometimes I don't (Jonathan Franzen), but I usually assume the role of devil's advocate and offer a counter-perspective.

If you've spent a fair amount of time here, you understand that most commenters who openly disagree with Joe are anonymous trolls who make a few wise-ass cracks and disappear. I try to be the opposite of that. I try to be the guy that signs his name, behaves diplomatically, and makes arguments that, if are not always convincing, at least sound reasonably intelligent. I probably fail at this more than I succeed. This time emotions ran high, and things got heated and out of hand.

I don't care for Preston's petition any more than the rest of you--but defending the man isn't quite the same as defending his misguided actions. I wish that he'd adequately informed himself and considered all the angles before drawing that line in the sand. And that's the same thing I want for everyone else here. Don't blindly despise Douglas Preston or Scott Turow or Jonathan Franzen because Joe calls them out in a blog. Try to see things from all sides. Really think about why these individuals say what they say and take the actions they take. Ask yourself if you'd really do things that much differently if you were in their position. These people have been part of the publishing game for so long; are we really going to be that casually dismissive of their perspective on things?

I'm not saying that most people here don't do that--but I'm sure there's at least a few sycophants that would gladly piss on every dust jacket and paperback cover with Preston's name on it while endlessly trashing the man on every publishing-related online forum ad infinitum just because Joe takes exception to something Doug has done or said. That's the kind of hysterical response I'm trying curtail.

Things got heated with Dan because his attacks on Preston felt too personal. He accused Doug of "lying through his teeth". What, precisely, has he lied to you about, Dan? Is he DELIBERATELY spreading misinformation through the wording of his petition, or is it more of a case of a limited perspective and lack of a full understanding of the intricacies of the Hachette/Amazon conflict?

You referred to Doug as a conceited, whiny, jackass. Have you spent even one hour in his company? Do you even know anyone that has and can verify your claims? Apparently, everyone else that signed the petition is also a "disingenuous maroon". So, you've hung with Baldacci too? Ran a 5k in Boston with Joseph Finder? Because unless you have and your time spent with these authors revealed aspects of their character that support your claims, you're in no position to assign labels to these folks.

Joshua Simcox said...

(Continued)

You say that I wouldn't have defended Preston if he was a writer I didn't care about. I've never read word Scott Turow has written and I defended him at one point. (Not his statements, mind you, but his right to make them given his status as an industry vet.) Joe and Barry had plenty to say about how wrong he was...but somehow they found a way to express their views without making it personal.

I get that the whole "You couldn't lift Lee Child's balls" statement felt mean-spirited and like a personal attack on you as writer. It wasn't. I couldn't lift his balls, either. My point is that it's absurd to dismiss the brains, tenacity, and talent of these authors because they signed a silly petition. Having a beef with Amazon doesn't wipe away their value as authors and human beings with one clean stroke. Nor does it make them shitty, disingenuous people.

Yes, I said things I'm not proud of. But I only went there after you crossed a certain threshold of rudeness and condescension. And before you start questioning my integrity, keep in mind that I wasn't the one calling a man I've never met names and dragging his character through a wet puddle of shit. Neither was Douglas Preston.

- Joshua

Nirmala said...

Josef said: Guardian as well now:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/04/amazon-hachette-self-published-authors-stephen-king-james-patterson

It is interesting to see how most of the latest coverage of the original letter now includes mention of the newer petition. Nice to see a more balanced coverage of this issue in the press. The Guardian article even links to this post.

Anonymous said...

The original letter seems to have backfired big time. Most of the comments are definitely pro amazon. I buses the whining of millionaire authors isn't very convincing. And scan the list, I'm actually surprised at how many author names AREN'T on it. Some pretty popular names are missing.

Dan DeWitt said...

Yes, I think that Preston is DELIBERATELY spreading misinformation (read: LYING) to serve his own self-interests. If he's as bright as you say, there's no other option. Also, I don't have to meet people to judge a fucking petition, which is the only thing I ever did. I said Preston SOUNDED LIKE fill-in-the blank, but it was lost in the din of your non-stop squeeing.

You were far more disrespectful to me than I was to Preston, and wouldn't even own up to it. So how does that fit in with your view that everyone has a right to an opinion? Wait, I forgot, that's dependent on career success. Either way, you were incredibly hypocritical.

At least you're not being super-dramatic. :rolleyes: I understand that you're in love with the sound of your own voice, but can this just go away now?

You don't like me, I don't like you. I question your integrity, you think I'm a hack with no right to an opinion. We get each other.

Anonymous said...

Dan and Joshua. Get a room. You're making a mess of this blog and I'm sick and tired of having to skip over your extensive playground pissing contest.

Anonymous said...

The petition is up to 3,700 and growing fast. Lots can't sign because they are in traditional contracts, but I'm sure there is a lot of sympathy among lots of the trad authors who can't sign.

I think it was Publisher's Marketplace that said lots of Hugh's signers must be readers because the numbers are so high -- but why can't these all be authors in various organizations?

It seems to me the heart of the problem is those on the Hachette side (including Shatzkin) genuinely truly believe that successful traditionally published authors are superior to self-published and small-press published authors and deserving of privilege. From that point of view, what they're saying makes some sense. They also truly genuinely believe that publishers like Hachette add enough value to justify their high profits. Finally, they truly believe that mixing the two camps, the way Amazon does, destroys literature by mixing the true authors with dreck. Again, from that viewpoint, what they're saying makes sense.

It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

Dan DeWitt said...

Anonymous at 2:09, shut your cakehole. I've asked to drop it twice now. I never wanted the argument in the first place.

John Ellsworth said...

Antitrust and Amazon, Seriously? The two have about as much in common as the Yankees and the rules of football.

For those who want to know more, here's a brief recap of the 3 antitrust laws:

The Sherman Act outlaws "every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade," and any "monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize." Long ago, the Supreme Court decided that the Sherman Act does not prohibit every restraint of trade, only those that are unreasonable. For instance, in some sense, an agreement between two individuals to form a partnership restrains trade, but may not do so unreasonably, and thus may be lawful under the antitrust laws. On the other hand, certain acts are considered so harmful to competition that they are almost always illegal. These include plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These acts are "per se" violations of the Sherman Act; in other words, no defense or justification is allowed.

The penalties for violating the Sherman Act can be severe. Although most enforcement actions are civil, the Sherman Act is also a criminal law, and individuals and businesses that violate it may be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Criminal prosecutions are typically limited to intentional and clear violations such as when competitors fix prices or rig bids. The Sherman Act imposes criminal penalties of up to $100 million for a corporation and $1 million for an individual, along with up to 10 years in prison. Under federal law, the maximum fine may be increased to twice the amount the conspirators gained from the illegal acts or twice the money lost by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is over $100 million.

The Federal Trade Commission Act bans "unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." The Supreme Court has said that all violations of the Sherman Act also violate the FTC Act. Thus, although the FTC does not technically enforce the Sherman Act, it can bring cases under the FTC Act against the same kinds of activities that violate the Sherman Act. The FTC Act also reaches other practices that harm competition, but that may not fit neatly into categories of conduct formally prohibited by the Sherman Act. Only the FTC brings cases under the FTC Act.

The Clayton Act addresses specific practices that the Sherman Act does not clearly prohibit, such as mergers and interlocking directorates (that is, the same person making business decisions for competing companies). Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect "may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly." As amended by the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, the Clayton Act also bans certain discriminatory prices, services, and allowances in dealings between merchants. The Clayton Act was amended again in 1976 by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act to require companies planning large mergers or acquisitions to notify the government of their plans in advance. The Clayton Act also authorizes private parties to sue for triple damages when they have been harmed by conduct that violates either the Sherman or Clayton Act and to obtain a court order prohibiting the anticompetitive practice in the future.


John

Lauren Orbison said...

I sent Mr. Bezos a very lengthy letter applauding his actions. I doubt that was the original intent when they publicized his e-mail. If he does read all of our letters personally, I hope he will see the support he has.

If your business model isn't working, change it. The government does not need to step in. It has it's fingers in too many places that it does not belong in anyway.

Joshua Simcox said...

"I understand that you're in love with the sound of your own voice, but can this just go away now?"

Nah. In person, I'm as shy as they come.

"You don't like me, I don't like you. I question your integrity, you think I'm a hack with no right to an opinion. We get each other."

I'm not gonna lie to you; interacting with you for the past couple of days has been unpleasant. But I wouldn't say I don't like you. I don't know you. For all I know, you could be a hell of a great guy, the kind that would help me change a flat tire if I was stranded on a highway. I'll reserve judgement until I actually meet you and spend time with you. That's what rational people do.

And please stop assuming that I'm assuming you're a hack. Tell you what: if you're the same Dan DeWitt that wrote and self-pubbed ORPHEUS and UNDERNEATH, I'll read your stuff and give it a shot. If I like it, I'll loudly sing your praises. If I think you're a hack, I'll keep it to myself. But don't tell me how I feel about you or your writing or anything else. I'll make up my own mind.

- Joshua

Chris Meadows said...

I don't think Preston is intentionally lying, but I do think his attitude toward consumers leaves much to be desired.

(Yeah, sure, he got angry and said some things he didn't mean. In my experience, when you get angry you usually say the things you really do mean but usually stop yourself from saying.)

If you think consumers who don't want to spend more for e-books than they have to have a "sense of entitlement," then naturally you're going to support your publisher in wanting to raise prices. (Which makes it all the more amusing that here he's complaining about Amazon not discounting his books, but I guess there's just no pleasing some people.)

Joe Konrath said...

Anonymous at 2:09, shut your cakehole

LOL. Conflict in the comments is good, even if it gets heated. I didn't see anyone being overly excessive, or I would have stepped in.

I've met Doug Preston several times, and he's a nice guy. Whether he sincerely believes his letter, or he's intentionally blowing smoke, the things he's saying are untrue, and potentially harmful. Writers who aren't informed could read his letter and come to the conclusion that Amazon mistreats authors and is a bad platform to publish on. Readers could read his letter and decide not to support Amazon--where I currently make 95% of my income.

Speaking to your issue, Joshua, I have met some authors whose work I loved, but in person they were jerks. I tried to separate the work from the man, and I just couldn't. So I stopped reading them, even though they were still good storytellers. I wish I could be bigger and more logical, but I'm human and flawed.

IMO, Doug hasn't done enough to be on my Do Not Read list. Neither has Patterson or Turow, for that matter. I don't think any of them are evil, just ruthlessly self-interested. They're also all big boys, very rich, and open themselves up to ridicule and criticism when they post dumb shit like that letter.

Calling big authors names is one way--albeit a childish one--to make the mighty more average and take their exhausted status down a notch. When used properly, it can be effective. My tone on this blog is carefully cultivated to draw attention to certain issues in a snarky, dismissive way, and I believe that being an asshole is one of the reasons I get so much traffic.

I'm a dick. People come to see what the dick will say next.

But beneath my attitude, I make good points.

Doug didn't make any good points in his letter. That doesn't mean his Pendergast books suddenly suck. But I have lost some respect for him.

Joe Konrath said...

It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

More authors leaving publishers and going indie. More publishers merging, then downsizing, then closing. More bookstores closing. More literary lawyers hired to get rights back.

And, ultimately, readers doing what they've always done--looking for good books to read. Amazon is fighting for readers right now. They're also fighting for authors in a round about way. How many authors would sign a contract that prevents them from being sold on the biggest bookstore on the planet?

Chris Meadows said...

Joe, have you seen the piece Scalzi posted yesterday, in which he proceeds to bash Amazon and then exhorts people not to take sides?

(I wrote my response to it here.)

Alice Unger said...

A friend of mine who wrote three books was just ranting about this on social media. I'll have to send him this link.

Silas Payton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silas Payton said...

"IMO, Doug hasn't done enough to be on my Do Not Read list. Neither has Patterson or Turow, for that matter."

These authors may not have done enough to put them on my Do Not Read List, but it does factor in when making decisions on who to read. They may be good writers but I have been exposed to so many great authors who are trying to make a go of it -- many from your blog. When deciding on the next book to read, I would prefer to support indie authors, and when someone speaks out against them, or the means of making self-publishing possible, I can't help but put them on a Why Bother List.

Sylas

Tom Maddox said...

I was disappointed to see some names on the list such as Grisham and was going to say that I would not buy any of their books, but looking at Amazon many of Grisham's books are actually $5.99 or less on the kindle.

So now there is a part of me that says I should buy them from Amazon at that price point as a way of showing my support not just for Amazon but also for the more reasonable $5.99 price point.

It's a shame though that he won't get the percentage of my money that he deserves for writing the books.

Joe Konrath said...

If you want to call someone names, have the courage to sign your own.

I won't allow anonymous name calling. It's cowardly and unproductive.

L. R. Styles said...

lol@"unpublished nobodies"

What a blissful individual. :D

Does he/she know that some of them there "nobodies" pocketed over $5,000 in March royalties? Thank you, o' KDP, from the indie writers who now boast some semblance of a retirement plan.

Forget signing. I just might write a sonnet...

Debby Gies said...

Signed, shared, posted everywhere! Thank you Joe et al.

Scott said...

Rob Gregory Browne said: "I think these folks (if I read the remark correctly) are merely protective of the hand that feeds them and I can't, frankly, blame them for that—even if they're basing it on misinformation."

I understand that, but I'm still wondering what it was in Joe's fisking that Laura Lippman read and then decided to sign the Preston letter, which she says she was on the fence about. Was it Joe's tone? Or was it something more specific? Because the implication was that something in Joe's post tipped the scales for her. Not only that, but she felt that she should point it out in the comments. (shrug)

Anonymous said...

Mr Konrath, I am curious to hear how you think you would be effected by this dispute if Hachette were to "win"

Joe Konrath said...

Mr Konrath, I am curious to hear how you think you would be effected by this dispute if Hachette were to "win"

I'd probably sell more books, since Hachette, and the Big 5, would be charging higher prices for theirs. And many of my peers would continue to get screwed.

Anonymous said...

Joe, you're up to 6,150 signatures, and it's growing fast.

So does that mean everyone's going to ignore it? Close their eyes and put their fingers in their ears and sing la-la-la.

I'm sure Preston and others are rationalizing it away. It means nothing. . . .

but think how they'd be reacting if Preston's letter got 6,150+ signatures in 4 days.