Friday, August 08, 2014

David Streitfeld - An Embarassment to the New York Times

Barry sez: When it comes to Amazon and Hachette and all that, there’s just too much partisan posturing posing as journalism to tackle, and most of it Joe and I ignore. But in his latest New York Times blow job to big publishing, anti-Amazon activist David Streitfeld jumps so far over the shark that we had to mock his tendentiousness, which was excessive even by Streitfeldian standards. Joe, what are you drinking?

Joe sez: I'm drinking a 1921 Dom Perignon at my summer palazzo on the Canal Grande in Venice.

Oh… wait a second. I don't have a palazzo. Or a 1921 Dom.

So I'm just having Jack Daniels, straight, in my townhouse, trying to dull my brain enough to deal with what has to be the stupidest, most biased, poorest excuse for journalism I've ever read… and I've got a poster of Bat Boy from the Weekly World News hanging in my basement.

Barry sez: Hah. We’re just teasing Preston, who tries to paint himself as an aw, shucks regular guy but who “summers in this coastal hamlet… set on 300 acres that have been owned by the Preston family for much of the last 100 years.” All of which sounds about as blue collar as it gets! Why would anyone suggest this guy is of and for only the one percent of authors?

As for my libation tonight, I’m just having a Fat Tire ale. My second, to ease the pain.

Okay, let’s get this over with…

First, I want to emphasize something we mentioned in yesterday’s post on James Patterson’s CNN opinion piece. Which is, publishing darlings like Preston and Patterson get easy access to all the establishment media they want. Last month’s fawning (and tendentious) Preston interview was by Vauhini Vara in The New Yorker; today it’s Streitfeld in the New York Times. And on Sunday, Preston et al will buy a ton of coverage with an $104,000 ad in the New York Times, for which the Streitfeld piece reads like a coordinated warm-up.

Joe sez: I'm sure Streitfeld's lips firmly stuck to Preston's ass for this entire article had nothing to do with Authors United dropping $104k on that ad. Because, you know, such a high-minded reporter could never allow a conflict of interest to get in the way of his intrepid search for the facts.

Barry sez: Oh come on, the New York Times covering a hundred-thousand dollar ad in the New York Times can only be pure coincidence!

But yeah, drop 100k on an ad, and maybe you can expect a little additional coverage to get thrown in at no extra charge. Also, establishment figures are just drawn to establishment figures. It’s like dogs sniffing each other’s butts -- they can’t help it, it’s what they do. It’s part of how establishments perpetuate themselves. Why else do “experts” who’ve been repeatedly, catastrophically wrong continue to get invited onto all the networks to opine about war and peace?



NYT: Out here in the woods, at the end of not one but two dirt roads, in a shack equipped with a picture of the Dalai Lama, a high-speed data line and a copy of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” Amazon’s dream of dominating the publishing world has run into some trouble.

Joe sez: I love how right away, Preston -- who as far as I know has never said a single thing that was correct or defensible on this issue -- is immediately linked with the Dalai Lama and Thoreau.

Because, you know, a rich, reactionary author protecting his self-interest is the modern-day equivalent of a reincarnated spiritual leader who unified Tibet and a transcendental abolitionist.

Wait… I'm getting ahead of the article.

Barry sez: No, I love that opening, too. Of all the things that must be strewn around Preston’s coastal hamlet garret, those are the two Streitfeld thoughtfully chose to emphasize. It was beautiful! But where was Preston's copy of The Teachings of Ghandi?

Also, note the slick way Streitfeld eases in his opinion that Amazon must be motivated by the desire -- no, more than desire, a dream! -- of “dominating the publishing world.” Not to make money with lower prices, greater selection, improved efficiencies… nothing like that. It’s all about [cue scary music]... Aspirations of World Domination!


This is another one we wrote about yesterday, and as we said there, it’s practically a staple of the Amazon Derangement Syndrome crowd. For people like Streitfeld, that Amazon might, like other companies, be motivated by business reasons and not some cartoonish Dr. Evil imperative of World Domination isn’t conceivable. Certainly the possibility is never entertained; Amazon is Evil And Wants To Take Over the World is just a constant, background, unexamined axiom, one of those things Streitfeld simply knows and which therefore require no evidence.

NYT: Douglas Preston, who summers in this coastal hamlet, is a best-selling writer — or was, until Amazon decided to discourage readers from buying books from his publisher, Hachette, as a way of pressuring it into giving Amazon a better deal on e-books. So he wrote an open letter to his readers asking them to contact Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, demanding that Amazon stop using writers as hostages in its negotiations.

The letter, composed in the shack, spread through the literary community. As of earlier this week 909 writers had signed on, including household names like John Grisham and Stephen King. It is scheduled to run as a full-page ad in The New York Times this Sunday.

Joe sez: The letter was also thoroughly fisked by me and Barry over a month ago.
Preston never responded. Nor did he respond to the many other times we took him to task.


Because we all know that the one thing you should never do, when you're right, is defend your position.

But then, when did Henry David Thoreau ever engage in open debate? You know, other than that time he gave those public lectures after being arrested for not paying his poll tax because that money financed slavery. What was the name of his collected speeches?

Oh, yeah. Civil Disobedience. It's like Thoreau has been reincarnated, and Preston is carrying on his unselfish message of social change. The people's champion, here to serve the needs of the many via tremendous courage and self-sacrifice.

I mean, look at all he has to lose by bad-mouthing his own publisher? Hachette could easily retaliate by…

Oops. Forgot. He's not bad-mouthing Hachette, even though they've been stalling in negotiations with Amazon since January (way to report, Streitfeld!) because they currently have no contract with Amazon (glad you mentioned that as well, Streitfeld!) and want to keep ebook prices high (that's the trifecta of ignoring important facts surrounding this story, Streitfeld! Congrats!).

Barry sez: We might call such journalistic magnificence… “Streitfeldian!”

Joe sez: Of course Doug isn't bad-mouthing Hachette -- Hachette is his publisher, and bad-mouthing them would be risky.

Barry sez: Yes, Preston knows he can do or say anything, and Amazon won't retaliate. Unlike his forebear Thoreau, he's taking zero risk.

Joe sez: It's all so reminiscent of Walden, I think Thoreau has a potential plagiarism suit.

NYT: Amazon, unsettled by the actions of a group that used to be among its biggest fans, is responding by attacking Mr. Preston, calling the 58-year-old thriller writer “entitled” and “an opportunist,” while simultaneously trying to woo him and his fellow dissenters into silence.

Barry sez: Credit where due: Preston has done a nice job of propagating that “woo him into silence” meme. But what I always wonder is this. Why is it a bad thing that Amazon, which has no direct relationship with Preston, has reached out to him? And why is it a good thing -- how can Preston be proud -- that he’s “not even in contact” with his own publisher on this matter? Wouldn’t he like to find out from his own publisher what this dispute is about (he admits he doesn’t even know himself)? Why doesn’t Streitfeld think to even ask about any of this?

Either Streitfeld is stunningly incurious for a reporter… or something else is going on.

Anyway, I don’t know why anyone would call Preston entitled. Everyone knows that’s only readers. And it’s not as though Preston worries, in this very article, “What if Amazon says, ‘Why should we sell Doug Preston’s books? He’s a thorn in our sides.’ Guess what? All this [the coastal hamlet and spacious and splendid house, presumably] goes away.” Because, absolutely, Douglas Preston has a right to have his wares stocked by all retailers, no matter what. Don’t we all? What’s entitled about that?

Joe sez: And "wooed into silence." Amazon, in a self-serving display guaranteed to provoke disgust, tried to bribe Preston into shutting up by offering to help the authors Preston said were being harmed.

Way to misrepresent, Streitfeld! Amazon reaches out to Preston to work with him and address his concerns, and they are accused of trying to silence him. And Preston stupidly, selfishly, and instantly rejects the proposal, perpetuating the harm that his letter allegedly is trying to stop.

Preston's monumental ignorance is only overshadowed by Streitfeld's terrible reporting.

NYT: Mr. Preston is unswayed…

Joe sez: Because why let logic, facts, and common sense get in the way of righteous indignation backed by collective narcissism and self-entitlement?

NYT: “Jeff Bezos used books as the cutting edge to help sell everything from computer cables to lawn mowers, and what a good idea that was,” [Preston] said. “Now Amazon has turned its back on us. Don’t they value us more than that? Don’t they feel any loyalty? That’s why authors are mad.”

Joe sez: Amazon has turned its back on you, Doug?

Uh… didn't Amazon contact you directly several times? Didn't Amazon propose three solutions for compensating authors during these negotiations with Hachette?

NYT: Amazon has been forced by the controversy to shed its longtime practice of refusing to comment on anything. Asked about the writers’ rebellion, it issued a statement that put the focus back on Hachette, bringing up the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Hachette and other publishers in 2012: “First, Hachette was willing to break the law to get higher e-book prices, and now they’re determined to keep their own authors in the line of fire in order to achieve that same end. Amazon has made three separate proposals to take authors out of the middle, all of which Hachette has quickly dismissed.”

Joe sez: Streitfeld didn't link to Amazon's statement (why am I not surprised?), didn't mention Amazon's point about the terribly low royalties Hachette pays its offers, and missed a huge opportunity to question Preston on the collusion suit Hachette was involved in.

Don't journalists have some sort of rudimentary rulebook or minimum list of standards they can fall back on to remind them of things that should be obvious?

I'm floored by the level incompetence here. Is there something like an Anti-Pulitzer we can nominate Streitfeld for? Some equivalent of the Razzie Awards for reporters?

Someone needs to send Streitfeld a snorkel, because he's liable to drown in his own BS… unless the shame of his epic failure to act even remotely like a journalist kills him first.

NYT: Mr. Preston pointed out it was Amazon that put the authors in the line of fire in the first place. Russell Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president for e-books, has called Mr. Preston twice in recent weeks, trying to get him to endorse the company’s proposals to settle the dispute, as well as to pipe down. The most recent proposal would have Amazon selling Hachette books again, but with Hachette and Amazon giving their proceeds to charity.

Joe sez: How hard is this to understand? Douglas Preston doesn't have a contract with Amazon. He has a contract with Hachette. It is Hachette's responsibility to make deals with retailers so Preston's books are widely available.

It is not Amazon's responsibility to carry Hachette's books if the two companies can't decide on terms. Yet Amazon is STILL carrying Hachette titles, even though their contract expired back in April.

Amazon didn't put any authors in the line of fire. Hachette did. Believing otherwise is textbook Stockholm Syndrome.

NYT: No thanks, Mr. Preston said. A proposal that weakens Hachette by cutting its profits was not in the interests of Hachette’s authors.

Joe sez: Except for those authors who wanted to take the deal. Authors who don't have a coastal hamlet.

How many Hachette authors signed Preston's letter? Can someone with more patience than I have check on that?

Or couldn't Streitfeld have done so? He’s a journalist, right? That thing is kind of his job. Or couldn’t he at least have an intern look into it? Wouldn't it be interesting to know how many authors Hachette publishes vs. how many signed that asinine letter?

NYT: But he took the opportunity to ask Mr. Grandinetti why Amazon was squeezing the writers in the first place.

His response, according to Mr. Preston: “This was the only leverage we had.” Amazon declined to comment.

Joe sez: Hmm. Russ Grandinetti said the only way to compel Hachette to negotiate at all was to remove pre-order buttons and stop discounting and stocking quantities of Hachette titles.

Consider that for a moment. Amazon has no current contract with Hachette. Couldn't Amazon have removed all of Hachette's titles? Why didn't Amazon use that as leverage? Amazon is the bad guy here, right? Wouldn't a real bad guy do that?

Barry sez: Yeah, I don’t know how you can reasonably say that Amazon has been other than remarkably patient, using only the most graduated leverage, and only in response to Hachette’s ongoing non-responsiveness even after the expiration of their contract. But then again, I don’t have an entitlement attitude...

NYT:It’s like talking to a 5-year-old,” Mr. Preston said. “ ‘She made me hit her!’ No one is making Amazon do anything.”

Joe sez: No one is making Amazon do anything, including carrying your titles, Doug. But they still are.

Barry sez: I’ve heard Preston say this in probably a half dozen different interviews. I know he’s very fond of it, so I wish someone would explain to him it’s both a nonsequitur and a straw man. Neither Amazon nor anyone else is claiming that someone “made” Amazon do anything. The question is, what is a retailer supposed to do when its contract with a supplier expires… and the supplier refuses to negotiate a new one? We’ve asked this question of Preston many times and he’s never even attempted to answer it.

And shockingly, ace journalist Streitfeld doesn’t think to ask something similar himself. He just enables the glib “five-year-old” dodge… and continues with the lovefest.

NYT: No one is making Mr. Preston do anything, either. He dismisses Amazon’s suggestions that he is a “human shield” for Hachette, one of the Big 5 publishers in the United States. He and the other writers say they are acting independently. Most, in any case, are not published by Hachette.

Joe sez: See my comment above. If most aren't published by Hachette, could there be some reason more Hachette authors didn't sign that letter?

How much digging would it have taken to contact a few other Hachette authors and ask why they didn't sign? Or how they felt about Amazon’s multiple offers to have Amazon and Hachette compensate them for any losses -- the offers Hachette and Preston keep dismissing out of hand?

Barry sez: In fairness, he was pretty busy taking notes about the Dalai Lama and Thoreau.

NYT: Mr. Preston is not sure how he has found himself in charge of a group calling itself Authors United. “I don’t like fighting,” he said. “I’m a wimp. When the bullies in seventh grade said they would meet me in the parking lot after school, I made sure I was nowhere near it.”

Joe sez: But damn anyone who takes away your hardcover discounts, huh Doug? That's when it's time to make a stand.

NYT: “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,” the letter states.

Joe sez: For the umpteenth time, Amazon isn't blocking the sales of books.

Barry sez: And as for “preventing,” it’s almost like Amazon has the Mystical Power to Stop People from Buying Books Elsewhere. A power they nefariously wield by directing Amazon customers to other stores!

Seriously, that Streitfeld enables all this totally uncritically is just an embarrassment. I want to avert my eyes… but luckily, I’m on my third beer, and that’s helping.

NYT: Some writers wholeheartedly supported the letter but were afraid to sign, Mr. Preston said. A few signed it and then backed out, citing the same reason. The Times ad, which cost $104,000, was paid for by a handful of the more successful writers.

Barry sez: You almost get the feeling the great, silent majority of authors are behind this thing, don’t you?


NYT: The Times ad, which cost $104,000, was paid for by a handful of the more successful writers.

Barry sez: Along with the adoring interviews these guys receive practically on command, they can also afford to buy whatever media attention they want. James Patterson made $94 million in a year. A cup of coffee is more of an outlay for most people than a full-page NYT ad is for Preston’s group -- a group that’s in any event already saturated with fan fic like Streitfeld’s.

The fight between publishing reactionaries and publishing progressives is far from equal. The good news is that the forces of publishing progress have on their side both numbers and coherence. Over time, I’m confident numbers and coherence will prevail over money and star power. But it’ll require commitment, because a defining characteristic of all establishments is that they will never reform without a hell of a fight.

NYT: Amazon supporters point to a rival petition on Change.org. It is a rambling love song to the retailer. Signers sometimes append invective decrying the New York publishers for having the audacity to reject novels. “There is something wrong with a system that picks those who use their elitist ideas of art to choose who is published,” reads a comment.

The petition has 7,650 signatures. By comparison, a 2012 Change.org petition calling on Amazon to ban the sale of whale and dolphin meat drew over 200,000 signatures.

Barry sez: This is when Streitfeld really hits his full partisan stride:

* A letter that gets 909 signatures warrants a NYT headline; one that gets 7650 has no independent significance, but exists only as something “pointed to” by “Amazon supporters.”

* A letter that gets 909 letters “spread through the literary community;” one that gets over 7650 is merely a “rambling love song” (truly rich, from the guy who wrote this blow job of an article… seriously, would even one thing have read differently if it were a straight-up Hachette press release?).

* Preston’s letter doesn’t even allow for comments, which is par for the course among publishing reactionaries; for the other letter, our dispassionate reporter searches among thousands of comments for one he thinks is weak and makes sure to mention it (though is the comment really so weak? If legacy gatekeepers aren’t letting one manuscript through for every thousand they reject, why are they called “gatekeepers”?).

*A letter that gets 909 signatures stands alone; one that gets over 7650 must be compared to another letter on a totally unrelated topic that got far more. Did you catch that? The relevant Streitfeldian comparison isn’t between an anti-Amazon letter with 909 signatures and a pro-Amazon letter written in response that garnered 7650; it’s between the pro-Amazon letter and some unrelated thing Streitfeld managed to dig up about dolphin and whale meat.

Oh, and the best part? All of this is progress for Streitfeld! Seriously, he’s actually showing some improvement compared to his last outing...

My favorite part about the dolphin thing, BTW, is imagining Streitfeld sifting through scores of Change.org petitions until he found just the right one to try to make the pro-Amazon petition numbers seem unimpressive. Now that’s Streitfeldian!

Really, it’s as though Streitfeld writes a whole article about the massiveness of some guy’s four-inch manhood, and then grudgingly, almost as an aside, mentions that, well, okay, there was this guy John Holmes, who was, admittedly, like three times bigger -- but then immediately goes on to note that, of course, by comparison to the Washington Monument, which is over 500 feet, Holmes’s endowment wasn’t really all that.

Joe sez: The Streitfeld. Maybe that could be the name of the reporter Razzie Award equivalent…?

"And the first Streitfeld Award for embarrassingly partisan reporting and a shocking lack of journalistic integrity goes to… Streitfeld! How incredibly Streitfeldian! Who could have predicted this, other than anyone who can read above the second grade level?"

I apologize. That last joke was insensitive to second graders. But I am semi-serious about an award for bad journalism. Because there is a journalistic code of ethics. Someone really ought to read this to Streitfeld:

The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.

Barry and I aren't journalists. We're more like op-ed columnists. But we always try to back up our views with data and logic, and we constantly pressure check our integrity. My blog does not claim "All the news that's fit to print". We don't pass off our biases as news and file them under Technology (the section the Streitfeld piece ran in). And we don't get paid for blogging.

The NYT should be ashamed and apologetic for running Streitfeld's nonsense and calling it news.

Barry sez: Yeah, it’s not easy to distinguish between Preston’s paid ad and the coverage the Times offers him on top of it.

Pro-tip for the Times: this is not something to be proud of.

NYT: Mr. Preston is not one of those writers who checks his Amazon ranking on a regular basis, or even totes up his sales. He would rather be writing. But he recently thought he should get some numbers from Hachette. They came in the other morning, and they seemed worth sharing with his wife, Christine.

About half his book sales used to come from Amazon. But since the retailer started discouraging orders, his paperback sales are down 61 percent and his e-book sales are down 62 percent.

Mrs. Preston, a photographer, studied the bleak sheet.

“It’s gotten personal,” she said. “I knew you were going to take a hit, but I had no idea it would be like this.”

Joe sez: Perhaps, Mrs. Preston, you should have talked some sense into your husband when he immediately rejected Amazon's offer to monetarily compensate authors? Or when he rejected the second offer, calling it blood money? That 62 percent drop could have been a 300+ percent bonus.

Instead, Preston nobly spoke on behalf of his ten-billion dollar corporate master, Lagardère, whose Kindle sales only make up 1% of their revenue.

NYT: “Are you worried?” Mr. Preston asked. “Because you should be. What if Amazon says, ‘Why should we sell Doug Preston’s books? He’s a thorn in our sides.’ Guess what? All this goes away.”

Joe sez: On a purely base, ugly, karma level, I wouldn't mind that happening.

I keep seeing legacy apologists like Preston and Patterson getting adoring press, spreading misinformation, harming writers, and the petty part of me wants to see them reap what they're sowing.

Amazon, however, has been very restrained in the pettiness department. No contract with Hachette, but still selling their titles. Three offers trying to find a way to compensate authors. Two calls to Preston. Repeated attempts to expedite the negotiation process.

Meanwhile, Preston looks at his 300 acres and wonders if his wrongly-perceived altruistic bravery will result in him losing them, while not uttering a peep about his own publisher's actions in this dispute.

And amplifying those misconceptions are journalists like Streitfeld, trying to paint Preston as some sort of a blameless, heroic figure.

Still, the fact is I do feel for Preston, and for all Hachette authors. I don't want to see any of them hurt.

I truly understand what it is liked to be at the mercy of an idiotic publisher. I sympathize. And I hope this whole situation is resolved swiftly.

But every time Preston, or Patterson, or Turow, or Colbert, flaps his gums in the media, it emboldens Hachette to hold firm to its intent to control ebook pricing and prevent Amazon from discounting. I can imagine Hachette execs back-slapping each other on Sunday, when Preston's $104,000 ad runs, while the majority of Hachette authors wonder why their publisher failed them. They don't have 300 acres to lose. Many of them will lose electricity, or their lease.

I used to live bi-annual check to bi-annual check. I struggled to make ends meet. And I also feared criticizing my publishers in public, because I needed them to put food on the table.

You're not a hero, Doug. You're still that coward, running away from bullies in the schoolyard. 

You're just so delusional you don't know who the bullies really are.

Barry sez: Well, I’m on my fourth beer. I think. I lost count.

Part of me hates spending so much time exposing the shoddy thinking of people like Preston and the even shoddier journalism of people like Streitfeld. We’ve got other things to do -- like our day jobs. But I’m always struck by how much uncritical and nakedly partisan establishment media attention publishing reactionaries like Preston can garner. If we don’t use social media to point out the flaws in the thinking and the incestuousness of the coverage, more people might swallow it all uncritically. Which would help the Prestons and Pattersons succeed in stymying progress.

Joe sez: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. At least, that's what it says on the statue of Ghandi I keep at my writing desk.

Barry sez: Hah, how Streitfeldian of you! But we also need some totally irrelevant figure to compare things to. Dolphin meat or something.

Joe sez: I'll try harder next time. Incompetence like that doesn't always happen on your first attempt. You really have to work at it.

ADDENDUM

Joe sez: Here, and on Passive Voice, writers are making some points Barry and I missed. I believe they're worth adding to the blog post, because some things often get lost in comment threads.

Also worth noting is that the law of unintended consequences is in full effect. Since Streitfield's article went live, over 160 more people have signed our petition.

Jeff Shelby: "But he recently thought he should get some numbers from Hachette. They came in the other morning..."

I laughed so hard at this because I don't think many of us that have published traditionally can relate to a quick turnaround - if any - on a sales numbers request.

I genuinely hope every single Hachette author calls in and asks for their sales figures and that Hachette gets them the info as quickly as they did Preston.

Lawrence De Maria: Mr. Preston pointed out it was Amazon that put authors in the line of fire in the first place." Since when do sources point out "facts" still in dispute?

Tracy Sharp: I think these rich writers are biting the wrong hand. Their publishers will be closing their doors some day, maybe in the not too distant future, and then they'll be kissing Amazon's ass. 

David Vandagriff: PG flat believes that either Preston or the Times author took the Grandinetti quote out of context.

It is far more likely that Grandinetti’s response, “This was the only leverage we had,” was describing the fight between Amazon and a financially failing Hachette, not a response to any question about “squeezing the writers.”

The Times got the quote from Preston, because Amazon could see a Times hatchet (Hachette?) job in progress and decided not to cooperate. This raises the possibility that an advanced case of ADS has boggled Preston’s mind completely and he entirely misremembers whatever Grandinetti had to say. Or perhaps, Preston passed on what Grandinetti should have said instead of what Grandinetti did say, all in the service of supporting the Times narrative.

and

I just did a quick search and it appears that Round Pond, Maine, where Preston “summers” doesn’t have a bookstore.

The question that comes to mind is if the dog eats Preston’s copy of “Civil Disobedience,” will Preston order a replacement from Amazon or endure having his “writing shack” appear less fashionable for the remainder of the summer?

Alan Tucker: My question is this: What can Amazon do to pressure Hachette that won’t harm Hachette’s authors?

Patricia Sierra: I don’t think the wealthy, name-brand authors are doing themselves any favors when they whine in public. A segment of those seeing the whines will think less of them.

and

Meanwhile, back in Preston’s world, it’s great to see that he still isn’t taking sides in the Hachette/Amazon contract negotiations.

Sarah McCabe: I’m sure his sales aren’t down at all because he’s publicly being a giant ass.

Dan DeWitt: This is an amazing piece of impartial journalism. They’ve used whales to prove that 900 > 7500+.

Nirmala: Amazon has not actually prevented anyone from buying Preston’s or any other author’s books. And yet where were Preston and his millionaire buddies when Barnes and Noble completely prevented people from buying Simon And Schuster’s books a year ago? I do not remember any full page ads then. And where is their outrage when booksellers all across the country refuse to stock Amazon’s publishing imprints? Or when booksellers refuse to stock even bestselling titles by self-published authors? Preston’s letter states “We feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers”, but in truth it is only a concern to them when it is their own books that are being discouraged (again not ever prevented from being sold).

Richard Fox: No author should ever play the martyr card just because they oppose something Amazon does. Amazon isn’t vindictive towards individuals, but it will cut off bad actor business partners.

Robert Bidinotto: O, woe is the life of the literary One Percenter!

While we take “vacations,” the wealthy Mr. Preston “summers” in a “shack” in the Maine woods, where he grouses oh-so-loudly about the unfairness of Amazon in depriving his books of “advance purchase buttons.”

Gee, Amazon doesn’t even offer Moi, a lowly indie author, any advance purchase buttons. But then, I’m not crown royalty. Muffy, please go fetch Mr. Preston a pina colada while he “summers” away, so that he may drown the wretched pain of his cursed existence.

Chris Armstrong: Preston is quite mystified by how he came to be in charge of an organization like Author’s United. I guess his creating the organization and putting himself in charge wasn’t a clue.

Claire Chilton: I suspect there are more people in the world who would like to see whales and dolphins survive than there are authors. 

I mean, I don't have the statistics, but I suspect that there aren't as many writers in the world as there are people who like dolphins. I have yet to meet a person who wanted to kill all the dolphins, but I've met many people who aren't writers.

I wonder how that blatantly obvious nugget got missed in the article...

Joe sez: I'll add more as more come in...

141 comments:

Paolo Amoroso said...

NYT ads are so 1.0, so legacy. Joe, Barry, you should post a viral video to YouTube.

Ian Thompson said...

The Guardian (London) has a good article on this http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/08/authors-ad-new-york-times-petition-amazon

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

I'm for the youtube video. It would go viral, and likely reach more people! Wouldn't that piss them off? Haha!

I think these rich writers are biting the wrong hand. Their publishers will be closing their doors some day, maybe in the not too distant future, and then they'll be kissing Amazon's ass.

I can't wait to see that backpedal.

Rex Kusler said...

This reminds me of that goofy guy Joshua Norton who bought up all the rice in San Francisco thinking he could sell it all at a higher price. A short time later a couple shiploads of rice came in and flooded the market. He went bankrupt. Not long after that he lost his marbles and declared himself Emperor of the United States. Everybody in San Francisco liked the guy so they played along with it. Patterson should declare himself Emperor of Paper Publishing. I’ll drink to that.

Graeme Ing said...

Another great post. Interesting to see that most of the NYT-picked comments to that article point out the idiocy behind what Preston and his cronies are spouting. Good to know these people aren't fooling book readers one iota.

I agree, this was a terrible piece of journalism for the NYT.

Bridget McKenna said...

The Guardian article Ian posted above contains a few column inches of Barry Eisler quotes, which is far and away more of a nod to neutrality than the "Newspaper of Record" has managed in all its coverage of this subject. Refreshing.

I cast my vote for a YouTube channel.

Joe Konrath said...

LOL. Since the NYT article, our petition added over 100 signatures. Now at 7787 from Streitfeld's reported 7650.

Libby Hellmann said...

This article pushed me over the edge. I can't believe how disingenuous it is. I'm done. Where do I sign your petition?

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

It's getting hilariouser and hilariouser, the coverage. If only it didn't hurt some real authors. Thanks for the fabulous fisking! P.S. Barry, I did just leave my palazzo (rented for 3 days) on (or close to) the Grand Canal in Venice... it was awesome! And paid for by Amazon sales of my bestselling books!

Tea Fellow said...

Maybe you should start a Kickstarter campaign for our own NYT ad. I'd chip in.

Joe Konrath said...

The law of unintended consequences in full effect.

Here's the link to our petition:

https://www.change.org/petitions/hachette-stop-fighting-low-prices-and-fair-wages

Joe Konrath said...

Maybe you should start a Kickstarter campaign for our own NYT ad. I'd chip in.

Several of us considered that a while ago. But I realized I'd rather eat a turd than give the NYT $100k.

If I had $100k to waste, I'd pick a worthy charity. Preston et al could have done a lot of good with that money.

What hurts even more is there are people who signed his nonsense that I know and like.

I understand camaraderie, and I know I tend to rub many authors the wrong way, but the end result of signing something without thinking about it to hard is ending up being on the wrong end of one of the most biased NYT stories ever written.

I'd love to see some of those writers remove their names before the ad goes live, or at the least retract their support.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Suggestion to Joe, et al:

So far you've been reacting - fisking the ridiculous crap coming out of BP's mouth and authors in the 1%.

Is there any way, without expending a huge amount of time or funds, to lead instead of follow?

Here it is: Joe dresses up like Mark Twain in a white wig and the suit of a country gentleman of the day. He reads from a slightly edited version of Chapter 15 of 'Life on the Mississippi,' except that the references to the monopoly of the river-boat pilots is replaced by suitable references to publishing. He is FUNNY. It goes viral.

The chapter is not long, and it is VERY good Twain.

John Ellsworth said...

Good news!

Where I'm holed up in Wisconsin this weekend nobody polled has any intention of reading the NYT.

Now or...ever.

Michael said...

I think it is interesting that about half of his sales are from Amazon but he has lost more than that in sales since he formed Authors United. I think it might be safento say that he has offended his general readership so much that even the people who are not effected by the Amazon Hachette situation have stopped buying his books.

I think it is time for Preston to sit down and figure out who is more important to his career, his publisher or his readers.

Rick Gualtieri said...

Truly an embarrassment. This is little more than an editorial masquerading as news. The NY Times should really be ashamed.

Also it's nice to know that the 7000+ of us who signed the Change.org letter were marginalized because we're less than the 200K who wanted Amazon to ban whale meat. Brilliant reporting there.

Joshua Simcox said...

"Anyway, I don’t know why anyone would call Preston entitled. Everyone knows that’s only readers."

Everyone keeps beating that "Douglas Preston says readers have a sense of entitlement!" drum, but after reading his comments, my take-away is that Preston was concerned about the possibility of book buyers becoming so accustomed to $0.99 ebooks (a popular price point at the time of the article, I believe) that they refuse to pay more--in Preston's case, whatever his publisher charges. We can argue about what constitutes a "fair price" for an ebook, but I don't think his concern was unreasonable.

The problem was his reference to Wal-Mart, which I'm sure was just as much a button-pusher as his use of the word "entitlement". There's a mentality among many that Wal-Mart is a mecca for "poor white trash", while the more cultured, discriminating shoppers spend their money elsewhere, and I think it was a little too easy to attribute that same kind of snobbery to Preston when he tossed out a reference to the retailer. I can't speak for Preston, but I seriously doubt that's how he feels. Seemed to me that his only concern was seeing the market shift in such a way that readers are only willing to pay the bare minimum. Again, not unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Preston has stated publicly that his advances are so huge his sales don't matter (in effect) All those sales he's lost represent a loss to Hachette, not Preston. So why bring it up? Why show it to your wife? Are we to believe he's pining over the failure of poor Hachette to get more of their advance money back? No, of course not. Readers are being intentionally misled by both Preston and this sycophant reporter to think that Preston actually stands to lose something in all of this. Even in that context, they neglect to mention the gazillion dollars Preston already has banked from his career. The 300 acres is never going away. Ever. They both know that, and yet intentionally deceive the public. Apparently even intentionally deceiving his wife, whose reaction seems to be genuine. God, what loathsome creatures these men have become.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Let's face it, newspapers and magazines have felt the sting of Internet displacement, so, of course, they're going to side against Amazon, the poster boy for disruptive technology.

These articles are so predictable they've become parodies of themselves. Every day there's a new one, reminding me of the GOP echo machine. I'm sure the talking points are regularly distributed.

I say this, by the way, having just come back from my beach house in Hawaii, where I ate a lot of plate lunches and drank strawberry slushes.

Lawrence De Maria said...

As a one-time Times Pulitzer-nominated writer embarrased by the Streitfield "article", I sent this to a former colleague:
Floyd,

Hope all is well.

I'm planning several letters to the Times (Public Editor, etc.) but first I wanted to vent a bit to a former colleague.

What was that "Hachette job" front-page story by David Streitfeld all about?

Streitfeld didn't even make an effort to be fair to Amazon and its thousands of indie authors (of which I admittedly am one). Instead he portrayed Douglas Preston as someone who is a combination of the Dalai Lama and Thoreuu (first paragraph!) battling cruel Amazon.

I can't remember any Times story not labeled as "opinion" that took sides so blatantly.

How about this line: "Mr. Preston pointed out it was Amazon that put authors in the line of fire in the first place." Since when do sources point out "facts" still in dispute? Moreover, Preston (and Streitfeld) are wrong on those "facts". Nowhere does he "point out" that Hachette no longer has a contract with Amazon, which has unilaterally extended Hachette's deal for many months. If I were Jeff Bezos and Amazon, I'd tell Hachette to pound sand and find another distributor. Would the Times continue my subscription without my agreement to pay for it?

Finally, all one has to know about the integrity of some of the big-name authors lining up behind Hachette is that James Patterson is one of them. He accused Amazon of trying to destroy the traditional publishing industry. By his own admission, he doesn't even write his own books. But he doesn't want any of his millions to drift down to the thousands of indie authors Amazon is forcing him to compete with.

According to Streitfeld, a $104,000 Times ad "paid for by a handful of the more successful writers" will blast Amazon. I fervently hope that Bezos comes off his own high horse and replies with a dozen counter ads. I suspect that Preston, Patterson and Hachette may soon be hoisted by their own petards.

Best,

Larry

Jeff Shelby said...

"But he recently thought he should get some numbers from Hachette. They came in the other morning..."

I laughed so hard at this because I don't think many of us that have published traditionally can relate to a quick turnaround - if any - on a sales numbers request.

I genuinely hope every single Hachette author calls in and asks for their sales figures and that Hachette gets them the info as quickly as they did Preston.

billie said...

I love the thought of picking a charity and crowd-sourcing the same amount as the NYT ad.

I bet Amazon might even match it. :)

Joe Konrath said...

Some excellent points, Larry.

I fervently hope that Bezos comes off his own high horse and replies with a dozen counter ads.

I wouldn't want Bezos to give the NYT a dime in ad money.

But it would be pretty cool if Amazon issued a statement that the Times article is ludicrous, but instead of wasting $105k on an ad, they donated it to some charity like firstbook.org, or bought some homeless writer a house somewhere.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm going to cherry pick some comments here and on Passive Voice as an addendum. Barry and I missed some great points.

Dan DeWitt said...

Joshua:

Preston's "entitlement" comment in the NYT was a direct result of reader complaints about prices increasing from $9.99. You literally just made your $0.99 argument up out of nowhere.

It's clear that Preston can literally do no wrong with you. But if you have to make stuff up to support him, you have no argument.

Ann Christy said...

I'm generally known as a rather upbeat sort of person. I try hard to find alternate ways of expressing things that can best be said using a four letter word when I write. So, that I have to use the following language to describe how reading that NYT piece of poodle diarrhea should say a lot.

I read it and I feel like I need a shower. And I'm not talking a little spritz here, I'm talking a full body scrub by folks wearing hazmat suits. It was akin to being forced to watch two end-stage syphilitics whose genitals have fallen off somewhere have a horny go at each other...through a magnifying lens.

Yeah, that was just nasty cheap blowjobbery there.

Lane Diamond said...

It's the New York Times. Really... what else do you need to know?

Seriously, though, the dinosaurs know their precious gravy train is going the way of the dodo bird, and they're going to fight to their last breath.

Seems like it might be easier to adjust to the changing marketplace, to go with the flow and figure out how best to take advantage of the new market paradigm.

I guess that would be too logical, too Business 101 for the high and haughty types at Hachette.

Joe Konrath said...

Added to the blog post. Keep the comments coming.

Joshua Simcox said...

I wondered how long it would take Dan "Bag of Dicks" DeWitt to pull up a chair...

Hairhead said...

Well, if you considered the NYT piece a blow job, Salon has just posted a rim job on Mr. Preston. Check it out at: ww.salon.com/2014/08/08/douglas_preston_on_his_open_letter_about_amazon_im_not_a_firebrand_i_fell_into_it_accidentally/

A couple of selected outrageous unchallenged lies taken directly from the article:

#1 - "This is about Amazon’s bullying tactics against authors. Every time they run into difficulty negotiating with a publisher, they target authors’ books for selective retaliation. The authors who were first were from university presses and small presses. Then Macmillan was a target." Doug Preston

That's an impressive lie-to-word ratio, wouldn't you say?

#2 - "Amazon is formidable and we already know how they treat people. It’s not paranoid to think Amazon would retaliate — that’s what they do." Doug Preston

Hey Preston, got any facts? Any specific instances?

#3 - (A lie of omission) "This is very unusual! I’ve never seen authors come together like this." Doug Preston.

I guess the 7700 people who signed the Change.org position "don't count."

Makes me want to puke.

Joe Konrath said...

We can argue about what constitutes a "fair price" for an ebook, but I don't think his concern was unreasonable.

Joshua, whether his concern was reasonable or not doesn't forgive his declaration that readers have a sense of entitlement. He later apologized for the comment.

The NYT is quoting Amazon, who said Preston was the one with the sense of entitlement. Which Preston is, right now, showing.

He truly feels entitled to have his books listed on Amazon. Not only that, those books should have pre-order buttons, discounts, and be stocked in quantity, but Amazon shouldn't be allowed to set the price on his ebooks.

That's actually a great definition of entitlement.

B. Rehder said...

Idea: We all pitch in to a fund, then offer to donate that money to Preston's favorite charity---if he will debate either Joe or Barry, and the debate will later be posted to YouTube.

Joshua Simcox said...

"Preston's "entitlement" comment in the NYT was a direct result of reader complaints about prices increasing from $9.99. You literally just made your $0.99 argument up out of nowhere."

And, for the record, I will admit that you could be right. I don't know Doug. I wasn't inside his head when he made those statements, any more than you were. My interpretation of his remarks may not reflect reality. I offered up what I read into his comments, and YMMV.

Dan DeWitt said...

Your nicknaming needs a lot of work, especially seeing as I didn't attack you, but your argument. But I suppose it's the only rebuttal you could muster. Rock on, and I'm out.

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

I seriously would love it if Amazon treated Preston, Patterson, Turow et all like petulant, spoiled teenagers and tossed their asses out of the house.

Laura Resnick said...

Joe wrote: "The NYT should be ashamed and apologetic for running Streitfeld's nonsense and calling it news."

Agreed. I trained as a journalist and interned in the Middle East. People like Streifeld, if they even showed up there, got shipped out REAL fast. This kind of irresponsible idiocy could get sources, subjects, and innocent bystanders killed in that region, so no one wanted them there.

I also had a rather amusing experience with the NYT, which was not a bastion of awe and respect among other journalists there. One day I'm out the desert on a fun but minor story (and a relief from reporting on a kid blown to bits while eating lunch, which I covered from explosion through his funeral after he finally succumbed to his injuries 2 weeks later), and it's taken me hours of jostling through uninviting terrain in death-defying vehicles with lunatic drivers to get there... And when I arrive, an NYT journalist steps in my path and tells me he has put an "embargo" on the story—and HE won't allow me to interview the person I have come all this way to see, by appointment.

I'm a newcomer with no idea what to do now (being "embargoed" by a rival journalist wasn't covered in j-school, GO FIGURE), so I call my editor to ask for instructions.

He cracks up—and passes the phone around to everyone in the office so that I can hear everyone's guffaws over the notion of the NYT putting an "embargo" on a story.

Then he tells me to feel free to kill the NYT guy, or however else I want to deal with this idiot, just get my damn interview and get my butt back in Jerusalem by morning to start covering the election.

That kind of shaped my professional view of the NYT. And—gosh, look—here's Streitfeld, continuing in that tradition.


Laura Resnick said...

Joe wrote: "I'm sure Streitfeld's lips firmly stuck to Preston's ass for this entire article"

If you inflict mental imagery like this on me again, boys, I'm going to send YOU the medical bill for my trauma treament.

Dan DeWitt wrote: "This is an amazing piece of impartial journalism. They’ve used whales to prove that 900 > 7500+. "

And Dan wins the thread! (But I'm going to send him the bill for cleaning up my monitor. I was dirnking coffee when I read that comment.")


Chris Armstrong wrote: "Preston is quite mystified by how he came to be in charge of an organization like Author’s United. I guess his creating the organization and putting himself in charge wasn’t a clue."


I guess it's a puzzle wrapped up in an enigma and shrouded in mystery.

Joshua Simcox said...

"Joshua, whether his concern was reasonable or not doesn't forgive his declaration that readers have a sense of entitlement. He later apologized for the comment."

But...is he ENTIRELY wrong? If a faction of readers demand free or rock bottom-priced ebooks and refuse to shell out more than the bare minimum to support authors, is it not true that those readers have a sense of entitlement that's potentially damaging to the market? Of course ebooks should cost less than their paper counterparts, but if your readers' expectations shifted to the point where they demanded having your entire catalog for free, or no more than a buck or two per title, could you honestly be supportive of that? You keep your prices low, but what happens if, after years of gorging on free ebooks, readers decide those prices aren't low enough? I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I think that may have been what Doug was getting at. Granted, the whole "race to the bottom" argument isn't nearly as prevalent now, but at the time (2010) it was more of a concern.

I remember Blake Crouch making similar statements a few years ago. He said something to the effect of "Readers who won't ever pay more than $0.99 for a book are fans that aren't worth having." I'm loosely paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it, and while he took some heat for those remarks, I kind of understand where he was coming from. And I think Doug was coming from a similar place--the idea that we can't just give this stuff away. At least not all of it, all the time.

Joshua Simcox said...

Dan, think of me more like Harlan Ellison, where if I call you a name, it's more of an affectionate thing--akin to a brotherly slap on the shoulder. :)

Laura Resnick said...

Michael said: "I think it is time for Preston to sit down and figure out who is more important to his career, his publisher or his readers."


Well said.

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

Josh, they made most of their millions off paper books. They are defending paper books. They want to continue the status quo.

It's honorable that you continue to defend Preston, but heartbreaking because he doesn't care about you.

You're the riff raff, my friend.

Joe Konrath said...

But...is he ENTIRELY wrong?

Dude, he apologized for it.

On one hand, I hope I have fans who will defend me even when I act badly.

On the other hand, if I act badly, I'd want people to tell me so I could at least re-evaluate my actions.

Anonymous said...

I got a little Google stalky. Preston's house doesn't look "spacious and splendid." It looks palatial. It practically has a parking lot. That writer's shack isn't big enough to hold firewood for the place and I doubt he writes there but it makes a good photo for one of the down-to-earth guys.

He also grew up in Wellesley,one of the most expensive towns in Massachusetts (and that's saying something). I can go on, but his own website bio reads like the typical rich douchebag who thinks he isn't rich (He drove out to start a new life in NM in a Subaru. A SUBARU people! Could you not just die!).

Did I mention he's on the Board of Governors of the Author's Guild?

Anonymous said...

I believe that the only way to take control of this situation is for Joe to address congress. He should enter the gallery dressed as Abraham Lincoln and begin with "Four years ago I scored seven times..."

Dan Meadows said...

Readers are the market. If they decide tomorrow en mass that they refuse to pay more than $1 for books, that's totally within their rights and we as authors can either adapt to that or move on. It's our job to convince them to willingly want to pay for our work. If we can't do that or they choose not to, we don't have any right at all to complain about it or try to force them to. The market only exists because of readers. Believing otherwise is the entitled thinking.

A.G. Claymore said...

100k is a lot, but it's worth it to get his message in front of both of the NYT's readers.

Nirmala said...

Petition is now at 7859, so This article seems to have brought over 200 more signers, or over 20% of Preston's letter in a single day.

Terrence OBrien said...

So far you've been reacting - fisking the ridiculous crap coming out of BP's mouth and authors in the 1%.

Is there any way, without expending a huge amount of time or funds, to lead instead of follow?


I would say the lead was taken when independent books on Amazon took a significant market share. Their market share continues to increase. That means they are taking market share from publishers and authors like Preston.

There is no more effective way to lead. Follow the money.

William Ockham said...

Streitfeld is so caught up in his fantasy world, he missed something obvious about the dolphin/whale meat petition. That is a petition demanding Amazon to stop doing something. It is, in general, far easier to get signatures on on a petition to "stop" than it is to get them for a "pro" petition. Anger is a bigger motivator than satisfaction.

Of the two petitions regarding the Amazon-Hachette dispute, which one is the one demanding that Amazon stop doing something? That would be Preston's. The appropriate comparison would be between the number of signatures on Preston's petition and the dolphin/whale meat petition. I wonder why that didn't occur to Streitfeld

w.adam mandelbaum said...

I am shocked at the attacks on Preston. Have we all forgotten his loyal service as a sergeant in the Mounties? Have we forgotten his horse Rex and his dog Yukon King? I think somebody might be due a large Canadian bacon as a token of appreciation.(Didn't even know sarge had a literary bent).

Laura Resnick said...

Joe wrote: "LOL. Since the NYT article, our petition added over 100 signatures. Now at 7787 from Streitfeld's reported 7650."


You're right, Preston really does seem to be the worst spokesperson EVER for traditional publishing.

Should we start a betting pool on how long it takes him to realize he can help Hachette more by retreating quietly to his coastal estate and not saying anything else at all?

Joshua Simcox said...

"You're the riff raff, my friend."

You sound just like my wife. And my mom. And every teacher I had in middle school. And the Taco Bell cashier that sold me a Queserito earlier tonight.

William Ockham said...

@laura resnick I will take "never" in that pool.

Sarah McCabe said...

Remember how Amazon offered to donate their percentage from Hachette ebooks to a literacy charity? Indie authors should start a kickstarter to give at least $104,000 to a literacy charity and contact Amazon to see if they'll match it. That would show them.

T. M. Bilderback said...

Here's an interesting article from Yahoo Finance:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/best-thing-for-books-is-more-power-to-amazon-183232178.html

Daniel Barnett said...

That sounds like an awesome idea, Sarah. I would contribute to that kickstarter.

Laura Resnick said...

Sarah, I like that!

How about also asking Authors United and Hachette each to match it?

Lee Goldberg said...

I've been interviewed by David several times... and his anti-Amazon prejudice isn't even slightly disguised in his questions, which infuriates me as both a former journalist and the child of two reporters. I've pointed this out to David several times... that he's going into this with an obvious bias and ignoring any facts that don't support pre-determined story. Naturally, none of my quotes have ever appeared in one of his Amazon stories.

Lee Goldberg said...

My letter to Doug Preston:

You wrote in your ad: "As writers--most of us not 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.”

Does that same sentiment also apply to the brick-and-mortar bookstores, from big chains to indies, that refuse to stock paperback books from Amazon Publishing's imprints Thomas & Mercer, 47North, Montlake, etc? If so, why don’t I see the same level of outrage from Authors United, or the Authors Guild, over this widespread ban, which has been going on for years and harms hundreds of authors?

The list of authors, many of them ITW and Authors Guild members, directly affected by bookstores refusing to carry Amazon-imprint titles includes Marcus Sakey, Kevin J. Anderson, Ray Banks, Alan Russell, Greg Bear, Ian Fleming, Ed McBain, Max Allan Collins, Stephanie Bond, Dana Cameron, Leslie Charteris, Diane Capri, Orson Scott Card, Sean Chercover, Deepak Chopra, John Connolly, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Peter David, Nelson DeMille, Aaron Elkins, Christa Faust, Stephen W. Frey, Jim Fusilli, Joel Goldman, David Hewson, Jonathan Maberry, Penny Marshall, Robert R. McCammon, Marcia Muller, Susan Orlean,Julie Ortolon, Tom Piccirilli, Daniel Pinkwater, Steven Pressfield, Robert Randisi, Christopher Rice, John Saul, Tom Schreck, Neal Stephenson, and R.L. Stine, to name just a few.

I have enormous respect for you and the authors who signed your ad. Many of them are also friends of mine. But the fact that you, and the other authors listed in the ad, are upset by the Hachette situation and haven't shown any concern over Amazon Publishing titles being banned by bookstores speaks volumes about what the real issue is here.

Lee

Silas Payton said...

Sarah,
I think that's a great idea, however, I can see it being twisted around.
Indies donate to charity and ask Amazon to help, yet the next NYT headline will be:
Amazon entices Indies to join in its oppressive actions against Hachette authors.

To which we would once again be scratching our heads saying "Whaaat?"

Daniel Barnett said...

Silas,
You're right, I'm sure that some places in the media would try to put a negative spin on the donation if it were to happen. But they'd only end up bringing more attention to it, just like the NYT article today brought more attention to the change.org petition. And maybe, just maybe, some of the wealthier authors in AU (the ones who have so far been silent) might stop to think about what difference they could actually be making with their money and influence, as well as what side they take in this dispute.

David P Forsyth said...

It's sad that none of the main-stream-press coverage ever seems to mention the thousands of Indie (self & small press published) authors who rely on Amazon sales for their livelihood. When they mention "indies" it seems to always refer to "indie bookstores" and showing them in competition with Amazon. How about some stories about Indie authors who are happy to work with Amazon?

I went from being laid-off in 2012 to making 4 and 5 figures per month on Kindle sales alone. Isn't that a good enough story to mention? Especially when it is being repeated by thousands of indie authors who have collectively captured more than a third of the Kindle market? Is it any coincidence that's the market that Hatchette and Amazon are at loggerheads over?

The real problem with most of the anti-Amazon hype is that little indie authors are the ones who suffer most in a "boycott" of Amazon, not the millionaire authors with 7 figure advances, and not the 700 pound gorillas in the headlines.

I started a Facebook group last month titled "Amazon Authors Support Group" where we share news and posts (like this one) and discuss ways to get the word out that any boycott of Amazon would only hurt US. Feel free to join us @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/422060111265399/

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

We are attempting to get a very LARGE GROUP of Indie Authors to take out their own add in the NY Times. Check it out here http://anauthorsramblings.blogspot.com/2014/08/this-sunday-small-group-of-authors-are.html

Kort said...

http://www.readersunited.com/ Well, that's an interesting development...

Archangel said...

This is how you spell Gandhi. It might be easier to remember where to put the h, if remembering the ending is 'hi'

Dalai Lama had some ruling over a some Tibetan Provinces, but as y ou know the Chinese Communists invaded with superior weaponry in the early 1960s and slaughtered many, and Dalai Lama had to flee for life over the Himalayas leading as many monks to escape also as possibe. He did not unify Tibet. But struggled to keep alive an ancient tradition for the people.It's a long story, a tragic story.

And, the current Dalai Lama, also in some odd synchronous parallel to the fights/old invaders etc re AMZ vs big pubs, has said the next Dalai Lama will come from outside Tibet and will be female possibly. The Chinese government [equiv of trad pubs] has proclaimed that is not true.

Same and same, in many ways. Sad and sad, in many ways.

JKBrown said...

Jack, please don't give the NYT anything. Please.

You want to advertise somewhere? Hit a social site, like Twitter. I recommend it less, but even Facebook would be better than wasting your money, feeding the same reporters that despise you.

There is nothing acceptable about NYT's attitude toward indies that warrants an ad. If they had descent coverage on this issue, then perhaps. But they don't.

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

Actually, as noted at the end of my blog, I took down the fund raiser because I lack the financial ability to shoulder the burden of the tax repercussions $104,000 would cause. But you are correct in that NYT doesn't deserve the monetary support

antares said...

FWIW I searched Amazon for 'whale meat' and 'dolphin meat'. Here is what I found:

Jeff Duntemann, Whale Meat http://www.amazon.com/Whale-Meat-Jeff-Duntemann-ebook/dp/B004YEYFOA/

and

Liquid Chaos, Dolphin Meat http://www.amazon.com/Dolphin-Meat/dp/B003R4VZ96/

So it appears that Mr Streitfeld cited a Change.org petition to ban the sale of an indie short story and an indie band MP3 track.

Just sayin'.

Axle Blackwell said...

Wow, that was a really long post. Maybe next time, in the interest of word conservation, rather than pointing out all the errors, you could just highlight the accurate statements.

Dan DeWitt said...

Axle, I think that a blank post would be really confusing to some readers.

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

"Joshua Simcox said...
"You're the riff raff, my friend."

You sound just like my wife. And my mom. And every teacher I had in middle school. And the Taco Bell cashier that sold me a Queserito earlier tonight."

You're cracking me up, Josh! Hey, you want I should kick that Taco Bell cashier's ass? :D

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

Lee, I love your letter. Fantastic.

adan said...

Received a KDP "Important Kindle Request" email this morning - my first ever. Kinda flattering (truly), even if belated and one of, uh, millions? (smiles)

This is my response :

Dear Sirs,

Thank you so much for including me in your nicely comprehensive email regarding your current very public issues negotiating with Hatchette and possibly other big publishers.

I obviously would not even be publishing if Amazon or Apple or even Barnes & Noble, and now Scribd and Oyster, had not developed as they have. I gave up submitting to big publishers back in the 80s (smiles).

And I, in principle, agree with Amazon's price ideas. They fit how I myself actually live.

But those are my preferences.

And I cannot in good conscience say you (Amazon) or Hachette or any other business entity HAVE to do something a certain way, just because it's better for me. That's presuming all is legal.

Fair? That's another question. What's fair to Amazon or Hachette may or may not be fair to readers or authors. Like subsidies to banks or oil companies or who knows who else. There's always an argument going both ways.

And yet, eventually, decisions have to be made.

The only decision in my power, is to say, "I" prefer lower prices (and act accordingly, as per my review of Patterson's Zoo indicates).

But in equally good conscience, I also cannot say that without very sincerely stating, Amazon's exclusive policy for me to participate in Kindle Unlimited, also harms reader availability and discovery.

And, in my opinion, is unfairly enforced.

Too many other classes or levels or groups or individual instances of authors NOT having to be exclusive, feels wrong to me. It's not what I associate with everything else I do regarding Amazon: buy books, music, list gift items, sell books in the regular store, use the Amazon cc, etc.

All those activities, the sales reporting, consistency of payments, ease of returns, and I can't forget MayDay on my Fire - are my "view" of Amazon.

Yes. I want and (usually) only act on lower prices.

But no, I don't like having to be exclusive to participate.

So I think that's best, to be honest. I'm not a favored author with special non-exclusive privileges, but I still think the world of Amazon. Yet won't say it's all it could be, yet... (smiles)

Best wishes, sincerely,


Adan

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

Just got this letter in my mailbox. I was glad to see it! Facebooked it.

http://www.readersunited.com/

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

I emailed Hatchette's Ceo and copied Readers United. Told him to cut the shit.

Rex Kusler said...

I don't care how much NY publishers sell their ebooks for. I would like to see a letter to Amazon requesting that they allow each author to list at least one kindle book as permanently free without having to go through another online bookseller to get a price match. All of my books are in kindle select (6 published by T&M which is out of my control) so that should be a benefit they give me.

adan said...

@Rex Kusler, ditto that, only I'll match your one and raise two and ask we be allowed three books free (smiles).

Or, alternatively, be allowed non-exclusively in Kindle Unlimited.

Are you, via T&M, non-exclusive in KU?

Angry_Games said...

Joe, use Kickstarter to raise $100,000 and get that ebook website set up. I'd love to make 90% royalties without exclusivity.

Don't get me wrong, I love Amazon, and Kobo, and B&N, and iTunes, but I'd happily steer my readers to a site where they could have piece of mind that authors are actually getting the overwhelming majority of the sale price of their books.

Rex Kusler said...

Lee, B&N refused to carry Amazon Publishing's paperbacks because Apub wouldn't provide them with ebook formats for their Nook. So I don't fault B&N for that. Apub has been a conflict of interest. It's not much of a publisher.

Silas Payton said...

Here's the hyperlink:

Amazon's Readers United Letter

Taken from the above letter:
"We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We'd like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com
Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
Lowering e-book prices will help — not hurt — the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon's offers to take them out of the middle.
Especially if you're an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.
Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team"

Walter Knight said...

I do not see a problem with Hatchet being allowed to charge as much as they want for their E-books. The higher the better, because Hatchet overcharging for E-books only makes my E-books and those of other new authors that much more competitive.

Let the market decide how much Hatchet can charge.

Walter Knight said...

Hatchet is just using the price of E-books as a bargaining chip for other issues. Amazon should call their bluff and let Hatchet overcharge as much as they want for E-books. See how long Hatchet sticks to high priced E-books when their competition outsells them. Not long.

Chris Armstrong said...

I got quoted on Konrath!

Jason M said...

I knew David Streitfeld well when we worked together at The Washington Post fifteen years ago.

He was a thoughtful, curious, intelligent, somewhat tortured person. He was also an excellent reporter back then.

I don't know *what* has happened. Well, actually, I think I do.

He's taking orders.

Gramix Publishing said...

@adan, @Rex Kusler, "ditto that, only I'll match your one and raise two and ask we be allowed three books free (smiles).
Or, alternatively, be allowed non-exclusively in Kindle Unlimited."

Amazon should allow us one free book for every three or four non-free.

Libbie Hawker said...

Hey, Deb Smith. I'm a woman, and I 100% agree with everything Joe and Barry said here. What exactly is your point by bringing gender into it? Please state your purpose in singling out Joe and Barry's maleness with regard to this issue clearly (not that I expect you to; you're the High Priestess of Pointless Drive-By Commentary.)

Nor am I jealous of the authors who are being dicked around by the Big Five and the mega-earning authors like Preston who continue to feed off the misfortunes of midlisters and new authors.

Frankly, I think you should be embarrassed by the crazy comments you've been spewing about this topic from Day 1 of coverage.

Blaine Moore said...

Here's what I don't get...how come Amazon doesn't just stop carrying Hachette titles altogether, and point out that they've been unable to reach agreement on a contract? If Hachette wants to use Amazon to sell their books, then they can use KDP or CreateSpace to get them into the marketplace the same as anybody else.

Chris Armstrong said...

The thing that is wearing me out is that Preston and the others are repeating, over and over again, that their books are being blocked by Amazon.

That is demonstrably false and has been false this entire time. The real problem is that they aren't getting co-op at Amazon. They aren't getting promotion, accelerated delivery, and pre-order. In fact, they are being treated like everyone else that isn't in a Big-5 "most favored supplier" status.

Why on earth do they think that they are entitled to that status with the level of vitriol Hachette and it's spokespeople have been serving up?

adan said...

@Gramix Publishing -

"Amazon should allow us one free book for every three or four non-free." -

That's good too :-)

T. M. Bilderback said...

Signatures on the Change.org petition stand right now at 8,022. Great news!

T. M. Bilderback said...

But, the whales and dolphins got more...he said, with a straight face.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

I think that a benefit of this ongoing conversation about terms between publishers and Amazon could be Indies getting together and asking for some additional benefits from Amazon.

I would love a perma free title without having to jump through hoops also.

Mark Terry said...

Hmm. Great minds. As I posted on FB after reading the article, Doug's totally jumped the shark on this issue. It's getting pretty embarrassing.

Sue Trowbridge said...

Check out Streitfeld's post on the NYT Bits Blog. Holy cow, he doesn't even TRY to be objective -- could it be any snarkier?! Too bad the NYT's Public Editor chose this week to go on vacation.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

Streitfeld does not know when to quit while he is behind. He posted today about how Amazon misquoted Orwell in their letter: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/orwell-is-amazons-latest-target-in-battle-against-hachette/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

However his pointing out the true context of Orwell's quote either adds further support to Amazon's position as it would seem Orwell is saying low book prices are splendid, or is just plain wrong as the furhter context he provides makes it clear Orwell thought low book prices were bad for publishers and that they would not increase sales.

Anonymous said...

haven't read every comment, so this may have been posted already. if not, it's worth a look at amazon's latest response: http://readersunited.com/

Eden Sharp said...

The NYT is a satirical publication right? Because in its article about Google and Barnes & Noble's new alliance to take on the evil Amazon, it claims 'many book buyers are frustrated with Amazon because of what they say are its punitive negotiating tactics in its standoff with the publisher Hachette over e-book pricing.' Those pesky ebook buyers want to pay over-inflated prices y'all. God I love a good laugh.

Joseph Ratliff said...

My letter to the CEO of Hachette is here:

http://josephratliff.com/readers-united

Mostly from a reader's perspective.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

If my earlier post seems confusing as to what David Streitfeld is saying in today's article, it is probably because I find it to be the most confusing argument posted yet about this whole dispute. Can someone...anyone... please tell me what the hell Streitfeld is actually saying?

Alan Spade said...

@Nirmala: I believe Streitfeld points that that sentence: "“The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them." was in fact a joke by George Orwell, and shouldn't have been quoted as a serious appeal to collusion.

He's probably right, it was a joke, but it was a bitter joke by Orwell, I think, as Orwell was definitely against the invention of paperbacks.

So, there's a manipulation of the facts by the two sides in presence: Amazon tries to demonstrate the ferments of the collusion process, refering to History, while Streitfeld distort Orwell's state of mind, by just saying that it was a joke: it was a joke, yes, but Orwell was definitely unhappy with the paperbacks

Alan Spade said...

The other analogy of Amazon, of course, being that a very well established writer had been very wrong regarding a new invention benefiting all readers.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

Thanks Alan. That does make sense, but it also seems to me that Amazon's distortion is closer to the "truth" of what Orwell was saying. And even Streitfeld goes on then to use some of Orwell's other words to suggest that he was opposing paperbacks, which just seems to undermine his own position that it was all a joke. I think Streitfeld should have slept on that column before he put it out for the world to see.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

Warning! Here is another long winded, somewhat off topic post by Nirmala:

I was reflecting on all of this, and while I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it does seem to me that Amazon is losing the PR battle overall. In spite of the view down here in the self-publishing trenches and the valiant efforts of everyone here to balance out the media's biases, when I go out on the wider internet, I see lots of people in the comments forming very negative views of Amazon and vowing to never buy anything from them again. This might not hurt Amazon a lot, but it has got to hurt them a little.

So maybe it is time for Amazon to switch from using a stick to using a carrot. What would this look like? Here is one possible scenario: First, Amazon unilaterally stops all the delays and restores preorder buttons. This would take all of the wind out of the Author United's sails, and even if they could claim a victory, so what? If it helps their narcissistic egos to sleep at night, let them.

Second, Amazon makes a public offer of terms that show that it is not trying to fix prices, but just to encourage more rational pricing. Perhaps something that is a compromise like this:
On ebook prices up to 9.99, Amazon takes 30% (Publisher's share on a 9.99 ebook is about 7.00)
On ebook prices up to 14.99, Amazon takes 40% (Pub. share on a 12.99 ebook is about 7.80 and on a 14.99 ebook is about 9.00)
On ebook prices above 14.99, Amazon takes 50% (Pub share on a 19.99 ebook is about $10.00)

Third, Amazon offers a carrot. If Hachette settles on a new contract within 30 days, then Amazon continues to accept just 30% on all ebooks for the first 18 months of the new contract. If Hachette settles within 60 days, Amazon accepts 30% for the first 12 months. And if it takes 90 days, then there is just a 6 month grace period.

Finally a big stick at the end: if Hachette does not settle within 90 days, then the delays return and the preorder buttons disappear again, and the new terms above kick in on day one of any new contract.

If it is correct that the publishers want to set ebook prices this lets them. And if they want to continue to delay the adoption of ebooks, this gives them a bit more of a grace period to prepare for the eventual reality of a new publishing landscape. And if Amazon wants to move the needle further on ebook pricing, this will accomplish that eventually.

It would also force Hachette to eventually have to explain to their authors why after the new terms kick in, they still think it makes sense to sell a book for $5.00 more when it will only earn Hachette $2.00 more (and the author only $0.35 more), and even though it will on average reduce the number of sales by over a third, thus drastically reducing the net revenue well beyond even the figures Amazon has provided on their recent blog post.

It seems like all of this would take away all of the ammunition the critics of Amazon have, and place all of the onus on Hachette to explain why they are not willing to settle. It might seem like it would weaken Amazon's position in bargaining with the other big publishers, but those contracts will probably end up all looking pretty much the same as what they settle for with Hachette. It is not collusion if Amazon is the one offering all of the publishers the same terms.

One way to accomplish your long term goals and achieve a compromise is to give the other party some of what it wants. Maybe this is a way for Amazon to do just that. But then again, I am just a simple author summering in hot Arizona, so take all of this with a big grain of salt :)

T. M. Bilderback said...

But then again, I am just a simple author summering in hot Arizona, so take all of this with a big grain of salt :)

But do you have a writing shack? ;o)

William Ockham said...

Once more, Amazon's opponents prove that Amazon will win their dispute with Hachette because Amazon has earned it. Read Preston's claim about how he's been personally injured by the dispute. I believe he is telling the truth and the dip in sales is entirely due to Amazon's actions.

Think for a minute about what that means. With a set of minor change in policies (btw all of them are within the terms of Amazon's current contracts with the Big 5) Amazon had a drastic impact on Hachette's sales. That means Amazon is responsible for generating a bigger portion of the cash from Hachette's books than they currently receive.

This probably doesn't directly affect Preston's current income that much because he gets those big advances, but it is killing Hachette. Preston is worried because Hachette and the rest of the Big 5 won't be able pay those big advances in the future.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

William: What do you think about the cost to Amazon in winning their objectives? Clearly form a pure business/econonmic perspective, Amazon does hold most of the cards. But what about from a purely PR perspective? Is Amazon winning in that arena, or is it a draw, or even a loss for Amazon? What is your sense of the possible cost or harm to Amazon from all of the negative press about them? As I mentioned, I am also seeing a lot of very negative comments from people vowing to never buy on Amazon again. Do you think they are paying a price in terms of their image? Is there a point where they maybe need to compromise somewhat to protect their image?

I don't really know. I am more just curious about this whole drama, and like a lot of us, I like to speculate :)

Mark said...

There's a lot of noise out there. When Amazon says this:

"So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger - how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% -- we did have a big problem with the price increases."

It makes a lot of sense.

I don't see why this means Hatchette can't set a retail price for an ebook at $14.99, however, when the book is just released in hardback and ebook only, and then lower the ebook price to $9.99 after six months or longer. Is this a bad thing?

As a life-long reader I have always had the patience to wait for a book to come out in paperback. I can wait for an ebook to drop in price. I don't feel harmed in any way if a publisher sets an ebook price at $14.99 or higher. I simply won't buy at that price. I'll wait. (I'll almost always wait until it's lower than $9.99 too!)

So is Amazon willing to take that 35-35-30 split at higher prices with a company like Hatchette? Amazon could still discount away some of their 30%, right?

Anonymous said...

I heard a long BBC interview today with Mr. Preston. It was interesting to hear him say in his own words.

I sense that the shutout of hugh/joe etc from the news coverage is prob the same as the 'curating' by big publishers when opening their moat gates a peep. Those not chosen appear to be invisible, just like we've always been. I wonder if 'outside' the bullshit belt in ny, one might find news coverage for the indies

Anonymous said...

I can't be the only one, right? Whenever I see another writer side with Hatchette (or against Amazon), something in me fizzles out. I no longer have any desire to read Preston, Patterson, King, Joe Hill, John Scalzi, John Connolly... I used to follow some of them on twitter. The way I am, if you can't be nice during a disagreement and resort to hurling insults then I don't want to read your books.

Anonymous said...

Hatchet should be invited to match the pool too so they have another opportunity to do the right thing or not.

Alan Spade said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Hachette and the big publishers still have strong assets in the negociations (current and future):

- if Amazon didn't care about the PR and war of words, they would already have dropped Hachette's titles altogether
- Amazon has recently made a very, very generous offer to the big publishers with Kindle unlimited (an offer much, much better to big pubs than to indies)
- with businesses, you have to follow the money, and you just have to take a look at the author's earnings' graphs to see that the gross sales are largely in favour of big publishing, a ratio that becomes huge if you add big pubs + small and medium publishers gross sales

The time is on the indies' side, though, because we are gaining market share.

Selena Kitt said...

Amazon's Midnight Booty Call to KDP Authors - Are You Amazon's Bitch?

http://selenakitt.com/blog/amazons-midnight-booty-call-to-kdp-authors-are-you-amazons-bitch/

Anonymous said...

That $100k ad is working as anti-Amazon propaganda. BBC now reporting it in UK as 900 authors signing a petition against Amazon.

This probably fits into general European public perspective that Amazon is a tax dodging business. We'll see how that plays out.

Anonymous said...

One 'expert' on the BBC said that publishers are worried that hardback sales are declining.

They don't want to undermine an already fragile marketing by making ebooks excessively, as they see it, cheap.

Anonymous said...

The aforementioned Selina Kitt post re this dispute does offer a different view.

In light of the Hatchette petition, Amazon has now asked its authors to rally to their cause.

Best-selling indie ebook author Selina Kitt details why she won't be jumping like a "monkey" to their tune.

http://selenakitt.com/blog/amazons-midnight-booty-call-to-kdp-authors-are-you-amazons-bitch/

Anonymous said...

In Joe and Barry's lively blogpost they say...

"James Patterson made $94 million in a year."

Wow! Isn't that a recommendation for the way Hatchette do business? Any indie Amazon ebook author making $94 million in a year?

Alan Spade said...

I agree with a number of Selena's points, but not with all of them.

I didn't like very much the way Amazon tried to manipulate indies with this letter either, but...

In my opinion, indie authors, by themselves, don't have the leverage to compete efficiently with Hachette and the other publishers without Amazon.

Hachette is a greater evil than Amazon, and by a long, long stretch. So when the two elephants are fighting, I'm on Amazon side, but not blindly, with an analytical ability, I think.

For the time being, if big pub lower their prices, it's better for indies: it will open the market and drive more people to the ebooks, especially in countries like Europe. Indies don't have to fear that to happen.

We must not base our decision on supporting or not supporting Amazon on the fear that Amazon may in a future time lower our margin. Let me repeat it, fear is a very bad advisor.

Of course, all indies initiatives to empower our community are very welcome. Am I an Amazon bitch? I don't think so.

Selena Kitt said...

I'll be honest with you - I'd rather make a million dollars a year and know that 93 other writers were also making a million than be making $94 million myself at the expense of those other authors. Once you hit a certain threshhold, come on... just how much money can you spend or save exactly? I think we could all do pretty well on a million a year as individual authors. It's one of the reasons I run my company the way I do, as a co-op, rather than turning it into a typical small epub that only gives an author 35-40%. (We take 10% - we give the author 90%) And I have no love for legacy publishing, trust me. I think what they've done to authors is heinous, astoundingly arrogant and shortsighted and frankly, unforgiveable, and they should all die a slow, painful death. If Amazon hastens that, so be it. But I believe in a free market, and if big publishing thinks it can survive with agency pricing, then let then try. Why not? What I don't appreciate is Amazon coming to me, after kicking me again and again while I'm down, with some self-righteous request to rally behind them in their fight with Hachette. No thanks. I do business with these guys, but I know who they are, and I know that they are only marginally better than legacy. We are ALL authors - legacy and indies alike - and I have sympathy for those legacy authors too. We're all birds perched inside the alligator's mouths, pecking bits out of their teeth, hoping to get ours before the jaws snap shut. And if you're not afraid, it's only because you haven't been bitten. Yet.

Alan Spade said...

Your point is well taken, Selena. I know what Amazon did to you and other erotic authors.

"But I believe in a free market, and if big publishing thinks it can survive with agency pricing, then let then try. Why not?"

Because Amazon would let some choices to big publishing: if they want to sell their ebooks at $9.99, they could in the future. And that would let your ebooks to be highly competitive, if you price them at $4.99.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think Amazon has arbitrarily set this threshold of $9.99: they have chosen what was mathematically in their best interest. You don't have to fear they will reduce this threshold on a whim. Maths don't lie.

In this case, what is in Amazon's best interest aligns with indie's best interest: more ebooks priced at $9.99 would drive more readers, and a bigger pie for everybody, indies and trad pub.

It's well possible that in the future, my interest and Amazon's will not align.

In fact, in the past, I have written a blog post titled: "Amazon.fr's cosmic blunder" (in french). At the time, Amazon.fr had let an author who had bought her way into the Kindle top 100 tell in the french Amazon Kindle's newsletter about the company she used to buy her ranking.

So, I've already been vocal about my disapproval, and I will be again, if need be. But for the time, I'm supporting them.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

Joe, you really should add an addendum about his latest post. If such a thing is possible, it is even more embarassing than the last one:
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/orwell-is-amazons-latest-target-in-battle-against-hachette/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

However, he actually does a good job of fisking himself. After saying that Amazon got it wrong and that Orwell liked paperbacks, he then goes right on to saying that Orwell thought paperbacks, while being good for readers, would be a disaster for authors and the book trade.

He thus proves you really can talk out of both sides of your mouth at the same time, or maybe he is also speaking out of another part of his anatomy.

Mackay Bell said...

Occam's Razor says the guy is probably a liar. He can't be delusional, because his arguments are so self-serving and he is so careful to stay on message. He can't be willfully ignorant, because it would be impossible for him not to have heard a least some of opposing arguments, given he has made himself the chief spokesperson for the anti-Amazon cause. Even if he only reads about himself, or talks to writers that agree with him, the opposing arguments he fails to address have to have come up.

So he's mostly likely a shameless liar. And one thing shameless liars often do is repeatedly go to the heart of their lies. Kind of like returning to the scene of a crime to make sure you covered your tracks.

The heart of his lie is that he isn't in "communication" with Hachette. That simply isn't plausible by any stretch. It makes no sense that he wouldn't at least touch base with them, but he keeps repeatedly stating he has no contact. No one would blame him (or be surprised) if he had had some conversations with Hachette. In fact, it's irresponsible for him not to have, given he thinks this is an important cause. So why hasn't he talked to them? And why make such a point of saying he hasn't?

My thinking is he is lying about up the fact that he had extensive talks with them about how to mount this media campaign, what kind of support he would get from the press, and assistance in getting other big name writers to join with him. That is, he is lying because they are VERY involved in his efforts but they all agreed in advance that he should pretend to be independent, as improbable as that might be.

Anonymous said...

A bookstore owner's response to the Amazon Reader's United letter: https://www.facebook.com/jason.frost.921/posts/712311238838404?fref=nf

Smart Debut Author said...

In Joe and Barry's lively blogpost they say...

"James Patterson made $94 million in a year."

Wow! Isn't that a recommendation for the way Hatchette do business? Any indie Amazon ebook author making $94 million in a year?


No, clueless Anonymous individual. It's a recommendation against the way Hachette does business.

Because many more thousands of indie publishers made $100,000-$10,000,000 each, while James Patterson only made that $94 million because Hachette focused all their marketing and discounting on him, Preston, Tartt, and a handful of others... while giving thousands of their fellow legacy authors the shaft to ensure they weren't competing with the chosen few megabestsellers.

Look up "Ponzi Scheme," my friend.

William Ockham said...

@Nirmala Amazon has endured much worse PR than this. The PR battle is mostly a sideshow. Don't ever confuse internet comments with reality.

Steve Peterson said...

Michael Pietsch has posted a response:

http://gigaom.com/2014/08/10/hachette-ceo-more-than-80-of-the-ebooks-we-publish-are-priced-at-9-99-or-lower/

He says over 80% of their e-books are $9.99 or lower. I wonder how many are actually lower?

He carefully avoids addressing many of the key arguments, and continues to insist Hachette is negotiating in good faith.

I wonder if either Amazon or Hachette will reach a point where they say "Fuck it, I'm posting our latest offer in its entirety on the Web, and explaining the points one by one to the world." If you're really convinced of the rightness of your position, it might be an interesting tactic... especially if you're not getting anywhere at the bargaining table.

Nirmala said...

"Amazon has endured much worse PR than this. The PR battle is mostly a sideshow. Don't ever confuse internet comments with reality."

Thanks William. It also crossed my mind that a lot of the people posting negative Amazon comments may have already made up their minds years ago that Amazon is bad, and this just appears to give them ammunition. Though of course, I have liked Amazon for a long time and so also look for confirmation of my bias. But just as my comments do not indicate an upsurge in support for Amazon, their comments would not indicate an upsurge in opposition to Amazon.

I guess the interesting posts are the ones where someone says, "I used to shop at Amazon, but not anymore." Or possibly, "I used to think Amazon was bad, but now I am not so sure as they seem to be in the right here."

Probably overall you are right that the PR of all of this is not really as important as it might look, and most likely it will blow over with tomorrow's big story.

I really do not have anything at stake in all of this, but I can say that it has been a learning opportunity for me on many levels. My thanks to you, Joe, Barry, Hugh and everyone who has participated on these blogs.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

So Pietsch says 80% are 9.99 or under...searching Amazon for "Hachette" returns 11,813 ebooks. So that means about 2400 books priced higher than 9.99. And many of those did not just come out. In fact lots of them are a year, two years, or 3,4,5,6,or 7 years old (I paged through over a hundred pages of results).

80% at $9.99 or less sounds good, but 2400 priced higher than $9.99 does not sound so good, especially if it is your book that is priced so much higher than 80% of their books.

Some popular books are priced at $9.99 or even much less. Like The Goldfinch (#14 on Kindle) for $6.99.

I know if I was a Hachette author with a book that came out a year or two ago or more and Hachette was selling it for $12.99 or even $14.99, I would be pretty pissed to find out that they are selling 80% of their ebooks for less than $9.99. I would wonder why they are pricing my book so damn high, and basically I would be screwed as there is nothing I could do about it.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

And by the way, Pietsch's claim seems about right as I got to $9.99 after about 2400 books that were higher priced.

Also, most of James Patterson's and almost all of Douglas Preston's ebooks were priced $9.99 or under including some recent releases. Some of their titles were well under $9.99.

William Ockham said...

@Nirmala

You are mistaken. The price Pietsch is referring to is the publisher list price. Amazon discounts below that price. You have to go to B&N to see the list prices. For example, the ebook list price of Patterson's latest ("Invisible") is $14.99. Amazon sells it for less than $9.99. They are actually losing money on every ebook copy they sell of that book.

Richard Fox said...

Quoted by Joe. Made my week!

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

The NYT doubled down by publishing yet another article by David Streitfeld wrongly claiming that Amazon misquoted Orwell:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/11/business/media/in-a-fight-with-authors-amazon-cites-orwell-but-not-quite-correctly.html

I wrote a letter to the editor as follows:
The NYT has published a recent article by David Streitfeld claiming that Amazon misquoted George Orwell in Amazon's letter to their KDP authors. But Mr. Streitfeld seems to contradict himself. First he quotes Orwell as saying that paperbacks are splendid for readers, which Streifeld interprets to mean Orwell celebrated the new paperbacks, even though Orwell goes on to suggest publishers should collude against them. Then he immediately quotes Orwell as saying that he thinks paperbacks are a disaster for authors and the book trade, which Streitfeld suggests is support for Hachette's position in the current dispute, but also contradicts Streitfeld's first conclusion by suggesting that Orwell did not like the new paperbacks and was serious that the publishers should collude to stop paperbacks. Mr. Streitfeld's logic is convuluted at best, and the quotes he provides suggest that Amazon's interpretation is much closer to Orwell's meaning than either of Mr. Streitfeld's opposing conclusions.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

@William

That suggests Pietsch was perhpas exagerrating when he claims 80% of their books are $9.99 or less, if as I found 80% or so are $9.99 or less on Amazon and yet that includes discounted titles that list for more. But but I am too tired to try and figure that all out :)

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

@ William

Also, why doesn't Amazon just let Hachette have a taste of their own medicine and stop discounting their ebooks altogether? If Amazon's sales figure are correct, that would reduce Hachette's take considerably and perhaps wake them up to the folly of overpricing ebooks. At the very least it would be leverage, because if Amazon is discounting from the retail list price, then it seems it is enabling Hachette to make even more money while these negotiations continue (lower price = more sales on top of still earning Hachette a larger share based on the high list price).

This is all way too strange sometimes :)

Chris Armstrong said...

One thought has been sticking in my mind about Preston. In the NYT article, he sites specific numbers about how many preorders his books have received through Amazon, how much his paper and ebook sales have dropped in the last 4 months, and so forth.

Does Amazon send such data to an author that is traditionally published? After all, Preston has stated repeatedly that he is not in communication with Hachette on this issue.

Smart Debut Author said...

Chris, Preston's obviously lying. He's simply Hachette's hand-puppet -- with Pietsch's hand up his ass, moving his mouth for him.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

William Ockham makes a great point on The Passive Voice that what matters is the list price of actual units sold. It is possible that 80% of their ebooks have a list price below $9.99, but that nonetheless some other percentage (maybe even 80%) of their ebooks actually sell for over $9.99.

Patricia Lynne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia Lynne said...

@Chris Armstrong, if you look at the paragraph from the NYT article is states:

"But he recently thought he should get some numbers from Hachette. They came in the other morning, and they seemed worth sharing with his wife, Christine."

I'd like to note the part that says FROM HACHETTE, not FROM AMAZON. So not only did he contact Hachette (which makes one wonder how many times before had he talked to them when he claimed he hadn't) but they get back to him pretty darn fast.

Deleted my original to add: Or as I read on Passive Voice, his agent might have sent him the numbers, but still, he got those numbers pretty fast no matter if he did it himself or had his agent get the info.

Anonymous said...

Smart Debut Author said:

"Because many more thousands of indie publishers made $100,000-$10,000,000 each, while James Patterson only made that $94 million because Hachette focused all their marketing and discounting on him, Preston, Tartt, and a handful of others... while giving thousands of their fellow legacy authors the shaft to ensure they weren't competing with the chosen few megabestsellers."

I think James Patterson is just one of the successful authors represented in the world of traditional publishing.

I don't think you can blame the lack of other authors' success on him.

As Joe says writing and publishing books is a zero sum game. There is a lot of money out there.

Patterson isn't saying you have to join his publisher. Go get your own share of the money.

What Patterson and other authors earn has little to do with Amazon's dispute with Hatchette.

But it does show that traditional publishing is the home of big bucks. If you don't want it, you don't have to have it. So why complain about it? You can always upload your masterpiece on Kindle and sell it that way. Joe has. You can.

Smart Debut Author said...

But it does show that traditional publishing is the home of big bucks.

That's a joke, right?

Steven M. Moore said...

My take is that the NY Times' reporting on the Amazon v. Hatchette mess has been embarrassingly biased for quite a while. I've said so in many blog posts. "All the news that's fit to print"? Apparently, like the pigs said in Animal Farm, some news is more fit than other news!