Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Advice to Authors United

Authors United is in trouble.

While they haven't lacked for biased media attention, they aren't swaying Amazon, and aren't swaying public opinion. Amazon's approval rating has gone up since the Hachette negotiations went public, and readers don't give a hoot about a bunch of rich, entitled authors whose pre-order buttons are gone.

Whining in public, wasting money on a $104k NYT ad, and whining in public some more, has accomplished the opposite effect of what they intended. Instead of getting sympathy and results, they've gotten a taste of the future. Namely, what the world will be like when their publishers aren't maximizing their sales potential.

Amazon is just the tip of the iceberg, you see. Yes, Hachette authors are currently losing sales. But Amazon has no contract with Hachette, and has no obligation to sell any Hachette titles at all. When Amazon completely stops selling Hachette books, Hachette's midlist will die. B&N and indie bookstores don't constitute enough sales to justify a 40k paperback run, and printing fewer than that isn't cost-effective.

Right now Amazon boasts it has 500,000 exclusive Kindle titles. As the brick and mortar shelves shrink, those who have been avoiding ebooks (casuual readers, late adopters, laggards) won't have a choice; if they want new titles, they'll need to finally embrace ebooks.

My mother held out during the VHS to DVD transition. She didn't buy a DVD player... until she had to, because they stopped selling VHS.

When this happens with ebooks--when the casual reader switches to a tablet app or cheap dedicated ereading device--it will hurt more than bookstores. All those folks who read 1 to 5 books a year (the ones who make the mega-bestsellers, of which many are Authors United signatories) will no longer get their summer reads at drug stores or airports. They'll simply download something.

All that prime real estate, putting mega-selling authors in front of peoples' eyes with widespread paper distribution, will be gone. Then James Patterson will be stuck with ebooks as his major source of income. If he's lucky, Amazon will still be selling his work, albeit for $12.99 with DRM and no Kindle Unlimited. If he's unlucky, Hachette will never capitulate, and Amazon will stop selling him altogether.

Consider the French Revolution. A bunch of blue bloods really thought they were born to rule, and the peasants couldn't live without them to govern. They were wrong.

Guess what? The reading community can easily live without books from every single Authors United signatory. Sure, some fans will be disappointed. But those fans will find other things to read. Just like I've been waiting for years for another Evil Dead film, but I've managed to find other movies to watch. The lack of Evil Dead 4 didn't mean I quit watching all films. The lack of Douglas Preston's latest in the supermarket check-out rack doesn't mean Preston fans won't find something else to read.

In 2011 I wrote two blog posts about this happening. One, The End of the Bestseller, goes into more detail about how the paper world, and its mega-bestsellers, will collapse. Check it out.

The other, The End is Nigh, has this quote:

"As I'd anticipated, print has become a subsidiary right. A niche market. Publishers will try to milk a few last drops of profit from it, and then they'll go bye-bye. 

At least, the old school publishers will. 

New school publishers, like Amazon, are primed to exploit this brave new world. They now control the distribution network. Watch as Amazon becomes the biggest publisher in the world." 

Hachette is cutting its own throat. By trying to protect its paper cartel, it is pushing readers away from its own catalog, and toward ebooks.

Hachette feels it has no choice. Unless they prevent Amazon from discounting ebooks, paper will die anyway. So why not go the contentious route and ruin the careers of hundreds of authors?

If other publishers follow Hachette's example, they'll fail. But if they allow Amazon to discount ebooks, they'll also fail. Their paper oligopoly will suffer either way. 

You fight technology, technology always wins.

But new technology, and the Amazon juggernaut, aren't the only nails in the legacy industry's coffin.

Authors United has tried to wage its battle in the court of public opinion, using the media to spread its nonsense. But it has discovered that readers don't care.

Writers, however, do care. They've been watching closely, and calling bullshit.

So while AU has been ineffective in changing Amazon's mind, or the public's mind, if has been an extremely effective propaganda tool for getting authors to stop submitting manuscripts to publishers.


"I'd always assumed that print publishers would begin to lose market dominance once ebooks took off in a big way, and they'd have to either restructure or die.

But now I'm predicting another death for them.

What is going to happen when authors stop sending their books to publishers?

If I know I can make $100,000 on a self-published ebook in five years of sales, and I have the numbers to back up this claim, why would any informed writer--either pro or newbie--ever settle for less?

The dominance of ebooks is coming. I have no doubt. But I always thought it was the readers who would lead the charge, based on cost and convenience.

Now I'm starting to believe that the ones with the real power are the ones who should have had the power since the beginning of publishing. The ones who create the content in the first place.

The authors."

Authors United is an ironic name for a group that is prompting authors to take sides. It is reinforcing the path indie authors have chosen, and embarrassing many who chose the legacy route. Publicly bitching that Amazon is hurting authors--when it is obvious that Amazon has an open door policy for authors via KDP and it is actually Hachette's inability to negotiate that is hurting authors--will scare more authors away from the Big 5. I was actually just talking with a bestseller who isn't going to even bother submitting a new book to the Big 5 out of a very real concern that they won't be able to sell via Amazon.

It's all a big, oven-baked plateful of fail with a generous slice of stupid for dessert.

Even more embarrassing is Authors United's failure to engage with peers who disagree. We're dishing out heaping helpings of humiliation and getting radio silence in return.

Where's the pride? Where's the desire to fight for what you believe in?

It does make some sense. Anyone who watched Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson get spanked when debating Paul Kedrosky can plainly see why they don't engage their critics; they're full of nonsense and could never win.

But if they're cognizant that their position is indefensible, why try to bother writing letters at all? Are they hoping the general public, and Amazon, are as stupid and accommodating as David Streitfeld?

Perhaps because, when you're really rich and have that oft-accompanying sense of entitlement, you tend to go down swinging. 

Even if you're swinging at empty air.

Now anyone who has been reading my blog for years (or followed the links I posted above) knows I'm pretty good at giving advice and predicting the future, because I tend to be right a lot. So I'm going to actually give Authors United some tips on what they could do in order to help themselves, and their fellow authors.

1. Write an open letter to Hachette. You've stated, repeatedly, that you aren't taking sides. Prove it. Let Hachette know how unhappy you are with their negotiating tactics, and do so publicly. Which leads to:

2. Leverage Hachette. Hire lawyers to get out of your Hachette contracts. Proclaim you'll refuse to sign any more deals with them unless they fix this situation. They have failed you, so let them know.

3. Force Hachette to accept one of Amazon's offers to compensate authors during the negotiation period. Amazon has tried several times to take authors out of the line of fire, and you've dismissed this without good reason. 

4. Stop whining. It looks bad. You aren't coming off as righteous and noble. You're coming off as privileged little snits. With all the money in play, you could hire a PR team, and media coaches for anyone who appears on TV. And if you've already done that, hire me. I've already told you what not to say, for free, on this blog. But if you're willing to waste $104k on a NYT ad, I'll take another $104k from you (which I'll give to a deserving charity) and walk you through how to win this battle.

5. Fix your soundbytes. When they are so easy to refute (Hint: Amazon isn't boycotting anything), all you do is show how lazy and ineffective your attempts at manipulation are.

6. Pay attention. You might think you're above the petty criticism authors like me level at you, but you're not. Ignoring what the blogosphere and Twitter and Facebook and the Internet in general are saying about you isn't taking the moral high ground; it's the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going "Nyah nyah nyah we can't hear you!" I've been showing you for months that your arguments are unpersuasive and your points are silly, and I'm one of many who have done this. Listen and learn and maybe you can correct some of your many mistakes. What kind of person doesn't look at the opposing viewpoints and try to grow from them?

And you can even take that a step further and:

7. Engage your critics. My blog is yours. If Roxana Robinson, Douglas Preston, Lee Child, James Patterson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, or any of the Authors United signatories wants to use my blog to make a statement, please do. I'm sure I also speak for David Gaughran, Courtney Milan, Barry Eisler, Hugh Howey, Bob Mayer, and other popular authors who have opined on this issue. We'd love to host you. Believe it or not, we agree on the core issue: We know writers are being hurt, and we don't like it. Let's build from there.

8. If you aren't going to change, quit. Seriously. You're hastening the demise of the industry that made you rich, which means you're hastening your own demise. Hachette, stupid as they're acting, are at least looking at the long game. Authors United is not. You're so concerned about short-term losses, you're helping to ensure a long-term loss.

It isn't too late to help all of the Hachette authors (and all of the future authors who will face this same situation when the other Big 4 negotiate with Amazon). But it will require taking a few steps back and being honest with what your goals really are. If you really aren't taking sides, and really want to help authors, you can be a force for good. With a reboot, your 1000 author petition could be 10,000 authors.

Authors United could actually effect change. So could the Authors Guild. But not if you continue down the path you've chosen.

67 comments:

Varnbyrde said...

Great post. I admire your courage to state your opinions, stand by them, and correct them if you think them in error. Perhaps greater is your ability to offer solutions. Rare. Thank you for that.

SteveA said...

"If other publishers follow Hachette's example, they'll fail. But if they allow Amazon to discount ebooks, they'll also fail. Their paper oligopoly will suffer either way. "

I sometimes think legacy publishing is now being run as a Ponzi Scheme. Upper management encourage the troops to keep at it, to work hard and achieve the final victory (because they have a cunning plan you know) and all the while they're keeping an eye on the clock, trying to squeeze a little more money into their retirement funds, until the day comes that it all goes belly up and they jump ship, leaving their junior employees and authors holding the bag...But perhaps I'm being ungenerous.

Alan Tucker said...

I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago now as a letter to Mr. Preston and AU http://motherearthseries.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/a-letter-to-doug-preston-and-authors-united/ which I also emailed to the contact address on the AU website. Surprisingly, to me at least, Doug replied with this: (Note, I'm posting these because I don't believe he said anything in the emails that he wouldn't have said publicly anywhere.)

"You’re making the situation far more complicated than it is. We’re simply asking Amazon to stop hurting authors and impeding the sale of their books as a negotiating tactic. We’re not for Hachette or against Amazon. We’re not taking sides. We’re not for or against cheaper ebooks. We have made no statement on book pricing.

We have every right to protest Amazon’s targeting of 2,500 Hachette authors, driving their sales down and hurting their ability to support themselves through writing. Amazon is hurting writers, Mr. Tucker. It’s that simple. Your justification of why it’s okay for a gigantic corporation to hurt writers to gain advantage in a dispute with another large corporation is a steaming pile of sophistry."


I replied: I do sincerely appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I’m left wondering if you read the letter.

You absolutely have every right to protest Amazon. I in no way dispute that. In fact, I understand it. I said as much in the letter.

Nowhere did I bring up ebook pricing. Hachette has every right to ask whatever they want for the books they sell. That said, anyone can refuse to buy the books if they feel the price is too high, including Amazon.

Would you prefer it if Amazon simply removed all of Hachette’s books from their store until the dispute is resolved? Because I can’t see any way for Amazon to get Hachette to negotiate a new contract that doesn’t harm those authors. If you can, I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear it. You dismissed Amazon’s three different efforts to remove the injured authors from the equation, but offer no alternatives as to what would be acceptable besides just agreeing to Hachette’s terms. How is that not taking sides?

I don’t have a horse in this race. Honestly, it would probably be better for me, personally, if the dispute continued ad infinitum. But I also care about my fellow authors and frankly, they are being shafted by Hachette and the other large publishers far worse than anything Amazon is doing. I understand my saying so isn’t going to change your mind, but I wanted you to know where I’m coming from.

To his credit, Doug replied again: I appreciate you taking the time to contact me as well. I think we just see the issue differently. Amazon is the one that leveled the sanctions on us—not Hachette. That’s the bottom line. Of course Amazon, one of the largest companies in the world, has negotiating tools at its disposal besides hurting authors. For one thing, they have an outsize voice, hundreds of millions of loyal customers, and a respected corporate brand. The offers Amazon made were entirely disingenuous and lopsided, which would have devastated Hachette financially without affecting them much. Why should we help Amazon load its guns against Hachette?

I didn't bother responding again because it would have been a complete waste of my time. The delusion is complete and pervasive. Robinson's interview is more proof of that. These people have absolutely no understanding of the world outside their own sheltered bubbles. Publishing is an entirely different experience for them than it is for the rest of the writing community and we have no common frame of reference it seems to even have a discussion.

Joshua Simcox said...

"My blog is yours. If Roxana Robinson, Douglas Preston, Lee Child, James Patterson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, or any of the Authors United signatories wants to use my blog to make a statement, please do. I'm sure I also speak for David Gaughran, Barry Eisler, Hugh Howey, Bob Mayer, and other popular authors who have opined on this issue. We'd love to host you."

I'd love this. I really would. But let's not pretend like this wouldn't be a hostile environment for Doug Preston or anyone else associated with AU to make their case. Joe might play fair, but rather than engage in civil discourse, Preston would be forced to spend his entire visit here dodging stones from all the Dan DeWitts who want to feel significant by taking shots at rich, successful legacy authors.

And let's be honest with ourselves: on forums like this, attacking Preston's arguments has become almost secondary to taking juvenile swipes at things like the size of his bank account and the acreage of his Maine property--things that have no bearing on his beef with Amazon.

But if they could get a fair shake, I'd love for Preston, Child, Patterson, etc, to stop by and have a conversation, even if their arguments aren't particularly compelling. But I do question just how objective many of the folks who hang out here could really be, and sadly, I think a debate would be a mostly exhausting, unproductive experience.

Joe Konrath said...

The delusion is complete and pervasive.

No kidding.

Doug just contacted the DOJ, asking for help against Amazon.

I'd love the DOJ to look at the Big 6 oligopoly over the last 20 years and read a few authors contracts. The terms certainly qualify as "unconscionable" which would make them null and void.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the DOJ listened to Doug but went after publishers instead of Zon?

Joe Konrath said...

attacking Preston's arguments has become almost secondary to taking juvenile swipes at things like the size of his bank account and the acreage of his Maine property--things that have no bearing on his beef with Amazon.

How many of the midlist Authors United signatories have made public statements?

Why do you think that is?

It's because Preston stands where he sits. He's vocal because he's protecting his large bank account and Maine acreage.

Motive is important when making statements. What is my motive vs Doug's? Who is being greedy, and who is being altruistic?

It's very easy to negate someone's ad hominem argument simply by pointing it out. I have no fear of being ridiculed--I have been for years.

Preston et al won't show up here because their argument sucks, not because they fear ridicule.

Alan Tucker said...

Doug just contacted the DOJ, asking for help against Amazon.

Oh, dear. I can't imagine anything but comedy coming from that. That's like me asking the DOJ to check into the business practices of Walmart because they won't stock my books.

Joseph said...

Well I can't see print falling apart, those casuals and status readers will want my createspace books for sure. :-)

Rik Davnall said...

"So while AU has been ineffective in changing Amazon's mind, or the public's mind, if has been an extremely effective propaganda tool for getting authors to stop submitting manuscripts to publishers."

Joe, do you have any numbers to back this up? Do Hachette et al release (or even bother to track) submission numbers? I'd consider it extremely good news if authors are turning away from the big 5, but I'm wary of cheering for it without a source.

Anonymous said...

I'm picturing Preston as a little kid who, when he doesn't get his way, runs away shouting, "Mom!"

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, do you have any numbers to back this up?

Just anecdotal, like the bestseller I mentioned, and the fact that Preston's latest letter lost signatures, and guys like Joe Cottonwood are ashamed of being Authors Guild members.

Years ago, authors were afraid to criticize publishers. But that has changed for many authors who have gone indie.

Authors United signatories still seem to harbor that fear. I can speak out against Hachette (I hired a lawyer to get my rights back from them) but Douglas Preston cannot. That is the core of a lot of mental twisting and backflips in order to arrive at the conclusion that Amazon is targeting authors.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd like to know if there are stats showing that writers are submitting less to lit agents. All I hear from writers on twitter is about rejections, or getting their manuscript accepted, or 2 book deals for an advance amount. Most writes I know put who they're repped by in their twitter bios. As if readers even know what the crap that means! In other words, most writers still sub their manuscripts. They write for lit agents and publishers, not readers.

G.L. Snodgrass said...

Question. How many Scriptoriums are left. That is what is going to happen to the publishers. Guttenberg's Press wasn't revolutionary because it created more readers. It was revolutionary because it created more authors. Authors that could bypass the powerful church and speak directly to the reader. The number of books increased and prices decreased. Amazon has changed the supply and demand curve. Whenever that happens, the old ways of doing business die.

Angry_Games said...

So I caught a Lawrence Block tweet last night, and couldn't resist asking him how self-pubbing was going, and telling him I was extremely glad to see his name was NOT on the stupid AU list:
https://twitter.com/LawrenceBlock/status/514763819743465472

His response made my heart warm ;)

For those of you who can't click or won't click, here's the text:

"Going very well, @Angry_Games Started self-pubbing audiobooks: http://tinyurl.com/laaptk7 & no, you won't find my name on that list of twits."

I replied and suggested maybe Konrath, Eisler, and/or Howey might be interested in hearing what he has to say on it (though since he's still got a ton of books in legacy pub, he might not be as forthcoming as we'd like, but Mr. Block doesn't strike me as a person who minces words or is afraid to say something real).

Nikki Vanderhoof said...

Ah the Evil Dead 4 comment was awesome! Whatever will I do if I don't get to see Bruce and Bruce's chin in a movie ever again? Oh yea, I'll watch some other awesome 'B' movies. So as far as the "elitist" authors not seeing their physical books in stores anymore, because they didn't get their way, this is all I have to say:

James who? Douglas what? Don't care, I've got some awesome Indie work that I'm going to go read now.

M. Frank Parsons said...

Watch to see how many previously out of print "classics" get put into bookstores in the coming years.
If those numbers exceed new works by new or current authors, then you'll have a good idea that RandyPenguin (or whomever) has filled the gap with works already under contract, possibly because the submissions have dried up. IMHO, of course.

W. ADAM MANDELBAUM said...

The Evil Dead Five might be a good title for a documentary about the future of major legacy publishers. They're coming to get you, Patterson!

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Even more embarrassing is Authors United's failure to engage with peers who disagree.

I would imagine that they don't consider the majority of us to be their peers. But I could be wrong...

eric said...

Why doesnt Hachette own a stake in Barnes and Noble or Nook? Seems like they want a distributer but don't like the terms! Well then become your own distributor!

Terrence OBrien said...

I can't wait for Howey's October Authors Earnings report.

Anonymous said...

I did submit a book to agents and waited almost a year to hear back from some after I was asked for full manuscripts. Then I read Joe's blog and decided to go indie.

Since I self-published my first book, the first of ten so far in 2 years, I have not submitted to an agent. In fact, an agent came courting me once I hit the top 10 in the Kindle store, #4 at B&N Nook Books, and #2 on GalleyCat's Indie Bestsellers list. One of my books went on to hit the USA Today list.

I've made quite a few author friends in the indie community and some of them have agents and still do sent a new manuscript by them, but I have also seen two of them turn down deals with the Big 5 because they sucked. Both authors I know personally would have earned back the advance in a month from their own indie sales. They felt it was an insult.

Some of us stopped submitting to agents and have never looked back.

Anon Author

Dan DeWitt said...

@Joshua Simcox

I've left you and your pathetic, creepy obsession with Douglas Preston alone for months, despite having ample opportunity to call you on it. And I have no desire to be another one of your fascinations.

For the record, if Preston ever did have the sack to show up here, I'd attack the fuck out of his actions of the last couple of months. Because he's been extremely stupid, self-important, and blatantly dishonest. I don't need him to feel important. I just have a habit of calling people on their bullshit when it comes up.

It must burn you up that you now realize that my original benign statement of "disingenuous maroon" which you took such umbrage to was actually a vast understatement.

Grow the fuck up.

Dan DeWitt said...

In fact, now that I think about it, I haven't commented AT ALL on anything Preston related in a couple of months, just so you wouldn't get your knickers all twisty. Why am I on your mind period, let alone to the point that you want to attack me personally months later?

Like I said ... creepy.

Silas Payton said...

Joshua,
In the past six months, Joe has haad a few guests stop by or even post, who were from the other side. With a kind reminder to those commenting to behave, the discussions were quite respectful and engaging. Also, if they truly believed and could defend their stance, it would be a great forum for changing influencial people.

I think the problem is more, that they have done a lot of this based on emotion. It is entirely their right to do this...people do it all the time, myself included. But, if asked to defend why they made those choices or decisions, there is no hard reasoning behind it. In my opinion, that's why they won't show up here.

Silas Payton said...

Joshua,
It took me 45 min. to post my comment -- I kept getting interupted. I posted before updating and by chance came after Dan's post.

Not picking on you. You both add to this blog.

Dan DeWitt said...

@Joshua Wilcox, this is the final time I'll ever respond to you.

Here is your last comment to me, prior to dragging me into this one (this was after you called me a "bag of dicks" out of left field, by the way):

"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. :)"

There were no further interactions between you and I; in fact, I don't think I've commented here at all since then. There really is something wrong with you.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Another insightful post about the current brouhaha. Wouldn't it be something if they listened?

Thanks, Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

Let's all play nice.

Joshua Simcox said...

"I've left you and your pathetic, creepy obsession with Douglas Preston alone for months, despite having ample opportunity to call you on it. And I have no desire to be another one of your fascinations."

To consider you a "fascination" would involve taking you seriously. And I'm just not there yet. As for Preston, it's true that I've read most of his novels, and I'll proudly call myself a fan (even though that's a hell of an unpopular thing to be here at the moment), but I've never met the man, never even so much as sent him an email. To say I have a "creepy, pathetic" obsession with man is as hyperbolic as your previous bitter rantings where you railed against Preston as if he'd stolen your wife.

And yes, when I called you a "bag of dicks", that would, on the surface, seem a petty thing. But consider this: our issues started because you chose to engage in some name-calling of your own. You've never met Douglas Preston, but you had no problem tossing out a few weak verbal hand grenades his way with words like "Jackass" and "Disingenuous Maroon" painted on them. Was I really being juvenile when I called you a "bag of dicks" or did I do so as a way of illustrating how absurd and inappropriate your own actions were? Think about that.

"For the record, if Preston ever did have the sack to show up here, I'd attack the fuck out of his actions of the last couple of months. Because he's been extremely stupid, self-important, and blatantly dishonest."

That's your perfect right. And if your past behavior is any indicator, you'd call him a few names, spew out a bitter rant, and then feel smugly satisfied. And then he would quietly continue doing the very thing you're not doing--writing books that millions of people want to read. The very thing that paid for that nice house and large piece of property in Maine that everyone wants to give him shit for.

I have ZERO issues with anyone that has beef with the way Douglas Preston has handled his publisher's feud with Amazon. If you can attack his arguments without calling him names, criticizing his wealth and the property he owns, painting him to be publishing's Great Satan who wants nothing more than to steam-roll over working class indie writers, and in general assume to know his precise thoughts, feelings, and philosophies without ever having met the man, I have nothing but respect for you. And that's why I called you out specifically, Dan. Instead of adding something of value to a debate with Doug Preston or any other AU signatory, you'd use the occasion as an excuse to toss stones from behind the safety of a computer screen.

And that's not what we need here.

Jim Self said...

Lee Child showed that he had a pair and dropped by TPV a couple of times to make some comments. To his credit, he did represent himself well.

There's a big difference between people trying to keep a struggling business afloat in the face of massive changes, though, and a market that has been controlled by a syndicate-like cooperation between subsidiaries of huge international corporations. And let's not even start on contract terms...

Everyone's motives in this dispute are fairly obvious. Indie writers are feeling intense schadenfreude but also a kind of moral outrage. The ubersellers are protecting their incomes and prestige. The big publishers are protecting their paper market. Amazon is protecting their bottom line. The difference between these groups is not the right to make a profit or have an opinion, but the integrity of the position they're taking.

Joshua Simcox said...

"@Joshua Wilcox, this is the final time I'll ever respond to you."

Damn. Every time I open my heart...

RD Meyer said...

Alan Tucker, I wrote to Preston myself recently. Something tells me he's getting a lot of letters from folks like us, because his response to you seemed awfully familiar...almost like it was the same form letter he sent me.

And here I was thinking for a second that I was special and he had the courage to respond to individual criticism. Silly me! :-P

Alan Spade said...

Reports of the publishers' death have been greatly exaggerated. Let's not forget their earnings are up according to latest reports. Sorry for the cynicism, but even if Doug Preston's or James Patterson's earnings are down, Hachette can always squeeze more juice from the authors of its midlist.

While I usually tend to agree more with Joe than with Dean Weasley Smith, the latter still says that Barnes & Noble will not go under: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/why-i-havent-been-writing-many-publishing-blogs-lately/

I think Dean has enough business experience and insight to be heard, regarding B&N. And I don't know if it would be good for self-publishers if B&N was going the way of the dodo.

Yes, I've recently said that I believed Amazon to be the present and the future of publishing, and I still believe it. But for as much as I am an idealist, I still like to have a reality check here and then.

We can be sure of one thing, and it's that publishing has changed and will never be the same. Joe's predictions, in my opinion are partially accurate in that publishing will have to go through some drastic changes in the future, but one of the main real indicators, in my opinion is the gross sales earnings chart of the Big Five as we can find it on the author earnings site.

As long as the Big Five's earnings are not dropping in this chart AND providing that Amazon keeps its market share, I won't believe the very existence of publishers to be really threatened.

This is not to say that there are not very good points on Joe's post. I liked very much, for instance, that quote: "I was actually just talking with a bestseller who isn't going to even bother submitting a new book to the Big 5 out of a very real concern that they won't be able to sell via Amazon."

I just think that a bit of scepticism can be healthy.

adan said...

#7 "We'd love to host you. Believe it or not, we agree on the core issue: We know writers are being hurt, and we don't like it. Let's build from there." -

Great offer, I hope one or more of them take you up on it (smiles).

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. Maybe you've covered this and I missed it, but what if publishers decided to e-pub? They could take ten or twenty times the number of titles they currently accept. A marketing expert could decide what kind of advance to give an author based on how they think the title will sell.

Would this save Big Pub?

William Ockham said...

@AlanSpade

Hachette's earnings are down due to the dispute with Amazon. They played it down, but you could see it if you looked at their most recent quarterly report. This must have the execs at the Big 5 calling for their brown pants (if you don't know that joke just substitute quaking in their boots).

Amazon just proved they can put a publisher out of business any time they want. I think the value of a Big 5 publisher to its corporate parent is in the ability to provide a steady annual 10% ROI. If you look closely at the financials and the behavior, this becomes very clear. Uncertainty, even if it has a big upside, is anathema to them.

The only thing keeping them afloat is the fact that many Amazon customers want their products. They are in a much more precarious situation than it seems. Collapse could come very quickly when it starts or it could be very slow. Either way, the publishers have no control over it. That is why they were willing to risk the antitrust action and may be doing it again. Unless DoJ were willing to put execs in jail, the incentives favor colluding again.

Alan Spade said...

@William: thank you for your reply.

I'm curious about the whole process. Is there a set date when Amazon and the other publishers have to negociate (I know that they have to negociate separately)?

Has Amazon already begun negociating with other publishers (I've heard about Simon&Schuster)?

I agree about the risk of collusion in publishing. For example, France will be the guest of honour of the Francfort fair in 2017, and legacy journalists are already talking about an "anti-Amazon front" at this fair.

Many things will happen before 2017, but this kind of thing is an indication.

In all honestly, I think that the publishers collude all the time: if the DoJ went after the big publishers and Apple, it's because Steve Jobs has made heavy mistakes. The DoJ had many proofs of the collusion, so they did know they would win the case in the first place.

Would the DoJ be doing it again? Not if the DoJ hasn't got crucial evidences of collusion.

Alan Spade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Spade said...

Besides, the DoJ is more interested in big players like Amazon, Apple or Google, than in "little" players like big publishers.

Alan Tucker said...

@RD - That was my suspicion as well and my reason for making his emailed responses to me "public". Especially since he didn't address any of the main issues I covered in my letter in his first response. It felt like a canned, copy-paste reply and "insert name here" sort of thing. Not that I can really blame him. I imagine he's been inundated with people like us telling him how ridiculous he's being lately.

Oh, and I'm sorry you don't feel as special :-( If it helps, I feel less special as well. We can be Un-special snowflakes together! ;-)

Joe Konrath said...

Joshua and Dan, I'm going to ask you to ignore each other, It's becoming disruptive.

Thanks.

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

Amazon just proved they can put a publisher out of business any time they want.

The only thing that will put publishers out of business is publishers. Any business that doesn't recognize and adapt to changes in the industry BEFORE they happen has to get a running start every morning, and if they don't catch up, they're doomed to fail.

Back in the day, I had to tell my publisher to release my books on Kindle and Sony. And later, when ebooks were the norm, I had to beg another publisher to lower the price—which they refused to do.

Amazon isn't putting anyone out of business.

Dana Stabenow said...

I'll take another $104k from you (which I'll give to a deserving charity)...

You will not. You will spend every dime in riotous living. You've earned it.

And, you know, I'll help.

Robert E. Townsend said...

Arghh. I spent two hours reading through this Lee Child vis-a-vis Joe Konrath conversation and wondered why Russian serfdom, about which I know something, kept threading through my thoughts. Slavery and serfdom both figure wretchedly in Russian history; from whence came the European word for Slave but from Slav? The Mongols and Tartars sold Slavs in great numbers out of the Black Sea Crimean ports into the Mediterranean and European markets.
However, Russian serfs were not slaves. They were not captured and dragged in chains to work the land. They signed away their rights, ‘for the life of the author plus seventy years’ (a not too brutal translation from the Old Church Slavonic). Russian serfs could and did become well-treated opera singers, artists, painters, tradesmen, etc. Enlightened owners of these lifelong contracts tended not to abuse their golden geese, but serfs they were, and lived well or badly at the whim of he had their ‘contract.’
Publishing contracts read, again without great liberty in the translation, like medieval Russian laws and contracts institutionalizing serfdom. How could one otherwise interpret this standard boilerplate? Author grants and assigns to Publisher the sole and exclusive rights to the Material throughout the Territory during the entire term of the copyright and any renewals and extensions thereof. Who would sign this but an illiterate and desperate Russian peasant? America’s intellectuals sign these contracts. Go figure. You do what you have to do to make a buck, I guess. But make no mistake:
Lee Childs argues from the POV of a well-off serf; Joe Konrath argues for the free man. Pick your poison.

Maggie Meade said...

I'm Maggie Meade, an author published by Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette, and I'd like to chime in here.

What makes me the most angry and upset about the Amazon/Hachette dispute is the fact that Amazon is using "guerilla tactics" in its negotiations with Hachette. Quite simply, my book is being held hostage by Amazon. Please, I understand that "Amazon does not have to sell my book" and it is true. Amazon does not have to sell any authors' books but that is another issue entirely.

Amazon hopes to force Hachette into a new eBook contract and Amazon is using Hachette authors' and their books to achieve this end. You have written on your blog that the Authors United should turn on Hachette and some of your suggestions are solid. I wonder though, how is it that you (and others) feel that Amazon is right and just in using authors and their books as tools?

Amazon is impeding and/or blocking the sale of Hachette authors’ books as a negotiating tactic. This is fact. Is Amazon's position so weak that it cannot negotiate without targeting the authors by impeding or blocking the sale of Hachette books? It's a rather childish but effective stance.

My book sales, along with the books other Hachette authors have written, are suffering greatly due to these tactics.

As you know, these tactics include:
refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers purchase non-Hachette books.

My book now has a 2-3 week delivery and is not being offered at a discount; this has gone on since February; at one point in time the shipping was 4-6 weeks out. At least the pop-ups directing buyers to other, non Hachette published books have been removed – for the time being.

How do you justify Amazon's use of these tactics? I wonder if you believe that this "war" is much needed comeuppance; I get the feeling that you [and possibly a few of your readers] believe that all Hachette authors are multi-millionaire authors who never earned any of their monies and deserve to be casualties of this "war".

Please, tell me why it is right and just for Amazon to use authors and their books as instruments to force Hachette to bend? Imagine what would happen if all businesses were to begin to run themselves this way.

Thank you for your space,
Maggie Meade
The Wholesome Baby Food Guide

Maggie Meade said...

Update: While the pop-ups directing customers from my book to other publishers' books are not back up, the banner showing 3 titles that "other customers have viewed" now is. The kicker is that when you click on those other books, the books do not have the same banner showing "other customers have viewed".

www.maggiemeade.com/amazonWBFG.jpg

Paranoia is sadly not at the table here.

Anonymous said...

I'll try and answer some of your questions, I hope you don't mind if I ask a few of my own.

"What makes me the most angry and upset about the Amazon/Hachette dispute is the fact that Amazon is using "guerilla tactics...."

There's nothing guerilla about them. Tactics like these have been standard in negotiations going back centuries.

"Please, I understand that "Amazon does not have to sell my book" and it is true. Amazon does not have to sell any authors' books but that is another issue entirely."

True. Currently there is no sales agreement between Hachette and Amazon. That's causing some uncertainty, and that's a big "No Go" area for distributors. Amazon doesn't know if (or when) Hachette will walk away, and stop selling its products through Amazon. They aren't going to order stock they might not be able to sell, and they do their best not to carry excess stock.

"Amazon hopes to force Hachette into a new eBook contract and Amazon is using Hachette authors' and their books to achieve this end."

Yes, they are. Except Hachette is using you as a bargaining chip as well, aren't they? As a Hachette author, when were you first told of the difficulties going on between Amazon and Hachette? As a a Hachette author, was your opinion and feedback solicited on any of the offers Amazon made to Hachette with regards to supporting authors? The first proposal they made was the same one Amazon and Macmillan used, I don't recall Macmillan authors complaining about that then, do you? Do you think Hachette isn't using your plight as a bargaining chip as well?

"You have written on your blog that the Authors United should turn on Hachette and some of your suggestions are solid. I wonder though, how is it that you (and others) feel that Amazon is right and just in using authors and their books as tools? "

How is Hachette using you in this fight? Are you more than a tool to them?

"Amazon is impeding and/or blocking the sale of Hachette authors’ books as a negotiating tactic."

To be fair, Hachette is as well. If Hachette were indeed worried about their authors, they would have taken a more proactive, stance in negotiating, right? Unless somehow ignoring Amazon until forced to pay attention is somehow a good thing?

"This is fact. Is Amazon's position so weak that it cannot negotiate without targeting the authors by impeding or blocking the sale of Hachette books? It's a rather childish but effective stance."

In 2010, Big Publishing threatened to stop selling through Amazon unless Amazon agreed to the Agency Pricing Model. All the Big publishers threatened to pull their Were the Publishers tactics against Amazon four years ago correct and proper in that situation? If Amazons position is indeed as weak as you claim, Hachette should be able to walk away and make up any lost sales it would have gotten through Amazon through other sales outlets, be they online or physical retail. If Hachette doesn't need Amazon, and negotiating with Amazon is hurting it, and by extension you, why hasn't it walked away?

Anonymous said...

Part Two:

"My book sales, along with the books other Hachette authors have written, are suffering greatly due to these tactics."

"As you know, these tactics include:
refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers purchase non-Hachette books."

What publishers did prior to preorders? The fact that Amazon is selling Hachette books for the price Hachettes suggests they sell them at is upsetting people is interesting.

"My book now has a 2-3 week delivery and is not being offered at a discount; this gone on since February; at one point in time the shipping was 4-6 weeks out. At least the pop-ups directing buyers to other, non Hachette published books have been removed – for the time being."

Hrm, currently you book (on 9/26) has a 1 to 3 week shipping. $16.00 Prime price, $9.99 ebook price, and there are 55 links thorugh Amazon to purchase your book from other sellers. If Amazon wanted to really hurt you, why not take away those other links as well?

"How do you justify Amazon's use of these tactics? I wonder if you believe that this "war" is much needed comeuppance... deserve to be casualties of this "war". "

I think this "war" is a comeuppance in that it's forcing the traditional publishing industry to recognize that change is here to stay. Print is not going to be as popular as it once was, there are now other avenues for a writer to get their work to a changing market, and their role in publishing in general is changing. Sad thing is, they basically ceded this ground at the turn of the century, and now they're paying for it.

"Please, tell me why it is right and just for Amazon to use authors and their books as instruments to force Hachette to bend? Imagine what would happen if all businesses were to begin to run themselves this way."

Please, tell me why it is right and just for Hachette to use its authors and their books as instruments to force Amazon to bend? Imagine what would happen if all businesses were to begin to run themselves this way?

Like when your local electric company raises it's rates, that you have to pay because there is no local competition?
How about an auto company negotiating with any one of its unions? Or a teachers union going on strike?

Since this whole "war" started, what has Hachette done to help you survive?

Maggie Meade said...

Dear Anon.

Thank you for your reply and the engagement. You neglected to answer the questions that I posed; answering my questions with questions of your own does not allow me to understand what YOUR thoughts are about the matter(s).

Let me address a few of your comments; pardon the lack of order.

I never claimed that Amazon's position was weak - I merely pondered why Amazon felt it had to target the authors to try and make Hachette bend to its terms. Clearly there is some worry on the part of Amazon; why do they continue to sell Hachette books? Why not just pull the books entirely? Why? If Amazon pulled all Hachette books off of their store today, then all authors and sellers would think twice about their own positions within the Amazon storefront. Wouldn't you? I believe that Amazon does set some pricing for Kindle/eBooks. What if they dropped your pricing to $0.99 because you didn't want to do X, Y or Z with your book?

Ugh! This statement is repeated time and time again:

"The fact that Amazon is selling Hachette books for the price Hachettes suggests they sell them at is upsetting people is interesting."

I find this to be intellectually dishonest and completely disingenuous. You know very well that discounted prices are what helps to drive sales on Amazon and other online booksellers.

"Print is not going to be as popular as it once was, there are now other avenues for a writer to get their work to a changing market, and their role in publishing in general is changing."

There is a small part of me that feels as though many self-published and indie authors are quite joyful over the fact that Hachette authors are suffering. As I continue to learn more and more about this Amazon/Hachette issue, I have come to feel a lack of empathy from the self-published and indie community. I am asking for sincere answers as to why people believe that Amazon is just in using authors' book sales. One day this "war" may be visited upon your eBook or your Indie company.

Please do continue to check on the shipping date of my book as it changes continually along with the dreaded pop-ups.

One more thing, I do believe that action against Hachette will be forthcoming from a few authors. It's quite a sticky wicket as it were when it comes to IP and Contract law.

Thanks again!
Maggie

Rik Davnall said...

Maggie: You asked "I am asking for sincere answers as to why people believe that Amazon is just in using authors' book sales."

I think it's disingenuous to suggest that it's only Amazon doing this. When Amazon offered - in three different ways - to take you out of the line of fire, Hachette left you there.

And sure, there's a debate to be had about the merits of each of the offers, but Hachette refused to participate in that debate. The offers were rejected, according to everything I've seen including direct quotes from people on both sides, out of hand.

Hachette could have protected you from Amazon (sure, at considerable financial cost to themselves - but also to Amazon) and decided not to. I don't deny that there's harm to you, and something quite possibly suspect, about Amazon's treatment of you, but isn't it also possible to say that of Hachette's decision?

To actually answer your question about the justice of Amazon's actions is more complex. Some of Amazon's actions in respect of Hachette publications are not so much matters of justice as necessity - it cannot in conscience or pragmatism offer pre-orders on books it may never have a contract to sell. I don't know the details of their distribution, warehousing and stock maintenance arrangements, but it seems unfair to demand that a vendor buy inventory which they may later lose the right to sell - which does, if true, justify keeping smaller inventories.

The business of using landing pages for your books to make recommendations for other products is a different matter, though 'Similar to' and 'customer also bought' are normal practice at Amazon. Have they stopped recommending your books on pages for other projects? That, I think, would be unjust.

Above the specifics, though, my greater respect (as an independent author) for Amazon over Hachette - my feeling that they are closer to being in the right - comes from those offers to take you out of the line of fire, and the behaviour of Hachette in response.

Terry said...

I find it difficult to believe that readers will simply settle for the crap that is being self-published on Amazon (with a few diamonds to be found in the sewer, no doubt; but it's still mostly crap that's found there). I very much hope you're wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

Amazon is not "targeting" authors. Authors are a casualty in this negotiation. Amazon knows this, that's why they put forth three different proposals to help authors during these negotiations. Hachettes offer to help authors hurt by these negotiations has been to simply say "Amazon needs to agree with our proposal." Amazon knows your being hurt, Hachette knows your being hurt, yet only one of them has done anything publicly to try and address that.

"I find this to be intellectually dishonest and completely disingenuous. You know very well that discounted prices are what helps to drive sales on Amazon and other online booksellers."

Sure. But this then begs the question: If Hachette is OK with selling your book for $11.20 on Barned and Noble, why doesn't the price on the book read $11.20. It's a consumer shell game, right? We know the product costs "X" to produce, and if we sell it at "Y", we'll make money. But instead, let's price it at "Z", "discount" it to "Y", and let the consumer think they're getting a bargain. JC Penny's does this all the time, but a couple of years ago when new management decided to price everything at "Y" straight across the board, customers were upset, because they could no longer see the "deals" they were getting, even though the sales price never changed.

I think a very small minority of indie writers are happy Hachette authors are in a bad way. Then again, a small percentage of writers who publish through Elloras Cave are happy their publisher is suing a fellow EC writer for defamation after she wrote a blog post detailing the current problems EC is having. People are weird like that.

Honestly, I think a lot of indie writers look at whats happening to Hachette authors and say "There but for the Grace of God and KDP go I."

Hachettes not fighting for me in this, any more then they are fighting for you IMO. If this "war" comes to my doorstep, I can pick up my IP and sell it elsewhere. Until then, I'm not worrying about what Amazon "Might" do. Heck, Amazon could cut my rates in half to 35%, and I'd be OK with that, because that's at least 10-15% higher than I would get if I were to sign with Hachette or any other traditional publisher, and I'd still retain the control I have now.

I'm not happy your being hurt, but I am surprised you think Amazon is the sole reason for the position you are in.

Anonymous said...

Terry,

650,000,000 plus active websites on the world wide web.

However will I know where to go and what to visit, and who will protect me from the crap people are putting out there for the entire world to see?

It's like there should be someone somewhere who's looked at a lot of them, and can tell me "Go here, don't go there, trust me, I know what you want to read and look at...."



Maggie Meade said...

Hi Rik,

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the insight. I will answer a few of your questions/points as well.

“I think it's disingenuous to suggest that it's only Amazon doing this. When Amazon offered - in three different ways - to take you out of the line of fire, Hachette left you there.”

I think that you are assuming that the Hachette authors are party to the negotiations and are asked for their input. We are/were not (well I personally was not) invited to the table. Now I am not defending Hachette however, there are not too many companies that continually ask for their “employees’ input into sales and marketing. Are you saying that Hachette should have presented the offer(s) to it’s authors to review? I would love to see these “offers to take authors out of the line of fire”. Would you please direct me to a place where I might read these?

“t seems unfair to demand that a vendor buy inventory which they may later lose the right to sell - which does, if true, justify keeping smaller inventories.”

I have been reading in a few places that Hachette is not the only publisher that is selling on Amazon without a firm contract. I am not sure if this is fact or fiction however. I will politely have to call BS to Amazon on having to carry light inventory; if this were true then why the extreme fluctuations in ship dates from one hour to the next (and I refer to my book only)?

“Have they stopped recommending your books on pages for other projects? That, I think, would be unjust.”

Yes, they have sadly. It is not consistent but it occurs at least once a week.

Maggie Meade said...

Hello again Anon!

Thanks for your reply again and your clarification. I keep reading that “Hachete had 3 offers that would “take authors out of the line of fire” but refused to do it. As I asked of Rik, please point me to where I might be able to read these offers. As far as I am concerned, the most valid offer would be for Amazon to say, “Ok, we are going to do the right thing and stop hurting your authors as a means to our end.” Amazon will continue to take “hostages” until Hachette pays the ransom, so to speak.

“If Hachette is OK with selling your book for $11.20 on Barned and Noble, why doesn't the price on the book read $11.20. It's a consumer shell game, right?”

Everyone loves a bargain though, right? The bargain pricing is only found online however; brick and mortar shops sell the books at cover.

“I'm not happy your being hurt, but I am surprised you think Amazon is the sole reason for the position you are in.” Oh believe me. I do not think Amazon is the sole reason however, I think their position is disgraceful and despicable.

You say that Hachette is not fighting for you/me and I agree to a certain extent. I am not entirely naive. Let me try to illustrate why I think you are half-right/half-wrong. The small 4 employee shop that hand makes baby booties is selling them on Amazon for $10 each. Suddenly, Amazon decides that they would sell better if they were $5 each. Amazon asks the shop if they would start selling at $5 and oh-by-the-way, we want to raise our profit percentage by 10%. The shop would not be able to survive so they say not to Amazon’s offer. Amazon decides to “punish” them by doing what Amazon is doing to Hachette authors - delaying shipment for example.

Now you may think, “What do I care? I don’t need baby booties” and maybe that’s true but what type of product or company could be the next target? Amazon is not doing this because they have altruistic intentions. Amazon wants a higher profit percentage; don’t they all?!

Anonymous said...

Maggie,

Amazons first offer came about when the discussions entered the public eye, on May 27th

http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx1UO5T446WM5YY


Amazon did the same when negotiating with Macmillan, I've yet to read/hear from a Macmillan author who felt they were somehow done wrong by that agreement.

On July 9th, Amazon offered to give authors 100% of their ebooks sales.

http://www.ibtimes.com/amazon-offers-100-percent-e-book-royalties-hachette-authors-letter-1622410

Their third off was to let the author keep their share of the sales, and both Hachette and Amazon would donate their share to a literacy charity.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/amazon-offers-donate-hachette-book-proceeds-charity.html

Hachette turned down all three of these offers, all within a day of their being proposed?

Did Hachette ask you and other Hachette authors affected by these negotiations if you would be willing/able to participate in any of these? Did they let you know these offers had been made? When signing with Hachette, did you cede these decisions to Hachette?

"Oh believe me. I do not think Amazon is the sole reason however, I think their position is disgraceful and despicable."

So what should Amazon have done? Keep in mind, Hachette let the terms of their agreement come to an end without any communication. Amazon extended their current agreement, and Hachette didn't even start negotiating until Amazon started cutting back orders and removing preorder buttons. Then all the sudden it was "ZOMG, Amazon is being evil!"
Sure, fine, for the sake ofargument Amazons being evil. all they did was try to enage a supplier and then offer to help those hurt by the negotiations.

Yet Hachettes disinterest in doing anything of substance until being forced by Amazon to do something is what, benevolent in some way? If you beleive Amazona action are evil, what are Hachettes actions to you?

As for your argument, it's poor, and I'll tell you why:

1. That 4 person shop owns those booties. At anytime, they can sell them through another store (physical or etail) with little or no problem. Selling through Amazon is a choice, and they have to determine what is best for them and their company.Amazon is under no obligation to help them sell their booties for $10, if anything Amazon has combed through it's databases and found that most booties sell best in the $5 range, with higher sales volume helping offset lower profits.

To a degree, Yes, Amazon wants a higher percentage of sales. But they've already said they are happy with a 30% cut. What they are objecting to is the price Hachette wants to sell it's books for. They believe $14.99 for an ebook is too high. They have years of sales data showing them what a good price point for most ebooks is, and surprisingly, it's around $9.99. Truth be told, the $12.99 and $14.99 price points were arbitrary number Steve Jobs threw out during the whole "lets get together and force a new pricing structure when the iPad comes out" collusion talks. Amazon has said certain ebooks (such as textbooks) will be priced higher than $9.99, for a variety of reasons. Yes, you can price your ebook for $14.99, but it won't sell as many copies as it would if you were selling it for $9.99. Few people will buy your product when its priced higher. Amazons angling for a lower price point. Hachettes looking out for its own bottom line as , its wants to go back to the Agency Prices of $14.99 and $16.99, for ebooks.

As an author, why would you want fewer people to buy your book?

Yes, Amazons actions are hurting you, but so are Hachettes, and truth be told, Amzons actions are the least they could have done, and they've offered to help you.

Whats your publisher done for you since May?

Agent Orange said...

I've been blogging anonymously (because critically) as Agent Orange about the issues facing the industry in the UK for some years now - check me out on both thebookseller.com and futurebook.net.
For me this is all about author earnings and what is in the best long term interests of authors. What I simply don't understand about the Amazonians - you Mr Konrath, Hugh Howey, David Gaughran, Barry Eisler et al is that while many of your criticisms of the traditional publishing business are hugely valid it is also wholly clear to me that while your interests and Amazon's coincide for now, if they win and reduce publishing to a cottage industry rump they will come after their other suppliers - i.e. you 'indie' authors next. Amazon have sunk billions into pursuing a position of total dominance of the book business: if and when they have won they will be turning the screw on you - and you'll have no-one left to turn to. It seems to me that your position is informed primarily by contempt for trad publishers and that fatally undermines the validity of your arguments and clarity of your thinking.
Secondly, you write as if all authors are the same and exist on the same playing field. That is not true - the ebook market is pretty much wholly a genre, mass market: it does not serve the literary end of the spectrum well and nor does it show any likelihood of doing so. So while you set yourself up as speaking for all writers what you are doing looks suspiciously like promoting a self serving ideology which involves leaving behind all of those more thoughtful, less obviously commercial writers who have always been subsidised by commercial authors.

Maggie Meade said...

Apologies for my drive-by Anon but I felt compelled to address this particular point:

"1. That 4 person shop owns those booties. At anytime, they can sell them through another store (physical or etail) with little or no problem. Selling through Amazon is a choice, and they have to determine what is best for them and their company.Amazon is under no obligation to help them sell their booties for $10, if anything Amazon has combed through it's databases and found that most booties sell best in the $5 range, with higher sales volume helping offset lower profits."

The larger issue (for me)is that it will come to pass that Amazon alone is the largest supplier of baby booties (ok, books!). The manufacturer will have the greatest opportunity for sales via Amazon and thus, the true insidiousness claws its way into the light....

And to answer you questions re: Hachette notifying "authors" of the Amazon offers, I was never aware of these offers. It does not surprise me however as few corporations make business decisions by consulting their "employees" on every level. Should Hachette have sought out authors' positions on the offers? Perhaps. Does it tick me off - yes indeed.

You see, we are not so far apart in our thoughts about the issue.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Maggie,

Yes, Amazon is the largest supplier of books, because the publishing Industry has ceded that ground to them.

Amazon didn't create the ebook market, but they began to dominate it with the release of the kindle. A few years ago they had 90% of the ebook market.

Today? Depending on who you want to believe, 55-65% of the market, and it's falling each year, because of entrants like Kobo, Smashwords, BN.com, and other online sellers.

How exactly does one achieve and maintain a monopoly by lowering market share each year?

This is the 21st Century of business. If Amazon were to do what you think it might do, whats stopping someone (A google, a yahoo, two guys in a garage with an idea) for coming up with a better way to sell books?

If Amazon, in the future, does try and screw me over, I've got my mailing lists, my facebook groups, and my websites. I can sell direct, because I own everything. I'm not worried. Why should I be?
Honestly, as I said above, Even if Amazon cuts my rates in half to 35%, that's still at least 10% better than anything I could get through a traditional publisher.
And I'll deal with that if and when it happens. Worrying about what might happen is a waste of time better spent writing.

I've seen the future of ebook sales without amazon, and so can you.

Check out Harpercollins.com

Anonymous said...

Agent Orange,

If, as you say, Amazon does decide to turn the screws and come after me, whats stopping me from selling my wares elsewhere, like my own website, or an amazon competitors website?

Secondly, why would Amazon want to come after me?

I understand that in many traditional "apologists" hind brain is the idea that Jeff Bezos 20 plus year to low customer service and low prices is an act, that he's really a 19th century Robber Baron in disguise and that if we we're to only wait and see, you'd be right!

But honestly, Amazon is making money from my sales, not as much as some authors, but more than some others, and that's a nice chunk of change for them. Why drive a lot of that revenue away by taking more money.

And honestly, I think my feeling on the subject, as I've said in previous posts, are the same as a few other indie authors: When Amazons rates become as bad as traditional publishing, then we'll leave. Until then, we're keeping our options open.

Agent Orange said...

Anonymous,
Brave words, but this notion that the book market on the internet is some sort of moveable feast seems wildly optimistic, Amazon are doing everything they can to tape it down. Bezos is exactly like a 19th c tycoon and he'd love us all to only be able to buy from the company store.
As for the notion that you or any other indie authors earnings are anything other than wholly insignificant to Amazon: well if they are prepared to screw the Lee Childs of this world then why not you?
One publisher, one retailer and a million authors...
Big publishing is idiotic in so many ways, but that does not make Amazon your friend.

Maggie said...

Amazon is not your friend! Perhaps it's all coincidence?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/30/amazon-paul-ryan_n_5906692.html

Anonymous said...

Agent Orange,

I can take my books off Amazon, off Kobo, off google, iBook, Smashwords et al and sell them on my own website if I wanted to. It would take me less than a week to set that up.

Can Lee Child do that? Can any author currently under contract to a traditional publisher do that?

My individual earnings to Amazon are insignificant, but all the indie authors together are a nice chunk of change. Why would Amazon piss us off? They are making money off us, and yes, they might want to make more, but that's a bridge I'll cross when I get to it, if I get to it.

I've asked before and noones seen fit to answer:

How is Amazon going to achieve a monopoly when its share of the ebook marketplace is falling each year?

Amazon is not my friend, I've never said that. Amazon, in the current environment, is the better business partner for me.

But your telling me Amazon might do something in the future that makes my situation then as bad as it is in traditional publishing now, so I shouldn't support Amazon. How is that good business sense? Thats like saying I should leave my great relationship now, and go back to my old abusive relationship before my great one becomes abusive as well, despite their being no indication of that happening.

Hachette has been screwing the Lee Childs of the world longer than Amazon has. Recent, and long, history has shown us that if any party in this fight is to be distrusted, it's Hachette.

Maggie said...

WOW! I was not aware of this:

Amazon Blocks Disney DVD Orders as Pricing War With Hachette Rages On

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236429

recently - http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-settling-dvd-disputes-won-t-resolve-book-stand-off-153857136.html

Perhaps now we should be alarmed and not scoff at the push for a DOJ inquiry? perhaps...

maggie said...

WOW! The more learn the more I cringe! I was not aware of this Amazon-Disney dispute, were you?

Amazon Blocks Disney DVD Orders as Pricing War With Hachette Rages On
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236429

recently - http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-settling-dvd-disputes-won-t-resolve-book-stand-off-153857136.html

Perhaps now we should be alarmed and not scoff at the push for a DOJ inquiry? Or is this just another example of a retailer doing what it should be able to do?

Anonymous said...

Maggie,

They resolved that, or are in the process of resolving it. What I'm not seeing is anyone affiliated with Disney protesting that Amazons actions are hurting them.

And Amazon has had several recent negotiations go through. Perseus just signed a new deal on ebooks, and Kensington signed a new deal as well.

But honestly, what do you expect a DoJ inquiry to do? I expect it to do as much as the DoJ inquiry against Simon and Shuster did in 2013 when that particular kerfuffle was dominating the literary world.

Heck, Amazon migh even welcome and inquiry, because the it would also force Hachette to defend it's own business practices. That could be fun spectating there.