Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Mr. Patterson, for a while now we’ve been watching you use your enormous fortune, celebrity, and influence to speak out against, and demand that the US government “do something” about, Amazon (without ever stating what "something" is). 

Perhaps in doing so, you believe you’re standing up for the little guy.

But we’re here to tell you: we are the little guy. We, the indie authors who publish on Amazon.

So we'll put this to you nicely:

Stop trying to fuck with our livelihood.

Before Amazon, there was only one way to reach readers -- the legacy publishing route that has worked spectacularly well for you. It took Amazon to make digital books a mass market and self-publishing a viable option. And now, thousands of authors are using Kindle Direct Publishing and other new platforms to make a living from their writing, many for the first time in their lives. Tens of thousands more are paying bills with their Amazon income. And the majority of them are doing this having been turned away by legacy publishing, or after watching helpless as their legacy books went out of print.

Self-pubbing is their only recourse. Amazon has given these authors the opportunity to make some money, and to reach readers, when they didn't have that chance before.

How can that be a bad thing? You're calling for action and outrage against Amazon while purposely disregarding all the good they've done for authors? Books aren't in danger. They're thriving. You're spouting nonsense, and getting the attention of the media, and completely ignoring all of the authors who are benefiting because of Amazon's policies, innovations, and platform.

Of course, it isn't a juicy sound byte to say:

"Amazon is helping more authors than any company in the history of publishing, and more books are being published than every before, with prices at an all time low, but these books all suck and only a handful of elitist gatekeepers in New York should be responsible for what constitutes "culture" and "American literature." So the government should force Amazon to allow these gatekeepers to set their own prices (like $14.99 for ebooks and $30 for hardcovers) even though that violates the very nature of capitalism, a market economy, and a free price system."

But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Stop publicly whining about Amazon being unfair to bookstores and publishers. Many bookstores won't stock our self-publishing books. Do you see us whining? Many publishers have no interest in working with us. Do you see us asking the government for help?

Yet you keep defending publishers and bookstores, as if they're the only link between books and readers.

Publishers and bookstores are middlemen. Middlemen who take a big cut.

Amazon KDP treats authors better than any bookstore or publisher. Amazon offers us the highest royalties. Amazon pays monthly. Amazon's accounting is transparent. Amazon doesn't take our rights for our lifetime plus seventy years. Amazon doesn't have non-compete or first option clauses. Amazon doesn't strip and return our books. Amazon stocks us and keeps us stocked. Amazon offers equal shelf space. Amazon lets us control price, cover art, and book description, and change them with a click of the mouse.

If we went back to the days where bookstores and publishers decided what readers could read, it would hurt many tens of thousands of indie authors, and millions of readers who enjoy our books (and our ability to make our books affordable.)

Can’t you make your $94 million a year the way you do, without also trying to crush the first kind of publishing that’s enabled authors like us to make a few bucks, too?

If Amazon is indeed doing so much to destroy literature and all the rest, if the situation is so dire that the US government needs to pass laws to fix it, may we ask why your books are still available on Amazon? How can you condemn a company’s evil, monopolistic, culture- and livelihood-destroying ways... while continuing to make hundreds of millions of dollars working with that company? If you really do believe all your rhetoric, why haven't you demanded that your publisher pull your backlist from Amazon and stop publishing your new books there?


Publishers aren’t in “pain and stress;” they’re making more money than ever, most of that money because of record ebook profits. But if you're so worried about publishers, perhaps you should ask Hachette to reduce your own royalty rates and advances. Isn't $94 million a year a lot to take from your publisher? Couldn't you get by on, say $30 million? Or, when you negotiate with Hachette, do you try to get the best deal you can for yourself?

Maybe the government should step in and stop YOU from bullying poor, helpless Hachette.

More hypocrisy.

Independent bookstores overall aren’t closing; new ones are opening every day and they are thriving. Amazon is not a monopoly. The actual monopoly (or, if you prefer, quasi-monopoly or cartel) in the publishing business is the Big Five in New York (there’s a reason they’re commonly referred to collectively -- it’s how they function).

Amazon doesn't force readers to buy books on Readers prefer it. They want Kindle ebooks. They want a wide selection. They want low prices. You should be blaming readers for buying on Amazon, and not blame Amazon for out-competing other bookstores.

"Culture" and "American literature," concepts constantly invoked by you and other anti-Amazon bestsellers like Richard Russo and Scott Turow, are not created by editors in New York. They’re created the authors who write books, and by the readers who love them. Culture and literature don’t need gatekeepers. Readers are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what they find important and valuable. To suggest otherwise is aristocratic, paternalistic, anti-democratic, and even unAmerican.

Let us try to make a living. No one is trying to stop you from making yours. Enough with your nonsense.

James Patterson, stop the stupid.