Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Advice To Authors United

Two days after Simon & Schuster and Amazon announced a multi-year contract, David Gaughran wrote a great post about things Authors United can do next. He opined that while AU was ineffective in the Amazon/Hachette dispute, they did excel at getting media attention. Why not use that attention to address some real issues?

He's correct. But before they get to his excellent list, they still have one big thing they can help out with.

I gave my advice to Authors United a month ago. That advice is more applicable than ever before, now that S&S has proven that Amazon can be successfully negotiated with.

Some of my advice was:

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.

I know it has only been three days, but why hasn't Authors United announced its next move? I'm just one man, and I can compose and post a blog response within a few hours of breaking news. Certainly all of those prize-winning, bestselling authors that comprise Authors United could make some public statement. It's not like they're unable to get media attention.

But they haven't made a peep.

So once again I'll give AU some advice as to how to proceed.

1. Release a statement praising Amazon and S&S.

2. Openly ask Hachette why they can't reach an agreement.

3. Ask Hachette and Amazon to retroactively compensate all effected Hachette authors once an agreement has been reached.

I don't expect you to admit you were wrong. You can even continue to believe you were right this whole time, and that Amazon is a harmful, unreasonable monopoly that boycotts, sanctions, blah blah blah.

This isn't about saving face, or defending your previous position. Keep pride and ego out if it. This is about effecting change.

Contact your media lackeys. Get some inches and airtime. Demand that Hachette explain what is taking so long, since Amazon quite obviously has no trouble making deals with the Big 5. Reiterate that your goal has always been to protect authors.

If you can put some public onus on Hachette you'll be remembered as heroes, and make the publishing industry better for authors.

The wind changed direction. Go with it. You've gathered together a powerful group of authors, with a lot of access to media that's hungry to hear from you. Use that and get this situation buttoned up.

It's doubtful any journalists will ask you any difficult or uncomfortable questions, since none have before. But if some reporter with a bit of integrity sneaks a zinger into an interview, here are some examples of how to deflect.

Q: Didn't you previously take an anti-Amazon stance?

A: We've repeatedly stated we aren't taking sides. We're pro-author. We want authors to stop being harmed.

Q: Why didn't you approach Hachette at the beginning of this dispute?

A: Hachette wasn't the one making their books difficult to buy on Amazon. Amazon was doing that. Now that Amazon has shown it can negotiate in good faith, as evidenced by the Simon & Schuster deal, we want to make sure Hachette negotiates in good faith as well.

Q: You've repeatedly rejected Amazon's offers to compensate authors. Why have you changed your mind?

A: Amazon's offer to compensate authors during the negotiation period would have caused an ongoing financial strain on Hachette. We propose they settle their differences, and then each fund a pool that will compensate authors once there is a deal in place. Money, of course, would be great. Amazon also has the ability to promote books in the same way they can make books difficult to find. We'd love to see Amazon give Hachette authors some additional promotional consideration once an agreement is reached.

Q: Do you feel as if you've been wasting your time--and money--on this affair?

A: Not at all. We got involved in this because we care about authors, and we would like to think that all the attention we helped bring to the subject was one of the reasons the Amazon/S&S deal happened so quickly. We now impress upon Hachette and Amazon to agree to similar terms, ink a deal, and to do so quickly.

Joe sez: Do the right thing, Authors United. Use your power for good.

BTW, here are some wrong ways to proceed. I caution you against:

1. Releasing a statement saying Amazon/S&S has nothing to do with Hachette, and Amazon is still wrong.

2. Taking full credit for the Amazon/S&S deal.

3. Refusing to pressure Hachette to strike a deal.

4. Refusing to pressure both parties into compensating authors harmed during the negotiation.

5. Defending your past position, rather than evolving.

6. Going into hiding, hoping this whole thing will blow over.

If you did the right thing, as I've outlined above, I'd become an Authors United signatory if asked, and I'd use my blog to help spread your message.

We're all pro-author. We should all act like it.

You have the money. You have the power. You have the media contacts. Make a move.