Amazon and Hachette Come to Terms


Remember that weary battle between Amazon and Hachette? Tried to forget about it? Well, it’s back with an underwhelming vengeance. They settled… and they’re keeping the details to themselves and essentially each side is claiming victory or something like that. Makes you sort of wonder why they couldn’t have settled months ago. Still, leave it to Doug Preston to try and have the last words, which are pretty much, “You haven’t heard the end of this!” Can we vote to end his 15 minutes of “fame”? It’s running a bit long.

Listen, as I mentioned briefly in my post yesterday, I’m all for competition. As authors and readers, it would be healthy for Amazon to get some strong competition, especially with regard to the ebook market. Problem is, there isn’t anything that’s on the same level and that’s probably because no one cares about it as much. That is, until the one place that does care starts trying to throw its weight around.

I’m kinda glad the whole thing is over and I hope to never hear about the Authors Guild and Authors United. When your group consists of the top 1% of earners in a field, it doesn’t sound like unity and leadership. It sounds like privilege and whining.

Important Kindle Request – A Letter from Amazon


If you’re a KDP author, you might have checked your email this morning and found a rather interesting letter from Kindle Direct Publishing. In it, there’s a brief history lesson on how paperback books were initially perceived by the publishing industry, an explanation of how traditional ebook pricing is hurting everyone involved, and a request to email bomb Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch. If you’re not a KDP author, you can read the letter here:

My first reaction was, wow… it’s come to this. While Hachette has rallied its authors against Amazon during this dispute, Amazon has kept things fairly low key. Yes, they’ve posted letters to public forums, but this is taking the battle to a whole new level. A call to arms, so to say, to its KDP authors. And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m OK with it.

We’re talking about a corporate battle between two giants and each side has, in turn, asked its minions to throw their weight into the mix. While Hachette has a cadre of well-known authors, Amazon must have contacted hundreds of thousands of authors with this single email. Even if only a percentage respond, you’re probably still looking at 10x the number of Hachette’s authors. But, what’s the point? Does Amazon really believe that overwhelming this poor schmuck’s email inbox with 100,000 letters from unknown authors will sway the tide? Or, is this just a symbolic gesture to say, “You say you’ve got author power? I’ll show you author power.”

In all, the letter leaves me with a bad taste. I hope the two sides can come to an agreement soon, as I’m losing my patience in the whole matter. I agree that low ebook pricing makes sense on many levels, but I don’t appreciate being made a pawn in a battle I’m not involved in.

Amazon opens up about Hachette dispute


If you’ve been following the soap opera of Amazon vs Hachette and vice versa, you know that it’s created quite the rift between traditionally published authors (some of whom are also betrothed, contractually, to Hachette) and independently published authors. Barbs have been thrown between author groups, but for the most part, the actual parties involved have been cautious in their public declarations. Amazon released its most recent statement yesterday, in the form of a letter that tries to explain the benefit of lower ebook pricing to all parties involved.

There are two parts of this statement that stuck with me:

“For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.”

“While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.”

That last part is a smooth move on Amazon’s part. Nothing like telling trad pubbed authors just how much bank they’re losing due to their contracts. It’s definitely an attempt to try and sway Hachette’s foundation of authors. I don’t see anyone budging anytime soon, but if other publishing houses start making deals with Amazon without all this fuss, I bet we’ll see Hachette bend in the end.

What do you think?

Writers and Readers, Perfect Together

If you’re a writer of any sort, I don’t have to fill you in on the whole Hatchette/Amazon business. And, if you’re up on things, I probably don’t have to inform you of a recent letter from some of the top big name authors requesting letters be sent to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in order to save authors and writing and literature and to let Hachette get its way. There was then an equal response thrown together by Hugh Howey, Joe Konrath, et al, (independent publishing’s loudest voices) suggesting authors take a good look at what exactly is being fought over and realize that the only thing at stake is authors rights.

That being said, Hugh and Joe have written follow up articles regarding the possible need for a Writers union and out of all of this, I clung to one particular statement of Joe Konrath’s: “The only two groups required in a reader and writer relationship is the reader and the writer. Everyone else is a middleman that needs to prove his value.

I’m sure I’ve read this before from Joe, but it finally found its mark,
I guess. Can you name the publisher of the last book you read (assuming it wasn’t self published)? Maybe you can. Maybe you’re one of those people who know that kind of thing. Me? I have no clue. I couldn’t tell you a single one. And, you know what? It doesn’t matter. When I open a book, my relationship starts with the author, not the publisher. When I turn to the first page, I am assuming (perhaps wrongly) that I am entering into a world and reading a story created by the author.

So, where does the role of the publisher stand in all of this? Are they really the gatekeepers of quality writing? Are they the protector of readers everywhere, defending them from bad stories and driveling tomes? Is that their primary concern? I doubt it. Publishing is about making money, and if your story won’t make money, then it won’t be
published. That’s the cold hard truth and one that readers should understand when they see a book on a shelf versus a self-published book online. The quality of the writing had nothing to do with where these books were published and whether they would make a corporation money did.

Readers need to know this. Authors are about writing stories and good stories can come from anyone. We shouldn’t put all of our trust in “gatekeepers of quality” when those gatekeepers have a financial stake in the results. It means bias is applied at the gate and not the kind of bias that guarantees a well-written, interesting story.

(Most) Authors write for their readers. It’s what we live for, to tell stories that people like to read. It’s what always motivates my writing. It’s a great relationship to have and a simple one at that. Write good stories for readers who like to read good stories. Where is the need for a third party in that relationship? There isn’t one.

I hope you’ll think about this the next time you’re looking for a new book.