Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Douglas Preston's Blood Money

Let's recap the recent actions of bestselling Hachette author Douglas Preston.

Six days ago, he releases a letter he'd been reportedly working on for two weeks.

Here are some things Preston said:

"If I were Jeff Bezos, the one thing I would fear most is if authors organized themselves and took broad, concerted, sustained, and dignified public action."

"Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms."

Preston then claims Amazon is "boycotting Hachette authors" and "refusing to discount the prices of Hachette's authors' books" and "refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors' books" and "slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors' books".

Preston goes on to say, "It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation." and "we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business."

He posted this letter online with 69 author signatures last Thursday.

Okay, from these statements, it seems pretty clear that Mr. Preston cares about Hachette authors. That's the majority of his letter. He believes authors are being harmed, and Amazon is to blame.

I disagree with this position, and helped write a letter (now signed by over 6800 people) which counters all of Preston's claims. I believe Hachette is the one harming authors in this negotiation, not Amazon. Amazon had already offered to monetarily compensate authors during this negotiation period, if Hachette put in 50%. Hachette rejected that.

Preston neglected to mention that in his letter.

But let's pretend I'm wrong. Let's follow the mindset that Amazon really is harming authors, not Hachette. Preston is rich, but maybe he wrote that letter because he truly cares about the midlist and newbie authors who are being harmed by this situation.

Hugh Howey (who had the idea to write a counter-letter to Preston's, led that charge, and posted it on Change.org) is without a doubt one of the nicest authors I've ever encountered. He's so polite, cares so much, and is such a terrific spokesperson for the self-publishing movement that I've questioned if I even need to blog anymore. Hugh says a lot of things similar to what I say, but he says it in such a level-headed, even-mannered way that he doesn't irritate people like I do. His ability to empathize with even his strongest detractors is a strength I could never have.

Hugh reached out to Preston after both letters were posted, and then wrote the blog post Douglas Preston and I Agree. According to Hugh, "Douglas and I agree on far more than we disagree. We both want what’s best for writers. The confusion is on how to achieve that."

I have no doubt that Hugh believes that, and that Preston gave him that impression. Howey may be a nice guy, but he calls it as he sees it. Hugh Howey is not a sycophant. He's a freethinker, very smart, and brave as hell.

But where Hugh never criticizes or belittles those who disagree with him (on the contrary, he's one of the most empathetic people I've ever spoken with, and always has something nice to say even to those who treat him terribly), I have no problem publicly chastising pinheads. In a rare case of me disagreeing with Hugh, I posted this comment on his blog:

"I’m looking forward to Preston retracting some of the ridiculous things in his letter, and signing our petition.

Good, well-intentioned people can say stupid things in public. I have. And when I do, I take it back, and apologize. If Preston did that, I’d sing his high praises.

But his letter spread misinformation and potentially caused harm. It’s one thing to have a differing opinion. It’s another to Tweet it, or blog about it. And it is still another to get 400 people to sign it and then release it to media outlets.

It’s not a confusing issue, Hugh. Preston asked readers, in the most public way possible, to support Hachette–a company that wants to raise ebook prices while keeping author royalties low, and to express their displeasure directly at Amazon, a company that wants to keep ebook prices low while giving authors higher royalties.

Hopefully, our letter opened up his eyes. In which case, he can change his public position on this.

Or he can wait until more information is revealed about this dispute, and look even sillier when it is shown how wrong he is.

I met Doug at a convention a while ago, and found him to be quite personable. I really like his books. And I’m sure you had a nice, friendly chat with him. If I had to guess, he’s probably a great guy, gives to a lot of charitable organizations, and cares a lot of about writers and this business.

None of that has anything to do with his letter. A letter calculated to manipulate public opinion in a disingenuous way."

Preston had ample time to reconsider his position. But he didn't, even though Hugh no doubt gave him a lot of new data to consider. Preston could have sought out more information. He could have changed his mind.

Instead, Preston continued to collect signatures for his petition. He's up to 563. Which is rather embarrassing, considering we've gotten more than 12x that amount to sign our letter.

Then, yesterday, Amazon made an offer. It said it would reinstate all of the things Preston complained about; pre-order buttons, discounting, stocking paper. It also said it would give 100% of the price of all Hachette ebooks it sold to Hachette authors. An ebook sells for $12.99? All $12.99 goes to the author. Amazon could implement this within 72 hours.

Hachette rejected this offer.

But surely Preston embraced it, right? Hasn't he repeatedly voiced concern about Hachette authors being harmed? Amazon's solution would not only correct all of that perceived harm, it would be a boon to them.

Preston's response?

"There's something wrong with this. My publisher gave me a very large advance for the book they are about to publish. Morally, I would have to turn over that (Amazon) money to them."

So... this isn't about helping other authors, is it, Doug? You know, the Hachette authors your letter purportedly was concerned about? The ones who didn't get a very large advance from Hachette? You know the ones? They're the 99% Hachette publishes who don't earn millions.

The letter said Preston and its signatories weren't taking sides. Am I the only one who sees this comment as "taking sides"? Instead of caring about authors, Preston cares about... Hachette.

But when in a hole, why stop digging? Preston recently said to Mashable:

"To take that money would really violate my moral and ethical principle. I'm not saying it's a bribe, but it would feel to me personally like I was taking blood money."

Blood money.

Let's look at the Wikipedia definition:

"Blood money is money or some sort of compensation paid by an offender (usually a murderer) or his/her family group to the family or kin group of the victim."

Well, murder is a pretty hefty offense. Whether it is comparable with removing pre-order buttons is a subjective call, but I'd call the terminology on the extreme side. As is the "I'm not saying it's a bribe" comment, which is akin to, "the jury must disregard that last remark". Does the jury ever disregard that last remark? Doesn't Preston saying it isn't a bribe immediately conjurer up images of bribery?

In Christianity, the thirty pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Jesus is considered blood money.

So what Preston is basically saying is that Amazon, by offering to help the very authors Preston demanded that Amazon should help, is actually responsible for crucifying Christ.

Yes, that was sarcasm. Of course it was. Because if Preston really thought Amazon was a murderer and a betrayer, his moral compass would make him demand they remove all of his books from Amazon.com. After all, who would want to have business dealings with some despicable company offering blood money (not saying it's a bribe)?

Okay, let's present the facts one more time.

Hachette wants to control ebook prices so they can keep them high and protect their paper oligopoly.

Amazon wants to keep ebook prices low, and reserve its right as a retailer to discount the things they sell.

Hachette was ordered to pay millions in damages for colluding to keep ebook prices high.

Amazon has a history of lowering prices, even as they are incorrectly and unjustly painted in the media as a monopoly.

Hachette treats its authors poorly, with low royalties and unconscionable contract terms, including keeping the copyright for life plus 70 years.

Amazon treats its authors well, with high royalties and fair contract terms. Authors either keep their rights, or can limit how long Amazon has them. I have even heard of authors who didn't want to be published by Amazon anymore, and Amazon returned their rights immediately. No lawyers involved.

Some uber rich bestselling authors want to keep things the way they are, because it made them uber rich bestseling authors.

Most authors welcome the opportunities Amazon has given them, including eliminating the barrier to entry and leveling the playing field.

Some authors--uber rich, midlist, and newbies--have Stockholm Syndrome and are unable to do anything but side with their publisher.

Some authors, like me and Howey and Eisler and Gaughran, have no horse in this race. It shouldn't matter to us if Hachette wins, or if Amazon wins. In fact, an argument could be made that we'd be better off if Hachette won, because our books would be so much cheaper we'd sell more copies than Hachette authors would.

But we keep blogging on behalf of authors, including Hachette authors, because it's just the right thing to do.

Our livelihood isn't at stake. We're not shills for Amazon (all of us have criticized Amazon many times.) We're not trying to stick up for Jeff Bezos because he's being picked on. Bezos doesn't need our help.

So what do I get out of taking Preston to task here? Preston doesn't care what I think. He likely won't even read this. And if he does read this, it won't change his mind. I could be spending time writing something to self-publish and make money from.

Instead, here I am, again, blogging about the harmful nonsense industry pundits are spouting. Not for the fame. Not for the money. Not for the lulz. Not to hear my own voice.

I'm blogging because the one-sided media (NYT, Publisher's Lunch, Mashable, WSJ) is painting Preston as an outspoken hero, when he's really just a self-interested rich guy who obviously cares more about his corporate masters than his fellow authors.

This isn't a complicated issue, people. Don't be distracted by propaganda or smoke and mirrors. Don't let your personal bias color your judgement. Look at the facts, and draw a logical conclusion based on those.

In other words, do the opposite of what Preston is doing.

107 comments:

Dan DeWitt said...

Well, murder is a pretty hefty offense. Whether it is comparable with removing pre-order buttons is a subjective call, but I'd call the terminology on the extreme side.

This is beautiful. As for the rest, here's what I posted over at TPV:

Preston should just come right out and say that anything Amazon does short of completely caving in to Hachette’s demands is a sign of evil. It would be much more honest than what he’s doing now.

That's all I have to say about that. #gump

Nirmala said...

Thanks for clarifying even more why you argue for the sake of all authors, even if as you said, it could be argued that you personally would be better off if Hachette got its way.

I admire you, Barry, Hugh and David even more now. It has always struck me as odd how sometimes the super successful seem the least able to know when they have "enough" and when they can start giving back, and just focus on doing what is right. Thank you for being a role model in doing just that.

Christina Pilz said...

Thank you, Joe, for being a voice in the wilderness. Even though there are more of "you" now, with Hugh and David and The PG, your voice still rings true, still provides a welcome relief from the puerile, one-sided, bag o' wind and crap that is provided by so much of the media these days.

Kris Lewis said...

Joe,

I find Preston's letter indicative of a lack of conviction on his part. Hachette has always had his back in matters of business, right? This dispute, it's really just another business matter, so I suppose if he REALLY trusted Hachette to protect his interests, he would've just kept out of it, kept writing, and let Hachette do what he "pays" them for: taking care of his interest. Because that's what Hachette is doing here, right? Protecting their authors?

Joe Konrath said...

I've found this whole situation, most recently Hachette/Amazon, but going all the way back to 2009 when I first started suggesting that authors self-publish and was treated as an outlier, a fascinating study in sociology.

One of my axiom's is that I believe people will defend their beliefs to the death rather than change their mind. Even when it is involves things they aren't well informed about. Once we form an opinion about something--and we do this many times a day--we quickly accept that opinion as truth and defend it.

While we defend, we criticize those who don't agree.

Valid criticism involves data and logic. It involves proving your point.

But the Internet has allowed for anonymous, instant gratification. No consequences for bad behavior. No need to back up your opinions.

So we've devolved into a culture who makes snap judgements then ignores or attacks anyone that doesn't agree.

When I find myself really endorsing something, I try to take a step back and think. What's my motive? Why am I right? What's going on in the heads of those who disagree?

I don't say anything I can't ably defend. And if I do, I admit being wrong and change my mind.

A lot of people would love to prove me wrong, because they can't stand me. But do you see anyone fisking JA Konrath anywhere?

I understand what Preston wants. But I don't think Preston understands what Preston wants, because he's obviously not self-aware, and he isn't being deliberate. Letting Mashable quote him with that blood money comment is not someone who is paying attention.

And yet he somehow believes he's right.

Fascinating.

Joe Konrath said...

I suppose if he REALLY trusted Hachette to protect his interests, he would've just kept out of it, kept writing, and let Hachette do what he "pays" them for

That's a great point I hadn't considered, Kris.

I don't feel the need to protect Amazon. Amazon is right in this case. But I do want to inform authors, and offer some balance to the lopsided anti-Amazon bias in the media.

But Doug obviously feels like he needs to protect a 10 billion dollar multi-national conglomerate. He says it wouldn't be fair to take the blood money, and would give it to Hachette.

How much confidence does Preston really have in his publisher?

Anonymous said...

Preston used to be one of my favorite writers. I've bought and read everything he's ever written.

I'm a consumer and I vote with my wallet.

I'm still going to read everything he's ever written.

I just downloaded the mobi file for The Kraken Project from a pirate torrent site.

If you're going to be a whiny self-serving hypocrite who publicly fights to hurt less-rich authors, Doug, you don't deserve my money.

Jm Cornwell said...

Joe, if Preston is so worried about keeping Amazon's money because it violates his conscience, may I suggest he take the money, keep his portion, and pay his publisher and agent out of the rest. In effect, he gets to do what this publisher and agent do, take their share and give him the rest. No harm, no foul, and no problem. If Preston feels incapable of doing the math necessary to pay his agent and publisher then he should be at least capable of getting someone else to do the math and send out checks for the agent and publisher.

There really is no problem here, just Preston posturing so that it looks like he is a moral, upstanding man who is outraged at Amazon offering him money for his ebooks. There really did not need to be any fuss and furor over handing over the agent's and publisher's portions after accepting Amazon's "blood money" (I hope his books are not written with such florid language). No harm. No foul. No problem.

Sto-ology said...

Nice honest dialog. Thanks! For the small authors (myself) this has seemed like a battle for already famous writers - complaining about Amazon. Well I just sold my first few books on Amazon and it feels great! I had several books/scripts rejected by the same 100 agents and big 6 publishers over a 10 year period. No more dealing with the disconnected inclusive world of old school publishing for me. I will sell as many books as I can by myself. Great blog!

Joe Konrath said...

I just downloaded the mobi file for The Kraken Project from a pirate torrent site

LOL. If there are any of my ebooks on that torrent site, I recommend ORIGIN and THE LIST, which are technothrillers in the Preston vein. Pirate away.

P. S. Power said...

Amazon is just trying to silence those that are loudly complaining in the press. They know that Hatchet HAS to reject being cut out of the deal, and by offering the big payment to the content providers (Authors)they get to look good, without taking any real risk.

:)

I don't blame them for doing this, either. It's hard to sit back and let people make you out to be the bad guy, without responding. This bit of economic jujitsu does allow them to point to it and stay otherwise silent every time one of the rich 1% authors suggest that they are ripping them off.

It's a good plan, especially since it was very low risk for them.

The thing here is that we need to understand what they were really doing and why, and not just act like it was ever a real offer. If Amazon meant it, they wouldn't have presented it to Hatchet, but to the people that would gain from it. (Which given that they probably don't own the rights to their own books tosses it back to Hatchet, who again, won't cut their own throat, even for a little while.)

It's not a horrible plan, but the little guys and gals that write for a living shouldn't think this really means that big Amazon is going to ever do the same for them. It wasn't, in short, a real offer. Just a ploy.

A pretty good one at that.

Hollis Shiloh said...

Thank you, Joe.

Alan Tucker said...

This all really does boil down to one thing:

Amazon wants to eliminate the middle man.

Hachette and the other publishers find that objectionable. I would too if I were them and I'd do or say anything I could to keep my position. It is, however, a losing battle. The only way publishers can stay in business is through the heavy hitters. Midlisters and newbies can't provide enough to keep the lights on in Manhattan.

Why is Amazon intent on ousting all these middle men? Because they recognize that content is king. The more they have under their control, the better. One only has to look at YouTube and Netflix as examples of where we're headed as far as entertainment is concerned. Anything that gets in the way of providers and consumers is superfluous.

Anonymous said...

I bought both Origin & The List a while back - good books at fair prices.
In fact, I bought over 200 books last year -- a mix of legacy and indie -- and only pirated 2, in both cases by (UK-based) authors whose publishers windowed their e-books to try to force hardcover sales.

I anonymously sent those authors $5 by PayPal, along with a note explaining what I had done and why. But in this case, I'm sending Doug nothing.

Think of it as asshole tax.

Joe Konrath said...

If Amazon meant it, they wouldn't have presented it to Hatchet, but to the people that would gain from it.

That's what Amazon did. They sent it to Hachette authors.

Maybe they also sent it to the media. Maybe they knew Preston would leak it to the media.

But Amazon's offer is indeed serious. They'd follow through.

I expected Hachette to reject it, but wouldn't it have been cool if they accepted?

Joe Konrath said...

But in this case, I'm sending Doug nothing. Think of it as asshole tax.

Bottom line: don't irritate your readers.

Alan Spade said...

I found something enlightening in Steven's Zacharius comments on the previous post: publishers not only protect paper by pricing ebooks high, they also protect bookstores.

So, no wonder bookstores don't want to sell Createspace's books. Bookstores have a vital interest of keeping ebook prices high, and they wouldn't support the company that invented the technology that brings their doom.

m.r. storie said...

The latest move by Amazon put me in mind of a fatality I once reported on. The brakes of a cement mixer had failed and the mixer rolled right over a car. No one could ever accuse Amazon of being subtle.

Some pro-Hachette sites are back to pretending Amazon will soon lower author profits on ebooks to .00000001 per cent.

It may be significant that this lame argument (exposed by Joe as a dud bomb on many occasions) is being hauled out again. Makes you wonder if Hachette has run out of live ammo.

Authors don't have to worry about a future monopoly. If there's one gas station on a corner, then a second one always pops up. Maybe this one will offer to wash your windows free or carry a different brand of potato chips.

Joseph Ratliff said...

The thing that scares me the most is not that the "big name" authors like Patterson, and Preston etc... ARE protecting their income...

... it's that they don't seem to understand exactly what it is they are protecting.

If Patterson, Preston or any big-name author were to "lose it all" one day and quit selling books (like being caught in a scandal or retiring etc...), Hachette probably will give them the proverbial "gold watch" and work to replace the income they generated (for Hachette) without a second thought.

Like a cog in a machine.

If these "big-name" Hachette authors think for one second they are so important that they are "above" that replacement process, they should rethink their own importance.

If they were selling on Amazon (and directly to reader from their website) at least they would have control of their own machine, instead of being thought of only as a cog in it.

Which brings me to this...

It feels like Hachette is using the "weight" these big-name authors have like pawns on a chess board. It seems like Hachette is trying to gain sympathy by trotting out its authors and saying "Big Bully Amazon is doing this to us! We are just like you, the little people."

But that isn't proven of course, it just feels like Preston, Patterson etc... are Hachette's pawns on their chess board.

Steve Hockensmith said...

Ahh, there it is at last. The word that's been popping into my head every time I see a discussion of the Douglas Preston letter. "Disingenuous."

That letter was not about protesting unfair business practices or protecting vulnerable writers. It was about who butters certain authors' bread (and butters it very well). It was about "The enemy of my friend is my enemy."

I was recently disappointed to see a very sharp, nice, successful author recently admit online that he/she had signed the letter because "My publisher has always done alright by me, and Amazon makes me nervous" (or words to that effect). (I'm not suggesting the author is transsexual. I just don't want to point fingers.) I wonder what he/she will make of the new revelations about Hachette's foot-dragging. Anyone who could keep playing the "Amazon is harming writers/Hachette is protecting them" card after that is...well, there's that word again. Disingenuous.

Anon trad author said...

I just had a dialogue with Shatzkin on his blog, and I came away understanding where the "Amazon is out to destroy all of literature" theory comes from.

The theory is that once Amazon controls prices, they will keep lowering them until all prices are well below 5.00 per book and nobody including Indies will be able to earn a living from writing.

Proof given: Bezos is on record saying he would be happy to make a few pennies from each transaction.

If he lowers prices that far, all other retailers will collapse because they can't compete. Publishers will no longer be able to offer advances. Even those stupid Indies who don't realize they're dependent on Amazon will find themselves squeezed so far they won't be able to write any more professionally.

So Amazon must be stopped.

The problem? Assumes Jeff Bezos is stupid. That a bookseller's primary and diabolical aim is to put all authors into the poor house so they can't write any more

*headdesk*

Paul said...

More shit from Shatz...will the cycle ever end?

Joe Konrath said...

Anyone who could keep playing the "Amazon is harming writers/Hachette is protecting them" card after that is...well, there's that word again. Disingenuous.

I agree, Steve. But what if those authors aren't aware they're actually being disingenuous?

Some of them don't seem to be particularly self-aware. Yes, many are disingenuous, but some seem to be ignorant (and willfully so, not wanting to see other sides) and some appear to be deluded (buying into Hachette because they really believe them, not because they are motivated by self-interest).

There's a whole lot of denial going on.

Joe Konrath said...

The theory is that once Amazon controls prices, they will keep lowering them until all prices are well below 5.00 per book and nobody including Indies will be able to earn a living from writing.

I'm doing okay selling books under $5.00. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one...

Jennifer Oberth said...

Anon trad auth - if Amazon did that then authors would sell elsewhere and Amazon would have no product. I would say no self-respecting author would take that mistreatment but...well, I can't.

Steve Hockensmith said...

I agree, Steve. But what if those authors aren't aware they're actually being disingenuous?

Some of them don't seem to be particularly self-aware.


Tell me about it. I've been there. I was a Macmillan author back when that spat was playing out, and I took a knee-jerk anti-Amazon stance at the time. So I know how easy it is to give in to simplistic, self-centered "Hey -- those guys give me money!" thinking. I was really disappointed to see the he/she author go that way, though. I thought he/she would be too savvy for that.

Amy Eyrie said...

I don't think the writers who signed Preston's letter see Indies as fellow writers, they see us as riff raff.

I worked at publishing companies and magazines where incoming manuscripts were thrown onto massive piles and left to rot while publishers arranged deals with friends and agents they knew.

Many of Preston's writers are elitist. They believe they're special because a publishing company approved of them. They base their self worth on it and that belief depends on demonizing Indie writers.

Bonnie said...

When the dinosaur publishing houses fall, writers like Douglas Preston are still going to sell books because he writes stories that people want to read. Then he's going to find out he controls his content and his cover art and his release schedule and his marketing, and he's going to say: "Why didn't anyone tell me about this?" And we'll chuckle.

Steve Hockensmith said...

I don't think the writers who signed Preston's letter see Indies as fellow writers, they see us as riff raff.

I think you're onto something there, Amy. "Disingenuous" was the first thing that came to mind for me when I read the Preston letter, but the second thing that popped into my head was the tagline for Caddyshack.

Publishing in 2014: It's the snobs against the slobs!

(I say this fully embracing my status as a midlist genre slob.)

Anonymous said...

Lisa Dawson -- I assume the literary agent -- just posted in the comments of Shatzkin's blog that when she first heard of Amazon's offer she was "distressed" but now sees it as a clever "distraction."

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture:

Literary agent is suddenly distressed at the idea of authors getting a windfall at the expense of the publishers.

ROFL

Joe Konrath said...

So I know how easy it is to give in to simplistic, self-centered "Hey -- those guys give me money!" thinking.

It isn't every day I witness people changing their mind.

You, sir, have my utmost respect. Not that it's worth much... but I'm impressed.

Nirmala said...

The theory is that once Amazon controls prices, they will keep lowering them until all prices are well below 5.00 per book and nobody including Indies will be able to earn a living from writing.....If he lowers prices that far, all other retailers will collapse because they can't compete. Publishers will no longer be able to offer advances. Even those stupid Indies who don't realize they're dependent on Amazon will find themselves squeezed so far they won't be able to write any more professionally.

It is possibly true that publishers will no longer be able to pay advances or maybe even survive, but anyone who thinks a self-published author can't make a living with their ebooks selling for under $5.00 has not been paying attention. Under KDP, a self published author makes roughly $3.50 per $5.00 ebook sold, while most traditionally published authors make more like $1.87 per ebook sold on Amazon for $14.99. If the publishers were to all close up shop tomorrow, it might be the best thing that ever happened to authors.

As for retailers not being able to compete....why not? They can offer the same terms as Amazon, and make money. You can be pretty sure there will always be companies looking to sell ebooks online since the costs are low and the hurdles to being in that business are relatively low.

The publishers may be starting to realize that for themselves, as they are starting to sell books themselves:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/harpercollins-pivots-to-sell-print-and-ebooks-directly-to-readers-through-main-website/

Joe Konrath said...

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/harpercollins-pivots-to-sell-print-and-ebooks-directly-to-readers-through-main-website/

I hope it works out better for them than Bookish did...

Steve Hockensmith said...

It isn't every day I witness people changing their mind.

You, sir, have my utmost respect. Not that it's worth much... but I'm impressed.


That's very kind of you to say, Joe, but I don't think I deserve any credit for changing my perspective. It was changed for me, really. Certain people were giving me money, then they weren't. I was in the club (in my mind), then I wasn't. It was a humbling experience, and a painful one, but ultimately enlightening. Blinders were removed -- blinders I think some of our fellow writers are still wearing.

Nirmala said...

I hope it works out better for them than Bookish did...

Yes, I am not sure if the new improved Harper Collins website is enough to get anyone to change their buying habits.

Anonymous said...

Checked Alexa.com.

The new improved Harper Collins website has fewer visitors than ThePassiveVoice.com.

Anyone hoping for it to be a game-changer... don't hold your breath.

Renee Pawlish said...

The problem with authors who argue that "I can make plenty of money selling books under $5" is missing a very important point. At any point, Amazon can change the royalties they pay you.
Will you still be singing the same song if Amazon corners the market, drops book prices, AND drops author royalties to 15% (or pick a number, but one that is significantly lower than the 70% you're getting now for a $5 book).
Don't think they can't, or won't. They cut the royalties on ACX, and if you factor in the Whispersync discount, the author doesn't make much at all.
Do the big publishers care about you? No. But neither does Amazon. Amazon is out to make money, and they don't care what SP authors make, they care about what they make.

Nirmala said...

I just noticed that Harper Collins is discounting the ebooks on their own site. If they are interested in returning to Agency Pricing with no discounting for ebooks, doesn't this kind of undercut their position?

Anonymous said...

Wanna more perspective on the prospects for HarperCollins.com's direct-sales site?

They get less traffic than Joe and Hugh's blogs together do.

The two of you could open a joint store together and outsell them ;)

A. J. Abbiati said...

Interesting tidbit:

Timothy Stenovec at the Huffpost wrote a rather one-sided, anti-Amazon article this morning. After I pointed this out to him via email, he modified the article to be more informative and less biased-appearing, adding a paragraph about Hugh, Joe, Barry and their (our) counter petition.

Kudos to Tim for making the correction.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/amazon-hachette_n_5568659.html

--Jim

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Blinders were removed -- blinders I think some of our fellow writers are still wearing.

Most definitely. I wore blinders, too, at the time you speak of. And for a couple years after that as well. When my friends first started going indie, I thought they had lost their minds.

Then I saw what it meant to be indie and I couldn't wait to be done with my latest contract to join them. It's not so much about money (although that's nice), but about control. I so much prefer having control over my work and how it's presented to the world.

I drank the Koolaid for far too long.

Suzan Harden said...

@Renee Pawlish

That meme is older than my paternal grandmother. Amazon is simply one of MANY retailers where I sell book. In fact, I had more income out of Sony than I did Amazon before Sony closed up shop. But even if Amazon lowered the retail split (and yes, it's a retail split, not royalties) to 50%, I'd still make more per unit on a $2.99 e-book than my friends who have Hatchette contracts.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I hope it works out better for them than Bookish did...

I have my doubts. The business plan seems to work on the notion that people actually shop based on publishing house. I really think publishers believe that readers know who publishes their favorite authors. And with the possible exception of Harlequin, that's absurd.

They'll be able to move a lot of their megastar books, but the rest—not so much. Just my opinion.

I could be wrong.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't think I deserve any credit for changing my perspective.

I'll politely disagree.

Having your blinders removed doesn't mean you'll naturally go down a certain path. It still takes bravery. It still takes a change of mind. I know legacy authors who have gotten burned, and then said, "Please, sir, may I have another?"

You remember me when I was "rah rah go Hyperion!" It wasn't easy to do a 180. It took a lot.

Joe Konrath said...

At any point, Amazon can change the royalties they pay you.

At any point, the super volcano brewing deep beneath the southwestern US could go caldera and wipe out everyone in 15 states, along with shooting enough soot into the sky to bring about another ice age.

And then, zombies could come.

But until then, I think I'll stay in KDP.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Will you still be singing the same song if Amazon corners the market, drops book prices, AND drops author royalties to 15% (or pick a number, but one that is significantly lower than the 70% you're getting now for a $5 book).

I'm shaking in my boots. Oh, my God, this is such sound reasoning, I'm thinking I should close up shop right now.

Except it's a ridiculous argument. First, it isn't a royalty. We are suppliers and Amazon is our retailer/distributor. We pay a 30% distribution fee, just like any other supplier.

If Amazon's fee gets too lopsided in their favor, the suppliers will look for other venues to replace them.

But even if those terms change we'll still be making more than we would with traditional publishers, and we'll still have ownership and control of our work.

Joe Konrath said...

I drank the Koolaid for far too long.

We all did. But someone had to go first. By way of luck, it was me.

Steve Hockensmith said...

I drank the Koolaid for far too long

Well, the thing about that particular Koolaid is that it can be pretty sweet so long as someone keeps serving it to you. Not everyone's going to notice all the dead bugs floating in it and the aftertaste of bitter almond.....

Anonymous said...

Joe - Much better post than the previous one to Chuck. I really like your intelligent dismantling of stuff, but definitely prefer it without personal attacks. (Humorous attacks on content are always fair game, of course.)

Anonymous said...

@Renee Pawlish

Lots of 'what if' monkeys.

Firstly Amazons competitors aren't the BigPub. It's competitors are B&N, Apple Kobo etc.

Secondly *if* Amazon corners the market and drops the retail split to say 10%, then you REALLY won't be wanting a 12% of net Legacy Pub contract (12% of 10%, less 'expenses' . . . hmmm).

And even at 10% you'll still be doing better than most trad pub writers do now + keep your IP.

So what's your point again?

Shelley said...

Renee, 15%? I've seen people say that Amazon will drop to 50% or go back to their original 35%, as if worry about that happening matters in the now, but this is the first time I've seen someone say 15%. It's such a fear-mongering statement, like we should be happy to have it stuck to us by other corporations now based on something that could happen in the future, with that thing exaggerated more and more by those who want people to worry. Why stop at 15%? Why not worry about Amazon dropping royalties to zero, demanding authors pay them a stipend on top of that, and also eating our children?

But if you want to be serious about the 15%, a lot of self-published people would be making 15% more than if they kept querying publishing houses and got nothing.

Nirmala said...

And besides, Amazon could raise our share to 100% and give us all a free pony. That actually worries me more, because what the hell am I going to do with a pony!

Travis said...

"We all did. But someone had to go first. By way of luck, it was me."

First? No.

Loudest and most insistent? Definitely.

Joe Konrath said...

First? No.

Are you sure? :)

First legacy author to put unsold backlist up on DTP?

First one to share self-publishing numbers and sales figures?

First one to buy my rights back from two publishers to self publish?

First name author to turn down a legacy deal to sign with Amazon?

First one to hire lawyers to get my legacy rights back and self publish?

I remember asking Boyd Morrison about Kindle in March of 2009. He wasn't a legacy author, but I saw what he was doing and asked him how I could do it.

If you know of a legacy author who self pubbed on Kindle before me, who abandoned their legacy career before me, I'd be curious to hear who it is.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

If you know of a legacy author who self pubbed on Kindle before me, who abandoned their legacy career before me, I'd be curious to hear who it is.

I believe Reginald T. Bartlefubb did it back in 1962, after he was unceremoniously dumped by Prancer Books when his mystery, Farts of a Deadman—A Gaseous Tale of Intrigue, tanked.

Joe Konrath said...

Farts of a Deadman—A Gaseous Tale of Intrigue, tanked.

Well, that's obvious.

His book stinks.

Mark Edward Hall said...

@Renee Pawlish

Renee, after seeing your post I checked your Amazon page and noticed that quite a few of your books appear to be independent. As a matter of fact, one seems to be permanently free.

If you're so worried about Amazon becoming the big bad wolf and eating indies for lunch, why don't you pursue traditional deals for those independent books? Or even better, why don't you just pull them from Amazon and sell them elsewhere?

I'm not trying to be confrontational, I'm just trying to understand. Why would you badmouth a company that is obviously making you money by selling your books?

Is it a case of paranoia, or do you honestly hate Amazon?

By the way, congratulations on your success.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

His book stinks.

LOL.

Terrence OBrien said...

The problem with authors who argue that "I can make plenty of money selling books under $5" is missing a very important point. At any point, Amazon can change the royalties they pay you.

Good point, and it deserves a fair hearing.

Anyone remember Bezos saying, "Your margin is my opportunity."

If Amazon lowers royalties to 15%, it significantly increases its margin. That makes Amazon's margin some other guy's opportunity.

Think Amazon considers its margin immune?

Dana Stabenow said...

Will you still be singing the same song if Amazon corners the market, drops book prices, AND drops author royalties to 15% (or pick a number, but one that is significantly lower than the 70% you're getting now for a $5 book).

Everyone here knows that Jeff Bezos' wife is an author, right?

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Hatchette/Amazon fight because it makes both companies look like exactly what they are, without all the pretty dressing up. They both want to make money. Amazon wants to make money, has never apologized for it, and knows exactly how to do so-- by offering goods as cheaply as possible and delivering them as quickly as possible to those who want them. They have given a whole lot of authors an opportunity to realize their dreams. Without the Kindle, small publishers such as the one I work for, wouldn't have a chance. Before the Kindle, when bookstores turned up their noses at our books, Amazon listed them without hesitation. I cannot understand why any author would side with Hatchette in a dispute against Amazon. Hatchette is not and never has been on the side of authors, despite their fake assurances. Amazon, although it is all about money, doesn't apologize for it, and provides the little guy with a level playing ground in the publishing industry. So it's not who is on the side of authors-- it is who's business practices allow the most people to ride the tail to greater profitability. It never has been or never will be the Big 6.

Daniel Barnett said...

First post here after lurking for a long time, so I feel the need to say thank you, Joe. If it wasn't for your insight on this blog, I would probably still be stressing over query letters. Or worse, handcuffed into a terrible contract.

I'm a horror author, and I was told by one kind agent--the only one who responded to my query personally--that my story sounded intriguing, but publishing houses weren't even considering horror from first-time authors.

Now, the story I had submitted (my second novel) wasn't good enough for acceptance I decided, which is why I put it in my trunk and wrote a third and fourth, but if I couldn't even get someone to LOOK at my story based off the genre alone, it really begged the question: why was I submitting in the first place?

The publishing houses, these so called "sifters," are out there disregarding potentially wonderful works based off current fads. And yet they claim they're protecting literature? Upholding it somehow? It boggles the mind.

I have a lot of sympathy for the authors caught up with them, even if they look down on me for self-publishing, and I understand not wanting to or being capable of speaking out against your publishers, but to speak out against Amazon here just doesn't make any sense. Sure they're acting for PR (as if Hachette isn't.). But they are offering tangible benefits, and right now, at this moment, for authors hurt by the dispute. So if you're somebody like Preston, who's self-admittedly a part of the 1% within the authors under Hachette, then no, this deal isn't for you. It might benefit you. But it isn't for you. It's for those authors that don't get the big advances, that are living check to check, and struggling. Why not let them benefit for a couple of months, send a check of your cut to your publishers and agents if you're morally obliged, and simply keep quiet on the subject? You're paying the bills either way.

It's like trying to stop someone's disability check from coming in, because you can walk just fine.

I also agree with Hugh Howey's thought that there should be an anonymous voting system for Hachette authors.

Anonymous said...

I've got a case of the Shatz. Mike has his latest (predictable) post up trying to discredit Amazon's offer. (If the offer is such a phony PR stunt, why not just call the bluff and take it?) The old standby came out in Shatz post, that authors get paid (such apparently huge) advances that are not intended to earn out that only Hachette would be hurt by the temporary compromise.

Where are all these big advances, anyway? Last I heard the average was 5 grand. Which would probably earn out easily if the authors weren't given such a tiny cut of the royalty take in the first place.

Anyway, I can't help wondering, if Shatz is right and the authors have basically already gotten every penny they were ever going to get from their books through the advance, why are so many authors saying that this is hurting them? Either he is wrong or they are misrepresenting the situation completely. Actually, I'm pretty sure both of those are the case.

P. S. Power said...

Wait a minute Joe...

If th eoffer was to the authors, who don't own their own work, one suspects, then the offer wasn't really to them at all.

Just shown to them, so that Amazon could score points.

Knowing that Hatchet wouldn't support that kind of thing.

Meaning that Amazon knew that it wouldn't be taken up, therefore not real.(Yes, agreed, if their bluff was called, they would have backed it, I get that. Even if it cost them a lot of money to do it, which it wouldn't, since it would just reroute the payment chain. They still didn't think it would happen at all. Amazon isn't filled with stupid people.)

Don't piss up my leg, and tell me the waterfall is broken.

:)

Daniel Barnett said...

Let me edit my analogy there.

It's like trying to prevent a hungry person from getting a good meal because you've already eaten.

Anonymous said...

Another thing about Amazon... this fear-mongering about how they are going to drop the price to nothing and cut royalties... Has everyone forgotten what the indie revolution is in the process of proving? That only readers and authors are needed? Yes, of course, a distribution network helps, but Amazon is not the internet. They hold the lions share because of generally good behavior. But if they force you to drop your ebook price to a buck and then offer you 10 percent of that, writers en mass can and should flip them off and put their books up everywhere else but amazon. They have to have a product to sell, and if the only books left on their site are the musings of idiots then the readers (who are smart, by the way), will say, "Yeah, Amazon used to be cool, but they suck now." - and go buy their books somewhere else. Just like the publishers, they NEED the product you provide. No matter how big of a player they are, they will fall on their face in the publishing space if they don't have marketable product. Kobo and iTunes, etc, will take all those disappointed customers, and if they screw with authors they too, can be left. The internet is a big place, and epub/mobi files can be generated from any laptop with ease. Howey's idea about an author union is sounding more and more interesting in this context though...

Joe Konrath said...

if Shatz is right and the authors have basically already gotten every penny they were ever going to get from their books through the advance, why are so many authors saying that this is hurting them?

That is a terrific observation. Did you mention it on his site?

Laura Resnick said...

I'm willing to change my mind about the Amazon-Hachette negotiation, but so far, no evidence has emerged to convince me to do so. My position is that these are two big corporations arguing over their profit margins, neither of them is on MY side, so I'm not on either of their sides. Because out of all the leaks and statements, rumors and speculation, surrounding this negotiation, here's what NO ONE is saying or suggesting is on the table in that negotiation: How to allocate a bigger share of ebook revenue to Hachette writers.

And since "writers getting a bigger share" is the side –I- am on, I'm not on either of THEIR sides—and I'm actively AGAINST both of them if the various rumors are true which say that Amazon wants a bigger cut of the revenue (that means a still-smaller cut for the writers) and Hachette wants higher ebook prices (bad for writers' sales) or to keep the existing revenue split with Amazon (which I interpret as an intention to maintain the status quo with royalty rates, too).

Do I like the proposal Amazon made yesterday? You bet I do! But do I think they're proposing in =negotiations for the new distribution deal= that authors get paid more? No. So the proposal, though I like it and I like Amazon for it (I also like the win-win shrewdness of it, and I dislike Hachette's weak, petulant, and disingenuous response to it) doesn’t affect my view of the negotiations—which is that there is nothing good in it for me (using a generic"me" here), the traditionally published author. So I'm not taking sides, because nothing is happening in that negotiation is on MY side.

Meanwhile, after reading Amazon's accusation yesterday that Hachette has dragged its heels and gone months at a time without responding, even AFTER the old deal expired and then the extention expired, and then reading Hachette's denial in which it was clear, even in THEIR OWN version of the story, they're going months without responding and seem to be killing time... I find the theory you and William floated here yesterday, that this whole saga is actually the story of Hachette stalling for time until the court order expires in September... a very persuasive theory.


Joe Konrath said...

If the offer was to the authors, who don't own their own work, one suspects, then the offer wasn't really to them at all.

Amazon sent the offer to several Hachette authors to get their opinion on it before they sent it to Hachette.

Did Amazon leak it to the media? Or did some author run to the media and Hachette? I dunno.

But the offer is sincere. Amazon would make good on it.

Did Amazon know Hachette wouldn't go for it? You never know until you try. Macmillan apparently went for the 50% offer back during their dispute, so there is precedent.

Then, Macmillan was colluding to push the agency model on Amazon, which Amazon was forced to accept. Now, Hachette is holding out to try and push agency again. If they fold, it is unlikely any publisher will be able to control ebook prices again. So they probably can't accept any offer less than agency without discounting (right now it is agency with discounting allowed).

The real question is: With a thriving indie writing community, and multitudes of small publishers, does Amazon need Hachette? Will customers buy less on Amazon because they can't get the new Patterson or Preston?

I'd say no. There are plenty of other things to read on Kindle.

But we'll see.

Anonymous said...

"The theory is that once Amazon controls prices, they will keep lowering them until all prices are well below 5.00 per book and nobody including Indies will be able to earn a living from writing."

The reality is that the vast majority of people who want to write can't really earn a living from writing fiction. Ebooks and things like KDP at least make it possible for a lot of writers to earn some money from fiction.

I've been a writer all my life, tech writing, journalism, etc., and made a living at it, but it's really cool to publish an ebook of fiction and sell 40 copies in a month and make $100. It's not much but it's still cool! And if I keep doing it I have a chance of maybe someday selling 200 books in a month and making $1000, and how cool is that!

I am grateful for Amazon for the possibilities they have created, and yeah, a bit wary of them too. Mostly grateful.

Joshua Simcox said...

"If you're going to be a whiny self-serving hypocrite who publicly fights to hurt less-rich authors, Doug, you don't deserve my money."

I can't imagine that hurting you or any other author is high on Preston's list of priorities, Anon.

"I anonymously sent those authors $5 by PayPal, along with a note explaining what I had done and why. But in this case, I'm sending Doug nothing. Think of it as asshole tax."

*sighs*

"Bottom line: don't irritate your readers."

You do every day, Joe. And you still make bank. (I kid!) ;)

"I don't think the writers who signed Preston's letter see Indies as fellow writers, they see us as riff raff. Many of Preston's writers are elitist. They believe they're special because a publishing company approved of them. They base their self worth on it and that belief depends on demonizing Indie writers."

Bold statements, Amy, and you're assuming things you can't possibly know. I don't know how Preston himself feels about indie writers in general, but Joe Finder signed the petition, and he has had a number of positive things to say about digital self-publishing. I'm sure he isn't the only one.

"When the dinosaur publishing houses fall, writers like Douglas Preston are still going to sell books because he writes stories that people want to read..."

I agree, Bonnie. His readers aren't going anywhere, regardless of Anon's "asshole tax".

"Then he's going to find out he controls his content and his cover art and his release schedule and his marketing, and he's going to say: "Why didn't anyone tell me about this?" And we'll chuckle."

I hope so. His readers would certainly benefit. Preston's publisher isn't doing right by him, but I can understand why he feels differently. If I were in his shoes, I'd also be hesitant not to back the horse that's putting my books in every Wal-Mart and CVS in the country. But I hope his perspective changes. If the traditional publishing world crumbles, it'll have to.

- Joshua

Nirmala said...

Anonymous said: The old standby came out in Shatz post, that authors get paid (such apparently huge) advances that are not intended to earn out that only Hachette would be hurt by the temporary compromise.

I just posted this simple solution as a comment on Shatzkin's site:

There is an easy solution to your objection to Amazon's offer. If Hachette agrees to give 100% of the ebook receipts to authors, Amazon can then still pay the money to Hachette. Then if an author has an advance that has not earned out, Hachette keeps the money, but applies the full 100% to the paying down of the advance. And if an author has earned out their advance, then Hachette would just pass the full 100% along to the authors. Once the dispute is settled, then of course everything would return to normal.

Simple to do the math and put the money where it needs to go, and probably legal if Hachette actually cared enough about their authors to accept Amazon's offer. I am sure authors who have received an advance would think this was fair as it still moves them that much more quickly towards the day when their advance is earned out and they start earning royalties again.

Joe Konrath said...

My position is that these are two big corporations arguing over their profit margins, neither of them is on MY side, so I'm not on either of their sides

Neither are on my side either, Laura. But I see Hachette acting badly, and I built this blog explaining the publishing business to newbies, so I feel the need to explain the situation so they can make informed decisions.

As the saying goes, the only thing needed for bad people to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
I'm not a woman, but I'm pro choice and support that. I'm not gay, but I support gay marriage.

if the various rumors are true which say that Amazon wants a bigger cut of the revenue

So was it okay that Hachette and others colluded to force the agency model on Amazon and make them accept a smaller cut of the revenue? By all accounts, Amazon's wholesale cut with publishers before agency for 40% to 50%. Now it's 30%. If Amazon wants to go back to the old deal--you know, the ones before the illegal collusion--why shouldn't that be allowed?

So the proposal, though I like it and I like Amazon for it (I also like the win-win shrewdness of it, and I dislike Hachette's weak, petulant, and disingenuous response to it) doesn’t affect my view of the negotiations

The proposal will mitigate the harm now being done to Hachette authors. As for the long term, Amazon has no contract with those authors. Hachette does. Amazon isn't to blame for those authors accepting 25% of net and trusting Hachette to do well by them.

I do understand your position. Isolationism makes sense. Pre-WWI, the US wanted to stay out of it, because it because there was nothing good in it for us. Pre-WWII, same thing.

Then we switched from isolationism to being the world police, and we've hurt a lot of people doing so. Maybe we've also helped a lot. But I see the allure of pulling all of our troops out of everywhere and letting the world run itself because it's none of our business.

There's nothing wrong with not caring about something that doesn't involve you directly.

But I keep blogging anyway. ;)

Joe Konrath said...

I just posted this simple solution as a comment on Shatzkin's site

That's like asking a color blind person to find the red 6 in the green dots.

The 6 exists, but they'll never be able to see it.

Silas Payton said...

Daniel,

I didn't see Hugh's comment about Hatchet allowing their authors to vote on the Amazon deal, but I can't see that ever happening. The authors are the pawns in this battle. Hatchet is gambling that there is enough anti-amazon sentiment to ride this out awhile. The general public is easily swayed to be against the big and powerful. Although both these are big, I'm willing to bet most people don't know much about Hatchet and are less sympathetic to Amazon because of its size and power. They will continue to drag this out as long as the public doesn't turn against them. It's possible that if enough Hatchet authors spoke out, they might speed up the process, but I doubt it.

The author's contracts are held by Hatchet and unless there is a clause about Hatchet not not acting in the best interests of the authors (which I doubt there is), they are free to do as they wish.


@Laura Resnick,

It's hard to backtrack but try. It's more fun on the Dark Side.


@Renee,
I don't mean to jump on the bandwagon here, but really? You can almost instantly change platforms to a different distributor if Amazon pisses you off. I don't believe Amazon would want to lose its self-pub authors based on Hugh's numbers...Amazon is doing okay by SP's. But if they did, there are currently other platforms and there will be more in the future. Amazon is not the final chapter in this ebook story, they're just the best right now.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I'm actively AGAINST both of them if the various rumors are true which say that Amazon wants a bigger cut of the revenue (that means a still-smaller cut for the writers)

Well, Hachette COULD raise their royalties to their authors and take less itself to compensate for it all. There is that.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

The general public is easily swayed to be against the big and powerful.

I'd wager the general public either doesn't know or doesn't give a flying rat's ass about any of this. If they did, Walmart would be bankrupt by now and so would dozens of other big and powerful retailers.

The general public wants good merchandise for lower prices. And that's the bottom line. A couple of titans battling it out over who gets a bigger slice of the pie means nothing to them.

Silas Payton said...

Joe,

There too much talk of you not blogging anymore. You're starting to freak me out. What the Hell would I do with the little free time I have, if I didn't have your blog to read, to laugh at, to get informed with and get agitated about?

Silas Payton said...

Rob,

Although I agree that most of the general public doesn't know or give a rats ass about this, but how do you explain what appears to be an active campaign against Amazon on this issue?

I wasn't suggesting Amazon or Walmart are likely to fold because they are big. I was saying that in my unscientific opinion, it is easier to sway the general opinion against the big recognizable corporate power, in this case Amazon, than against a publishing company that most have never heard of.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Although I agree that most of the general public doesn't know or give a rats ass about this, but how do you explain what appears to be an active campaign against Amazon on this issue?

Not sure why you have to ask that question. Either Hachette or those who are beholden to it or the status quo are waging one. Which is why we get b.s. instead of logic and facts from their side.

Laura Resnick said...

"There's nothing wrong with not caring about something that doesn't involve you directly."

Wrong on both counts, Joe.

Of course I care. Not taking a side in a situation where there isn't a valid side to take is not synonymous with not caring about the situation.

And it does involve me. I've got a bunch of ebooks at Amazon that are traditionally published, and I have more traditionally published books under contract that will be sold to readers via Amazon after their written and released. No, I don't write for Hachette (I can't; Hachette won't deal with unagented authors, and I won't deal with a corporation that insists I must donate 15% of my income to a literary agent), but all the buzz insists that whatever the result of these negotiations is, it will affect the remaining publishing corporations lined up to negotiate with Amazon--including the one that distributes my traditionally published books.

Indiana Jim said...

Headline: Amazon Drops Author Payments to 15%; Nook Suddenly Not Dead

Joe Konrath said...

but all the buzz insists that whatever the result of these negotiations is, it will affect the remaining publishing corporations lined up to negotiate with Amazon--including the one that distributes my traditionally published books.

That will probably be the case.

Not a good spot to be in, and I sympathize.

Klawzie said...

I hope you continue to blog (as long as it doesn't affect your writing, family, or personal time).

I adore Hugh Howey, Passive Guy, David Gaughran; etc, but the more voices and perspectives there are out there, the better.

Each person in this world is affected by their own perspective and experiences. They have their own way of saying things. They can reach different people and that's always a good thing.

Hugh Howey is an empathetic dollbaby and his enthusiasm can be contagious. Passive Guy has such an understated, dry humor and is very insightful. David Gauhran regularly puts reporters to shame with his ability to collect data and present it with the dots neatly collected. I'd miss any of them if they decided to close up shop. I miss Kris Rusch's perspective for that very reason.

But there's no one out there who can put things quite the way you do. Sometimes you need someone who will mock the kings as well as the fools. To use acid to scour, to use bluntness, and down to earth, even earthy, common sense and humor to make your points.

I'm not buttering you up or anything. I don't always agree with you and sometimes I do feel the way you've put things will close more ears than the number of eyes they open. But I wouldn't trade you for anyone.

Laura Resnick said...

Not in need of sympathy.

Not convinced any other writers are, either.

It's a big wide world full of options. I like my publisher and I like doing business with them. But if this doesn't work out, it certainly won't be the first time for me (it'll just be the first time things didn't work out with a publisher I -like-). And unlike all the other times, there are lots of options and opportunities these days--for every writer.


Amazon is the source of a lot of those options and opportunities, which I appreciate.

But that doesn't mean I'm =in favor of= them taking a bigger cut of the ebook revenue of my traditionally published books.

Joe asked: "If Amazon wants to go back to the old deal--you know, the ones before the illegal collusion--why shouldn't that be allowed?"

You're seeing this from Amazon's point of view, whereas I'm seeing it from mine. I've never said that it shouldn't be allowed. I've said that a bigger cut of revenue for Amazon on my traditionally ebooks would mean a smaller cut for me--and I'm not in favor of any position that reduces my income in order to increase the income of a corporation.


That does not mean, as you have suggested, that I am am therefore in favor of collusive price-fixing and those who engage in it. It is actually possible NOT to be in favor of EITHER of two bad things, rather than having to pick one of them to like.

Laura Resnick said...

And now I'm vowing to get offline for a few days, because I have just left a post on Shatzkin's blog, and OHMYGOD, why didn't someone do an intervention before I reached this point, I need help, how did I spiral this far out of control!!!!????

Joe Konrath said...

You're seeing this from Amazon's point of view, whereas I'm seeing it from mine.

I'm seeing it from an impartial point of view.

If Amazon were wrong in this negotiation, I'd call it that way. I've done so before.

I came out against the agency model before there was a DOJ suit, because authors were making less money because of it.

Right now, I think I've presented a good case that Hachette is the one harming authors, and wants to raise ebook prices which will harm authors and readers. That's why I'm backing Amazon.

No one knows the terms of the negotiation, but there is a chance authors could make more money if Amazon wins. If it's about coop and placement dollars, or a percentage of sales thresholds, Hachette could go back to its old wholesale pricing structure, which was better for authors.

If not, there's always the option of hiring a lawyer to get your rights back. :)

Joe Konrath said...

OHMYGOD, why didn't someone do an intervention before I reached this point

I call Eisler when I need an intervention, and the bastard usually winds up joining me to fisk.

Laura Resnick said...

(head desk)


I deserve no ice cream.

Anonymous said...

Laura, the reason this may cut into your earnings is because your contract for ebooks gives you a percentage of net, not list.

If you got a percentage of list, it wouldn't matter how the pie between publisher and retailer was cut.

All my trad contracts give me a percentage of list for hardcover and paper, and a percentage of net for ebooks.

the problem is in the contract between us and the publishers.

Mir Writes said...

~~the problem is in the contract between us and the publishers~~

Which is why instead of hammering Amazon, all those authors should be looking at their contracts and demanding something better for their NEXT books... The problem is between them and their publishers, not Amazon. And if Hachette gave a damn about their authors, they would have promised them from the start of their non-negotiating that they would make sure they were recompensed, period, for their own foot-dragging.

September cometh.

And I still hope Bezos announces 75% for all ebooks in KDP from 99 cents to 9.99. A juicy finger shot at Big 5 and iBooks.

I want them to do that so bad...

Liz Borino said...

Mir, that would affect EVERYONE, not just the Big 5. Why Should indies be hurt by this?

Alan Spade said...
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Alan Spade said...

"And I still hope Bezos announces 75% for all ebooks in KDP from 99 cents to 9.99. A juicy finger shot at Big 5 and iBooks.

I want them to do that so bad..."

I, too, Mir Whites


"the problem is in the contract between us and the publishers." Anon couldn't be more right.

Laura's stance makes me thing of somebody who would want a war with no collateral damage. Or, no war at all. The status quo.

But what is the status quo? It is big companies extorting money from authors with horrible contracts (often with the help of literary agents). More and more money. More and more power to these publishing companies who keep exploiting authors.

It is not as if they weren't any other options for authors, once they get rid of these evil companies.

So, yes, Amazon is here for the money. Yes, they might lower royalties to authors if there are no more big publishing companies. But the numeric field is not the material field of yesterday. When you base your decisions on fear, fear of the future, fear of what will happen if..., those are always bad decisions.

Joe said it better than me: "You don't worry about the wolf that might eat you someday when there is a lion currently feasting on your leg."

Sorry, but the best way to get rid of the lion is in this case to side with Amazon, to offer a different point of view than what we see in the news.

Alan Spade said...

"There is an easy solution to your objection to Amazon's offer. If Hachette agrees to give 100% of the ebook receipts to authors, Amazon can then still pay the money to Hachette. Then if an author has an advance that has not earned out, Hachette keeps the money, but applies the full 100% to the paying down of the advance. And if an author has earned out their advance, then Hachette would just pass the full 100% along to the authors. Once the dispute is settled, then of course everything would return to normal."

Excellent proposal, Nirmala.

Very reasonable. And if that doesn't appear to be reasonable to Shatzkin and other s who follow him, it's because they are too accustomed to see authors screwed. To see authors being screwed has become a cultural thing.

Alan Spade said...
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Alan Spade said...

And here's Shatzkin's answer: "Fraught with legal complications, I'd say. And that's not the offer Amazon made. It's not worth tackling it theoretically unless they do."

Really, he wouldn't speak differently if he were Hachette's spokesperson.

A.G. Claymore said...

Anonymous, if you're downloading Preston's books for free, you could clean up your karma by donating 15.43 to charity :-)
Just send him an email telling him how you took his letter to heart and you've decided to donate the money to a school library...

Daniel Knight said...

Shatzkin’s go-to argument these days is the idea of unearned advances. It seems flawed in a number of ways but maybe I’m wrong about some of these (Joe maybe you can chime in with your inside knowledge to let me know if I’m not understanding advances correctly).

First off, don’t publishers determine advances largely based on what they expect to sell – so that they are hoping that advances will earn out. And in most cases if those advances don’t earn out in a certain amount of time (or come close) – doesn’t this make it much less likely that the author will get a follow-up contract with the publisher (or any publisher)?

Next of course is the dramatic change in how books are sold now. It used to be that authors had a limited window to sell books at physical bookstores before their titles were pulled from shelves. In that scenario it is easy to see how sales per day/month/or whatever unit of time can drop to zero. However, in this new world of publishing books can continue to sell (especially ebooks) forever so that the time scale to earn out an advance is a really long time. If a writers sales/per unit of time did drop to such a low number that it would take too long to earn out their advance – what is their real chance of getting another contract with a publisher?

And of course, if royalties were higher – advances would earn out much faster. Shatzkin quoted one of his anonymous sources as saying that they calculated the “real” royalty rate for most of their books comes out to about 40%. Okay, well that is still a lot lower than the 70% indies get through Amazon. It also suggests that there is a hard cut-off beyond which books don’t continue to sell. If they do continue to sell, then that “effective royalty” rate will just keep going down – until the advance is earned out.

T. M. Bilderback said...
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Mark Edward Hall said...

"Shatzkin quoted one of his anonymous sources as saying that they calculated the “real” royalty rate for most of their books comes out to about 40%. Okay, well that is still a lot lower than the 70% indies get through Amazon"

I believe the 40% Shatzkin quoted was 40% of net. That's what the publisher of three of my books pays me and it actually figures out to somewhere south of 20% of the list price of the book. Peanuts when you figure I get 70% from my independent titles.

When I signed contracts for those three books I didn't really have a good understanding of what I was signing. A mistake a lot of newbies make.

My advice is make sure you know what your signing before jumping in.

Daniel Knight said...

Wow - I'm shocked. I actually got Shatzkin to concede not one - but two points.

In reference to Hatchette authors benefiting from the Amazon deal, he originally wrote: "And most of their authors, if they were honest, would admit they couldn’t benefit so much from it either." I suggested that from what you wrote in his comments he actually meant he thinks they "shouldn't" benefit because he thinks it would not me moral and/or legal.

I also pointed out that if Hatchette agreed to the deal then that would remove all moral and legal objections - and he agreed to that point as well.

Shatzkin agreeing he was wrong and actually accepting sound logic - we should probably all keep our eyes open for other signs of the Apocalypse.

T. M. Bilderback said...
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Daniel Barnett said...

Silas,

I agree--authors are the pawns and the likelihood of an anonymous poll is next to none. It would have to be an anonymous poll for the whole internet which Hachette authors could join. Otherwise I don't see how they could participate and still maintain their anonymity. That being said, I'm sure the outcome of the poll wouldn't affect anything. But it would be wonderful to hear from them in a setting where they felt safe to speak their opinions.

Renee Pawlish said...

@Mark Edward Hall
How did I badmouth Amazon? And where did I say I was "worried" or that I "hate" them?
I stated that Amazon can change what it pays authors, just like any other platform can, and I gave an example. No paranoia or hate.

Amy Eyrie said...

Joshua—

Yeah, it is a bold statement. But I said "many" of the writers are elitist, not "all."

I worked in publishing a long time. I worked at publishing houses and magazines as both an editor and a publicist, so I speak from experience when I say that traditional publishing has created a system that is not welcoming to new writers.

Although Preston's letter states that no writer should be boycotted, he is talking about writers ordained by a publishing house. Indie authors are blacklisted every day and to my knowledge, no traditional author has even broached the topic. Amazon's publishing imprints are blacklisted which is just bizarre.

Even when Preston could have addressed the point fairly with Hugh Howey, he did not take the opportunity as you can see in the Bloomberg TV video below. Preston complains about "new" authors being punished with no pre-sale button and when Hugh Howey points out that he doesn't have a pre-sale button and that he is virtually blacklisted, Preston says nothing.

The letter these writers signed is hypocritical and uninformed. I hope the blowback educates them.

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/authors-weigh-in-on-amazon-hachette-feud-uXNXYP8~TCqlu8HDl9d~TA.html

And Steve Hockensmith, your caddyshack reference cracked me up :)

Rob Gregory Browne said...

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/authors-weigh-in-on-amazon-hachette-feud-uXNXYP8~TCqlu8HDl9d~TA.html

I love the nonbiased reporting. Howey gets about twenty seconds and Preston is allowed to speak first, last and pretty much uses up the majority of the time while completely ignoring every point Howey made.