Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
I’ve been standing on the sidelines watching the Hachette vs. Amazon kerfuffle unfurl. I don’t exactly have a horse in the race yet, but since I plan to self-publish one day, this is news worth noticing. It could change the publishing landscape, and that’s the future we’ll all have to live in.
The best summary I have seen about the Hachette-Amazon contract negotiations, complete with lots of links, is on E. Nathan Sisk’s site. I was also impressed with the cautionary tale shared by David Gaughran. Check ’em out and form your own opinions.
I did enjoy Chris Meadows’s comment here and want to share it verbatim:
Both Amazon and Hachette are invested in getting Hachette books to customers, because that’s how they both make their money. And anything that either one of them does that keeps Hachette books from getting to customers hurts them both and they both know it. If Amazon loses Hachette books, it’s just lost a big chunk of what customers go there for, and if Hachette loses Amazon distribution it’s just lost 20% of its paper sales and at least 60% of its e-book sales. It just comes down to how much money each of them should make.
Frankly, the real failures of this process are the contract negotiators at both Hachette and Amazon. Maybe it’s because I’m a global contract manager (for a different industry) and negotiate deals and service contracts every day, but letting this get to the point where customers are affected feels tacky to me. Late last year things were going wrong. Why did it have to go so long and get so bad that customers (both readers and writers) were negatively impacted?
Each side wants to have the best deal possible (duh, this is business after all), but I believe that both companies still want to have a business relationship together. There is always a sticking point during contract negotiations. It is how you deal with it, hopefully efficiently and effectively, that will determine your level of success.
I’m not sure the reasons why Hachette has been squirrelly since November in their orders fulfillment, but Amazon could have a reason for removing the buy button for Hachette books on their website. Maybe the contract has expired completely. If there was not a contract extension, it is possible that Amazon does not have an agreement to sell the publisher’s booklist at this time. I don’t know, and I’m not trying to defend Amazon, but I do want to offer another reason for their actions. It certainly could be strong arm tactics, but neither side has commented on much of anything, so everyone is on the outside looking in.
Finally, I would like to mention Kristin Lamb’s comments at the bottom of this post regarding Amazon’s strong arm tactics. Everyone has come to rely on Amazon a great deal in the publishing industry, whether you are a writer, a publisher, or a reader. I’m not encouraging people to be paranoid, but we should be aware that “he who has the distribution channels has the power” at this stage of the e-publishing game.