Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Hachette vs. Amazon. Ready?? Fight!!

CupI’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.

QuartI’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.

9 comments on “Hachette vs. Amazon. Ready?? Fight!!

  1. mrschmoe
    May 27, 2014

    Sounds like a possible pissing match between Amazon and Hachette. I plan to either published or indie pubbed author one of these days.
    As the saying goes, it all comes down to the bottom line aka money

    • tracycembor
      May 29, 2014

      I’m sure it is no fun for all the authors that have deals with Hachette right now, but that’s a trade off for working with one of the Big Five. You have to sacrifice flexibility for (hopefully) the editing and other services they provide.

  2. Gus Sanchez
    May 27, 2014

    Having had a little more insight on the Amazon way – my wife recently interviewed for a senior management role with Amazon, and she’s still being considered for a HR director role in one of their distribution centers outside of Atlanta – the impression we got was, “Whatever Jeff Bezos wants, Jeff Bezos gets.” And if that means he has to burn a distribution agreement to ashes to come out as the winner, he’ll do it, even if it means getting little in return, because Bezos needs to demonstrate that he “won” in the end. It’s all about winning with him.

    • tracycembor
      May 29, 2014

      This sounds a bit like “Rawr, Hulk smash!” It is possible that this is the case. The negotiation team could have let this come to a head on purpose in order to raise public awareness. “Look what happens when you put your eggs in the Big Five basket. Man, that must be rough for you. Think about all the books you would be selling right now if you had gone the Amazon KDP route.” The industry is still very much in flux, and Amazon could be using this to shape the landscape of the future.

      Hmmm, “landscape of the future” sounds like it should have robots and hovercars. We should ask Mr. Bezos to get on that for us too.

      If your wife gets the job, welcome to the ATL!

  3. enathansisk
    May 27, 2014

    Glad it was useful, thanks for the shout out.

    If it weren’t for the whole ACX deal earlier this year, I wouldn’t really question Amazon’s intentions. We sit in an odd gray area where we are both Amazon’s customer and supplier, it will be for time to tell which they see us as.

    Also, very well executed use of kerfuffle.

  4. tracycembor
    May 29, 2014

    Hard work should be rewarded. You’re very welcome! :)

    Indeed, these are odd times. I think the best anyone can do right now is stay informed and stay flexible.

  5. Pingback: The Distractions of Writing | tracycembor

  6. Pingback: Hachette vs. Amazon: The Petitioning | tracycembor

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Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

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About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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