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

Hachette vs. Amazon: The Petitioning

Welcome to round two in the Hachette vs. Amazon kerfuffle. Forgive the post title, but this feels like the bad sequel to a movie blockbuster dud. They followed the formula, should have made and killing, but instead got killed.  Honestly, this ongoing issue is taking on the trappings of “class warfare.

The Legacy Team

il_340x270.560045105_s0hvSome frustrated authors are calling for a boycott of Amazon and signing an open letter drafted by Douglas Preston. Signatories include James Patterson, Stephen King, Clive Cussler, John Grisham, Donna Tartt, Anita Shreve, and Philip Pullman.  The SFWA also endorses this open letter, although they did it without consulting their membership.

The Legacy Team argues that Amazon is boycotting Hachette authors, refusing to discount the prices of books, and slowing delivery of books by several weeks. These authors have been supporting Amazon since “it was a struggling start-up,” and argue that this is not “the right way to treat your friends.”

All warm fuzzies aside, this is about money.  Check out the investor report from Lagardère, the parent company of Hachette.

The Independent Team

Self-published authors, including Hugh Howey, JA Konrath, David Gaughran, and Barry Eisler, have responded with a petition of their own, which now boasts over 7000 names (including mine, in the interest of full disclosure).

il_570xN.397303957_ganyThe Independent Team argues that legacy publishers, including Hachette, have a history of treating authors and readers poorly. Amazon, however, has empowered both authors and readers. They allow authors a viable way to control their creative content, publish on their schedule, and make a living off their craft. Readers are not being spoon-fed what an elite group in NYC deems acceptable for public consumption and can make choices on what books are popular by voting with their money.

Hugh Howey points out that everyone, even Douglas Preston, wants what is best for writers.  Too bad we can’t agree on what that really is.

And over at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, JA Konrath has been arguing for writer’s independence since 2012 and encouraging writers to publish since 2010.  He hopes that this issue will help authors see that they really do have a choice on how they publish their work.

Amazon’s boycott of Hachette’s books is a “phantom boycott” according to David Gaughran. Amazon is not taking pre-orders of upcoming Hachette releases. While no one has the inside scoop on negotiations, it is likely they are not taking orders because they are not confident at this stage of the negotiations that they will be able to fulfill those orders.

Box 01Barry Eisler also mentioned that Amazon tried to make Hachette authors whole and forego all profits from their books. They would allow 100% of that money to go directly to the authors. Hachette said no. Who really has authors’ best interests at heart?

As for my two cents, the legacy publishing model is outdated.  The Big 5 keep fighting for the status quo and don’t realize that the ship has already sailed.  I keep thinking that someone will wake up and realize what technology has done to their cozy little industry, but no luck yet.

If you feel the same way as either of the camps above, please share your thoughts. And if you are so inclined, go sign one of these petitions and become part of the change.

16 comments on “Hachette vs. Amazon: The Petitioning

  1. kinginascendent
    July 16, 2014

    My issue is that, like so many industries and processes enhanced and altered by technology/automation that the money is still flowing in one direction. Ebooks cost roughly the same as a paperback, have less production costs and yet the royalty rates for writers remain the same. Publishers are making money at an exponential rate whilst writers struggle to get by, as per the recent Guardian story pointed out.

    • tracycembor
      July 18, 2014

      What you are describing sounds like how the Big 5 / Legacy publishers are treating their authors. You are right that production and distribution costs per unit are less for ebooks than for paperbacks, but authors have the same 2% to 12.5% earnings of the list price of the book.

      Amazon allows self-published authors to put books on their platform and earn between 35% and 70% of the list price of the book.

      I just read today in the Guardian that self-publishing is 31% of the ebook market and are earning 40% of the revenues.

      • kinginascendent
        July 18, 2014

        I think that there are similar parallels to the music industry when downloads and digital technology reached consumer budgets. I keep an eye but i’m more concerned with quality of story. I’ve got an agent and they’re looking for a publisher for the first book. It’s interesting though, exciting and challenging times for a lot of people.

      • tracycembor
        July 18, 2014

        Agreed that the book publishing industry should be taking notes from what happened in the music industry.

        That is wonderful news! Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your book on store shelves soon. :D

      • kinginascendent
        July 18, 2014

        Thank you. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  2. mrschmoe
    July 17, 2014

    All right, I’m a little late to the party, but I think you may all ready read this.
    According to several articles I have read, that Amazon is eyeing subscription service for ebooks and audiobooks. It would be interesting where this would lead.

    • tracycembor
      July 18, 2014

      I used to have an ebook habit that was probably more costly than having a drug habit. I have since been reformed. However, for people who are voracious readers, a subscription-based billing model would be a godsend.

      I’m not a fan of the Audible model. It is a subscription, but you still get counted on a per unit basis. What if I want to download five books in one month? What if I don’t want anything for three months? I don’t like conforming to their model.

      • mrschmoe
        July 18, 2014

        The question remains, how much would a self pubbed author get from Kindle unlimited subscription service. I prefer audiobooks to be DRM free.
        It would be interesting where it would lead.
        Besides some people are old school, reading books in paper back and hard covers.

    • mrschmoe
      July 17, 2014

      I decided to reply on my comment. Technology is a wonderful tool. who knows where it would lead us. As the gentleman on top who comment “Ebooks cost roughly the same as a paperback, have less production costs and yet the royalty rates for writers remain the same.”

      If you look at it at an indie author’s angle, it would be pricey. Not to mention a lot of time and effort that a writer poured into his/her work.

      • tracycembor
        July 18, 2014

        From an indie author’s angle, they make more money, not less. They are only paying the online hosting party (i.e. Amazon) for distribution services, so they make 35% to 70% of the list price.

        There are a lot more hands in the Big 5 author’s share. After the publishing, editing, marketing, art dept, and shuffleboard teams, as well as the author’s agent, all get their cuts, the author only makes 2% to 12.5% of the list price.

        Hmmm, 2% vs. 70%… I know which number I’d like to be making.

      • mrschmoe
        July 18, 2014

        The obvious answer would be 70%. As the old adage goes, you got to spend money to make money. In regards to book covers, I have been looking at artists at Deviant art, the stuff there is quite good.
        I tend to be skeptical. With traditional publishers, a writer would get replaced by a ghost writer.

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  4. Margaret
    July 21, 2014

    I dunno. It’s like watching Darth Vader fighting Godzilla. I don’t like either side much, so I’m sitting here watching the spectacle.

    I think Kindle Unlimited is a great idea, but I can’t afford to go exclusive with Amazon.

    • tracycembor
      July 22, 2014

      Gosh, Kindle Unlimited is a whole new can of worms that just got opened. I am actually putting together a post about that today. I think there are different advantages for readers and authors. It really is a case-by-case thing to see if jumping into the new program is right for you.

      If you are selling well on other sites or your price points don’t work when adjusted to $2, it makes sense to not jump into the new program. If you don’t mind me asking, what about your situation makes it unfavorable to go exclusive with Amazon?

  5. Pingback: News from the Publishing Hinterlands | 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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