May232014

In Which Gail is in #AmazonJail

Well, Gentle Reader, let’s get to it, shall we? So…

Right now there are delays on shipping and an inability to pre-order many of my books on Amazon.

In case you were in any doubt, Amazon is, once more, playing at Monopoly.

Gail, go to jail.

Go straight to jail.

Do not pass go.

Amazon is throwing its weight about in a contract negotiation with Hachette. (Hachette is the parent company of both my publishing houses here in the States: Little Brown who produces my YA Finishing School books and Orbit who publishes my Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol adult series.)

What does it mean?
Several week shipping delays or Buy button removal on all my print books from Amazon primary. (Third parties are different.) Inability to pre-order my up coming releases. Kindle editions are a mystery, they may drop just after publication date, and they seem to be available for my back catalog.

What can you do? 
Not a lot, I’m afraid. Generate some bad press by trending another hash tag on Twitter? It didn’t do much good last time. Boycott or not buy books? That only hurts other authors. Amazon is so big. Buy elsewhere if you aren’t married to Kindle/Prime.

What can I do?
With the likes of Patterson and Rowling also caught in this vulgar ego-driven battling, I’m super small potatoes. Up against a Goliath like Amazon, I’m a veritable single sliver of hash brown in the great frying pan of life. I must simply continue on with the belief that if I keep writing and turning in on time I’ll still have a career.

Don’t look so worried. I’ll probably be OK. I at least have archaeology to go back to, right?

I do worry about my fellows. For that is the consequence of this game, it is authors who lose. The Hachette debuts who didn’t get any attention because they had a release during this kerfuffle. The second book in a series that was doing better than the first and now stagnates so the author doesn’t get renewed.

In the end, this game is what we, the readers, have made it. I include myself in this for I order stuff on Amazon, including books. I have a Kindle. I’m attracted to the low price point and ease of use. I’m lazy. I’ve given away my power as a consumer in the pursuit of convenience. Amazon, I think, is teaching us all a lesson in the great economic sway of monopolies. (Yes, I’m aware the term is technically misapplied, but it certainly feels like monopoly.)

I am not going to get into the “why don’t you self publish?” discussion. (I’ve shorts up for you and they are unaffected. There will be more in the future.) Frankly, Amazon can (and likely will) one day chuck its weight around with the self-pub bottom line. Arbitrarily or “accidentally” deciding to change all the price points or something like. (They are already starting in on photographers.)

No author is safe, Amazon owns Park Place and all the best property. It’s some weird addiction, we need them to survive and because of that they can break us. So we keep playing the game. (Beat that dead metaphor into the ground, Gail, beat it!)

It’s a devil’s dance to some really sad music.

At least I’m playing with the top hat.

***

Others weigh in on the subject: 

From here on out I think it’s getting too politically idealized and messy for me, so I’m going tos top chronicling. Since I’m caught in the middle, emotionally, I’m mostly just sad.

So far as the online debate is concerned: I’ll continue follow it via various blogs claiming to represent both sides. I try to stay as informed about my industry as possible, particularly when I am a leaf on everyone else’s wind (as it were). Being a scientist by training I wish there was more statistically backed data and fewer logical fallacies and personal vendettas. And because I generally don’t like seeing people hurt, I wish most of all that the authors on either side of this (now epistemologically existential) debate would simply be kinder to each other.

GAIL’S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1833 Sunday, September 1

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Mushroom Light

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Space Carpet

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

The public is very stubborn in refusing to read what neither amuses, interests, or improves—even when a publisher is actually so weak as to print such things.

by Eliza Leslie (1864) 

Book News:

“Let no one enter the field of literature for the purpose of “making a living” unless as a very last resort.”

~ Around the Tea Table by T. De Witt Talmage (1875)

Quote of the Day:

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”
~ Oscar Wilde

 

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Posted by Gail Carriger

 

No Responses

  1. Aunty Pol said:

    Since I rely on my Kindle, having run out of actual space in our home for another bookcase ( weeps ) , I will wait as long as it takes for your books Miss Gail..no matter what .

    A tip of the parasol from Houston.

  2. Mikel Lynn Langan said:

    already pre-ordered "Waistcoats and Weaponry" (which drops on my husband's birthday, very cool) and I got the manga on my Nook. I've got the Kindle app, so my bases are covered. If W&W is bought and paid for and doesn't ship until November, I should be free of problems. Except I'd love to have the other 2 Sophronia novels in hardback. Drat. Bad Amazon! No biscuit!

  3. Erin Hudson said:

    I pretty well hate Amazon. I haven't purchased from them in about 3 years now because I can't stand their business practices and I hate the idea of putting any more brick and mortar bookstores out of business. I do most of my business in good ol' fashioned print at Half Price Books, and a little bit of it with Barnes and Noble and with my Nook.

    So sorry that you and other authors have to go through this rigamarole.

  4. Maggie Chatham said:

    When I first started hearing about this, and realized how much of what I read comes from Hachette, my first thought was, "Thank goodness I have a Nook." My second thought involved some anatomically impossible suggestions for TIIC over at Amazon.

  5. June said:

    When I purchased my e-reader, I took into account Amazon's business practices, and went with a Sony e-reader because it is a very good e-reader and to avoid Amazon.

  6. Unknown said:

    I do not now, nor have I ever, nor will I ever, own a kindle.

    I decided back, long before the last argument with publishers that ultimately ended up being denounced as price fixing, that in terms of the books business Amazon was a toxic walled garden that used a paltry one or two dollars off each book as loss leaders to not only drive sales to their then over priced reader, but also to monopolize the landscape. Their tactics kept me chained to my desktop to read for several years because I couldn't afford a kindle, and they are doing what I have long said they would do – holding everyone inside their walled garden hostage. Don't kid yourself, Apple/ iTunes/ iBooks would do the same if they had the bulk of the business – just look at their history with music sales.

    I buy at Kobo, smashwords, and other small distributors. What's inordinately frustrating is how many publishers are slow to post their new releases at the smaller distributors. I'm sorry the authors are suffering, but publishers that make the larger distributors a priority over the smaller ones are just as guilty of creating the monster as the consumers that accept the walled gardens for the minor savings.

    Greed has fenced you all in. I'm sorry, but if you stopped being greedy and refused to accept walled gardens you wouldn't be manipulable chattel.

  7. Gail Carriger said:

    On a different note, Maggie. This line is interesting: "how much of what I read comes from Hachette." It might be that there is an Editor or two there whose taste you really respond to. They are so often behind the scenes and yet key taste-makers. My suspicion is that it would be Devi at Orbit, if you are a genre reader.

  8. AHAviews said:

    I'm going to take notes and wander over to my local indy bookstore this week. I usually only order online if I can't find a book any other way – otherwise I miss out on shelf browsing and the happy accidents that so often happen in bookstores where I find something unexpectedly that I cannot do without and leave with an armful of books to read, recommend and foist on my children. Thanks for the heads up.

  9. Shawn Gillogly said:

    It's hardball negotiations on both sides. Neither Hachette nor Amazon are innocent. That authors are caught in the middle sucks. But I've read enough on this to know it's not just big, bad, Amazon. This all goes back to the DOJ slamming the Big 5 and Apple for their collusion previously. Amazon's low prices may or may not be sustainable, but the courts were clear what they did in trying to force Amazon to raise rates was illegal. This fight has been brewing since then.

  10. Anna Parikka said:

    I'm so sad to hear this. I have a kindle and my life situation doesn't really allow me to buy more paper books (doing my PhD and moving around, post docs hopefully to follow). I was so happy I could buy the first Parasol Protectorates to my kindle (finally!) when I was in England for couple of months and had a mailing address (yes, I know they should be the same rights but they are available in UK, but not in French Amazon). Anyway, Amazon is really the most convenient way to get English ebooks in France, so changing a reader wouldn't help much… I so hope this gets sorted. I don't even mind more expensive books, Finnish books are always expensive, so I'm used to it… But I really hope these disputes will end and soon.

  11. Tracy Price said:

    I use the Kindle app on other devices, don't actually own a Kindle. I buy from Amazon if I can't find another choice. I'm also a big Sci Fy/fantasy trader and buy a lot direct from baen books -I can get them in Kindle format. Do your publishers sell online versions via anyone else? Cause I'll happily buy elsewhere. Just not hardcopy until I free up some bookshelves. ..

  12. AnAlaskanGirl said:

    I just finished your Parasol Protectorate series. So fun! I have fallen completely in love with your writing and will be diving into your YA series now. Good thing I am loyal almost exclusively to Barnes and Noble (both in store and on my Nook) and the one small local bookstore whenever they actually get in new stuff, after the tragic loss of Borders.

    Because Amazon does this and other unacceptable things like removing purchased books from peoples kindles in the past during such fights with publishers, I try on principle not buy books from Amazon, even when they are on really good sale and BN is somehow not matching. Though I'm much weaker when it comes to music and on occasion digital video.

    I am looking forward to reading The Finishing School series and am really excited to see there will be a series that centers on Prudence. I loved her! I can't wait!

  13. Gail Carriger said:

    Thank you for swinging by the blog to say something. I'm glad you are loyal to B&N too. And to me. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the Finishing Series and keep an eye out for old friends popping up at unexpected times.

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