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:
- Kristin Nelson (my agent) on Pubrants gets very tetchy indeed. “Well, this kind of hardball in no way serves your customers. It hurts authors (whom you claim to support) and you deserve the public fall-out that this spat creates.”
- Tobias Buckell removes the Amazon buy buttons from his website saying: “Frankly I think more players will be a safer system. I don’t think punishing the authors and readers by delaying books, hiding search results, and playing around, is a good thing. As a result, I’ve pulled the buttons for Amazon links on my site until this is resolved to stand in solidarity with the authors at Hachette.”
- Zola Books is offering all Hachette books at 30% off for iPhone and iPad. Smart business move and solidarity. I re-bought some of my favorites in print form from my neighborhood Indy and donated them to my local library.
- Kevin has reminded me that you can buy many books through the Airship Ambassador website. Kevin is a key member of the steampunk community and an all round good egg, so always worth supporting.
- Charlie Stross: Amazon: malignant monopoly, or just plain evil? He gets into the numbers beautifully. “Hachette is the publishing arm of a gigantic multinational group, Lagardère, which boasts an annual turnover of €7.37Bn. However, as Lagardère’s components include a hefty chunk of EADS (part-owners of Airbus) plus TV channels, duty-free shops, newsagents, sports clubs, and magazine publishing it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to discover that Hachette turned over €2.1Bn in 2012. That same year, Amazon’s sales topped $61Bn (or around €45-50Bn).”
- Amazon forum discussion at Amazon Actual, “If you order 1,000 items from Amazon, 989 will be unaffected by this interruption. If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.”
- Why I’m ditching my Amazon account by Jack Shafer at Slate, he counters the above with, “But by essentially banishing many Hachette titles from its stock, Amazon, which ordinarily puts its customers first, has put them last, telling them they can’t buy certain titles from it for any price.”
- Press release: Amazon Doesn’t Expect Quick Resolution to Hachette Dispute
- Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin, “It’s almost like Hachette is part of an international publishers’ association which has explicitly stated it will be flooding the media this year with stories intended to advance its interests.”
- The New York Times: As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish “Amazon’s power over the publishing and bookselling industries is unrivaled in the modern era. Now it has started wielding its might in a more brazen way than ever before.” And How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon
- Swan Tower – Amazon is at it again
- Caught in the Middle of Amazon’s Spat With Hachette by Brad Stone
- Amazon Defends Its Tactics In Its Battle With Hachette at Fast Company
- Tor.com joins the fray
- Hachette Launches Dedicated Bookshop on Booksamillion.com
- Bringing Down the Hachette: “Publishers could have thwarted the latest Amazon power grab. They didn’t, and books will suffer for it.”
- Amazon, Hachette, And Giant Stompy Corporations from Chuck Wendig
- Hachette Author Stephen Colbert To Amazon, Jeff Bezos: “Watch Out, This Means War”
- Amazon Stops Taking Advance Orders for ‘Lego’ and Other Warner Videos – NYTimes.com
- Big Publishing is the Problem says Hugh C. Howey 06/17/2014
- Apple is selling Hachette books at a discount 06/18/2014
- The Shared Desk #36 has a fair and balanced podcast discussion with a literary agent on the stand off 06/18/2014
- The Passive Voice asks: Should self-published authors side with Hachette? 06/24/2014
- Time for Indies to Join Publishers in Their Fight Against Amazon? 06/26/2014
- There are no good guys in the Amazon/Big Publisher battle 06/27/2014
- Amazon Finally Defends Itself Against Accusations That It’s A Bully Pushing Around Hachette 07/02/2014
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.
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.
“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.”