I posted an aggregation of news dealing with the Amazon VS Hachette negotiation that’s been going on Monday. You can read it here, but I wanted to post a follow up since there have been new developments.
Smashwords has drawn a parallel between the Amazon VS Hachette debate and indie authors, specifically pointing out that indie authors might find themselves in the same situation that Hachette has as Amazon pushes its agenda. The only problem there, is that indie authors set their own prices, and they’re already pretty damn low. Maybe they’ll do it just to make a higher profit, but that hasn’t really been their modus operandi. They cut their supplier’s margins so they can set lower prices. If they were to cut our royalty rate, I think the trend would he a higher price, the exact opposite of what they’re trying to do.
Hugh Howey than has his response, pointing out my comment above, adding that Mark Coker is a competitor of Amazon, which needs to be remembered.
Passive Guy discusses how, of the two, the latest Author Earnings report is a much bigger deal than the whole Hachette situation. I have to agree. He discusses how as each author learns they can build a career with Amazon vs traditional publishing, those houses are losing potential backlists and blockbusters. He points out that blockbusters, while few and far between for individual authors, are what make up the profits of these corporate entities. To find that potential Patterson or King, they have to invest in those authors when they’re a no name, something that have been reticent to do. It’s a typical thing you see with struggling companies, failing to invest in capital and development of their product. Authors are, essentially, the product Publishers “create” and they haven’t been investing.
Then things got real.
Amazon weighed in, which is the first time in the year or so I’ve been doing Sharing the Wealth that I’ve ever written that. They’re usually pretty tightlipped and in this case they do a really good job of communicating without giving the slightest detail as to the actual negotiation. They are also very polite in the announcement, saying nothing negative about Hachette. The most interesting part is the fund they’ve proposed for authors that would be split by Hachette. This is far and beyond what they’re required to do and very generous.
As Digital Book World has pointed out, they even pushed people toward competitors. They didn’t name anyone, but that is a bold move that most companies wouldn’t state. It’s a strong showing for their customer centric mentality and not what you would see a monopoly typically do.
Joe Konrath has a great analysis of their announcement, going so far as to hypothesize that the proposed author fund was not accepted by Macmillan two years back. I actually don’t know what is being referenced by Amazon there, so I don’t know if it was or not. Their letter didn’t seem to leave that up to question.
Then, even more to my surprise, Hachette responded, basically rejecting the fund, stating that:
“It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives. For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles.
Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult mission to communicate with readers. In addition to royalties, they are concerned with audience, career, culture, education, art, entertainment, and connection. By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.”
I can’t help but laugh at that. Everyone has been talking about livelihood, the ability of authors to make a livelihood, to support themselves, to feed their families…but then Amazon proposes a fund to pay them and it’s all of a sudden about more than just money, it’s about the difficult job of communicating to their readers!