Amazon VS Hachette: A Second Summary

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.

Joe Konrath fisks Charlie Stross, who is defending his publisher, drawing in other sources as well. Good read, but long. TeleRead weighed in with a great analysis, as well as the Digital Reader.

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.

Hugh Howey has also tied the effect of these negotiations into his numbers for the author earnings report.

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!

 

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Amazon VS Hachette: A Summary

This started out with me reading on my blogreel as I woke up and got ready to write today. I saw there had been a lot of activity in the Amazon VS Hachette debate and started building my Sharing the Wealth for the week.

Two hours later, I have a full article with over a dozen sources. It wasn’t hard to see that I just need to publish this as is.

The battle between these two companies is ridiculous, not because Amazon is a bully or Hachette is a snake, but because this is just a business negotiation, nothing more, nothing less, and in the end it will be nothing more than a business decision.

Don’t take my word for it though, I have a lot of people below who’ve waded in.

First, Amazon started removing buy buttons from Hachette preorders. Overall, I think this is a bad move because it really goes against the grain of the customer experience, I however could see this as a possible contractual consequence of negotiations going sour or because of alleged reports Hachette isn’t meeting its shipping deadlines. You never know, and never will know, who was forced to do what by whom.

This behavior drove many to defend Hachette and lament Amazon, including one retailer who undercut Amazon’s price. Which just sounds like a business decision rather than a show of support, but whatever. Kristin Nelson at Pub Rants called Amason a hypocrite, while Tobias Bucknell (who is, for better or worse, always the social warrior) took down his Amazon buy buttons and called for more competition in the market. Staffer’s Book Review even made the analogy of Amazon being a robber baron, with publishers as the union, come into break up their actions.

One of the things people keep accusing Amazon of is being a monopoly. The only thing I can say to that is, well, yeah, when you invent the product in the first place, you tend to have a pretty big market share. They made ebooks a thing and lead innovations in all ecommerce, that’s why they have such a big slice of it. They’ve definitely done some shady shit, just like the publisher in question, but at the end of the day they offer more value to customers and that’s why they see the success they do.

Ideatrash basically called for an all out boycott. My problem there being that, where in the hell was all this fucking injustice talk when Penguin bought Author Solutions? Where was all the talk as publishers, agents, authors have continued to label indie authors as hacks, amateurs, and rookies? As they trashed any book that hadn’t had to jump through the hoops?

Lastly, we have Lilith Saintcrow, who defends the antiquated business practices of Hachette while blasting Amazon for being a big corporation. Maybe it’s because Hachette is the smallest publisher of the Big Five, but it seems a lot of people are forgetting it is a massive company owned by an even larger publisher which is itself owned by one of the largest media coconglomerates in the world.

Luckily, there are a few people disagreeing with these statements, quite well if I might add. Joe Konrath fisked Ms. Saintcrow, responding to some comments from Scott Turow (our favorite lunatic) and James Patterson as well. As usual, these people make a business transaction into a social issue, as if Amazon is raping and pillaging authors, all the while laying no blame on the publisher.

The Watershed Chronicle also makes an argument for context  but it’s TeleRead and the Almighty David Gaughran who, to me, have the best summations of the situation. As with most things, there is a lot going on here, and there is always, ALWAYS context that isn’t reported.

At the end of the day, this is a negotiation. I will guaran-damn-tee you that, right now, there are other negotiations going on with dozens, if not hundreds, of Amazon’s Suppliers. I will make the same guarantee that Hachette is negotiations with other customers. Authors are pissed because their book sales are going down, sure, but that is the unfortunate reality of being involved with a corporation. I will tell you, Amazon is not concerned about this. Bookselling stopped being their primary revenue generator a while back, and if the Random Penguin is looking at this, taking notes, thinking they’ll be able to leverage their size against the world’s largest river, they’re in for a rude awakening.

Welcome to business.

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Sharing the Wealth: 5/23/2014

I’ll start this week’s Sharing the Wealth with Hugh Howey, who was a busy boy this week. Not only did he put up the latest Author Earnings Report, he also had some great comments to add to the industry relating to the RT Booklovers Convention, where self pub authors were segregated from trad pub authors. An especially jarring situation, since he also thinks self publishing will end up saving the ever venerated genre of literary fiction. Lastly, he asks who the real Goliath is in publishing. This is an important thing to note. He’s correct, Barnes and Noble was the Amazon of its day in the literary world, responsible for destroying small, independent booksellers and bullying publishers. Now, someone is better at the game and suddenly B&N is a poor abused lamb. Context does amazing things to arguments.

The Author’s Guild has some competition, a group of academic authors who’ve formed a group called the Author’s Alliance. Their goals and aim sounds radically different than the Guild (which sounds pretty damn useless to me) but their attitude is unfortunately, very familiar.

Dean Wesley Smith explains why you don’t need an agent to sell overseas. This is an interesting one, because while this is not a point in my literery career I’ve reached or, frankly, even imagined, I have no idea how else to accomplish this task. Definitely made me think.

In keeping to the concept of context, Digital Reader posits that maybe Hachette is exactly playing fair on its side of the Amazon VS Hachette battle that’s going on. PG has some great comments as well. There are very few one sided arguments, I don’t see this as one at all. Amazon is a bully. Never forget that, there’s a reason they’re number one and you don’t get to that spot by playing nice. This applies both ways too, and in a world where publishers have collapsed and consolidated, you’d better bet Hachette knows how to play the game as well, and that can affect authors just as much.

Mike Shatzkin then weighed into the argument. As usual, he has a full analysis, but it breaks down to Amazon will continue to do this with smaller players but won’t with Penguin Random House because they’re too big. Of course, I think he’s also ignoring that book selling is just one small aspect of Amazon’s overall portfolio, and in relation to the rest of their vendors, the Random Penguin is more than likely minuscule.

One of the outocomes to the Publisher/Apple price fixing trial was that, in the end, the Publishers will more than likely get to keep the Agency model of pricing. This irked me until Passive Guy pointed out some benefits this might have to Indie Authors, specifically the price advantage it gives us.

SmashWords has signed a deal that would see their books distributed to libraries across the world through OverDrive. This isn’t something I’ve looked into too much, and kinda irks me since I find SmashWords such a pain in the ass to use (hence the reason my books are up on Apple through Draft2Digital) but might be something I have to look at in the future.

Goodreads is launching an Ask the Author function to its website. Can’t wait for this to roll out to all authors. If anyone ever wants to know anything about just about anything, please feel free to ask via email, the blogs, or anywhere else you can find me.

An article on FutureBook and brought to you by PG about author’s greater power within publishing hierarchy. The key point is the comment about a publisher referring to authors as a necessary evil.

The Book Designer has some tips and tricks (as well as some of the drawbacks) of publishing through Google Play. Seriously, Google, you’re better than this.

Alright, I have tons of writing to do. Everyone have a great weekend!

 

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10 Days on ENathanSisk.com

I’m trying something new on enathansisk.com. I’m off work for the next ten days and I intend to finish FayTown Calling within that time. Each day I will be updating my progress. Word count, finished section, what it means for the story, etc. Anyway, if you’re interested in checking out my progress, the announcement post is up now and I’ll have first day’s progress later tonight or tomorrow.

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Sharing the Wealth: 5/16/14

Smashwords has a post on preorders and how effectively they boost sales.

David Gaughran cautions practices that increase piracy, practices that many media companies (I’m thinking of books and video games) seem to have taken not only as best practice, but overall strategy.

Hugh Howey posted a video on the next Author Earnings Report. It takes a little bit to get to the point (around the five minute mark) but what it gets down to is they’ll have a new report come the 19th of May. It sounds like Hugh’s estimate was off…but we’ll see if that was good or bad.

He also published a piece about Hachette and Amazon’s latest squabble. He makes a really great point about few people making a big deal about this when Barnes and Noble was doing it with Simon & Schuster. Anyone in business will know that this type of back and forth between business and suppliers is common practice. It usually doesn’t get to this level, but this is nothing. Believe me when I say, businesses have done worse.

ideatrash has a post on net neutrality. For it? Against it? Just make sure you’re paying attention, because it could affect you.

In that same vein of though, Joe Konrath has a post on why Copyright needs to be updated. Copyright is a tricky thing and I don’t always know how I feel. You have certain rising stars who made their fame by allowing, even encouraging, copyright breaches. Then you have reports of countries where no one can make money because there absolutely no ability to make a product (though, my inability to find a link to back that up might be proof that is a dwindling argument…)

Everyone have a great weekend. Don’t know about you but I’m going to be getting to some writing thats a long time coming.

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Sharing the Wealth: 5/9/14

It was a slow week in publishing, but I’ve still got my favorite links below.

BookBaby has launched a service that allows authors to sell their books directly to consumers. This is the next possible step for authors, getting to that point where no retailer is required to reach their readers. I don’t know if this is it, but it’s a good test case.

Bowker has raised the price on their ISBNs. This has, admittedly, been something I’ve ignored. Passive Guy has his comments, and honestly they’re some of the harsher ones I’ve heard, so it’ll be interesting to see how much use authors get out of them.

Formatting can be a bit of a bitch. I’m pretty sure everyone does it differently, and for the most part it doesn’t matter for ebooks, but there was one problem that has always plagued me. Indents. Indies Unlimited has a great post on taking the nuclear option to your book when it just won’t work for you.

Joe Konrath has a list of things you can do to “tend your garden” of ebooks. It’s a good analogy and he goes through it well.

Amazon has moved into wholesale supply of goods. For those unfamiliar, commerce comes in two flavors Business to Business and Business to Consumer. B2C has been a big thing for the past few years because more and more people can reach their customer directly. But for every business reaching out to consumers there are a hundred business who have to keep their operation running. They need paper and staples, parts and supplies. That’s what Amazon is moving into. This tends to be a less profitable form of business, but it provides many companies with the bedrock to pursue more profitable endeavors.

Ed Robertson has a taken a look at the top genre sellers broken them down by publishing method. Interesting numbers.

Author Solutions still sucks.

Everyone have a great weekend!

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New Virgil McDane Book Covers

SorcererRising_ebook_Final_smallA few months back I started looking around for a cover artist. My cover for Sorcerer Rising has always been fine but I had a big problem. It was a premade and there was nowhere I could find a similar image, something that would draw the two together. That’s an essential part of Branding, and when you piecemeal everything out, it’s hard to accomplish. To do that, you really need to get custom work and that was something I’d never done.

Somewhere along the way, I saw Liz Schulte’s Guardian series. I think it was on Amazon. It wasn’t really my genre, but I knew I liked the cover. After some searching, I found Karri Klawiter. She has a huge freaking portfolio of authors she’s worked for, in everything from romance to fantasy and thriller. What impressed me the most was the way she brands things together. You could go through each cover and not only be able to tell what books are part of a series, but what books are part of an author’s portfolio.

That’s what I wanted and, most importantly, that’s what I knew would be my biggest challenge. It took me like two weeks to figure everything out with my original cover. Don’t even get me started on the print cover (which never was really right, hence the fact that you can’t buy one). Any accomplishments I made were pure luck and I couldn’t duplicate the results.

But I didn’t just jump at the first artist I found. As much as self publishing is an emerging opportunity for authors, it is for artists and other service providers as well. There are a ton of artists out there, and I looked at as many as I could find. The price…wow, it can range from $200 to well over a thousand bucks. 99designs is a big deal right now too. The advantage there is a fixed price and multiple bidders. You get to see all the work being submitted and will have a choice.

In the end though, I went with Karri. The reason? I went through everyone’s portfolio I could find. I found contests where she and others were nominated, nothing impressed me as much as her stuff.

FaytownCalling_ebook_Final_smallThe results have been great and I really think I got my money’s worth. For the cost on her site (which was pretty close to what I paid even with the cost of stock, though I didn’t use much) I got various formats for the book cover, and for an extra $25 I got the print.

If you need a cover artist, check out Karri. I’m serious, they’re great and the experience was outstanding.

 

 

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