For most of the reading public the very public negotiations between Hachette and Amazon over pricing and control of ebooks is a big yawn. The number of readers who use ebooks (iPads, Kindle, Nook, etc.) is relatively small compared to the reading public as a whole. And even though this is the future for most popular fiction and some non-fiction, in general the public just rolls its eyes over the kerfuffle. But there are other more dire and ominous conversations being held in the writer’s universe over this subject that are beginning to develop into serious discussions and finger pointing between authors.
There is a growing and rancorous conversation between writers and authors totally outside the Amazon-Hachette negotiations. This conversation being held in lively conversations within social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It is also becoming quite divisive.
Last Sunday a full page add was placed in the New York Times supporting Hachette and their stance that the publisher should determine and control the price of ebooks. Over 900 authors supported this ad that sold for more than $100,000. Most Indie authors see this as the continuing battle between the haves and the have-nots of the publishing world. The primary voice is author Douglas Preston and Authors United. Noted authors Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, and Donna Tartt are just three of the signers. It was paid for by the authors (nice to have that semi-annual royalty check arrive just a few weeks ago—just saying).
Amazon has made direct offers to the authors under contract to Hachette to continue to sell their work (and they would get to keep all the profits) if they just tell Hachette to settle. It has turned into a letter writing campaign between Amazon telling its supporters to email Hachette and Hachette through Authors United to email Jeff Bezos. Amazon tells its people to mention things like “illegal Collusion” and other tasty bits in the letters. They also reference the coming of the cheap paperback book as analogous to the current revolution with ebooks. Even George Orwell is cited (the Orwell estate was not pleased).
The New York Times wrote this last weekend: Click Here.
Most of the Hachette authors have taken a hit in both sales of traditional books and ebooks.
On the self-publishing front mega-sellers such as Barry Eisler and Hugh Howey have been able to sign up over 7,600 signatures in their response. All is not well in the publishing business. Click Here for the Guardian's look at the issues.
Eisler says that the big name writers are in it for themselves. The Guardian article says:
He (Esiler) added that "beyond that, maybe the most notable thing about the New York Times ad is that it demonstrates how the top one percent of authors are able to buy their desired media access. For them, a New York Times ad is about the equivalent of a cup of coffee for anyone else, the difference being that the ad leads to a ton of follow-on media coverage."
It’s also a way of paying back homage to the NYT and their advantageous best seller placements.
It would be simple for me to say that the traditional publishing houses are dinosaurs and Amazon is the meteor speeding toward earth and their extinction, but none of this is that simple. Amazon needs traditional publishers and the block-buster novelist that populate the best seller lists and provide a significant number of dollars to Amazon’s bottom line (this may be one reason why Amazon now has it’s own publishing division beyond the ebook KDP and Createspace POD). There’s money to be made in paper and electrons.
There is much to blame for both sides. Neither understands where the world of publishing is going—in fact no one has known since Gutenberg when the written word was wrenched from the cold hands of the religious clergies and nobility. Authors are taking more control of their work and their distribution—even the traditional houses see this and are becoming a lot more flexible in their negotiations with authors—or so I have been told.
More later . . . . . . . .