Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

amazonhachetteA group of bestselling traditionally published authors – including James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Douglas Preston – engaged in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy on Thursday with an open letter calling on Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette.

The letter is incredibly disingenuous. It claims not to take sides, but only calls on Amazon to take action to end the dispute. It also makes a series of ridiculous claims, notably that Amazon has been “boycotting Hachette authors.”

Where do I start?

The Phantom Boycott

First of all, refusing to take pre-orders on Hachette titles is not a “boycott.” Pre-orders are a facility extended to certain publishers – not all publishers. Many small presses don’t have a pre-order facility. Most self-publishers don’t have a pre-order facility.

I don’t know why Amazon has stopped taking Hachette pre-orders, but both sides have stated that negotiations aren’t likely to be resolved any time soon. Amazon might be reluctant to take customers’ money for orders it doesn’t know it can fulfill. Or Amazon might be strong-arming Hachette. Nobody knows.

Either way, Amazon still displays upcoming Hachette titles (again not a facility extended to many small presses and most self-publishers) and still provides a way for customers to be notified when the book is actually released. Not much of a boycott, is it?

Here’s what a real boycott looks like.

Since October last year self-publishers have been banned, en masse, from the e-bookstore of the UK chain WH Smith. The company has given zero indication when this ban will be overturned. Do you remember Preston, Turow & Patterson writing an open letter condemning this actual boycott? I don’t either.

Barnes & Noble refuses to stock any Amazon-published titles. Many indie bookstores have joined this boycott of Amazon titles. Do you remember Preston, Turow & Patterson writing an open letter condemning this actual boycott? I don’t either.

Last year, Simon & Schuster got into a dispute with Barnes & Noble over contract terms. Barnes & Noble drastically reduced orders and didn’t stock some Simon & Schuster titles altogether. This went on for months. Do you remember Preston, Turow & Patterson writing an open letter condemning this actual boycott? I don’t either.

And I don’t remember any of that getting much play in the media.

To Discount Or Not To Discount?

The open letter also criticized Amazon for “refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette’s authors’ books.” This is pretty hilarious, because Scott Turow has repeatedly criticized Amazon for discounting too much.

In this Salon article from March last year, Turow cited Amazon’s desire to discount as an “abuse [of] their market power” and a “reason to fear Amazon.” And yet Turow signed this letter complaining Amazon isn’t discounting enough!

And I’m not sure why Douglas Preston is annoyed that Amazon stopped discounting (some) Hachette books, because, as Chris Meadows at Teleread reminded us, he previously seemed adamant that e-books should be expensive when interviewed by the New York Times in 2011.

Entitlement

Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. What we have here is the unedifying spectacle of a group of very well-off authors campaigning to make books more expensive. Because that’s the result if Amazon caves to Hachette.

This group of entitled bestsellers are aghast at the forces of disruption which are reshaping the publishing business. Amazon, e-books, the digital revolution, self-publishing – anything that involves a change in the status quo is something that these guys will campaign against (and if you doubt that, read this amazing takedown of Scott Turow’s last Op Ed in the New York Times).

I guess when you are seated at the top table you will do anything to hold onto your place, even to the point of embarrassing yourself with something as ridiculous as Patterson’s call for a bailout of the book business.

Let’s be very clear: these guys are mad because their cosy world is being disrupted.

Barbarians At The Gates

The letter from Preston, Turow, Patterson et al closes with a call on Amazon to “stop hurting authors,” and this is the part that sticks in my craw the most.

If these guys truly cared about authors being harmed, why have they never penned an open letter condemning Penguin Random House for the industrial-scale scamming of writers at Author Solutions?

I’ve never heard Preston, Turow, or Patterson say one word about the exploitation of self-publishers by supposedly respectable traditional publishers.

I’ll leave you to speculate as to why.

Gatecrashing the Media Party

The true aim of this open letter is very clear. It’s another salvo in the propaganda war to try and force Amazon to cave to Hachette.

As soon as word of this letter leaked out, along with rumors that some of these authors had discussed calling for an Amazon boycott, a group of self-publishers penned a letter in response.

Feel free to read that if you like, and sign it if you choose. I was happy to do so, and I was even happier to see that the rebuttal to Preston’s letter had helped address the huge imbalance in the media reporting of the Amazon-Hachette contract dispute.

Because of the large number of authors who have counter-signed the letter, mainstream media outlets and trade publications like The Guardian, NPR, The Bookseller, The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly have been forced to acknowledge that there are two sides to this debate.

In fact, it should be mentioned that there are a whole range of views on this dispute, and on large publishers like Hachette, and on giant retailers like Amazon – both among authors in general and those who self-publish. Some self-publishers aren’t happy with the rebuttal to Preston’s letter. And I’m sure many traditionally published authors don’t agree with the original letter.

That’s all fine. For me, the main thing is that the media can no longer continue to claim that all authors want Hachette to prevail in its dispute with Amazon. Yes, there are more than two sides to this debate. But maybe now the media (and, by extension, readers) will be more open to the whole range of views that are out there.

Or maybe most readers don’t care. They will probably continue purchasing books from the retailer or bookstore they normally frequent. They will likely continue not caring who published them.

And we’ll definitely keep writing them long past the time all these corporations are footnotes in history.

EDIT: I removed Douglas Preston’s 2011 comments about readers/pricing. In fairness to him, he subsequently retracted the comments. You can click through to the Teleread piece above if you want to read further about that.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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123 Responses to Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

  1. Pingback: Effective Advocacy Must Choose Targets Carefully « Blair MacGregor

  2. beth135ceo says:

    I LOVE THIS POST. I cannot speak for Hachette, but Simon & Schuster HATES its authors and readers, except maybe Mrs. Clinton. I am so sick of all this ham-fisted bullshit and amazon doesn’t owe anyone a living.

    • Simon & Schuster obviously doesn’t hate ALL of its authors, and it doesn’t hate at least one reader… me. I get a weekly newsletter from S. & S. that contains great deals on e-books by major writers like Chris Cleave, Greg Iles, and Jude Deveraux. I look forward to it and I invariably discover at least one new book to buy every week.

    • How ludicrous can some of these comments get? S & S hates their authors? Where does this stuff even come from? And hates its readers…..really….just unbelievable the stuff that gets spewed online.

      • We disagree about a lot of things, Steven, but I have to agree with you about the comment. As much I’m pro-indie these days, I never once felt that my publishers (Dutton and SMP and Harlequin) or the people working for them hated me or any of their authors. That kind of hyperbole does no one any good.

      • Rico Marciano says:

        Steven Zacharius, I agree with your comments regarding S&S hating their authors and readers! It’s the responsibility of ALL publishers to preserve the high literary standards in the book world and adhere to the protocol necessary for global distribution. The main problems could be easily solved by hiring professional editors, designers and other professionals, necessary to secure the high standard of book production quality. B&N refused 700 IBPA books for poor book production quality, not boycotting. The desperate actions of an author–who would give-away their book, or sell it for 99 cents–says loud and clear, that they do not respect their work or value the work of others.

  3. I’m a new subscriber (as of this morning!) and I’m so pleased to read this point of view. Thank you.

  4. geraldine says:

    Reblogged this on geraldineevansbooks and commented:
    Don’t believe all the media outpourings about ‘Evil’ Amazon coming from the pens and lips of best-selling authors like James Patterson and Scott Turow. These people have high earnings to protect. They do not speak for me. They probably don’t speak for other mid-listed authors, either. Why not read on and discover there are two (or more) sides to every story. This post originally appeared on David Gaughran’s blog.

  5. RJ Crayton says:

    I enjoyed reading the rebuttal letter by self-published authors, giving a different perspective on the issue. I’m glad that today you pointed out the change of opinion by traditionally published author on discounting. Were this a political election, I’m sure we’d get to hear the term flip-flopper.🙂 I guess I’ll have to wait closer to November to hear that term bandied about regularly.

    • lol! very true RJ – literary flip floppers🙂

    • That information on discounting by major traditional publishers is not correct. There isn’t a major publisher that considers traditional book accounts deep discounted accounts….nor do they consider ebook sales deep discounted sales.

      • Perhaps I misunderstood what you said….I was just re-reading your post. Are you talking about publishers being unhappy about when the books are not discounted? If so, I apologize for my comments….I was referring to another comment about publishers cheating authors when they sell to accounts that are deep discount accounts.

  6. Alan Tucker says:

    The discounting thing left me in stitches too. First, they cry about “predatory pricing”, then they are mad when their books are NOT discounted. Which is it, boys? Too busy counting stacks of cash to keep track of their opinions I guess. Just silly.

    • Contrary to what many people think, publishing is not a very profitable business. Almost every major publisher makes single digit profits on their revenue. That’s far far less than most industries and there have been times in the past when publishing companies probably could have just left their money in their bank accounts rather than gamble on investing in new authors and definitely come out ahead because of the low profits.

      • Alan Tucker says:

        The “stacks of cash” jibe was more directed at the big authors who penned the letter, rather than publishers, Steven, but the part about the discounting still applies. I think this was something Hachette complained about in the missive they put out a week or more ago. How can they, with a straight face, complain about Amazon discounting too much, then complain when Amazon doesn’t discount their titles? Obviously, they know their retail price is too high, but they want Amazon to take the cut, not them.

  7. David Penny says:

    Too much hypocrisy and self-protection flying around to believe a single word of what these guys are saying. When you’re position is under attack, kick out any way you can seems to be the response.

    Thanks for holding up the side of (the majority of) writers and in particular readers, who as you say don’t care who the publisher is. Much to the publisher’s annoyance.

  8. Chazz says:

    Reblogged this on C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m and commented:
    I doubt Hachette will win what they want from this negotiation. I do hope Hachette wins, however. They can keep their prices as high as they want and my work will continue to be a bargain for readers looking for books that deliver entertainment less expensively. I guess that’s the middle way through some of the tribalism that has sprung up over this dispute. Oh, and subscribe to David Gaughran’s blog if you haven’t already.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Chazz! You nailed it. I like having my books as bargain entertainment. I sometimes give them away in the thousands, too. And gosh–somehow still maintain a healthy sense of author-self.

  9. jbiggar2013 says:

    Reblogged this on jbiggarblog and commented:
    How do you feel about this on-going dispute? For myself it sounds a lot like bullies on the playground trying to have everything their way, but that is just my opinion.

  10. “Amazon is targeting Hachette authors” is still the opening salvo in so many blog posts and Facebook statuses, an appeal to emotion that has nothing to do with a confidential contract negotiation between two large businesses–only one of which offered to compensate authors who might lose income in this situation.

    As indies, we have a huge stake in this. Amazon has given independent authors a new way to do business without getting kicked from pillar to post by the big players, and there are enough of us doing enough business to make a difference to traditional publishing’s bottom line as time goes on. However much they may deny it, together we’re a pretty big player ourselves.

    I emailed Jeff Bezos (jeff@amazon.com) saying that not everyone believes the tsunami of disinformation, and that some of us understand how important it is to the negotiations yet to come with the rest of the Big 5 that Amazon not blink at this point. I figured it couldn’t hurt to counter some of the untruths with a bit of support, however insignificant.

    Thanks, David, for continuing to shine light into dark corners. We need that.

  11. Mary says:

    My grandmother had a saying about the type of writers who purport to fight for authors rights while obstructing the major outlet for self publishing, Amazon. “They’d lived in your ear and take in lodgers.” Thanks for giving truth a home on your blog, David Gaughran

  12. Jim Self says:

    Seth Godin says the day of the universal bestseller is over. People are shifting away from reading “the book everyone is reading” toward more niche reading. Guess who that hurts most? Patterson, et al. Guess who’s the major driving force behind this? Amazon.

    It’s a little too easy to see where these guys’ interests lie.

    • Seth Godin is incorrect in my opinion. The big name bestsellers are still the same big names, over and over. It’s very hard for new authors to break into this elite category of being NYT bestselling authors….and I’m not talking about unit sales of low priced books which is what the ebook NYT bestseller list is all about. I’m talking about revenue from books.

      • Mirtika says:

        Then I’ll be hoping some radical mental shift happens in those entrenched NYT megasellers and they decide to take 70% of the revenue by going indie. After all, they already know how to write, they can hire anyone they damn well please to do covers and editing and formatting (and people would JUMP at the chance to add those names to the client list/portfolio). If people are going to buy them anyway, they don’t need the Big 5. The Big 5 needs them.

        I hope they jump ship and then let’s see how the publishing biggies evolve to the new reality. Fingers madly crossed.

    • Godin is premature with that. Not while The Goldfinch is still sprayed all over the world. There’s a huge pile of these Tartt monsters in our local Payot in Nyon, Switzerland, a Francophone community.

      • Anonymous says:

        The perfect example of an artificially-manufactured bestseller, selling only because of its hoity-toity “literary” Pulitzer prize and a huge co-op spend. The majority of real readers don’t seem to be enjoying it much because on Amazon, the Goldfinch only has a 3.8 review score average. Must admit, I tried reading it and couldn’t make it past the first couple pretentious, boring, overwritten chapters. Kind of makes one feel bad for all the poor Hachette midlisters who got shafted by being shelved spine-out with no marketing, just so that Hachette could focus a huge chunk of their marketing budget on the Goldfinch. Ultimately, I think Godin’s right. Once the big-box bookstores collapse, the Big Publishing Houses won’t be able to use their co-op pyramid scheme to manufacture any more Goldfinches.

  13. This idea that Amazon is the big bad in this story makes me laugh. Hachette is in this mess because of an illegal price fixing conspiracy. I understand why indie book stores hate Amazon, but in the fight between Hachette and Amazon, a nearly 200-year-old publisher is not the underdog.

    • The DOJ case has absolutely nothing to do with the current negotiations. The negotiations stem from one side wanting more money than before and the other side not wanting to give it up. Very simple. Amazon may not want to allow agency pricing any longer; that’s very possible but to change terms from agency to wholesale is an enormous change….but no one knows for sure what all the negotiations entail.

  14. 🙂 “Oh the humanity! Witness the horror of people trying to save a buck during the biggest economic depression in eighty years” –

    Which, unfortunately, is a tell-tale sign in an environment of record debt and lack of full time jobs.

    The sign seems to be, entrenched old style virtual monopolies are desperate to hold onto what they have. Nimble cash rich companies smell the blood of opportunity.

    And right now, as a content creator, I want to be sure I hold onto the only thing I have that neither of these or any other business entity has, the rights to my own work.

    • Hey. I actually decided to remove Douglas Preston’s 2011 comments about readers/pricing (and my lines thereafter). In fairness to him, he subsequently retracted the comments.

      If anyone wants to know what the hell I’m talking about, you can click through to the Teleread piece above if you want to read further about that.

      • Thanks David; checked out the link, http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/douglas-preston-decries-amazon-tactics-against-hachette-authors/

        Liked this excerpts😉

        “Let’s not forget that it takes two sides to make a negotiation. If they’re upset with Amazon for not yielding, perhaps they should be equally upset with Hachette for not yielding either. Amazon is the one who removed the pre-order buttons, but it did so in response to Hachette’s intransigence. And, as Bob W reminds me in the comments below, Amazon offered to fund half of a compensatory fund to reimburse authors for damages suffered during the negotiation, and Hachette said thanks but no thanks.”

        and

        “Perhaps Mr. Preston should consider getting free of Hachette and self-publishing, like J.A. Konrath has. Given that he has a “sales track record” of traditionally-published works, and presumably a good number of fans who will buy his next book wherever it comes from, Preston could be making 70% of cover price rather than 17.5%.”

        There’s a lot more plus links. Worth a look. Thanks again, David!

  15. Marla Warren says:

    In regards to the Barnes & Noble boycott, it should be noted that the issue was that Amazon would not allow Barnes & Noble to sell digital editions of Amazon-published books. From the New York Times article you linked to:

    “Barnes & Noble has chafed at deals that prevent it from selling the digital versions of books even as it is expected to market the books by displaying the print versions in stores. In August, the company said it would not sell print books published by Amazon unless it could also sell the e-book versions, in an objection to Amazon’s deals to publish authors’ work exclusively. In October, it removed from its stores all the physical copies of graphic novels from DC Comics because of a deal that allowed Amazon exclusive digital rights to them.”

    • Hey, the story actually developed from that point.

      At first, B&N said they wouldn’t stock Amazon-published titles or those of New Harvest (The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint that was publishing some Apub titles) under any conditions whatsoever. When they were queried about this boycott, the PR teams quickly scrambled to find an excuse – and they came up with the idea that B&N coudn’t stock a title in their store which wasn’t available in the Nook Store (I’m pretty sure they break this rule when they feel like it, but I digress). The weird thing about this is that Apub titles were always available in the online store – so B&N had no problem stocking them there when they couldn’t sell the e-book.

      Anyway, I’m trying to hunt down a reference, but I’m pretty sure that Amazon called B&N’s bluff at some point and offered them epub versions of certain Apub releases (think it was some of the bigger titles like Tim Ferriss or Penny Marshall), and B&N came up with some other spurious reason why they couldn’t stock those titles.

      In any event, even if I haven’t convinced you with regard to B&N, there is absolutely no question that many indie bookstores have explicitly and openly stated that they will not stock Apub titles under any circumstances.

  16. Rick Carufel says:

    I say let all the big name authors boycott Amazon and see who it hurts. These whiners are making huge amounts from sales on Amazon and their threat to boycott is a hollow threat. Amazon should hold them to their threat and remove their books.

  17. I agree with you David🙂 Perhaps Patterson and the other trade book “jump-now” monkeys will just take their books off Amazon and leave the advertising space open for the rest of us🙂
    Miles Cobbett

  18. I’d like to add my two cents in. Kensington went through a two year negotiation with Amazon without any press coverage because we all sign an NDA when negotiating terms with a supplier. Preorders is more than a facility granted to big publishers; it’s an 100% requirement that they do this. In fact Amazon grades every publisher as to how they meet Amazon’s requirements and this is one of the most important items on that report card. Amazon has different levels of service available and I’m sure these terms for their top most status is what Hachette is negotiating now. Your point about Hachette wanting higher prices is not necessarily true. Amazon will still discount the prices to whatever they like to capture marketshare. This is their right to do so apparently. Amazon’s general response to publishers is that if you don’t like our terms, you can always go to KDP. KDP doesn’t work for big publishers; it would be unmanageable to enter titles one at a time and there are other specifications that don’t work for publishers as well. In my opinion at a certain point Amazon might push a little too hard and there’s going to be a big publisher who pushes back. It might not be Hachette. It might be S&S or most likely Penguin Random if Amazon were to even challenge their terms. At any point some of these big publishers can get together again to form a new website to sell books, like they tried with Bookish. Bookish didn’t work at the time but a similar site with a real push behind it might next time.

    Let’s keep in mind that Amazon’s retail sales of publishing is almost entirely supported by sales of books from the biggest publishers. They make many times the revenue when they sell books at higher price points, as well as hundreds of thousands of copies on bestsellers. They don’t make much money on low priced books whether it’s from indie publishing or traditional publishing using low price to promote a new book or backlist title. It’s pure economics. Higher prices on big selling books equals huge revenue. The challenge that exists for traditional publishers if a new site were to develop is how to get those books onto a Kindle. The simplest solution for publishers would be to remove DRM, which I’m not in favor of by the way. But if they did that, the digital world would go topsy turvy. Publishers could sell the books from their own websites at greatly reduced prices because they wouldn’t have to give a retailers 50% or 30% of the revenue and the DRM free books could be read on any device unless Kindle stopped allowing that feature.

    I absolutely remember the fights S&S had with Barnes and Noble and I’m sure their authors do as well. Consumers wouldn’t remember because they generally don’t know who published a book, with a few exceptions.

    Your article here is obviously designed to rally the indie troops behind you, which is fine. But keep an open mind that this is a very bad situation for publishing and authors in general and could result in major upheavals in the publishing model. I’ll say it again there’s going to be a time when Amazon isn’t going to give indie authors 70% of the revenue, because they won’t have to. With their new terms they’re making deals to give all the prime online promotional space to publishers. It’s going to get harder and harder for traditional publishers and indies to promote their titles and make books discoverable.

    Either way, this war is hurting authors in general, which I’d think you’d be concerned about. It’s not just writers like Patterson….it’s debut authors too and mid-list authors as well. They’re the ones who are going to get hurt the most. The big writers will afford it. But when the next book comes out and accounts go to place their buys based on the previous title’s sales, they’re going to cut their buys because their systems are going to show that they sold less copies than the previous title. This isn’t good for the industry.

    • AlexvdL says:

      Just to clarify, you’re in favor of continuing the use of DRM in eBooks?

      • Mirtika says:

        I”ve been saying for a while: “Why don’t publishers just sell non-DRM ebooks from their sites and KEEP ALL THE PROFIT!?” Makes sense to me to move in that direction. That they haven’t in 2014 says something about the entrenched mindset of publishers. Not innovating, that’s for sure.

        I love Amazon and I love my Kindles (4 of them), but if I could get an ebook way lower from a publisher than I could from Amazon and I could get it easily, comfortably, conveniently, safely (Paypal/great secure credit card, etc), I’d buy from the Publisher. I want to save moolah like the next guy. So, if that Hachette bestseller was going for 11.99 at Amazon, and it was 6.99 at the Hachette site, guess where I’ll buy it?

        Of course, if the publishers are just gonna put up their website stores (or joint Big5 Mega Estore) and charge ridiculous 10 bucks+ prices for ebooks, I won’t buy it from them, period.

        In general, if an ebook is more than 7 bucks, I think twice. More than 9 bucks, I almost never buy. If it’s 5 bucks, I’m tempted a lot. If its 3 bucks or less, I pretty much just buy it and figure “What do I have to lose?” Nothing makes me pull the buy trigger faster than 99 cents.😀 But really, if it’s a name author who is not in my top 3 or 5, I don’t do hardcover or ebook. I wait. I wait for the price to go below 9 bucks or I wait for a hardcover to go for sale used for 5 bucks. I normally don’t have to wait more than a year or so–since bestsellers sell so many copies and used booksellers will have them on Amazon Marketplace.

        I used to spend 100 bucks a weekend, easy, at B&N and Borders. I don’t even step inside them anymore. Any merchant who can’t offer me convenient ebooks and online sales doesn’t interest me. And any ebook over 9 bucks is just not on my radar unless it’s, as I said, 3 or 4 of my fave authors (and sometimes I skip them,unless it’s the next in a series where I must, must, must have it the day of release).

        I see this pattern growing among my bibliophile friends (those of us who buy books weekly, if not nearly daily for our Nooks, Kindles, and PC and apps.) We don’t wanna spend the amount Big 5 publishers want to charge. We want the prices Amazon is seeking. And we’re willing to try indie authors to get a story fix without the budget busting price.

        I hope there’s a way to adapt. I doubt the future decades will be gentle and kind to overpriced books (as in perception of overprice in the new millenium). This bibliophile wants deals. As do my dozens of reading maniac pals.

        But way past time for the pubs to innovate in the ebooks realm. Geesh, they’re publishers, THE book professionals. They should have partnered with some tech company ages ago for the best site, the best readers, etc; they should have beat Amazon to the Kindle/ebook sweet deals punch. They should have beat Amazon at making a user-friendly, non-snooty place for indies to self-publish (and take that profit in books, too). They really should have.

        Too bad for them they were trying so hard to protect the past system that they didn’t develop the new and newer and newest to amaze readers (and writers!).

        Amazon did it.

        Hence, I’m an Amazon fan.

        And if they win, great. And if they lose, yay, higher prices from the Big 5. Indies rejoice. WE win either way.

    • Hi Steven. You don’t need to guess at my motivation for writing this post, I’m happy to tell you.

      We’ve all seen the temperature rise over the last month or so, and some have been calling for an Amazon boycott. Such a boycott would obviously be hugely detrimental to a massive number of authors, and it’s something that needs to be avoided.

      In my view, the best way to avoid that was to try and reduce the impact of this open letter before it gained any traction, because a boycott call seems to be the next logical step, it has apparently already been discussed (and indeed some authors/entities are already calling for same, although it’s not widespread yet).

      I also believe that many of the anti-Amazon arguments that are being pedalled are completely bogus, and I can’t abide seeing succeed what is (very clearly, to me) a well orchestrated PR campaign designed to advance the narrow interests of a few large publishers which is built on (for the most part) a bunch of particularly specious statements.

      As I have said previously, I don’t think Amazon should get a pass. And I absolutely do think Amazon should be subjected to scrutiny. What I seek to redress is the huge imbalance between the level of scrutiny Amazon receives and the complete lack of scrutiny a company like Penguin Random House or Hachette are subjected to.

      I won’t go over the areas where we’ve disagreed with each other at length, but I would like to talk about DRM for a second. I absolutely think that publishers should ditch DRM. I think that their insistence on DRM (and overblown fear of piracy) has led them to make a series of poor decisions.

      If they didn’t insist on applying DRM, they could make a real go of selling direct (kind of pointless doing that when you don’t serve two-thirds of the digital market in the US and four-fifths of the UK), and they would be much freer to experiment with things like print and digital bundling.

      Dropping DRM could also encourage a non-Amazon Kindle-serving retailer (who would be able to massively boost their selection from publishers). It would also allow the various indie e-bookstore efforts to sell Kindle-compatible e-books if they wished. Can you imagine if Kobo or Google suddenly started selling Kindle-compatible files? Maybe it wouldn’t go anywhere, but if you want a diverse retail environment, these things are worth trying.

      Finally, I am actually genuinely concerned for the Hachette authors caught up in this. One of my friends is published by Hachette. I’d like nothing better to hear tomorrow that Hachette and Amazon have come to an agreement that everyone’s happy with. However, I do fear that the sides are too far apart for a quick resolution.

      • Fair enough. DRM is a an interesting discussion and one worth having as a separate issue. My son who works with me and my digital marketing person also think books should be DRM free. And there are a few select imprints from St. Martin’s Press in Sci Fi I believe that are DRM free. It would certainly totally change the playing field today and it might be the answer to the problem, as I mentioned earlier. We currently spend probably close to $200,000 per year using a company to monitor violations of our DRM. They catch an enormous amount of the illegally placed titles yet there are some pirate sites which refuse to take them down. What they do then is get them removed from the search engines at least. All of our authors pretty much support our doing this as it protects their royalties. The amount of money lost to piracy is enormous. I know all the arguments against DRM…particularly that anybody can break the DRM if they really want to, but it is still a deterrent to others. We were going to make our digital lines DRM free but we found out we couldn’t do this on some of the big retailers. There was no way to have our traditionally published editions of ebooks with DRM and the digital lines DRM free. Their software wouldn’t allow it. So for the meantime we’re still using DRM but this could change. It’s worth the discussion.

        By the way, I don’t support a boycott either. Amazon is an amazing retailer that has forced every single publisher to be more efficient. They are the most efficient retailer in the business. So we’re in agreement on a lot of things here. I don’t want to see any authors get hurt by this or Hachette or any other publishers. I know how it hurt us not having terms with Amazon for two years and it cost us a lot of money. I stood my ground. They stood theirs….and eventually we arrived at a common middle ground as all good negotiations should end up.

      • Tom Maddox says:

        Steven,

        “The amount of money lost to piracy is enormous. ”

        It is enormous only when you assume that every person who pirates the book or that every hosted torrent you see is a lost sale. That, in my experience is really far from the truth. The truth is that the people obtaining the books through torrent sites and such would probably never buy they books under any circumstance. Most will never ever read the first page,.

      • Robotech_Master says:

        I’m not fond of DRM myself, but I think people tend to overestimate the effect that dropping it would have on the market. Given that the vast majority of Amazon’s customers are non-tech-savvy parents and grandparents who enjoy tapping a button to make a book magically appear but wouldn’t have the first idea how to side-load, I strongly suspect most of them would happily continue buying from Amazon because Amazon makes it easy. Most of them probably don’t know or care what DRM is even now, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of reading the books they bought from Amazon on their Amazon apps or devices.

      • Yeah, it’s hard to be sure how things would have played out without a time machine. I think (and you might agree) that dropping DRM four years ago would have had a much bigger effect than dropping it today. But I also wonder this: is the sideloading issue a completely insurmountable one? Is there no possible/potential way to get books onto Kindle devices without manually sideloading? What about some automated method that uses the Send to my Kindle feature (or some variant thereof)?

        Anyway, my point is that publishers can’t even experiment with any of this stuff (selling direct, building a proper discovery site, bundling, encouraging non-Amazon Kindle-compatible retailers) while they are wedded to DRM. Maybe none of it would have any effect on the market, but one of the reason companies like Amazon are successful is because they keep experimenting and iterating. Sometimes you need to try five things before one half-succeeds, but if you don’t try anything…

        There is one thing that could have been a gamechanger in a DRM-less world. Harlequin had a pretty successful print subscription service. I don’t think they ever tried something similar with digital. But imagine they had set up their own subscription service for those voracious power readers in romance. They could have corralled them as HQN customers as they switched to digital, instead of letting them discover cheap indies and losing market share. Harlequin could have only put backlist titles in the subscription service, and not cannibalized sales of the new digital releases. I think something like that could have been really successful – but we’ll never know and it’s probably too late to find out now.

      • Robotech_Master says:

        David, Baen had a web form set up on their site where you could enter your send-to-Kindle email address and click a button to have your book magically sent to your device. There’s no way they could possibly have made it any easier without having the multi-billion-dollar heft of Pottermore who actually cut a deal with Amazon to inject its books directly into Amazon customers’ cloud e-book storage.

        And yet, they still got enough complaints that their books “aren’t on Kindle” that in the end they found it not only worthwhile but desirable to make sweeping changes to the way their store had worked for well over a decade in order to get their books into Amazon, Apple, and the other major stores, even at the cost of disgruntling many of their most faithful long-term e-book customers.

      • Tasha Turner says:

        It is sad the concessions Amazon seems to have required for Baen to be able to put their books up on Amazon because too many readers found a couple of steps (and limited storage) difficult. They were really great about all the options they had on their website for ebooks. Very innovative in packaging/bundling, pre-release/arcs, freebies, easy side-loading, and multiple formats. I’ve wondered if more publishers had followed their example if we’d be in a different place today.

    • Robotech_Master says:

      Says the man who wants self-published books segregated away from the real books because otherwise there’s a chance some poor misguided souls might actually buy them. Separate but equal…hmm, where have I heard that before?

      • Paul Draker says:

        Looks like that horse has left the barn already.

        Today, a third of all ebooks purchased on Amazon are written by self-published indie authors.

      • Paul Draker says:

        Indie market share on barnesandnoble.com is pretty close to a third, too.

      • Move on already. I said in MY perfect world as a traditional publisher…..of course that would be my perfect world. I’ve also said I support indie publishing and I support hybrid publishing and we do quite a bit of it. So it’s time to move on.

      • How many books that are public domain do you think are downloaded on Amazon and other sites? That’s huge too. Unit sales are not what is banked by Amazon. Revenue is. Units at low prices don’t add up to much revenue. So it could be 50% of units sold and it still would be a minuscule piece of their revenue. And let’s not forget that they still don’t really make a profit. At some point shareholders might get tired of this even though they reinvest profits in the business.

      • Paul Draker says:

        Steve, you’re waving your hands and hypothesizing without any facts to support you. Nobody here is talking about public domain books. Or free books.

        A third of paid ebook unit sales are now self-published titles.
        A fifth of ebook *dollar* sales are now self-published titles.

        Hard *data* — and corresponding dollar calculations — demonstrating this are out there. We’ve seen them.

        Unless you’ve got some data that you think shows otherwise and are willing to *share* it in detail, then there’s really nothing further to say.

    • I appreciate your comments. I am interested in learning the perspective of publishers who aren’t the Big 5 (everyone seems to forget you guys exist). One thing that I think you have misunderstood is Hachette’s aim in this negotiation. It seems like everyone is missing this point. Last year, Hachette announced its intention to negotiate for the ability set the retail prices of their ebooks at Amazon as soon as the restrictions from their settlement end. Hachette’s head man, Arnaud Nourry, reiterated that back in May. And Hachette told their investors that in a presentation at the same time. Doing that is perfectly legal in the U.S. as long as they do it independently of the rest of the Big 5.

      I happen to think you are misjudging the situation with respect to authors. I am neither an author or publisher, but I don’t think the interests of authors and publishers are necessarily perfectly aligned. I also don’t think your interests align with the Big 5. They don’t care about your survival any more than Amazon does. You might want to question the self-serving line that the Big 5 pushes. Believing it might just be a bigger danger than Amazon.

    • Tasha Turner says:

      Both Tor and Baen have seen sales do well while not using DRM. If books were more affordable, released in a reasonable time, and in languages/countries they are wanted in you’d probably see sales increase. Spend money innovating instead of fighting piracy. Fix author royalties so readers feel the author is being paid when they buy a book. Drop DRM so you stop annoying your customers it does nothing to stop the pirates but it pisses many of us off and locks us into retailers platforms (bad for you).

      The book industry has not had nearly the problems that the music industry had regarding piracy but if trad publishing keeps pushing for higher and higher prices, putting off ebook releases to “force paper sales”, and not paying authors what readers feel is a fair share what happened in the music industry will happen to books.

      And if the big 5 do try another online store please give real thought to it this time. Bookish accomplished none of the goals it should have:
      1. Brand building (that would be for you guys)
      2. Ease of use – good search engine & algorithms
      3. Bargains & perks (frequent buyer) – not higher prices (oh Bookish)
      4. Ease of adding to cart & checking out
      5. Ease of finding all of an authors books on a single page
      6. See all of a series on a single page
      7. Great articles – like behind the scenes

      One reason Amazon rocks and no one else comes close are #2, 3, 4, 5 (kinda)

      I rarely buy books anywhere else because they fail at #2, 4, 5

      • Great comment Tasha.

      • I mentioned about St. Martins using DRM free books. Whether they’ve done well or not, I have no idea. Science Fiction books are a niche category where people are probably more tech savvy than most and they would get around DRM if they wanted to. I don’t think readers care what authors make or publishers make. Most of them don’t even know what a publisher actually does. You can ask any reader and they wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what authors get paid as advances or anything about royalty rates. But I did agree that the DRM issue is a totally separate and valid discussion worthy of having. I don’t think it has much correlation to the music business though. The illegal downloading of music was enormous and it was in the early days of illegal sites. Anti-piracy has become more sophisticated now. I don’t even think it existed much when people started with downloading illegal music and movies. The publishing industry has done a pretty good job of stopping this trend from happening for it’s benefit as well as the authors.

        It’s very hard to compete with the Amazon site. They do a phenomenal job and they’ve invested enormous sums of money perfecting the software. There are still some issues with it quite often but by and large it’s the best out there. The search function is definitely the best. On the other hand, Bookish has the best reader content that I’ve seen. It is very reader focused and doesn’t treat books as a commodity. But I think your list of things a site should have is good and makes sense. Whether it happens will be another story.

        Spending money fighting piracy helps every author out there. You can go on ebay and find disks of 1000 books for $20.00…..DRM FREE. We try and protect every single author’s royalties that are due. DRM free books would solve the platform issue but so would the industry by using a common format like epub instead of proprietary formats for their specific devices.

        And to Tom Maddox’s comments above, I have no idea if there’s any evidence to back up those claims. Piracy is terrible. It hurts a lot of people. DRM is annoying, there is no doubt about it. I use different devices and it is annoying not to be able to share books between them other than using that firm’s ereader software on a tablet…such as Kindle for iPad.

        Paul, where is that statistic about 1/5 of ebook dollar sales from? Is that from Amazon? Why is it that you think that Amazon doesn’t release any information about it’s ebook sales? They share all their information about print sales with Bookscan but they don’t share their ebook information. Bookscan for ebooks is in the works….do you think it will report Kindle sales or are they going to keep the sales information to themselves? Why don’t they truly disclose the unit sales of an ebook like they do a print book….what’s to hide? Everybody knows they’re 65% of the ebook business but the only information you ever see is the sales by assumption rather than fact.

      • Tasha Turner says:

        What reader content is on Bookish? I’m a big reader. I read 250+ books a year since I was in my teens. I’m now 47. My husband reads similar. We buy mostly ebooks or borrow from the library as we’ve capped out physical space at 5k in print books. I signed up at Bookish the day they went live. I’ve not seen anything special there. The editor posts are similar to things I already get from publishers or other blogs. Interviews with authors – those aren’t anything new/special if you already follow authors and/or major review blogs. Navigating the blog is clunky. That’s not reader focused. Can you give me an example of something I’ve missed that was reader focused to bring me there that I can’t get elsewhere?

        Again your focus on piracy is misplaced. Your never going to stomp it all out. That time would be better spent helping your authors with discoverability, fan relationship building, innovating, email list building. For the very reason that piracy is not the way it was for music you don’t need to be all over it. Most people who use pirated books would not have bought the book and a number of them go on to buy the book(s). So again I believe you waste valuable time and money that would be better spent helping/nurturing your writers. Heck if you gave out free samples of the first 10% of each book you could cut down on the piracy. Or short stories related to the book as freebies/$0.99/$1.99; I know it goes against your grain but it’s a better way to fight piracy. So try something different. Instead of chasing the pirates lure the readers away. Why is this so hard to understand? You have to change your thinking. Figure out how to attract the readers using innovation.

        I’m all for copyright and protecting it. I’m just not for being stupid.

      • Steven, few of the folks who frequent pirate sites are likely ro pay for a book, but they do frequent the water cooler at work, where they just might mention your pirated title to their coworkers. In return for losing a sale that would probably not have been a sale anyway, you get word of mouth.
        Yeah, the guy is going to tell them to get it from ‘word burglars’ or somesuch, but decent, ordinary readers will roll their eyes and buy it from Amazon.

    • Alan Tucker says:

      If we boil things down, I think there’s generally two types of pirates. One is the website/torrent sized pirate trying to bilk people out of money from piracy, and the other is the average consumer who wants to lend a book to someone (like they could if they had a paper copy) or make a copy to put on another device. Yes, I’m sure there are people who fall in between those extremes, but let’s just look at it this way for a minute.

      Do you think any amount of DRM will truly discourage pirate #1 from pursuing his business? This pirate is tech savvy and can quickly strip any DRM you want to throw at him. Would selling DRM free books increase the amount of this type of pirate? I sincerely doubt it.

      What about pirate #2? You said yourself in one of the follow up comments that you found it annoying not to be able to move books from one device to another or lend one to a friend. As a publisher, I doubt you’ve lost much sleep over the fact that people can share paper books. Why lose sleep over digital? Yes, the potential is there for making more copies, but is that small possibllity worth the ill will you engender from paying customers who just want to be able to treat the ebook like a paper one?

      Lastly, where do you spend the majority of that chunk of change fighting piracy? Is it on pirate #1 or #2? If it’s #1, which I suspect, do you think you’d be spending more if the books didn’t have DRM?

  19. I would also definitely call it a boycott if they’re putting books up for sale in print with messages that say one to two month delay in shipping. That is just ludicrous when everyone in the world knows that the books are available at every other retailers. You don’t do this in negotiations. Did Hachette take off the Amazon buy buttons from their website or their author’s websites….maybe they did?

    Why would you care if the bottom-line was to make Hachette’s book more expensive, which it wouldn’t do anyhow as I said previously because Amazon is still going to discount the books? It would mean you can still draw more attention to indie books that are selling at a lower retail price.

    As far as supposed industrial scale scamming at Author’s House by Penguin Random, I don’t know anything about that. But I would imagine that nobody forced any author to sign up with Author’s Solutions. They could have signed or could be signing with KDP, Apple, Kobo or Nook for starters. I don’t have any idea about how long a license Author Solutions gets but this is a totally different discussion.

    Any you’re absolutely 100% correct when you state that B&N and just about every other retailer boycotts carrying any Amazon published titles. They do this not because they don’t like the author, and many of them will bring in a local author’s books; but because they fear for their very existence because Amazon will sell books way below their cost and will drive them out of business. I think that’s a different situation entirely. Hachette is trying to negotiate normal terms with Amazon, they’re not trying to put them out of business. They’re trying to make their terms uniform amongst the online retailers, like the Robinson Patman act tells us to….similar channels should have similar costs. But online retailers don’t believe that the Robinson Patman act applies to digital books because it’s not a physical product. That’s for some lawyers to argue in the future.

    • Robotech_Master says:

      If Hachette wants the books available faster from Amazon, maybe it should figure out how to ship them faster when Amazon orders them.

      • You have no idea what you’re talking about. Hachette ships to Amazon all the time. This has nothing to do with the books not being available from Hachette. Are you that naive? Why do you think that every other retailer has them in stock?

      • Robotech_Master says:

        Other retailers have them in stock because they’ve decided they want to carry a sufficiently large inventory that they always have some on hand. Amazon’s decided to stop giving Hachette free rental of its warehouse space, and hence reduce its inventory and just order them as they need them. They order them, Hachette takes two weeks to ship them; hence, it takes two weeks to get the book when you order them from Amazon.

        So maybe if Hachette wants them to go out a little faster, they should try shipping a little quicker than two weeks.

    • Tasha Turner says:

      Amazon has stated it is no longer warehousing large amounts of every book by Hatchette. It’s making small reorders as it runs out. If negotiations could fall apart and Amazon might end up shipping books back (something it rarely does) it seems reasonable to me that it only orders small amounts.

      Right now it is acting like an independent bookstore in how it orders from Hatchette and since Hatchette is not set up to ship out small orders it now has a long lead time. It’s no longer than when I want a book and my local indie store places an order for it.

      From your side it looks like a boycott. From my side as a reader and having a degree in business which included classes on just-in-time inventory it blows my mind that trad publishing is still so far behind in how they utilize technology and that they expect the retailer to be a free warehouse for them.

      • This is so blatantly false that it is ridiculous. Do you really believe that Hachette isn’t sending its books to Amazon fast enough? Amazon is not taking the amount of books needed for the sale they expect from Hachette. It has nothing to do with just in time ordering. Amazon also has the option of getting books delivered the next day from book jobbers like Ingram or Baker & Taylor. I’m sure that Hachette is probably shipping books at least twice a week to Amazon on a regular basis from their warehouse. This is 100% a case of Amazon purposely not ordering enough books deliberately. You don’t think that Hachette is set up to ship small orders? Of course they do. They drop ship to Barnes and Noble and to independents every day of the week. This is purely false information that keeps getting spread by comments like this. I have no reason to stick up for Hachette but this is blatantly false what you are saying.
        Publishers know all about just in time inventory. That’s what we do. We keep books in inventory. Amazon runs over a 95% sale probably with most accounts. Them returning books is never an issue and books are 100% returnable for the life of the book. So they’re not worried about having to return them. Traditional publishing has done an unbelievable job in transitioning to just in time inventory. You’re stating information as fact and it’s totally incorrect.

      • Tasha Turner says:

        It’s a nice fantasy world you live in.

        I’m sure that Hachette is probably shipping books at least twice a week to Amazon on a regular basis from their warehouse.

        Yeah, you might want to read some stuff by some of the hybrid authors, agents, and statements by both sides…

        http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx1UO5T446WM5YY

        I’ve been reading blogs/news articles/investor presentations/Amazon announcements and staying on top of this with friends. I’ve personally found that to be a bad policy. Between Hatchette leaking information about the negotiations and 3-4 statements from Amazon one can get a fairly good idea of what’s going on. If you combine that with various information from research authors and agents did when they noticed the shipping issue 1st showing up on their/clients books and blogged about you get an even better picture.

        You are making assumptions. It must be nice not to have to research or keep up with anything.

      • Robotech_Master says:

        In April, Author Michael Sullivan wrote that he had spoken with Amazon about the shipping delays on his books, and their representative indicated they had multiple orders for it in with Hachette but Hachette was delaying filling them. Hachette refused to provide any information about the matter when requested.

      • Steven Zacharius says:

        Tasha your reply shows that you have no understanding of how traditional publishers work. I am not in a fantasy world. As the CEO of a good sized publishing company I think I probably have a pretty good idea of how shipping to amazon works from the warehouse. Not only that, Hachette distributes our international sales so I am familiar precisely how their shipping works. So when constant misinformation is spread between yourselves here I try to correct it. When Paul tells me that I’m embarrassing myself it’s time for me to stop replying. You continue to talk amongst yourselves instead of getting input from people in traditional publishing. That’s not the way you learn anything about this business. I’ve now gotten 42 emails from people who are reading this blog that don’t want to comment publicly for fear of being shunned. Good luck. Name calling will get you nowhere or telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about makes you sound so legitimate. I don’t see another CEO from a big traditional publisher online debunking the myths that you keep spreading.

      • Tasha Turner says:

        Generally indies don’t shun people for speaking up. We may ask them to back up what they say just as you … Well as I’m going assume you were asking me to cite my “false information” even though you called me a liar as I try to judge favorably. Robotech_Master provided the link to an author I was referring to. From that article:

        Hachette has continually assured us all orders were shipping “in a timely manner” and Amazon was to blame for placing small orders.

        Looks to me like Hatchette is supporting what I’ve stated. An inability to deal with small orders.

        As to

        Name calling will get you nowhere or telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about makes you sound so legitimate. I don’t see another CEO from a big traditional publisher online debunking the myths that you keep spreading

        Maybe it’s your tone? Maybe it’s that what your saying doesn’t match up to what I’ve read the publishers saying? Maybe it’s that what your saying doesn’t match up to the discussions I’ve had with my trad friends or read by people in the trad publishing business? Maybe none of the other CEOs are out here talking to us because they know we ask the tough questions and would pull their own words out and ask them to explain what you claim is nonsense?

        I’m not trying to make myself sound legitimate. I have nothing to gain here. Other than to stop the lies that Hatchette is telling the world in their leaks where they are breaking their NDA. I’m tired of listening to lies. One place to find info on the negotiations is in their latest investor presentation which they made public. They’ve also talked to newspapers “anonymously” several times during this dispute. Again Google is your friend. As are a number of David’s articles on the topic which contain links to their own words.

      • Well what do you have to say about Hachette not shipping to Amazon now? Here’s your proof that your concept was totally incorrect about just in time inventory. The amount of misinformation that gets spread here to the indie authors is really amazing to me. It’s one thing to support indie publishing, which I do; but it’s another to give out totally inaccurate information. You can support indie publishing without bashing or trashing the traditional side of publishing and all the authors that believe in that route.

        This was reported in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
        I haven’t pasted the entire article…there was much more.
        Amazon Proposes Hachette Authors Should Get 100% of eBook Sales and Everything Else Will “Return to Normal”
        On Tuesday afternoon Amazon made a new proposal to Hachette Book Group, only after an email from Amazon’s David Naggar to “a few authors and agents” looking for some “feedback” magically found its way to both the WSJ and the NYT first. Amazon’s suggestion is to give the entire sales price of HBG ebooks directly to the authors, in exchange for restoring normal relations on the publisher’s list while negotiations continue: “Hachette authors would get 100 percent of the sales price of every Hachette e-book we sell,” Naggar’s letter says, and in turn, the etailer “would also return to normal levels of on-hand print inventory, return to normal pricing in all formats, and for books that haven’t gone on sale yet, reinstate pre-orders” until formal negotiations are finalized. (Anyone who has suggested online that the in-stock problem is due to HBG’s poor performance or unwillingness to service Amazon efficiently should take note of this.)

      • Anonymous says:

        There is no inconsistency between what Tasha said and Amazon’s latest statement, so it’s unclear why Mr. Zacharias thinks this proves whatever point he’s trying to make. However, because he brings up this Amazon offer, I am curious to hear Mr. Zacharias explain how Hachette is acting in its authors’ best interests by refusing Amazon’s offer to pay Hachette authors 100% royalties, to ensure they aren’t damaged by either party’s actions while negotiations drag out?

      • Here’s what I say:

        As the comments from Amazon and Hachette in the last 24 hours show, the contract between Amazon and Hachette to list books has actually expired. This means that Amazon is under no contractual obligation to keep listing Hachette books at all. It seems like the theories that Amazon was reducing on-hand stock so it didn’t get stung with a load of inventory it can’t sell (in case there is a complete breakdown in the relationship between both parties) were on the ball.

        A question for you Steven: Do you think Amazon should be compelled to maintain normal stock levels of Hachette books when their contract has expired?

        To me, it looks like Hachette is trying to delay negotiations as long as possible so that the dispute continues until other Big 5 publishers are up for renewal and at the negotiation table. That would explain why Hachette is supposedly dragging its feet.

        Another question for you Steven: If it’s true that Hachette is dragging its feet, what tactics are permissible from Amazon to hasten matters?

      • Tasha Turner says:

        As others have pointed out Amazons latest statement doesn’t disprove anything. What it means is that if Hatchette would agree to this offer Amazon would go back to large reorders instead of small reorders. If you reread my last comment you’ll see that both Amazon and Hatchette agree that the delays in shipping are due to the small reorders being placed.

        You keep assuming Amazon will behave like all other book retailers have in the past and wouldn’t mind warehousing books because they could return them. Amazon does not, and never has, behaved like other book retailers. They do not like the “return book” model. So it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me that in a situation where they are past contract expiration and having problems getting Hatchette to reply to their emails/phone calls they would not be restocking in the way B&N or the now dead Borders would. As to why I would believe Amazon on the lack of response from Hatchette it’s because I’ve heard of this same problem from lots of trad published authors – even ones generally happy and among the top 1% of trad publishing. I’ve heard trad publishing editors talk about how they frequently take 3-12 months to respond to authors and get angry when an author expects faster responses.

        I don’t know why you continuously assume I only talk to and read self-pub stuff. It’s not true. I have friends who only trad publish and read blogs by trad published authors. I read blogs by people who work inside trad pubs as staff – acquisition editors/managing editors/etc. some I know in person and see a few times a year. I read blogs by successful agents in the trad business.

        I feel its important to understand the entire industry and not just bits and pieces. I’m also not emotionally involved or invested in either side. I’m published in a charity anthology in a small press where I donated a small piece. I’m not actively pursuing a writing career. Mostly I advise authors on how to efficiently use social media so they have more time to write.

        How do you think it helps negotiations to not respond to the person you are negotiating with?

        How is it looking out for their authors for Hatchette to refuse to set up a 50/50 fund to help out authors who are hurt by sales during negotiations they are only partially participating in?

        And again how is it looking out for their authors to refuse 100% sales and pre-order/back to bulk reorder for print books while negotiations go on after Hatchette’s been not responding for weeks/months to the party they are in negotiations with?

        Any chance I could get on point, short, concise answers to the above 3 questions?

      • Tasha your comments are so far off base that they’re really ludicrous already. I don’t understand what your background is in publishing but you clearly have no idea how shipping and warehousing of books happens.
        Amazon admitted it was ordering smaller orders deliberately. This shows that it was not Hachette who was delaying shipments to Amazon. Amazon knows exactly how many copies to order on most titles. They have history from prior sales. So when they’re ordering smaller quantities that they know are going to sell out in a day or two, they are deliberately not ordering enough copies. It has nothing to do with Hachette not shipping books fast enough.
        Hachette is running a business and unfortunately their first concern is for their bottom-line, not their authors. Generally if a book is making money from good sales, so is the author…this is why authors receive royalties. It’s unfortunate that authors may have been caught up in the negotiations but so have owners of the companies and shareholders as well.
        From what I’ve heard from several other retailers sales of Hachette titles have been up substantially since Amazon started ordering less copies of their titles. We don’t know if sales are down for these titles or are close to normal levels. Other retailers have had dedicated pages for Hachette authors to take advantage of the situation of Amazon not having books in stock. So maybe they’re not losing sales after all….they’re just coming from other accounts. So perhaps it wouldn’t make any sense for Hachette to have a 50/50 pool or to give all the proceeds to the authors because they might be earning the same amount of money already. Have you done any studies of Bookscan numbers to compare the prior books with the current books so we can get a true picture of what’s going on? It’s obvious this offer was purely a publicity stunt and one that nobody in their right mind would have signed. By you talking to other indie authors or traditional authors doesn’t make you knowledgable in this area.

      • David, I did not see your question to me previously. Do I think Amazon should be required to stock normal levels of Hachette books…..?
        They can of course do anything they choose but them not stocking normal levels of books is bad for them, bad for Hachette and bad for readers. Amazon knows how many copies to order on a bestselling book. They have unbelievable data about the prior sales and how many copies they sell in a given period of time. This isn’t a matter of reordering, this is a matter of not ordering enough to start. When they’re saying books won’t ship for one to two months, this is nonsense. They can get books the next day from Ingram or Baker & Taylor and probably in two days from Hachette directly. So this is deliberate in not ordering enough books. They’re also hurting their own sales by not having the books in stock because they know that they will sell 95% of all the books that they bring into their warehouse. So everyone is being hurt. This has nothing to do with reorders.

        As to what’s fair to do when a partner is dragging their feet…..well first of all you’re making an assumption that the publisher is dragging their feet. We have no idea what’s true and what’s not. Perhaps the original offer from Amazon was so outrageous that there was no justifiable reply or it could be the other way around….maybe Hachette is being unreasonable or maybe both parties are being unreasonable.

    • I would also definitely call it a boycott if they’re putting books up for sale in print with messages that say one to two month delay in shipping.
      ***
      boy·cott
      [boi-kot] Show IPA
      verb (used with object)
      1.
      to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion: to boycott a store.
      2.
      to abstain from buying or using: to boycott foreign products.
      ***
      So, no, you can’t.

  20. rilaly says:

    I enjoy articles that “take it to the man” when the man is the self-righteously indignant crowd that wants you to believe that they’re taking it to the man.

    • I have absolutely no idea what you’re trying to say.

      • rilaly says:

        When the man is the “little guy” that happens to be a big guy in their field, and they attempt to speak for the “little guys” in their field. I’ve read the Amazon v Hatchett case is all about, and I don’t think that Amazon is such a bad, guy, corporate behemoth. I enjoy articles like these, that expose the effort of these three authors for what it truly is.

  21. Data Guy says:

    Steven Zacharius said: “…Amazon’s retail sales of publishing is almost entirely supported by sales of books from the biggest publishers…”

    This is a factually incorrect statement.

    The most comprehensive data available on Amazon sales says otherwise: http://www.authorearnings.com/

    • Come on. This has been refuted so many times already. It’s old news. As a publisher we are privy to a lot of information that an indie author wouldn’t receive. We know our rankings with them and we know how much business we are responsible for. We can extrapolate the overall business from these numbers. But I’m not going to get into this discussion debating the author earnings report…..it’s been done already by many people. Just using math would tell you that when they sell 100,000 copies of a big bestsellers at 11.99 on agency what they make. You can do the math to figure out how many books at 3.99 they would have to sell to come up with that same number.
      This has nothing to do with the fact that as an indie author you can make a nice living using KDP. To say that KDP is responsible for a big piece of Amazon’s profits would not be correct though.

      • AlexvdL says:

        Well as a Forerunner of the Zarlaxian empire, I am privy to numbers even you can’t see and I’ve determined that trad pubbed authors will cure cancer and stave off the National debt as they outsell KDP authors by seven trillion percent.

        Or, non-sarcastically, if your numbers prove authorearnings wrong, publish them and prove it. Otherwise, the numbers we can actually see and verify for ourselves are going to win out.

      • pauldraker says:

        “Because our super-double-top-secret publisher data says so” is a pretty lame rebuttal.

        Give it a rest, Steve. You’ve got nothing. You’re just embarrassing yourself.

        Again.

      • Tasha Turner says:

        Most of the debunking attempts ignore the fact that most indies don’t use ISBN numbers when publishing. Ignoring large amounts of data because it’s not “relevant” doesn’t debunk something it just shows that you are stuck in a mindset and haven’t caught up to how others are doing business. Research requires you to be asking the right questions and to make sure you are gathering the right data.

        Surveys done of a subset of authors to prove authors prefer something doesn’t mean anything. Data gathered that ignores the majority of indie published books means that you don’t actually know how much the indie market is bringing to Amazon. Amazon knows the answer but you are fooling yourselves if you think “rankings” mean what you think they do as your comparing apples to oranges.

  22. Reblogged this on WHAT THE HELL and commented:
    Mr. Gaughran continues to cover this issue in more depth than we see elsewhere, and the more I read the more complex the issue becomes. As an author, I want to keep my eye on the ball, but there are practicalities involved here…

  23. Pingback: Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon | Michael McGrinder

  24. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Another no-holds-barred piece by a true champion of the people, David Gaughran.

  25. Leslea Tash says:

    So many great points here. Thanks for shining a light on what’s really going on, DG.

  26. Tasha Turner says:

    Fantastic post David. Shared. Amazons not perfect. But people need to keep their facts straight. You do a good job of that. Or maybe it just seems that way because you agree with me.😀

  27. I published a book three years ago to modest success and finally published a new book Friday night (the 4th of July). Amazon published it within 2 hours of getting the files, I’m still waiting for Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press to finish “processing it.” Kobo was up Saturday morning.

    The book has jumped the best seller charts and it doing insanely well, and I didn’t advertise it anywhere (just mentioned it on my reader group page TheCheapEbook). It was mostly keywords and Zon’s great algorithms that put my novella in front of the readers who are desperate for most material in the genre (I know, because I too will pay through the nose for my Darcy fix!😉

    While Amazon and I have enjoyed making money these last three days, I don’t know what Barnes and Noble is doing…. when/if Amazon decides to start squeezing indies we’ll all figure something out. It’s not like Amazon owns the Internet. I don’t see Amazon ever becoming the great oppressor everyone says they will be, people say the same thing about Google all the time and yet, Gmail is still free.

    They need to quit borrowing trouble. And quit behaving like children, because their real problem is their idea that if anyone else is successful then they can’t be is absurd.

  28. Paul your comments are pretty insulting to say the least. I come on here and put in my two cents and correct a lot of comments that are totally inaccurate. Please don’t tell me I’m embarrassing myself when I know something about the publishing business. You are preaching to your choir here. They’re going to support you whatever you say even when your data is based on lopsided information from the author earnings report which has been widely debunked. I think Mike Shatzkin did a pretty good job of that as did many others. That report is probably one of the worst example of statistical analysis that I’ve ever seen. I can’t speak for all publishers or for anybody else other than my firm…..so I can’t quote you statistics. I know what our sales are on a title by title basis on a daily basis. Publishers can see daily sales just like you can. We can extrapolate revenue by our ranking especially publishers who have many books in the top 20 or 100 titles. They can see the drop off in sales from one position to the next. Traditional publishing has no problem with indie authors yet your continued bashing of the industry doesn’t stop. The traditional publishers aren’t bashing indie authors. We all publish many authors that are now hybrid and many have taken authors that were indie like Hugh Howey and signed them up as well.
    But the continued misinformation that big time authors are defecting to indie publishing couldn’t be further from the truth. There isn’t a single bestselling megastar that has gone that route. One day they might, but it hasn’t happened yet. Those authors appreciate what publishers do for them.

    I’ve obviously out stayed my welcome here and as I said your comments were rude and totally unnecessary. If you saw the private emails I get from many people from your site you wouldn’t say I’ve embarrassed myself. Good luck with your future writing. I’ve never wished any indie author anything but the same. Ever week we get at least a dozen indie authors who are looking to be traditionally published who have made it past the editors to the editorial board meeting. There is plenty of good writing out there….enough for you to keep blogging to and enough for traditional publishers to keep publishing.

    • Paul Draker says:

      Steve,
      you might be surprised to hear that I respect you. You’ve engaged with the writer community online and publicly, often facing a hostile audience, including unhappy Kensington & ex-Kensington authors. That’s laudable. It takes guts. And you’ve mostly handled yourself well.

      I also bear no animosity to “traditional publishing”, and have never had a single bad experience with any of it at all. It was simply irrelevant to me when I started my career as an author. And since then, I’ve had very friendly conversations with publishers making unsolicited offers on my work, and have discussed terms with them, and then chosen to politely turn them down and continue self-publishing. But I respect any author who makes an informed choice either way — there’s no one right answer for everyone.

      However, *all* authors deserve to make their decisions about how they choose to publish based on accurate industry data.

      So what I don’t respect is when you use your position as a publishing CEO to publicly spread blatant misinformation, and then rely on blind appeals to authority to back it up. That cuts zero ice with an informed audience. It cuts zero ice with me. And you are doing it again here.

      The plain fact is, nobody has debunked http://www.authorearnings.com the way you so earnestly claim. Despite the data’s clearly-stated limitations (several single-day snapshots, Amazon.com + Barnes&Noble.com only) it has stood the test of time. Tens of thousands of authors, both traditionally published and self-published, recommend it to each other as the best data available on the industry. While a few folks have tried to attack it ad hominem, and touted their own dubious credentials while trying to dismiss the data, no one has actually been able to provide any data of their own that contradicts in any way what authorearnings.com shows. In fact, the official industry statistics released since then have served to confirm it, by matching authorearnings.com’s data for *traditionally published* ebooks quite well. And all of us can see the “invisible” indie books that make up a third of all Amazon bestseller charts, but which they leave out.

      Don’t forget, authorearnings.com released their raw data and explained the methodology. Anyone can spot-check it, sanity-check it, or even replicate their results.

      And many of us have.

      You’re also contradicting yourself rather blatantly about how accurately Amazon ranks correspond to sales.

      A few months ago, when trying to argue that indie Sci-Fi ebooks weren’t outselling traditionally-published Sci-Fi ebooks, despite having better Amazon ranks, you said:

      “…there isn’t anybody here who can tell you how many copies the top 100 Kindle books are selling since the information is proprietary to Amazon. You don’t know if it’s 50 copies or 5000 copies.”

      Now you’re saying:

      “Publishers can see daily sales just like you can. We can extrapolate revenue by our ranking especially publishers who have many books in the top 20 or 100 titles. They can see the drop off in sales from one position to the next.”

      So tell me, which is it, Steve?

      You’re trying to argue that authorearnings.com is wrong, because Kensington has had books in the Top-100 and the Top-20 on Amazon and tracked your sales?

      Well, guess what. So have we.

      I’ve personally tracked my daily sales while my books were in the Kindle overall Top-100 seven times in the last seven months, and in the Top-20 a couple times. I’ve done the same while I was in the overall Top-3 in the BarnesAndNoble.com NOOK store recently, and in the Top-6 a few months ago.

      A *lot* of authors have done the same. We’ve compared our data to authorearnings.com’s spreadsheets, and found our own books (anonymized) in the authorearnings.com data.

      When I say one third of ebooks purchased are self-published, authorearnings.com is where I’m getting it.
      When I say one fifth of ebook dollars are spent on self-published books, authorearnings.com is where I’m getting it.

      So if I seem mocking or rude, don’t take it to heart. It’s because I see you trying to counter real data we’re all looking at with tired rhetoric.

      You don’t like authorearnings.com’s numbers?

      Prove them wrong.

  29. Reblogged this on David Pandolfe and commented:
    Fantastic post about the publishing elite and hypocrisy. For those of you who may have missed Hugh Howey’s Change.org petition (not likely, I know), it’s a link definitely worth clicking on. Please consider adding your name to assure you keep the authority you’ve earned and deserve as a reader.

  30. Reblogged this on Ty Hutchinson and commented:
    It’s important to know there are two sides to the story. If you enjoy reading, then please read this. It’s important to know that not all authors are for Hachette. The authors who have come out in support of Hachette are published by Hachette. That’s something they never mention.

  31. Your Washington Post link takes me to Change.org.😉

  32. Reblogged this on beginingsinwriting and commented:
    As I mentioned in an earlier post, Amazon isn’t the bad guy in the battle with Hachette Book Group, despite what they, and their multi-millionaire authors would have you believe.

  33. gvkbj says:

    I can only comment it was very informative to learn “the other story”. Thanks David. The media were in deed a bit too “All against Amazon”.

  34. A reminder to everyone:

    Feel free to disagree with each other (or me), but please do so with respect and without any name-calling. I don’t have a comments policy/moderation policy. Please don’t make me write one. We’ve survived three years of the Big Bad Publishing Wars without it being needed.

  35. Vicky Loebel says:

    David, as usual, i find your analysis well-reasoned and compelling.

    Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the “petition” which reads to me like an amazon marketing letter and makes claims about the terms of the dispute which your posts indicate are not public.

    As a reader and indie publisher, I’m pretty strongly pro amazon, but I’d rather sign a letter that’s pro common sense.

  36. kathrynguare says:

    Given his apoplectic screeds against self-publishing, I was shocked (shocked!) to see James Patterson’s gushing blurb on the cover of actor Eriq Lasalle’s apparently self-published book (the publisher of record is “4 Clay Productions”, which appears to be a video distribution company operating out of a bungalow in Pasadena). http://www.amazon.com/Laws-Wrath-Eriq-Salle/dp/099165580X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404735951&sr=1-1&keywords=eriq+la+salle

  37. Stacy Gatlin says:

    You will never come to agreement with either side. Writers in large publishing companies don’t like self-publishers because before the time of internets and ready to go books writers had to work blood sweat and tears to get something published and even than if something happen and the publisher dropped you, you had to wait until the contract for the books that didn’t get published to drop. Than the self-publishers don’t care much for the publishing companies because of all the rules that they enforce to even consider using your ideas and even than you have to go on display like you were a dog at Westmister. Both sides have good and bad qualities but in a realistic world it’s the side that is hungrier for the wealth that’s going to end up winning. In an idealistic world it would actually be the writers that come out on top but if a realistic world ended the way we wanted we wouldn’t have fiction writers creating new ones.

  38. Reblogged this on The Writers' Workshop Blog and commented:
    Thanks for another informative post David Gaughran.

  39. Reblogged this on The Fire In Our Heads and commented:
    I signed the petition that Gaughran talks about in this piece, authored in part by one of the most knowledgeable authors out there on the publishing industry, Hugh Howey.

  40. As always, a fair and balanced analysis of the situation.

    I don’t know who to ‘root for’ in this dispute, but if I have to look at past actions, Amazon has been much better for authors than the Big Six traditionally have been. After all, they helped usher in the e-book revolution with KDP and Kindle and everything else. While they aren’t solely responsible for it, but they have been leaders while the Big Six have done everything in their power to stifle it.

    Frankly, the Big Six have seemed so much like the recording companies it’s shocking. I guess the saying “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” still holds true, although I’m shocked that someone can forget such a major innovation so quickly.

  41. Lior Samson says:

    I linked this on two groups over at LinkedIn. Keep up the great work, David.

  42. Reblogged this on Official Home of T.S.M. Davies and Divica and commented:
    All of my fellow writers and self-published authors should read this article and respond to the letter from these big name authors. It makes me feel a little sick.

  43. Pingback: The Kindle Chronicles - TKC 310 David H. Rothman

  44. David, is there a way to subscribe to your blog? Am I just not seeing the link to receive it by email?

    • Alexvdl says:

      Any RSS aggregator works to subscribe to his feed. I personally use Digg Reader, but you have InstaPaper and many others which will do the same.

  45. Pingback: The Flip Side of the Amazon Debate | Writer Chick Talks

  46. writerchick says:

    Thank God for you and a few other bloggers who have clarified and provided the facts about this situation. What’s good for readers is good for writers.

  47. Pingback: Hachette vs. Amazon: The Petitioning | tracycembor

  48. Pingback: Why literature is no longer art: | Further Annotations

  49. Pingback: Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon | David Gaughran |

  50. Nasume says:

    I never understood why the big 5 DON’T band together and boycott Amazon altogether if they are bothered by their power. Who really thinks a Patterson or KIng or Evanavich fan wouldn’t drive to the store if that’s what they had to do to get the latest release? Indies alone could not sustain Amazon book sales. Instead of whining about how Amazon is treating authors, pull them. You can’t monopolize a market if you don’t have the content. They could take their power back any time they wanted,

    • Tasha Turner says:

      It’s also hard to drive to the store to get a kindle version of Patterson, King, or Evanovich. This is a question many of us ask – if they hate Amazon so much why do business with them? They are in a catch 22 – probably can’t survive without Amazons sales. They helped make a Amazon what it is today.

      Plus Amazon is not just selling indie books. They also sell many small/mid-size publishers books. Those publishers really can’t pull their books and many have no interest in doing so.

      • Tasha, Scribd has Books 1-3 in their subscription plan (not a purchase only thing). I just read # 3 a couple weeks ago, one of the best funniest hard driving detective, uh, bounty hunter thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to read. Post as much on Goodreads🙂

      • Tasha Turner says:

        Kindle readers tend to be very committed to their kindles. So yes the book might be available elsewhere but that doesn’t mean the reader will go elsewhere. This is where DRM/books tied to retailer/app has caused publishers to be stuck now.

        Had ereaders independent of retailers been developed that all read the same kind of ePub file publishers would not be as dependent on individual retailers. Tech savvy people are fine using multiple apps but the average user wants all their books in one place. If they’ve already put out a fair amount if money in books at one retailer & those books are not one click transferable to another reader/sync across new devices it’s a no go.

        This is the problem the publishers face.

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