My take on the whole Amazon v Hachette debacle.
If you’re an author, or follow authorial type blogs, you might have seen some noise regarding a big old mess between Amazon and Hachette. If not, let me sum it up for you in a few words. Amazon and Hachette are negotiating on who will get what when the monetary pie is sliced up from the sale of an ebook and just how much will be charged for those ebooks.
At this point in time, that’s all that’s really known. There’s been much speculation, but that’s all it really is at this point; speculation. Much of it is good speculation on the side of those pointing out that Amazon is a business and doing what a business will do in order to make more money. They want to set the price of a product they’re selling through their marketplace. Plain and simple.
On the other side, Hachette wants to force Amazon to charge a higher price so other sales avenues will be able to compete.
Again, this is all speculation.
So Amazon has decided that since they cannot come to an agreement with Hachette, they’ve removed pre-order buttons and from all of Hachette’s titles until they can come to an agreement. They’ve also raised the prices on the books to the LIST price. That’s the price the publisher has asked for the ebooks to be priced at, and not the discounted price Amazon would like to list them for. On the surface, it’s all business. Nothing personal. Just trying to make sure that all parties get the most money they can. We live in a capitalist society and that’s what business is all about, the money. It’s not about the readers, it’s not about the authors. It’s about a product and where the money goes.
Amazon is very silent on this matter and that works in their favor. There’s no need to get the details out there because it’s no one’s business other than Amazon’s.
On the other hand, there are a LOT of authors out there crying about Amazon being bullies to this publisher. Lots of hand wringing, calling to arms, complaints, etc.
Um… if you’re an author with Hachette, you have nothing to complain about. Nothing. Zip. Nada. You’re a writer. You sold your rights. You’re a widget. You’re replaceable. You are no more important to Hachette than a box of thumbtacks (and probably less so). If you fail, regardless of whose fault it is, they can have another you tomorrow (if not sooner). If you don’t own the rights to your book, you have nothing to complain about. You signed a contract with Hachette allowing them to do whatever they like with your book(s) including allowing it to wither and die on the vine if they so choose. You don’t own the book any more.
Yes, I’m sorry if this will hurt your career. I think that really sucks. Honestly, I feel for you. I just don’t see where you have any room to complain. No one owes anyone a living. The fact that you can make a living from your writing is awesome. I would love to do the same. But if you don’t own the rights to your work, then you’ve already been paid for your part of the bargain.
As for Amazon doing things that you don’t like, as I said, this is business. You don’t have a contract with Amazon that says they’ll carry your books forever and ever. Amazon can carry whatever books they like. If they’re not getting the terms they want, they do NOT have to carry that product. Plain and simple. They distribute. Nothing else. I don’t hear any of these authors complaining because every bookstore in the world isn’t carrying their books. It’s only about Amazon. Why not complain when you don’t see your book in my local bookstore? They’re also just a distributer. Should they be required to carry every title of every book that was ever written? Should every online retailer of books carry every title no matter what the publisher is demanding?
For me, the argument falls apart every time I read an author all up in arms over what’s happening.
I get the frustration, but I think they’re looking in the wrong direction. Amazon is just a distributer. If they’re not getting the terms they want, they’re under no obligation to continue to distribute a given work. Just because they’re the world’s largest distributor of books, I understand the desire to attack them. They’re a monster. They’re also a business.
If publishers are all upset about what’s happening, they need to look back over the years and figure out where it all went wrong. They had the chance to make their own Amazon-type website to distribute their books. They had the chance to take advantage of the technology. They could have even taken advantage of Amazon’s platform, signed a licensing agreement, and SOLD DIRECT and delivered to the kindle. They still could. Instead, they’d rather just complain they’re being treated unfairly by a distributer.
I don’t personally know any of the authors affected by this. I know some of them as friends of friends. I do honestly feel bad for this speed bump. Like I said, once you sell your rights, you sold the right to complain about what’s happening to your work. If you don’t like what’s happening with your publisher and how they’re dealing with the situation, find a new publisher.
Better yet, self-publish. All those things that you think you NEED a big publisher for are a fallacy. You can pay for a cover and get the cover you want (or learn how to make your own covers). You can pay for editing. You can pay an agent to help you get your book into the marketplace. You can pay a promoter. All of these will be a one-time cost. Done. Over. You make all the money. You can still spend your time being a writer. You will have a small staff doing work for you and only pay them once the work is done. You can write what you like, when you like, how you like. Your readers won’t care if your next book comes from Tor, Hachette, or you. I can’t remember the last time I looked to see who published a book before I bought it and I know I’m not alone. It’s called freedom and many writers are making a living being free to do what they want.
And they want to help you. All you need to do is educate yourself, and ask for help when you need it.
It sounds so simple, but it’s change. Change is scary. That’s why so many authors will continue to complain, bemoan, and defend their publishers. They’re scared of change. It’s scary when things happen that you have no control over. Unless you make a publisher millions of dollars a year, you’re replaceable. Unless you own the rights to your books, you have no recourse. Unless you take charge of your career instead of selling away the rights to your work, you’ll continue to have no control over your career.
There’s a lot more on this topic around the web. http://www.jakonrath.com/ (J.A. Konrath) has a lot more information including posts from other authors and him take on what these authors are saying. I agree with a lot of what he says (in some case almost everything he says.) If you’re interested or if you’re an author, go read what he has to say. There is a lot of wisdom in his words.
Until Next Time!