An Augean stable-letter
Before anyone accuses me of being an Amazon Fanboi, I am very keen on finding the dear fellow on Createspace who set the word templates… and did NOT set the picture inserts to retain their DPI… Meaning I will probably have to start all over again. He’d better keep his distance or I might be be very tempted to introduce his head to the famous Discworld town of Slice* I was hoping to announce that Stardogs
was now available in paper too and not just as an e-book, but instead I will say I am pulling my beard out by the roots…
Still, when it comes down to the league of very silly people I have to point to something Cedar referred to a few days ago – SFWA came out with putting its support very firmly behind Hachette and encouraging authors to get their readers to bombard Jeff Bezos with ‘Amazon Evul’ letters. But I wonder how many of you actually read that letter – the one authors are rushing to put their names to? This letter
Ok, you can catch your jaws again. Pick them up off the floor. Lets have an interesting time dissecting some of it… because really, it deserves a little cold, dispassionate thought.
“A letter to our readers: Amazon is involved in a commercial
dispute with the book publisher Hachette, which
owns Little Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints.
These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a
corporate back room. But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly
targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms”
Well, is this true? Firstly it’s only ‘something unusual’ if you have a very short memory. If you think it accurate, may I suggest Alzheimers disease would be something bigger for you to worry about? This is the _third_ time recently authors have been affected by publisher/ distributor/ Amazon fights. It’s not exactly new or unusual. Secondly Amazon has offered to put up a fund to help compensate authors, to stop them suffering from this commercial dispute. They did precisely this in the MacMillan dispute. Hachette HAVE REFUSED. Hachette, NOT Amazon, are quite happy to have their authors suffer hardship as a result of the dispute. Thirdly, authors are affected, yes, but in large part by their publisher’s actions (I will go into this somewhat later). In short, this is spin, and it is a deliberate attempt to manipulate customer sentiment against Amazon. They claim Amazon is attacking Hachette authors – they’re attacking Amazon’s customers.
“For the past month, Amazon has been:
Boycotting Hachette authors,refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette’s authors’ books, claiming they are “unavailable.”
Er. That’s NOT a boycott. Not selling them is a boycott. I can’t get pre-orders on my books either. And no, I’m not stupid enough to claim I’m being boycotted. Two things here: This is a privilege, and advantage never given to self-publishers — some of whom outsell the authors on this list. Secondly, taking pre-orders from a company that you may not be doing business with when the book is released (in which case the book will not be available) puts Amazon in an unpleasant position. Either they issue a lot of refunds to angry customers, or they buy the books at whatever the market want to charge, and sell them at the contracted (pre-ordered) price. Hey, it’s nice work if you can get it!
“Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette’s authors’ books.”
Oh. My. Word. Did I REALLY just read that priceless gem? Blink. ROFL. Yes, I did. I’ll just read it again so I can savor it. Hmmm wonderful. It reminds me of that creamy fresh warm cow-poo in the dairy in the early morning. And it smells much the same and oozes between your cold toes the same way. So: now, getting your books discounted is every author’s right? And every publisher’s right? Anyone who doesn’t discount from the cover price is a bad man! Much is explained. That’s why the little independent bookstores are bad. Oh they’re not? Well yes the chorus has been Amazon is bad for discounting so they can’t compete. Of course nothing to stop Hachette, and other publishers lowering their cover price, or giving the indie bookstores the same deal they B&N and Books a Million, and Amazon enjoyed. But let’s just run through the ‘discount’ racket in case you hadn’t figured it out. The publishers put a vastly inflated cover price on the book -especially if it is by an author who is going to sell well. Let’s say an e-book at 12.99. Amazon discounts it to 9.99, because that is their price breakpoint. They pay the publisher at 70% of the cover price. Amazon makes 90 cents on the deal, or less than 7%. The book sells much better than it would at 12.99, the publisher makes exactly what they would at 12.99. The author gets his 25% of the publisher’s nett. They’ve both (but principally the publisher) benefited a bit from the retailer’s share. The author got $2.27, the publisher got 6.82,and the retailer discounted and got 90 cents. Of course there is nothing to stop the publisher putting a lower cover price on the book, and giving the author a better percentage – but I guess then it wouldn’t be Amazon’s fault.
A discount is NOT a right. Not for authors or publishers. Or readers. A fair cover price, now — I could argue about that.
Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette’s authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as
several weeks on most titles.
Heh. This one is possibly the best piece of spin since the top. It’s a classic. 78 rpm I’d guess. Let’s try that real novelty, rational thought (putting aside the testimony from several Amazon supply centers, which we, and Hugh Howey and Konrath cited before) It’s a HUGE logistical task, Amazon supplying goods. There’s a distribution system with a massively complex computer algorithm orchestrating it, vast warehouses fulfilling it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to mess with that sort of system, so Amazon really HAVE the book but just sit on the order? Ask any programmer, what you’re talking about is slightly madder than an ostrich that’s lived in a mercury mine and has just read War and Peace after dropping acid. What this reflects is a reality: Amazon have simply not ordered the books for their warehouses. That’s the only way the system can not be compromised to the point that fixing it would cost a mint. Orders are filled when the publisher supplies the goods. Hachette – a wholesaler – COULD step up to the plate and spend real money making sure that every _retail_ order from Amazon was filled within minutes. It’d cost. Authors would not be hurt, but Hachette would bleed, because that kind of distribution system (as in what Amazon has, and Hachette does not -they’re a wholesaler)would actually cost a lot. Probably their profits. To protect their authors? Don’t be silly, there are lots more meat-heads. Next thing you’ll want them to contribute to fund for authors.
“As writers some but not all published by Hachette we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of
books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want.”
I guess they missed the recommendations for other sellers on the Amazon listing. But it’s the sort of logic I think Walter Breen and Bradley would have cheered for too. How dare any bookseller not have their favorite guide on how to use kiddies for neo-pagan gay sex rituals? No bookseller can just decide what they want to sell, after all. Booksellers do this and always have, and always will. I’ve been on the receiving end when Barnes and Noble decided they wouldn’t carry Rats Bats and Vats in Hardcover, and again with Dragon’s Ring. Amazon did.
“It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.”
Let’s try and follow this one to logical end. It’s not right to single out a group… for selective retaliation – so therefore it would be fine if they punished ALL authors, even those whose publishers aren’t gaming the ‘discount’ system. That would be ‘right’? I suppose by Stockholm-syndrome logic it is. All traditional publishers shaft all authors with royalty rates at around 1/6 of Amazon does, but at least they’re not being unfair and selective… except of course they are, and you’ll find many of the big names signing this piece of drekk do get better deals. But yes, at least new authors and midlisters are equally shafted. Funny, that doesn’t make feel me any less like it needs more vaseline. A LOT more.
“Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery”
What? Oh you mean Amazon is ‘inconveniencing’ by giving them links to other sellers. Yes of course. That’s very inconsiderate. Like offering to pay the authors who lose sales. Unfair pricing? Huh? Oh you mean SELLING AT THE COVER PRICE. Very very very unfair. How could they… Oh oh. My Sarcometer just snapped. I shoulda bought a Bothas-batter-proof one, but I’ve been flat out like a lizard drinking making a living, and they’re too pricy for yer workin’ author.
My snorkel is too short for any more of this bullshit.
Look, here is a better perspective. I’ve signed it.
*where the sun don’t shine.