*UPDATE: SARAH SPEAKING — There will be two chapters next week. The problem with Elf Blood is that I REALLY need to go back and fix it before I continue. Please be patient. And read Amanda’s excellent post.*
One of the last things I wanted to do this morning was another post on the Amazon/Hatchette ongoing battle. For one thing, I’ve already done several posts on the subject. For another, I have a feeling the negotiations with Hatchette are just the opening salvo in what looks to be a long battle between Amazon and the publishers caught colluding with Apple to price fix. Yes, this opening salvo is going to have a huge impact on how the rest of the negotiations go but it won’t be the end of it all. But a week or two without another Amazon/Hatchette post wasn’t to be.
I really didn’t think too much about it when I opened my email yesterday and found a message from Amazon about the current war of words. Nor was I surprised to see Amazon asking us — KDP authors — to email Hatchette and let the company know what we think about their delaying tactics. And yes, I do believe Hatchette is dragging its feet until it can also renegotiate with Apple, thereby putting it in a stronger position with Amazon (at least in Hatchette’s mind). Amazon even helpfully provided a set of bullet points to consider putting into emails to Hatchette. In short, all Amazon did was take a page out of Hatchette’s book and ask its authors to take a stand.
Oh the cries of foul that suddenly rose from the interwebs. Within half a hour of reading the email, I was seeing accusations of Amazon acting like a stalker in sending the email to the usual AHDers (Amazon Hater Disorder sufferers) about how evil Amazon was to ask its authors to contact poor, innocent Hatchette. There was even one author claiming that Amazon is not and never will be a friend to authors. All of those had me shaking my head and wondering if these folks had ever really read their contracts with their traditional publisher — several of whom are signed with Hatchette — as well as if they actually knew the meaning of the terms “contract”, “negotiation” and “irony”.
What pushed me over the edge was a post by another author who admitted to not having received or read the email but, based on what they were seeing form their author friends, Amazon was once again resorting to dirty pool and must be stopped because, duh, Amazon is evil. Yes, my head exploded at that and I contacted Sarah to see if she was going to deal with the issue today, forgetting this was her day to post a chapter. We talked and she offered me the morning slot here to discuss the email and she will post her chapter after lunch.
I’m not going to quote the email here. If you are in the KDP program, you got a copy of it. Check your junk mail folder if you haven’t seen it yet. What I do want to discuss is how those who are condemning Amazon for asking its customers and authors to take a stand while completely ignoring the fact that Hatchette has been doing that for weeks. (Yes, I’m pointing to a certain former SFWA president as I say this.)
Praise is being heaped on James Patterson and other millionaire authors for standing up for Hatchette and condemning Amazon. The full page ads Patterson and company have taken out in the New York Times are pointed to with great glee and pride. How wonderful is is that these millionaire authors are taking a stand against Amazon. Amazon is evil and must be put in its place.
What is the difference between those ads and the emails Amazon sent? Putting aside the obvious — one is a print and digital ad while the other was an email — the basic premise for both is the same. They are attempts to get people to take sides in a contentious contract negotiation. If you think Patterson and company took out the ads and took to Youtube and other social media outlets on their own and without discussing it with their editors, I have some nice real estate in Florida to sell you. Instead of applauding these millionaire authors for taking a stand, ask yourself this: why aren’t we seeing solid mid-listers taking such action? I’ll tell you why. They don’t have the immediate name recognition and impact of a James Patterson. Hatchette would much rather have a “name” out there telling its readers how evil Amazon is than one of their authors who make up the mid list that carries the house when a best seller bombs.
As for the allegation that the email felt like Amazon was stalking authors, OMG, get a life. I bet the author who made that comment doesn’t feel that way when receiving the daily notification about what the gold box deal of the day is. How in the world do you go from a general email sent to members of a community you belong to — in this case, the KDP community — to it being stalking and feeling sleezy? The mind boggles. Not only have these authors drunk the kool-aid but they chose the wrong door and entered the Outer Limits by way of the Twilight Zone and Wonderland.
The accusation being tossed around by other members of the AHD collective that Amazon resorted to dirty pool by sending the letter and asking its authors to take a stand simply leaves me shaking my head. I should be used to the double-standard these folks consistently apply where Amazon is concerned but it still manages to surprise me. It’s okay for Hatchette to ask its authors and readers to contact Amazon and to move to other retailers but it isn’t okay for Amazon to ask its authors and readers to take a stand. Hmm, I guess it makes sense to the AHD collective and fits their foggy view of the world.
Finally, there’s the allegation that Amazon is not and never will be an author’s friend. There is only one answer to that but I can’t say it here. I might shock my fellow MGCers. So I’ll clean it up and say “Bull————-“. Amazon did not kill the indie bookstores. They were already dying as a result of the big box bookstores moving into their communities, stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Amazon may have been the final nail, but they already had the dirt being shoveled into their graves by the box stores. Nor did Amazon kill the big box stores. They did it to themselves. They over-expanded. They failed to adapt to the change in market demographics and demands. They were too slow in adopting new tech and to move into the e-book market. They took ordering out of a local and regional manager’s hands and took it national, thereby insuring stores no longer stocked books that were of local interest. They started looking more like a big Five and Dime Store that sold books than bookstores. You walk into one of their stores and you see everything but books until you get into the heart of the store. More and more shelf space is going to toys and puzzles and gee-gaws than books. That is what is killing the big box stores, not just Amazon.
So how has Amazon been an author’s friend? It has made our books available to everyone. It gives us a place to make our backlist available. It has made it easy to get our books into the hands of our readers. All so very bad for us, right? (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes.)
Oh, there’s more ways Amazon is evil and not a friend of authors. It launched the KDP program so small presses and indies can get their e-books into the hands of the general public. That’s bad, right? Oh, wait, no. That’s a good thing, for both the author and the reader. But it’s bad because it took away the gatekeeper. That’s what the AHDers will tell you. Yeah, those gatekeepers, the editors that are looking for books with certain political and social messages in them and not for what is going to sell. After all, the gatekeepers are in charge of educating the reading public. Riiiiight.
Then there’s the way Amazon is not our friend because we can see our sales in pretty much real time and we get paid on a monthly basis. We don’t have to rely upon Bookscan and quarterly statements that often contain more fiction than our books do. But Amazon is bad. I guess that’s because it gives us an alternative and the potential to actually make a living off our writing.
Oh, and that’s another way Amazon will never be our friend. It gives us up to — gasp — 70% of the cover price of our e-books as opposed to the oh-so-general 20 – 25% we might get from a traditional publisher. How dare it give an author that much of the money?
I know Amazon is out to make a buck and that it can change its terms whenever it wants. But so can B&N or Kobo or Smashwords. But we never hear the Amazon haters going off on them, even when they do exactly what they are condemning Amazon for. What I do know for sure is that Amazon was the first to give those of us who don’t fall into the politically correct spectrum for traditional publishing a chance to get our work out there. As a reader, it has given me the sort of stories I want to read again: stories with a plot that doesn’t revolve around how evil mankind is or how evil men are simply because they are men. There are stories of hope and adventure available again. Sure, authors like Larry Correia and our own Sarah have messages in their works but they don’t hammer us over the heads with it. More importantly, with what they write, story is more important than message and that’s the way they want it. But Amazon is bad for giving authors another way, a legitimate way, of getting their work into the hands of the reading public.
I would love to see someone come up with a legitimate and viable competitor to Amazon. For that to happen, they would have to be as much of a visionary as Jeff Bezos has been at Amazon. That isn’t going to come out of traditional publishing unless all the ivory towers suddenly collapse and someone crawls out of the rubble of the mail room to take over. The suits aren’t about to think outside of their very small boxes.
But Amazon is evil.
As far as I’m concerned, Hatchette is the one who has taken the low road in this contract dispute, at least where its authors are concerned. It has turned down at least two proposals from Amazon that would have put money into the hands of the authors. But Amazon is evil.
Gawd, folks, quit drinking the kool-aid, don’t accept either the red or the blue pill and when someone suggests you open a door and there is eerie music playing from behind said door, don’t open it. In other words, quit parroting what you hear from your editors and your fellow traditionally published authors and actually think about what you’re reading and hearing. Apply some critical thinking to it and don’t genuflect at the altar of Hatchette simply because it is in a heated contract negotiation with Amazon. Most of all, remember that most traditional publishers view authors as interchangeable widgets and value your work on a book accordingly.
But Amazon is evil.