It isn’t nice to get me wound up this early in the morning

*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.

Bah!

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.

NOT!

53 comments

  1. Unfortunately, I think you’re “preaching to the choir” here. [Sad Smile]

    The idiots aren’t likely to be coming here. [Frown]

    1. They do seem to be hiding of late but, ever once in awhile, they do come. Plus, the sometimes comment on FB when someone links here. Of course, I guess I could invoke the name of a certain former SFWA president and see if he’d grace us with his “wisdom”. Then, maybe we could get Larry to come have a discussion with him. 😉

  2. Too bad so sad– NOT for those haters. As I heard recently “haters gotta hate.” Seriously, I am rooting for Amazon because they have been good to me not only as a writer but as a customer as well.

    1. Same here, Cyn. I think what gets me is the lemming response of these authors who really ought to start thinking for themselves before they find that they have been cast adrift by their beloved publishers like so many others.

  3. Friend? They want a friend to publish their books? These people are children loose in the woods. I don’t expect my bank or my stockbroker or my credit union to be FRIENDS. I don’t list anybody on Google+ as a ‘friend’. My LAWYER is by no means my friend,
    They pervert the word and if they really think commercial relationships have any basis in friendship they either don’t understand friendship or they don’t understand business and contracts. Fools…

    1. I have only one question for you, Mackey. Why are you insulting children in the woods? They have more sense than these folks do.

    2. Exactly. I don’t need Amazon to be my friend, I (my clients really) need Amazon to be a reliable, trustworthy business partner.

      Which may be rarer these days than friends …

      1. That would account for getting two then.

        Still not sure where mine is. Luckily, I’ve had the chance to read it multiple places, so I’m good. 🙂

  4. Amazon is not your friend. It is a business partner of yours. The distinction is important. Furthermore, it seems to be a relatively ethical and sensible business partner as far as writers are concerned.

    What makes for a good business partner is not necessarily the same as what makes for a good friend. A business partner can be a friend, but a business partner who tries to trade on friendship is probably a poor example of both.

    As for Amazon being evil, compared to what? Okay, sure, it is an organization of human beings. I might argue for humans being evil, not in the fainting leftist ‘they ought to die’ sense, but in the Christian ‘we all have tendencies towards evil that we ought to struggle with’ sense. (I do not have the best theological education, so I could have easily stated the latter poorly.) What would make Amazon particularly so? They don’t sell slaves. They don’t commit mass murder.

    It sounds like an argument based on confused thinking to me. Maybe it tests Amazon’s connections versus those of Hachette et al. Maybe framing it that way serves an ideological purpose.

    1. You’re being too logical. The whole issue is that those who hate Amazon and want it taken out of the equation aren’t considering what will happen to their precious publishers — much less their own careers — if Amazon should go away. It will be much worse for the industry than if we lose each and every physical bookstore in existence.

      1. I suspect it is more about attempting to destroy Amazon’s willingness to make its own choices than destroying Amazon. At least as far as those who are both specifically committed to this issue and actually making a decision are concerned. Okay, perhaps being redundant, there is the unthinking mob with tar and feathers, and the ideologues who find the stated reasons compelling.

        I think if the Five can tell their investors that their losses are due to Amazon’s stubbornness and ill will, then the investors may continue to be willing to subsidize them.

        I suspect they may have done this to keep their business afloat, and that this might inform a strategy of trying to break Amazon’s will.

        Telling their financiers that publishing is a special industry unlike any other, or even extorting tribute from Amazon seems to me a more feasible strategy for them then forcing Amazon to devote all its energies to propping them up.

        1. Bob, I’ve been hanging around advertising/marketing/sales forums for about twenty years. Based on what I’ve heard, _every_ business owner/management type, thinks “mine is unique.” Sigh. I suspect that it’s really a super advanced case of MBA (Management By A–holes) disease, with a side order of Sywfwalis (gleefully stolen from the Diner). Sadly, I think that it’s catching to BNA’s (Like Patterson, et al). I think you catch it by signing contracts with a big advance. (None of here are likely to have to worry about that.) 🙂

          1. Walter,

            I wasn’t trying to suggest a sincere example of ‘You can not compare my performance to that of others because I am a special snowflake’.

            I was attempting to suggest that they are perhaps trying to defraud whatever part of their organizations is responsible for banking them. That the strategy versus Amazon makes sense as part of a strategy to discourage higher management from doing an audit, reforming book keeping, and holding them responsible for it.

            In other words, a conspiracy theory, based on certain claims of longstanding dubious book keeping, and specific parties recently having been convicted of conspiracy on related matters.

  5. I had just happened to read some articles on the development of the supermarket the other day, and found we’re (of course) repeating history, over and over, in many different ways. The press and established grocers objected to supermarkets in the early 20th century because their practice of volume merchandising and staying open all night were “unfair practices”. Press hype even convinced some politicians to enact laws. Time magazine promised that these big stores offering low prices were just a symptom of bad times, and would soon go away. By the 50s, of course, supermarkets had clobbered “mom and pop” and were the norm. Now we’re told that Walmart’s “unfair practices” threaten mom and pop stores like Safeway and Sears.

    If you look back at old institutions, like the mom and pop, that were once defended tooth and nail, there doesn’t seem to be much to defend, unless you’re in the grip of delusional nostalgia. They weren’t open when it was convenient for you, sometimes closed even in the middle of the week, they didn’t provide much employment, the stock was scattershot…we live in miraculous times despite the efforts of fellow crabs trying to pull us all back down into the bucket.

    1. When I first moved to where I am now, I didn’t drive, and walked to the corner store a few blocks away rather than a couple of miles to the grocery store.

      And this corner store has a lot to speak for it! They tend to have “old fashioned” items that are hard to find elsewhere (sugar cubes, parchment paper, etc). They’re the best butcher I’ve ever been to. The lady is knowledgeable, not only about the location of everything in her store, but how to use it, and is willing to talk to you about it. (For someone who didn’t know how to cook AT ALL before I moved… helpful.)

      But there was a lot of stuff they just didn’t carry, their produce tended to be long in the tooth, and … well, unless you’re looking for meat, it’s just not the place to go.

      (I am glad it’s here for meat. But I’m also glad for other local grocery stores in wide variety.)

      1. The “successful M&P shops” are like I used to be. Wal-Mart and I had a deal. I didn’t sell Mas Market T-shirts, and they didn’t sell customized ones. IOW, they sell what the “big guys” can’t profitably sell. Big comes at the cost of not being able to be “everything to everybody.” W-M has two to three brands of Tea, instead of ten different ones, because that’s what _most_ people buy. M&P can sell Twenty types, in the same total volume as W-M does for three.

    2. I’ll disagree with you a bit on the mom and pop grocers. They helped the local economy because they bought locally produced goods. They also stocked based on local demand, not on what someone in a suit states away said they ought to stock. More than that, like the indie bookstores, they were a part of the community, something too many of the chains have forgotten is important. That said, yes, they were more expensive and not as convenient, but you are judging convenience by today’s standards. You can no more do that than you can apply today’s PC ideas to books written several hundred hears ago.

      1. What helps the local economy most is to produce what they produce best and sell it to anyone, anywhere, who wants it and is willing to offer goods and services (or money, the universal surrogate) in exchange for it. When you try to produce everything for local consumption, you produce inferior goods, because you are not concentrating on what you do best.

        (Case in point from ancient history: Up until the Arab invasions of the 7th century, the Roman provinces in Palestine, including what is now the East Bank in Jordan, were thickly populated, heavily urbanized, and as rich as any part of the empire. They chiefly produced wine, dates, olive oil, and other orchard produce for export all round the Mediterranean; and because of the orchards, the land retained its moisture, the soil was not leached of minerals, and the Arabian desert was kept at bay. When the Arabs came, they cut off the maritime trade routes, killed the export trade, and forced the locals to chop down their fruit trees and grow grain for local consumption. Within a few generations, the desert had engulfed whole districts, and the region remained a desert until the 19th century; parts of it are desert still. The archaeologists were dumbfounded to discover evidence of such a rich past in a region with such a lifeless and impoverished present. It was specialization of production that made it possible.)

        As for the indie bookstores, I remember them. They were the part of the community that openly mocked people who read science fiction, fantasy, romance, Westerns, historicals, mysteries, or thrillers. They were there to support Literature, and that meant Literary Fiction, by golly, because it said so right there on the tin. I hated walking into those places; and if the proprietor sneered at me, I walked right back out again. Funny, but none of those particular stores are in business any longer. I wonder why that is.

  6. As hard as I tried I could find a copy of “Noctuirnal Lives” I couldn’t. You should check out the linkes with someone else’s compurter. Or, send me a working link at donlovelady-at-gmail.com.

    1. Nocturnal Lives is the series name and the name of my blog. The individual books are Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude. They will be released soon as a digital box set. As for the blog, it is Nocturnal-lives.com. The pingback above has the link embedded.

  7. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Tarien Cole and commented:
    This spares me another long post on the Amazon/Hachette bruhaha. Oh Gosh! Amazon sent an e-mail. Really, get over it. If you’re so ill-informed as to think Hachette hasn’t been trying to delay and recruit high-powered muscle to help its case, you don’t know enough about this to comment on what Amazon did. Period.

    1. Thanks! It was just one of those blogs that had to come out — either that or I would have been gnawing through the walls before the day was out. 😉

  8. I’m amused by the cries of “but someday in the future Amazon will [insert horrible thing here] and you’ll see we were right and you’ll be sorry!” To borrow/paraphrase from LotR “But today is not that day.” Yes, someday Amazon may cut the top royalty rate to 32%. Someday Amazon may require everyone to be in KDP Select. Someday Amazon may send you bouquets of ragweed and gift certificates for nasty coffee if you don’t sell at least 10 copies a day. But not today.

    Instead of a bridge to sell, Amanda, maybe you should offer folks Patterson’s 300 acre retreat with its piped-in internet and his copy of Thoreau.

    1. LOL. I do love the way your mind works. But I only want to offer it to them as long as Patterson is there. Let him deal with them and answer all their questions and listen to all their story ideas. 😉

        1. I’ve got this idea for this story, and it is incoherent, and I haven’t done the work I need to make it usable, and I’ve got no clue what I’m really trying to accomplish with it.

          I’d rather finish the story than try to explain it.

    2. In the cyberpunk darkness of 2104, the Amazon megacorp will run Birmingham, and it will have customer service only eighty percent as good as what it has now.

      1. Absolutely. You see, so many people signed up for Prime that the deliveries triggered run-away global warming because of the excess CO2, and the heat triggered both the riots and the melting of the printing presses in the US Mint, which led to the economic collapse. *nods sagely* And then the tsunami of swill from indie authors published by Amazon drowned the last bastion of NYC literary excellence, causing a tremor of fear in the literature departments of UC-Boulder and Denver. The earthquake started a panic in Denver, leading to riots, and . . .

        No, I am not buying anyone a new keyboard or monitor.

        1. No, I am not buying anyone a new keyboard or monitor.

          No more you should. Everyone with two neurons to rub together knows that you don’t eat or drink anything whilst reading a TXRed comment.

  9. I was going to say that Amazon is not your friend, simply a business providing a service. But then the old saying “friends help you move” came to mind, and Amazon does in truth help you move books. Their major crime seems to be that they do so impartially and honestly rather than resorting to deceptive contracts and business practices such as I’ve heard are common with some traditional publishing houses.
    But then too, from what multiple sources tell me the traditional houses strike me as not so much friends as that casual acquaintance who always shows up empty handed to eat your food, drink your beer, and “borrow” a few bucks that somehow never get paid back.

    1. Or the kids in the school yard who tell you that if you do something specific for them, they will be your best friend.

  10. I have to correct you on one thing Amanda. Baen are the only company generous enough to give 20% of the cover price (as opposed to Amazon 70% of the cover price). The other trad pubs are at best offering 25%…. of nett. That at best adds up to 17.5% of the cover price, and quite possibly with Hollywood style creative accounting a great deal less.

    But otherwise, well said.

    1. Thanks, Dave. I figured I was being overly generous with my figures — except for possibly Baen but then Baen continues to break the mold — but I was only on my second cup of coffee. 😉

  11. Lovely analysis, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have just finished my first book; it’s at the editor. I will workshop it in September, and self-publish as soon as I can thereafter. Hurray for KDP!

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