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Posts tagged ‘Hachette’

Give me my advance back!

The other day, someone asked me if publishers ever ask for their advances back. After all, there have to have been times when a publisher has signed a contract with an author and that author failed to deliver. I told the person asking that yes, publishers do sometimes ask for their money back. But the instances that came to mind weren’t where an author failed to deliver a book. No, the examples I remembered were where the publishers determined, usually after a public outcry, that the book delivered wasn’t what they thought it was. There have been situations where plagiarism has torpedoed a deal or where a newly signed author wound up having her contract canceled because she dared self-publishing something totally unrelated to the contracted book. Despite all that, I simply could not remember a situation where a publisher had demanded an advance back from an author for not delivering a book and certainly not from a best selling author.

Now, that’s not to say it hasn’t happened before. I simply couldn’t remember an example.

So imagine my surprise when I went over to The Passive Voice this morning and found reference to a law suit filed by Hachette against Seth Grahame-Smith (SGS for future reference). SGS, in case you aren’t familiar with the name, is the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. We have him to thank for other re-imaginings of classics like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I think you get my drift. PP&Z was a fun romp but the originality quickly wore thin as SGS and others took public domain books and reframed them with one sort of monster or another.

So let’s fast-forward to Hachette’s lawsuit. I urge you to click on the link and read it for yourself. It isn’t all that long and it does illustrate some of the issues both publishers and authors have to work with when entering into a contract. From here on out, remember that what I say is just me talking as a reader and a writer, not as a lawyer.

Since I haven’t yet seen a response fro SGS, for the purposes of this post, I will assume that the basic facts — dates, etc — alleged in Hachette’s filing are correct.

  • December 2010 the contract was executed.
  • The contract was for two books.
  • $500,ooo advance per book paid upfront with the remainder of $2,000,000 per book to be paid.
  • Book 1 was to be a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
  • Book 2 was to be “a novel on a subject to be determined by” SGS and agreed upon in writing by Hachette. It was to be “comparable in style, quality and broad appeal to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
  • Both books were to be “original with Author [Smith] in all respects”
  • 60 day grace period after the expiration of contracted deadline or agreed upon extensions during which SGS could deliver the books. After which, the contract could be canceled.
  • Book 2 received several extensions, the last date for delivery being April 1, 2016
  • June 6, 2016, SGS delivered Book 2 but Hachette claims it was not the agreed upon Book 2 and that it was not “original” work but derivative ala PP&Z.
  • Hachette wants its $500,000 back as well as all other reasonable fees as laid out by the contract.

O0kay, with me so far?

According to the filing, SGS has basically told Hachette, “Nope. That’s not going to happen.”

Now, from a business standpoint, you want folks to deliver what they have said they will and you want it in a timely manner. After all, you have customers who want the product and you can’t deliver it to them if you don’t have it. That seems simple enough.

But this is where I have to look at publishers and scratch my head. Can you imagine your local grocer or Wally World contracting with a supplier to deliver something but they don’t know what? Oh, sure, the contract says you have the right to say no when they finally come to you and you decide it isn’t want you want. But de-amn. Think about the inventory headaches that would cause. Here’s a publisher happily writing a check for half a mil without knowing what the book is going to be about. Nope and nope and nope again.

From a writer’s point of view, this sort of contract gives me the willies. Sure, being able to put that much money at one time into my bank account is intoxicating. But then the practical side of the brain takes control. That money isn’t really mine, even if it is resting in my bank account, until the publisher has agreed first to the idea of the book and then accepted the book. Anywhere along the line, said publisher can change its mind and say “nope, it doesn’t meet the terms of our contract.”

But how, you say?

One line in the pleadings stood out and this is where my writer’s back went up. Book 2 was to be “comparable in style, quality and broad appeal to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” How do you define that? It is such an objective requirement that it would be easy for a publisher to use it as reason for rejecting a book.

But then, as one of the comments at TPV pointed out, this is SGS we’re talking about. He made his reputation by taking public domain works and re-inventing them. I’ve read both PP&Z as well as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. PP&Z is very much taking Austen’s original work and simply adding zombies to it. You can lay the two books side by side and see how he did it. While entertaining, ALVH is, in its own way, derivative, more as an idea than by taking another book and simply re-purposing it. So why Hachette would expect anything else from him is beyond me.

But, going back to the original question, yes, there are times when publishers ask for their advance back. With traditional publishing facing the challenges it does right now, I have a feeling we are going to see more and more suits like this. Traditional publishing simply isn’t in the financial position to allow authors to sit on money and not deliver manuscripts, at least not when the advances are six-figure or higher.

On a closing note, I once more recommend you read not only the filing but the attached contract. I haven’t had a chance to study it as closely as I want but I will before next week. From what TPV noted, it is a good example of some of the things he, as well as Kris Rusch, have been warning writers about for some time.

So, what do you think, based on the filings, etc., is Hachette right to ask for its money back?

 

“Real” books, contracts and “evil” Amazon – a blast from the past

(Kilted Dave is hip deep in life between a toddler, a baby due any time and more. So, to give him a chance to get his head above water, I’ll drop this blast from the past here. It was first posted Oct. 21, 2014. It’s funny, and not necessarily in a ha-ha way, how much still applies to what we see today.)

I’m neck deep in final edits for Duty from Ashes, the second book in the Honor & Duty series written under the pen name Sam Schall. Because of that, my brain has been steeped in space marines, bad guys and things that go boom and not necessarily at night. As a result, I forgot that it is Tuesday and my day to blog. Fortunately — I think — the demon kitten oh-so-helpfully got me up. After extricating my hand from his claws and staggering into the kitchen in search of coffee, I started scanning my usual sources for topics for today’s post. Oh my, did I find some.

Let’s start with this article from USA Today. I knew from reading the headline that it was probably something that would have my blood pressure rising. After all, how else would I react to “Real books can defeat Amazon and e-books”?

Wait! What? Real books?

Then I started reading and I realize the headline was only the beginning.

The book business believes that Amazon is unfair in the way it sells books. It believes, in fact, that Amazon in its sales practices — pressuring the book publishers to lower their prices and profits — is the enemy. Amazon’s ultimate design, publishers believe, is to ruin them or to wholly shift the center of gravity in the business from the creators of books to Amazon, the dominant seller.

Oookay, yet another journalist — and I use that term loosely — who believes that the publisher is the creator of books. It always amazes me when someone who writes for a living is so willing to hand over the title of creator to the entity that simply distributes the created work. Folks, think about it. Publishers publish. They arrange for distribution and sales channels. They do NOT create the book unless you are looking solely at the printing or conversion into digital format.

But let’s continue.

The book business response has been to protest hotly and try to wage a moral war against what it sees as an immoral competitor — having, for instance, its writers sign petitions and ads.

Moral? Huh? I’m not even sure where to start here. It is moral to keep royalties low and to manipulate royalty reports through the use of BookScan, which does not report every sale or even every sales outlet? It is moral to have their authors sign petitions and ads and then deny that they, the publisher, had anything to do with it? Funny, that isn’t exactly my definition of moral.

I am not surprised that Amazon’s attempt to maximize its profit is seen as immoral. Clearly the article’s author is of the ilk that believes capitalism is evil and succesful businesses should give up their profits in an attempt to prop up the business practices of other commercial enterprises that are killing themselves through poor decision making.

Need you more proof that the author is anything but unbiased in his belief that Amazon is evil and publishers pure?

The curious thing is that while Amazon is undercutting publishers (suggesting, in the case of Hachette, its most forceful antagonist, that both Hachette and Amazon forgo e-book profits, handing them directly to writers), publishers actually have much greater leeway to undercut Amazon.

Funny how he fails to note that this suggestion was made by Amazon in an attempt to help the authors Hachette has been accusing it of hurting. Note also that the author of the article fails to say how Amazon then, when Hachette refused this proposal, offered to pay the authors directly, without any funds coming from Hachette. That, too, was refused by the publisher. But it is Amazon that is evil and trying to “undercut” the publishers.

I will admit, the article does make one or two good points. But my real complaint is its basic premise that only publisher can save books and that e-books aren’t real books and anything coming from anyone but a traditional publisher is not a real book. It is time the article’s author, like so many publishers, come out of the cave and look around. The world has changed and product demand has changed. If publishers are to survive, they have to adapt. All the protestations against Amazon and e-books aren’t going to help.

On a related note, Hachette may have dug its heels in too deeply where Amazon is concerned. While no official announcement has been made — that I have found — sources in the know say that Amazon and Simon & Schuster have inked a new deal with puts in place a modified version of the agency pricing model.According to Publishers Weekly, the new deal will take effect the beginning of next year. The deal will allow S&S to set the price for both hard copy and e-books but will, apparently, also give Amazon some leeway to discount prices. That is the big difference between the agency pricing model that was struck down by the courts. If the story is true, then Hachette has lost some of its advantage by being the first to negotiate a new contract with Amazon. How long it will now take them to reach an agreement probably depends on how much crow Hachette and, to a lesser extent, Amazon are willing to eat.

So we are, again, at situation normal. Traditional publishing — with a few exceptions — and their proponents want to lay all of publishing’s ills at the feet of Amazon. It wants to continue the myth that there would be no books without publishers and anything but a “real” printed book is not a book. I don’t know about you, but I can read an e-book just as easily — sometimes more easily — than I can a “real” book. I can certainly enjoy them the same as I can a “real” book. More to the point, unlike those cave dwelling publishers, I know that there would be no books without the authors. THEY are the creators. Publishers are, at best, distributors these days.

And now, it’s time for me to get back to my not-book. Go write and, better yet, read a book. The author will thank you.

“Real” books, contracts and “evil” Amazon

I’m neck deep in final edits for Duty from Ashes, the second book in the Honor & Duty series written under the pen name Sam Schall. Because of that, my brain has been steeped in space marines, bad guys and things that go boom and not necessarily at night. As a result, I forgot that it is Tuesday and my day to blog. Fortunately — I think — the demon kitten oh-so-helpfully got me up. After extricating my hand from his claws and staggering into the kitchen in search of coffee, I started scanning my usual sources for topics for today’s post. Oh my, did I find some.

Let’s start with this article from USA Today. I knew from reading the headline that it was probably something that would have my blood pressure rising. After all, how else would I react to “Real books can defeat Amazon and e-books”?

Wait! What? Real books?

Then I started reading and I realize the headline was only the beginning.

The book business believes that Amazon is unfair in the way it sells books. It believes, in fact, that Amazon in its sales practices — pressuring the book publishers to lower their prices and profits — is the enemy. Amazon’s ultimate design, publishers believe, is to ruin them or to wholly shift the center of gravity in the business from the creators of books to Amazon, the dominant seller.

Oookay, yet another journalist — and I use that term loosely — who believes that the publisher is the creator of books. It always amazes me when someone who writes for a living is so willing to hand over the title of creator to the entity that simply distributes the created work. Folks, think about it. Publishers publish. They arrange for distribution and sales channels. They do NOT create the book unless you are looking solely at the printing or conversion into digital format.

But let’s continue.

The book business response has been to protest hotly and try to wage a moral war against what it sees as an immoral competitor — having, for instance, its writers sign petitions and ads.

Moral? Huh? I’m not even sure where to start here. It is moral to keep royalties low and to manipulate royalty reports through the use of BookScan, which does not report every sale or even every sales outlet? It is moral to have their authors sign petitions and ads and then deny that they, the publisher, had anything to do with it? Funny, that isn’t exactly my definition of moral.

I am not surprised that Amazon’s attempt to maximize its profit is seen as immoral. Clearly the article’s author is of the ilk that believes capitalism is evil and succesful businesses should give up their profits in an attempt to prop up the business practices of other commercial enterprises that are killing themselves through poor decision making.

Need you more proof that the author is anything but unbiased in his belief that Amazon is evil and publishers pure?

The curious thing is that while Amazon is undercutting publishers (suggesting, in the case of Hachette, its most forceful antagonist, that both Hachette and Amazon forgo e-book profits, handing them directly to writers), publishers actually have much greater leeway to undercut Amazon.

Funny how he fails to note that this suggestion was made by Amazon in an attempt to help the authors Hachette has been accusing it of hurting. Note also that the author of the article fails to say how Amazon then, when Hachette refused this proposal, offered to pay the authors directly, without any funds coming from Hachette. That, too, was refused by the publisher. But it is Amazon that is evil and trying to “undercut” the publishers.

I will admit, the article does make one or two good points. But my real complaint is its basic premise that only publisher can save books and that e-books aren’t real books and anything coming from anyone but a traditional publisher is not a real book. It is time the article’s author, like so many publishers, come out of the cave and look around. The world has changed and product demand has changed. If publishers are to survive, they have to adapt. All the protestations against Amazon and e-books aren’t going to help.

On a related note, Hachette may have dug its heels in too deeply where Amazon is concerned. While no official announcement has been made — that I have found — sources in the know say that Amazon and Simon & Schuster have inked a new deal with puts in place a modified version of the agency pricing model. According to Publishers Weekly, the new deal will take effect the beginning of next year. The deal will allow S&S to set the price for both hard copy and e-books but will, apparently, also give Amazon some leeway to discount prices. That is the big difference between the agency pricing model that was struck down by the courts. If the story is true, then Hachette has lost some of its advantage by being the first to negotiate a new contract with Amazon. How long it will now take them to reach an agreement probably depends on how much crow Hachette and, to a lesser extent, Amazon are willing to eat.

So we are, again, at situation normal. Traditional publishing — with a few exceptions — and their proponents want to lay all of publishing’s ills at the feet of Amazon. It wants to continue the myth that there would be no books without publishers and anything but a “real” printed book is not a book. I don’t know about you, but I can read an e-book just as easily — sometimes more easily — than I can a “real” book. I can certainly enjoy them the same as I can a “real” book. More to the point, unlike those cave dwelling publishers, I know that there would be no books without the authors. THEY are the creators. Publishers are, at best, distributors these days.

And now, it’s time for me to get back to my not-book. Go write and, better yet, read a book. The author will thank you.

Attack of the killer kitten

There is some unwritten law somewhere that writers need cats. Or maybe it is just some cosmic joke played on me by the gods of writing. Whatever it is, I have been in possession of the Kitten from Hell (insert deep, echoing voice here) for the last few months. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he’s been in possession — or has possessed — me. All I know for sure is that he’s made life interesting, and not necessarily in a good way all the time, and has seriously cut into my sleep schedule.

The thing is, I’m thoroughly convinced the kitten is actually a dog in cat’s clothing. He races to the window — or the door — whenever someone comes near. He’s actually on “on point” a couple of times. He fetches in the true sense of the word. But worse, he has adopted our late Rocky’s habit of waking one of us — me — at 4 – 5 am every morning simply because someone drives by in a loud truck around then and it his now his job to protect us from the noise. To do so, he jumps into my window — usually scattering things off the top of my desk — and tries to tear through the blinds to get at the monster making all that noise outside.

The result is I feel like I did when my son was but a babe and still not sleeping through the night. There isn’t enough coffee in the world to wake me up and it has become close to a habit that every morning around 7 or 8, I go back to bed for a short nap. What I’d like to do, other than sleeping all night and not having to get up until a decent hour, is find a way to bottle all the kitten’s energy. I’d make a mint.

All this is leading somewhere, I swear. It’s just that my brain is tired and has decided not to use the mental GPS or even a crudely drawn map to get there.

The kitten, Bubba — short for Beelzebub — can be a loving kitten, usually when he’s asleep. There are times when he will climb up in my lap and demand loving. He purrs and headbutts and circles and kneads. And, just as he’s lulled you into thinking he really has changed and become a nice cat, he oh-so-nonchalantly reaches over and bits the living crap out of you. It’s just his way of letting you know that he really is the one in charge and all you’re good for is an occasional scritch and to open the cat food for him.

Ah! Now I remember where I was going with this.

It sort of reminds me of certain writers’ organizations that try to lull you into believing they have your best interests at heart all the while it appears those in control are simply stroking their own egos and pushing their own social or political or who-knows-what agenda.

The latest is, once again, the Authors Guild. On its homepage, AG bills itself as “the published writer’s advocate for effective copyright, fair contracts and free expression since 1912.” On its membership page, it quickly becomes clear that AG prefers traditionally published authors. You have to scroll down and down and down before you find anything that even hints at AG accepting self-published (or small press, presumably) authors.

Self-published authors who demonstrate that they meet writing income thresholds qualify for Authors Guild membership. The income requirement is intended to assure that the Guild stays focused on its core mission it’s pursued for the past 100 years: serving the interests of those pursuing writing as part of their livelihoods. Depending on your income, self-published authors may qualify as either regular (voting) or associate (non-voting) members. Both categories of membership received full Guild benefits. (Associate membership is a longstanding Guild category for writers with an offer to be traditionally published. It allows our legal department to help writers before they sign their first contract.) Traditionally published and self-published authors become regular members when they meet regular membership criteria.

If you aren’t already turned off by the very obvious lack of enthusiasm for indie authors, you can scroll down a bit more to find a drop-down box where you then tell them how much you’ve made over the last 18 months or so. Of course, this doesn’t tell you anything. It doesn’t say if you can prove you made $5,000 over the last 18 months that you will qualify for full membership in the Guild. No, all you can do is say if you’ve earned at least $5,000 or, if you haven’t met that threshold, if you’ve made at least $500 over that same period of time. The final option is that you haven’t earned $500 over the last 18 months. Oh, and then they want your payment information. Of course, you won’t be charged until your application has been approved.

Wow, makes you feel real welcome as an indie author, doesn’t it?

But let’s not condemn them — yet. Let’s look at their page on “Where we stand.” Before clicking on it, think about what you’d expect to find on that page. Me, I’d expect to see something about how they are working to help protect our copyright protections, not only with legal reforms but in contract negotiations with both publishers and agents. Or how about something dealing with doing all they can to help negotiate better contracts for writers that will give us a larger royalty percentage since technology and demand has changed. Really, does anyone believe the shipping and storage costs are the same now, in this day of POD, as it was when huge print runs were made and then the publishers sat with fingers crossed because they didn’t have pre-order numbers to judge off of? Or maybe something about continuing education or even — gasp — insurance for authors.

Click on the tab. Wow! The page has gone from “Where we stand” to “Advocacy”. Oh-oh. Could we have a bit of bait-and-switch here? Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s see what they have to say.

And here we come to the reason for this post. This “Where we stand” page is nothing more than a screed against Amazon. At least as far as I could stand to read it. Amazon is evil — let’s forget about the fact that it is the major retailer for most authors, both print and digital. Let’s also forget that they are standing against Amazon in order to “protect” those authors published by Hatchette. What about the other authors who are members of their organization? Funny, don’t they matter?

Where was AG when Amazon offered to set up a fund, first to be backed by both Hatchette and Amazon and then by Amazon itself, to help those Hatchette authors impacted by the contract stalemate? Where was AG when Hatchette refused both deals? Oh, I know. It was hiding behind the curtain, hands over its eyes, doing its best to ignore the fact that Amazon was trying to help its members.

Now AG has tried to convince the Department of Justice just how evil Amazon is. That first entry on its “Where we stand” page is its official statement about a meeting with DoJ officials that AG called in an attempt to take down Amazon. It is all very vague about what anti-trust violations Amazon may have committed. But Amazon is evil, you know.

The Authors Guild’s mission, since its founding in 1912, has been to support working writers.

That’s a worthy mission — as long as that struggling writer happens to meet their criterion. Of course, they’ll welcome you with open arms if you are traditionally published. That welcome might be a bit more grudging if you are self-published.

The Guild has consistently opposed Amazon’s recent and ruthless tactics of directly targeting Hachette authors, which have made these authors into helpless victims in a business dispute between two big corporations. This action has caused thousands of writers to see a significant drop in their royalty checks. The Authors Guild challenges this threat to the literary ecosystem, one that jeopardizes the individual livelihoods of authors.

Oookay. “Directly targeting Hachette authors.” Well, not really. The target is Hachette. The authors are involved because they create the product Hachette sells via Amazon.  I know, I know, they are upset about the lack of pre-order buttons. Well, boo-hoo. Pull up your big boy pants and think about it from a contractual point of view for a moment. If there is no contract between Amazon and Hachette, Amazon faces the possibility that it won’t be able to fulfill those pre-orders when the books are finally released by the publisher. Why in the world should Amazon be held to accepting pre-orders for products it might not have? I guess AG doesn’t care about the customer relations nightmare it would be for Amazon to have to tell its customers “Sorry, we know you pre-ordered the book but we can’t send it to you. Go somewhere else.”

The rest of that paragraph has me asking a very simple question: why does AG assume that Amazon is the bad guy here and that there aren’t parts of the Hachette demands that are just as evil as what Amazon is asking? Oh, I know. Amazon is evil. Hachette, as a traditional publisher, is the writer’s friend. Excuse me while I go wash my mouth out.

The Guild started its own initiative to invite governmental scrutiny of Amazon’s outsize market share and anticompetitive practices in the publishing industry. Last summer the Guild prepared a White Paper on Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct, circulating it to the United States Department of Justice and other government entities. As a result of our request for the initiation of an investigation of Amazon, we hosted a meeting with the DOJ in our offices on August 1 so that a group of authors could make their case directly to the government. . . .

So, Amazon is evil because it managed to build a thriving business. Oh, wait, it killed bookstores. Or did it? There is a re-emergence of locally owned bookstores across the country. It’s the big box stores that are in trouble, but we can’t ding them or demand they look at their own business practices because, you know. Amazon evil.

The Guild has been working closely with the grassroots group Authors United—founded by Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston—which will be making another request to the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon for potential antitrust violations.

Grassroots? Huh? I think their definition of the word differs from mine. If it is a grassroots organization, I wouldn’t expect it to be founded by an AG council member. Oh, look, that same “grassroots organization” will be making the same sort of request of the DoJ as AG did. Hmm, wonder just how similar those requests will read? Inquiring minds want to know.

Our mission is to protect and support working writers.

So you keep saying.

When a retailer, which sells close to half the books in the country, deliberately suppresses the works of certain authors, those authors are harmed, and we speak out.

Funny, I thought Amazon was simply not allowing pre-orders of books from Hachette and, yes, has been alleged to be slow in stocking those books. Odd, though, there’s been no real proof of that latter accusation. My question here is if Hachette has been slow in getting the books to Amazon. And, again, Amazon is dealing with the publisher, not the authors. This isn’t the first time a bookseller has been in contract dispute with a publisher and, whether AG wants to admit it or not, it has always been the authors who have been hit because they are the ones who supply the product the publishers sell. It ain’t personal, folks. It’s business and you need to be asking the hard questions of the publishers as well as of the seller.

We will continue to oppose any business tactics, from publishers or retailers, that interfere with working writers’ ability to present their products in a fair marketplace and to flourish within their chosen field. Our goal is to ensure that the markets for books and ideas remain both vigorous and free.

Odd this. I would have thought that the goal of AG was to get the best working conditions, ie pay and contract provisions, for its members.

Anyway, that’s my sleep-deprived rant for the day. Now I’m off to find more coffee and to get back to work. With luck, Duty from Ashes will be available for pre-order from Amazon later today or tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

 

Of Guardians and Dead Sharks

Surprise! It’s another post fisking someone at the Guardian – but not Damien Walters. You’re shocked, aren’t you?

In proof that the rot in the Guardian’s hollowed hallowed halls goes deeper than a politician’s hand in your pocket, I humbly offer this gem by one Suzanne McGee who claims to be a financial journalist. Apparently this doesn’t mean what I thought it meant, based on this column and a scroll through the other columns she has written for the Guardian. She appears to do a mix of fluffy-bunny feminism about you and your money, the financial equivalent of celebrity gossip, and of course the obligatory round of Amazon-hate. (Hat tip to lobo314 for bringing it to my attention – yes, you can blame him for this one instead of Sarah)

So, dear Suzanne’s extended whine article rejoices in the title of “Amazon’s tantrum over books cost me $212 at a real bookstore”. There are no fewer than three egregious fallacies (aka lies) embedded in that single sentence. Okay, it’s not quite as astonishing as the ad line for the 1950s movie The Mummy (“Nameless! Fleshless! Deathless!” – three lies in three words), but it’s close.

Fallacy #1: that Amazon not being able to guarantee timely delivery of Hachette titles is a “tantrum”. There could be any number of reasons for the delivery delays including and not limited to Hachette not supplying the books in the first place; Amazon not being permitted by the terms of their contract with Hachette to keep books in stock for quick delivery; someone somewhere in the supply chain being an ass; someone somewhere in the supply chain being an idiot… You get the point. None of these are “tantrums”.

Fallacy #2: that Amazon is not a “real” bookstore. Amazon is as much a bookstore as Suzanne’s sainted Barnes and Noble. They sell books – more books than Barnes and Noble sells. They arguably do a better job of encouraging people to buy and read books than Barnes and Noble does.

Fallacy #3 is the big whopper, though. It’s the idea that dear Suzanne’s inability to control her impulse spending issues is Amazon’s fault because they forced her to go to Barnes and Noble to buy a book she needed and forced her to spend a boatload (that wasn’t the word I was originally going to use, but I’m trying to be polite here) on impulse buys. This is the kind of behavior I used to see from my younger siblings when they were toddlers: if they tripped and fell, they’d look for the nearest person, point and shout, “Look what you made me do!” So yeah, Amazon is totally to blame for Suzipoos inability to put a leash on her credit card. Not.

It should come as no surprise after an opening like that that the rest of the article demonstrates a similar level of entitlement, ignorance, and yes, glittery hoo haa. I’m not going to make you suffer through a line by line analysis of the whole piece of tripe. Suffice to say that when you have little comments like “Jeff Bezos can afford a $212 refund” you know she’s not only jumped the shark, she’s circled back and played tap-dance with the bugger before glittering it to death.

Of all Suzipoos links, not one of them hits a primary source on the Amazon-Hatchette dispute, much less once that gives Amazon’s perspective. Of course, that would involve research, and she’s far too good for anything like that. Apparently she’s also too good to check out second hand bookstores or even (gasp!) libraries because when her book club wants to read an Evelyn Waugh book, what does she do? You guessed it, she goes and buys it new. Suzipoos, darling, this is an author you can’t help by buying his books new. He’s been pining for the fjords since 1966. His measly share of anything of his that gets reprinted is probably going to the publisher.

Seriously, the woman can’t control herself in a bookstore and wants to blame Amazon for it. She calls herself a financial journalist but shows no sign she knows anything about the price fixing suit (and believe me, the little whispers that are going around about the real reason all the publishers caved being that they knew their bookkeeping wouldn’t survive a forensic audit are true. The publishing industry’s bookkeeping practices haven’t hit the 20th century yet, much less the 21st. Even if everyone involved was scrupulously honest, they wouldn’t survive a forensic audit) or contract law.

That shark she jumped? It’s dead, Jim.

F%$K me, SFWA, One More Time

*eyeroll* SFWA’s getting involved? On the side of Hachette, obvs. 

 

Nothing like supporting the pimp and dissing the girls.

 

What? I give you pleasure, you give me money. What does that make me? 

 

Only… I don’t have a middleman over my head taking most of my money. I’m a free girl. 

 

I’ve blogged before at length about the whole Hachette-Amazon thing, here, and here, and here. It’s business, folks, nothing personal. Amazon is in the process of renegotiating, which comes after Hachette settled over a price-fixing dispute. If you’ve been living under a rock, this comes as a surprise to you. Otherwise, it’s everywhere.

And now, SFWA has come out in support of Hachette. “Author Don Sakers has posted an essay to his blog complaining that the SFWA has endorsed Douglas Preston’s letter. Sakers, an independent author who makes most of his sales through Amazon, is annoyed that SFWA’s leadership did not make any attempt to consult or discuss the matter with its members before acting, and points out that this comes only a week after SFWA asked its members to comment on a proposal for allowing self-published authors to join.” Chris Meadows does a good job reporting on industry news over at Teleread, and covers this one.

So here we have an organization that still claims it supports authors and helps them get the best deal, but now they are in bed with one of the biggest publishing businesses. Their cover story is getting thinner than a streetwalker’s top.

Fortunately, I don’t need them. Even if they deign to ‘let in’ Indie Authors, I wouldn’t join. For one thing, they are sure to put all sorts of qualifications on membership for Indies. But I don’t need them, I repeat myself. For sure, they aren’t fighting for authors to get the best deal. They just came out in support of the guys who pays 12.5% on a book sale, over the guy who pays 70% on a book sale. Even the least mathematically able among us can see where the “bend over and spread, dear’ side is.

But enough about panderers. I’m sick of them. I’m sick of this whole mess, and the Stockholm Syndrome it has revealed in so many authors. I just want to write, and see my books sell. I’m not trying to put out the “Great American Novel,” I’m a mercenary wench who wants to give pleasure to as many readers as possible. Which is how I set my pricing.

See, here’s the thing. For Amazon, and Hachette, it’s cold, hard business. They are almost reptilian in their lack of warm-blooded feelings. But for me, the creator, I do get a buzz out of feedback. When I hear about people enjoying my work, and the pleasure I see on their faces when they thank me for my books, I get a rush. I want more of that. And I know it’s hard out there. So I balance my costs, which are low, with what I think people can pay for some entertainment to brighten their life.

Hachette just wants to milk the consumer for all they have. They try to skim the cream of the authorial crop (or whatever is floating to the surface, anyway) and push some, while others are left adrift without a paddle. But the prices… why price an ebook at $9.99? Think about that, and we’ll discuss it in comments.

Because me, I have a book to send off to an editor, so when it’s released in less than a month now, I can feel that rush all over again. And it’ll be less than $5, so you, my beloved readers, can afford to indulge, over and over again.

Oh, and because I love you guys, I have a novella up for free over on Amazon this weekend. Grab it before Monday, and be sure to give me a little something when you’re done…

A review! What did you think I was asking for? LOL

 

Amazon is a Business

Forgive me if I seem a bit impatient. The stupid has been strong this week, and although normally I’m the quiet, nice one, I’m a bit exasperated by now.

(but less so, now. Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the instalanche. Welcome to any new readers! I’m not Sarah, but sometimes we seem to share a brain.)

I’ve already covered the gaffe Archon made, on my blog. Now, I’m talking about the recent wave of anti-Amazon posts, usually made by people who don’t know what they are talking about, and don’t bother doing a modicum of research before they panic. Yes, Amazon and Hachette are fighting. Yes, authors are being harmed, and that’s sad. However, this is hardly a reason to boycott Amazon, and if you know anything about business, it’s not even particularly noteworthy. Let me note here that Amazon is not evil, Amazon is a business.

For one thing, it’s not one-sided. I urge you to follow and read that link before you continue.  Hachette doesn’t care about those authors you are angsting over. They only care about their profits, and if you actually know a traditionally published author, you know they don’t see very much of their share of those profits. Should someone’s career end over this, Hachette will just snag another candidate out of the pool of eager manuscripts.

But, but, Amazon is killing Indie bookstores! Pish, and posh. Before them, Barnes and Nobles and Borders did it. Or have you forgotten that oh-so-cute movie about that angsty issue? Ah… I see you have, and don’t care. Neither do you care about the incalcuable harm publishers do and have done to authors. Instead, you’d rather shoot yourself in the foot.

Go ahead. More for those of us who understand business, and finances. I make between 70% and 35% for every ebook sold through Amazon. I make less than that through other venues (such as B&N) but still, I make immensely more off of every sale than any traditionally published author will ever see from Hachette, or any other publisher. I have print versions of my books I don’t make that high a percentage from, but you can order my books in any bookstore, and there are a few which carry a copy or two at any given time. You can find more idea on how to do it right here.

Unlike these yahoos, I don’t feel the need to fraudulently slip my book onto a shelf somewhere. I do shop at the occasional bookstore, but I am far more likely to order from Amazon. Why? because they have what I want. It’s that easy. Plus, being cheap is nice, too. I can’t afford to walk into a bookstore and buy all the books I read on a weekly basis in paper. Not to mention our poor little house would be overflowing and collapsing. Yes, I bemoan not having time to read. That doesn’t mean I don’t read. With ebooks, I can take chances on new authors and books, that I wouldn’t do on a paper copy. So Amazon offers me a lot more than free shipping and the luxury of not having to go to a store. I love Amazon.

So do a lot of other people, like all the readers who neither know nor care who publishes their favorite author. Outside the industry, who knows this little piece of data? Very, very few readers. They don’t need to know, they just want an entertaining story or a well-done non-fiction book. And they want to be able to afford it. Face it, kids, the economy ain’t great. It sure as heck isn’t ‘recovering’ nor does it appear that it will any time soon. So you would begrudge your readers from seeking the best deals? Are you willing to pay top-dollar for every book you read? Didn’t think so.

Publishers are toxic. I read on my facebook feed an author terrified that she was about to have her fourth editor in as many books with her publisher. She’s afraid this book won’t sell well enough to justify keeping her on. Me? I hire and fire my editors based on their performance and merit, I am in control, not them. Another author, when the news broke that Orbit wouldn’t be giving away the Hugo-nominated books as most publishers do, begged that readers not be angry with his publisher. He said he would be blamed, lose his job, and be black-balled by other publishers, if the readers reacted angrily. (Do I really need to mention here that Baen is the exception which proves the rule?)

Look, I was in an abusive relationship. I know how hard it is to get out of. For one thing, you start to believe that you have no value. This is not true. Stop listening to publishers when they tell you you need them. You don’t. Maybe that was true, once, but reality has changed, and they are terrified. It’s making them do stupid things, like Hachette fighting with Amazon instead of negotiating. Or Apple, in the case it lost last year, over price-fixing. Or didn’t you notice that all the big publishers admitted guilt in the DOJ case? Time to open your eyes and see that it isn’t you, my author friends. You do offer something to the world. Whether it is an amusing story to lighten the burden of readers who are faced with uncertainty and risk in this bleak economy, or a well-researched and sourced non-fiction book which offers a balanced perspective on some topic. Stop letting yourself be treated as disposable, and start recognizing that it isn’t Amazon who is your enemy.

There are safe places. We won’t let them hurt you, and we offer help to those who are willing to work toward independence. I know there is a school of thought which says that those who are in an abusive relationship want it, and will go back to it, no matter how much they say they want out. I say perhaps. And perhaps all they need is a little support. It can be done, I’m living proof.