Saturday, 9 August 2014

Amazon emails authors re Hachette dispute

I woke up to a surprising email from Amazon, which you can read in full here. It's a long and interesting read, but in brief, Amazon asks readers and authors to show support by emailing Hachette's CEO, Michael Pietsch, and consider including these points:
  • We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
  • Lowering e-book prices will help — not hurt — the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
  • Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon's offers to take them out of the middle.
  • Especially if you're an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.
I've sent my email. If Amazon ask for my help, though I am but the tiniest cog in their vast machine, they will have it. Amazon enabled me to sell 68,000+ books when all trad pub did was waste my time. I owe them.

Also, Hachette has been whingeing in the media for months, pretending to be a poor little publisher who cares about authors' well-being and the future of literature, beset by a big bullying corporation only interested in money, when nothing could be further from the truth. Hachette is owned by Lagardere, a huge French media group. And there's nothing sentimental about the way it pays its authors.

But I'm torn between respecting Amazon for kicking the ball out into the open, and thinking that maybe this is an occasion where a dignified silence would be a better policy. Be the big dog who lets the little ones yap. 

Amazon kept quiet for months; perhaps with this latest sally it has finally reached the end of its patience with Hachette's lies, posturing and delaying tactics. I can understand that.


  1. Useful, Lexi, to have some background information on this.

    I have little sympathy for trad pub's big gun authors who have made sufficient money not to have to depend on ebook income. However, I am happy for their books to sell at £6+, thus making indie authors' usual £2 - £3 a bargain price.

    The words that came to me when I read my email from Amazon were, 'I owe them' and Lexi has said exactly that.

  2. Big publishers have learned a little from indies rather late in the day - for instance, John Grisham's Sycamore Row published by Hodder & Stoughton came out at £12.99 last year. It's currently £1.99, and number 7 in the UK Kindle store.

    I guess they don't like Amazon discounting their books, even when they get the same money.

  3. Thank you for posting this, Lexi. I received the email this morning and have been doing some research about the issues.
    From my point of view--Amazon has allowed me to get my books out to the people. People seem to like my books and they would probably never have had a chance to read them without Amazon. So, that pretty much puts me on Amazon's team. It might be a narrow-minded way to look at things, but it works for me.

  4. Yes; that and the outrageous claims made by team Hachette in the media. Particularly pretending they a) speak for all authors, and b) give a damn about authors.

  5. You've sold 68,000+ books. Wow!

    Sorry the rest of it whizzed over my head when I got fixated on that. It's a lot of books!

  6. I was lucky to get into ebooks back in the early golden days of self-publishing. Without Amazon, I doubt I'd have sold a single book yet.

    When I was submitting, agents sometimes noticed my writing wasn't bad, but it never quite fitted what they were looking for.

  7. I received the email from Amazon, too. We may be tiny cogs but put us all together and we make a pretty big wheel. Or should that be chain? - whatever, you know what I mean.

  8. Yes - and Amazon would miss us if anything happened to us, no doubt :o)

  9. Like everyone else, I got the email, and decided to join the 'do nothing' camp - not because I want to sit on the fence, but because I don't think Amazon is squeaky clean either. If they paid their taxes I might be more inclined to join in. As it is, it feels like two bullies in the playground mustering their troops (sorry, mixed metaphor.)

  10. Jo, Amazon, like other efficient corporations, pays the least tax it legally can. If the government doesn't like it, then the government needs to change the rules. I think we are vastly over-taxed in this country. When taxes reach a certain point, people won't pay them.

    Amazon's competitors have been very successful in manipulating the media to give Amazon a bad press. Some of the big publishers are owned by media giants, as Hachette is. Harper Collins is owned by News Corp. You shouldn't believe everything you see in the media.

  11. I definitely don't believe vey thing I read in the media - and don't actually believe much of it. And I get it that any organisation that can pay less tax will do. I just choose not to like it.

  12. Fairy Nuff. Of course, anyone who shops at Amazon and frets the low prices are due to UK tax avoidance could always send some money to HM Customs & Excise. They'd be surprised, no doubt, but I'm sure they'd accept it :o)

  13. I was glad to see this. When I checked Kboards earlier today, the Amazon letter seemed to be controversial, with the main objections being: 1) writers pulled into the middle of the controversy between two big corporations; 2) the impropriety of giving out the Hatchette CEO's email.

    Both of those objections have some superficial plausibility. However, it seems to me that what Amazon is basically trying to do is fight back against today's NY Times ad - paid for at least partly by Hatchette authors.

    At any rate, it does seem to me that the main stream media has been very biased against Amazon in reporting on this and that, while both entities are big corporations, the one corporation (Amazon) actually has terms that are beneficial to writers.

    If I had a book out on Amazon (hopefully, this time next year I will!), I would sign. It's not a matter of thinking Amazon is perfect. It's a matter of seeing where the better terms are.

  14. Agreed. Judith, you can email Mr Pietsch as a reader. Readers are as important as writers.

    I was surprised by the negativity on Kboards - which used to be called Kindleboards; we're only there because Amazon invented the Kindle and gave us the chance to succeed as indies.

    Good luck with your book :o)

  15. I'd rather big publishers and everyone else be able to price their books however they want without Amazon forcing specific price points. If they're priced high, then that is better for the indie market to fill the niche of reasonably priced books.

  16. Robby, I rather agree with you. But it's Amazon's store, and their terms of sale are up to them.

    Hachette hasn't behaved at all well with its anti-Amazon campaign, and I guess that's what struck me about the dispute.

  17. John Kay has a good post today, "
    Authors should back Amazon in the battle with Hachette."

  18. Holy crap, 68000!?! Well done! Well done!

  19. Thanks for the interesting link, Norm - I've tweeted it :o)

  20. And I see it's on The Passive Voice, too.