New Author Webpage



Meanderings and Muses isn't going anywhere.

BUT -

I do have a new webpage which will focus mostly on my writing.

If you're interested in reading more about my books, anthologies, and events, please click over to

There are a few videos of me reading from "Whimsey: A Novel," and from other favorite authors' work.

With more videos still to come.

The new page is a work in progress with plans for still more to come
- I'm just still trying to figure out exactly what that might be -
so check back from time to time, please.

See you there!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Amazon vs. Hatchette



I wish I could get a little more upset about this feud between Amazon and Hatchette.  But the way I feel about it is this - it's a feud between two huge companies concerned about their own bottom lines.  The authors who signed this first letter I've copied here have their own feelings, of course, as does Lee Goldberg who penned the second letter I've posted here - a sort of "what's good for the goose is (or should be) good for the gander."  I would suggest you read both before deciding which side of battle you're ready to fight for. 

I've been asked to make my own feelings a little more clear.  And they are - we've seen these battles before, we're going to see them again and I will always be on the side of the author or any other individual caught in the crosshairs of corporate greed. Always. But in all honesty, I don't really think either of these mega companies gives a fried fig about the authors - they care about their own profits. Both the letters I posted have valid points.  Mostly though, I also feel as though this country and our society does not do nearly enough to help promote art.  Especially compared to what a lot of other countries do. I find that, frankly, the thing to be most up in arms about.  That is, I fully realize, a whole 'nother kettle of fish from the Amazon vs. Hatchette battle - or is it? When *do* we fight it?  Or do we, as a society, even care?  

(Note:  I have now added the letter Kindle Publishing sent to Kindle published authors.  It's at the end of this post)
   

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.
For the past several months, Amazon has been:
--Boycotting Hachette authors, by refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors' books and eBooks, claiming they are "unavailable."
--Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette authors' books.
--Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors' books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.
--Suggesting on some Hachette authors' pages that readers might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.
As writers--most of us not 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. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be "Earth's most customer-centric company."
Many of us have supported Amazon since it was a struggling start-up. Our books launched Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world's largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We're not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon's corporate behavior.)
We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.
We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails at that account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.
Sincerely,
  • Megan Abbott
  • Robert H. Abel
  • Rachael Acks
  • William M. Adler
  • Elisa Albert
  • William Alexander
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Mike Allen
  • Jonathan Ames
  • Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Roger Angle
  • Carol Anshaw
  • Anne Applebaum
  • Debby Applegate
  • Kelley Armstrong
  • Rilla Askew
  • Rick Atkinson
  • James David Audlin
  • Paul Auster
  • Ellis Avery
  • Avi
  • Barbe Awalt
  • Gillian Bagwell
  • Blake Bailey
  • Deirdre Bair
  • Jo Baker
  • Kevin Baker
  • Mishell Baker
  • David Baldacci
  • Melissa Bank
  • Linwood Barclay
  • Evelyn Barish
  • Juliana Barnet
  • Rebecca Barnhouse
  • Nevada Barr
  • Quentin Bates
  • Elif Batuman
  • Douglas Bauer
  • Erica Bauermeister
  • Cris Beam
  • Greg Bear
  • James Beauregard
  • Antony Beevor
  • Adam Begley
  • Louis Begley
  • Hilari Bell
  • Madison Smartt Bell
  • Martine Bellen
  • Sam Bellotto Jr.
  • Aimee Bender
  • Karen E. Bender
  • Lou J. Berger
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This advertisement was paid for by authors.
Authors United, P.O. Box 4790, Santa Fe, NM 87502


- - - - - -

Lee Goldberg's letter to Doug Preston:
You wrote in your ad: "As writers--most of us not 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.”
Does that same sentiment also apply to the brick-and-mortar bookstores, from big chains to indies, that refuse to stock paperback books from Amazon Publishing's imprints Thomas & Mercer, 47North, Montlake, etc? If so, why don’t I see the same level of outrage from Authors United, or the Authors Guild, over this widespread ban, which has been going on for years and harms hundreds of authors?
The list of authors, many of them ITW and Authors Guild members, directly affected by bookstores refusing to carry Amazon-imprint titles includes Marcus Sakey, Kevin J. Anderson, Ray Banks, Alan Russell, Greg Bear, Ian Fleming, Ed McBain, Max Allan Collins, Stephanie Bond, Dana Cameron, Leslie Charteris, Diane Capri, Orson Scott Card, Sean Chercover, Deepak Chopra, John Connolly, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Peter David, Nelson DeMille, Aaron Elkins, Christa Faust, Stephen W. Frey, Jim Fusilli, Joel Goldman, David Hewson, Jonathan Maberry, Penny Marshall, Robert R. McCammon, Marcia Muller, Susan Orlean,Julie Ortolon, Tom Piccirilli, Daniel Pinkwater, Steven Pressfield, Robert Randisi, Christopher Rice, John Saul, Tom Schreck, Neal Stephenson, and R.L. Stine, to name just a few.
I have enormous respect for you and the authors who signed your ad. Many of them are also friends of mine. But the fact that you, and the other authors listed in the ad, are upset by the Hachette situation and haven't shown any concern over Amazon Publishing titles being banned by bookstores speaks volumes about what the real issue is here.
Lee

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Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion. 

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please 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.

Thanks for your support.
 
The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

More in the spirit of transparency - My "Whimsey: A Novel" is self-published. I used Kindle and CreateSpace for publication, both are arms of amazon. But they are not the only places Whimsey is available. Many brick & mortar stores chose to stock it also (probably because I purchased an ISBN from Bowker.  I had been warned that a lot of indy booksellers would not pick-up my book if I used an amazon isbn), along with the stores that also agreed to take it on consignment. In other words, I have no dog of my own in this hunt, or I guess I should say, if I do, he's much too tiny to matter.



1 comment:

Libby Dodd said...


My concern is for the authors. Whether a contract for more books is offered depends on sales. Pre-orders are very important.

I have no idea how the Amazon published authors are fairing with brick and mortar stores not stocking them, but given Amazon's preeminent position as a book seller, I question that they are suffering very much.

My gut reaction is that Amazon is being a bully, and holding the authors as hostages.