How “Amazon” Means “LESS BOOKS FOR YOU”

ETA: I know that grammatically, it should be “Fewer Books For You.” I didn’t do that, partly because “Less” fits better in social-networking headline space, and partly because I’m a contrarian. Also, it makes me think of the soup guy on Seinfeld. “LESS BOOKS FOR YOU!”

Dear Readers, let me tell you about my editor.

I have been with my editor at OrbitDevi Pillai, who Anya Devi in the Kismet books was loosely based on–for over a decade now. She shepherded me through the Valentine series, consoled me through the end of Heaven’s Spite, took a chance on the Damnation Affair, and loved a certain hedgewitch Queen so much she kept asking about it for years until she could finally buy it. She remains an editor I trust implicitly. When she sticks to her guns and insists, I generally rethink my position and trust she’s right, and (far less often, because I rarely dig my heels in unless it’s Important) vice versa. She understands my working style, leaves me the freedom I need while ensuring I get the support I often don’t know I need to turn in my best work.

Not only that, but she advocates for me tirelessly in editorial and marketing meetings. She fights for my books, she fights to bring my books to you. She is everything an editor should be, and it’s largely because of her faith in me that I can write full-time and pay my mortgage.

She works for Orbit. Orbit is a part of Hachette. Amazon, the behemoth that undercut its competitors and has become not the only, but the biggest game in town, wants more money out of Hachette. So, Amazon has removed the preorder buttons on Hachette books.

Including the last Bannon & Clare book, The Ripper Affair. Here’s a screenshot of the Amazon page for the Ripper Affair this morning:

The_Ripper_Affair_(Bannon_and_Clare)_Lilith_Saintcrow_9780316183727_Amazon.com_Books_-_2014-05-23_06.46.51

Preorders are largely how publishers forecast how well a certain book will do. Those forecasts create numbers that are used when, for example, Devi makes the case to buy another series from me while I’m finishing up writing the current one. It’s not fair, but it’s the only metric the publishers have in some cases, for all sorts of reasons–frex, it can take over six months for the contracts department to get all situated. (Contracts people are by their nature picky and detail-oriented, and that’s fine, it’s just frustrating sometimes.)

All of this is backstory (hello, exposition!) to what I am about to tell you.

The full, nasty effect of Amazon removing buy buttons (like they did when squeezing Macmillan for more cash a few years ago) and removing the ability to preorder a publisher’s upcoming books doesn’t hit the publisher. Sure, the publisher is who Amazon can blackmail most directly–Amazon’s a huge distributor, and if they decide not to distribute, that’s lost revenue, since ease of buying is a component of consumer activity. (Translation: every time you make a consumer go somewhere else, they are fractionally less willing to buy the damn item that’s costing them time and headache.) There’s also lost revenue from people who buy only through Amazon (they have their reasons, natch) and that means a publisher can’t afford to take a chance on certain authors. The publisher takes the visible hit, but the ripples spread out and hit midlist authors, or debut authors. And while I am not the latter, I am most certainly the former.

In other words, Amazon’s behavior right now is impacting my ability to sell more books to Orbit, since when preorder numbers take this kind of hit it’s harder for Devi to fight for me in acquisition meetings. The numbers for B&C were already not good enough for me to do the “B&C travel to different countries” books we were all looking forward to. Amazon’s blackmail of my publisher makes it harder for my editor to justify taking a chance on me next time I’m up for a contract with them. (It isn’t fair, but it’s a business decision, and I understand as much.) This impacts my ability to write full-time, to continue producing those stories you love (or love to hate) at my accustomed rate. Because I have to pay my mortgage and feed my kids, and if this won’t do it, I will have to spend my time doing something else that will.

Amazon is obeying the natural behaviour of corporations. Corporations are not people, but once they reach a certain size they start behaving like any greedy organism. They metastasize. The effect of this is passed down through the ecosystem to yours truly–and also to you. Less time for me to write those stories means less Lili books for you to read. It means less books from other authors you may like or love, as well. If Hachette has to cave and agree to Amazon’s predatory terms, I will feel that directly, because that money will come out of budgets that take a chance on me, the midlist author.

As Elizabeth Bear said this morning, Amazon is hoping customers will turn on the publishers and force them to do Amazon’s bidding. If you’re fine with that, and with the effects I’ve described above, okay. I naturally don’t agree with you, but okay. I have Amazon links, affiliate and otherwise, on this very site for your convenience, not mine.

If you’re not fine with Amazon’s behavior, you can preorder The Ripper Affair (and order other books of mine) through Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or Indiebound. You can even preorder and order signed copies through Cover to Cover Books with a simple stock inquiry, they ship worldwide. You can preorder for other authors you like, too, at Barnes & Noble, at Indiebound, and at C2C though they may not be signed if they’re not mine–you get the idea.

Hachette has been keeping its authors apprised of developments in this situation. They’re doing their best to take care of us, because we are, after all, their bread and butter. Hachette isn’t the bad guy here. (I should hope that my regular Readers know that I’d tell you if they were, srsly, mortgage be damned.) Please think about buying somewhere other than Amazon, even if it is a little inconvenient.

In the end, dear Reader, it’s all up to you.

‘Nuff said.

ETA: Courtesy of Reader Scott Drummond:

I seriously have the best Readers.

I seriously have the best Readers.

ETA: Comments are now closed. Thank you all for participating.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’ve seen this come across my radar a couple times this week, so before I put up today’s final Boosting the Signal post, I’d like to talk a bit about the huge brouhaha I’ve heard about going on between Amazon and Hachette. Agent Kristin Nelson talks about it here, and she links off in turn to this post on the New York Times. Author Lilith Saintcrow talks about it here. […]