Onward, Again

IMG_1969 Comments have been closed on the previous post. The mod queue has been tightened up, for obvious reasons. It will relax again when the current storm blows over. So if you make a comment and it doesn’t immediately appear, don’t despair, it just means I haven’t swung by the site at brekkie, lunchtime, or after dinner to clear the queue.

It was interesting and comforting to see Charles Stross’s take on the whole Hachette-Amazon thing, especially where he points out the relative sizes of the players.

One thing that surprised me in the response to my last post was how people didn’t seem to realize I’m a self-pubber too. Also, the number of people trying to tell me how the industry works and yet unable to answer even simple questions an industry professional will ask as a matter of course was thought-provoking. Over and over again I found myself asking very basic questions of people who just didn’t seem to understand how books are: made by any publisher, small or large or self; quality-controlled; and/or currently distributed, and why. I don’t know everything about publishing, I’ll be the first to admit that, but after the years I’ve spent in the field, I at least can guess at the dimensions of what I don’t know, and some of those lecturing me did not appear to be able to do the same. Those who don’t know what they don’t know tend to not understand. (Very meta, I’m sure.)

I will say that the flouncing by those who find the Amway Demagogue of Self-Pubbing more congenial was pretty hilarious, though I’m sure my amusement was not the intended effect. Slightly less amusing was the inability of people to parse “yes, they’re both corporations, but one is acting like a toxic asshole right now and the other isn’t.” Not to mention misquoting me, and then mocking the misquote. Which would be singularly un-amusing, but it’s the internet, so as a result it’s only mildly interesting and puzzling.

Anyway, time to get back to work. The books, they will not write themselves. There’s revisions on the first Gallow book, and some Storium work to do.

Over and out.

  • martianmooncrab

    just didn’t seem to understand how books are: made

    uhm, the pretty book fairies and elves dont magic them into existence in the garden of pages?

  • Charlie’s a Stross, not Strausss

  • Fixed! Damn autocorrect fiddles mixing with pre-caffeination. Thanks!

  • Some days I wish they did, other days I’m glad they don’t.

  • Ilona Andrews

    Will you please stop confusing people with facts? 🙂

  • I can’t help it. But then, we all know I’m a horrid person…

  • I think part of this is driven by pure ignorance of how publishing works, and part of it is driven by the special snowflakes who were ‘rejected by the man/gatekeepers’ and it’s all going to be wine and roses from now on, and every self-pubber is going to be another Konrath or Hugh Howley.

    But, as I said in the other thread, most of them won’t. Most of them were rejected for a reason.

  • …yeah, that’s pretty much it, I think. I’m certain it’s frustrating, to be told “everyone can do it!” and then find out it’s way, waaaaaay harder than it looks.

  • HP

    Looks like Amazon has offered to pay 50% of Hachette author’s royalties during this contract dispute… if Hachette pays the other 50%.

    Ouch, that must stiiiing.

    Tell me, when you heard the news and you realized your entire premise of Amazon hating authors came crashing down around you, did you feel like a fool? Because you sure look like one.

    Can’t wait for your next post after Hachette says no to Amazon’s offer.

  • You seem to be referencing this Kindle Forum post, where Amazon doesn’t even bother with a press release to tell Hachette authors just how much they’re being screwed. If this is the type of behaviour you consider “author-friendly,” sir, I can say we do not agree in the slightest. I can also say I find your continued comments indicative of someone who has little to no experience of the publishing industry, probably for good reason, and your considering me a fool does not bother me at all. In fact, I consider it rather as a mark that I’m moving in the right direction.

  • Robotech_Master

    Given that the forum is where Amazon has always posted its official responses to things, including its manifesto on the Macmillan agency pricing buy button affair and Jeff Bezos’s personal apology for the 1984 Kindle debacle, it would be a bit odd for them to start using press releases instead at this point.

  • I found it dismissive then, too.

  • I’ve wanted to join the discussion for a few days now, but I just value my vowels too damn much.

  • Several commenters have been able to avoid such a fate. Many of them discussed Amazon with me. I’d recommend reading those threads to perhaps gauge how to do so as well.

  • I’ve read the threads, Lili. You disemvoweled and dropped the “mansplaining” card (which is really offensive, by the way) on several reasonable responses. And then linked to your carte blanche comment policy. So don’t pretend that you’re just filtering incoherent or abusive posts.

    If I thought you’d listen, I’d lay out my argument. But I recognize a pointless exercise when I see it.

  • If this is how you feel, it leads me to wonder why you even bothered to comment in the first place. Clearly this is not the place for you. Thanks for dropping by, though.

  • Robotech_Master

    I would posit that it’s not dismissive of the people Amazon considers most important, which is to say, its customers. The whole announcement is phrased as being an explanation to the customers of what’s going on, and the fact that it’s issued as a forum post rather than a press release indicates that’s who Amazon is trying to talk to.

    Speaking as an Amazon customer, I rather like that the company directs its attention to its customers first, rather than talking over their heads to the press. It’s like it learned from the Cluetrain Manifesto.

    Anyway, it’s not as if being issued as a press release would have gotten it any more widely reported.

  • Could you please state definitively whether you will accept payments from the author recompense fund if it is implemented? And your opinion as to whether Hachette’s refusing to implement it, assuming they do not, refutes its assertion that it is an “author-centric” publisher?

  • Do you consider them admitting they’ve throttled Hachette books and saying “Go to our competitors” customer-centric? I would also point out that releasing to the press isn’t supposed to be talking over their customers’ heads, more like making sure their message gets to customers and potential customers alike. I also find their offer of a “pool” insulting, but that’s just me.

    Anyway, it’s not as if being issued as a press release would have gotten it any more widely reported.

    True dat.

  • I’ll tell you exactly why I dropped by. I won’t get into how unreasonable I think you’re being regarding the Amazon/Hachette dispute, because you won’t actually have a discussion about that.

    I’m curious as to how the woman who couldn’t say enough good things about me when I TORE INTO Vera Nazarian over the whole Norilana Books thing (to an extent that I actually thought that I may have crossed a line) could possibly be the same one who runs her comment section likes this and attempts to demean some posters merely because they’re men. Can you imagine what you’d think/say/do if I was accusing commenters of “womansplaining” and disemvoweling them? Would there be enough pitchforks in circulation? Misandry isn’t actually better than misogyny.

    I guess I just wanted to make an atypically passive-aggressive attempt at maybe making you take a look at your behavior of the last couple of days. The mansplaining thing is ridiculous, and the disemvoweling thing is akin to how a child would react. In concert, they make you look really bad, and there’s no doubt that you’re hurting yourself.

    I understand you don’t care about any of this, but you said you were wondering. So do what you’re going to do; I’m aware of your comment policy.

  • I would have to know the exact shape, amounts, and (most importantly) strings attached to any funds from the “author recompense fund” before I decided whether or not to accept. Right now I’m leaning towards no, and I view the whole thing as a bit of distasteful, tone-deaf grandstanding on Amazon’s part. Most of the authors I was on Twitter with last night seemed to view that particular bit of Amazon wordage needlessly insulting.

    If Hachette put whether or not to accept such an offer to a vote of its authors, I would vote against it for various reasons. This is not concern from Amazon, it’s a ploy to make Hachette look like the bad guy. My experience of Hachette is that they are as author-centric as possible, and furthermore, as one of their authors I feel that their refusal to give into Amazon’s current blackmail aligns with my own interests.

    If Hachette was the asshole here, as I’ve remarked before, I’d say so. I should also add that such is my relationship with my Orbit editor and the Orbit team that I wouldn’t fear any reprisal, blacklisting, or anything else as a result of my vociferous opinion-stating.

  • Robotech_Master

    You know, when Edmund Gwenn said, “Oh, Macy’s doesn’t have that toy, you want to go to Gimbal’s” in Miracle on 34th Street, even though Macy’s management was appalled, the customers absolutely loved it—and subsequently, every store started directing shoppers to their competition when they couldn’t fill a request. (Granted, it’s fiction, but I found actions and motivations of all the characters involved to be entirely plausible within the given scenario.)

    So, yes, I’d say directing your customers to your competition when you can’t fulfill their order in a timely manner is absolutely customer-centric. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant number of customers saw it that way, too. “I appreciate them being forthright about it. I’ll buy my Hachette stuff elsewhere, but I’m even more happy to shop Amazon for everything else now.”

  • If you are the person who runs the Passive Voice blog–I remember quoting that at length in during the Vera Nazarian debacle–I’ll quote what I said in another comment:

    Passive Voice? Oh, yes–I read them during the Norilana Books thing. I believe what you’re referencing, though, was the post implying that I said Amazon preorders were the only metric for forecasting, a notion that would be justly derided had it actually been what I said. What I actually said–in the very post above, the one we’re both commenting on–was that publishers largely depend on preorders, period; it is an imperfect metric but one of the few they have during plenty of contract negotiations and budget/acquisition meetings, because of the way publihsing[sic] works and the time lag concomitant with getting a book through the quality control process. I further went on to say Amazon removing previously available preorder buttons and monkeying with their search algorithms to pressure Hachette has direct effects on the metrics used at contract time for many authors, especially midlist ones like me, and I’ve detailed why I found that troubling. I found Passive Voice’s misrepresentation of my words rather puzzling, but oh well. It’s his site, he can do what he likes.

    I find it interesting that the one commenter I warned for mansplaining made a point of telling me he came from the Passive Voice. He ignored my warning and continued being obnoxious, finally flouncing elsewhere. You may not have found his comments problematic, very well. I did, and this is my site. I gather, from what that commenter said, that he found Passive Voice far more congenial.

    I don’t regard disemvowelling as a method of demeaning people. I rather find that it saves aggravation for both me and other commenters. It’s a tool I’ve only had to use a few times here, for which I am glad. I have thought about taking a page from Scalzi and using the kitten setting, but I decided that leaving the comments intact enough for people to decipher and judge them in their own fashion was better.

  • Any strings would be tied by Hachette, as Amazon stated that they would allow Hachette to allocate the pool – and, indirectly, to determine its size in the first place. One assumes, dangerous as that word is, that it would be set up similarly to the Macmillan pool, which Macmillan described thusly:

    In addition to the favorable royalty recalculation mentioned above, you may also see an item toward the bottom of your statement called Amazon Kindle Outage Adjustment. Most of these adjustments were processed last royalty period but some are being finalized now. We believe it was not fair that authors should suffer from the Amazon buy button takedown imposed on us for a week last year when we switched over to the agency model. So we estimated as best we could what Kindle sales would have been for that week and processed the royalties on those sales as if they had happened. Amazon felt the same way and graciously split the cost with us. Interestingly, from what we could discover, almost all non-Kindle Amazon sales migrated to other outlets.

    So I’m not clear on how you consider it “tone-deaf grandstanding,” since it’s basically Amazon giving Hachette authors free money to compensate for potential lost revenues – which, at least the one other time this happened, weren’t even lost for the most part.

    An argument could be made that Amazon is doing this to make Hachette look like the bad guy to its authors, of course. However, a) that requires telepathy more reliable than my own, so if you can establish it, I have some questions about Bezos’ bank account passwords, and b) even if it is, so what? This is negotiation. If you’re going to start vilifying people for doing nice things to third parties who are being harmed by negotiations between two massive corporations, you are going to produce some pretty massive disincentives for what most people would consider, generally speaking, a very positive mode of behavior. If you prefer scorched-Earth, may God protect the innocent approaches to enormously complicated financial dealings affecting tens of thousands of people, that is certainly your privilege. I hope you won’t hold those of us less ideologically pure in disdain for appreciating the beneficial effects of said “tone-deaf grandstanding.”

  • A variation of this sort of thinking is why I still have Amazon links on my site–for reader convenience, because there are people who either don’t want to or can’t buy elsewhere, for their own reasons. I don’t really find it customer-centric of Amazon in this particular situation, I rather view it as salt and lemon juice in the wound and cheap grandstanding from Amazon. It is part of my livelihood we’re talking about, so I suppose that’s probably why.

    For myself, I found it tasteless, tone-deaf, insulting, and in bad form, both as a customer and an author of not-just-Hachette books, including the ones I offer through KDP. I do appreciate you going elsewhere for your Hachette books, though. Thank you!

  • No, I don’t run TPV. It was on Twitter. Would it have been that hard to look into that for five seconds? Not that any of that matters.

    You can rationalize the disemvoweling thing any way you want. Comparing it to Scalzi’s kittens doesn’t support your contention that it’s a mature way to deal with things. It’s a tantrum.

    If you wanted people to judge the comments for themselves, as you just said, you’d leave them intact. So please.

  • We differ, sir, very much in our estimation of the situation. I view Amazon’s tactics as already scorched-earth. Charlie Stross says it better than I could. I also do not find that it is “free money.” It’s Amazon squeezing Hachette in a way that is going to end up badly for authors in the long-term, with Amazon providing short-term “incentives” to apply pressure. Amazon appears to be calculating that the weakness of humans for short-term benefits will work in its favor now. I can’t say they’re wrong, which fills me with despondency.

    This is not “Amazon doing nice things.” I find it curious and incredible that anyone would attribute that altruism to them, frankly.

  • Ah. It seemed that you might have been the person running Passive Voice. My apologies, then.

    We differ on my comment policy, it seems. Thank you for taking the time to give your input.

  • Just out of curiosity, is there anything Amazon could actually do in the midst of negotiations to which you wouldn’t ascribe evil motives?

  • Robotech_Master

    Given that it’s your livelihood you’re talking about, I’d suggest you might want to be more upset with Hachette. It’s pretty obvious from their court filings—and the prices of the Amazon-blocked books in their listings at Barnes & Noble—that they want to reimpose agency pricing, or something similar.

    The last time e-books were under agency pricing, fewer people were willing to pay the higher prices the Agency Five wanted for e-books, fewer e-books were sold, and authors earned less money. This was demonstrated statistically over the course of the Apple trial, convincingly enough to aid in finding Apple guilty (which makes the Agency Five, including Hachette, guilty by association, though they were able to avoid admitting it in their settlement agreements) of anti-competitive collusion. (And in Europe, they settled a similar anti-trust investigation before the US verdict was even announced.)

    Amazon has a pretty big stake in not letting the agency pricing camel poke its nose back into the tent, because when it sells fewer e-books it makes less money too. I don’t anticipate them being willing to give in on that. And given that I want to be able to buy e-books from and support as many authors as possible with my limited entertainment dollars, I’m just fine with that.

  • I’m glad you asked!

    If Amazon were to restore the preorder buttons and normal search algorithms while they finished negotiating, and (bonus points) say, “You know what? That was a bad tactic, one we engaged in for these reasons, and we realized it hurts authors more than anyone, and we apologize for that,” I would consider that really amazing. I would also shout to the heavens that they had pulled up their panties and been a big kid about it, and congratulate them publicly–as well as call on Hachette and Amazon to be as transparent as possible about the terms of the agreement they reach, so that we could see after the dust settled, how it ended up.

    I don’t think this has much chance of happening, but since you asked, there it is.

  • So Amazon should restore the pre-order buttons for unreleased titles, when they have no guarantee that they can even provide the books? Does that strike you as reasonable?

  • Have you considered that because it is my livelihood and I have dealt with Amazon affecting my livelihood and using similar tactics before, that I might not be upset with Hachette because they’re not being the asshole here? Sure, they’re a corporation, and I’m sure that in the past and in the future they will be assholes, but they are not being the toxic asshole in this situation. Consequently, no, I don’t think I should be “more upset” with Hachette.

    Your chain of logic seems to end up at “every ebook should be cheap because people will buy more of them!” There’s a point past which this provides limited returns, and so many people who use this sort of reasoning don’t understand that ebooks cost money to produce too, and the profit gained on them helps publishers take a chance on more authors that they might not have leeway to otherwise. Like I’ve said elsewhere, the agency model actually benefits me long-term as a writer, and I don’t find a lot wrong with it.

    It’s fine for you to buy from Amazon because of limited entertainment dollars. I would put forward, though, that after their tactics are successful on a grand scale and they have even bigger chunks of the distribution market AND cowed publishers (no matter how big or small), what’s to stop them from pulling a WalMart and raising prices in captive markets? Tobias Buckell brought this up, and it’s a good long-term point I wish people would think about. Maybe nipping such a thing in the bud now would be a better idea than letting things get to that point.

  • Aha. Now this is an interesting question. You think that what Amazon is doing will end up badly for authors in the long term. Here is a bone with some meat upon it.

    While of course the actual content of the negotiations is known only to the parties, the general consensus seems to be that Hachette is holding out for more control over the final retail price of books – i.e., it is attempting to re-implement, at least to some degree, the Agency Pricing model. This is in fact exactly what Hachette and the other Big 5 Publishers publicly said they would do when the DOJ suit restrictions expired. They just won’t (hopefully) be dumb enough to try to do it in concert this time. And as long as they don’t do it in concert, they have every right to proceed accordingly. So it seems reasonable to assume (sorry, there’s that word again) that that’s the crux of the thing. If I am in error, or you have information I don’t or reasoning which is superior as to the source of the conflict, I would love to hear it. (No, really, I would. The only thing I like more than being right is being proven wrong in an interesting way.)

    That being said, why is it, exactly, that you think that the Agency Pricing model helps authors (which is just the other way of saying that not having it hurts them?) “Because it will keep book prices up” would be a reasonable first answer, but it turns out that keeping book prices up doesn’t actually help authors. The Author Earnings reports are showing that what any economist would tell you is true in general is true for books specifically: maximum revenue is rarely attained at the far end of the demand curve. Lower pricing doesn’t just result in higher sales volume, it results in higher net revenue. Especially with very high-margin products like e-books, volume is far more important than price over most of the curve.

    If your answer is just more generally, “I want more power in the hands of the publishers because I trust them to benefit me more than I trust Amazon,” again, that is a reasonable position. And, individually, it may be true – it sounds like you are very fortunate to have a wonderful editor who works hard for your books. (Incidentally, both my wife and I have read and enjoyed your work.) But for authors in general, sadly that is not the typical experience. Those who do well in tradpub do very well, for the most part: those who don’t do well, do poorly, and the midlist is sinking more every year. That giving publishers more power would benefit authors as a whole is at best an unprovable opinion and at worst contrary to a great deal of observable evidence.

    I think the strongest answer – and I am not trying to strawman you here, if you have a different one I am sure it will be better than any of my hypotheses – is that keeping Amazon and publishers in a position of more parity provides Amazon with incentive to treat more fairly with both independent authors directly and traditionally published authors indirectly (via their publishers.) In fact, I kinda like that idea: I am a big fan of gridlock in many contexts.

    However, assuming that the issue is the Agency Pricing model, that’s a pretty binary question, and Amazon is not going to give. Amazon lives and dies by control of their product offerings, including the price. They’ll give up Hachette before they’ll give up final price control, and – this is the part of their letter which IS a more or less naked threat, although it’s one of the politest threats I’ve ever read – their shareholders won’t even notice. The same is not true for Hachette’s parent company. So in the end, going down in flames on this issue will actively hurt Hachette authors both in the short term and in the long term, since once Hachette breaks it off completely, those sales will not recover for a long time if ever. So again, while the basic idea is reasonable, the practical effect is detrimental to authors.

  • Hachette can still set the price of its books to Amazon even absent Agency Pricing: what they can’t do is control the final retail price. Amazon will cheerfully put overpriced e-books on its website: there’s thousands of them there right now. If Hachette doesn’t want e-books to be cheap, it can set the wholesale price accordingly, and they will not be cheap unless Amazon wants to sell them for a loss – which is the right that Amazon is reserving. Hachette authors will still get paid even if Amazon gives their books away.

  • No actual money changes hands until the order ships, correct? They’re out no money by saying, “We have all these preorders, let’s get these people their books!” as a negotiating tactic instead of “RAWR GODZILLA SMASH.” Restoring the preorder buttons and normal search algorithms takes away a great deal of the incentive for Hachette to be intransigent, and furthermore would turn critics like me into cautious defenders of Amazon instead, as well as providing Amazon apologists with much more to work with.

  • Who said anything about the money changing hands?

    I’m talking about Amazon restoring the preorder buttons with no guarantees that Hachette will actually ship the books. Then, when the release date comes, and Amazon can’t fulfill the order, what happens? Customers are pissed, Amazon loses business, and you’re saying they’re evil again.

    In other words, it would be an unbelievably stupid business move on their part, and it would give Hachette a ridiculous amount of influence.

    At least you’re admitting that Hachette is actually part of the problem here. You didn’t really think they’re just sitting around, not looking for and utilizing any possible leverage, did you?

  • My understanding of the situation is not that Hachette is trying to set the final retail price. My understanding is that Hachette is refusing to give Amazon a bigger cut of the price of ebooks. Distributors take a certain percentage for their work in distributing. Amazon is on record pushing to up that percentage as a matter of course, and some of that is healthy. Ingram, a huge distributor for paper books, does the same. Where it isn’t healthy is Amazon looking to push up that percentage to stratospheric levels and furthermore using tactics like this during the negotiation to strongarm and extort the publisher into granting it. Right now agency pricing is, as far as I can tell, not the issue. I do believe it benefits authors more than non-agency pricing, for a variety of reasons, but I also believe that isn’t the issue right now.

    I see using publishers as a counterweight to the behemoth Amazon has become as quite reasonable in this situation. I am not calling publishers incredibly altruistic by any means. In this situation, with Amazon using these tactics, the publisher is for once not the toxic asshole. The next publisher who negotiates with Amazon might be the toxic asshole in the situation, and if/when they are, if I’m moved to speak about it, I’ll say so. I suppose that falls under your third argument. Am I correct?

  • See my other response–I think that covers this one too.

  • If we give Hachette the benefit of the doubt for being author-centric, we must certainly give Amazon the benefit of the doubt for being customer-centric. (E.G. I recently tried to return a book to Amazon because I had accidentally bought two copies. They gave me my money back and said, “You’re a good customer and you hardly ever return stuff. Just keep the book, it’s cool. Maybe you have a friend who’d like to read it.”)

    They do not want to take orders they might not be able to fulfill, nor accept them at prices which it may turn out they are unable economically (or perhaps even contractually) to offer. So, yes, it provides pressure on Hachette, but it also keeps Amazon from making promises they can’t keep, which is a much, much higher priority to them. Because if that happened, customers would blame Amazon, not Hachette. The same way they blame Amazon, rightly or wrongly, when goods are offered at prices they consider too high.

  • You are entirely correct, thank you.

    If you are right that the fight is about fundamental wholesale pricing/discounts, it would make your position a lot more logically appealing. And I don’t have any more concrete knowledge than you do as to whether that’s the actual conflict.

    However, consider the following:

    1) Hachette is the first of the Big Five to renegotiate its contracts as the end of the DOJ discounting mandate (i.e. the ban on Agency Pricing) approaches.

    2) Hachette is on record with the other publishers as saying that it thinks Agency Pricing is the model which will benefit it the most, and that it plans to try to implement AP wherever possible.

    3) Most if not all industry sources I’ve seen say that the conflict is, in fact, about re-instituting Agency Pricing and to a lesser extent about co-op/promotional fees. Here’s an example from DBW, which is a reasonably pro-publisher source:


    Quote from the above: […] Amazon has been in a contract negotiation with Hachette, […] and has used increasingly noticeable tactics to get the publisher to agree to contract terms that would give Amazon more control over book discounting and make Hachette pay a higher “co-op” fee […] — at least that’s the rumor.

    So while I’m sure Amazon is always ready to talk about paying less, what this source and most others I’ve seen think the fight is about is Amazon’s ability to discount.

  • I suspect you misunderstand me, sir.

    I bring up money changing hands because it doesn’t until the preorder is shipped. Hachette and Amazon are both still under contract, these negotiations are taking place for contract renewal before the contract actually expires. There are authors whose books will release between now and the contract renewal or expiration. Amazon loses nothing by putting the preorder buttons back on. I rather think that if said contract expires and Amazon can’t ship the preorders for other Hachette books that release afterward, they can post on their customer forums blaming Hachette and not only will it make Amazon look like an injured party, but it will also provide a great talking point for Amazon apologists to leap upon. Whether or not I would decry their tactics again at that point remains to be seen.

    Your last two sentences seem a bit ill-tempered. I invite you to reword them.

  • I’m going to quote what I said elsewhere:

    I bring up money changing hands because it doesn’t until the preorder is shipped. Hachette and Amazon are both still under contract, these negotiations are taking place for contract renewal before the contract actually expires. There are authors whose books will release between now and the contract renewal or expiration. Amazon loses nothing by putting the preorder buttons back on. I rather think that if said contract expires and Amazon can’t ship the preorders for other Hachette books that release afterward, they can post on their customer forums blaming Hachette and not only will it make Amazon look like an injured party, but it will also provide a great talking point for Amazon apologists to leap upon. Whether or not I would decry their tactics again at that point remains to be seen.

  • “…make Hachette pay a higher co-op fee.”

    Could it be possible that we’re both right about the sources of the dispute? Hachette is also, as several commenters on the whole thing have noted, the smallest of the Big 5. They’re an ideal test case for Amazon to see if it can get away with this during negotiations.

    Assuming (there’s that word again) that we’re both right, or both partly right, how do you feel about Amazon’s tactics?

  • So Amazon should take orders without knowing if they’ll be able to fill them, give leverage away to Hachette, and their fallback strategy would be to make a public proclamation of, “But it’s Hachette’s fault!” That doesn’t seem like a very sound strategy, because customers would still blame Amazon for taking the pre-orders without being able to fulfill the order in the first place.

    Offering them for sale when they’re actually available is a sound strategy. Customers still (theoretically) get their books, Hachette gets their money, and Amazon doesn’t make a commitment that it can’t be sure it can fill. It seems like you want Amazon to give up every advantage they have, yet Hachette to give up none.

    Not to mention, Amazon is offering to subsidize author royalities during the contract dispute.

    Per your last paragraph, I’m disinclined to accept your invitation, and I have no idea how you got “ill temper” out of that. You’ve literally seen and lauded my temper. Regardless, I’ve advised my vowels to make their peace with their little letter god.

  • It appears we won’t come to any agreement. We’re done. Thanks for coming by.

  • We don’t actually have to come to an agreement, two businesses do. Just saying.

  • I like the theory that we’re both right. (Though it’s okay with me if you think you’re righter as long as you don’t mind that I think I am. In either event those are both significant points.)

    As for Amazon’s tactics, I’m fine with them, both as pertains to AP and as pertains to co-op. I don’t know enough about the current co-op rates or what Amazon might be asking for to have a very sound opinion as to whether Amazon is being unreasonable, but given Amazon’s track record, I have a hard time thinking they’re asking anybody’s firstborn child. And I categorically oppose the whole idea of Agency Pricing as being bad for everyone. I am aware that the big publishers disagree with me on this point.

    With regard to removing pre-order buttons, dropping stock levels and lowering or eliminating discounts, I see those as entirely reasonable actions which advance Amazon’s position, which is Amazon’s primary responsibility. Probably the one I have the most trouble with is eliminating discounts, but then I don’t know that Hachette hasn’t already lowered or eliminated its discounts to Amazon,, or threatened to do so. And we have seen indications that Hachette may have tried to throttle Amazon in turn (or possibly even prior) so I don’t see dropping stock levels as a point where Hachette holds the moral high ground.

    In the interest of being forthright, I freely admit that as an independently publishing author anything that makes tradpub books more expensive, harder to buy, or less appealing to customers has the potential to benefit me. (In reality it makes little difference, as I don’t think books compete with each other very much absent extremely high pricing, nor do any significant traditional publishers publish books in my genre.)

    That being said, if I were Amazon’s lawyer, I’d have no problem with making AP a dealbreaker, nor with arguing for increased co-op fees. Amazon’s Recommended/Alsobot space is the most valuable screen real estate in the world, and it should command commensurate prices.

  • It’s probably academic which of us is “right-er.” 😛

    We differ over Amazon’s tactics, very much. We differ over who holds a larger sliver of the high ground–I do understand Hachette is a corporation too, I just don’t see them as being the toxic asshole in this particular situation.

    I can also see that as a self-pubber (do you prefer indie? I just generally call it self-pubbing) you’re entitled to feel like making trad books more difficult may benefit you. I don’t agree, natch, especially from the place of being a self-pubber as well. I use KDP for self-pubbed ebooks on Amazon (I manage other distribution channels through Smashwords) and I can see a time in the future where, having pulled off this sort of thing with trad publishers and small presses, Amazon presents lone self-pubbers with a fait accompli. This bothers me a great deal. Those who say “the market will correct itself, other distributors will rise!” don’t seem to care overmuch about the pain suffered by authors in the meantime, and I find that concerning but not terribly surprising. My thinking is, can’t we just nip this in the bud now?

    A robust publishing ecosystem benefits every way I might bring a book to market–self, small press, trad, what-have-you–and I see Amazon as becoming malignant in that ecosystem. Am I overly pessimistic? Perhaps. I don’t think I am, but there it is. I also think that Hachette as a counterweight to Amazon in this particular situation is more beneficial in the long run than Amazon deciding it can use these tactics as a matter of course and get what it wants.

  • Thank you for your civil engagement on the issue – I think we’ve about both had our say. Though I might differ on the “toxic asshole” thing in a way you might not expect: I don’t think anybody is being a toxic asshole. I have no problem with Hachette fighting for AP. I just hope they don’t win because I disagree with their underlying assumptions about its benefits.

    Regarding self/indie, thank you for your polite inquiry. I personally don’t care much and if I’m not paying attention tend to use them interchangeably. However, “self-publishing” has a bit of historical baggage in that once upon a while it meant people who couldn’t get published in New York, generally because their books were just bad, who went to scam “self-publishing” firms like Author Solutions and had a garage full of dreadful poetry books to try to sell. So some of the more vicious defenders of traditional publishing use “self-publishing” as an insult, and some of the historically minded independent publishers prefer “independent” to distinguish what they do from said historical practice. As I said, I don’t care much: if a person implies that KDP is just an electronic version of Author Solutions by lumping them together as “self-publishing,” I won’t bother to correct them, I will just quietly laugh at them and go on about my business.

    It’s much the same way in that I refer to “traditional publishing” as opposed to “legacy publishing.” Legacy publishing is, in a sense, accurate, but it contains a bit of a look-at-those-dinosaurs implication. It’s not polite in that context, accurate or not, so I don’t use it.

  • I appreciate your civil engagement as well–such a thing is rare on the internet. Thank you, I’ve enjoyed our interchange immensely.

    I also tend to use “indie” and “self-pubbed” interchangeably, but I understand that there’s that baggage, so I like to inquire about the preference. Most times, the simple inquiry and the implied respect is enough to put one’s conversational partner at ease–I’ve rarely had anyone reply that they prefer one term exclusively. *is thoughtful* I haven’t come across “legacy publishing” with any regularity, but now that I know it has those connotations I’ll be careful if I ever use it in the future. Learn something new every day, one does.

  • “Quit while you’re ahead” is a cliché you might want to consider.

    You’re doing nothing but damaging your brand.

  • Thank you for your concern.

  • Really? You buy books based on the author’s attitude toward Amazon? How…odd.

  • I agree Amazon does not take a direct monetary loss when it cannot deliver on a pre-order. But its customers do lose. They face additional transaction costs to acquire the book, and they can easily face a delay in receiving it.

    Hence, Amazon recommends they seek out a different vendor.

  • Do authors and book deserve special consideration in the market? Should they be treated any different from zillions of other producers and goods? Why? As consumers, why should we give them special treatment?

  • I have patiently explained this to you, and I am beginning to suspect you’re not listening. Clearly Amazon can do no wrong where you are concerned, and I am sure they are grateful for your continued support. Thank you for coming by.

  • Ah. If you think this is the case, then by all means, go ahead and consider books that way. Since you and I don’t agree on this basic an issue, I think we’re done here. Thank you for coming by, and I wish you luck in your future Amazon purchases.

  • Andrew

    Tobias could be wrong. Are we allowing for that possibility? Are we allowed to allow for that possibility, or does his POV fit more than few peoples worldview about Amazon?

    What if the Big 5 win, whats to stop them from raising their prices and then lowering your royalties the next time your contract is up? Is it wrong to envision a world where that might happen? Are writers as confident of that not happening as as they are of Amazon’s action “If” Amazon “wins”? Because before Amazon the Author/Publisher relationship was just, you know, the best.

    How fast do you think publishers world wide would go back to the days of 1842 if they thought they could get away with it? Are authors under contract to traditional publishing houses worried about those things, or do they not bear thinking about?


  • *sigh* I suspect you have not been reading. This is a strawman that has been raised before in the comments. If/when we are faced with that situation, I’ll address it then. Right now we’re looking at Amazon, and if you think Mr Buckell is wrong and Amazon will somehow avoid acting like the other companies in history and the present day we’re pointing at, very well. I am fully aware Hachette is a corporation too. In this particular situation, they are not the toxic asshole.

    I am not merely under contract to trad publishers. I also publish through small press and self-pub. And frankly, I think the sort of thing you posit is unlikely, whereas I can see Amazon continuing down its path with very little trouble.

  • People use the most insane reasons to decide whether to support artists of all stripes, including authors. I’ve read any number of instances in which people choose whether or not to purchase based on an author’s actions. Some go beyond that – authors with bad interactions on Goodreads have found their product absolutely pummeled through reviews.

    Reading fiction – at least for me – is all about distraction and immersion in a world. I can see how people would feel strongly enough about an author that they wouldn’t be able to lose themselves in a story, and if that’s the case, then what’s the point of buying? It’s like watching a movie and you can’t shake the notion that the guy from Gigli is now Batman.

  • Robotech_Master

    In the end, this basically takes on the timbre of a religious debate. Protestants and Catholics are never going to convince each other that they’re wrong. 🙂 But “someone is wrong on the Internet” and so they have to try.

    The interesting thing about it is that, unlike most debates from real religion, sooner or later we’re going to get to find out who was right all along. Some people are going to be disappointed. And who knows, I could be one of them. It should be fun to find out. 🙂

  • Stacey G.

    I, for one, have many more books I’d like to read than I have time or money to spend on them. When it comes to easy ways to narrow down my many options, author attitude is an easy one. Whether it is their rants about reviews, their politics, their attacks on a company that has allowed me to afford more books, or their childish comment policies, any of these or other annoying behaviors make it simple to say no to purchasing their works.

  • I don’t have any kind of meaningful thoughts to add to the discussion of Amazon and Hachette, but I do have a thought on the comment policy:

    I love it.

    Every comment that you disemvoweled I did my best to decipher and I absolutely agree with why you did it. I think that people seem to think that just because you are open to discussion on the subjects allows them leeway to behave however they want. It seems to me, however, that they fail to realize this is YOUR site, YOUR blog, and that there were many threads of discussion where people disagreed with your assessment of things and did NOT get disemvoweled.

    On another note, I loved the discussion you had with MPMcDonald. I learned something from it, specifically about the different experiences each self-published author has. Wonderful thread.

  • Well, then you are truly blessed to have such an easy time of it. It seems you follow the authors you claim not to read a trifle closely, though. It might be better for you to simply leave them be.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • Thank you! I enjoyed the discussion with Mr McDonald as well.

    I do agree that because I am open to discussion, a certain contingent does seem to take that as an invitation to behave badly. Fortunately, here I can strip out the vowels so I don’t have to read their offerings, while still leaving them to be deciphered for the curious. None of this turned into a GIF battle, though, which leaves me just the tiniest bit disappointed. I do love GIFs.

  • I must confess Orson Scott Card’s open and vocal bigotry has marred my enjoyment of Ender’s Game, which I truly initially loved. Sometimes I wonder about the way artists and their works are moving closer and closer, and becoming more accessible in so many ways, in the digital age. *is thoughtful*


    (Do images post in the comments? LET’S FIND OUT.)


  • I practically grew up in my local library, reading everything I could get my hands on. What I knew about the authors was what was printed on the back flap of the dust jacket. Every now and then an author would make the news, though it was usually when they spoke at a commencement address somewhere.

    Technology for artists is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, interaction can inspire fierce loyalty among people, who’ll devour anything you put out – as long as it doesn’t devolve into total crap. But it can just as easily turn people away. Plus, I can’t imagine the time commitment to all the various social media these days, though I’d imagine it’s less than taking long book tours.

    Ultimately, I think it’s the abundance of choice. There isn’t the relatively finite space of the home bookshelf anymore. So, when a threshold of distaste is reached, people move on to something else – and never make it back. I, for one, seem to buy 2-3 books for each one I read. My Kindle app’s gonna rebel soon.

  • Robotech_Master

    The same technology that can bring authors closer to their readers can, unfortunately, sometimes bring readers a bit closer to their authors than they would have intended or preferred. Just ask George R.R. Martin.

  • Your attempts to provoke me into disemvowelling you have failed.

    Just saying.