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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Amazon / Hachette

I generally don't speak my politics out loud, especially as I live in an area of the country where my personal politics definitely don't match the vast majority of my neighbors, other parents at my childrens' schools, and even many of my friends. Political conflict just ends up being conflict, and frankly, life's too short to lose friends over their voting preference.

I do, however, have strong opinions. And when I'm asked about them, well, then, all bets are off.

Amazon recently sent an open letter to all the authors who publish through them, discussing the Amazon/Hachette Publishing conflict. I've been following it through the opinions of various authors I admire, and had formed my strong opinion well before I received the letter from Amazon asking for support.

But since they asked...

My letter to Hachette:

Dear Mr. Pietsch,

While I understand you’re in the business to make money for your investors and your parent company, I don’t appreciate the stand you’re taking on the backs of your authors.

I am an author of two novels that are beginning to do quite well with readers, PRIMARILY because of eBook sales. I find that readers will buy the paperback to keep because they’ve already bought, read and loved the eBook. I also recognize the research that has gone into eBook pricing, and agree with Amazon that books priced under $9.99 will sell considerably better than those priced higher.

Because I’m also a reader. I consume books of all genres, at a rate of 100-200 books a year. They’re all on my kindle or my iPad. I do not travel with books because I read too fast and would have 100 pounds of books in my luggage. I do not take books to the DMV or the post office or anywhere else I have to wait in line, I take an eReader. And I DO NOT buy kindle books priced higher than $9.99. Frankly, it’s offensive to me to pay so much for an eBook when I know exactly what it costs to produce them.

And it’s offensive to me that your authors are in the middle of a your contract negotiation. The reality is Amazon is the biggest distributor in town. They support readers – YOUR CUSTOMERS. You are not a distributor, you have not done the distribution homework. They understand their customers and they understand the marketplace. You do your job of putting out great books by amazing authors, and let them do theirs of selling those books.

April White
Author: Marking Time, Tempting Fate

Now, I recognize that this is an oversimplified argument. I'm absolutely clear that Amazon is not the good guy in this - they have definitely done their part by removing Hachette books from their shelves, and those authors are suffering. But to me, the removal of those books is the point. Amazon is a distributor. They choose what to sell, and they know what sells best and at what price. Their market research shows that for every 1 book sold at $14.99, 1.74 books will sell at $9.99. For those bestselling authors who sell 100,000 books a price drop would translate to 174,000 book sales. The math is this: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% bigger. But more importantly, the books are being read by an audience that is 74% larger. To top it off, Hachette is going to war over eBook sales that count for only 1% of Hachette's income. 

Really guys? 

They're going to battle over the illusion of being in control. But here's the thing. THE READERS are the ones in control. Clearly Amazon isn't concerned about the lost sales from the Hachette book readers if they're willing to take them off their shelves, yet those Hachette AUTHORS are losing thousands and thousands of book sales because their publisher isn't willing to let the distributor do their job.

Some of those Hachette authors, and traditionally published authors from other publishers are standing with Hachette on principle. I get principles, I really do. What I don't get is big business ignoring the marketplace is serves, at the cost to the author of thousands of prospective readers and thousands of dollars.

So, there it is - my political opinion. It won't make me popular with some people, but my political opinions rarely do. 

And they did ask...