Monday, May 26, 2014

Agency Lessons: the sometimes ugly business of books

I had another post scheduled for today, but the Amazon v. Hachette issue has gotten so big I can't really ignore it anymore.

I tried to find a good article to link to for those who don't know about the current negotiation struggle, but I couldn't find one that wasn't filled with diatribe from one side or the other. Disappointing, yes. Surprising, no.

Here's what we know. We know that Amazon and Hachette are currently negotiating their distribution contract. We also know that Amazon has recently changed its distribution for some Hachette titles by either changing their delivery time frame or removing their pre-order option.

That's it.

Everything else is pure speculation. Read that again. Every article you read that makes broad statements about Amazon forcing Hachette to bow to their might or Hachette playing a risky game with their author's money is based on assumption, speculation and probably an ingrained dislike of one party or the other.

Amazon and Hachette have been tight-lipped about the details of the negotiation. And this is perfectly normal. No companies discuss their contract terms until the ink is dry. This is simply how negotiations work, and it's frankly none of our business. Certainly we want to know and if you have a book with Hachette, you have a vested interest. But unless you own one of these companies you don't have any rights to know the details.

Now, for the authors. There are plenty of mid-list authors who are feeling the pinch from Amazon's actions. Honestly, that stinks for you and I'm sorry. Many of these authors are encouraging fans to head to other outlets to get their books. That's smart. Amazon isn't the only show in town and there are other places for readers to buy books.

However, what's not smart is for these authors to run all over the internet bashing Amazon. No one knows what's really going on except Amazon and Hachette. I made that pretty clear. So bashing Amazon shows a disregard for educated debate. Because none of us are educated on the details.

Many authors will automatically side with the publisher saying that they obviously have their authors in mind so whatever terms Amazon is proposing must be anti-author. To this, I say "Bullox". Amazon and Hachette are both businesses. While both are obviously fans of books, they are both in business to make money. I'd be willing to bet the terms of negotiation have less to do with what is best for authors and more to do with what is best for these companies. Keep in mind, this is speculation on my part, but so is any other assigned motivation.

One of these days Amazon and Hachette will work things out and these books will probably be back on the Amazon shelf. Then those authors will be back to pushing their readers there and Amazon, who helps them make the majority of their money, won't feel like such a bad guy.

This will continue to be a story as negotiations between these two companies drag out. And I'm sure we've not heard the last of the bashing from both sides. But it doesn't need to be that way and shouldn't be. If you are a writer, write books. If you have books to sell, find ways to get those books into your readers' hands. End of story.

4 comments:

  1. Agreed! I don't know the whole story so I tend not to take sides.

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  2. Totally agree. Well said, Sarah.

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  3. All very good points, and I agree with you on every one. Business is business as far as Hachette and Amazon are concerned. What gets me is that some authors really overreact about things, bashing publishers, distributors, other writers, even their readers. Yet I haven't seen any get their just desserts, or get dropped by anyone, not even their agents... I guess money really is the bottom line.

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  4. Thanks for giving us the true story!

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