Sunday, July 13, 2014

Traditional Publishing Shows How Much Authors Mean To It

There has been an ongoing dispute between Hachette - one of the Big 5 in the traditional publishing world - and Amazon, the largest book distributor on the planet.  Hachette buys the rights to publish the books, and Amazon gets them to the customer.  The central point of dispute has been in the discounting of ebooks on Amazon.  Hachette wants a higher price, equivalent to hard copy books, and Amazon knows most folks won't pay such prices when it's essentially a download.  As a result of the dispute, Amazon is holding some distribution of Hachette's books, especially on pre-orders.

Hachette has some big names in its corner, names like James Patterson, Stephen King, and James Baldacci.  One of their authors, Doug Preston, recently wrote an open letter to writers that implored writers to join with him in his condemnation of Amazon's tactics.  He claims that struggling writers are being hurt by the way Amazon has reacted.

Interestingly enough, Amazon has made a counter-offer that has folks like Preston spluttering and making excuses.  In a nutshell, Amazon has offered to carry the books but give 100% of the revenue generated by this directly to the authors until the dispute is resolved, so long as Hachette agrees.  This sounds like a potential windfall for writers, correct?


Well, not for folks like Preston.  He stammered and bloviated about not feeling right about taking money he feels is rightfully owed his publisher, even though it would potentially cost him millions.  Let's forget for a second that Preston is already a 1% author who has more money than he'll ever need, or that most writers struggling to put food on the table would love to jump at this.  What this really shows is how much traditional publishing houses like Hachette care about the writers they claim to.  If they truly gave a shit, they'd happily acquiesce to such a demand and show those under their wing, as well as prospective authors, that they'll take care of them in lean times.  Instead, they've shown that it's not really the authors' money anyway, and those peasants should just be happy with what they give them.

Preston's own response to this has been awesome - he compared such revenue to blood money, essentially comparing giving authors full revenue from what they've written to the price paid to Judas to betray Christ.  If such a statement doesn't show what Preston thinks of the peons who haven't made it as high as he has, I don't know what will.

His implication also seems to be is a stark warning to newbies - don't oppose us on this or you'll never publish another book again.  That's the implicit message from folks like him and Scott know...people who already have what they want and love the gatekeeper system that prevents new talent from breaking through unless it has indentured itself to publishing companies.

I'm hoping the effect of this opposition to writers keeping more of what they earn is to turn more to indie publishing.  Maybe this will show some of them just how the oligarchy regards them and their passion, more as replaceable pieces of the machine as opposed to valuable clients they depend on.  Unfortunately, given how many newbies, or even those with more experience, have reacted in the past, I won't get my hopes up too much.

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