back to article Amazon woos dispute-stung Hachette scribes with 100% ROYALTIES

Amazon has turned up the heat in its ongoing dispute with book giant Hachette, having approached several of the publisher's authors and their agents with a proposal that sounds too good to pass up. For the last few months, Amazon has been playing hardball with Hachette over pricing of the publisher's e-books. Among other …

  1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
    Devil

    Divide and conquer

    So, basically, Amazon is trying to drive a wedge between the authors and their publisher by "offering the possibility" of 100% royalties. Fortunately, authors as a class tend not to be deeply stupid and so hopefully will see through this clumsy, offensive ruse.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Divide and conquer

      Looks to me like it's the same tactic Google is using for the Indies on Youtube. If not the same, it's damn close.

    2. aurizon

      Re: Divide and conquer

      Better a wedge to separate them, to deflect the knife Hachette wants to drive to the heart of the authors

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Divide and conquer

        @aurizon

        Care to back up that wild statement with a link or justification? No? Thought not.

      2. Noram

        Re: Divide and conquer

        I'm not 100% sure, but it would appear to be Amazon who are playing silly buggers with the authors (and their own customers).

        This isn't the first time Amazon have used these sort of tactics, from memroy a few years back they did something similar with a lot of publishers, but kept the second hand sales of books by the authors going (showing their real colours in the argument, as the second hand sales see zero money going back to the authors, but a nice cut to Amazon).

        I'm not a massive fan of the publishers, but they do a pretty valuable job for the authors (most of whom do not want to have to do things like edit, typeset, arrange PR, enforce their IP etc, when their speciality is actually writing*), but Amazon seem to be playing hardball trying to force everyone else in the industry to do what Amazon want under Amazon's conditions. Something that will only be bad for the rest of the industry, the other book sellers, the authors, and ultimately (and most selfishly) us, the consumer.

        Ebooks save some costs for the people doing them, but most of the costs of a professional ebook are the same as for a professional paper book (with the addition of VAT as a cost for the purchaser),

        *I would prefer my favourite authors to get on with writing, not having to spend much of their time running a publishing house (assuming the authors in question want to write).

  2. The Nazz Silver badge

    Here's another radical idea

    Use your local library, mine is free to use.

    Hit all of the greedy parties in their pockets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's another radical idea

      so you say the authors are greedy? As an author I really have to disagree with you. I get a pretty small % of the retail revenues of my work. The retailer and publisher take the rest wih the publisher by far the biggest gouger.

      The publisher is the greedy party here. As a result I will now self publish my work once I am free from the shacles of the Publisher. Sadly is it the likes of Amazon that make this possible.

      IMHO for the majority of Authors the publishers are just sticking their head in the sand and ignoring the reality of the world today. sure the likes of J.K. Rowling, can still make a packet via the publishers but for the rest of us? Nah.

      IMHO, the Publishers has just copied the tactics that the Record Labels have followed for generations.

      May they rot in hell.

      Posting as A/C simply because I have a year to go on my deal with my Publisher.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Here's another radical idea

        Charlie Stross has written a few good posts on his blog on why he won't self publish and the useful things publishers do for authors whilst still having a rant about DRM and other things. I suggest anyone wanting a balanced view have a gander.

        This is just one of many posts.

        http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/05/a-footnote-about-the-publishin.html

  3. aurizon

    The three riders of the bookocalypse

    Greed, avarice and starvation - as done by Hachette and their ilk. There has been such a sea change in publishing that contracts that are oppressive, where hachette et al give the same royalty for e-book as for paper based one, yet if all the paper is stripped away you could give a $1 royalty to the author and to the publisher and they would make moren than before - at least on paperbacks.

    Traditional methods of publishing are snake bit and doomed to die. The writers need to throw off the publishers and go direct, via Amazon or their own authors guild with a credit card front end and give 95% to the authors, sell books for $1 by the millions.

  4. David Kelly 2

    Where is the FTC?

    What Apple did is nothing compared to what Amazon is doing.

    1. karlp

      Re: Where is the FTC?

      However, Amazon is the one who pulled the strings last time for a more-than-slightly dubious investigation. I doubt they would use whatever leverage they used last time to trigger a new investigation - on themselves.

      The reality is that Amazon will fight to the death the ability to sell items below wholesale to either put competitors out of business, or more insidiously - devalue the work of others in order to set a lower price ceiling in future negotiations, as they are doing here.

      1. SisterClamp
        Mushroom

        Re: Where is the FTC?

        Wow, how the lies accumulate. The DoJ suit had nothing to do with Amazon. Amazon did not "pull" any strings. The investigation began when a DoJ employee was reading Jobs' autobiography and came across a passage which detailed a meeting Jobs had with executives from the Big 5 publishers. If Jobs hadn't opened his big mouth, the suit would never have happened. This is all part of the public record, ffs!

        (Oh, and speaking of public record, I would like to disclose that I trust Amazon as far as I can spit...which isn't far. But that doesn't mean I blame them for everything bad that happens to publishing.)

  5. Richard Jones 1

    Sympathy For The Authors

    I may sound an off beat tone but while I have sympathy for the authors who on average earn about £11,000 p.a. I am less able to show the same sympathy for the what is starting to feel like a Mafia who act as their intermediary. Trade rules are changing and the old order is always slow to 'wake up and smell the coffee'. Many industries are enjoying or suffering, (delete as required) dis-intermediation and this sounds like just another example of irresistible force meeting a wannabe immovable object in the shape of a publisher.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Sympathy For The Authors

      Or alternatively its got nothing at all to do with dis-intermediation and everything to do with Amazon wanting to establish a good old fashioned monopsony/monopoly.

      Since successful authors tend to have multi-decadal careers they have got to ask themselves if they feel safe staying with a Publisher or helping Amazon eliminate publishers then taking the risk that Amazon wont screw them later down the line.

      Its worth not conflating ebooks and mp3's as the world is wont to do on this topic. Books as an eco system are much wider and healthier than music imo, and record companies <> publishers. I think a lot of people unconsciously make this comparison and it very quickly breaks down if you think about it.

  6. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    thinking of proposing

    I'm thinking of proposing that Amazon deliver said royalties by drone.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what benefit do publishers bring?

    Self publishing only works for those authors who already have a public presence.

    Any new writers who self publish just get lost in the noise of all the other self publishers. It's painful to admit, but the publishing houses are a very good way of filtering out all the cruft that people send in. They ensure that the books that are published have some merit (even if it's formulaic crap).

    The only self publisher I can think of who has managed to break out, is the shades of gray woman, which was a perfect storm of mummy-porn and anonymous reading via kindles. I can't see that perfect storm happening again for a while.

    So, in summary, if Amazon breaks the publishers, then (i) the big name authors will make more money initially (ii) Amazon will start re-negotiating deals with those authors to take their share that the publishers currently have (divide and conquer!) (iii) There will be no promotion of new writers, so it's unlikely that any stars will rise to the top, because any good writers will just be lost amongst all the noise, (iv) authors will not be able to feed themselves on £11k a year so will go back to their day job, (v) the consumers will be left with a reduced choice and no price decrease.

    Amazon are not the good guys here, freeing authors from the tyranny of publishers, but they are attempting to steal the publishers cut without providing any of the services. Ultimately the reader will be worse off as we attempt to find the few diamonds amongst the millions of slef published turds...

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: So what benefit do publishers bring?

      I would say there is the odd self publisher that has done well. Randolph Lalonde (Spinward fringe) springs to mind. Although imo - he never rises above middle tier space opera, and the series looks increasing in need of a strong editorial presence.

      You are right about there being a lot of dross at the 99p end of the market.

      Agree with you that Amazon are the worse of the 2 in this scenario.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: So what benefit do publishers bring?

        increasing in need of a strong editorial presence

        And that's the key. There are many good novels on the shelves these days, of tremendous variety, and it's possible to find them because of the work of acquisitions editors. Their quality owes no small debt to development and copy editors.

        There's no replacement in sight for acquisitions editing - so far crowdsource alternatives like reputation networks and recommendation systems don't seem to be doing the job, on the whole, with all the self-published material available, though some self-publishers have risen to the top. And while it's possible for self-published authors to hire copy editors, many don't; and even fewer seem to try to work with development editors.

        Publishing is an economic mess, but that doesn't mean the solution is to let Amazon bully and bribe publishers and authors.

  8. TheColinous

    As a wannabe author, I extend my middle finger in the direction of Amazon. I'm with Hachette on this, as are most authors.

    We don't want to be our own publishers. There's a reason wannabe-authors like me go to publishers. We're terrible at marketing, art, social interaction. Give us the chance to sit in our rooms with our computers and imaginary friends and turn those into stories.

    If we have to do marketing, we'll like stand up on a stage and stammer about passive voice, gerunds, split infinitives and whether we should show or tell. Not very exciting for anyone but the authors, who can get into religious wars about the Oxford-comma or whether we can use 'they' as a singular pronoun.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      I think your down votes are from a few "true believers" whose treatment by publishers has never been in line with their expectations. We'd have to read their works to see if that were justified.....

      1. TheColinous

        That is always the case on tech sites who side with anyone who eases their ability to consume art and culture without at the same time ensuring that the people who create what they want to consume get a fair deal.

        That doesn't prevent them from trying to don the mantle of champion for poor oppressed artists, musicians and authors. They are here to liberate us. They are here to save us from ourselves, because obviously we've never given much thought to how we earn a living. We're always slaves to circumstance and dictats from unscupulous tyrants. :)

  9. DougS Silver badge

    Uneven relationship

    It is easy for Amazon to give up revenue on books, they are only a small part of their overall revenue. Publishers are in business to sell books and only sell books. They don't sell TVs, candy, makeup, tires and cans of paint.

    If Amazon was only a fraction of their sales, it wouldn't be a big deal, but Amazon accounts for nearly all their e-book sales, and e-books are increasing their overall share of the book market every year.

    This is a shameless PR move by Amazon to try to make Hatchette look bad, but if the situation were reversed and forgoing this revenue would have the same relative effect on Amazon's bottom line as it would Hatchette's, they wouldn't even consider it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " Preston penned an open letter calling on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette, and urging readers to write Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and tell him what they think of his company's current tactics."

    He wants me to contact Amazon to tell them good job? OK, sounds good.

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