The Dangers of Paying and Playing the Piper | Amazon-Hachette

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I think we can safely describe Douglas Preston as a loyal author and servant of Hachette. I also think there is a danger that Preston is allowing himself (by fault or design) to be portrayed as a crusader for all authors when in fact he represents the commercial interests of a select group of authors, or maybe Douglas Preston just wants his toast buttered on both sides. If Preston is so aggrieved about the behaviour and power of Amazon in the bookselling universe, then maybe he should request Hachette—his publisher—to withdraw his books from sale on Amazon. This is also the very same decision Hachette can also make on Douglas Preston’s behalf, and indeed all their authors.
There is a great deal of hypocrisy been spouted in all this, and it is not just from authors like Preston and Patterson, et al, but also from the Howey/Konrath camp as well, both have also built author platforms using legacy machinery. This whole debate is deliberately divisive, and it not only sets out to polarise the different paths authors take to publishing, but paints one large group of authors as mugs or lambs to the slaughter of the legacy publishing machine.
All authors make choices, and those choices may or may not place them in a better or worse financial position when it comes to author earnings. There are simply too many players in this game of publishing thrones who want to raise a triumphant flag and play follow the leader as they march towards the high moral ground.
There are no angels and demons in this—Hachette or Amazon, just two very large corporations arguing their case in the same way it works in any other industry. You win some, you lose some. If you choose to pick a side, then that’s your bag. If you attach yourself permanently to either coattail, you pay the piper whether it’s when you walk in the gate or when you decide to leave.

Mick Rooney – Publishing Consultant

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3 Comments

  1. Inkling said:

    Quote: “If Preston is so aggrieved about the behaviour and power of Amazon in the bookselling universe, then maybe he should request Hachette—his publisher—to withdraw his books from sale on Amazon.”

    Why? This issue is not the existence of Amazon as a retailer. Amazon doesn’t, divert every penny of its profits into some evil cause. The issue is Amazon’s business tactics. Authors and publishers have every right to make a living that includes sales on Amazon while pressuring the company to change. They can, if they want, still sell on Amazon while encouraging their readers to shop elsewhere. It’s not the existence of Amazon that’s being debated here, but how it behaves.

    Whether applied to Hachette or this Douglas Preston, your argument is a poor one. Applied widely, it’d reduce our society to waring factions who, because they disagree with another individual, organization, or business about some one thing, will have no dealing with them. Therein lies madness and folly.

    I might add that, while in all of life “there are no angels and demons,” in particular disputes there can be a side that’s right and one that’s wrong. It’s equally mad to claim that picking one over the other is a mere choice. It’s running away when convictions are most needed.

  2. Mick Rooney said:

    Here is the why, Inkling.

    There seems to be an air of entitlement from both publishers and authors that they should have their books stocked or listed with retailers. They don’t, that’s the choice of the retailer, including Amazon. Amazon is not duty-bound to stock submitted books. Yet, on the whole, they pretty much do.

    I’ve not idea why you reference “the existence of Amazon” twice as if I’ve posited that as a point in the article. In fact the quote you used in your comment actually makes specific reference to Amazon’s “behaviour and power”.

    QUOTE: “Authors and publishers have every right to make a living that includes sales on Amazon while pressuring the company to change.”

    Absolutely, authors and publishers have every right to make a living, protest and pressurise Amazon, but as I’ve said above, it’s not a God-given entitlement.

    The Amazon/Hachette dispute is consistently being presented as something altogether rare and unheard of in the commercial world. It’s rubbish, companies throughout the world find themselves in difficult and protracted negotiations, and yes, it’s not uncommon for either party to withdraw services, suspend accounts etc. Once again, publishers come to the table and present their case as having unique and special circumstances. It doesn’t, the book industry is and should function like any other industry.

    QUOTE: “Whether applied to Hachette or this Douglas Preston, your argument is a poor one. Applied widely, it’d reduce our society to waring factions who, because they disagree with another individual, organization, or business about some one thing, will have no dealing with them.”

    Here we have the extreme emotive argument once again. That this isn’t just a dispute between two large corporations, but the very collapse of society as we know it. Why do both people when it come to issues concerning the book industry turn it into a ‘hearts and minds’ of society debate?

    QUOTE: “… in particular disputes there can be a side that’s right and one that’s wrong. It’s equally mad to claim that picking one over the other is a mere choice. It’s running away when convictions are most needed.”

    Why is this even about picking sides? No one is being forced to pick sides. Until this dispute is resolved or not as the case may be, picking sides is just a spectator sport when the finer details of the discussions between Hachette/Amazon are not even know. This dispute is like a leaking tap and without knowing the full details and timeline of what is going on, no one can assign who is right and who is wrong.

    Compromise is what resolves commercial disputes, not sticking to your convictions regardless.

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