Friday, August 08, 2014

Hundreds of authors claim to be caught in the middle between Amazon and a major NY publisher: but they really have to make a living at it!

The New York Times is reporting Friday about a “battle” between Amazon and 900 writers.  The story *by David Streitfeld) reports that Amazon is “discouraging” readers from buying books from Hachette (whose most familiar imprints are probably Grand Central Publishing and Little Brown).  The story (link here ) discusses the situation of Douglas Preston who, (like Stephen King) lives in coastal Maine.  But I just checked Preston’s page on Amazon and found the books priced in an average way, with the newest book “The Lost Island: A Gideon Crew Novel” sold for free on Kindle, but older books variably priced.  When I look a second time, I see that Amazon offers a “free preview” (even chapters) and over 600,000 titles “free” to subscribers.   The article goes into efforts by Hachette to get higher prices for Kindle titles than Amazon is willing to support.  Publisher’s Weekly has a story here  By the way, a promotional campaign for my most recent book from the would have cost about $15000, a bit over-scaled for me.

Preston seems to be playing ring leader of “Authors United”, which has a letter to “our readers” here.  I’m not sure that what I see online myself comports with this letter.  The letter mentions refusal to discount books.  The group will take out a full page ad on Sunday in the New York Times, as it stays now. These are writers who actually make a living at it, and they feel caught in the middle between two conflicting business models. 

I’m not exactly in this group, where some of the material seems to be genre fiction.  (Oh, I have enjoyed some of it in the past, like Sidney Sheldon (“If Tomorrow Comes”, “Rage of Angels”,  and “The Other Side of Midnight”. (Dean Koontz had a horror movie in 1985 called just "Midnight" and it was a corker.)  To sell paperback “potboilers” like these in supermarket lines (or in commissaries) you have to make yourself popular.  Sheldon certainly could create a wide range of characters.
Self-publishing companies price their books high (although some of the Kindles are very low).  Then they offer volume discounts to sell back to authors, as if authors could compete in retail selling with Amazon (and run their own credit card operations, in these days of Vladimir Putin’s hackers). 

But Hachette seems to own “it’s authors”.  Doesn’t sound too healthy.  

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