Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
The shark may have jumped the shark.
When she pointed out that Bezos & Co. have velvet-gloved Pulitzer winner, The Goldfinch (Little Brown, a Hachette imprint), leaving its discount price intact and shipping on time, I understood something important: Amazon must have hired Darth Vader as Director of Corporate Strategy.
Clearly what we have here is disingenuousness (i.e., evil) of the highest order. In other words, Amazon is making instant money off of Hachette’s successful title with one hand while extorting them (or outright robbing them) with the other. The message is clear: We can do whatever we want because we are the Death Star. Now run along. There’s nothing to see here.
Miller has severed ties in protest:
I stopped buying any books, print or digital, from the company. What I knew of the predatory, proto-monopolistic practices of Amazon caused concern. I believe no single corporation should have as much control over the book market as Amazon clearly aims to seize. Books aren’t generic, interchangeable products like toothpaste or flatscreen TVs, and in the long run readers, authors and publishers all benefit most from a genuinely diverse marketplace.
That nutshells it.
On the other hand, from the self-published author’s point of view, the non-Amazon ebook market is minuscule — at least for literary fiction, in my case. I can count on two hands the number of copies I’ve sold through iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, while a hearty royalty stream flows from Amazon’s spring. (I exaggerate. I’ve probably made just enough to cover my publication and promotional expenses.) To say no to Amazon would be, essentially, to end my self-publishing venture.
And this is what the traditional publishers are figuring too. As Miller points out, they don’t think they could withstand the hit that would come from pulling out of their Amazon arrangements, this in spite of the fact that publishers as a group can brag a profit margin of around 20% (2006 – 2009 data). Not too shabby.
Maybe we’re pitying the wrong schlub here. Still, it’s obvious that if Hachette doesn’t get a fair deal with Amazon, they will maintain a healthy profit margin by passing the cost of feeding the beast to — authors. Lower advances, less promotion, fewer new voices. It will start to look like books are interchangeable products like toothpaste or flatscreen TVs.
Getting back to Cinthia Ritchie and the other Hachette authors affected (this does not include Donna Tartt!), we have to weigh any anti-Amazon campaign we might envision with its effect on them. And on us.
I’m inclined to buy books from someone else for the time being. As for publishing them? It’s hard to see a viable alternative right now.