Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
By now just about everyone in the business — and by the business I mean the industry — has heard that Amazon and Hachette have found common ground and inked a deal. I’m delighted with this news, if only so I can stop feeling quite as guilty about making Occasional Soulmates a Kindle Select book. If there were a better way to give a self-published book a fighting chance out there, I’d have tried it, since Amazon is evil incarnate and Jeff Bezos is Beelzebub’s drinkin’ buddy.
But the deal is done and now we can all go back to the business of writing and reading, with little thought as to how the selling of books actually occurs. I know a lot of Hachette authors were seriously hurt by Amazon’s tactics in this conflict — including my friend Cinthia Ritchie (Dolls Behaving Badly), who I’ll be interviewing here soon — but a larger problem in the publishing cosmos is that a significant population of readers doesn’t want to pay very much at all for an ebook. If anything. They have become quite skilled at identifying books on deep discount (such as my current Kindle Countdown deal for Occasional Soulmates, ending this Friday) or being given away as promotions, and consequently are walking around with Kindles so overloaded with cheap books that they’ll probably never get around to reading most of them. But it’s the thrill of the hunt that jazzes them, the idea that they snagged a hundred freebies, and it’s like a cocaine buzz only more harmful. To authors.
I’ve bitched and moaned about this before, but as I set out to ignite a little interest in Occasional Soulmates, I’m finding that it’s harder now than it was with Yesterday Road to get people to pay a little something for a book. And a dang good book too, if I may say. The problem is, books seem to be wandering down the same path on which music has destroyed itself. Nobody wants to buy music anymore. The CD is a relic that only old fogies like me cling to (since they sound better than mp3’s, and vinyl sounds even better than CD’s!), so artists are focusing on live performance and promotional release of free or cheap material just to keep people interested. Why pay for a CD when you can listen to almost anything for free on Spotify — as I’m doing as I write this, for shame? And, indeed, why pay for an ebook when there are thousands of them being thrown at you for free every day and you don’t even have to rise from your comfy chair to obtain them?
So the Amazon/Hachette deal is good for readers and authors, at least on the traditional side of things. All those Hachette authors, including Cinthia, get to sell their books on Amazon again, at reasonable prices, and your Douglas Prestons et al. can go back to raking in the cash. But before we get too very gooey over the deal, maybe we should think of a way to re-instill in readers a sense that books have a value and that even self-published authors ought to be compensated fairly for their contributions.