WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

A big deal: Amazon and Hachette are going steady

amazonhachetteBy 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.

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16 comments on “A big deal: Amazon and Hachette are going steady

  1. sknicholls
    November 19, 2014

    Very well said. Book reading concerts. Hummm?

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 19, 2014

      Maybe if we dress up like KISS…

      • 1WriteWay
        November 20, 2014

        Barf.

      • Kevin Brennan
        November 20, 2014

        Alice Cooper, maybe?

      • 1WriteWay
        November 20, 2014

        I could go with that. I once went to one of his concerts dressed up as his twin sister 😉

  2. Phillip McCollum
    November 19, 2014

    ’tis a brave new world for writers. As you mentioned, eventually we’ll have to find our own versions of ‘live performances’ and ‘merchandising’ to make a decent living.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 19, 2014

      It’d take miracles to make a living at this. Not very many people actually do, as I’m sure you know. And that’s the problem with labors of love, eh? You do it even though the pay is lousy… 💸

  3. donaldbakerauthor
    November 19, 2014

    I’ll be honest with you. I have no illusions that I will ever make much money at writing. The whole publishing biz is a game and like most games, the big money interests have long ago ruin it. I mainly write because I must and to fulfill my own expectations. I have confidence that I will be published from time to time. I believe in what I am doing.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 19, 2014

      You’re absolutely right. None of us is doing this for the money, and none of us is going to stop because of the pay. But you have to admit that if the only way to “sell” books is to charge less than a dollar or to give them away, a pattern that devalues books is in play and can only be destructive in the end.

      That said, excuse me while I get back to writing my next book… 😝

  4. kingmidget
    November 19, 2014

    To a significant extent I blame Amazon and the promotional sites for the race to $0 for an e-book. Amazon won’t feature self-published books except in their discount areas and all of the promotional sites require a discounted price. I’m about to throw up my hands and give up on the self-publishing route because of how it has been engineered to force us to accept nothing or close to nothing for our work.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 20, 2014

      I agree. And it could be part of Amazon’s overall strategy of keeping the price of ebooks low, but whatever the case it’s murder for people like us. It’s clear that this is one of those transitional periods when the economics of a new paradigm are being worked out. All we can do is keep on keepin’ on, I guess…

      • kingmidget
        November 20, 2014

        #47 on the list of 73 reasons why I’m not writing these days is this one: what’s the point? I’d like to be one of those writers who does it just for the pure joy of the craft, but I unfortunately tied in to the idea that there has to be a point. And, somewhere along the line, when I put as much time and effort into something like I do with writing, part of “the point” becomes what can I get out of it. Self-publishing offered a mechanism to get something out of it, but it just doesn’t really work all that well. So, I struggle with the point of writing these days. And, well, the other 72 reasons as well.

      • Kevin Brennan
        November 20, 2014

        Yeah, I repeatedly hit the “what’s the point” wall — four or five times a year, I’d estimate. But since I keep doing it, I guess it’s either a question with no answer or the answer is “I can’t not.”

  5. islandeditions
    November 22, 2014

    When I was promoting books and their authors in Alberta, I set up a series of private home salons and invited 4 authors to read to the audience and answer questions. I charged $10 at the door to each audience member and that money was divided among the authors at the end of the evening. I also invited a local bookseller to sell the authors’ own stock (so there wouldn’t be ordering or returns involved for the bookseller), she provided sales by credit and debit cards, made a quick 30% and paid the authors immediately, by cheque within a day or two, after the salon. I even devised a way for that bookseller to sell my own eBook, which had just been released, with a coupon method. It all worked very well and audiences were increasing in size before I moved from Calgary and the salon series came to an end. A number of friends had offered up their homes to me and even provided snacks and wine and coffee for the audience. The authors never made a lot of money from this, but what I was trying to instill in the audience was the concept that they can’t expect authors to “perform” for nothing more than the possible sale of a few books. Readers must understand that authors make very little from what they publish, so this was my attempt at crying out a wake-up call to everyone, and giving the authors another source of income. (Here’s a wraap-up blog post I wrote about the salons we held: http://islandeditions.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/2012-a-year-of-alberta-books-canada-literary-salons/)

    These salons were based on the very-popular House Parties in which many Indie Musicians take part – some of these can cost upwards of $60 per audience member to attend! And the musicians sell their CDs, too, so have a good source of income, if they can get on the house-party circuit.

    A bit off topic, Kevin, but still another way an attempt has been made to make readers more aware of the value in what we authors do and be willing to pay for it.

    (And I’m still trying to figure out a way of holding these salons “online” and opening up the audience for authors even further. Although a friend in Ontario is holding a salon next week in her own home, trying to kick-start my idea in a new venue. She’s already asked me for pointers on how I organized my series. Would love it if someone else were to contact me and pick my brain about this …)

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 22, 2014

      Fantastic idea, Susan! Takes the concept of a reading group appearance and punches it up with cold hard cash!

      In some regions it might not work because there aren’t enough authors around or there are too many… In my area, for instance, readings and signings are a dime a dozen, so getting people to fork over ten bucks could be tough.

      We do have a monthly lit night at a local cafe here, but there’s no fee that’s split among the authors. A tip jar? Doesn’t seem the same…

      • islandeditions
        November 22, 2014

        But if you ramp up the event to make it kind of exclusive – by invitation only, and in a swanky home, then Ka-Pow! It suddenly tops all the other free events going on …

        I was also going to approach a diner that had some space to it and was only open until 4 p.m. every day. (Also just down the street from that same bookstore.) I had hoped to organize evenings when they served a buffet dinner then Authors read and entertained. The audience would buy tickets in advance that paid for the meal and also allowed for paying the Authors. The bookstore would sell books. I just never got around to organizing that before I left Calgary. But I thought it could have been a win-win situation for everyone involved. It might work in a coffee shop, too, although they’d be less likely to close their doors to customers not interested in attending the reading.

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This entry was posted on November 19, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , .
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