From Joe Konrath:
And Authors United confirms that a group can indeed be less than the sum of its parts when it acts in such a blatantly stupid way. But, like any group of likeminded people bonded together by mutual ignorance, they can persuade the legacy media tools at the NYT and The Bookseller to run their biased propaganda without any counterpoints.
Fails all around.
Their recent letter almost isn’t worth fisking. Really. It’s so poorly done, such a flimsy, whiny argument, that a child could deconstruct it.
But I didn’t have a child available, so I did it.
. . . .
We are writing to you in your capacity as a director of Amazon.com, Inc. As we all know, Amazon is involved in contract negotiations with several media and publishing companies, including Hachette. About six months ago, to enhance its bargaining position, Amazon began sanctioning Hachette authors’ books. These sanctions included refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books.
Didn’t take long for the BS to begin.
This began in January, not six months ago, because Hachette refused to negotiate with Amazon prior to their contract with Amazon expiring.
Amazon has had no contract with Hachette for several months. And yet it still sells Hachette titles, while under no obligation to do so.
Refusing preorders – Why should Amazon sell advanced copies of work when they might not be selling any Hachette titles in the future if an agreement can’t be reached?
Delaying shipping – Amazon has said they aren’t delaying shipping, they simply aren’t stocking Hachette titles. If Hachette wants faster shipping, they should get their titles to Amazon faster.
Reducing discounting – Oh noes! Amazon is selling books for the prices that Hachette sets!
Using pop-up windows – First I’ve heard of this, and the few minutes I took clicking on Hachette titles on Amazon failed to produce any results. But if it is true, let’s look at the big picture:
1. Should Amazon be allowed to do whatever it wants to on its own website? Sell what it wants to, for prices it wants to? Sell ad space if it wants to? Stock what it wants to? Ship how it wants to?
2. If a retailer isn’t behaving like the supplier wants it to behave, should the supplier fight for better terms? Leave? Negotiate in good faith? Capitulate?
For some reason, Authors United believes that publishers have the right to tell Amazon, Bezos, and the board of directors, how to run their store.
Now, the US has a history of third parties trying to intimidate retailers. But at least the mob did it effectively. Authors United seems to be using the intimidation tool of shame.
Shame doesn’t work. I know this for a fact, because I’ve repeatedly shamed Authors United signatories to stop their nonsense, and they haven’t.
But I’ll keep trying. And I won’t have to try very hard. Seriously, read on, it gets extremely humiliating.
. . . .
This is an obvious fact. We all have choices. Amazon chose to involve 2,500 Hachette authors and their books. It could end these sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate. Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids’ college educations. We’d like to emphasize that most of us are not Hachette authors, and our concern is founded on principle, rather than self-interest.
So now Amazon owes authors a living?
I’m amazed by the permeating sense of entitlement in this letter. These authors believe the system owes them. And I say this as someone who was at the mercy of legacy publishers for a decade. I know what it’s like to have my dreams, hopes, and finances screwed by the whims of a giant corporation.
But here’s the thing: I signed those one-sided, unconscionable publishing contracts. I went into them willingly. And when something better came along, I got the hell out.
Authors United, your gripe isn’t with Amazon. You didn’t sign a deal with Amazon. You can self-publish with Amazon right now and get preorders and fast shipping and price your books as you wish.
Your problem should be with Hachette. Hachette, who wants to keep ebook prices high, even as you lament Amazon’s lack of discounting. Hachette, who cares more about its part of the paper distribution oligopoly than it does about its authors. Hachette, who you HAVEN’T CONTACTED YET.
. . . .
Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on that book finding readers. This is the process Amazon is obstructing.
We, at Authors United, are better than people working in China. We’re better than people who make toasters and televisions.
We’re special snowflakes, unique and quirky, and the lonely, intense struggle we endure for the sake of ART is much more difficult than coal mining or waitressing or mechanical engineering or brain surgery or conservationism or rocket science.
If I ever reach this level of self-importance, I want someone to slap the shit out of me.
Seriously. Slap me until I shit all over myself. It would be less embarrassing than agreeing with the above Authors United paragraph.
When all you have to do to humiliate someone is hold up a mirror, it’s time to stop making public statements.
Link to the rest at Joe Konrath
Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books