Home » Amazon, Big Publishing » Amazon’s Failed Pitch to Authors

Amazon’s Failed Pitch to Authors

1 August 2014

From The New Yorker:

In May, the publishing company Hachette revealed that the online retailer Amazon had been delaying shipment of physical books published by Hachette while the companies argued over how e-books should be sold on Amazon. Since then, the public-relations war between the companies has resembled an altercation between siblings who accuse each other of bad behavior while tacitly agreeing not to reveal what started all the hair-grabbing in the first place. But on Tuesday, Amazon broke the code of silence that both companies, despite their disagreements, had adhered to for nearly three months.

In a short Web post, Amazon named its objective (to lower most e-book prices to $9.99 apiece), disclosed what it was willing to offer to Hachette (Amazon would keep a thirty-per-cent share of the revenue from e-book sales, which is lower than it typically takes), and offered some arithmetic to support its position (by one calculation, cheaper e-books sell so many more copies that publishers—and, by extension, authors—can expect higher revenue). “This is good for all the parties involved,” Amazon’s representatives wrote.

. . . .

The facts, as presented in Amazon’s letter, seem persuasive at first glance. Many e-books are priced at $14.99; some reach $19.99. These prices are “unjustifiably high,” Amazon’s letter argues, because e-books don’t come with the expenses—printing, warehousing, transportation—that are required to get physical books into readers’ hands. Moreover, the company claims, e-books are “highly price-elastic”—that is, if the price of an e-book goes up, fewer people are willing to buy it.

. . . .

The upshot is a revenue increase of sixteen per cent for this hypothetical e-book—more money for the retailer, the publisher, and the author. Even authors who care less about money than about audience should be happy, because the number of books sold rises by seventy-four per cent.

Along with its proposal to take a thirty-per-cent cut of e-book sales—a lower percentage than people had believed it was seeking—Amazon suggested that Hachette give authors a thirty-five-per-cent share and keep thirty-five per cent for itself. This, too, looks good for authors: their share of e-book sales varies depending on several factors, but they traditionally get no more than twenty-five per cent of the amount left after the retailer has taken its share.

Given all this, it might seem surprising that authors have been generally unimpressed by Amazon’s announcement. On Wednesday, I called Brian DeFiore, a literary agent who has criticized publishers for giving authors relatively little money for each e-book sold; I thought he might find something to like in Amazon’s proposal. But he was not persuaded, and he explained why.

For one thing, he said, Amazon doesn’t actually get to decide what share of revenue publishers pay authors, a fact that the company is aware of. Its call for a thirty-five-per-cent share sounds nice, DeFiore said, but it means little.

. . . .

DeFiore also pointed out that Amazon doesn’t quantify what lower e-book prices would mean for sales of physical copies of the same books. Authors who work with traditional publishers like Hachette tend to make more, per copy, from hardcover sales than from e-books. If cheaper e-books draw people away from hardcovers, that could hurt these authors financially.

. . . .

Jeff Bezos, the C.E.O. and founder of Amazon, used to work at a hedge fund, and he has a mind for numbers.

. . . .

Amazon’s effort to win over authors might be doomed. But if Bezos and company want to try, they might do better to emphasize the idea that lowering prices will increase the audience for books—a minor point in Tuesday’s post. “The assumption from Amazon seems to be that authors are primarily motivated financially, but that’s crazy,” Preston told me. “No one becomes an author to make money—not even James Patterson became an author to make money, and I certainly didn’t.” While Preston was wary of Amazon’s financial argument, he was guardedly compelled by the notion that lower e-book prices could bring his books to a wider audience.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Bill for the tip.

When you’re in business (say as an author) and select business associates, PG suggests choosing associates who understand numbers.

The thesis of the article – that Amazon’s proposal to double royalties paid to authors for ebook sales has been rejected by authors because the New Yorker writer doesn’t know any authors who like the proposal – reminded PG of a famous statement made by New York Times film critic Pauline Kael many years ago following the 1972 Presidential election in which Richard Nixon won one of the most lopsided victories in US history:

I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.

Manhattan can be just as provincial as any other place. In PG’s experience Manhattanites tend to be less aware of this possibility than people who live elsewhere (excluding Paris).

Amazon, Big Publishing

68 Comments to “Amazon’s Failed Pitch to Authors”

  1. Oh my goodness! LMAO over here at this.

    “The assumption from Amazon seems to be that authors are primarily motivated financially, but that’s crazy,” Preston told me. “No one becomes an author to make money—not even James Patterson became an author to make money, and I certainly didn’t.””

    Sorry, I didn’t give up nights and weekends to slave over a book and not be financially compensated. I hope one day to make enough from my writing to quit my day-job.

    And if my books take off and I’m doing really well, then I have plans for other buisinesses I’d like to start. Using the book money as seed money for other things. So yeah. I’m a writer, and I’m only doing it to make money. Otherwise, I’d just keep my stories to myself and enjoy them that way….it’s a lot less work & effort that way.

    • Everyone who writes started out thinking they were going to make a living writing. Because of the way things in traditional publishing are structured that doesn’t happen for most people, but no one says “My dream is to work three jobs and write at night instead of sleeping!”. Now THAT’S crazy. The way these millionaires sneer at people who dare to want to make money is really amazing.

      • Exactly. Preston is, as usual, delusional. Most people want to be compensated for their work. That Preston thinks this couldn’t possibly be the case just indicates that he hasn’t stepped outside of his social circle in oh—ever. That and he’s pushing Hachette’s propaganda. Haven’t you noticed how often they’ve been saying this line, like it’s just a truism we all accepted ages ago? They’re trying to make it into one.

    • As James Patterson dives Scrooge McDuck-like in his money bin full of cash, I’m sure he appreaciates Douglas Preston speaking for him.

      Seriously, the New Yorker is its own special kind of pretentious. (Were I’m from we’d call it “precious.”) I don’t even think the cartoons are funny.

    • I can’t speak for all authors (or even very many of them), but as for myself — I didn’t become a writer for the money. It was more like having no choice. From early childhood, I wanted to be a writer and that’s all I ever envisioned for myself. As it turned out, I’ve earned my living as a writer all my adult life (which is a very long time, folks) and I did so even in my late teens. It was just a matter of luck that writing and money came hand in hand. If they hadn’t, I would have worked at some other job, but the writing would have gone on anyway.

      • Me, too. I mainly write, because I have stories to tell, though earning money is a pleasant side effect.

        Though I kind of doubt that James Patterson doesn’t write mainly for money. If that was the case, he’d write all of his books himself instead of using co-authors. Can’t speak for Preston, since I’m not very familiar with his work beyond the fact that he writes thrillers.

        Finally, even if writers don’t write just for money that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be fairly compensated for their work. A lot of people love their jobs and still want to get paid.

        • Finally, even if writers don’t write just for money that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be fairly compensated for their work. A lot of people love their jobs and still want to get paid.

          Yes!

      • I write because I have to – the stories just fall out of me. I learned to FINISH and PUBLISH because I like money:-)

        • I like! 🙂 For myself, I dream. The stories just come.

          I’ve been telling myself stories since I was little, because I could never fall asleep at night. Once a story became involved and complex, then I’d start telling myself a new one. (Once they got too interesting, I really couldn’t go to sleep.)

          I learned to ‘FINISH’ and ‘PUBLISH’ for similar reasons to you.

    • Sure, I can buy into this a bit. I didn’t start writing to make money either.

      That being said, once I did start writing with the serious intention of publishing what I’d written, I DID begin to focus on the money.

      For that book.

      When that book was published and everything was as I wanted (other than sales, heh), I forgot about it and began to prep the next one.

      Prepping the next one, which includes concept, first draft, all revisions, all the way through to the final edit, I didn’t write it for money.

      Once it was ready to publish, I began to think about the money aspect of it. I did what I thought was necessary to help it generate sales and put money in my pocket.

      I mean, I didn’t write it for money, or even to make money. I write stories because I love to write stories, and I want to write stories. If I’m writing under that guise, I feel like my stories are better. Even if no one else likes them. If I’m writing them with the intention of selling them to a mass audience and drive a gold-plated yacht through the streets, throwing money at peasants and demanding they fight to the death for the three or four dollars I’ve tossed their way, then I’d be writing 50 Shades erotica, Twilight vampires, and YA teenage wizards and witches.

      I’m certainly not saying any of those genres are awful and the writers of such literature are somehow beneath me. But those are the genres I’d write if I was truly out to cash in quickly. I’ve a lot of respect for authors who’ve amassed a large following by writing stories that I do not care for (whether reading or writing). They’re doing better than me, and they’re probably writing in the genres they love. Or maybe they’re doing it for money, I don’t know. Don’t care. Props to them.

      But me, I write because I want my story to be what I want to read that isn’t being written. Once it’s written, it’s time to be a smart businessman and try to cash in on it.

      To make a short reply really long: I don’t get it. Does Preston live in a bubble of some kind? Or has he not had internet / cell access for a number of years?

      Because every author I talk to damn sure wants to make some money off their hard work. If you didn’t want that, you’d make all of your books permanently free. I don’t know any authors that do that.

      • …then I’d be writing 50 Shades erotica, Twilight vampires, and YA teenage wizards and witches.

        The problem is that those of us who read those subgenres see the fakers trying to cash in. The word spreads and your sales tank faster than the Titanic.

        If you don’t love reading it, don’t write. Unless you’re James Patterson. And even he’s starting to see his sales slip because someone’s FINALLY publishing zombie romantic comedies, a subgenre the Big 5 ignored for decades.

    • I hear you and understand.

      While in high school, a good friend of mine was ALWAYS writing down stories, she couldn’t not do it. She gave me a couple of ARCs for stories that she’d written. To my shame, I never read them. But she was like many of you, the words came and she HAD to write them down.

      She’s a playwrite now, and is enjoying modest success. 🙂

      I’m saying that I’m different. Not in a monetary, mercenary way–which has been implied–but I’m different in that I’m fine keeping my stories in my head. I do not feel the compulsion to write them down.

      Perhaps if I shared where my journey as a writer began, you might understand. It was one year after my little sister died from cancer, I found myself at the B&N on 86th & Broadway, looking for a book. I was depressed from my sister’s passing, I was tired–working a mind-numbing job that I really didn’t like–and I’d just realized that I was never going to get ahead. That for the rest of my life, I would be on this rat-race treadmill. Always scurrying to catch up, but never getting ahead. I’d work until the day I died, more than likely living paycheck to paycheck. It was more than depressing.

      But hey, I was in NYC. So I walked the streets taking photos, going to movies and free events in the parks, and then spending all of my disposable income on books. (I’m an escapist reader, a Fantasy & Romance junkie.) I walked out of bookstores–the B&N down at Lincoln Square and the Borders at Columbus Circle that are no longer there, and the B&N on the UWS next to Zabar’s–with stacks of books on a regular basis.

      So there I was at B&N, depressed, walking up and down the racks on the second floor, looking for the next book to read when I thought of one of my favorite authors. Mercedes Lackey, she’s always coming out with something new. At the time, she had several rows of books on the shelves. So I meandered over to browse titles to see if there was anything I’d missed.

      I don’t remember how this realization hit me, but it did. Suddenly, instead of seeing titles and book series, I saw dollar signs. Compounding, residual income. Each of those titles, labored over for a time and then set aside. Over the years making a tidy little income stream that would add up to make a nice living. Dean Wesley Smith would call it his magic bakery.

      Things clicked together in my head, and I thought to myself, “I can do this.”

      Right away, I turned and walked over to the how-to section and pulled about eight writing books off the shelf and bought them. A week later, I bought myself a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary. A short while after that I started writing. My first draft of my first book was done in a month. The first draft to the sequel (due to release this coming week or the next) was finished two months after that.

      I scoured writing blogs, learning craft and style. I listened to Writing Excuses religiously for what became years. I wrote and re-wrote, and re-wrote, polishing what I knew in my heart was not a pile of crap–despite writing advice you find online about polishing crap and first books–but a great story.

      I have to say that I’ve been surprised. My stories are better written down than they are in my head. It’s been a delightful discovery. And I can say that I’ve begun to have that compulsion for writing stories down. But it is driven by realizing that I have a voice, a message, and a slant that I want to share with others and is coupled with the fact that as I write those stories and publish them that my audience will build and we’ll have a mutually beneficial relationship. I’ll write stories that we both like and in turn I am compensated financially when my readers buy those stories. My readers (the few that have sent me messages or posted reviews online) like my work, they want more. I’m happy to write more.

      So yes, I write for the money. I’m busy, time is fleeting, I have many other things I could be doing. Like sleeping, or going out to dinner with friends, or going to the movies, or curling up with a good book, watching favorite tv shows, etc. But instead I’ve chosen to sacrifice that time to write, and I’ve only done so because I’m looking at it as a career with a payoff somewhere in the distant future. Like saving money in a bank for retirement.

      When I write, am I thinking about what will sell best? To be honest, sometimes I am. But only in the vein that I’m a romance junkie, I know the genre, I love the genre, and I have dozens of story ideas in that genre.

      But I also love fantasy. And even though I have many other stories/trilogies partially written, I still come back to those first two books that I wrote when I was living in NYC. They’re my darlings. (I know, I know, I’m supposed to kill them. But deep down, I know they are beautifully constructed, neatly ordered stacks of polished un-crap. So I’m leading with them, publishing them first, even though they won’t sell as well as the contemporary or historical romances that I have dancing through my head.

      So there you are. I hope you understand. I write for the money; it’s the only reason I write. But it doesn’t exclude me from finding joy, surprise, and delight in crafting a story. In fact, I find putting stories on paper to be extremely satisfying in a way different from other artistic endeavors I have tried. And believe me, I’ve tried quite a few.

      I hope you understand now and won’t judge me too harshly. But if not, that’s okay. I’m content and happy with my plans for writing. And as Indies so often say, the only thing that matters is if your readers like what you’re writing. So far, my readers do.

      Wow, 1,063 words. I hadn’t planned on being so verbose. Sorry PG for the meanderings. I guess I just discovered my next semi-yearly blog post…

  2. Isn’t it true that as The Beast dies, the thrashing of its tail becomes ever more violent? It is interesting to be in at the death throes.

  3. For one thing, he said, Amazon doesn’t actually get to decide what share of revenue publishers pay authors, a fact that the company is aware of. Its call for a thirty-five-per-cent share sounds nice, DeFiore said, but it means little.

    . . . .

    DeFiore also pointed out that Amazon doesn’t quantify what lower e-book prices would mean for sales of physical copies of the same books. Authors who work with traditional publishers like Hachette tend to make more, per copy, from hardcover sales than from e-books. If cheaper e-books draw people away from hardcovers, that could hurt these authors financially.

    How can DeFiore not see the irony in those two paragraphs? It’s true that Amazon doesn’t set the royalties for publishers, and they didn’t say they did–they gave their opinion of what they think would be a fair split. In the second paragraph, the only reason authors don’t make as much per ebook sold is because of the royalty paid. If publishers listened to Amazon’s opinion, authors would make more, or at least close to equal on a $9.99 ebook to what they’d make on a much more expensive hardcover. (sorry, I’m not sure what the going rate is for hardcovers as I haven’t bought one in five years).

    As far as Amazon “failing to win over authors”, does anyone else get the feeling that the New Yorker doesn’t consider indie authors as real authors?

    • To the NYT, we’re not real authors, but does their opinion really matter in the long run? I paid bills last night and got a warm glow inside at the balance of my business account.

      • This should boost your ego a bit then:

        Just now, I generated a lot of envy and jealousy toward you for being able to pay your bills from your writing. I want to be like you. You maybe aren’t my hero (that would be my brother, who fights crime during the witching hours, but is not in law enforcement, which makes him double-hero, legitimized by having a bail bondsman on speed dial), but you’re worth looking up to.

        I’m your first fangirl in terms of being a writer, not because of what you write. I’m a dude, by the way. But a fangirl.

        Blushes are free for the first six. After that, we’ll have to negotiate a royalty.

        • Quite blushing, and get back to your own writing, Travis. 😆

          And before you get to fangirly, remember that BDSM erotica will most likely put my son through MIT.

  4. “No one becomes an author to make money.” – Douglas Preston

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” – Samuel Johnson

    • If Preston thought James Patterson didn’t write for money, he’s the biggest fool in publishing.

      • Lots of writers (and writing brands) have morphed into ghost-writing factories. Still, some people are intent on crediting Patterson with inventing the concept. Wrong, but no one’s done it as well as Patterson.

        I imagine Paterson thumbing through a box or shelf of old books somewhere during his leasure, seeing an old Nancy Drew or V.C. Andrews title, and then thinking “Hmm, I could probably do the same with my world famous name. instead of two books a year I’ll release a ddozen.”

        And when that lightbulb did go on I highly f#@&!ng doubt he had the future of important literary culture in mind.

        Anyone who DOES think that is…well, they’re just a big Preston.

  5. Preston obviously hasn’t talked to too many authors outside his own little bubble.
    I do love writing, but like Melissa (above), I too hope to make enough money to be able to quit my day job.

  6. “Given all this, it might seem surprising that authors have been generally unimpressed by Amazon’s announcement. On Wednesday, I called Brian DeFiore, a literary agent…”

    Of course, because when I want an author’s opinion on something, I’ll call an agent. *SMH*

    And Preston’s quote? Konrath is right. This man needs to stop talking. The stupid is just getting deeper and deeper. Jim Jones would have loved this guy.

    • The more quotes I see from Preston, the more Konrath’s comments about him seem on point. When I first started out I used to wonder why people considered Konrath to be harsh. Over the years I’ve come to realize that he’s just right. Most dunces don’t consider themselves dunces, even when they can’t back up their points. Even when they’re constantly called out in public. They just keep on saying things that make people squint their eyes at them and wonder what’s wrong with them.

      • Joe doesn’t cushion his words with kittens and rainbows. It’s one of the things I like about him.

        • And at the same time, he’s not mean. Not an easy line to walk. Love that guy.

        • And at the same time, he’s not mean. Not an easy line to walk. Love that guy.

          • Ah, he can be mean sometimes. But, and this is just my opinion, it’s usually only after someone can’t seem to stop putting both feet into their mouths repeatedly.

            Or when someone just outright lies.

            I thought he was a bit harsh and mean for the first year or so. After a year of constantly reading his blog, and reading a lot of other sites and blogs that discussed the same news item or stupid statement, I realized he’s just telling the truth (as he sees it, and I’m almost always in agreement, so I’m biased), and we all know how the truth cuts the deepest of all.

  7. OK, so yes, I NEED to write, even if no one reads it.

    But damn me for a fool for trying to get paid for it? Or call me mercenary for wanting a better deal? Or think I’m naive enough to believe I’ll get more than daily coffee money from my works?

    Grrrrr… WTF? Who do these people think they are?

    Just let me write my own stuff, my own way and let the universe decide if my stuff is good or not.

    Why can’t you understand that a $19.99 eBook nets as much per unit on Amazon as a $9.99 eBook, and you’ll SELL MORE at the lower price point?

    Damnation.

    • OK, so yes, I NEED to write, even if no one reads it.

      But damn me for a fool for trying to get paid for it?

      Exactly. I do need to write stories. I get unhappy when I’m not.

      BUT I have no desire to donate my stories to New York publishers so that they can live graciously and take beautiful vacations on the money made thereby while I scrounge to make ends meet.

      Thus my decision to go indie. Currently I make only modest sums from my writing. But my readership continues to grow, and my income with it.

    • It sounds like the time I went to my day job’s HR department, right after I got my Masters’, to talk career path.

      The HR head leaned back in her leather executive chair and said, “So–you don’t like your JOB?”

      I wanted to say, “Look, sis, YOU aspired to more challenge. Did the door slam shut on your backside? Why shouldn’t I want more, when it was okay for you to do so?”

      Fortunately, that was just before I sold my first book. Now I don’t want more challenge and headache in my day job–now I just want to retire from it and spend that time writing.

  8. In fairness to Pauline Kael, it’s a mistake to view her quote out of context and assume she spoke with no irony and self-awareness. She was a woman with a sharp sense of humor — not to mention, an iconoclastic film critic who sometimes fell afoul of elite media circles. In the New York Review of Books, a fellow New Yorker writer panned one of Kael’s books in what Time called “the New York literary Mafia[‘s] bloodiest case of assault and battery in years.” (as quoted on Kael’s Wikipedia page — Time doesn’t have it online, unfortunately).

  9. “DeFiore also pointed out that Amazon doesn’t quantify what lower e-book prices would mean for sales of physical copies of the same books. Authors who work with traditional publishers like Hachette tend to make more, per copy, from hardcover sales than from e-books. If cheaper e-books draw people away from hardcovers, that could hurt these authors financially.”

    There is some truth to this. However, (1) many authors never see their novels in hardcover, and (2) this argument doesn’t take into account the very basis for Amazon’s argument–cheaper ebooks SELL MORE. So if an author is making more through ebooks, which costs some on the hardcover earnings side, he may come out even, or maybe even ahead. I’m not sure on how the numbers would run.

    At any rate, of course Amazon wants to push more ebook sales, which gives them more power in the marketplace. Hachette is really up against a wall here. If they capitulate to Amazon’s lower ebook prices, they’d actually make more money in ebook sales. But in the long run those heightened ebook sales would strengthen Amazon and weaken the power of publishers. Of course Hachette doesn’t want to publicly admit this is, at bottom, a power struggle. So they argue instead against Amazon’s numbers, or Amazon’s meanness to authors, etc. Amazon’s bottom line is also more power, and they don’t want to say that publicly either. So they argue using their data, which show higher ebook sales as a result of lower prices. Amazon’s arguments are backed up by their sophisticated data, while Hachette’s arguments are backed up by … uh … frenetic vehemence against the changing publishing world. Problem is, the Disruption Train has left Station Disrupted, and it ain’t comin’ back. The longer Hachette and other publishers fight to keep their worn but familiar benches in Station Disrupted, the further the Disruption Train goes down the track without ’em.

    BTW, I think Amazon’s declaration that publishers should pay their authors 35% was another brilliant PR move. Of course they can’t dictate the percentage, and they say so. So it cost them nothing to once again call Hachette’s bluff about just who is really costing authors money. Somebody in that PR department deserves a raise.

  10. I write for money. Period. If I didn’t make my living writing novels, I would stop writing novels and do something else.

    The new meme seems to be that we aren’t SUPPOSED to be motivated by money, so why all the fuss?

    By the way, checking with Preston and a couple other big money authors and expecting them to represent all or even most authors is pretty shoddy reporting.

    I wonder if Vauhini Vara writes for money…

    • I write for money. Period. If I didn’t make my living writing novels, I would stop writing novels and do something else.

      I worked in blue collar jobs for ten years after high school because I was too poor to “work” for free, no matter how much I enjoyed writing as hobby. The only reason I’m now able to write full-time and quit my real job at the end of the summer is because I can pay my bills with my efforts.

      The idea that I need to be independently wealthy, or be happy with abject poverty, as a condition of being a writer is not only delusional, it’s outright offensive. Every time Preston opens his mouth on this issue he shows himself to be even more elitist, and I’m now ashamed to say I once considered him one of my favorite authors.

  11. One word for Preston – nut. Artists need to get paid too, otherwise they can’t create beautiful art. No writer writes for charity.

  12. The bottom line for me is I’ll be damned if anyone else makes more money off my work than I do. I’m just not that altruistic toward big corporations now that other options are open to me.

    The extra money I make means I can travel to do book research, create promotional items to give away to my fans, and spend more money on the production/marketing of my books (all things I had a tougher time affording when I started out). Not to mention avoid working extra jobs that will take away from my writing time. So to a certain extent it is about the money. Just because I’d write regardless of royalty income doesn’t mean I am willing to give a bigger piece of the pie to a publisher when that money could best be used elsewhere.

    I’m sure a lot of authors pour the income they make right back into their books. We’re doing what we love and the more we can afford to put into it the better for us and our readers. Sadly, this isn’t taken into account in the article. Not once do they consider what the struggling authors sacrifice for the sake of their craft. Of course they don’t need that extra money for anything. Gah!

    • ^This!

      • +1

        The day someone (hint: Konrath/Howey/Eisler/etc.) throws up an author-centric site where we get 90% of our royalties, I’ll do my best to steer my readers to buy from that site.

        Some won’t, just like they won’t buy direct from my website. But a site with a lot of press, and the press is all about how it was built by authors for authors to sell their work, and authors are getting every penny they deserve, which in turn means thousands (or more) of others are also making a living because authors need editors, artists, marketing, blah blah blah.

        You know, the stuff publishers provide. While taking 75%+ of the money. For the rest of my life + 70 years. Unless I hire an attorney to wade through the fine print to find a way out.

        Last I checked, publishers don’t write the books that readers like me read. In fact, and this might be a surprise to some (none of us regulars, mostly the publishing lukers), publishers don’t write any books.

        I know, right? Weird! But it’s true. So, I’m kind of wanting to reap the absolute largest reward I can from my work. I like paying editors and proofreaders and cover artists and such because I can’t do any of those things (or do them well), and qualified professionals fill those roles, which makes my book better, which makes me hopefully earn more money for putting out a quality product.

        But weird! I thought publishers wrote all those books too!

        • I thought Joe was working on this. Didn’t he say today it was in beta?

          • He sort of hinted at it, but I’m not actually friends with him, so a lot of what I hope for is just that: stuff I hope for.

            I did sign up at the ebooksareforever.com and checked out the booksloco or whatever the other one was.

            Keeping my fingers crossed. Not that I’m greedy and can’t get by with 70%, but, you know…

    • “The bottom line for me is I’ll be damned if anyone else makes more money off my work than I do.”

      This is me. I would write whether I was making money at it or not, but if anyone’s going to make money off my writing it’s going to be me. Though I will happily share some of it with the distributors who give me access to their customer base.

  13. The New Yorker: We wondered what authors thought about this proposal. So we called an agent.

    FAIL.

    It’s easy to say you don’t care about money when you’re making a boatload of it. I might believe this if Preston put his money where his mouth is and donated his advance to those debut and midlist authors he claims to care about.

    And if it isn’t about money, then what’s the problem? Let the corporations fight it out because after all, anyone can find his books anywhere as he’s said.

    And to say that Patterson isn’t writing for the money is completely absurd to anyone who know’s anything about his BIO. He was in advertising, he’s always written for money. And lots of it. From the first Alex Cross book, he fought to change how his publisher handled the business side of things from marketing meetings to advertising, to sales, even writing, producing, and funding his own commercial for Along Came a Spider. He knows business. It’s sad to see that he’s forgotten how incompetent publishers can be when it comes to selling books. Even more sad is Preston speaking for him.

  14. You don’t write for the money, Preston? Then keep your motivations pure, and give me all the money you’ve earned from writing. You can even call me crazy if you want. I won’t mind.

    • Isn’t this the guy who said that if Amazon got their way and 100% of the sales went directly to authors via a fund, he’d feel obligated to hand it all over to his publisher?

  15. “Amazon’s effort to win over authors might be doomed. But if Bezos and company want to try, they might do better to emphasize the idea that lowering prices will increase the audience for books—a minor point in Tuesday’s post.”

    Amazon did point out that selling at 9.99 produced more sales than selling at 14.99. By definition, that increased the audience for books – that’s what selling more books means. So that was a clear and important implication of their argument, not a minor point.

  16. It’s easy to sneer at money when you’re sitting on a giant pile of it. Me, I’d like to be able to afford diapers this week.

  17. “In PG’s experience Manhattanites tend to be less aware of this possibility than people who live elsewhere (excluding Paris).” –

    Ahh, but Pa-ree (smiles)

  18. I would–and did–write even when I made no money. I don’t write for money. But the fact that I make a very good living from my writing enables me to write so much more than I would have written if I had had to have a day job for the last 30 years. Do I write for money? No. I write. I publish my writing for money.

    • I like what you say Kristine – thank you

    • Although I’ve said I only write for money, I should point out that I spent many, many years writing for free. But once I became a “pro” and was able to actually collect a paycheck for my fiction and even make a good living writing it, I never looked back. And the thought of ever writing for free again is abhorrent to me.

      I completely understand the whole “writing for the love of it” thing, but I’m too old to be a starving artist again.

    • This. I write for my soul and publish for money, too. I don’t earn my living from my writing yet, but I do hope that I would be able some day in not so distant future.

      ETA: I would also like to add that I went into publishing with the “I would rather share my stories with readers for free than to have a corporation profit from my work while I should have a day job” mind set. That’s why self-publishing is such a good fit for me.

  19. Does anyone else notice that the biggest proponents of the “real artists aren’t motivated by money” mantra tend to be, you know, wealthy?

    It’s easy to be dismissive of money when you have a ton of it.

  20. What Konrath said. These people need to Stop With The Stupid already.

  21. My mantra remains: I’d rather fail on my terms than succeed on theirs.

  22. I write for me.

    I publish for money.

  23. “Given all this, it might seem surprising that authors have been generally unimpressed by Amazon’s announcement. On Wednesday, I called Brian DeFiore, a literary agent”

    Try calling an author. Actually, try calling several authors, including those that distribute directly through Amazon. You might be able to find some people impressed by Amazon’s announcement.

  24. My first “Say what?” moment:

    But on Tuesday, Amazon broke the code of silence that both companies, despite their disagreements, had adhered to for nearly three months.

    I guess all the talking points and leaks from Hachette over the last three months don’t count as braking a code of silence. [shakes head]

  25. “DeFiore also pointed out that Amazon doesn’t quantify what lower e-book prices would mean for sales of physical copies of the same books. Authors who work with traditional publishers like Hachette tend to make more, per copy, from hardcover sales than from e-books. If cheaper e-books draw people away from hardcovers, that could hurt these authors financially.”

    Let’s look at this statement. According to Amazon, more ebooks sell when priced at $9.99 than at $14.99. The (1.74 x) increase in sales produces more revenue for Amazon, Hachette and Hachette’s authors. Everyone’s happy.

    Now let’s consider the revenue for Amazon of a Hachette hard cover book with a 50% trade discount. A book priced at $19.99 would give Amazon approx $10 if sold at the RRP, or less if sold at a reduced price. The ebook priced at $9.99 would give Amazon approx $3 — a difference of $7, which gives the retailer a good margin to reduce the price of the hard cover book and still make more money than on an ebook.

    Therefore, Amazon stands to lose as much as authors if the number of hard cover sales drops significantly because of the increase in ebook sales. The stand-off between the two companies (Amazon & Hachette) seems to be that one is incapable of persuading the other that the new terms would be beneficial to all parties. Once they’ve got around that problem an agreement will be made.

  26. “DeFiore also pointed out that Amazon doesn’t quantify what lower e-book prices would mean for sales of physical copies of the same books. Authors who work with traditional publishers like Hachette tend to make more, per copy, from hardcover sales than from e-books. If cheaper e-books draw people away from hardcovers, that could hurt these authors financially.”

    Let’s look at this statement. According to Amazon, more ebooks sell when priced at $9.99 than at $14.99. The (1.74 x) increase in sales produces more revenue for Amazon, Hachette and Hachette’s authors. Everyone’s happy.

    Now let’s consider the revenue for Amazon of a Hachette hard cover book with a 50% trade discount. A book priced at $19.99 would give Amazon approx $10 if sold at the RRP, or less if sold at a reduced price. The ebook priced at $9.99 would give Amazon approx $3 — a difference of $7, which gives the retailer a good margin to reduce the price of the hard cover book and still make more money than on an ebook.

    Therefore, Amazon stands to lose as much as authors if the number of hard cover sales drops significantly because of the increase in ebook sales. The stand-off between the two companies (Amazon & Hachette) seems to be that one is incapable of persuading the other that the new terms would be beneficial to all parties. Once they’ve got around that problem an agreement will be made.

  27. Forget standup, forget improv; the best comedy writing today is coming from Preston & Shatzkin.

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