Wylie the jackal becomes Hachette’s running dog?

31 October 2014

From TeleRead:

Never one to bear a grudge or indulge in overly aggressive, unreflective self-promotion, Andrew Wylie can’t seem to forgive Amazon for the failure of his Odyssey JV with them – or in general, for failing to acknowledge that nothing moves until Andrew Wylie says so. And now he’s blaming Amazon for depriving writers of a decent living. “Writers will begin to make enough money to live,” he claims, according to his keynote address at Toronto’s International Festival of Authors, if only the Big Five have the cojones like Hachette to stand up to Amazon, who he doesn’t hesitate to compare to ISIS.

. . . .

And remember that back in 2010, Wylie was garnering support from authors for his Amazon tie-up because they claimed traditional publishers had been paying too little in royalty rates for ebooks. And now things have turned round and the Big Five are the heroes again? Forgetful creatures, jackals.

It’s no surprise that Wylie also chose to unload on self-publishing, which he described as “the aesthetic equivalent of telling everyone who sings in the shower they deserve to be in La Scala.” After all, if authors can publish themselves, who will ever want to go through Andrew Wylie. Or even listen to him?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Amazon’s Dispute With Hachette Might Finally Be Hurting Its Sales

27 October 2014

From Time:

The book business launched Amazon to success, and now it’s hurting the online retailer’s growth.

Amazon announced its worst quarterly loss in 14 years Thursday, losing $437 million in three months. One of its worst-performing segments? Amazon’s old core business: North American book, movie and music sales. The segment’s sales increased a mere 4.8% from 2013, the slowest growth for the category in more than five years. That compares with a 17.8% growth in that segment a year ago.

Amazon chalked up the slow media segment growth to fewer students buying textbooks, but that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. In fact, the company’s woes may in part be related to its damaging publicity spat with the publisher Hachette.

. . . .

There isn’t much visibility into what’s going behind closed doors and in sealed accounting documents at Amazon, but by targeting Hachette, Amazon is making it harder to buy the retailer’s own books. A customer deterred by an artificially long shipping time on a Hachette book is a sale lost. For a huge company like Amazon, that may be little more than a self-inflicted scratch, but it’s likely making difference.

And more importantly for the online retailer over the long term, the dispute may be hurting Amazon’s image and turning customers away. For book readers who love particular authors, it’s hard to forget when a bookstore is accused of having “directly targeted” a favorite writer. A literary-inclined crowd, already more likely to side with the letters people than the money people, may see the Hachette dispute as a turning point. “It’s logical that readers identify more with authors than with Amazon,” says Colin Gillis of BGC Financial. “Amazon is a service. You may like the service but you build a relationship with authors.”

Link to the rest at Time and thanks to James for the tip.

Hachette and Authors United are in a box

21 October 2014

PG is certain that someone has made the following observations, but he hasn’t seen them, so here they are.

The deal between Amazon and Simon & Schuster has put Hachette in a box.

The Amazon/Hachette agreement was critical to Big Publishing because Hachette’s was the first of the court-ordered Price-Fix Six contracts to expire. The new Hachette deal would set the pattern for the other miscreants when their Amazon contracts expired.

By making a deal with S&S two months before the S&S contract expired, the Amazon/S&S contract is the pattern contract for the other publishers. One does not assume that S&S has harmed its authors or itself with its Amazon contract.

Amazon has performed a switcheroo. Now the onus is on Hachette. What’s wrong with Hachette that it can’t get the same contract that S&S has?

Commentators not terminally afflicted with Amazon Derangement Syndrome must now surely conclude that Hachette’s intransigence is the cause of the loudly-trumpeted suffering of Hachette authors.

At some point, Hachette’s public problems with Amazon are going to influence authors’ and agents’ decisions when Hachette and S&S are bidding for the same book.

If another large publisher coming out of lockup signs a deal with Amazon, the game is completely over.

Authors take action in Amazon vs. Hachette

18 October 2014

Thanks to SMH for the tip.

Taking Sides in the Amazon-Hachette Battle

18 October 2014

From Forbes blogs:

“You’ll never work in this town again!”

My agent’s exact words were a bit different, but the message was clear: if I weighed in on Amazon’s side in its battle with Hachette, no publisher would ever publish another book of mine.  That is a risk worth taking, because publishing is an industry that seems bent on eating its young.

The fight between Amazon and Hachette is ostensibly about e-book pricing.  In reality, it is about much more: innovation, the business model, and the future of publishing.

. . . .

Amazon’s tactic seems to have backfired.  Some 900 authors, most of them not published by Hachette, signed a full-page ad in The New York Times criticizing Amazon for using authors as human shields in what is essentially a contract dispute between two giant corporations.

I’m supporting Amazon.   I think Amazon is far more likely to come up with innovations that may actually save book publishing.  And publishing is in desperate need of being saved. The long-term trends are not encouraging: people are spending less time reading books (even including e-books;) unit sales are down; and per-capita spending on books continues to shrink.

Yet book publishers seem unwilling or unable to recognize the implications of these trends. What other consumer business responds to flat or decreasing unit sales by increasing prices?  But that is precisely what book publishers do year after year.  Between 2003 and 2013, the price of the average hardcover fiction title rose 49 percent to $26.63; non-fiction books are priced even higher.

. . . .

Traditional book publishing is, at best, a quaint business.  The people who work in the industry are generally quite bright and typically nice.  But as a category, book publishing needs to be saved from itself.  Its business model and processes are relics of a long-ago era: the returns system – where retailers can return unsold copies at any time for a full refund – is a remnant of the Great Depression.  Such marketing basics as price-testing and package (cover) testing are non-existent.  Until Nielsen introduced Bookscan a few years ago, publishers really didn’t know how many books they sold; they only knew how many copies they shipped.  Returns could come back at any time.

. . . .

Amazon has given all authors – not just the big-name writers – a better chance of being discovered, and making more money.  Hachette is trying to maintain a paper publishing business model on an increasingly e-book world.  Authors  – and not just Hachette authors — aren’t pawns in this battle between two giants who have very different visions of the future.   They are the potential beneficiaries of an industry that needs to be reinvented.  I’m willing to risk siding with the innovator.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs

Hachette shares Data

12 October 2014


Hachette Shares New Tools and Data With Authors and Agents

Hachette Book Group’s Author and Agent Portal

From Digital Book World

Hachette Book Group has just launched their Author and Agent Portal, an important new channel within hachettebookgroup.biz, the company’s business platform. The Portal provides a self-service option that puts up-to-date information and resources at the authors’ and agents’ fingertips, including confidential sales information for all of their titles published by HBG, in all formats, as well as a variety of features and tools.

Enhanced features available to authors include:

• list of all of the author’s works, with links to the individual book pages
• unit sales information
• Nielsen BookScan weekly sales data
• HBG’s Guide for Authors, a detailed introduction to our publication process
• interactive publication timeline for the 12 months prepublication
• file-sharing feature for sending large files between editor and author
• online-piracy-reporting tool

hachettebookgroup.biz is open to the public and offers these features, separate from the confidential features listed above:

• dynamic title search
• title metadata
• individual pages for all HBG and distribution client titles and authors
• seasonal catalogs
• author tour listings
• general company information, in an About HBG section
• publisher and imprint pages
• integrated HBG twitter feeds
• bios of editorial staff

Read the rest here.

From Guest Blogger Randall

Randall found out recently (From Hugh Howey) that DBW is now under new leadership. Already he has noted a change in the tone of their articles, finding them more open to all sides of the publishing world and containing much less ADS. He hopes this continues.

Is the NYT Coverage of Amazon vs. Hachette Really Propaganda?

6 October 2014

From Joe Konrath’s blog:

By now you’ve seen the NYT Public Editor’s piece criticizing her own newspaper’s coverage of the Amazon/Hachette situation.

Note to David Streitfeld: see what Margaret Sullivan did? Being a competent reporter, she researched the situation and presented both sides of the story. That means quotes from authors representing both sides, and quotes from the very source (you) she was critical of.

She’s an excellent, smart, fair journalist, Mr. Streitfeld. Put your hat in your hand and go thank her. After you have, ask her for some pointers.

As well done as the piece was, Ms. Sullivan did write something that I didn’t agree with.

“A pro-Amazon author (Barry Eisler) charges that the paper is spewing propaganda…“propaganda” is a stretch…”

Is it really a stretch? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Grab some munchies, folks.
First, some terminology:

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented.

Hyperlinked in that definition is “impartial” which leads to a wiki about journalistic objectivity:

Journalistic objectivity can refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of these qualities.

Also linked is “lying by omission”:

Also known as a continuing misrepresentation, a lie by omission occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. Lying by omission includes failures to correct pre-existing misconceptions.

And “loaded messages”:

In rhetoric, loaded language (also known as loaded terms or emotive language) is wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes.

Next, Joe dissects his target:

Streitfeld: Among Amazon’s tactics against Hachette, some of which it has been employing for months, are charging more for its books and suggesting that readers might enjoy instead a book from another author.

Joe sez: Amazon “charging more for its books” actually means Amazon is charging Hachette’s suggested retail price. Amazon suggesting that readers might enjoy a book from another author “instead” is unproven. Amazon advertises other authors’ books on every book page. This isn’t unique to Hachette. Amazon also offers used books for considerably less than the price of the new version, on the very same page. (buy Whiskey Sour for only $0.01!) But where has Amazon said “Buy this instead of this”?The word “instead” is loaded.

Streitfeld: The scorched-earth tactics arose

Joe sez: Scorched-earth? Misrepresentation, and loaded.

Streitfeld: “Outliers” was selling Friday for $15.29, a mere 10 percent discount. On Barnes & Noble, the book was $12.74.

Joe sez: See how the word “mere” is not impartial? No mention that many indie bookstores don’t discount at all.

Plenty more line by line dissection.
A tad of whimsy included:

More newsworthiness: Amazon Stops Taking Orders for Time Warner Videos.

Both Amazon and Warner declined to comment on what is simply a negotiation between two businesses. But Streitfeld managed to write 600 words about it, fanning the anti-Amazon sentiment fire he’s been building.

But wait! Maybe Streitfeld actually had a reason to call this newsworthy.

Streitfeld: “Considering all the press regarding Hachette it seems strange that no one is reporting this,” one commentator wrote on the Amazon forum.

Joe sez: Now I see! An anonymous commenter on an Amazon forum wanted this reported, so the NYT devoted a whole column to it.

I can imagine Streitfeld pitching this story.


A serious looking David Streitfeld speaks to his editor, Suzanne Spector.

Streitfeld: The haven’t been any developments in the Amazon/Hachette dispute in a few days. But I’ve got a new angle.

Spector: Do tell.

Streitfeld: Lego.

Spector: I’m not even touching you.

Streitfeld: No, not “let go”. I mean The Lego Movie. Huge hit, but Amazon isn’t selling any pre-orders of the movie. In fact, it isn’t taking advance orders on any Warner movies.

Spector: So Amazon not selling something that isn’t available is news?

Streitfeld: When you say it that way you make me sound stupid.

Spector: I’m sorry. I know you don’t need help in that area.

Streitfeld: Don’t you get it? Amazon is doing the same thing that they did to Hachette.

Spector: Sounds like two businesses in negotiation.

Streitfeld: It is. That’s what Warner said, before declining to comment.

Spector: So what’s the spin? You’re all about authors being harmed by Amazon in the Hachette dispute. Are you thinking Lego Batman is being harmed by Amazon now?

Streitfeld: No. That would be silly. Lego Batman is too busy fighting Lego crime to care.

Spector: So who does care, exactly?

Streitfeld: A lone anonymous commenter on an Amazon forum.

Spector: Run it!

(I’m thinking Joe should write a screenplay for a madcap comedy, 30’s style. His wit is wasted on Streitfeld.)

Naturally, no Streitfeld dissection is complete without his signature logic:

It’s worth noting that one of the earmarks of propaganda is dehumanizing the enemy and creating false images.

So 900 established authors mean much more than 8600 authors and readers. Makes no difference that some of the 8600 signatories on the anti-Hachette petition were authors who outsell many of the 900 signatories. Makes no difference that the anti-Hachette petition included readers, whose opinions don’t seem to matter even though the anti-Amazon petition purported to be on behalf of readers.

Instead, Streitfeld points out that more people care about dolphins than books, but somehow doesn’t think that’s a false equivalency.

Then he says he’s “on no side here”.

You dismissed a petition with whale math, Streitfeld. Of course you’re taking sides.

It’s a long one folks. And worthy.


Joe’s Blog.

Joe’s books.

Amazon `Targeting’ Hachette Writers

21 September 2014

Malcolm Gladwell criticises Amazon in Hachette dispute

19 September 2014

From The Financial Times:

Amazon’s dispute with Hachette publishing house is threatening the loyalty of Amazon’s customers and sabotaging its relations with authors, according to Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling writer of The Tipping Point and Outliers.

The online retailer’s aggressive tactics, which involve delaying shipments of Hachette books or declining to make others available for purchase, are “a violation of their best interests”, said Mr Gladwell, a Hachette author.

. . . .

In an interview for Saturday’s FT Weekend Magazine, Mr Gladwell said he was “agnostic” on the business dispute but disliked becoming a “pawn”. He said: “I thought Amazon wanted to be nice to me. I thought their endgame was to woo authors. So, then why are they sabotaging us?”

. . . .

The company also acts as a platform for the sale of self-published books, potentially challenging the historic role of publishers, whose services to authors include paying advances and publicising their work, as well as publishing and distributing books.

Mr Gladwell dismissed the idea that successful authors could cut out traditional publishers in the digital era. “I hesitate to weigh in on this most sensitive occasion. I have a very nice arrangement with my publisher,” he said.

“The truth is the relationship between an author and a publisher is not set in stone. It’s a relationship. You can structure it however you wish. And if circumstances change and you think that the publisher needs to do more or less than they’ve done in the past then you should just alter your business arrangement. These things aren’t givens.”

Link to the rest at The Financial Times (which has an unpredictable paywall. Search Google using the title of this post and you should get in) and thanks to SMH for the tip.

PG suggests that if Gladwell didn’t want to be a pawn, he shouldn’t have signed with a company like Hachette in the first place.

In Latest Volley Against Amazon, Hachette’s Writers Target Its Board

15 September 2014

From The New York Times:

Amazon is at war with Hachette, and it sometimes seems as if it has always been that way.

As a negotiating tool in the battle, which is over the price of e-books, Amazon is discouraging its customers from buying the publisher’s printed books. After six months of being largely cut off from what is by far the largest bookstore in the country, many Hachette writers are fearful and angry. So this week, they are trying a new tactic to get their work unshackled.

Authors United, a group of Hachette writers and their allies, is appealing directly to Amazon’s board. It is warning the board that the reputation of the retailer, and of the directors themselves, is at risk.

“Efforts to impede or block the sale of books have a long and ugly history,” reads a letter being posted to the group’s website on Monday morning. “Do you, personally, want to be associated with this?”

. . . .

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

. . . .

The letter warns the directors that the discontent might spread.

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand,” it says. “But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

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