Home » Amazon, PG's Thoughts (such as they are) » Think Amazon is Your Friend? You Might Have Amazon Infatuation Syndrome

Think Amazon is Your Friend? You Might Have Amazon Infatuation Syndrome

31 July 2014

From The Digital Reader:

Last night Amazon posted their third official statement in the ongoing contract dispute with Hachette, and like their first statement the open letter posted last night is proving to be an effective tactical PR maneuver.

The letter, which you can read over here, said that Amazon only wanted a 30% commission from sales of Hachette ebooks, and that Amazon was fighting with Hachette over whether the ebooks would be expensive or cheap. The statement goes on to lay out the math to justify lower ebook prices, and then it concludes with the idea that authors should get 35% of the sale price of an ebook.

. . . .

I want to point out that Howey’s beliefs could be a sign of a newly identified condition called “Amazon Infatuation Syndrome”. This term was coined earlier today by Nicole Cushing, and Hugh Howey is the first known case.

Like Amazon Derangement Syndrome, AIS sufferers have an irrational emotion towards Amazon which overrides conscious thought. In the case of AIS, that emotion is love for a soul-less corporation.

. . . .

Amazon is in this for their own interest, and not anyone else’s, and that is why it is important to remember that we cannot accept yesterday’s statement as fact. It is a PR statement, and as such it was not written to convey facts. Amazon’s goal was to convince you to believe an idea: that Amazon only wants a fair share (30%) and lower ebook prices.

The thing is, we do not know as outsiders that this is Amazon’s actual position. All we know is that this is what Amazon has said is their position, and that is not the same thing. For all we know Amazon made up this statement out of whole cloth solely with the goal of swaying opinion in their favor. (And just to be clear, my disbelief also extends to everything Hachette has said or leaked.)

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG is inclined to look at what organizations do rather than what they say.

Amazon pays authors royalties of 70% of the sales price of ebooks. Big publishing pays authors royalties of 17.5% of the sales price of ebooks.

Under the KDP Terms of Service, an author can pull his/her books away from Amazon at any time and do whatever the author wants to do with them. PG receives a regular stream of emails from traditionally-published authors who are being forced to remain in publishing contracts with large and small publishers when the authors have made it clear they want out.

PG could continue, but you get the idea. The simple fact is that Amazon treats authors much, much better than any of the big New York publishers do.

PG thinks that much of what Hachette, et al are saying is pretty clueless, but this group could be speaking words that were music to PG’s ears without it making any difference. What they’re doing is underpaying and abusing authors chained to them with grossly unfair contracts.

Actions speak louder than words. If Amazon flips over to the dark side, PG won’t be praising the company any longer. Speculation can create anything of tomorrow. PG recommends making business decisions based on today.

Conspiracy theories about Evil Jeff must provide some who observe the world of books a frisson they just can’t live without.

“Amazon could decide to pay authors only one cent every month!”

“What if Amazon requires every author to cut off a finger and send it to Seattle for Bezos to put into a big jar he keeps in his mansion?”

If you’re looking at the possibilities of a dystopian future, PG sees a lot more of those for authors tied to publishers slipping down into bankruptcy than he does for authors working with Amazon. He is reminded of a quote from The Sun Also Rises:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

There is no question about who treats authors better. In PG’s observation, Amazon is making it possible for lots of authors (not all) to quit their day jobs. If Big Publishing was ever much good at doing that, those days are long gone.

Amazon, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

261 Comments to “Think Amazon is Your Friend? You Might Have Amazon Infatuation Syndrome”

  1. That article was just sad.

    • But… don’t you see what they did there? I mean, it’s abso-%#@$@#-lutely BRILLIANT. BRILLIANT!

      Think about it. All this time, they’ve been sitting in a smoky back room, desperately trying to come up with a counter to being labeled “Amazon Derangement Syndrome.”


      I’m thinking I might spend an hour or two today bombing twitter and facebook and everywhere else I can think of with my bandwagonning by using “AIS” as much as possible. It’s my duty to make sure every human on Earth knows how much self-pub authors are suffering AIS, to the point that we’ve tried to hide it by using ADS.

      I bet next we’ll hear about “Helsinki Syndrome” which is I guess the opposite of Stockholm Syndrome. I’ll just go ahead and define it now so there’s no argument later.

      Helsinki Syndrome is where self-published authors have drank the Kool-Aid from jerks/losers like Konrath, Eisler, Howey, etc (and let’s not forget we hang out at that lamer’s blog, TPV, screw that guy too, I hear he got owned at the NY library debate haha, serves him right). We’ve repeated the self-pub lies so much that we all believe it, and when experts show up to dispute things like the AE report, we put our fingers in our ears and start shouting “NYAH NYAH NYAH NYYYYAAAHHHH!”

      I like this game. I didn’t realize it was so easy to play. I’m off to google for some other terms idiots like Konrath and clan make up so I can simply change the term slightly, thereby giving it reverse-effects.

      (just in case… this post was heavy with some whatever it is called where a person intentionally exaggerates something to the point that it is obvious he/she is not being serious / telling the truth. Since I self-pub, I am not good with vocabulary unless I have a Big5 edit for me.)

      • Man, I’m SO AMPED UP! So much I had to reply to my own post to encourage me to see this all the way through. DOWN WITH AMAZON! BURN KONRATH IN HIS CASTLE!

        God, what a great idea. I love me. I’m so witty and inventive. I think I’m gonna go to Howey’s blog and just start being a total jerk to him until he sees the truth.

        • Travis – Your rants are rapidly becoming some of my favorite reading. I’m buying a book right now!

      • Whatever you do, don’t mix the two together.

        • I have AIS! Proud of it. I’ve had it as a customer, as a bookseller, and as a writer.

          You don’t have to concoct a conspiracy theory. Just look at these posts on my blog:


          When a company does so much for readers and writers, I’d be remiss not to love them. Does that mean it’s unconditional? Nope. But they’ve earned some leeway with me.

          What I really don’t get are the Scalzis and Wendigs who equivocate between Amazon and Hachette as both being “corporations.” There are corporations that make donuts and corporations that make uzis. It might help for these authors to actually look at what corporations do.

          But hey, if the best the haters can come up with is to accuse me of being a lover, I’ll take that in a skinny minute. Much rather have the smile on my face than the scowl on theirs. 🙂

          • also, the article was a quintessential example of Amazon Derrangement Syndrome.

            According to the article, Amazon said it, therefore IT MUST BE FALSE. Amazon said it so IT MUST BE NOTHING MORE THAN PR.

            But, of course, the Hachette, Author Guild, Preston announcements were not PR.

            What this makes me think of is projection. Liars think everyone else is a iar. Honest people assume everyone else is honest. What does it say about people who automatically assume a published explanation of a position is BS, even thought it is entirely consistent with their behavior?

            • I’ve been thinking about projection a lot, and how that applies here. An author asked today why self-published authors would fight to improve traditional publishing. The author listed quite a few possibilities, none of which included “doing what’s right” or “helping other authors.”

              Lets you know how other people’s brains work.

              • I think that the emotional temperature in the “traditional vs self-publishing” discussions have gotten to the point where civility and substantive exchanges are quite difficult.

                Each “side” seems to hear the things said by even the most inoffensive people on the “other side” through a perceptual filter, turning everything into a sneer or a slap.

                And even those (from either group!) who enter the conversation without hostility can be hard-pressed not to respond with hostility when that happens.

                Personally, I find some of the authors who “support” traditional publishing to be extremely annoying and obnoxious. That, despite the fact that I’m not usually a critic of the traditional publishing world.

                On the other hand, you don’t hear a lot of folks from within the big houses coming out and talking in public. If it’s like when I was in-house, their lawyers and managers have laid down the law about it. But it’s regrettable that they can’t all talk more freely.

                Most of them are MUCH more diplomatic than someone like me, and would do a MUCH better job of defusing the tensions and misunderstandings, as well as bringing back the lessons that the self-publishing world has to offer.

              • Hugh:

                There’s something else. Some of us still write in markets which don’t do well yet self-published — what Konrath refers to as hardcover “niche” markets. (school and library markets, illustrated coffee-table type books, children’s illustrated hardcover)

                So who will speak for us? The Author’s Guild? I don’t think so. I am solidly midlist, which means I get my contracts on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

                Marion: Lots of us do both. Occasionally someone in the comments here will belittle people stupid enough to accept traditional contracts, but for the most part, there is more of a sense here that we are all authors. Konrath famously refers to “pinheads” who chase legacy deals, but in the comments he freely acknowledges that there are still niches and types of books that require traditional distribution. He just doesn’t want to qualify everything he says as pertaining mostly to genre fiction.

                Also, Marion, I can enlighten you about why folks in the big houses don’t talk about such things. They know very well how they treat the majority of authors.

      • The sad parts? It took them this long, and AIS was the best comeback they could come up with. Trad publishing as we know it is truly doomed if the best that the guardians of culture can counter with is a version of “Nah-nee, nah-nee, boo-boo.”

    • Yep. They’ve unleashed a veritable Sharknado of Stupid upon us.

  2. Who didn’t see that coming? I figured someone would pen this and soon.

    Some people really want to make Amazon and trad pub appear to be the same. They’re just not, no matter how you try to force the facts to fit your particular narrative. Amazon has better terms, the best right now, actually. People who can’t accept that are free to stay with trad pub or find some other company, but all this complaining about Amazon is easy to see through.

    ETA: I really think in about a year to maybe 2 years we’re going to be saying “Oh, your publisher declared bankruptcy? That’s why we were telling you it was important to start looking for the life raft when the ship HIT the iceberg.”

    • Aren’t we being premature? I mean sure, we’ve hit a few icebergs and we’re taking on water, but that doesn’t mean we’re gonna sink. We’re only down by a few feet. That’s less than a few percent of our height above the waterline. The rats are jumping overboard, but what to they know? They’re just stupid rats. This ship is so big and has so many safety features it’s silly to worry about the number of lifeboats and certainly too early to consider launching them.
      No one has as much experience with big ships as I do. Don’t panic. Trust me, we’ll all be fine.
      – Edward Smith, Captain.

  3. Gaaaaaah. I’m so tired of that line implying those who benefit from Amazon’s business practices are skipping along hand-in-hand with Bezos like Teletubbies on ecstasy.

    I’ve yet to see successful self-publishers blur the lines between emotional entanglements and business relationships.

    “Friends” in publishing are those whose business interests and practices currently align with yours. Good contracts with your “friends” enable you to walk away when your interests no longer match.

    At least no one has broken out the “It’s like a marriage!” trope in a good while…

    • “skipping along hand-in-hand with Bezos like Teletubbies on ecstasy”

      I want a GIF.

      • The mental image that came to mind when I read that is terrifying.

      • Me too! That’s awesome!

        I guess I have AIS–why wouldn’t I have good feelings towards a company that has given me choices I never would have had and enabled me to go part-time at my day job?

        Everyone keeps talking about what Amazon might do regarding royalties. Of course they could, but they haven’t done in the last four years that I’ve been self-publishing. Yes, they have Select, and I guess some would consider that restrictive–but it’s just another choice! Amazon doesn’t punish me for not choosing it–unless you count not getting 70% royalties from all of my least active Amazon markets.

        Accusing someone of having AIS is akin to accusing a fitness nut of loving the gym.

    • Call me a Teletubby again, and we’ll have problems.

    • I laughed so hard I scared the dog, but that Teletubby line was so worth it!

  4. “The thing is, we do not know as outsiders that this is Amazon’s actual position.”

    There, fixed that for you.

    Because this IS Amazons actual position.

    • Seriously.

      All I can see here is the attitude that “What Amazon says doesn’t fit my worldview, it makes it sound like Amazon is the good guy, while everyone knows Amazon is The Great Satan, so my only conclusion can be is that what Amazon posted is a lie.”


    • And has been for many years while the ADS suffers were not paying attention. That’s what I find so funny.

  5. Fortunately my Business Math Syndrome (BMS) is a powerful strain; it cancels out any AIS or ADS I’m exposed to.

    As a bonus the side effects keep my BCA (Business Checking Account) healthy as well.

    Who knew?

  6. I got a curly hose from Amazon this morning in a really cool eggplant color.

    I was able to pay for it because my Amazon is like my book boyfriend.

  7. Click bait. Nothing more.

    I will say this, however: I do tend to be infatuated by any company that sends me fat monthly checks for 70% of each sale.

    I suspect the guy who wrote this ridiculous article would be, too.

  8. Aww, is somebody mad over the prevalence of the term “ADS?”

    Lols for days.

  9. 6 months. 4 books. Already 60K books sold. On course to easily cross 6-figures for the year. All of that, with less than $500 spent on advertising and $1000 on each book.

    Now that’s my kind of syndrome!

  10. Shoot, I’ll wear the tee shirt: Mir Loves Zon.

    Why? Indie platform. Kindle experience. Wonderful browsing. Great recommendations. Some really cool prices. Cloud goodies. Did I mention INDIE PLATFORM that rocks? (yes, I did) Terrific customer service. I get fast fixes.

    Before that, why? Sickly Mir can’t always go out of the house to shop–and due to immune issues, often gets sick if in crowds with germies, so Amazon delivers via Prime. Yay. I get stuff at home. I’m sick less often.

    Before that why? Books. Best place to get books. Mir likey books.

    And looking forward: The day I put my books up and all the rights are mine and I get 35% to 70%, I’ll like that, too.

    (I did put up my first Kindle, a short read, at 4 am, after 12 hours of fiddling with formatting and cover. I’m proud. And Amazon only annoyed me once–some glitchy thing I had to input the book info twice. I was so tired by then, my description has 3 errors. Can’t fix until it’s completed the publishing mode, argh.) I’ve learned to wait until I sleep to proof and upload :-/ )

    So, fine. Print it up in fuchsia or hot red with a scoop or vee neck and 3/4 sleeves and I’ll wear it. Mir Hearts Zon.

    But I gotz reasons. Good ones. Not deranged ones. Makes a difference in the syndrome.

  11. “Amazon might be making you buckets of money, but they might go evil 50 years in the future!

    The big publishers might whip us, but they do so with love. Love, I tell ya!”

    PS: Will no one think of the children?

  12. This is binary thinking. It presents an artifical duality of traditional publishing and Amazon. If you don’t like the general business practices of Trad Pub, then you must love Amazon. Or if you think Amazon is doing right by authors, then that means you are 100% aligned with Amazon.

    It’s so entirely incorrect.

  13. It’s been my personal experience that 75% of what I’ve read from self-pub authors is better than most of the trad pub books of I read, which ultimately are all the same book with different names because most trad pub models force authors into a bucket that they can’t get out of and that lack of ability to put forth their creativity shows to us readers. I don’t care who your publisher is. It holds no sway with me, a reader, a person that’s helping pay the bills 🙂 Amazon has allowed me access to more literature than I ever thought possible and regardless of their actions in the non predictable future, (although I would say the future of trad pad is a pretty predictable slow suicide) I will be forever grateful that they gave me the opportunity to find authors that trad pub were too stupid to pick up in the first place just because they didn’t fit the mold.

  14. Amazon Infatuation Syndrome? Yeesh. Has Miss Cushing never heard of fanboyism? Has Nate Hoffelder? No need to make up terms where terms exist.

    There are plenty of Amazon Fanboys in the world, Hugh, if he is one (and I’m not saying he is) certainly wouldn’t be the first. Most of the people arguing that Amazon is better than trad aren’t fanboys.

    Come on people! This is pathetic, it’s like they’re not even trying.

  15. No, I think Amazon is my business associate. My experience, as of today, is that Amazon has treated me well and provides me a valuable service. If at some future point my experience with this particular business associate deteriorates, I will either attempt to renegotiate a better deal or go elsewhere. My options at that point will depend on my level of success and my perceived bargaining power. Amazon does not owe me a career. They just don’t. And I know that.

    These folks act like Amazon is this monolithic presence, a volcano god that must be appeased. It’s not. It’s just the latest thing. It’s the market leader because it’s very good at selling books, but there’s nothing preventing somebody new from coming in and doing it better. However, bitching about Amazon won’t make that happen. Neither will PR smear campaigns.

    I realize I’m a foolishly naive neophyte who can’t possibly navigate the shark-infested waters of commerce without the life preserver thrown by agents and publishers. How dare I build my own boat — the arrogance! Better to stay in the water and hope for the best, because that boat could sink some day.

    Enough. I have a book to finish. So I can deliver it into the gaping, gore-encrusted maw of KDP and await my doom. Or throw it in the volcano in a vain attempt to appease the Great Bezos so He doesn’t incinerate my tiny village. You pick the metaphor. I’m such a co-dependent patsy I can’t be trusted to make that choice for myself.

    • +50

    • “These folks act like Amazon is this monolithic presence, a volcano god that must be appeased. It’s not. It’s just the latest thing. It’s the market leader because it’s very good at selling books, but there’s nothing preventing somebody new from coming in and doing it better. However, bitching about Amazon won’t make that happen. Neither will PR smear campaigns. ”

      And yet no matter how many times you say or write something like this, someone ALWAYS comes back with the brilliant zinger, “So you really think Amazon CARES about you? YOu think it’s your FRIEND?”

      • To which I reply, “No. See above.”

      • They come back with that because they have nothing else to fall back on. They take all of this so personally that they can’t imagine how you can’t. Notice also that the people who usually say things like that are the ones who feel they can’t compete with Amazon. They’re not creative enough to even try so they just spend their time whining about it instead.

      • I forgot to tick that box when I uploaded my book. I has a sad now. 🙁

        Don’t know how I’ll go on without the loving, supporting friendship of the Great God Bezos.

    • Better to stay in the water and hope for the best, because that boat could sink some day.

      New metaphor, and I love it. Perfect!

  16. It’s amazing that Amazon keeps spouting these easily-refuted lies that, for some reason, Hachette has elected to not easily refute.

    In fact, Hachette has been chirping 24/7, and yet clams up whenever Amazon’s pants are on fire.

    • “It’s amazing that Amazon keeps spouting these easily-refuted lies that, for some reason, Hachette has elected to not easily refute.”

      Indeed. We’ve seen one Hachette leak after another after another after another, and Hachette statements by Hachette sources and executives who decline to be named, and so on…

      So either they’ve suddenly all lost the power of speech and are wandering up and down 5th Avenue trying to =mime= “Amazon is lying, they never offered us 70%” to bewildered strangers… Or else it’s simply true.

      I don’t see a third realistic alternative.

  17. Nate says in the comments: “That does not fit with the idea that Amazon really wants authors to have 35% of the sale price. In fact, I would say it pretty much proves that the 35% idea is bogus…”

    Too bad he didn’t do a tiny bit of homework before saying something so stupid. Aside from the fact that it pretty much makes no sense for them to post a PR right on their site for all to see that wasn’t factual, 35% of sale price is the royalty rate AP authors get.

  18. Amazon is in this for their own interest, and not anyone else’s, and that is why it is important to remember that we cannot accept yesterday’s statement as fact. It is a PR statement, and as such it was not written to convey facts.

    — So, essentially what this guy says here is that Amazon’s statement is a lie. I mean, he dances around it, but boiled down what he is saying is that as far as he’s concerned, they are lying, and that everything the company says in any official way is a lie.

    Somebody has an issue.

    • Isn’t it funny how Amazon is it for their own interests but Hachette is apparently defending Culture according to these people? That culture line was one of the first things we heard the book mafia come out with when they started to realize they were in trouble and needed to craft a help message. In reality, they just sell books and they were trying to emotionally manipulate the public into thinking that no one else would fill their spot if they stopped being the people to sell us books. Not to mention: they’re just incredibly bad at selling books.

  19. PG, get some treatment quickly for the AIS problem, or alternatively do tell us which Amazon imprint authors are being paid 70% royalties.

    The rest of us are just getting our money after Amazon deducts its sales commission, which in many cases is a staggering 65%, depending on the list price and where sold.

    • Amazon pays authors royalties of 70% of the sales price of ebooks.

      No mention of imprint. I think he meant KDP authors.

      • I think he’s talking about markets where you can only get 35% like India if you are not in Select. For some reason he hasn’t noticed you don’t have to sell there(Step 7 in KDP), you can turn off certain markets.

        Just like Traditional publishers don’t sell in overseas markets without the author selling those rights, Amazon can’t sell there without your permission. If you don’t like their percentage then don’t sell through them there.

    • KDP authors get 70%. Publishing through KDP and being published by an Amazon imprint are not the same thing. In the first instance, the author acts as his or her own publisher, collecting both the author AND publisher’s share. Amazon functions merely as a retailer. In the latter, Amazon acts as retailer (30%) and publisher (35%) with the remaining 35% going to the author. In the former instance, the authors retains all rights to the work. IN the latter, the authors conveys an interest in their copyright to Amazon.

      KDP authors and Amazon imprint authors have different legal and business relationships with Amazon. They are not interchangeable for the purposes of discussing revenue shares.

      In some territories KDP authors only receive 35%, which is clearly disclosed in the terms of service for using the KDP platform. I’m not exactly sure why this is. I assume it has something to do with differing copyright laws and treaties, tax structures, etc.

      • I’m very curious to know, generally, how that affects taxes. If you’re KDP, does that mean that Amazon’s fee is a cost-of-goods-sold for tax purposes? Can you use it as such on a schedule C?

        • I don’t have a clue. I stopped doing my own taxes when I graduated from the 1040EZ form. My understanding of business taxation begins and ends at “save your receipts.”

        • My guess is that no, you cannot write it off as cost-of-goods-sold. It seems to me that for tax purposes, you are selling your product for 70% (or 35%) of the price you set, and that’s your income. Cost-of-goods-sold would come into play if you bought the book from someone else at a lower rate. I may be wrong, because my experience comes from a different business. I’ve filed a few schedule C’s in my time, but they were for my dental practice back when I was a sole proprietorship (and one last year for my “publishing company”). Can’t write off something without claiming it as income first in this case…

          • The reason I ask is because I wonder if Amazon’s 30% is a fee for selling the book. Thus, logically you get 100% of the book price, except that Amazon automatically retains 30%. After all, the 70% isn’t a “royalty” payment – you still own the asset.

            Suppose it worked this way. You sell your book for $9.00 using KDP and Amazon gives you $9.00 and then bills you $3.00 as their fee for selling the book. You should be able to write off the $3.00 as a business expense. You are, after all, the publisher and Amazon is a retailer whose services you have contracted.

            The way it works now, with Amazon retaining the $3.00 without first passing it to you shouldn’t change this calculus, should it?

            • Huh. I’m going to have to ask an accountant that, because if it’s true, I’ve got some money coming back to me.

              But realistically, I highly doubt it.

              • I’m a finance geek, not a CPA, so take this with a grain of salt, but GAAP for publishers says that gross revenue is the amount you get after discounts given to the retailer (Amazon) and that net revenue is the amount you get after returns (usually none, for ebooks) are subtracted.

                Since you, as a self-publishing author, ARE a publisher, as well as an author, I would think that you, too, would declare the 70% as your gross income from this business.

            • Suppose it worked this way. You sell your book for $9.00 using KDP and Amazon gives you $9.00 and then bills you $3.00 as their fee for selling the book. You should be able to write off the $3.00 as a business expense. You are, after all, the publisher and Amazon is a retailer whose services you have contracted.

              I think if you list the full fee of 9 dollars as the amount received then you get to write off the 3 bucks as a business expense. But I’m pretty sure the 1099 Amazon sends you lists it as 6 bucks, not 9 bucks. We work something similar with a collection service for bad debts…they send me the full amount the patient owed and then I write them a check for their fee (a percentage, sometimes as high as 50% of the debt depending on the age). I write off that fee as a business expense, but I also consider the full amount of the debt as a part of my gross collection, and not just the part minus their fee.

              The way it works now, with Amazon retaining the $3.00 without first passing it to you shouldn’t change this calculus, should it?

              Only if Amazon tells you that you’ve earned 9 bucks instead of 6 bucks. But I’m pretty sure they report the amount of money paid to you as 6 bucks…

            • I also think there are two ways to do your accounting: cash basis and accrual (? on that second one). We do cash basis. In practice we “produce” a certain amount of dentistry a day. Say it’s 3 grand. If we did the second method we would pay taxes on that 3 thousand dollars, minus any expenses, and minus losses or bad debts or whatever. (I’m not so clear on this because we’ve never done it this way).

              The first way, we report and pay taxes on the amount we actually collect. We don’t write off the PPO discount we give to Delta Dental. We don’t write off other discounts given to senior citizens, or redo credits or stuff like that. We do write off any actual expenses we have.

              In “cash basis”, you “collect” 6 dollars. You don’t get to write off the 3 dollar “discount” given to Amazon. You DO get to write off any amounts you spend on cover, editing, promotion, website, etc etc.

              • Scott,

                You are right that the IRS is going to have a fit if your top line doesn’t match the numbers reported on a 1099.

                For general information, if it matters to anyone here, there are three types of accounting. There’s tax accounting, and for management or for financial statements there are cash basis and accrual basis systems.

                Tax accounting is a mix of both cash or accrual, and for most businesses your tax filings are **required** to have numbers that are different than the ones on your financials, if the latter are prepared according to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, as adopted by FASB, the Financial Accounting Standards Board).

                Fortunately, most of the differences, like capitalizing your spending on editorial and design work, instead of deducting them immediately, are quite simple to track and compute.

      • You sell a book for $10 (I know the cut-off is $9.99, but for the sake of math, roll with it.)

        Your cut is 70% or $7.00

        You can either book in the $7.00 as income OR you can book in the $10.00 as income and back out the $3.00 as a commission. It’s not a COGS which is item you bought at wholesale and resold or goods you physically manufactured yourself.

        That is what I do with eBay. Book in full price, back out commissions. The net is the same.

        • Except and to the extent that some of the give-backs on your return are calculated as a percent of gross income. In that case, the lower your gross, the better.

  20. Wow. That was just pathetic. Not even funny or laughably bad in a Must.Fisk.The.Stupid way. Just a sad, desperate fist shake at the sky that reeked of fear.

    Must have felt good for the OP though to get such a good masturbatory statement so furiously pumped out into the world.

    • By my count, this is the sixth industry pundit to come at me with ad hominem attacks.

      I must be doing something right.

      • Considering I have never been in the publishing industry, I don’t see how I am an “industry pundit”. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll say I’ve mostly been in the self-pub camp (as a booster).

        And Hugh, if you see this as an ad hominem attack then I apologize.

      • Hugh, you’re rich, good-looking, happy, nice to puppies and children. Of course, they hate you.

      • Don’t get too full of yourself. You have a ways to go to catch up to my old friend Father Mike, who ran a church in a very rough neighborhood and once told me, laughing, that at one point there had been three contracts out on his life, which he felt meant that he was doing his job very well indeed.

        I bet you don’t have more than one.

  21. I wanted to stay away, I really did, and I managed for a while (go me), but this just irritates me enough to write a comment.
    When people point out their satisfaction with doing business with Amazon, they are accused of thinking Amazon is their friend, and when they point out the trade-publishers’ damaging-to-authors practice (non-compete, discounts, copyright life +70, etc ), they are accused that they hate trade publishers. But when Preston calls for boycott of Amazon and when Patterson cries about the end of literature as we know it, that’s just business?

    • Chris Armstrong

      According to Deborah Smith (my new favorite person), you are all just showing your total ignorance of publishing.

      Hang your heads!

      • She keeps saying that but I haven’t seen her go into detail as to how we’re all so ignorant of publishing.

      • Ha!

      • How dare I show my ignorance?
        *hangs her head*

      • Smart Debut Author

        The small publishing house Deborah Smith runs, Bell Bridge Books, is floundering — if not outright failing. I talk to some of her best writers, and we share numbers. They privately tell me they plan to self-publish their next books instead. They tell me no one there is happy with the promotional support or marketing they received.

        Oddly, if you search Amazon, the best-ranked Bell Bridge books are usually from a single author: Deborah Smith. It does make one wonder how Bell Bridge allocates marketing funds among titles.

        Conflict of interest much?

  22. So I’m gonna hope I don’t get a “well if you don’t like it leave” response on this, because I’m not removing my titles from Amazon’s regular store, or return my Kindle Fire, or quit reading on my Kindle app.

    I should also add, that a chorus of pro-Amazon voice is flooding The Digital Reader’s posting, after Deborah Smith appeared with some quite adamant statements. Before then, there was actually a conversation about the pros and cons of how both trade publishing and Amazon and others, like Apple, are doing business.

    “PG is inclined to look at what organizations do rather than what they say…

    “Amazon pays authors royalties of 70% of the sales price of ebooks. Big publishing pays authors royalties of 17.5% of the sales price of ebooks.” –

    Agreed. But it would be nice to also compare to peer organizations. And in that, Amazon still does extremely well. But Apple does pay more. No delivery fee, plus a higher % on sales above and below Amazon’s cut-off rate.

    Scribd and Oyster have a variance, as they end up paying 60% after Smashword’s cut, but it’s across the board also. And that’s as a subscription service. Versus KU, the distinction is more pronounced: the pay being more or less depending on original retail price, but is set, and obtainable without exclusivity.

    “Under the KDP Terms of Service, an author can pull his/her books away from Amazon at any time and do whatever the author wants to do with them. PG receives a regular stream of emails from traditionally-published authors who are being forced to remain in publishing contracts with large and small publishers when the authors have made it clear they want out.” –

    Absolutely true. Versus traditionally-published authors. But not vs (and only) small self-published authors who want to participate in Kindle Unlimited. Which would also be versus Scribd and Oyster, and possibly Apple soon (as per rumors only at this point).

    There’s more, but it doesn’t matter. I only wanted to make a point that the response to Digital Reader’s post seemed tilted from the intent of that article.

    I’m not an attorney, so I can’t argue any points there.

    But as a reader, your response seemed skewed.

    I want Amazon to succeed.

    But I want to be honest with myself as I do. And see the spectrum of my choices.

    I love reading your posts, and hope I can get a bit broader perspective.

    Thanks so much,


    • Adan, no one’s going to kick you out here. 😀

      Yes , you’re right. Comparing apples to apples, or Apple to Amazon makes more sense, but it’s not Apple who’e screaming publicly that Amazon will do obscene things to our puppies or sheep or meerkats.

      And I’m under no business illusions. I make more money from Apple and B&N than I do Amazon. I have me e-books in other channels, and I’m exploring getting them and paperbooks into other venues.

      What I don’t like is the constant lies and misdirection aimed at Amazon, and subsequently implying or down right saying I’m stupid for doing business with Amazon. It doesn’t mean Jeff Bezos is my friend. Hell, Amazon locked my account for a short time last December over the Pornocalypse BS.

      What it does mean is I will not do business with companies that resort to that falsehoods and subterfuge because they can’t, won’t or don’t know how to pull their own business out of its tailspin.

      If that makes me an AIS sufferer than so be it.

      • Suzan, thanks (smiles) –

        I think I figured out I’m so far removed from a trade pub deal (like it doesn’t even cross my mind) I’m off, as you say, comparing apples to apples – nicely put.

        Yeah, I’m off in my own world so to speak wanting “my” terms for enrolling in KU. I think I need to get back to writing (smiles).

        All the best Suzan

  23. What Happens When a BPH Files Bankruptcy?

    I address this very question in my blog post at http://thelegalfiction.blogspot.com/

    Food for thought? Possibly.

    A really great reason to be infatuated with Amazon and disaffected with the dwindling fortunes of the Big 5? You decide.

    Disclaimer: While I am a lawyer and what is written in my blog post is written by a sometime practitioner of Chapter 11 bankruptcy law, it is NOT legal advice and creates no attorney-client relationhip.

    It’s just there to offer a very realistic way of viewing the rationale of infatuation vs. disaffection.

    • T. M. Bilderback

      John, that’s great advice. If I were a traditionally published author instead of an indie, that blog post alone would be enough for me to go hire an attorney and get my rights back!

      Wow…books in limbo. No income from them, and you can’t self-publish because of the bankruptcy ramifications.

      Regardless of whether I agree with their opinions, I would hate to see that happen to any author!

      • This is seriously the point I think a lot of authors are missing. They think they can take advantage of trad pub while it’s still around and not have any consequences, but that may not be the case. They need to very careful what they sign. No doubt trad pub is looking at their assets and what their future strategy is going to be. All the people who are going on and on about what Amazon *might* do in the future need to look at what their publisher is *likely* to do once they get desperate.

    • margaret rainforth

      John, your blogpost was indeed interesting. I recommend reading it!

  24. I compare Amazon to dealing with insurance companies in health care. They pay our patients’ bills, and we depend on them, truth be told, for a major part of our income. But no health care provider ever has much good to say about them. Once in a while, one goes above and beyond. They aren’t as intrusive, they don’t try to determine patient care decision-making (as much), and they pay a decent rate with fewer hoops to jump through. That one, we like to deal with…when a patient comes in with that insurance, we’re happier than when a patient comes in with one of the intrusive, poor-paying ones (and we pretty much know which is which). We don’t ever look at them as our friends, and some of them we sort of hate, but we can’t really live without them.

    Substitute “manuscript” for “patient care decisions”, “writer” for “health care provider” and “Amazon” for the name of the insurance company which is less of a pain in the posterior, and it’s sort of similar…

  25. Authors who use KDP are acting as PUBLISHERS, not authors. They’re getting both the publishers’ share and the author’s. And if they’re smart, they’re spending money and time on publishing as well as on writing. Yes, it is possible do slap a manuscript up online with very little of either, but if you want to compete with the best of the books out there, and to make a living from your writing, you would be well-advised to do better.

    As far as Amazon’s dunce-worthy pronouncement on costs: We all know that very little of the cost of a book is in printing, paper and binding. And that Amazon’s 30% is 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of distribution of a paper book. It’s clear, therefore, that Amazon’s pronouncement about what books from major publishers should cost is disingenuous at best. They are very well aware that most of the cost and time involved in publishing a book is the same for print as it is for e-only releases.

    Anyone who swallows their press release whole is allowing their emotions to turn off their inner accountant, and giving their inner skeptic a vacation.

    I know that the prevailing viewpoint in this community is to heap disdain and resentment upon all publishers as if they were monolithic and either evil or stupid or both.

    But I think you’re letting your emotions blind you. Amazon is a large, powerful corporation. They own an ever-increasing market share in the book world, which they can use to extort as much profit from the little guys as they want. And ALL publishers, including the big houses, are little guys in comparison.

    Don’t forget what they did to the self-publishing community when POD printing was the route of choice. Do you REALLY think that they’re going to be any kinder to the ebook community?

    And don’t forget that they don’t need any of us to survive, unlike obvious prior cases of monopsony, such as Ingram. Amazon is making most of its revenue from things other than books now. We’re gravy at best, whether big house or small press, whether using a Pay to Publish operation or acting as a self-publisher. We’re all in this one together. Anyone who celebrates when the larger presses go down into defeat is looking backwards, not forwards.

    • Meh. Your post is just another attempt at FUD and it kind of sounds like a victim’s mentality. ‘They’re going to crush us, they’re going to crush us no matter what we do so don’t ever turn your back on them!’ It’s nothing we haven’t heard a million times before and as usual, it assumes we’re all just married to Amazon, which is incorrect.

      I will ask though, what do you think the traditional publishers would have done if Amazon hadn’t come along to help them temporarily? Their sales were already declining. Presumably people were reading less books (at their prices). My guess is you would have stuck with them to the very end, like a lot of authors would have. And the problem with that is no one can help traditional publishing right now. Their system just doesn’t work very well. It hasn’t worked in decades, if it ever did. So when it does finally *shrink*, I think that will allow *more* competition into the market place, *if* that model of doing business is till viable. As of now, in their current form, they’re just being propped up and that can’t go on forever, with or without Amazon. So here’s to hoping whatever business comes after them can actually learn from its mistakes.

    • As I replied to you over at Nate’s place, you are confused (like almost everyone else in legacy publishing). Almost all of the cost of a book are in the paper, print, and binding. The book is not the story. The story (or knowledge) is what people buy. The inability to understand what your customer wants is what will kill legacy publishing, not Amazon, not ebooks. Just blindness to reality.

      Amazon is winning because they understand what their customers want. The best protection that writers have against the dystopia you predict is that simple fact. Amazon customers want to read stories. Writers make stories. Not publishers. Amazon doesn’t need publishers. They need writers.

      • Let’s examine that statement. Here’s a typical P&L for a trade paperback, from an indie (in publishing use of the term) press, non-fiction title (costs are lower).

        List price: $14.95
        Retailer’s buys at 40% discount for $8.97
        Wholesaler, who buys at 55% discount for $6.73
        Distributor, who buys at 67% discount, for $4.93

        Publisher’s revenue = $4.93

        Let’s suppose that the book sells 7500 copies gross, has returns of 33%, for net sales of 5000 copies (not good, but not too bad), almost all in the first year.

        Revenue total = $24650

        Royalties are 7.5% of LIST for the first 5,000 copies(no royalties on returns). That’s 0.075 * $14.95 * 5,000 for total royalties = $5606.25 (NB: that’s almost 23% of revenue)

        PPB is likely to run about $1.50 per book, for 7500 copies, or $11250

        Marketing will run about $2465

        Content editing and line editing will run about $4 per page, if the ms is in good shape. Copyediting adds another $3.50 per page. Layout/xml coding adds another $3 per page. Proofreading each type of output is roughly $3 per 250 word standard page per version. Since this is tpb only, that’s only $3 per page, for a total of $16.50 per page. And let’s call it a 256 page book (so that it fits all standard signature sizes — 16, 32 and 64 pages).

        Total per page, fixed costs: $4224

        Cover design and layout: $1500

        Total direct costs, before overhead and profit: $5606 + $11250 + $2465 +$4224 + $1500 = $25035, which is greater than the revenue.

        If you look at the list price, as everyone seems to do, those 5,000 books sold for $74750. The PPB was $11250, or about 15% of the total.

        Not the majority of the cost structure. Even if you add to that the change in distribution costs from 67% to 30% for an ebook, you’re still only looking at half of the list price that vanishes when a book goes from print to ebook.

        That’s why a hardback that lists at $25 sells in ebook for $12.99 or so.

        And that’s why publishers aren’t eager to up the author’s share of the ebook revenues beyond 25%. They figure that they’re going to have to pay retailers more (30% is an extraordinarily good deal!) sooner or later, and that the rest of the non-PPB costs aren’t going anywhere but up. So they’re not eager to set a standard that they can’t live up to later.

        And they always have that old standby: the advance that’s larger than the book’s royalties will EVER be. This guarantees that the author gets a higher than standard royalty without changing the standard.

        (This is also, of course, why that old factoid about publishers losing money on most books, because the advances never earn out is a mis-interpretation of inadequate information.)

        • And thank you for proving trad publishers are paying WAY too much to get a book to market. My company was in the black within eighteen months, which made my CPA deliriously happy.

          • Suzan: it’s a matter of which books require what expenses for profit optimization.

            No publisher, including self-publishers, will go into a book expecting the kind of P&L I put up. If this was a before publication example, the publisher would re-work the project, or terminate it.

            Publishing has always been high-stakes gambling. Even today’s self-publishing author is putting in at least a few hundreds of hours per book, which makes their stake pretty high.

            Publishers, including self-publishers, are bookies (love the pun, don’t you?), who look at a manuscript and decide what odds it has, and how much they can bet on it. (Yes, bookies are betting — the other side from the players whose bets they take.)

            In the old days, you could only do a book with offset, and a huge investment. Then POD printing came along to allow publishers to keep backlist in print. And self-publishers adopted it, and were able to launch books for a far lower bet. And everyone in the business thought that was good, except for a few obnoxious snobs. Of course, a lot of the writers never bothered to learn the basics (books in New Times Roman? It kills the eyes on long line lengths, which is why pros don’t use it). But the ones who made money put in the time to learn how to do it well, and there were a lot of them.

            Then someone finally got ebooks off the ground, after decades of other failed attempts. And the barrier dropped even further.

            Yes, authors can put a book up on the web for very little. And, for most of those books, that’s the best choice. For SOME, however, a larger investment will pay dividends. How much depends upon your understanding of the audience, your evaluation of the audience, and your tolerance for risk.

            That’s part of what publishers do.

            I’m thrilled when I hear that a self-publisher is doing well. Almost all publishing pros are.

            We do, however, get a little tired of the assumption that we’ve been doing writers down for a long time. It looks that way to writers and to some authors, but those who have been on both sides of the fence, and there are more than a few, tend to see things very differently.

            Perhaps a little less hostility might be profitable?

            • Content editing and line editing will run about $4 per page, if the ms is in good shape. Copyediting adds another $3.50 per page. Layout/xml coding adds another $3 per page. Proofreading each type of output is roughly $3 per 250 word standard page per version. Since this is tpb only, that’s only $3 per page, for a total of $16.50 per page. And let’s call it a 256 page book (so that it fits all standard signature sizes — 16, 32 and 64 pages).

              Total per page, fixed costs: $4224

              Cover design and layout: $1500

              Right. I’m only going to touch this aspect of your post, but it’s all I need to assure you, as Mr. Ockham already has, that you are either out of touch with reality, or, and I find this to be more plausible, your industry is going broke because they don’t understand having expensive offices and the elite lifestyle of NYC Publishing means absolutely zero to paying customers (aka: readers).

              Let’s break this down, and I’ll even use my latest published book without naming it so it doesn’t seem like self-promotion. But it’s mine, and I know exactly how much it cost to publish.

              1. Copy/line editing – I did this myself, over the course of about ten revisions/edits. Not because I am cheap, but because I don’t want anyone telling me how to write my story. I know what I want my story to be. I know how I want my characters to act and react.

              2. Light editing / proofreading: I paid $.003/word for this. For a 66,000 word novel, $200. The lady I hired had good references with other self-published authors that found her work to be good enough to promote. We’re pretty vocal people, and we network quite a bit, which means we absolutely will NOT promote anyone (openly or privately) that doesn’t do quality work.

              3. I paid another proofreader $.002/word to go over it just to catch any little bits that the editor and I might have missed. She found errors, nothing major, but it’s not uncommon. $140.

              Total per page fixed costs: no clue
              Total fixed costs: $340 sans cover, which we’ll get to.

              Cover design and layout: $600 for custom-painted artwork to a guy who won the Future Illustrators of America award.

              $100 for the title work / typography / print layout.

              And here’s the raw cover with no text on it:

              Just, you know, to show you that $600 often buys a hell of a lot more… art? than what I’ve seen gracing traditionally published books. The image isn’t meant to say mine is better. It is there simply to show you that we know what we want, and we know where to get what we want, and we’ll spend a chunk of money to get it if it is worth it.

              More importantly, we get exactly what we want when it’s our money. Not what the publisher wants. Well, I suppose yeah, what the publisher wants, since we are the publishers. But I think you get my meaning. (trad pubs, just in case you didn’t get my meaning)

              So… $340 for editing/proofing, $600 for the custom paint job, $100 to get it titled and prepped for ebook and POD versions. That’s $1040. Say maybe about $1100 in all, as I usually spend a bit here or there and realize it wasn’t what I wanted after all.

              Me: $1100
              You: $5724

              Now, let’s break it down some more, but just a little. Math, while a straight-A student in college, isn’t what gets me going (personally, I like video games, but I’m a forty year old child of the 80’s). Just a little though.

              Me: $4.99 list at Amazon, Google Play, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, probably some others like Oyster and Scribd since I use Smashwords (though I am direct to Amazon, GPlay, B&N, and Kobo).

              $4.99 x 70% = $3.50 per sale in my pocket

              $1100 / $3.50 = 315 copies or so.

              Three hundred copies and the book, which might be crap but it has a really nice cover, no spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes (maybe one or two, but I can go snag any trad pub paperback off my bookshelves and find one or two regardless of which book), and, according to me, a pretty decent story.

              Oh, and I own the rights to it forever. Pretty sure my family gets them when I’m a goner. Unless I stupidly signed them away to a publisher. But no, I didn’t.

              You: Not sure. Your accounting is pretty confusing, but that’s deliberate from the traditionally published authors I’ve talked to and subscribed to their blogs.

              The figure most often heard is 17.5%. Heck, I’ll give ya 7.5% of list for the first 5,000, I’ll even give you 25%. 35%, why not, I’m feeling generous.

              I’ll just stop right here. I don’t need to do the actual math to determine anything other than by the exact margin / amount I’d be getting screwed by signing with a traditional publisher (PS: waiting for the inevitable “your trash isn’t good enough for traditional publishing” so, don’t be afraid, I’m a big boy, somewhat).

              What does this have to do with anything?

              Easy. Three hundred fifteen copies. That’s all I need to sell to break even, then after that, I’m into pure profit stage. How many copies does it take you to break even? Five thousand? Eight? Orange-ty green hundred?

              You claim your pals offer something worthy of investing my rights for the rest of my life plus seventy years, unless I want to hire an attorney so I can get them reverted, as attorneys, as slimy as they are (no offense PG, don’t sue me!), are good at finding little bits of contract to chew up and spit out.

              I claim by going through you, I’m paying for your expensive lifestyle, your who knows how many thousands per month Manhattan flat, your business lunches, your business trips, your vacations, a lot of things that I don’t give two %^$@#s about. All I might need from you is your distribution network.

              But then, I have CreateSpace. Sure, I can’t get into the boys’ club stores, but last I checked, those boys’ club stores are heading toward bankruptcy. And I love indie book stores, but if they won’t carry my paperback edition because of some beef with Amazon, then they’re incredibly stupid. That’s lost money for them. Unless you think CreateSpace sells my paperback to bookstores for list somehow.

              So I’ll ask again, and some regulars are probably getting tired of hearing me ask this, but:

              What exactly do you offer a writer that entitles you to the rights to their work for the rest of their life + 70 years? Don’t say any of that stuff I just talked about above. You don’t offer anything I need other than distribution.

              Oh. Legitimacy? Come on, you know you want to say it. Without you and your pals, I’ll always be a nobody. Hugh Howey was a fluke even though he writes a great story. Konrath lucked out by fooling readers into buying his burning garbage fires. Eisler made a deal with the CIA or something (CIA, please don’t kidnap me and cart me off as an enemy combatant).

              I think it boils down to you (publishing industry) exploiting our hard work, our blood, sweat, tears, and time, for as much as you can, while offering very, very little in return except for the carrot on a stick.

              “Here boy! You want to be Patterson? Huh? Huh? Do ya, boy? Come on, show me a good Patterson. That’s a good boy!!!”

              I’ll make it on my own. Or I’ll fail on my own. I’m pretty good at failing, by the way, so check back in a couple of months so you can gloat about how the big-mouth went out of business (either died or quit writing).

              And I’m going to call Amazon my buddy. They’ve treated me right so far. So has B&N, even though they annoy me quite a bit, but that’s another rant. Kobo, whom I absolutely detested until I started going direct… I kind of really love them too. Smashwords… meh, they serve a purpose, which is making books permanently free, which JUST BLEW YOUR MIND! (pssshheewwwww the sound of brain confetti flying around in the wind of a ceiling fan)

              iTunes… as much as I hate Apple, they’re my buddy too. They’re all my buddies. Amazon is my bestest buddy, for sure. For total sure. But you know what? My old best friend in 6th grade punched me in the eye for no good reason one time. We were never best friends again.

              Never really friends, to be honest. But, since I didn’t have my Atari 2600, Colecovision, Intellivision, all of my clothes, my quantum laptop from the future, and my superhero outfit at his house, all I was out was a black eye and one less friend.

              Hey! I bet I had a point here somewhere.

              Oh. I did. It’s that when people like you show up here and try to feed us a big, fat, stinky, nutty line of excrement, you look like the guy who started the Kony campaign getting caught in the street with his pants down.

              The truth is, we’re not the ones you need to convince that you give such a great service to that authors should sign away their rights for very, very little in return. Not even enough to make a living on writing alone in most cases. You should be convincing authors who have yet to submit manuscripts.

              But… you’ll have to compete with us. We’ll be telling them the truth, which is that big pub offers nothing, not even legitimacy. Legitimacy is in your paycheck, not your contract. Lots of authors have signed big pub contracts and haven’t made as much as I have (and I’ll be brutally honest, I’ve sold like, two books in the last sixteen months).

              At least all of my books have broken even so far. And don’t forget, I’ve got something like four or five perma-free books, so the rest are helping all break even.

              Right. Enough from me. I’m a nobody author. But I know more than you do about the evolution of books and technology. And I’m smarter than you when it comes to business savvy. Or sense. Either/or.

              Travis Hill
              (PS: you better get on and get them there rookie authors all signed up before we scare ’em with the whole ‘70% royalties and keep your rights forever… wooo ooooh wooo (ghost sounds from Scooby-Doo)’)

              • Travis: I wasn’t saying that publishers are giving you a good deal. I WAS saying that PPB isn’t the bulk of the cost of a print book.

                I’m not going to talk about paying a copyeditor 75 cents per page (3/10 cent per word) at ten pages per hour, and what that means for his or her earnings. There’s a reason publishers pay a living wage — they don’t want copyeditors (who check consistency in naming, descriptions, etc, as well as grammar, usage, spelling, and compare it to the house “style sheet” which is usually the latest Chicago Manual with a few quirks added) to go faster than a certain speed.

                I’m not going to talk about any of it — although it would make an enjoyable digression, it would still be heading off topic.

                • I’m not going to talk about paying a copyeditor 75 cents per page (3/10 cent per word) at ten pages per hour, and what that means for his or her earnings. There’s a reason publishers pay a living wage — they don’t want copyeditors (who check consistency in naming, descriptions, etc, as well as grammar, usage, spelling, and compare it to the house “style sheet” which is usually the latest Chicago Manual with a few quirks added) to go faster than a certain speed.

                  First, let me say that it’s safe to assume that you have no qualms with the cover, correct? So, it’s a professional cover. Logic would, in my estimation, dictate that I, a fairly intelligent individual who wanted to have a professional piece of art commissioned for a book cover, and hired a person that could never be mistaken for anything but a professional, would therefore not skimp or save on an editor.

                  I see what you did with your attempt to denigrate the nice ladies who help me edit my books, hinting that maybe my ladies don’t check consistency in naming, descriptions, etc. And I’m guessing that you’re implying they don’t check grammar, usage, spelling, and compare it to some style sheet that only persons attempting to malign others would refer to, as if no editors other than those in traditional publishing have the professionalism or even the knowledge of such styles as CMOS?

                  Or… is it possibly the stupidest statement I’ve ever heard? “Don’t want editors to go faster than a certain speed”? Did you just make that up, or is that a real thing? Seriously? Is that a real thing? Because if that’s a real thing, then that’s just one more gigantic reason traditional publishing houses will never survive. I want to laugh, but I’m sad for the authors trapped in the web of legality concerning the very bad contracts they’ve signed with traditional publishing.

                  Now. Let’s see. Oh, 3/10 cent per word at ten pages per hour… are you making this up again? Or is this your attempt to estimate what independent editors and proofreaders always charge / work at that speed? I’ve paid some editors $.006/word. Some as low as $.002. Does it matter what the rate is between an editor and an author? Only to the two parties involved. Why you even mention this is beyond me, other than to once again allude to some elitist position that traditional publishing editors are somehow more legit. Or better.

                  Because, you know, the editors that I’m paying probably have never worked for a trad pub house. Never. Not a single one. Because trad pub pays so very well that almost all trad pub editors I’ve met either freelance or have another job. That doesn’t mean all trad pub editors. Just the two dozen or so I’ve talked to. I think only two of them make enough to not need another income stream.

                  And gosh, where would persons who edited for a trad pub house go to find freelance work? Why, a community of self-published authors who want to be taken seriously, and appreciate the skills and experience of the editors coming out of trad pub.

                  It doesn’t mean that the trad pub editors are actually any good. Met enough of them that couldn’t do better than my own wife, who is extremely intelligent, but editing/English isn’t her passion or expertise.

                  So… I guess this is again where I ask you what it is that you offer authors that makes you feel you should own the rights to that author’s work for lifetime + 70?

                  Because you’ve just outed trad pub editing as harmful to an author’s ability to earn an income. “Editing at slow speed” (paraphrase me, trademarked if you use it twice or more) is possibly the worst thing I’ve heard since the whole “lifetime + 70.”

                  I mean, what kind of person, other than a truly desperate one, or one that has no clue what kind of devil he or she has just made a deal with, would give up the rights to their hard, hard, agonizing work for the rest of their life plus seventy years?

                  To get “Slow speed editing” to keep them from releasing too many books too quickly? So ebooks can’t eat into print sales? Even though ebooks cost nothing to manufacture, and have a single set cost? Even though a hundred, maybe a thousand self-published authors will gladly come forward and explain to you how releasing books quickly, especially in a series, has netted them enough money to quit whatever job they’d been slaving away at? Because that’s what their readers/fans WANT.

                  Is that your argument for why you deserve lifetime + 70?

                  I mean, let’s not even get into the almost criminal royalty scheme you guys have set up. We could even talk about the actual criminal activities of you and your pals and super pals Apple.

                  What I don’t hear anyone from traditional publishing saying is that authors are treated like laborers. I don’t see anyone saying “hey, maybe we should, you know, give our authors a pretty big cut of the book, since, you know, they wrote it. Because, you know, without him writing that book, we’d be out of business. Because, you know, we are terrible parasites attached to the genitals of authors. And for a long time, they had no other real alternatives but to sign on to our criminal scheme and use our distribution network. But, you know, now there’s these other options that are looking a lot more attractive to our bread and butter, our heart and soul, and if we don’t do something quick to attract them or entice current ones to stay, they’ll leave, and we’ll have to find another host to suck the life out of. And if we lose too many authors, we’ll wither up and die without a host. Because authors are the life blood of literature. Because, you know, without authors, publishers are nothing but common ticks in business attire.”

                  But yeah, that’d be great if you could get on that and stop blaming Amazon.

                  And please stop saying what Amazon MIGHT do. None of us care what Amazon MIGHT do. We care what Amazon DOES. And if Amazon DOES something BAD, we’ll pack up our books and go somewhere else.

                  Hey, what about Apple? You know, the co-conspirators in the case ya’ll lost? Oh, the one you guys settled so you wouldn’t have to admit guilt, mostly because the evidence against you guys was so overwhelmingly convincing. I mean, your execs planned it all out via electronic communications… How stupid are you guys? But what about them playing Amazon’s role? Are you saying they don’t? They never have?

                  They do, and it’s because just like with Amazon, you NEED them a hell of a lot more than they need you. They have their zombie army of fanatics, and they have a ton of music and movies and devices and apps and all kinds of great stuff. You really think if they dumped their book business it would hurt them? Pretty sure it would hurt the clowns in NYC who tried to make a deal with an even bigger devil (a so-called “super devil”).

                  Why, if the NYC gang is so darn upset at Amazon, don’t they go exclusive to Apple? Or to everyone BUT Amazon? Why not show Amazon just how much business they mean and pull their entire catalog? That’ll show Amazon that you mean business. Serious business. Then you can taunt them with how much revenue they are losing out on by not caving in to your demands (which, by the way, still have nothing that actually pertains to treating authors like talented artists instead of day laborers).

                  You guys will not win this battle with Amazon. You’ll play it out as long as possible until you have no choice but to accept their terms, then you’ll turn right around and shout it across the internet about how you faced down Amazon and won. Meanwhile, Trad Pub authors will still be stuck with “Slow speed editing” and terrible royalty rates (again, I’d call them criminal, but I’m not a lawyer or a judge or one of those guys who is sworn to protect and serve and has a badge and gun and even sometimes one of those really cool dogs, though those dogs like to bite crotches if they don’t like someone).

                  Oh, and losing the rights to their books for the rest of their life plus seventy years. Potentially one hundred years or more of possible sales with the lions’ share going to the… not the author or her heirs.

                  A hundred years. That’s a long time. I’m glad you feel traditional publishing provides such excellent services as to take all of that from an author on the partial promise of them getting enough marketing to generate enough sales to actually make a living.

                  I’m even more pleased that you’ve come here to tell us all how we know nothing, while you admit you know nothing about self-pub, but whatever, because we don’t know anything. Let me know how that works out for you.

                • Travis, I used the number you gave. I picked only one item in your list, rather than all of them, because I didn’t want to make you feel attacked.

                  I failed in that.

                  I apologize.

                  I never meant to suggest that you don’t know anything. I do suggest that you may not be aware of some things, or that you may not have the only way of looking at some decisions. No more than that. If that’s too much to hear without the feeling that I’m sneering at you, then there’s no way I can discuss anything here to anyone’s benefit, including mine.

                  That’s too bad, because I thought I was being civil, and I didn’t think I was implying ANY of the things you have just claimed I said about you or your free-lancers. And yes, I have learned rather a lot from other self-publishers over the years. But no one needs to advocate for those things here. You all know that stuff, or much of it, already.

                • But you ARE implying a lot. You’ve come in here with your guns blazing, except your guns have silencers. Your stealthy face-shooting of self-publishers is unmistakable. You’ve insulted every single aspect of our business.


                  Even your trad pub nonsense is suspect (or you’re just really high… NY has medical marijuana now, right?).

                  You’ve insulted self-publishers, you’ve insulted our editors, you’ve insulted our cover artists, you’ve insulted our distributor(s), you’ve insulted every single one of us in some way or another, whether personally or collectively.

                  Do you know how that makes you look?

                  It makes you look like a sad, lonely old woman who hates on everything she doesn’t understand, but was taught proper southern manners, so you do your best to sound as insulting as possible without actually trying to sound as insulting as possible.

                  I’ll repeat: YOU DON’T KNOW @#$@# ABOUT @#%$@.

                  But your admission that you knowingly and willing HARM AUTHORS by editing at such a creeping pace as to keep books from being published says more than all of the other drivel you’ve posted.

                  It’s tough to admit you’re an abuser, or you support abusers. I understand. But this is why you will end up far behind those of us who understand evolution, technology, and TODAY’S book business.

        • Did you read what I wrote? Because I see no evidence that you did. The typical P&L of a publisher is the most idiotic business document I have ever seen. It assumes the dumbest possible way of delivering your product to market. Most of the costs you cite are unnecessary and add no value for the customer (that’s me, btw). I don’t care if you use a distributor. I don’t care if you waste your money on marketing. None of that matters. You are proving my point. You are simply the least efficient way to bring a book to market. If you don’t understand that, you will go out of business. Right or wrong, it is reality.

          Nobody needs you any more. The writer can go direct with Amazon. Or sell through Gumroad or do a Kickstarter. You aren’t adding enough value to justify your costs. If you can’t adapt, you will go out of business.

          • William: you’re right, and you’re wrong.

            Any writer can become a publisher, with varying degrees of skill. Anyone can learn the basics of publishing well, if they realize that there’s anything more to it than uploading their final draft to KDP.

            And for many books, the optimal strategy is just that: push-button publishing, because most ms won’t re-pay much investment.

            But for those who have a better ms, they’re not doing their work justice unless they learn how to publish it well. And for those who don’t have the time and/or money (it’s quite expensive compared to normal Kickstarter numbers), publishers are still going to be an option.

            And, let us not forget: fiction is only 1/4 of the publishing pie (less, if you don’t include children’s fiction).

            All of trade books (the kind you’d find in a bookstore, for those who don’t follow the jargon) are only 1/2 of the pie.

            A good half of trade non-fiction requires things that ebooks don’t do well yet. Most non-trade books don’t sell well as ebooks at all.

            To do those books as a self-publisher is far more difficult and resource-intensive than the straight-text, low-design books that do well as ebooks. Publishers will still have quite a large share of that market for quite a few years to come, if not for several generations.

            And, yes, that non-trade part of publishing? It’s where most of the profit is, and has been for many decades.

            Fiction is glamorous, but it does not now, and has not in living memory, produced most of the money.

            So, no, I don’t think publishing is going away.

            Oh, and William: Amazon is NOT a substitute for a publisher. It’s a store. It’s a great store, and it’s fabulous that you can go directly through it without wholesalers or distributors or even a publisher. But to do so, you need to be a publisher. Which means that YOU are keeping that business alive.

            Ironic, no?

            • Oh, and William: Amazon is NOT a substitute for a publisher. It’s a store.

              Right. Likewise, Amazon is not a substitute for a loathsome infectious disease. It’s a store.

              It doesn’t rob you of your health and your life, just as it doesn’t rob you and your heirs of your copyrights in exchange for a pocketful of promises that are usually broken.

            • I realize that you came here to impart your hard-earned wisdom to us and I always want to understand more about this business. Please take the opportunity to learn from us as well.

              All the “facts” you put forth are things that I know very well. Here is something you don’t seem to understand. An author who self-publishes is not becoming a traditional publisher. They are doing something completely different.

              Here is one easy example. Many self-publishers find that making a permanently free title available is an excellent customer acquisition strategy. Think about why that is and why no traditional publisher does that. Traditional publishers don’t do it because it would be stupid. Think about how it would make that P&L look. If your unit of analysis is the title, you will never make a title free. The business model of the traditional publisher is based around acquiring and selling one title at a time. Yes, there are multi-book deals, but the model is based on selling a single title.

              “Permafree” isn’t stupid for some self-publishers. Those writers are building a catalog of titles that appeal to their fans. That means they are in a different type of business. Sure, they compete for some of the same customer dollars, but that doesn’t they are doing the same thing.

              You believe that authors and publishers have the same interests. You are wrong. The evidence that you are wrong is hiding in plain sight. The mental model you use to understand the world is blinding you to things that will affect you directly. The profitability of non-trade publishing is completely irrelevant to a novelist. The fact that the current ebook formats don’t work for certain types of content doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means that those parts of publishing are being supplanted by things you can’t even see. There are whole segments of the industry that have already disappeared and nobody in publishing seems to have noticed.

              Again, nobody buys books for the paper. They buy books for what is printed on the page. There are no new uses for books being created. Just the gradual replacement of the printed page by other forms.

              • William, you do have points about some of the ways in which a self-publisher differs from a publisher who doesn’t live inside the same head as the author. I agree with many of them.

                I’m not a writer. If I accidentally did imply that you’re as ignorant as you have clearly stated and assumed that I am, I apologize.

                But you’re twisting what I said, and turning it from an answer to one point or question, into meaning something entirely different than I meant. I don’t know why you want me to have said things that are as stupid as the ones you THINK I said. But whatever it is, and whyever, it is clear that I’m not going to be able to avoid insulting you.

                So, rather than try to discuss things so that both of us might learn something, I’ll wish you well and move on.

    • Marion is a $200/hr trad publishing consultant.

      Edit to add: http://gropenassoc.com/

      • Yep. She is here to market her business. No reason to take her comments too seriously. She knows very little about self-publishing.

        • If I were here to market to you folks, I’d be avoiding your prejudices, not trying to puncture them. Even ***I’m** not that bad a marketer. I’m bad, but I’m not that bad!

        • You’re right in one way. I know very little about those who are just starting in the self-publishing path. I avoid working with those whose sales are under $100,000 per year, and almost never accept a client whose sales are less than $50,000 per year, though, so the vast majority of self-publishers do face challenges that my clients have already surmounted.

          On the other hand, quite a few of those publishers are, indeed, self-publishers. I don’t distinguish between those whose authors live in their own head, and those whose authors are elsewhere. They’re all small publishers to me.

          • Then that begs the question of why you’re wasting your time on TPV is its audience isn’t your target demographic.

            • Good question. Short Answer: Principles and love of talking about books.

              I believe that many of the problems in the US today, and most of the problems between authors and publishers, come because we’re all listening only to people who agree with us, or shouting insults at those who disagree.

              I believe that I have an obligation to share information if I have it, with those who can use it. And to do so pro bono, to the extent that I can, with those who are unlikely to be able to (or to want to, in some cases) hire me. It’s sort of the same thing as shouting “Look out!” if you see someone heading towards a danger that they may not be seeing for themselves.

              I like talking about publishing, and books, and I had to miss BEA this year. So, I’m doing a little more on-line discussion this summer than I have over the past few decades.

              • Principles and love of talking about books.

                Translation: someone is paying you.

                Sorry, Marion, but I was an attorney for too long not to know principles = cash.

                I believe that I have an obligation to share information if I have it, with those who can use it. And to do so pro bono, to the extent that I can, with those who are unlikely to be able to (or to want to, in some cases) hire me.

                You’re missing the point of what we’re doing here. The regulars at TPV have been sharing information and experience free for over three years.

                By your own admission, you nothing about self-publishing. How can you help someone when you don’t even understand our business? Not trad publishing. OUR business. Why would anyone pay you $200/hr for knowledge you don’t have?

                …we’re all listening only to people who agree with us, or shouting insults at those who disagree.

                Yet, you waltz in here doing exactly what you say you’re against. You haven’t bothered to learn our reasoning for the positions we take, you belittle our experiences, and you expect us to take you seriously when you’re spouting the same platitudes that many of us have been hearing for years or even decades.

                I’m sorry you’re scared that your bread and butter is dying. But railing against people who have been screwed by the very system that pays you isn’t going to fix your situation.

                • I’m sorry that you see the world that way.

                  I’m not being paid to do this. As an ex-lawyer, I suspect you know better than to make allegations that you couldn’t possibly support.

                  I am sorry that you feel insulted by the fact that I disagree with you, or that I think that your fact set is incomplete.

                  I certainly am aware of how financially successful self-publishers operate now, as well as of how they operated when POD was the technique du jour, and before that. I don’t work with the beginners, so I’m not as aware of THAT part of self-publishing.

                • I don’t work with the beginners, so I’m not as aware of THAT part of self-publishing.

                  Wow, what a great way to make a good impression. 🙂

                  Despite all of the comments that you had made, I still don’t know what statement are you trying to make, besides the one where self-publishers should side with Hachette, presenting it as if doing that would have pressured Amazon to give self-publishers more favorable terms/to leave the same KDP terms.

                • You’re right, Elka, that was caustic and I apologize.

                  My points:

                  I think the book business would be a lot healthier if self-publishers and bigger houses both recognized when they had interests in common. Publishers are publishers, regardless of size.

                • I think the book business would be a lot healthier if self-publishers and bigger houses both recognized when they had interests in common. Publishers are publishers, regardless of size.

                  I don’t agree with your points.
                  Big pubs is not the same as small press and definitely not the same as self-publishers. We might sell books via the same e-retailers, but we operate in different environment and with different goals.
                  Regarding that via B&N big pubs get mostly what they want, where majority of self-publishers is artificially pushed down B&N bestseller list and that a lot of visibility tools that are available to big pubs are not available to self-publishers and small press, I have to say that self-publishers definitely don’t have their interests aligned with big pubs. If big pubs manage to get what they want, from the things that they were spouting last months, we can safely assume that it would harm self-publishers, not benefit them, and that it would push self-publishers and small press into inferior position.

                • Elka, you’re right that there are a lot of differences in goal, and opportunities for large and small publishers. I’ll have to think about your point that this means that they’re on different sides of the issue with respect to Amazon.

                  I would be interested in discussing the situation with B&N further, and your perception of how larger publishers are feeling the competition from lower-priced small press (including self-publishing) titles. But again, I’m not sure how far off topic it’s acceptable to go in these comments.

                • I find it fascinating that you in

                  how larger publishers are feeling the competition from lower-priced small press (including self-publishing) titles.

                  used lower-priced ad titles. You have been discussing things with big publishers, right? Do big pubs even regard small presses and self-publishers as competition, or are just annoyed about the prices, with which, on long term, they can’t compete because of their overhead?

                  I believe that what all publishers have in common is a problem of visibility, which big 5 have been solving by buying front tables and by enabling heavy discounts of print books. William has often pointed out that printed books in bookstores’ front tables are what drives people to big 5’s ebooks. I agree. Big 5 are good in marketing their ware to bookstores, but not to good in reaching readers directly. Because they can throw money at e-retailers they do have a certain advantage in e-market (pre-order button, adds, premium placement of B&N, probably on Kobo too, etc.) but that advantage is being canceled by low prices of small press and self-published books. It will be interesting to see if/how closing up of B&N stores would influence big 5 e-book sales.

          • Marion – I’m not trying to pile on here, but you could probably pick an author-commenter on The Passive Voice at random and have a good chance of finding an author whose ebook and POD sales are more than $50,000 per year.

            If you don’t understand that, you’re not well-connected with today’s indie publishing world. Serious indie authors almost always make more money than serious tradpub authors.

            • lol! – Sincerely, that’s very encouraging, but best not to pick me at random or otherwise. I’m one of the bottomlist, as are most (not all) of the writers I hear back from…

    • Your business model is not sustainable and soon you will need to find a new job.

      Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

      • Let’s take a look at Hachette’s own assessment of the costs it takes to get a book to market:

        Dammit, I can’t find the slide. However, it shows that Hachette amortizes all the development costs into the hardcover and pockets almost twice as much on each ebook after paying the author their pittance.

        (PG, I know you have the slides here on the blog somewhere.)

        Here are a few quotes from the investor brochure:

        Quote 01: “Publishers need size and muscle in order to keep control over relations with authors, over pricing and distribution.”

        Quote 02: “In this new environment, scale is important to maintain bargaining power in a context of increasing downstream concentration of retailers” sales and profits expected to be preserved for publishers, even improved, as long as tight control is kept on business models.”

        Signing authors is considered an “acquisition,” “As an example, acquisition of Donna Tartt, author of the Goldfinch, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.”

        AIS? I think it is TPIS (trad pub infatuation syndrome.) Writers who are all “I love my wonderful editor, I’d cover him in chocolate and eat him up if I could.” (Now, many editors are truly truly awesome and love their work and books. Others are using the company copier to send out as many resumes as they can.)

        I saw a lot of the same stuff with eBay. Gawd, the “I’M A POWERSELLER!” era was nauseating. And when eBay yanked the rug, the cheerleaders kept on cheering (“Don’t make eBay mad, what if they close, where will we sell our stuff!”) to the haters who wanted the corporation bankrupt. In that cauldron, the sprightly competitor Etsy was born.

        But the difference is if Amazon goes feral, writers can walk away. Ebooks won’t disappear, the ebook version of Etsy will appear.

        But I don’t see how keeping Hachette huge and firmly in control of authors and pricing will prevent any of that.

        • I hope, I really do, that you’re right about what will happen when Amazon starts to throw its weight around again.

          Until now, when they went after small presses and self-publishers, of course, nothing appeared to save them. But maybe it will next time.

          Until then, I’m nagging my clients to put a effort into pushing their books into as many alternate retail channels as they can, as long as the channel offers more revenue than the incremental cost of selling there.

          Because Amazon has history with self-publishers. And it’s very good, and then, with no warning, things change. Of course, none of that was ebooks, it was all print.

          • I hope, I really do, that you’re right about what will happen when Amazon starts to throw its weight around again.

            What do you mean, ‘again’?

            • They’ve gone after self-publishers in the past, although it has only been print self-publishers to date.

              They usually seem to go after the Big 5, one after the next. Then they go after the “exclusive to the trade” distributors who rep the small and mid-sized publishers (and who therefore sell their books to Amazon). And only then do they go after the self-publishers.

              I’ve seen a couple of iterations of this pattern, over the years.

              It COULD be coincidence.

              • Do you have anything like… I dunno… facts we could research and respond to? Your smoke is very scary though! I’m sure I’d be terrified if not for how rude you were up thread, leading me to believe it is only smoke.

                • Think about the vanishing “buy buttons” or the extension of delivery times on any other POD printer’s product that had a sales velocity above a certain level.

                  Lots of folks were following Aaron Shepard’s short discount plan, using LSI. Amazon forced them to move to CS, and to go from 20% discount to 40%. That’s a massive transfer of profit margin from the self-publisher to Amazon, and from LSI to CS/Amazon.

                  It followed another round of term “negotiations” that had the Big 5, and then the bigger distributors, forced to increase their discount rates by a couple of percent, or to increase their non-optional promotional services fees.

                  There were earlier moves, as well, but in this business anything more than a decade old may not be completely relevant.

                • Thank you for replying. I’ll think about your points and maybe dig into them a bit more so I have more context, but am not personally concerned at the moment.

      • Libby, sometimes I just want to hug you. Your husband would not appreciate it, as platonic as it would be, because I look like a creeper that was just released from the state pen.

        But seriously. You say in one easy sentence what I say in about 12,000 words.

  26. I just want to know why it’s necessary that those people who enjoy the benefits Amazon provides and disdain the practices of the publishers such as Hachette must perforce consider Amazon their friend.

    I don’t think Amazon’s my friend. I think they’re a corporation with the goal of making money. (Though in some ways they seem to be kind of laid-back about it, given their tendency to have profit numbers that make stock market analysts blanch.)

    That doesn’t mean I can’t be happy about what they’re doing.

    If I enjoy reading a book or watching a TV show or movie and rave about it, does it mean I think the authors or creators of that TV show or movie are my friends? They knew what I wanted to see and created it just to please me?

    If I’m happy it’s a cool day, perfect for getting out and bicycling, does that mean I think whoever controls the weather is my “friend” and was doing it to make me happy?

    Is there really anyone that solipsistic living in the real world today?

    Let’s get real here. I haven’t seen one self-publishing writer claim Amazon is their “friend.” Or even that Amazon wants what’s best for them. They’ve said that what Amazon does want seems to be in their own best interests, but that doesn’t speak to why Amazon is doing it.

    People can be happy about something without ascribing benevolent motives to it, you know.

    • The problem I see is not that authors are ascribing benevolent emotions to Amazon, nor even that they’re ascribing negative ones to large publishers.

      The problem is that they’re expecting Amazon to keep treating them the way it started when ebooks were launching. That’s not Amazon’s pattern from past types of self-publishing changes.

      The problem is that they’re not looking hard enough for alternatives that allow them to reach their readers without going through Amazon, so that WHEN (not if) Amazon repeats its past patterns they’ll be less damaged.

      Surely someone else here remembers when Amazon forced authors who printed through LSI and sold at a 20% discount to move to CS, and raise the discount to 40%?

      • Or the change in royalties for audiobooks through the ACX.

        So, yeah, it’s good business practice not to have one supplier be the dominant source of your income. That’s a good lesson for authors to learn.

        I remember back in the ’80s a computer disk drive manufacturer relied on IBM for most of its income. Then IBM switched suppliers and the company went bankrupt.

      • I don’t expect Amazon to keep treating me in any particular way. This is business. Things change all the time. If you don’t keep up with it, you’ll get run over. At this moment, Amazon’s interests are aligned with mine. But there’s no guarantee that will continue over time. I’m not blind to that. But what’s the alternative?

        At present, Amazon has given me a seat at the table, which was far from a certainty had I sought an agent and attempted to pursue a legacy deal. As my own publisher, I get to keep a larger percentage of each book sale and maintain creative control. I maintain full ownership over my intellectual property. In return I’m sacrificing — assuming I could get a legacy deal — paper distribution. Would I like to be able to have all those things? Absolutely. But I’m not going to cower in fear until I get them.

        I’m a very small business owner dealing exclusively with a very large corporation (and don’t think I’m not aware of that), not through any misguided sense of loyalty, but because right now, for me, KDP Select makes sense. It may not always, and it may not make sense for every book. I made this decision based on the information available to me, my understanding of the industry, and my short-term and long-term career and business goals.

        I think where the emotional response comes in for me is when I’m assumed to be so naive I could conflate a positive (for now) business relationship with a friendship. I’m a very logical, rational person. But I will get angry when someone automatically assumes I’m too stupid or emotional or inexperienced to make my own choices.

        I would love to have more alternatives. I wish like hell that people who are not comfortable with Amazon’s power in the market would spend their energy developing those alternatives rather than attacking Amazon and denigrating my choice to do business with them.

        • Laura, lots and lots of people are trying with everything they have to get alternative venues up and running. They’re failing, of course, but they’re trying.

          Obviously, you’re not aware of the several attempts that the large publishers have made with and without the co-operation of indie bookstores, and that others have made. Even B&N is failing.

          No one can argue that Amazon is very, very good at retailing. And at this point, competing with them requires such a large amount of working capital that no group of publishers could begin to compete.

          Remember: Amazon is far larger than all of the publishers, including self-publishing authors, in the US combined ($74 b vs. $28b).

          • No, actually I’m quite aware of these things. The big publisher initiatives are not alternatives of which I can avail myself, so they’re meaningless to me.

            I specifically chose NOT to list with Nook because I didn’t like the contract.

            I am also quite aware of Amazon’s market share. It’s why Amazon is my current retailer of choice.

            Please do not presume to know what I am or am not aware of. This the the attitude that gets under many self-published authors’ skin– the belief that we are incapable of understanding the industry in which we operate.

          • Ah, she trots out the big lie – competing with Amazon requires a large amount of working capital. That is only true if you have no imagination and take them on head-on. A smart competitor would do exactly what Bezos did in the ’90s. How much capital did Bezos start with? Far less than what the publishers could have put together then. Bezos fought on the battlefield of his choosing. He didn’t start by creating a publishing imprint. If you want to compete with Amazon, you need to be smart and agile. Look for areas where Amazon can’t or won’t compete.

            • Plus, she assumes that PUBLISHERS need to be the ones to do the competing.

              Girl, please. At this point it’s doubtful that anybody could pay me enough money to get me to put any portion of my books’ futures into the hands of publishers.

              When (not if) Amazon sees its competition emerge, it will be from a smart, agile, brainiac team of tech-heads who see a way to beat them at their admittedly difficult game. But a way to beat them will come along, and it won’t be publishers who figure it out. Publishers have spent decades proving they know jack-all about selling books to readers.

              Publishers — the Big Five, at least — are most likely going to go extinct. Their business model is not sustainable. It’ll be a tech startup that competes with Amazon, not those jackanapes in Manhattan who think the way to sell a book is by eating a $500 lunch.

              • No, she (I) assume that you are a publisher, too. If you’re a self-publishing author, that means you’re one of us now.

                Amazon is a RETAILER. They don’t do any of the functions of a publisher.

                So the startup that competes with Amazon is going to be another RETAILER, not a publisher. It’s not really a surprise that the desperation move that had publishers trying to start something like that failed. Not their core competency.

                And if you want to compete with Amazon, you’d better be able to handle and mine “Big Data” as well as they do — because that’s the minimum you’ll need.

                • Chris Armstrong

                  Marion – I want to compliment you for hanging in there.

                  Also, I really appreciate that you acknowledge here that Libbie is in fact in the publishing industry. Over on the original post, if there’s one thing you see over and over again, it’s people telling self-published authors that they know nothing about their own industry.

                  And in many cases, these professionals are speaking to some of the most accomplished publishers to appear in the last several years.

                • Authors may or may not know about publishing. Certainly very few publishers have seen any reason to open the doors and show them how things are done, or explain why, and there has never been enough extra time for such efforts.

                  Now, the fruits of that lack of communication are showing. Authors seem to think that after the ms is finished, someone pushes a button and out come books.

                  Of course, you CAN do push-button-publishing. But you don’t get books that sell as well as the author’s work deserves.

                  You get “Book Shaped Objects” which do wonderfully well to keep your warehouse shelves from taking off in a storm, but don’t move much further than that.

                • I guess that wasn’t really my point. I was (perhaps mistakenly) appreciating your acknowledgement that Libbie and others are in fact acting as publishers.

                  Many of the names you see here (hopefully one day mine too) are people that are building readerships, putting out quality work, marketing that work, and making a better living than one any capital-p publisher has been able to do.

                  And so, frankly, it makes me mad when I see any indication that they don’t know what they are doing. And I’m not saying that is what you’re doing. Only that I see a lot of that happening on the original post.

                  None of my business really – I’ll back away.

                • Okay, how is worrying that Amazon may do something evil in the future relevant to Hachette trying to leverage its size and, in its own words, “maintain and increase control of pricing?”

                  I have had this discussion with many and everyone just mutters, “I don’t like Amazon.”

                  And the trad writers (who Hachette calls “acquisitions”) are cheering for them to valiantly fight the fight against Amazon, thus protecting their right to a 17.5% royalty now and forever!

                  Amazon is not my friend any more than eBay is my friend. I can’t stand eBay. I loathe doing business with them. But, for the moment, they are the channel my customers are accustomed to using for my goods.

                • Chris: I do think that successful self-publishing authors have learned to be good publishers. I just think that a lot of successful authors aren’t always aware of what they don’t know. And some successful authors do very well, until one of those things that they didn’t know to ask about trips them.

                  I certainly respect authors’ skills as authors a very large amount, given my own lack in that area. And I respect those who are self-publishing even more. It’s not an easy road, no matter what the current zeitgeist would have you believe.

                • Terri: I don’t see any connection between what traditional publishers may or may not do for or to their authors and the current issue.

                  You’re not one of their authors. You don’t sound as if you will EVER sign as one of their authors. (And the term “acquisitions” is an old one, and doesn’t signify quite what you seem to think it does . . .)

                  So, how does that have anything to do with whether or not you, AS A FELLOW PUBLISHER, should be cheering for a bigger, more powerful publisher to get better terms for all publishers?

                  You’re not just an author anymore. And as a self-publishing author, you’re not going to mis-treat yourself.

                  So your ONLY dog in this fight is as a publisher.

                  Amazon is your retail partner, just exactly as it is Hachette’s.

                • Okay. I would add that, based on what many people are saying, the path of the self-publisher and the path of the traditionally published author are not frequently all that different – aside from the obvious discrepancy in payment.

                  I would not consider any of the things self-publishers do well to learn are exclusive to them.

                  Isn’t it true that the onus of promotion for the vast majority of published authors falls squarely on the shoulders of the author? In fact, they stand little or no chance of even being considered without a “platform” of their own building.

                  Moreover, the diligence of great editing and cover art are far from the rule for most authors. I go to bookstores and read heavily. I see the stacks of poorly edited, poorly packaged, and abysmally-selling traditional books.

                  My point, and I do have one, is that this group of people you see here contain some of the best. Just cruise back to that original block and look at how Hugh is being talked to and about. He’s just one example of a generous, hard-working writer who writes great books and knocks it out of the park. And even he gets treated like a dog getting into the garbage half the time.

                • Chris, I don’t know the community here, although I have bought, read and enjoyed many of Mr. Howey’s books. And I find his reports add materially to the discussion, although I find his analysis needs expansion and improvement in a number of ways.

                  But I do know the self-publishing community pretty well, having worked with successful self-publishers for years before the Kindle ebook revolution caught on.

                  And I’ve worked on books in traditional publishers that sold well over a million copies, on more than one occasion, and with thousands of active titles over my time in-house.

                  So, I’ve seen both sides with a certain depth. Yes, to self-publish WELL is harder than to be traditionally published, IMNHO.

                  This deep in the thread may not be the time to launch on a long digression about what I’ve seen work and not, and how. In any case, it would highjack someone else’s blog, and I don’t know how PG feels about that.

                  But I do this sort of pontification at the drop of a hat, so if you’re in any of the other venues where I’m active, feel free to kick off a thread on that topic.

                • Sorry, what?

                  “Of course, you CAN do push-button-publishing. But you don’t get books that sell as well as the author’s work deserves.”

                  So I think what you are saying is that “yes you can self publish, but…”

                  The “but” is that trad publishing is the only way that your book will sell well. That’s what you’re saying. You can self publish, but that won’t help you sell books. Only trad publishing will give you the polish and marketing and distribution that your book deserves.

                  Which is a nice sentiment, but I don’t know what Joe, and Hugh, and David, and Barry, and all those folks would say to that. They seem to have done pretty well pushing their own buttons.

                  Besides, with about half as much of the funding you say goes into trad publishing, I and all the other self pubbers here can buy, purchase, and obtain polish and marketing and distribution. Easy peasy.

                  I think that’s the problem in this discussion. Two sides of the table, and trad publishing can’t really see the forest for the trees – that the traditional way of doing things is true and viable for what it is, but the self publishing indies don’t DO it that way. We do it a new way, a different way. We look at it differently, we make different choices – we hire our own editors, and we push our own buttons. The distribution channels are completely different.

                  You can throw around acronyms like “PPB” (which I have no idea what that means) and expand on the necessity of “profit optimization” – but in the end, we’re not doing much more than writing a good story, and finding readers for that story.

                  It’s all about the story. And all around that? The way of getting that story out there is changing.

                  “Hi, I’m Christina, and I’m an AIS Sufferer.”

                  :::Group responds::: “Hi, Christina.”

                • Christina: Why would you think that self-publishers have to do the quick and cheap option when they publish? Some do, some don’t.

                  Some know how to do both, and choose which to employ for each project. Some don’t.

                  NONE of those categories are to be found exclusively or primarily in either the self-publishing OR the traditional publishing community.

                  There are “horses for courses” and almost every set of options is the best choice for some set of circumstances, manuscript, and goals.

                  To say that only one way works for every case is the grossest sort of over-generalization.

                • No, she (I) assume that you are a publisher, too. If you’re a self-publishing author, that means you’re one of us now.

                  You mean we’re all members of the cartel that exists primarily to restrict access to paper book distribution? Cool.

                  Amazon is a RETAILER. They don’t do any of the functions of a publisher.

                  Right. They aren’t gatekeepers; which is to say, they don’t have the delusion that their business consists chiefly of refusing to carry products.

                • Shhh… don’t let them know that books are NOT special snowflakes that should be protected by government intervention and only publishers can be the ones who decide which book is special and which is not.

                  Let them pretend to play gatekeeper for as long as they’re ignorant enough to keep pretending.

            • Shhh.


      • As far as I know, authors ARE using alternatives to Amazon to reach their readers already. Even though I make most of my sales on Amazon, I also have my books published to Kobo and Barnes and Noble. And I put my fist novel up on my own website through a shopping cart app that lets me sell them directly to readers. I have yet to catch up with putting my short stories on my site like that, but I plan to.

        So, I don’t know, I know I’m not the only one who publishes through multiple channels, so how are we not looking hard enough for alternatives?

        • I’m sure some are. But until any publisher’s sales are less than 1/3 through Amazon, you’re highly vulnerable to their tendency to unilateral term changes. Of course, they haven’t done that to ebook self-publishers and small presses yet. Only to those publishing in print.

          Somehow, I don’t find that incredibly comforting.

          • STOP saying anyone is vulnerable to Amazon other than your own panic-filled industry.

            YOU are vulnerable to Amazon because YOU and YOUR criminal pals see the writing on the wall. Amazon has bested you, and, the urine in your wounds is the fact that you no longer hold sway over the peasant writers in the kingdom. It’s like… a double-punch or something.

            Quit stating we are vulnerable to anything when you don’t know shit about shit.


            ^ That’s you. That’s what you sound like.

            PS if you begin each post with:

            “I represent a criminal cabal that was found guilty of collusion and price fixing”

            then I will start each post with:

            “Amazon might one day screw self-publishers! THE SKY IS FALLING! Maybe! It will one day! I promise!”


      • Where are you seeing any of those things? From authors who are new and don’t understand how self-publishing works? Or is this what’s coming from the traditional publishers and their mouthpieces? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

        Because the writers I read here, on kboards, and other writer forums I read, don’t believe that at all. We’re all very aware of the dangers of depending on someone else to care about our business. Most of us are on other retail sites, and those who are exclusive to Amazon do so only because it offers them the best ROI, and they know they can leave at the end of their 90 day contract if they’re in Select, or sooner if not.

        See, we’re not all naive, helpless innocents who need Big5 Daddy to hold our hands and help us through the horrors of publishing books.

        • That’s not my point. My point is that the Big 5 are fighting YOUR battle, as well as their own. As long as they can force Amazon not to shift the terms too radically on them, or at least keep Amazon’s attention focused on them, it’s likely that your terms won’t be changed too radically either.

          • The Big 5 are NOT fighting my battle. The Big 5 have shown over and over and over again that writers are at the very bottom of their priority list. To come here and try to tell this to writers who have many years experience dealing with tradpub’s insults, disrespect and contempt is offensive. Tradpub is fighting its own battle, and using writers as cannon fodder to do it.

          • Somehow, Marion, I’m not feeling the love from the Big 5. If the Big 5 is fighting my fight, are they willing to sign me to a print only deal for a set number of years? Are they willing to grant me final approval over text, cover, and title? Are they willing to provide me with clear accounting statements and the right to audit? Are they willing to forego non-compete clauses? What about agreeing to reasonable reversion clauses? Or better yet are they willing to accept an exclusive non-terminable license to print my works for a set number of years? Or will they want to retain the rights to my work for the life of the copyright? What about digital and audio rights?

            I apologize in advance for being crude, but please don’t pee on my head and tell me it’s raining. I can tell the difference.

            • To be fighting your battle doesn’t imply that you need to sign with them.

              You’re a publisher too, now. You’re in competition with other publishers, but the Big 5 are in competition with each other. So what? You’re all still publishers.

              The point is: Amazon tends to give everyone the same terms, with the changes starting with the Big 5 (because that’s where Amazon gets the biggest change in their margins, per negotiation), and proliferate down to the smaller presses — like you..

              You sound as if you’re still thinking as if you’re an author. And when you deal with Amazon directly, you’re doing it as a PUBLISHER.

              • Yes, you are correct. I am acting as a publisher. A publisher whose books are essentially denied paper distribution. A publisher whose books are routinely insulted by the denizens of the Big 5 as “crap.” A publisher who has been frozen out by the critical establishment. Just because I’m technically doing the same job doesn’t mean the Big 5 want me to succeed. In fact, from where I’m sitting they seem downright antagonistic, like they want me to fail. Because if I win, I provide one more example of how irrelevant they have become.

                And of course I’m still thinking like an author. I do that part of the job too, remember? You say it with such disdain. Yet, without authors, publishers don’t have a job. Remember? Maybe if the Big 5 occasionally thought like authors they wouldn’t now be frantically trying to stem the flow of defectors with one-sided contracts and ham-handed PR efforts.

                Really, you’re wasting your time trying to change my mind. But you have certainly confirmed my suspicions about the condescension felt by the Big 5 and their apologists toward me and my fellow author/publishers.

                • Laura, if you want paper distribution, it’s not hard for you to get it as a self-publisher. I don’t know what books you’re reading on the subject, but I know thousands of self-publishers who have been doing just that for years. And it has only gotten easier recently.

                  It IS, however, not all that inexpensive (depending upon how you go about it), and it’s higher risk.

                  I’m not saying it with disdain. It’s just that they’re not at all the same thing. And they’re not the same job. You do one, and then you do the other. You very rarely do both at the same time. And to try to do that is to make it harder to do either one well.

                • Publishing in paper, going the POD route, is not at all expensive, so I’m not sure where you can say that it’s “not at all inexpensive…and higher risk.”

                  I go through Create Space, because I’m an AIS sufferer. It cost me nothing. $00.0.

                  I also go through Ingram Spark, which costs me about $75.00. It would have cost me $45, but my original POD cover for Create Space fits differently on the thinner paper provided by Ingram Spark. So I had to go through the “order a proof copy” route twice.

                  I have no “book shaped objects” sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I don’t have returns or ripped off covers to worry about. My books are POD, which costs me about $75.00.

                  So, not expensive, and there’s no risk to me, either financially or emotionally.

                  I think when Laura said that her books were denied paper distribution, she meant that because her books were dismissed by the Big Five, or an agent of the Big 5, that she can’t get trad publishing paper distribution.

                  And that’s because the Big Five dismissed her books as “crap,” and that’s because her books about love, and life, and death, and magic don’t fit some predetermined slot that the Big Five has determined are acceptable and worthy.

                  Laura’s books are outside of the box, in fact, they are flying out of that box on clever and independent wings, and so, being so new and interesting, the Big Five don’t want her books.

                  Laura is entirely capable of getting her books into paperback; she is doing this already. Her books are available on Amazon, for Kindle, and in paperback – so I’m fairly confident she knows all about Create Space. Create Space is her POD distributor.

                  So, this is another example of how, Marion, you are viewing the world through Trad Publishing glasses. That’s your filter.

                  You read that Laura is “a publisher whose books are essentially denied paper distribution” and you assume that Laura is not distributing her own books in paperback, nor that she knows the first thing about it. And then you kindly inform her that she could of course, get her books into paper distribution, but of course it’s very expensive. And all this without really understanding that Laura has chosen the indie route because the Big Five have already told her (and me, and people like me) that their books don’t fit into a pre-determined marketing slot.

                  I get that the Big 5 Gotta Make Money. But their pre-determined slots are based on fear, fear that they don’t know what readers want so they have to play it safe.

                  Laura doesn’t have to play it safe, therefore, her books have more heart and more power than those “millions” of books you’ve helped get on the shelves in those big box stores.

                  The Big 5 have forgotten, long ere this, that books are the medium, and stories are the message.

                • I thought, perhaps wrongly, that Laura was talking about broader print distribution than you can get with a POD printing and still offer standard terms of trade to bricks and mortar retailers (bookstores or otherwise), and still offer a competitive list price.

                  Yes, you can do a print edition with POD printing either through a printer, or through a Pay to Publish operation (CS offers both).

                  And that’s not necessarily very expensive, depending upon your book’s commercial potential, your career strategy, and your goals. As above, there are different “best ways” for different sets of circumstances.

                • I should add, that self-publishers can get their books into the same distribution as a big publisher can. It costs them more or less the same amount as it costs that larger publisher.

                  I suspect Laura knows this already. Therefore, she has decided that it isn’t a good risk for her, given the way bookstores operate.

                  Ironically, given our conversation here, if that is true, then she has agreed with the acquisitions editors that thought they were not sure enough of the book’s profitability in that venue to risk investing in it.

                  That’s not a condemnation of her book, if she has chosen that way. It’s praise for her editorial objectivity. The fact that her books are selling well and profitably in other ways are also endorsements of her publishing judgment.

                  IF, and I don’t know that this is true, but IF it is true that her book is best suited to a low-investment, online-mainly sales strategy, that’s doesn’t in any way say that it’s less “good” than any other book. It means that you pick the best way to reach YOUR book’s market, and to make the most profit, long or short term, while fitting the rest of your situation.

                  Nor is anything above in any way an accusation that anyone is disrespecting anyone else, or that anyone is not good at his or her job, including the acquisitions editors in the big houses who (I gather from what you are saying) turned down the project.

                  It’s a matter of using the right tools for the right job. Nothing more than that, and carrying no more emotional freight than that either.

                • Christina, I’m hiring you to do my PR. I actually only have the one book at the moment and it’s not really flying anywhere, but thanks for the kind words and cheerleading.

                  Marion, what I was talking about with paper distribution were the things I’ve heard on this blog and others about how Barnes & Noble and many indie bookstores boycott Amazon imprints and Createspace POD books. In hindsight, I probably should have researched that one a little. But honestly that’s not that big of a deal. I published a high quality paperback mostly to use as a promotional tool. It gives me something to sign and something people can hand around. I sell them directly way cheaper than Amazon does and when I get around to it, I’ll look into selling them directly from my website. Just too many other chainsaws being juggled at the moment to deal with it.

                  And Marion, looking back through these threads, I can see that you’re trying to understand where we’re coming from and I appreciate that, I do. I can also see though, that you and the various indie authors you’ve interacted with, including me, are talking right past each other. It’s the difference in the two paradigms. You’re trying to apply your extensive experience in one paradigm to an opposing paradigm, which is never an easy place to be.

                  You state that your comments do not carry emotional freight. But you need to understand that many of the authors here have been very poorly treated in your paradigm, and feel nothing but relief to have found another way. There’s no way this discussion can be had right now without carrying some emotional baggage into it. From both sides. The needs of large publishers and the needs of indie author/publishers, in the current environment, are simply not aligned and to suggest otherwise just puts everyone’s hackles up.

                  To you, publishing is a huge, brick-and-mortar industry focused on producing a tangible, physical product. To me it’s a small home-based business focused on producing good stories and selling them, literally, to one reader at a time. That probably sounds really small-change to you, and it is, because you’re accustomed to thinking in terms of sales levels needed to support large companies, with extensive investments in equipment and employees, and relationships with a whole network of distributors, suppliers, printers, truckers, fulfillment centers etc. My business headquarters are located on my kitchen table. My most expensive piece of business equipment is my laptop and I keep all my recipes on it too. I’m thinking in terms of sales that make me enough money so I don’t have to go back to practicing law. Seriously that’s my entry level definition of success. Three meals a day, health insurance, and a roof over my head. If I never do better than that, I’ll still feel like I hit the jackpot. The difference in scale alone is so vast that it makes trying to apply the lessons from one business model to the other problematic to say the least.

                  I going to ask you to do something for me. Instead of hitting the reply button and trying to respond, just think about what I’ve said. Don’t reply, don’t react, don’t try to argue or justify it or analyze it. Just let it float around in the back of your head for a while. Picture me at my kitchen table plugging away and I’ll picture you in New York, helping much bigger fish swim in much bigger ponds. Maybe the only common ground we share at the moment is that both of our publishing paradigms are in flux. And that’s okay.

                • Laura, I love your cogent and gracious reply to Marion. You’ve got class.

          • I call BS.

            Hachette has one goal . . .

            To be the biggest badass on the block so it can swing its weight around, “control author relations,” continue to make the best “acquisitions” (especially poaching best-sellers) and maximizing control of ebook prices.

            I don’t see how any of that can stop Amazon from changing indie terms and I don’t see “pay our authors more” anywhere in the Hachette screed.

            • The fact is that ALL publishers (including you) in the US combined are about 1/3 the size of Amazon.

              Hachette’s goals are irrelevant. Hachette’s behavior to authors is irrelevant.

              Amazon gives all publishers (including you) roughly the same terms. If they open Hachette’s veins, yours will follow before long.

              You, as a PUBLISHER, are on the same side as Hachette here. Even though you’re going to behave differently to your authors, even though you’re a different company, and you’re in a slightly different “economically-defined class” with respect to anti-trust laws, etc. What happens to them will help define what happens to you.

              And they have a LOT more ability to fight against Amazon’s reduction of publisher profits than you do. So, you, as a publisher, want the bigger publishers to fight this battle well, because it will have an impact on what happens to your publishing operation in the future.

              • Amazon gives all publishers (including you) roughly the same terms. If they open Hachette’s veins, yours will follow before long.

                You mean, if they don’t grant Hachette the ability to dictate a retail price of $14.99 for an ebook and still receive 70 percent of that price, they’ll come along and deny it to us, too?

                You’ve got that exactly ass backwards, honey muffin. Hachette is demanding terms that Amazon does not grant to KDP authors or to anyone else. Since their existing contract has expired, Amazon is proposing to treat them the same way it treats us. But for Hachette, that’s not good enough, because they do not want ebooks to succeed in the marketplace. They have openly admitted as much.

                • They may change the 70% (regardless of what they’re saying about their current position), or they may increase the mandatory “promotional fees” that they charge. Or they may extort increased control over pricing decisions.

                  Whatever they do to the bigger houses, they have a target for increase in their share of the available profit margins from each set of negotiations.

                  So far, it SEEMS to be their pattern that they do the same thing to the smaller presses in sequence, after they figure out what targets they can squeeze out of the larger ones.

                  If I were to GUESS, and that’s all it is, they MIGHT be using these negotiations to figure out what a sustainable change in margin for all publishers might be. I suspect, and it’s only a suspicion, that their long-term strategy is to squeeze by turns, slowly enough that most different types of publishers can adapt without quite going out of business, and so that the new terms come to seem normal. But that they’re going to keep going until they hit the point where a lot of publishers go out of business, and a lot of self-publishers stop writing.

                  That’s when they’ll know that they’ve gotten all that they can get.

                • But that they’re going to keep going until they hit the point where a lot of publishers go out of business, and a lot of self-publishers stop writing.

                  Is the squeezing of every ounce of margin out of publishers worth diminishing the product stream that Amazon has to sell? Wouldn’t Amazon make more money by having more books to sell, make more customers happy by having more books to sell?

                • Amazon doesn’t make much money from books (no one ever does) compared to other product streams.

                  Amazon’s annual revenue is $74b. If you add all publishers in the States together, including self-publishers, the total is $28b. And only about 1/4 of that total is through Amazon.

                  That, taken with Bezos’ public comments, and negotiating strategies, suggests to me that Amazon doesn’t really need to care if a large portion of writers stop publishing, let alone whether or not much of the traditional publishing community vanishes.

                  Whether they’re right or not, is another question. But do I think that they think they need to worry about it? No, I don’t.

                • No, I’m well aware that books form a very small portion of Amazon’s revenues. I agree that Bezos need not worry about losing a swathe of titles. I merely question that he would see the reduction of titles as desirable when set against his stated desire to “delight the customer.”

                • Amazon wants content. If they drive off too many writers, tablet sales will slow down. Those tablets are Amazon storefronts.

                • or they may increase the mandatory “promotional fees” that they charge.

                  What fees are these? I’ve never paid one, and I’ve been selling through Amazon for two years now.

                • Amazon hasn’t extracted them from self-publishers yet, to the best of my knowledge. But they do demand them from larger publishers.

                  It’s a way of increasing their chunk of the sale, while still being able to claim that they offer 70% to publishers, and that publishers are ripping authors off.

                • “The sky is falling! Amazon is evil! They MIGHT do bad things to you!!! We must band together and fight the great evil! LISTEN TO ME! THE SKY IS FALLING! AMAZON WILL EAT YOUR INNARDS!!!”

                  Marion, how many times are you going to perform your Chicken Little routine to an audience who can think for themselves?

                • Yes, Tom. Thank you. This screed about what Amazon is “doing” to “other” publishers is getting tiresome. OMG, they’re offering the BIG publishers ONLY 70% if they price within an optimal range! ::gasp!:: WHAT will be next?! Death rays? Mind control?

          • My point is that the Big 5 are fighting YOUR battle, as well as their own. As long as they can force Amazon not to shift the terms too radically on them, or at least keep Amazon’s attention focused on them, it’s likely that your terms won’t be changed too radically either.

            Why do you believe that Amazon, if it wants to change the KDP terms would wait until after it forces big pubs to agree with their demands?
            I hear all this ‘Amazon is going to change the terms and eat authors alive so they can profit buhaha’ and yet, if Amazon wanted to do that, why haven’t they already done that? What is stopping Amazon from changing the KDP terms now? Why would they wait?

            • The terms aren’t ever going to be identical, but in the last few iterations of this pattern, that was true, too.

              This may be the first time Amazon has executed this maneuver with respect to ebook publishing, but it’s not a new pattern.

              First they grab margin from the Big 5 with a new set of demands for terms of trade, or mandatory fees, or some such. Then they do something fairly similar to the large, “exclusive to the trade” distributors through which the middling and smaller publishers deal with bookstores and Amazon, then they do something with the terms of the Advantage program and the terms that self-publishers have to give them.

              So, this time, it’s not print, but ebooks.

              Maybe it will work differently. But Amazon is in dire need of a shot to their bottom line. And ebooks offer a prime area in which they can operate without harming the bulk of their business (which is no longer books).

              • But Amazon is in dire need of a shot to their bottom line.

                This statement bears no resemblance to the facts. Amazon operate on narrow margins as a matter of deliberate strategy, and their methods of accounting for capital investment mean that sometimes their published bottom line dips into the red for a quarter or two even as their cash flow and revenue growth continue to be positive.

                • The sector analysts who have significant control over the cost of capital for a large corporation have hammered Amazon for missing the profit targets that the analysts decided that they should hit this quarter and last.

                  This could have significant impact on Amazon’s continuing expansion plans.

                • You said yourself, those targets were set by the analysts, not by Amazon.

                  I should say that Amazon, or any other business, has enough to do to carry out its own plans and meet its own targets, without worrying about meeting targets arbitrarily set by persons not involved in the business.

                  By the way, ‘sector analysts’ have NO control over the cost of anyone’s capital. That is set by old-fashioned supply and demand. And it’s a moot point when a business is capable of financing its own capital investments through net cash flow.

                  Amazon has had consistently strong positive cash flow from operations, negative cash flow from investments (because it is putting billions in cash into its own infrastructure in both new and continuing businesses), and at the moment is sitting on several billion dollars in cash – not an Apple-sized kitty, but more than enough for the scale of its operations and planned expansion. There was a big one-time hit to cash flow in Q1 ’14, when the company paid off close to $5 billion in accounts payable, but that was a non-recurring outlay which reduced total accounts payable by about a third.

                  In short, this is not a company that can be significantly damaged by a short-term hissy fit from the analysts.

          • Nope, sorry.

            Wearing my PUBLISHERS hat I view Hachette as my competition. I’m more than happy if somebody weakens or eliminates my competition.

            As a WRITER I’d rather swallow tapeworm eggs than sign my IP away with any large or medium publisher.

            • John, it’s a valid viewpoint. All publishers compete with each other. Or, in my POV, all books put out by all publishers compete with each other.

              But the terms offered to all publishers tend to be similar, although economically different classes may get some benefits from size.

              There’s no law that says that Amazon can’t take more out of self-publishers if it can’t force more out of the larger ones, but that hasn’t been the pattern in the past.

              On the other hand, I see very little recourse for the self-publishing author if Amazon does try a unilateral change as it recently did to smaller academic publishers (those who were on a short discount schedule).

      • No. Nobody is expecting that, except stupid people.

        The rest of us are making hay while the sun shines. And there is a whole lot of hay here. Way more than there ever was in the tradpub world.

        • That’s a very wise and rational POV.

          • And yet your ignorance shows through in every single post, Marion. I don’t think you know what wisdom really is. Because you’ve shown almost zero by coming to a community that knows every single trick, every lie, every single action and reaction that traditional publishing has or will try.

            It’s like you’re Jenny McCarthy trying to convince us that vaccines are the cause of your kid having autism.

            And we’re like the news organizations that not only disproved the whole ‘vaccines cause autism’ BS, we’re also the ones who exposed you for the fraud you are, because your kid DOESN’T EVEN HAVE AUTISM.

            So, Jenny, come back when you have some real proof/evidence/facts/stats to support your sky-is-falling / vaccines-cause-cancer-cannabalism nonsense.

  27. This morning an odd image popped into my head: Me sending Amazon a Valentine’s Day card that says, “May our business objectives continue to align.”

    I liked the juxtaposition of red and pink hearts (the perception people have of self-pub authors’ relationship with Amazon) and the serious business language (the actual relationship with Amazon).

  28. My friend transfers money into my account every month.

  29. Say, do you shop at Costco?

    — I know they have low prices and all, but stop and think. You don’t think that Costco is your friend, do you?

    True, their prices are way lower than my MLM distributorship, and they have better selection and even better service – it’s too bad about that time I wouldn’t accept a return on that broken TV – but Costco, they don’t CARE about you. They’re not your friend.

    They don’t care about shopping either, not like I do. My little living-room get-togethers are a community focal point, where like-minded individuals can gather around my curated catalog and make their buying choices together. I’ll even recommend products to you. You can’t get that service at Costco – if you go in there and ask them what to buy they’ll just give you a blank look.

    You really need to support me, because I’m on your side. Costco is a huge company and it’s only concerned with it’s profits. If I go under, Costco will be all that’s left and they’ll raise their prices to the moon. You’ll be screwed then, with nowhere to turn.

    It’s not all about the money. It’s about stuff, and nobody cares about stuff the way you do like I do. Costco isn’t your friend. Buy your stuff from me.

  30. “Like Amazon Derangement Syndrome, AIS sufferers have an irrational emotion towards Amazon”

    Today I learned that AE’s numbers gathered by a reliable method are irrational emotions.

  31. You know, for YEARS I’ve been seeing authors and agents compare traditional publishing deals to romantic relationships. Agents and editors are compared to girlfriends/boyfriends or spouses. Authors are urged to do everything in their power to keep the romance alive in these relationships, do nothing to make your partner fall out of love with you!!! Or so much of the advice to authors says. I don’t think I could imagine a more unhealthy way to treat a business relationship.

    On the other hand, I’ve never seen an indie author call Amazon a “friend” in the sense of “one attached to another by affection or esteem”. Though there are several definitions of “friend” and I think “one that is not hostile” and “one that favors or promotes something” might be perfectly appropriate. (Definitions from Merriam Webster)

  32. I kept thinking about this last night after going to bed. I thought through all my past employers and while it’s not quite the same thing, since Amazon doesn’t employ me, I do receive payment from them for work that I’ve done, and I realized Amazon has treated me better than all of my employers I ever had. Not that I’ve worked for bad employers, it’s just that I’m merely a cog in a wheel. No matter how hard I work for them, I will never earn six figures doing what my job unless I worked overtime every single week of the year. Even if I wanted to do that, it probably wouldn’t be allowed, so I’d have to take a second job at another hospital and get straight pay. The second I stopped working overtime, my pay would drop drastically. I like my job, but after 28 years, I’m beyond burned out.

    Is it any wonder that I feel gratitude that I was able to go to part-time due to the royalty split Amazon offers? And what’s more, the harder I work, the more I can earn, and the work isn’t physically exhausting–plus my work today can continue to pay me for years down the line. Stress is much less too as I’m not being paged to five units at one time with patients crashing and nurses who expect me to be in two places at once. Nope, I’m ‘working’ by sitting in a chair with earbuds in, and creating stories in my head to share with people. I can write when I want and stop when I want. I can binge write when the muse strikes, or take a day off to spend time with the family.

    Sure, Amazon could change their terms, but I’m no stranger to change. I’ve seen a lot of it in healthcare and none of it worked to my benefit. If Amazon does a 180, I’ll have to change my strategy. When hospitals where I worked went from good places to work to hellholes, I found a job at another hospital. If Amazon goes down the dark path, I’d bet something else will come along. That’s the way the internet has been the twenty years it’s been around. I’m adaptable.

    I only wish I could quit my day job entirely, but with continued writing, that’s a possibility that I never would have had before. So yes, these sites can mock me because I have AIS, but if this is an illness, I’ve never had so much fun being sick.

    • I’m keeping my fingers for you, M.P. Burn-out is not a good place to be.

      • Yes, please keep your fingers–you need them to type books! 😉

        As far as burnout, just going part-time a year and a half ago has helped a lot, and that wouldn’t have been possible without Amazon. I get longer stretches off now and when there is a busy day, more likely than not, I’m off the next day, so I can deal with the stress because I know I’m not back again the next day.

  33. There are people who work at Amazon who are my friends, just as there are people who work at my publisher who are friends. However, neither of those two corporations are my friends. They are corporations whose primary goal is to make money and serve their own interests. Sometimes these goals align with mine and it benefits us both. Sometimes these goals do not align with mine to my detriment.

    Whenever there is a shift in the way either of these corporations do business, I ask myself, “What’s in it for them?” and then I figure out if it’s to my advantage or detriment, both in the short term and the long term. Because I’m pretty sure neither corporation is going to do anything to benefit me unless it also benefits them (and that benefit to them can be monetary, market position, power, goodwill, etc).

    For example, traditional publishers have been tightening anti-comp clauses because they don’t want their authors indie pubbing and competing against them. What’s in it for them? less competition. Does it benefit me? No. So my best interest is to push back (which I did and got the terms changed).

    Another example: Amazon’s KU. What’s in it for them? The ability to compete with other subscription services, continued advancement of the way they deliver content, and a more stable, continual income in the form of subscription fees. Does it benefit me? In the short term, it can in the form of wider exposure and more tools to use to promote myself, but it may also mean a drop in what I earn per book. Furthermore, Amazon will get paid their subscription fee regardless of whether I ever get paid which is a shift in our business relationship.

    In the long term, the requirement to be Select could have the effect of drawing authors away from other platforms thus making those other distribution avenues weaker. Having strong alternatives for distribution benefits me as has been demonstrated not only by Amazon raising royalty rates from 35% to 70% when faced with competition from Apple, but also by Amazon dropping ACX royalties when faced with little competition.

    So my best interest is to use KU as a tool to build a readership, but to balance that with continuing to keep a healthy chunk of my catalogue on the other platforms so they remain strong and competitive.

    To respectfully disagree with PG, I don’t believe that we should make business decisions based on today. I think we should look at the history of our business and look to reasonable speculations of the future. We have a vibrant ebook market because indie authors looked past the traditional physical book dominated market of the time and foresaw a time when ebooks would be a vibrant market.

  34. I hope Amazon and Hachette settle soon because I think we need a new fake problem to polarize us.
    Let’s be clear when people compare Amazon to Publishers, not even fruit to fruit.
    Publishers pay to take control of the book you wrote. They work (or not) with distributors and receive a revenue share. Then they pay a royalty to the author as agreed.
    Amazon is a distributor (yes they have a publishing imprint, but that’s not the issue). They agree to make your product available to their customers and pay you a share of the revenue (not a royalty). That’s why you can take your books away from Amazon, they didn’t get the rights to the book.
    Now recess is over, let’s all get back to work.

  35. I hope Amazon and Hachette settle soon because I think we need a new fake problem to polarize us.

    Heh. I keep deciding that I will keep tabs on what is happening in the Hachette-Amazon dispute (want to stay informed), but leave the commenting to others. I’m weary of the dishonesty and bullying I see on the Hachette side and eager to reserve the energy my moral outrage takes for other pursuits.

    Then I get drawn in again. Gah!

  36. Whoa. I got a little upset here today. I’m sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party.

  37. Out of the string with Marion (there is no reply button at the bottom, so here we go here…), in my response to the Marion’s statement that Laura didn’t know about paper distribution, Marion states:

    “Ironically, given our conversation here, if that is true, then she has agreed with the acquisitions editors that thought they were not sure enough of the book’s profitability in that venue to risk investing in it.”

    Which is just about as rich as it is fatuous. I don’t mean to speak for Laura, but in defense of her about this. Laura, I think, most certainly did NOT agree with the publishing industry that her book wasn’t worth investing in.

    Indeed, she thought the exact opposite, that is why she went the self publishing route. She put her books together with care and passion, and put them out there to share with the world. She has invested a great deal in her books, both in time and effort and money.

    It just slays me that Marion twists the words in just the exact way as to be negative about it.

    Of course it isn’t a good risk for Laura to be in bookstores, given the way bookstores operate. This is true. But what Marion is missing (by about a million miles) is that Laura doesn’t NEED bookstores, at least not the brick and mortar ones. Laura is in the biggest online bookstore that there is: Amazon. Her books are sold all over the world. She has worldwide distribution. Laura took the time and effort and invested in herself by finding out what works for her and her novels. How is that, I ask you, the same as a Big 5 publisher telling her that her books were not worth the “risk” of investment?

    Good grief.

    • I was extrapolating “crap” from the wider negative responses to self-pubbed work. Actually I never thought they’d think it was crap, I just figured they’d look at my grumpy fifty year old urban fantasy action heroine and say “can’t you make her sixteen? Like Katniss?” At which point I’d have to punch somebody and it would just go downhill from there.

      Oh, what a tempest in a teapot I have wrought! Yikes. Seriously, I do have to go finish my second book now. Christina, again thank you for your staunch defense. Marion, please read the lengthy response I left for you in reply to Christina’s earlier response. It’s not grumpy. I promise. You’ve shown enormous fortitude by continuing to show up. I do believe you’re sincerely trying to be helpful but clashing paradigms are getting in the way. Please see above.

      • …my grumpy fifty year old urban fantasy action heroine…

        Now you’ve got my attention! And…DH just said that he enjoyed Impervious. Putting it on my TBR list. 😀

      • I know what you meant, Laura. : D

        I wish you all the best with your second book. There are those who say that second books are where the rubber meets the road, and it its harder.

        I would say that it’s also easier too, because you know where rough bumps in the road are.

      • Fist reply eaten. It contained very many clever things. Among them, a good luck on your second book, and something clever about how second books are much harder, but that I’m sure you’ll do great – flying out of the box like you do. : D

  38. Laura, thank you for a gracious response. You’re absolutely right about the emotional responses.

    Travis, most of the insults were in your interpretation of my words, and not in what I actually said. As were most of the inaccuracies and idiocies you THIINK I said.

    Christine: you’re missing my point by as much as you think I’m missing yours.

  39. One last comment:

    At no point in this discussion did I ever suggest that anyone should go with a traditional publisher or that they would gain anything from it. That’s ridiculous and irrelevant in the context of the thread.

    At no point did I ever suggest that traditional publishing was superior or more important than any flavor of self-publishing. Nor that self-publishers need to do things the way traditional publishers do. That would be idiotic, and I’m not.

    If you answered such things from me, you’re adding that meaning to what I said.

    Similarly, if you think I don’t respect you, your freelancers, or your approach to publishing, you’re expecting me to be that way, in defiance of who I actually am.

    The discussions of publishing, like those of politics and religion, are becoming very isolated, and we drive out those who have a different perspective, different assumptions, and access to different facts.

    When we only talk to like-minded people, when we only hear what we expect from people who disagree with us, groups turn inward, and become more and more intensely emotional, and see the “others” as more and more evil, and less and less worthy of respect or attention.

    That’s not a good thing.

    Maybe the next time someone with a different approach comments here, you will be a little less likely to hear something so radically different from what they’re actually saying. I hope so.

    Diversity of opinion is a good thing. IMNHO

    • Marion,

      You say that “if you think I don’t respect you, your freelancers, or your approach to publishing, you’re expecting me to be that way, in defiance of who I actually am.”

      I don’t know you or what you actually are. I have to make judgments based on you comments here. Here are some direct quotes from your opening volley here and how I read them.

      Authors who use KDP are acting as PUBLISHERS, not authors.

      By shouting the word “publishers”, you are conveying that you think this is an obvious fact being ignored in our discussion. Everyone here knows this and jumping into the discussion by shouting it is rude and shows contempt for the folks here. If that wasn’t your intention, that mistake is on you, not us.

      As far as Amazon’s dunce-worthy pronouncement on costs…

      Is that what you consider respectful? Amazon is a valuable business partner for many of the writers here. I would suggest to you that your argument would get a better reception if you showed why you consider something “dunce-worthy” before making such an emotional claim.

      I found your discussion of Amazon’s statement incomprehensible. I still do not understand it, even after engaging in an extended discussion with you. Because you didn’t quote the passages you referred to and the words you used to describe it aren’t in the statement itself, I wonder if you actually understood the claims that Amazon made. Amazon didn’t talk about the costs of paper books at all.

      When you call a statement “dunce-worthy” and your arguments are so disconnected from the content of that statement, you should expect to me to assume you have a lack of respect for the conversation.

      I know that the prevailing viewpoint in this community is…

      If you are making an honest attempt to join a conversation, it is always a mistake to start a sentence that way. You will prime people to expect a belittling insult. And how did you end that sentence?

      …to heap disdain and resentment upon all publishers as if they were monolithic and either evil or stupid or both.

      If you want to know the primary reason people assumed you don’t respect them, there it is. Go re-read the rest of your comment. Your tone was dismissive and insulting. I am not “reading that in”, it is in the words you used. You said the people here are blinded by their emotions, forgetting that Amazon “extorts”, and you implied that we are foolish.

      I participate in a lot of conversations on the internet. This is one of the most polite places around. It was the way you jumped into this conversation that primed people to assume you intended to disrupt the conversation. Your behavior looked to me like classic trolling. I responded a lot more politely than I would have in another forum.

      I agree with you that engaging the “other side” is a good thing. To do that effectively, you need to spend some time understanding their POV before jumping into the conversation. I would encourage you to hang around here, spend some time learning what the conversation here is about, and then re-join the discussion after you have a better idea what we are about here.

      • Nicely articulated, William. Thank you.

      • I do understand the viewpoint here. I don’t share all of it, but it’s clear and reasonable in context.

        My points were on two themes:
        — Amazon needs all publishers (including self-publishers) far less than we need them, and
        — Some of Amazon’s statements were misleading in ways that Amazon has cause to know are inaccurate.

        • But you’re ignorantly wrong, STILL.

          End of story.

          Amazon DOES NOT NEED PUBLISHERS. If they closed their book side down today, they’d still be in business. Some publishers, however, would instantly be out of business since they rely so heavily on Amazon.

          2. Which ‘some of’ Amazon’s statements were misleading in ways that Amazon has cause to know are inaccurate? Please, enlighten me with your ability to get everything wrong repeatedly even though this one time you might possibly maybe be right.

          (you won’t be, but hey, I need a good laugh this morning)

          • On point one, we agree — if by publishers you mean, as I do, self-publishers and traditional houses, both.

            On point two, everything I’ve said to explain that statement has been distorted into something radically different than I meant. Are you suggesting that I should try again?


  40. LOL! I left a comment over there and something called SkimWords automatically turned Barnes & Noble into a shopping link.
    It leads to Amazon…

  41. You know, I got a really bad case of AIS this morning. I was just working on an edit, and I didn’t have a temperature or anything. There were no warning signs, and then it hit me.

    Amazon paid money into my bank account, and I got this glowing feeling inside, followed by the knowledge that I could afford to do things, like go shopping.

    Then everything got crazy, and a monster shopping trip ensued, which was quite dangerous for my boyfriend, who not only had to survive impromptu shoe shopping but also nearly collapsed under the weight of carrying my opulent purchases all the way home.

    Now I’m feeling a bit tingly all over, and I’ll have to face the wrath of Mr Achy Arms for the rest of the night, but I’m sure it’ll wear off, and I’ll be back to my grumpy, normal self again tomorrow. It was a close call though, and it keeps recurring every single month.

    Do you think I should see a doctor about it?

  42. Since I can’t nest a comment any deeper where I need to, this is a reply to Marion Gropen’s comment (August 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm)

    It’s a way of increasing their chunk of the sale, while still being able to claim that they offer 70% to publishers, and that publishers are ripping authors off.

    So Amazon gets a promotional fee from big publishers, which is neither new nor news for book retailers, and somehow this invalidates their contractual publisher/retailer split AND makes a lie of some other statement? I’m going to assume you’re referring to suggesting a higher e-book cut for authors, since they’ve never actually used the term “ripping authors off.” That one’s yours.

    Your emotions around this subject are showing, but your logic is absent.

    • When Amazon declared that traditional publishers should pay authors half of the revenue from ebooks, the clear implication is that those publishers are ripping authors off.

      The paraphrase may be mine, but not only mine. I’ve heard authors, even here, using that exact phrase about traditional publishers’ contracts.

      My emotions on this issue are more apparent, because they’re not the prevailing ones here. In fact, some of the presumed emotions aren’t what I feel at all . . . .

      • You just aren’t going to let any of us get in the last word, are you?

      • Tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, Marion.

        Who knows what will happen?

        Maybe we’ll all be showered in pixie dust and get ponies this Christmas.

        I was supposed to fly out to see my Mom on Feb. 23rd this year. She decided to suddenly die on Feb. 16th. No warm cozies for me with my Mom. Only burying her cold dead body and dividing up her f-ing estate.

        We really don’t know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next.

        So let it go, Marion, and get back to your job.

        God knows I’m getting back to mine which includes writing, editing, publishing, marketing, etc.

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