The Petition To Paint Amazon As Underdog

Hugh Howey has a petition out for… well, I don’t know exactly what it’s for, except I think it’s like, an anti-boycott for Amazon? A love-fest for Amazon? I’m not sure.

You can find this petition here.

You have to get through a lot of text to get to what I suspect is the point of the piece:

You may be urged to boycott Amazon. But a call to boycott Amazon is unavoidably a call to boycott authors who can’t get their books into other stores. Boycotting Amazon is unavoidably a call for higher e-book prices. Boycotting Amazon is preventing us from reaching you. It is an end to our independence.

The best way to support Hachette’s authors is by showing Hachette where you prefer to get your books. Let Hachette know that you agree with Amazon that e-books should not cost more than paperbacks. Help us urge Hachette to stop hurting its own writers. Help us urge them to agree to reasonable terms with Amazon.

It is fitting that Independence Day is upon us. Amazon has done more to liberate readers and writers than any other entity since Johannes Gutenberg refined the movable type printing press. With the advent of e-books and the ability to ship paper books to your doorstep in record time and at affordable prices, Amazon is growing overall readership while liberating the voices of countless writers, adding to the diversity of literature. A large percentage of the e-books sold on Amazon are from independent authors. You have validated our decision to write and to publish. Don’t let the wealthiest of writers convince you to turn away.

We urge you to support the company that supports readers and authors. Amazon didn’t ask us to write this letter, or sign it. Amazon isn’t aware that we’re doing this. Because in the end, this isn’t about Amazon. It’s about you, the reader, and the changes you’ve helped bring about with your reading decisions. You are changing the world of books, and you are changing our lives as a result.

Below, you will see the names of writers who thank you for your support. This is only a bare fraction of the people you have touched. Happy Independence Day.

Signed, your authors.

At this point, I’m left to wonder if Independence Day is the new April Fool’s.

I don’t know exactly why Mega-Company Amazon needs a… petition of support? I like Amazon well enough, and as my publisher they’ve been aces. I don’t boycott them — but I also try to diversify my buying habits in the same way I try to diversify my reading and writing and publishing habits. But I also recognize that Amazon has received a lot of criticism for the way it does business (as have many big publishers, to be clear), and further, puts out an e-book environment where you do not really own your e-books. I’ve also read some contracts from Amazon that are bad or worse than some of the contracts you get from big publishers. This isn’t meant to suggest that Amazon is an Evil Monster (I note the laziness of that too-easy thinking here, in an earlier post one month ago today). It’s just meant to suggest –

Well, we don’t need a fucking petition to support them.

They’re not an underdog.

They’re not your savior.

This petition reads like they’re beatific saints descending from crepuscular rays to upend cornucopias of food atop the heads of the homeless. If I didn’t know who wrote it, I’d legit think it was straight-up satire.

I respect Hugh’s interest in supporting the environment that clearly supports him. But this is deeply, weirdly, head-scratchingly absurd. This is, what, a boycott against the boycott? A love letter to a company? I don’t even know. At this point I’m having trouble reading it as anything other than a missive from Bizarro-World.

Some quick thoughts on bits from the petition:

“Petition by: Your Writers.”

No. I don’t support petitions like this. You shouldn’t support a petition like this even as a self-published author. I will scream this in your ear as long as I can: diversify diversify diversify. Amazon is not your mother. It’s not your god. It’s a company. Does good things. Does bad things. *shakes head so hard blood comes out of ears*

“To Thank Our Readers”

Thanking readers is nowhere to be found in this petition.

It is a petition thanking Amazon.

Not even individual people at Amazon.

Just… Amazon. Like, the entity.

“By what is being reported in the media, it may seem like Amazon is restricting what readers can access. It may seem that they are marginalizing authors.”

They are. This is literally true. You might believe that this is a good move in the long run — and you could make an argument that supports Amazon in this, just as you could make one in reverse. But this is literally actually true, not like, spin by the Giant Publishing Machine.

“All the complaints about Amazon should be directed at Hachette.”

All of them? Including complaints about warehouse conditions? Hey, last week they fucked up an order of Transformers and sent it to — well, honestly, I dunno, but now I know who to send my complaints to. HEY HACHETTE: AMAZON’S PRIME SHIPPING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK LIKE THEY SAY IT DOES. ASSHOLES.

More seriously, some arguments have noted that Hachette has maybe earned this spanking from Amazon. Certainly some publishers have helped feed the beast that is Amazon and have done poorly by their authors. I agree with that. This is not really the way to achieve parity and to improve things, by my mileage.

“High e-book prices are not good for readers, and they aren’t good for writers.”

I agree. But isn’t this how the market works? They charge too much and… people don’t buy it, so they’re forced to be competitive? Hasn’t that already happened? Perhaps I’m being naive here.

“Amazon pays writers nearly six times what publishers pay us.”

Yes, and I am all for publishers paying authors more. But it’s also worth considering that Amazon is literally not your publisher. (I mean, they’re mine, but as Skyscape.) Amazon does very little for you except act as a receptacle for your book. Which might be genius. Which might be dogshit. They literally don’t care. It’s a socket and into it you can shove diamonds, candy, cat feces, bezoars, babies, whatever. The reason they don’t take a lot of that coin is because… they don’t do anything for you. Like edit. Market. Distribute physical copies. So on, so forth. Some authors want that, some don’t. The trick isn’t going ALL-IN with Amazon, the trick is demanding better from all publishers, all companies. The trick is to support authors, not corporations. People over corporate entities. (This feels particularly tone deaf considering the CORPORATIONS HAVE OPINIONS shift with Hobby Lobby. Petitions in sympathy of companies is cuckoo banana sundae.)

“Hachette is looking out for their own interests, not the interests of writers or readers.”

And Amazon is not Mother Theresa tending to lepers.

Like, I can’t –

I don’t even?

What is happening?

Listen.

Here’s how you thank Amazon:

Buy shit from them.

Here’s how you thank authors:

Buy their books.

Here’s how you don’t thank Amazon:

Buy elsewhere.

Here’s how authors thank readers:

Just, like, thank them. Thank them in person. Over email. Over the social media frequency. Offer deals when you can. Help get your books in their hands. Be awesome to them. Don’t write weird petitions to them that aren’t really to them at all.

You don’t aim your high-five for readers at Amazon.

Vote with your dollar. But please, seriously, don’t sign any weird petitions like this. Howey’s deservedly a bookworld superstar, so I suspect he’ll get all the signatures he needs — though for what effect, I have no idea, as this petition feels like a hollow stroke-job that accomplishes absolutely nothing except blowing a blush of hot, fragrant breath toward Amazon and away from authors and readers. This feels like shilling — uncomfortable, in-the-bag, straight-up-shilling.

My message to Hugh would be: I prefer it when you advocate for authors, not for companies. Hugh has been increasingly “all-in” with Amazon — and this is counter to how many authors have been successful with author-publishing. It doesn’t feel instructive. It feels deliberately cozy with the other side of Big Publishing. (And anybody who thinks Amazon isn’t just its own version of Big Publishing has lost their mind.) Like I said before: I’m happy with my experiences with Amazon. I agree they have changed the face of publishing, in many ways for the awesome, in some ways for the whoa what the fuck. They have been a wonderful publisher for my work. But — c’mon. C’mon.

C’MON.

Okay, this petition really is satire, right?

Yes? Maybe?

[note: it's been made clear this isn't Howey's petition so much as one he co-authored and is presently championing -- but it is reportedly the work of several self-published authors. I respectfully suggest that as a group they might want to get an editor, as this thing reads like it's about 3000 words too long.]

101 comments

  • It’s so, so, so, SO creepy. Amazon is *literally* the only place my book is available right now and the notion of thanking them would never enter my mind in a million years. When I sell books they make money too! Why the hell would I thank them for making money off something I wrote?

  • Not satire at all. The anti-competitive force in this industry has been a cartel of publishers who collude on price and on author royalties. The first bit of competition has been Amazon, and they are eating publishers’ lunches. I’m glad for it.

    I’m for readers and writers and those who facilitate them coming together. I respect that you disagree on who represents the latter part of this statement.

    As for it being my bias, I earned more from traditional publishing last year than from Amazon. Speaking out for readers and writers hurts my bottom line. I’m cool with that. I live a simple life and have been blessed with more than I deserve.

    • But you can just be happy about Amazon “eating publishers’ lunches” and not make a petition about it.

      Because that’s where this gets really goofy. Doubly goofy when it claims to be representative of authors in praise of readers, and it is absolutely nothing but.

      That’s why this reads like satire. Or, worse, corporate shilling.

    • I love ya, Hugh, really, but seeing an actual flesh-and-blood person publicly insist that other flesh-and-blood people put their names on a petition to thank a corporation for acting in its own self-interest skeeves me out on a really deep and fundamental level. Amazon is not your friend or your buddy. They’re not mine either.

      • Totally agreed. Amazon is not my friend. But they are helping a lot of my friends afford more books. They are helping a lot of my other friends earn money from their passion.

        Publishers are worse. They have hurt my friends who write, and they broke the law to punish my friends who read.

        I can’t abide all the misinformation being bandied about, and a lot of others agree. Chuck is presenting this as “my” petition, but it isn’t. It’s the work of a handful of writers. And hundreds of people (so far) seem to agree with its contents.

        I respect those who disagree, and I reserve the right to be wrong about all of this and change my mind.

        • ‘Chuck is presenting this as “my” petition, but it isn’t. It’s the work of a handful of writers. And hundreds of people (so far) seem to agree with its contents.’

          I’ll append the post to correct this, Hugh. — c.

    • I don’t believe there was ever any agreement that there was collusion on the part of big publishers with royalties. Yes, 25% of net became a defacto standard but there are plenty of exceptions at most publishing houses. Also, the digital lines from big publishers pay considerably more than the standard 25% of net receipts.

      Hugh, is your KDP contract exactly the same as everybody else’s who publishes with KDP or do you get some extra benefits?

  • I think people often forget that Amazon also sells EVERYTHING else under the sun – enabling them to undercut any other publishers who don’t have the sales of video games and toilet paper to subsidize their publishing efforts. They have the luxury of being able to sell items at a loss such as the Kindle Fire because their sales in other areas enable them to stay profitable.

    Publishers, SOLID publishers, only sell books. Thus their business plan is much different than Amazon.

    OTOH I can guess that Howey won’t be signing any contracts with Hachette in the near future. Or any other publishers, I’d wager… other than Amazon.

    :)

  • I confess I get really tired of a tendency in self-publishing to label Amazon as their publisher. I’m a self-publisher, and that makes me my publisher, thank you very much — Amazon is a distributor that I use, and a damned important one, but let’s not go giving them any more credit than that.

    I’m also really tired of self-publishers flinging the term “Amazon Derangement Syndrome” around, which I’m positive will happen as soon as they catch wind of people criticizing Hugh’s piece, which… yeah. It’s over the top. I’m too paranoid to believe ANY company can do no wrong, and we already have a great example of a popular company running roughshod over an industry — Microsoft in the 90s. It’s not like there’s no precedent for bad behavior.

    I mean if I am *forced* to choose between Hatchette and Amazon, I’ll choose Amazon, solely on the grounds that I get money from Amazon and not a damn thing from Hatchette. It’s a bottom line thing. But for God’s sake people should be allowed to worry about it.

    • Thanks for saying that. I don’t get why being self-published means no one is allowed to say Amazon is a business, sometimes with the attendant crappy business practices, not a God that needs to be thanked for creating a business. Just because lots of people are happy with a service doesn’t mean lots of people who are not don’t have a point. Microsoft sold countless PCs and no one made petitions to them or tried to cast their competitors as devils.

  • Totally agree. As I’ve said many times before, prior to the current book industry landscape, if a publisher came to a writer in the 1990s and said, “We’re going to make you a bestseller. You’re going to get 70% of revenue from every book. But, oh by the way, your book is only going to be available in WalMart stores across the country . . . ”

    The same writers who are signing Hugh’s petition would have hit the streets with pitchforks and knives. “How dare you contemplate limiting my book sales to only one bookstore.”

    And, yes, that’s exactly what Amazon exclusives do. You have a great fan who has made a legitimate, personal decision to read eBooks via Kobo, Nook, or iBooks. Oh well, shrug. They should get on board, abandon their personal decision re: eReader and buy my ebook from the only retailer I’m selling it through – Amazon.

    It makes no sense. To quote you Chuck, “Diversify, diversify, diversify.”

    Yes, Amazon is an innovative, free-thinking company, but it has been proven over and over and over and over and over again. Monopolies stifle innovation. Monopoly companies will not make decisions that stifle their steady incomes.

    Celebrate Amazon and all that they’ve done to empower reading and self-publishing, but diversify!!

  • Amazon is great for self pub authors, they make money from your books too, but when all the indie bookstores close the author signing opportunity goes too. You can publish with Amazon and still support local businesses.. Amazon doesn’t need more plugs like this, small businesses do!

  • I’m puzzled by his telling people not to trust “the wealthiest authors” and “multimillionaire authors” in this. Firstly, isn’t he one of those? Secondly, doesn’t implying that traditionally published authors supporting Hachette are all rich kind of undermine his anti-publisher, pro-amazon position (while simultaneously being entirely untrue)?

    Using that line of argument just makes him seem stupid, honestly.

    • Hugh isn’t stupid — a stupid guy doesn’t make the kind of money he makes. He’s a fine writer with the rare ability to self-edit. And he’s advocated for authors in the past, and I support that.

      But that doesn’t stop this from being — to my eyes, at least — a wild, wild miscalculation. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. It actually turns advocacy *away* from authors, I fear.

      • Yeah, sorry, I wanted to go back and edit my comment a little after posting that and deciding it was the wrong thing to say. There’s just so much about this petiion that seems off.

  • I wonder what religion amazon practices. You know, as a Corporate Person. Before I sign a petition, I need to know their beliefs. Hachette, according to what I hear on the internets, must be Mammonist, whereas amazon seems to include free love in its religious tenets.

  • It may actually have a tang of satire, in response to the article about the mega-authors’ letter to Bezos:

    Authors to have signed the letter include David Baldacci, Lee Child, Amanda Foreman, John Grisham, James Patterson [pictured], Anita Shreve, Scott Turow, Anne Applebaum, Clive Cussler, Richard North Patterson, and Simon Winchester. Preston told the Wall Street Journal he had received messages of support from a few hundred authors—the overwhelming majority of from authors not published by Hachette. Publishers Lunch reported that it now totalled (sic) more than 100 signatories.

    Because these guys know what the trenches are like these days.

    The article: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/child-grisham-patterson-amazon-protest.html?fb_action_ids=777897248899049&fb_action_types=og.comments

    I dunno. I saw some of this with eBay during the last great boot that came down on sellers’ necks. “We must thank eBay, we must not criticize eBay. What if eBay gets mad and closes down? What will become of us?”

    As always, you take the middle of the road approach and we appreciate that.

    • Yeah, and let me say that their letter is just as misguided and weird. Though at least there they’re operating out of some kind of anger because their books aren’t on-sale. (Which Amazon has the right to do, mind you, just as one has the right to go buy their books elsewhere. None of this is good for the authors, but their best best is not to spit in the eye of Amazon but rather to simply point their robust readership in the direction of other booksellers.)

      • I tend to feel like Hatchette is “saving me” from ebooks I can afford the same way my uber-conservative congressman tried to “save me” from health insurance I can afford (Yes, I got that mailer, posted through the government mailing office.)

        However, I’d like this petition much more and might even sign if it had gone over the edge into true satire. As it stands? Um . . . *looks at feet* *looks out window* OH! A SQUIRREL!

  • Amazon is a business. Indie authors are a business. They do business together. Entities in business act in their own self-interest. Period.

    Amazon is not your friend, but it is not your enemy either.

    I have gone over Amazon’s KDP contract with a fine tooth comb and posted a youtube video summarizing the key points authors need to know about it. Like, for instance, Amazon can change anything they want anytime they want.

    Diversify, diversify.

    • “Amazon can change anything they want anytime they want.”

      This is absolutely true, and also noteworthy inside their Kindle Worlds contracts:

      “11. Amendments to this Agreement. Kindle Worlds will grow and evolve over time. We reserve the right to amend this Agreement at any time, but we will not decrease the royalty rates set forth on the Royalty Table in Section 5(a) for your Work after it is submitted. We will give you notice of changes by posting new terms in place of the old. Unless we otherwise note at the time of posting, changes to this Agreement will be effective immediately upon posting.”

      Meaning, they can change the contract you signed (though not the royalties) and you just better like it because that shit is happening. You sign this contract, you sign all future changes to this contract good or bad.

      https://kindleworlds.amazon.com/faqs?topicId=A1MMH2I71OJWTR

      Which — hey, that’s their contract, that’s the bag. You know it up front.

      But it’s also not worthy of a petition in support.

      • For the record, their lawyers had to be asleep at the switch when they drafted that.

        The rule in contracts is that if one party is not bound, neither is the other, and as applied to terms & conditions, the “I can change these things at will and you can’t back out” has been held to mean that the person who signed isn’t bound to the things they signed.

        • The reason Amazon is free to change terms whenever they want and bind you to them is because when they make changes and you go to log on to your KPD (or other account), Amazon pops-up a little message that says, “We’ve changed our terms. If you would like to continue to your account, click this little box to accept the changes and continue using our service. If you don’t accept our terms, stop using our service and we’ll honor the agreement up to this point. But don’t use our service any more.” Or words to that effect.

          You click the little box and BOOM, you’ve accepted and you’re bound. Or you don’t and you’re not bound, but you can’t use KDP (or whatever) anymore.

          The click is the same as signing.

          That’s the power, legally used.

          Chuck is right about the royalties staying the same for previously agreed to terms. But they can change the royalties going forward on new submissions, if they want.

          • Every contract (quite a few) I’ve ever read has similar clauses. Many of them in my field are along the lines of “You have thirty days to dispute changes or amendments; if no notice of dispute is received, we will consider it agreement to the new terms,” and is followed by, “[party] has the right to terminate this contract if new amendment is not agreeable.”

  • Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Jesus H. Christ.

    Brown-nosing isn’t brave, it isn’t speaking up, it isn’t making you a valiant speaker of truth to power, it’s just…toadying. And wow, does this come off as toadying.

    I’m on Amazon cheerfully, and I wouldn’t sign a petition this smarmy in a million years.

  • I love this post so much. I have great respect for Hugh, but I really don’t understand what he’s been at lately showering Amazon with heaps of praise. While he’s not the only indie author publishing crazy pro-Amazon posts that ignore any bad things about them, he’s taken it to the next level with this ridiculous petition. I just hope he comes back down to earth soon because he’s a good guy who’s usually doing good work for indie authors.

  • Thank you thank you thank you. Howey’s man-on-Amazon love would be funny except that he and his sub-leaders are encouraging gullible, sometimes desperate writers to believe that there is a godlike publishing being that cares about them and will make their dreams come true. Meanwhile, a brigade of camp followers is selling those writers lots of amulets and snake oil.

  • You know what this kind of reminds me of? The Bolshevik Revolution. I mean, a passionate group of revolutionaries put out an ideology promising equality, fairness, and prosperity for all. The desperate, trampled masses naturally jump at it. Why shouldn’t they? But, as soon as the revolutionaries have done away with all competition and anyone else who can DO ANYTHING in opposition, they shove their big combat boots up the asses of all those who flocked to them. And the masses end, many would say, worse off than before.

    People need to realize that when you lay your throat bare for the hungry beast, sooner or later, it’s going to close its jaws on your jugular.

  • Count me as another author-publisher who thinks this petition is bizarre and disturbing (not to mention embarrassing for all of us self-publishers who don’t think this way).

    Amazon does not give me charity. I *pay* Amazon money from each sale for them to host my book on their servers.

    Amazon is also not my publisher. I am my publisher. Amazon is one of my retailers. An extremely important one, yes, but that doesn’t make me want to worship them; it makes me *scared.* Amazon is out for its own best interests, and if those best interests stop including me, it won’t blink an eye at running me over. As far as I’m concerned, the very best thing for me as an author-publisher is for Amazon to have a crap ton of competition. As much competition as possible.

    Look, Amazon has done some cool disruptive innovation that I think has been good for the book industry, but they’ve also done some really shady things that are bad for the book industry. Guess what? The common denominator for these things was that they were good for Amazon. It’s naive, strange, and frankly somewhat dangerous to assign them motives of altruism.

  • I’m sure Hugh Howey is a nice guy, but whenever he talks about Amazon and publishers, he makes self-publishing feel like a pyramid scheme. He treats traditional publishing vs self-publishing as a zero sum game in which Amazon can be the only winner and everyone who isn’t self-publishing through Amazon is a deluded ass-monkey allowing Big Publishing to treat them like crap.

    Let’s face it, he’s a shill for Amazon. Whether he knows it or not, he’s a shill. He has to be, Amazon pays his rent. But I can’t for the life of me figure out why he would advocate a writer giving all their power to one corporation. It’s ludicrous.

  • Corporations are out to make money, that is, or tends to be their only motivation.

    To me this big fight is two big corporations fighting one another for more money, or power which translates to more money.

    Readers and writers get housed during this process, cause that’s typically how it works.

    Amazon is not directly responsible for the rise in self publishing. They made themselves a conduit for the increasing dissatisfaction, and frustration of writers in the industry. This many wouldn’t have crossed over so quickly, including already established authors, because they were happy, fat, and content. Enough people were irritated that self publishing was going to be inevitable. Amazon is a future thinking company they realized this and jumped on it. Simple as that.

  • I’ve also found the petition to be bizarre. I use Amazon as a consumer more than a self-publishered writer. Ironically enough, a nice chunk of my purchases last year were for books published by Hachette’s Yen Press imprint.

    In blocking those books, Amazon has effectively lost buying power over the books I read. I know I’m only one person and hardly a big purchaser, so it’s not that big a deal, but now I’m reluctant to buy any books from them. As a consumer, I think it’s terrible that I can’t buy things off their site and I don’t want to be shopping for books at two different online stores.

    So while I’ll still use Amazon for other things (mostly my video game purchases), I’ve moved the bulk of my book buying elsewhere.

  • Hugh’s not rallying the troops to aid an underdog, he’s responding in kind to the absurdity of the petition by Preston which is in support of Hachette against Amazon. The core motivation for this petition has nothing to due with Amazon itself but in raising public (read: readers, as opposed to writers, who do not haunt the writer’s blogs like TPV, Konrath, you, and Hugh for instance) awareness about the role Amazon has played in supporting indie/self publishers — that is, a hit back at the massive anti-indie/self publishing campaign the legacy publishers are pushing out there through the voices of their heavy hitting authors. In that sense, it’s a very smart move.

    We’re talking a battle of the ‘zillas here, in which both petitions are simply interest statements designed to court both publicity and popular opinion. So it’s not misguided and weird – it was designed to become a meme, not actually *directly* benefit anyone like you or me or even Amazon.

    The issue of whether indies/self publishers NEED public opinion on our side in the same way publishers think they need support, well, that’s a valid question everyone here is too busy soap-boxing about basic business principles to actually address. Clearly Hugh thinks the answer is “yes,” hence the petition. I suspect the answer is “probably not.” But it would be an interesting discussion to have.

    • I haven’t noticed an anti-indie/self-publishing campaign, though if you look purely at blog posts, a lot of self-published authors seem to believe someone is out to get them anytime Amazon’s actions are questioned. What I have definitely noticed is an uptick on the internet activity that is anti-traditional publisher or anti-Amazon.

      The latest petition by established authors that Howey’s post seems to be in reply to does not mention anything but being against the appalling behaviour of stalling deliveries and lying to customers about why their orders aren’t being honoured. Not one word supports either traditional publishing or Amazon. What it does is ask Amazon to work out their issues with Hachette without shafting writers, or denying readers access to books so Amazon can put the sqeeze on Hachette. That’s another reason Mr. Howey’s petition feels wrong-headed to me. The first petition asks readers to write to Mr. Bezos and ask him to reconsider the arm-twisting of writers and readers if you agree. Howey’s petition asks you to…prove you like Amazon by signing? I like Amazon, but I don’t need to declare my allegiance to a corporation that couldn’t care less about me, and I don’t care who wrote it.

    • Both of these firms enter into non-disclosure agreements when they start negotiating terms. What I believe Hachette is trying to do is simply get the word out to people who aren’t in the industry necessarily that their books are available immediately from other places, other than Amazon. Most people don’t know that there’s any problem going on between the two of them and most won’t care unless they’re buying the Kindle ebook format. But Hachette needs to get the word out that the printed copies are available from other sources so that they don’t lose sales for their authors.

  • As someone who received a traditional royalty check and sold a buncha indie books on Amazon this week, I’m just sort of sitting back. Everything I know about the Hachette/Amazon negotiations is just speculation from a whole lot of sources.

  • I’m a self-published author, but all the tongue-bathing other indies have given Amazon has made me very uncomfortable. And the talk of how “well if Amazon tries to screw us over, then we’ll just go somewhere else” strikes me as incredibly naive and short-sighted.

    The authors on Hachette’s side are wrong. The authors on Amazon’s side are wrong. It’s not David vs. Goliath, it’s Alien vs. Predator.

  • What if I don’t care either way? I buy stuff (books! games! an XBox360!) on Amazon. I publish stuff there. I publish it everywhere, really. I am a publishing whore. Hachette means nothing to me. I read their authors, but if they were published by Penguin Random House or S&S I would still read them. The author matters. The artist. Not the publisher, no matter how ballyhooed they are in the literary circles, they do not make the art, they merely tidy it up a bit. And the store doesn’t matter, either. I’ll get Lee Child’s book at Wal-Mart or Target if I must. Or (gasp!) I will wait until they stock it at a used book store.

    This Amazon vs. Hachette thing is really just backroom stuff being aired publicly. None of it is nice. This is how business is done, dirty laundry and all. Well, I am sure there’s some stuff we still don’t see, but the point is that there has been so much public outcry, it has become silly, trite, and irritating. Like reality tv. Maybe we should get them on NBC next season with Howard Stern and Donald Trump as judges. Patterson can represent Hachette and Bezos can rep his own company. Let ‘em duke it out on national television.

    My point is that both petitions seem egotistical and self-serving. Both are addressed to the readers, but in the end, the readers are just being used. If I were a reader only and in no way connected to publishing, then I would be sorta put out. Or, rather, I would probably not care. The same thing would happen to that petition that happens to those 5′ x 10′ colorful political post cards that come in my mail: junked.

    • Hey, Chuck, I signed the petition (even though I agree it’s too love-lettery to Amazon, and loooong) because I think it’s a decently informative response to the far more disingenuous one authored by Preston.

      However, this: “Thanking readers is nowhere to be found in this petition.”

      You should try actually reading the first couple of paragraphs.

      • You’re absolutely right, the first several sentences are devoted to thanking the reader. Though the purpose of that and the connection to the actual letter are mysterious and without meaningful action.

        I mean, if you wanna thank readers, thank them, and then stop talking. Or offer them something.

        Because what this is feels a bit like a Trojan Horse. Looks like gratitude for readers, but is really gratitude for Amazon.

        – c.

  • Just want to point out, despite your comment to the contrary, readers ARE thanked, right at the start.

    “We owe you so much, and we are forever in your debt. Thank you for reading late into the night. Thank you for reading to your children. Thank you for missing that subway stop, for your word of mouth, your reviews, and your fan emails.

    Thank you for seeking our books in so many ways—through brick and mortar stores, online, and in libraries. Thank you for enjoying these stories in all their forms—as digital books, paper books, and audiobooks. ”

    If someone else has pointed this out, I apologize. I haven’t read all of the comments.

    Betsy

  • Hmm. Interesting. In a frowny-face kinda way.

    David Henley, Australian publishing/publicity dude/author had a bit to say about Amazon when I interviewed him recently; this might give a bit more balance to Hugh’s petition too http://www.darkmatterzine.com/david-henley/.

    I’m currently reading Sand by Hugh Howey because his current publisher – RANDOM HOUSE – asked me to review it. What happens when the next stoush is between Amazon and Random House?

  • The whole “petition” thing is annoying, yes, but it is a quick way to get a lot of us “indies” to sign without passing it around an email circle.

    This is a rebuttal to the Preston/King/Patterson drivel. In a petition format, a whole lot of us who disagree with their take can make our voices heard…and it is apparently working, as this is being reported widely in conjunction with the Preston whine.

    • Without action, though, those signatures don’t have a lot of value. They’re also touting the number of people signing it as if that has meaning, and really — sadly — it doesn’t. I could start a petition to get people to sign up to say how much they love the McRib, or think puppies are cute. It’s an empty gesture and a meaningless tally.

      • I think the petition had a lot of value in making the reporting about this issue much more balanced in the media. I noticed that after this petition came out and got some traction with signatures, the stories about the Amazon-Hachette dispute suddenly were reporting two sides to the story instead of just one.

  • As someone pointed out, the petition does thank readers….profusely. And the petition does not “thank” Amazon. Perhaps you could correct your post to remove your statements, “Thanking readers is nowhere to be found in this petition. It is a petition thanking Amazon.

  • I’m not anti-Hachette or pro-Amazon. I feel that Hachette and Amazon’s negotiation should have been done in privacy, without the media interference, just as B&N and S&S’s have been, despite that they lasted eight months and even though, the books of S&S were pulled out of the stores (while Hachette’s books are still available on Amazon, only pre-order buttons have been removed, the books are not discounted and the pbooks take a little longer to arrive to readers).

    Hachette’s authors have brought this negotiation out into the open and now Preston is with open letter demanding boycott of Amazon.

    Boycot of Amazon would have hurt financially a lot of authors and small-presses, and I feel it’s unfair that Hachette’s big authors are actively (with demanding for boycott of Amazon) trying to harm their fellow writers (whose majority of income is coming from Amazon), and trying to present their side as if they represent majority of authors.

    That’s the reason why I signed Hugh’s petition. I’m not on Hachette’s or Amazon’s side, but I’m certainty not on the side of Preston or Petterson, who are crying foul and trying to reduce the income of authors because of the loss of a few perks they had on Amazon. If I’m on anybody side, then I’m on the side of self-published authors, small-press-published authors and traditionally published authors, whose livelihood has because of Preston, Petterson and co.’s antic and the whole media mess being threatened. And I’m grateful to Hugh and Joe that they had put out that petition, so at least the public can see the other side of this mess.

    • The only thing more hyperbolic than the rhetoric from Preston and Patterson is the notion that any indie author’s livelihood will be threatened by whatever petition the trad-pubbed authors cook up. Maybe 10% of the Amazon users out there will sacrifice the convenience Amazon offers them in order to join Preston and Patterson’s boycott, and that’s a generous estimate. They might click the sign button on a Change.org petition, but they’re still going to shop at Amazon.

      And even if this boycott somehow materializes (which I sincerely doubt), then isn’t the line I hear from fellow indies all the time that, “oh, if things go south with Amazon, then we’ll just move to another platform. It’ll be no problem at all.” So why all the worry?

      • Boycott is already happening, just in a small scale. Just read the comments on Salon’ and Guardian’ articles on the Hachette vs Amazon. People are boycotting Amazon, not many of them, but the boycott has started even before Preston’s request. Now imagine that this one-sided Amazon bashing would continue, which it will (there are five of big pubs that have to negotiate with Amazon, Hachette just had a misfortune to be the first in line). With each new article where Preston and Petterson and other big authors will cry about evil Amazon, there will be more readers boycotting it. Amazon is a big company, with large varieties of products. It wouldn’t be hurt if people reduce their book buying, but authors would.

        Have you read the Saintcrow’s blog post after removal of the pre-order button, in which she worries about her livelihood? I believe that her fear is justified (and that’s something that for me doesn’t speak well for her publisher). Considering that and how flexible self-publishers are, I think that self-published authors are not the ones who are going be hit by any boycott the most; they are not tied down to a retailer as traditionally published authors are tied to their publishers, and via books’ back matter they are trying to connect with readers directly. It’s the traditionally published author and small press, that are going to feel the boycott the most (if it happens in large scale), including Hachette’s mid-lister.

        I’m not worried about the reduction of Amazon’s royalty rates, but I’m not putting all of my eggs into Amazon’s basket either. This is the same case. I’m not worried about readers boycotting Amazon, but I’m not going to side with people like Preston or Petterson, who in tries to hurt Amazon and to put pressure on it using public, are indirectly also trying to hurt their fellow writers. I’m not going to stand on the side line either, I prefer to support people who are trying to show the public the other side of the matter like Hugh’s petition is doing, so that public can form their own opinion.

        • “Just read the comments on Salon’ and Guardian’ articles on the Hachette vs Amazon.”

          Well, if someone in the comments section of an Internet article says it, then it must be true! Those guys never lie!

          • Of course people lie, they especially like to twist the facts, but I noticed that when they are expressing their opinion or outrage, they rarely lie. Just go, read the comments.

          • “Of course people lie, they especially like to twist the facts, but I noticed that when they are expressing their opinion or outrage, they rarely lie. Just go, read the comments.”

            I don’t have to read the comments, because nothing in those comments will tell me anything that isn’t either anecdotal or hyperbolic.

            People say they’ll boycott something, until they realize how convenient it is. I know people who still shop at Walmart despite years of saying that they’re going to start boycotting them every time a new story about their horrid treatment of workers comes out. Ditto for Amazon and treatment of their workers (which, by the way, seems like a far more worthy cause to take sides in than a slap-fight between two giant corporations).

            Do you know who might possibly boycott Amazon? People who don’t own one of Amazon’s devices. In other words, people who prefer print books, i.e. the people who probably won’t buy your book any way. People who have invested in a Kindle device will not be involved in any boycott, because they’re not about to throw out that device.

            Until you show me some hard sales numbers proving a boycott, then Internet chatter is just that—chatter.

          • If that’s how you feel, Percival, that’s how you feel, I didn’t post here to change yours or anybody’s mind. I came here to explain why I’m backing the petition and why this petition even though it is in its core pro-Amazon, for me this petition is about backing authors and readers.

          • Sorry, the: “for some is missing”: why this petition even though for some it is in its core pro-Amazon, for me this petition is about backing authors and readers.

    • The books would take a little longer to arrive? One to two month delivery for a lot of them. A lot of readers want their books right away from their favorite authors. There was no way to keep that part of the negotiations private just as there was no way when they removed preorder buttons.

      • It’s interesting how you think that the negotiations couldn’t stay private just because Amazon removed pre-order button, but B&N negotiations with S&S managed to stay private even though they stopped selling S&S books. For me pulling the books is much worse that removing a preorder button, and yet, Mr. Preston didn’t write any open letters addressed to B&N, and there were not public outcries, and a S&S author who did wrote a blog about it, was requested by S&S to delete the blog post.
        Can you link me an example that delivery of Hachette’s books is one to two months, please.

        • There have been numerous articles about the delays on Hachette print books. Almost every article mentions it and even the article from Amazon says if they agreed to terms they would get back to normal ordering. Removing preorders which are a key element for building buzz on a book for all publishers is a tell tale sign that there was a negotiation problem. You just don’t take them away without causing notice to the publisher, the public and authors. Why are you even bothering to compare this to the B&N issues….one has nothing to do with the other.

          • The articles that I read mentioned two to three weeks, not a month to two months, which is really a long time to deliver book, that’s why I asked for the link, which you seem unable to provide.

            I’m comparing this to the B&N issues because in both cases we have publisher-retailer negotiations. B&N put pressure on the publisher by removing publishers book from its bookstores, while Amazon put the pressure on the publisher by removing preorders and with stocking less books in their warehouses; and yet, the first negotiation passed by without media mess, while the other didn’t.

  • You had the temerity to question the self-published posse and Amazon apologists, and now Konrath has stirred. Be very careful . . . you’re not allowed to question their version of the current state of book publishing, reading, and literary life in general.

    • I would read the Konrath post if I thought it was simply attacking my arguments, but I glanced at the first line and saw that it was attacking me directly, which is the worst kind of amateur polemic.

      That said, I don’t have an issue with self-published authors (being one myself), but the self-righteousness put forth by a the noisiest minority in that crowd grows a little weary. To them, any criticism is tantamount to treachery. Or heresy.

      *shrug*

      So it goes!

      • Agreed. I’ve self-published and used Amazon, as well as Nook, Apple, Kobo, etc. I think Amazon – and others – have created huge publishing opportunities. But, to glorify Amazon in all things, and demonize NYC publishing houses, it just bizarre and self-defeating.

        There’s a good reason NYC publishers haven’t opened the floodgates to self-published crapola over the years, they would have gone out of business, and they are in business – to publish good, readable books and make money in the process.

        There is a lot of not-very-well-disguised, self-publisher vitriol that boils down to, “You NYC publishers and literary agents never gave my warmed-over legal thriller a chance, and I’m pissed, and Jeff Bezos’ finally gave me the tools to foist my poorly thought-out, poorly written novel onto the world, so to hell with you guys!”

      • I’m kind of surprised at this (or possibly misunderstanding what you wrote). You make a detailed assessment of a letter someone else put forth regarding a topic you are consistently vocal about. One of the parties who helped create that letter addresses your assessment point by point, and you didn’t read it?

        • @Scott —

          I’m not actually obliged to read Konrath’s post. (I’ll admit, I read the first line. “Chuck seems to be having some problems understanding several things that are easily understandable. So, being a helpful guy, I’ll take a few minutes to explain things to them.” Which is insulting, and further, contains an error. That told me what I needed to know about what was to come.) His “fisking” posts are nearly always unreadable — long, poorly-written, and frequently mean. They’ll drum up hornets and hate mail. Is there some Internet Law I’m violating here by not reading his blog? If there is, I’m not aware of it. I did poke into the comments, and found there further unpleasantness.

          Konrath is for me a “do not read.”

          So, that policy remains, even when he’s “fisking” me.

          – c.

          • July 5, 2014 at 2:19 PM //

            I’m with you 100% on Konrath. He’s long-winded, gratuitously nasty, and full of himself. He’s the only person I’ve identified so far whose comments — if any more come — are deleted without being read at my blog. He is insufferable. Your post and comments are great and sensible, Chuck.

  • No need for the “Internet Law” rhetoric. As I said, I’m just surprised. You open the conversation with a post that attacks their letter point by point, then make a choice to not see what is said in defense of your attack by one of the letter’s creators. Not some random dude hatin’ on you for being All Chuck, All The Time, but one of the people who made it.

    I’m not saying you’ll agree with what he’s saying by any stretch, or even that you’d address what he said. When I attack someone’s position, I expect them to defend it, and I listen to that defense to see if there is a dialogue to be had (or at least to see if I’ve made any factually incorrect claims).

    However, you have far more experience in posting about various issues than I do. I’m sure that experience shapes one’s process, policies and reactions.

    I see that both Konrath and Howey have come to your site and there is a (mostly) civil conversation afoot. Interesting reading.

    • Apologies for sounding snarky — it’s just, look at it this way. Reading his site will do one thing: probably worsen my weekend. Maybe not by much, maybe no more than a quick splinter in the thumb. But that still doesn’t mean I want to take a splinter and jam it into my thumb-meat. I know where this path goes; I’ve been down it before. I might’ve gone through the whole post if I thought it was civil, but the first line was bad, the comments section is nasty, so, having looked at the bread I’m making peace with not checking out the rotten meat in that particular sandwich.

    • The difference is that Chuck only attacked the content of the letter and still illustrated his respect for Hugh both in the original post and in the comments. Konrath went straight for the ad hominem attacks by insulting Chuck’s intelligence.

  • Thomas & Mercer hold the rights to three of my books, and I have a few self published items on Amazon. When I get my royalty statements and payments and emails and such, they come under the umbrella of Amazon… so I think it’s easy to start thinking of Amazon as my publisher. To me, it was like saying I was published by Dorchester instead of Leisure Fiction.

    They do promote my books, and I do see significant increases in royalties when they do.

    While the petition may be problematic, and unclear, my thought was that the idea was to show that there was support against Hachette, although it was framed more as pro Amazon. I don’t know. I feel there’s been so much spin on this whole thing that the best sense you can get is still not entirely accurate.

    I’m published by Thomas & Mercer, but you won’t find my books in bookstores. I’m not starting a petition. I knew the lay of the land when I signed. When Hachette authors signed with them, they weren’t given promises about sales through Amazon or any other vendor, or about the prices of the books sold. I’ve seen it asserted by some that Amazon sales are a small portion of all sales overall. If so, then happily support Hachette in not doing business through Amazon. Done. Problem solved.

    But if people are encouraging consumers to boycott Amazon, then in effect, Hachette authors are doing to me exactly what they complain Amazon is doing to them. They’re trying to keep people from shopping at the primary vendor for my books. I could sit here and consider all day why it’s okay for them to do that to me (and others) but not okay for Amazon to not agree to Hachette’s terms.

    Who is right and who is wrong is a moot point now. This puts people on sides, but none of us are on the side of angels. And I doubt I’ll be back ’round to see further commentary or have anything further to do with this topic, because it’s a pointless argument.

    I just think that if Hachette authors really support Hachette, then they should support them in withdrawing their books from Amazon. Don’t like Amazon, don’t do business with them. It’s really that simple.

    No, I don’t send thank you cards to Amazon. But I do appreciate how their ability to sell books has brought me new readers, and in turn, revenue.

    • I believe there is a difference with books published by Amazon. First of all the print books are done primarily by print on demand and accounts don’t generally order print on demand books unless it’s a special order requested by a customer. Secondly when you signed with an Amazon publishing division, you knew that your books would not be carried by other retailers.
      To say if Hachette authors should support Hachette and ask them to take their books off of Amazon is ludicrous. You don’t remove your books from the largest retailer in books. These authors and the publisher are still trying to sell books. Where did you ever see that Amazon sales are a small portion of all sales. It was said that Hachette is probably a small portion of OVERALL sales at Amazon.

  • I realize that, to many, “corporation” is a dirty word. So many negative connotations have attached themselves to the idea. But “people” make up corporations. Corporations are assemblages of individuals with a common economic goal, and, as such, have brought a lot of wonderful things, even ideas, even amazing stories, into existence. Depending on your view of human nature, most are well-meaning, with no interest in dominating, subjugating, or ripping anyone off. It follows that, insofar as publishing a book in the US requires the concerted effort of many people, publishers are corporations. They’re not good or bad, ipso facto, but they are what they are.

  • This is your first blog that I’ve read. Loved the sarcasm and wit.
    I don’t know where Hachette ever said that they want ebook prices to be higher than print prices by the way.

    Steven Zacharius
    CEO
    Kensington Publishing Corp.

  • So much for it being Hachette’s fault that they weren’t shipping books on time to Amazon. The WSJ and NYT reported that Amazon would return things to normal, including normal shipping times and discounts if Hachette would agree to give 100% of all sales to the authors while they’re negotiating. I’m not commenting on the offer because I think it’s ludicrous, but the fact that they admitted that they were delaying orders on Hachette titles.

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