Discussion: Why Is Self-Publishing Trying To Save The Big Five?

The subject is the question.


Why are indie publishers invested in Amazon vs. Hachette?

If the overall message has been that Big Publishing is an extinct model, why save it?

If indie advantage is often driven by the sluggish and poor pricing and bad contracts found in the Big Five, what’s the value in trying to urge them to better terms?

Do they care about an overall authorial ecosystem even though this runs the risk of harming their own profits? David Gaughran just suggested that many self-publishers desire to go hybrid, but first want a healthier environment to do so. Or are they just defending the realm of Amazon as knights to protect territory? Are they looking for a chance to ding publishers? Are they driven by a sense of rejection and anger? Is this just an opportunity to be heard, to confirm their presence at the table? Why don’t they see this as an opportunity to improve their overall terms with Amazon, instead? What’s the larger game, here, for author-publishers — or, is there one? Is this just the right thing to do, or is there an agenda at work?

This interests me because I can’t quite suss it out.

As always: be polite, folks. Thanks!

65 responses to “Discussion: Why Is Self-Publishing Trying To Save The Big Five?”

  1. Just a quick thought. I think it may be many factors but I wonder if in their gut they know having the Big 5 around to balance Amazon out is what is stopping Amazon from holding all the cards.

    • Amen to that. Everyone knows that a monopoly is a bad thing. If the big 5 are all that stands between Amazon and world domination then I’ll support them. If Amazon is all that stands between the big 5 and world domination, I’ll support them too. Yin and yang. There is no light without darkness. (bloody hell I sound like Yoda, sorry) but what I mean is that there has to be balance and without one or the other, there is none.



  2. I’d say it’s because a lot of them still dream of the legitimacy of the traditional publishing world, and the economic help it can give, but don’t like the system as it currently is (or any system at all, for that matter!). The new world order is about being able to put yourself out there, not about “gatekeepers”. Unfortunately, it’s not always about being paid…

  3. I’m not invested in the argument out of a concern for either company. But it’s important to understand the ecosystem I’ll be stepping into and this seems like it will determine part of the direction of all ebook publishing in general (trade or self). I think both companies are fighting so hard because there’s going to be LOTS of ripples.

    I also care because it seems to be screwing over readers and authors both.

    • Both Amazon and Hachette (division of the Lagardère Group) are corporate businesses with shareholders. It is my understanding a CEO and his/her employees are legally obliged to create as much profit as possible for those shareholders, by whatever means are available. At the negotiating table, both businesses are attempting to obtain the best contract possible to fulfill their obligations. Authors and readers (aka manufacturers and customers) are incidental.

      It does appear to me, however, that Amazon has a better understanding of the needs of authors and readers through contracts and sales, which in turn serves their shareholders, making as much profit as possible through choice and price.

  4. As it has always been, the bottom line is readership. Who are the readers, and how do you make them buy, read and enjoy your book?

    The Big Five are assumed to be like the major leagues in baseball. Those who are published by a Big Five company have “made it to the show,” sort of like the book MONEYBALL.

    The reality now is that all authors have the burden to promote their own writing–even the Big Fives don’t do that well unless you are already a major league writer with a killer curve ball and a bionic arm.

    If you create, you must also sell. So be creative about selling, too.

    And there’s my little two cents of one chapbook and one unfinished novel sitting next to a pile of bestseller royalty coinage.

  5. I think there is a certain amount of pleasure to be taken in seeing the big guys take a beating for a change, but many forget that Amazon are also big guys. I don’t see it’s in the interests of indie publishers that Amazon force major publisher prices down, quite the opposite, in fact. If anything I’d like Amazon to be more flexible. The 30/70 split in favour of writer-publishers seems reasonable to me, and I don’t see why Amazon feel entitled to set price limits for this rate. That is the kind of decision that should be left to the publisher, not the seller.

  6. I have nothing wise or intelligent to say on this subject, but I would like to say that Mr. Wendig, between you and a conversation I recently had with a self published author, I have been inspired to pursue self publishing instead of the traditional route for my current novel. Thank you for helping us all see the light.

    – longtime fan 🙂

  7. I haven’t done any author-publishing yet, so this is very speculative. I’d tend to agree with the folks who suspect that many author-publishers would like to have at least one traditional deal – there are parts of the market that author-publishing still cannot reach, or cannot reach with nearly the effectiveness as traditional publishing can. Therefore, author-publishers who want to reach the widest possible audience and know the business see the advantage in wanting the Big Five to be a viable model.

    On the other side, I imagine that there are some bitter author-publishers who would be happy to see Amazon cast down the whole of the Big Five and rule the industry. I could especially see this from author-publishers who have done well in the Amazon ecosystem and see no downsides to it.

  8. I don’t think Big Publishing as a whole is an extinct model. It has its definite advantages, especially for those who don’t want to or don’t have the ability to publish their books themselves. I love self-publishing, but that’s because I like being a publisher. I don’t want to just write my books. I want to edit them, create the covers (or more often than not, hire out for the covers and have direct input in what they become), and yes, I even love formatting. In fact, that might be my favorite part. Taking the boring file and making it look pretty. I love doing it all, so that’s why I self-publish. Many people don’t like that stuff, so they need publishers to help them out. The main issue I have with the Big Five, and most other tradpubs, is that the contracts are often not all that fair to the writer. I think David Gaughran was pretty spot on. Not all writers are completely selfish. Many want the best for their fellows and want as many people as possible to thrive, in whatever arena they choose to play in. I wouldn’t be against a contract, but right now, I don’t see any publisher offering to do anything for me that I can’t already do myself (and make more at).

    I personally don’t think big publishing will become extinct. I think eventually new captains will take the helm and they’ll all get that big ship pointed in the right direction, where the authors are important again. They’re already starting to head that way, it’s just taking a lot of time, what with it being so massive and all. It’ll happen, eventually. We’re just so used to instantaneous results in this day and age that right now it feels like it will never come.

    • This sums up in a succinct way how I feel on the topic. It isn’t that big publishing has no usefulness to the self-publishing author or that they wish them gone, but that they, personally, love the freedom of self-publishing. I would like to see the big publishers adapt to authors more than they have, rethink contracts, and focus on modern methods of distribution and pricing. It would be fantastic if one of the big named publishers decided to wade into self-publishing and create resources for authors – they could make money while promoting free expression.

  9. Cannot wait for the responses. This is an area where I don’t fully grasp everything that is being hurled about. Seriously some of the things I have read seemed to have been slung with a Trebuchet.

    Being new to the game I have been feverishly trying to gain a better understanding of it all.

  10. I’ll have to think about this question more, and read more responses here for a fuller picture, but my knee-jerk reaction is there seems to be a bit of a sense of relative superiority in at least some of the arguing of some of the self-publishers. They have a model that works for them, and a level of understanding based off observation or personal experience, and combine those to suggest publishers don’t understand the new marketplace and are making a bad decision.
    Which isn’t to say they might not be right (to a degree). In this narrow case of whether publishers are making a smart decision pricing above what Amazon suggests is the most effective price for eBooks, it feels like more of an opportunity to tout how much more they “know” about the market than to truly want to help.

  11. I’m a bit confused. Amazon has 14 imprints that don’t accept unsolicited submissions which means that an author would need an agent to get published through them, right? Since Amazon are a powerhouse I don’t see why they don’t jump to that sixth slot, and then they can all do the happy dance (that can look however you’d like). Do I hear wedding bells to the tune of a prenup, hmmm?

    • While I haven’t looked into Amazon’s imprints and know little about them, my assumption would be they do a lot if not all their acquisitions by invitation and/or from the ranks of KDP, so no, agents aren’t necessarily necessary.

  12. Frankie,

    Apub won’t be able to slide into the sixth slot of a Big Six while their business model is as heavily restricted to their own sales ecosystem. The Big Five all sell to and through B&N, BAM, indie bookstores, many wholesalers, and more. APub’s model is much more restricted, due to pushback from retailers that view Amazon retail as a rival, and are unwilling to buy from the publishing wing of a rival retailer.

    • Which makes no sense to me because they’re hurting themselves by limiting what they’ll buy (especially if it’s a popular author on Amazon) more than they’re hurting Amazon. But I guess to each his own, right? 🙂

      • I don’t actually think that’s the case. I think most retailers see Amazon as a large enough threat that they don’t want to let the company get any bigger than it already is.

  13. I think it’s because indies see the dirty side to tradpub and long to see that side cleaned up. Kind of like anything we humans see as injustice in the world. Sympathetic people work/hope/vote to make things better for everyone, make the world a better place.

    Yes, I think there are some indies who have had bad experiences with tradpub and want to see the monster fall.

    But I also think there are indies who see a need for tradpub and hope it can stick around.

    Indies are invested in Amazon vs. Hatchett because we know the outcome will affect all authors, including indies.

    Me? I’m interested in the whole thing because I’m interested in publishing. As an author, it’s part of my world. I did waste time dealing with tradpub but I hold no resentment. I’m grateful for what I learned there. It is, after all, what caused me to go indie.

    My interest in the squabble is not driven by anger or jealousy. I have no desire to ever go hybrid. I’m very proud to be indie. Some days, I’m a bit giddy. 🙂

  14. I think, for me, it’s about having a healthy and varied landscape. We need Amazon. We also need bookstores. Neither model adequately serves everyone. And I say this as having worked in book retail for a number of years, along with specialty retail, used books, and oh yeah, I also write and publish.

    It’s very simple. Some people need to interact with and touch the books. They need to stroll through the bookstore and see things that strike their fancy, and pick up the book and see its size, and note the cover artist, and maybe even turn to page 100 and read it while standing amidst all these other choices. Then they need to be able to wander back to the sale books, or the bargain section, or whatever you want to call it. They need to read the employee recommendation cards and find the new card from that one guy who sold them that really great book last time…

    And then there are some people who cannot stand interacting with others. They don’t want suggestions, or extra information, and sometimes, they don’t even want a greeting. They just want to buy their book and get the hell out of there.

    Amazon, as much as it tries to simulate that “Who’s your buddy, who’s your pal” experience, is only as good as the last thing you bought from the website. If you go there looking for different books each time, you confound the algorithm. What Amazon DOES get right is getting smaller press titles into the hands of people who live in isolated or rural areas of the country and don’t have access to fine, or even decent, bookstores. That’s all Amazon SHOULD be doing. And I say that as someone who has books available from their nascent publishing arm.

    Amazon needs to lose this fight. I’m against anyone using their economic power to bully their competitors or business partners. I also haaate monopolies. I’m not overly thrilled with the consolidation of the book industry over the last 20 years, either, but there IS a choice, and there’s also a healthy number of smaller presses out there that don’t mind doing nice, high-end work to make books that are attractive and desirable.

    Publishers need to decide what to price their books at, and we need to decide if we’re going to pay that price or not. I already think most of us DON’T pay that price. My ebooks are certainly well below that $9.95 threshold, and on purpose. But these freeze outs, and threats, and bullshit excuses and justifications just feel like the cheap strong-arm tactics that they are.

  15. It seems to me that if the indie author has any hope of maintaining a 70% share from Amazon in the long view, there needs to be competition against Amazon. If the Big Five fail, the indie is left with a total, rather than the now virtual, monopoly.

  16. My two cents: Everyone wants that movie and merchandising deal. I don’t see any e-book writers getting those deals without jumping over to traditional publishing first. If you want George Martin money, you need one of the Big Five, that’s the perception at least.

    • Howey and Mather both landed film deals/options without the traditional entering into the equation. Wayward Pines got a TV show while being indie as far as I know. Certainly, having an agent helps. The publisher is likely less important than how hard you agent hustles your material in Hollywood.

      • I can’t say I’ve heard of any of those before. I wish I had, but, I hadn’t.

        To be fair, if an author has an agent, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they would end up with a traditional publishing deal sooner or later?

  17. Dunno, but I gotta tell you, I’m giving “We just want what’s best for you, poor oppressed traditionally published soul!” a big ‘ol side-eye. I will TELL you when I am being oppressed, man. Until then, do good however you want, but don’t tell me that it’s for my own good when I haven’t asked for it and don’t need it.

    • This. I get the desire to theorize generally or in the abstract, and even the desire to offer advise where one thinks they have valuable knowledge, but ultimately authors and publishers make the financial and business decision that makes the most sense for them. In this particular case, at this particular point in the conversation, we know one goal of Amazon’s. We don’t know the specifics of what they’re offering towards achieving that goal, or what Hachette’s variables are that make those specifics reasonable/unreasonable. Applying an emotional response based on personal (limited) knowledge to other people’s or corporation’s business negotiations is only going to get us where we are now, with a lot of people using very loaded language to offend each other (I’m referring to some of the other posts and comments, this one’s been very reasonable so far).

  18. Egos, bitterness and revenge mixed with hopeful, skewed altruism. That’s the biggest part of what I see.

    The most cogent thought I have seen expressed is that better percentages for authors make sense in the electronic part of the industry but price controls aren’t in anyone’s best interest. (My synopsis.) I would love to be able to sell a ton of books at $19.99. Unfortunately even when I do put my first baby out there, I won’t see that kind of sales–the market (readers) don’t know me or my work. Why limit the authors who can? Jealousy?

    What our work sells for is often interpreted as the value of ideas and ability. Whether right or wrong, that’s the judgment system our subconscious has been steeped in. So why tell someone they can only be worth at most $9.99 a unit? Is that what you would teach your child?

    After reading (or skimming, in some tragic cases) many self-pubbed pieces, I can say I have made some outstandingly valuable purchases and some stinkers. When I tire of books that desperately need an editor, I shell out the money for an author whose work I won’t be tempted to cover with editing marks. I will pay for that peace. Sometimes.

    Thank you to all the self-pubbed authors who take pride in their work and hire professionals when necessary to polish their gems. Your time is better spent on your next book.

    • I think “bitterness” and “revenge” are vastly overstated. In my experience, any negative sentiment that self-publishers have towards large publishers tends to come from things like price-fixing, worsening terms, lowering advances, vanity press operations, and general horror stories (or, indeed, their own experience with those publishers).

      Speaking for myself, the Author Solutions stuff is a big deal, and (IMO) symptomatic of how some publishers view authors (or, at least, certain kinds of authors). That encompasses Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Harlequin, and S&S at this point, and Macmillan and Hachette are said to be developing their own “author services” – and if history is any guide, they will be super scammy..

      P.S. Re pricing, if you are publishing your own stuff, I’d recommend thinking in terms of what price will bring in the most income, rather than focusing on any particular price point for whatever reason.

  19. I never got the impression anyone was trying to save the Big 5. Most of what I read from the author-publishers is trying to share information, experience or advice with other authors, and to assist authors in making the best choices based upon their own situations.

  20. How I understand (or misunderstand) what is happening:

    1. Big 5 publishers make their profits from hard back book sales.
    2. Big 5 publishers have a monopoly on hard back book sales.
    3. Ebooks break that monopoly by giving readers an alternative to hardbacks books.
    4. Therefore Big 5 publishers should develop a strategy to defeat ebooks.
    5. How? Given Big 5 publishers made the mistake of putting popular books out as ebooks, perhaps in a bit of short term profit thinking, they need to now:
    6. Make the ebook ecosystem less hospitable to customers via higher prices. Forcing consumers back into the hard back monopoly that is controlled by Big 5.
    7. This scares self-publishers who fear that a lack of published authors in the ebook space will drive down customers willingness to think of ebooks as a viable reading experience.
    8. If Big 5 publishers had refused to put out published authors in the ebook format, the ecosystem would have dried up before reaching critical mass.
    9. The Amazon vs. Hachette scenario is an attempt to put the djinni back in the bottle.

    *I’m not any sort of expert what so ever, glad to hear how any of the above is incorrect. But as someone who is studying and practicing at being a storyteller, watching this whole thing go down has been interesting. Though, watching various writers whose work I respect make a game of dissing each other on their blogs, in their letters, etc. is disheartening.

    • Big Five publishers make even more profit from e-books. Which is part of the contention why they should raise royalties for authors. There has been some control of prices from them in order to protect the physical distribution of their books, which lead to the collusion that we hear about regarding Apple and agency pricing.

      I do not suspect publishers want to kill the e-book.

      They probably don’t want to limit it at all.

      They may, however, want to limit Amazon, and Amazon may want to limit the influence of publishers.

      Amazon-Hachette is probably in part over e-book pricing, but many have suggested that it’s about more than that, including lots of other little deal points and services (like Amazon resorting to POD for Big Five titles that have gone out of stock/print).

      — c.

      • I’m in the same place as you Mr. j. adkins, studying and practicing at being a storyteller.

        I agree with Chuck that publishers don’t want to kill the eBook, but they absolutely want to protect their oligopoly in paper.

        I think the author-publishers want to inform writers that when the Big 5 price seek to price eBooks high, their goal is NOT to maximize revenue (for themselves or their author). Their goal is to protect the paper distribution.

        The author-publishers want other authors to understand that point so the individual authors can make the best decisions for their individual careers.

      • “They may, however, want to limit Amazon, and Amazon may want to limit the influence of publishers.”

        That seems to be their main argument. There are many variations of “Amazon is a dangerous monopolist!” that basically play off that theme, but Hatchette isn’t doing this to drastically scale Amazon’s power back. They’re doing this so they can get… exactly the same deal they had last year.

        If Amazon’s a dangerous monopolist and their influence is destroying the industry, fighting to keep things exactly the same as they were last year is a piss-poor strategy.

        My position, for the record: Amazon is not currently a dangerous monopolist, but they are clearly trying to become one. I would be happy to support efforts to restrict that. Hatchette isn’t trying to do that.

  21. I’m heavily invested in the romance writers’ world, where the self-pubs staked a conquest flag atop the national org (Romance Writers of America) this year. The national con was dominated by speakers and workshops devoted to self-publishing, and, for the first time, a self-published title won a RITA. Since my small press was one of the publishers paying significant bucks as a sponsor (Harlequin being the biggest spender, I imagine), I got into a small Internet slap-fight over seminars titled “Can a case still be made for traditional publishing?” and “What good are agents?”

    Many of the responses I received can be summed up as, “Turn about is fair play, how does it feel to be in the minority, huh? Nah nah nahnahnah.”

    Some attendees described the underlying tensions as “palpable.” Oh, yeah.

    Over at Novelists, Inc., which is heavily skewed toward romance writers, I unsubscribed from the daily online forum rather than chew my knuckles over regular “publishers are greedy corrupt demons” posts.

    In my experience, there’s a deep, bitter current of “my books are just as good as that crap they publish in New York,” and “she was just lucky to get started when they were buying a lot of (insert type of romance here.)” Other categories are: “You know the editors rewrite everything Big Superstar Author turns in” and “NY gives her contracts because 1. she’s really photogenic 2. she spends a lot of money on self-promotion 3. she writes hot sex scenes 4. she’s big friends with Superstar Author.”:

    I can’t speak for other genre authors, but among the romance crowd there has always been a serious division of social classes based on publishing status, and it feeds the current situation like a coal mine under a volcano.

    • My schedule didn’t allow me to attend RWA this year, but I saw the current shift trending back in 2012 when keynote speaker Stephanie Laurens gave a rousing speech about authors reclaiming the power to distribute their work (and possibly make decent money) via a whole new variety of channels.

      New to the scene two years ago, I listened to lots of conversations, attended lots of panels, absorbed the following:

      1. Many successful romance writers felt cheated/maltreated in their contracts with traditional publishers.(One story that stuck was about how editors with a major publisher on the previous year’s panel had urged attending writers not to quit their day jobs because they’d never make enough money writing romance novels to live on. Apparently though, it was possible to make a full-time living as an editor with these same companies.)
      2. Many successful romance writers who published traditionally were disconcerted by the reported earnings of indie author-publishers regarding digital sales. They resented the lack of power they had to compete with digital books sales because the price point for their books left them largely out of the game.(Already in 2012, authors like Tina Folsom, Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre were running packed sessions explaining how they were making half a million a year on Amazon by self-publishing. Bitter news for traditionally published writers who were being told to keep day jobs, and/or were best sellers scraping in 100K at best).
      3. Romance writers across the spectrum wanted more control over their final edits, their covers, their ability to price their work competitively. Conversations were rife with jaded, unhappy stories on all fronts, spilling out in the relatively safe environment of writers conferring with writers. Information is power, the infamous they say, Writers left the conference determined to play the game smarter.

      Since then, I’ve connected online with many romance authors, both traditionally published and indie. From what I read, most of that raw bitterness and outrage following the 2012 conference has receded into pragmatism. Most writers in the romance genre are coming to see the benefit of being a hybrid author. It’s too expensive for an individual author to publish paperback books and distribute them to brick-and-mortar stores, and/or to reach enough of the book-buying market through solo advertising, so they need traditional publishers to help them reach buyers, and they are willing to make a smaller percentage on select titles to reach that market. But they also want to capitalize on the lucrative digital market with either better contract deals or by self-publishing some of their work. It doesn’t cost much to produce and distribute a digital book (after all, the most labor-intensive part of creating a book, the writing and editing, remains the same whether one self-publishes or hands over the manuscript to someone else to package and market it).

      Therefore, I don’t think most romance writers want one side to “win”. They want Amazon and the traditional publishers to hammer out a deal that considers the writers a key asset, one worth wooing and taking care of first and foremost. Because, without the writers investing months–sometimes years–into the writing of books, neither the publishers nor the retail distributors will have new books to sell. The importance of status remains an element, sure, but pit the status of being a traditionally published (and poor) author against the possibility of seriously enhanced incomes (like a living wage), and money trumps, not just for soulless corporations, but for individual writer souls out here too, who anxiously watch the power play work itself out..

      • “The importance of status remains an element, sure, but pit the status of being a traditionally published (and poor) author against the possibility of seriously enhanced incomes (like a living wage), and money trumps, not just for soulless corporations, but for individual writer souls out here too, who anxiously watch the power play work itself out.”

        On the other hand, only a tiny percentage of self-published authors are making enviable money, let alone a living, and most authors who try it don’t have the business skills to micromanage the never-ending promotions (which can be like trying to understand the stock market, gah!), It’s a mistake to assume that most traditionally published authors aren’t pulling in decent incomes. Self-publishing is not solving the problems of competing as a writer in this marketplace, and with the addition of the ebook subscription services, I think what little advantage the self-pub price points had, may be eroded.

        Sorry to get off topic, but the word from agents is that submissions are up at the Big 5. I know a lot of hybrid authors who’ve given up on self-pubbing.

        • I agree that few self-publishing authors are succeeding at earning a living wage. I am skeptical though that “most traditionally published authors” are making decent incomes from the sales of their novels either. What’s a living wage? Many of the authors I communicate with have day jobs, whether they self-publish or work strictly with traditional publishers. (I know a literary fiction author–traditionally published–who is well enough respected to get short-listed for a Booker, has more than a dozen novels out, and makes a whooping (BP) 13 K a year writing full-time). Many authors I’ve spoken to over the past few years reference $5 K advances for each novel in their traditional contracts, and very low royalties. Another writer under contract with Harlequin manages to make $80 K writing four novels a year ($20 K each). That’s a reasonable income, but a lot of people can’t write a book every three months, year after year, after year–and what happens if the publisher decides to drop that writer?

          Going it completely alone isn’t the answer for most authors, either. Frankly, I’ve yet to see anyone present a definitive answer as to what works, other than to keep writing the best books one can and put them out there somehow, someway through as many channels as possible. Submissions to publishers probably are up. That could support the whole “going hybrid” trend that I’m seeing as easily as the claim that authors are abandoning self-publishing. (It doesn’t begin to recognize the fact that many of the current self-published authors’ work wouldn’t meet the writing standards/expectations of the publishing houses, so they’re never going to get traditionally published anyway, or become hybrid authors. Submission doesn’t = publication.)

          Probably, a rise in indie consortium publishing is next on the horizon–collectives of authors publishing under a joint enterprise (a publicly-presented entity or brand that’s not really an actual publishing company) while retaining their individual author rights. I.e. self-publishing, collectively. Right now authors are setting up and participating in series that look a lot like that model. I could see it expanding.

  22. I don’t know all his order-of-events, but Howey did get a traditional publishing deal. That’s why you’ll find Wool in paperback in bookstores. He may “regret” that because he doesn’t make as much per-sale as he does with his self-published version, but it helped him reach audience that he probably wouldn’t have without it.

    If I were to hazard a guess at order-of-events, it would be
    A. Sold very well as indie on Amazon.
    B. Got publisher’s notice.
    C. Made deal with publisher.
    D. Release from publisher includes stories of “Amazon Indie Author Does Good” as its marketing push.
    E. Got attention of film/TV people.

    But that’s a guess; I’m willing to accept correction.

    • He signed deal with Ridley Scott in Spring of 2012 (according to PW). He signed deal with Simon and Schuster in December 2012 (at least that is when it got reported on his blog).

      He made a deal with a traditional publisher, but I wouldn’t call it ‘a traditional publishing deal.’

      In regards to his deal, Howey on his blog states: “This deal is all about the new publishing paradigm. There are no clauses limiting what I can write and how quickly I can release. I keep control over the ebooks, which means the prices will stay where they are.”

      Howey is an outlier. I agree with him that it is the mid-list authors who everyone should be looking at. Ability to be a full time author with a middle class income is what I am curious to find out about, rather than winning the Lottery.

  23. You’re not going to get a single answer on this. Were you expecting one?

    Some want publishers to change and adapt because they think it will be better for authors who are signed on by those publishers.

    Some want publishers to change and adapt because to them it will mean they won the argument.

    Some are more interested in defending amazon than they’re really interested in fighting publishers, because Amazon has been a good deal for them and they view the fight as damaging on a PR level.

    Some are siding with Amazon because they hate the Author’s Guild, and if the Author’s Guild is standing on one side of a fight they figure standing on the other side is probably the right thing to do.

    Some are siding with Amazon because they think overall ebooks should be cheaper.

    Some are siding with Amazon because they feel their turf has been attacked, they’re raising the flag, taking up the hue and cry, etc.

    Some of us aren’t siding with Amazon, exactly, we’re just not siding with Hatchette either.

  24. I’m going throw John Scalzi’s words into the ring here: wp.me/p5Fv-6uj
    My summary, pushing the prices down changes the dynamics in ways that are problematical for everyone from big 5 to self pub. His arguments are more cogent than my summary, of course.

  25. This Amazon/Hachette situation is like the Luddites of the last century who refused to adapt to technology. The entire publishing establishment is circling the wagons to protect their system of hardcovers and remainders, a system that is already dead. I think everyone is seeing the entrenched publishing system for what it is, a money making machine that is uninterested in art and has created a caste system.

    It is this weird caste system which people are reacting to in this conflict. Big publishing wants a system where they choose who enters the Brahman caste. To do so you must follow a convoluted set of rules that will waste your talent and drain your life.

    Does it matter whether Hachette raises their e book prices?

    No, because technology is destroying their system. Maybe it will buy them time but when you read the statistics Data Guy and Hugh Howey have supplied, it’s clear that readers are buying new writers and looking for good stories, and those are two things the Big Five are not supplying.

    • “No, because technology is destroying their system. Maybe it will buy them time but when you read the statistics Data Guy and Hugh Howey have supplied, it’s clear that readers are buying new writers and looking for good stories, and those are two things the Big Five are not supplying.”

      The Author Earnings reports completely eschews print sales. I also don’t know that it says anything about good stories, which are not a factor in the statistics.

      — c.

      • I took liberties when I said it’s clear readers are buying new writers (e books).

        I came to that conclusion because the July author earning report stated that “In February, we were able to announce that self-published authors are earning nearly as much as Big 5 authors combined when it comes to ebook sales on the Kindle Store. In the two quarters since, the earnings for Big 5 authors has shrunk while that for indies has grown. We can now say that self-published authors earn more in royalties than Big 5 authors, combined.”

        The trend of Indies encroaching on Big Five revenue suggests to me that people are not simply buying e books because of name value, but are searching for stories that intrigue them.

        This is only my theory though, so point taken.

        • You’re extrapolating a whole lot there. That’s my problem with Howey’s research and the way it’s reported by his supporters. Also, I keep wondering where this notion comes from that the Big 5 are Luddites who hate technology and want to get rid of ebooks. I was published in digital format in 2004 by Warner’s first foray into digital. (a failure, but still.) Big 5 are making boffo money off ebooks and only regret not pursuing that market sooner, I imagine.

  26. As much as I would like to pretend otherwise, I am nowhere near the level at which I would be forced to care. I sold one e-book this past week, total, and next week is not looking so good. The Amazon-Hachette dispute is interesting in a technical sort of way, but it takes place at a level so far above my head at the moment that it might as well be an argument between two clouds deciding whether or not to drop three inches of rain on my lawn or not.

  27. I, personally am irked by the response times in trad-pub. I’ve worked in many a customer facing role–and if I waited three to six months to get back to a customer, I’d have been out of a job. In every other industry you can name, initial customer inquiries are handled with much more expediency.

    Along comes Amazon. Electronic whiz-bang instantaneous publishing gratification, you betcha. The contrast in speed and efficiency vs. trad-pub is stark.

    Life is short. I don’t have time to sit around on my ars* waiting for an east-coast twenty-something to set the clanking gears and sprockets of trad-pub in motion. Much more satisfying to push a button & git ‘er done myself.

    I feel no urgent need to ‘save’ trad-pub from itself. Yes, it will contract, but trad-pub will continue to exist in much the same way that calligraphy on vellum continues – as an antique curiosity affordable only by the interested collector.

  28. It’s a mistake to paint all author-publishers with the same brush. We’re as varied in our decision to self-publish as other authors are in deciding to take a traditional route. For example, in my case I want to write and publish as much as I can before I die. I’m seventy years old and that’s not a long time. I decided to self-publish from the get-go, and I never once considered the traditional path. I’m retired, on fixed income and the modest money I make is a welcome supplement to my retirement income.
    I don’t care at all about the Amazon-Hachette dispute. It’s a symptom, not a cause. Readers, writers, and publishers are in a time of change. I know some writers from my writer’s group who will not read on a computer, tablet or cell phone. They need to print out the work on paper before they can read it. Others like me are puzzled by this behavior, but to each his own.
    The reason I mention this is because it’s symptomatic of the whole reading ecosystem. We’re in a time of change and change is painful. The reason the larger publishers are pushing this issue is because the reading behavior of the population is changing. eReading is taking a larger share of the market and to big publishers it’s very lucrative in multiple ways. I doubt they care much about how many paper copies of books they sell on Amazon, but I’ll bet my last dollar, they care about the eBooks.
    So, let them go. Let them fight it out for themselves. Our time would be much better spent on writing the next book and letting the big guys hash it out. Once the dust has settled we can decide where to go from there.

  29. I’m not particularly invested in the issue, but I do think that having professional publishing houses is a good thing overall, I do think Amazon has the potential to turn into a vertical and horizontal monopoly (which is why I make an active effort to buy most of my books elsewhere), and I do think that the big publishers need to make some serious changes if they want to survive the way the industry is changing.

  30. Both my books are on Amazon, and as soon as I can figure out how to handcode *.epub files, I will go to smashwords. I do want to be hybrid, but for now I want to make my mark as an indie self-publisher first. Generate my own fans and followers, so when I go traditional, I have more of a bargaining chip.

    As far as Amazon… I use them, but I wouldn’t go as far as defending them. One might say because I use them I am supporting them. I am a poor disabled writer… most of my choices are limited to begin with. For now, I go with what is available to me and don’t complain. Perhaps down the line if I ever get over my disability or gain sales, I can be choosy.

  31. I don’t have a dog in the Amazon-Hachette fight. I publish my work. I’m currently selling digital and print…everywhere. I receive the majority of the royalty no matter where I sell. If I write for others I get paid upfront.

    If I did contract under one of the traditional 4 (isn’t that all that’s left ?) It would be strictly a distribution deal.(which is basically what I have with eRetailers such as amazon, bn and POD technology companies such as lightning source and lulu)

    I started my career in publishing when it was the Big 6. I worked for two of the six. I know the business. It favors the publisher. Hachette earnings in 2012 € 223m (298,350,585.00 USD) I think the company will be just fine.

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