French Booksellers Lose Their Shit Over a Self-Published Book Being Considered for the Prix Renaudot
Booksellers have many reasons to dislike Amazon, the least of which is that it is better at selling books than they are.
This has spurred many booksellers to blacklist Amazon-published books, and now that irrational hatred has been expanded to include not just Amazon but also anyone who uses Amazon’s services.
France24, Actualitte, and other sources report that French booksellers are objecting to a self-published book making it to the long list for a prestigious French book prize.
Booksellers are furious a novel distributed only by Amazon has made it onto the long-list for one of France’s top literary prizes, saying it rewards the goliath that threatens both their livelihood and the country’s heritage.
… one of the country’s top literary prizes – the Prix Renaudot – has sparked similar outrage among bookstores this week by selecting a novel distributed by their mortal foe Amazon.
The book, Bande de Français by French-Israeli author Marco Koskas, was included in a long-list of seven essays and 17 novels competing for the Renaudot, generally regarded as the second most prestigious French-language prize after the Goncourt. It is self-published and available only on Amazon – unless bookstores choose to order it from the online platform, a step many are loath to take.
“Do they want us to pay our most ferocious competitor? To give him money so he can kill us?” asked Mélanie Le Saux, a bookseller in the Paris region who posted an open letter on Facebook on Sunday in which she blasted the Renaudot jury for “throwing the door wide open to the beast”.
“Either we buy the book from our competitor, or we just won’t have it,” Le Saux told FRANCE 24. “It’s a very strong signal: Amazon has won their blessing.”
Just to be clear, this is not a book published by Amazon; this is a self-published book which is being distributed through Createspace.
Some booksellers have already vowed that, prestigious award or not, they will not be ordering this book. No, fighting Amazon matters more than championing French literature, which is why several booksellers have called for a boycott of the Prix Renaudot this year.
The Syndicat de la librairie française, the trade group for French bookstores, has published a statement both condemning the Prix Renaudot jury and showing they suffer from Amazon Derangement Syndrome.
“With this decision, does the Prix Renaudot realize it is doing a disservice to the author himself and to bookshops, as well as sending a worrying signal for the future of the industry?” the statement read. The Syndicat added: “How deceitful and sinister Amazon’s dream world is. No more hierarchy between works, reduced to mere usernames on a platform; no editorial policy but millions of titles accumulated haphazardly; no books in lively areas of ‘commerce’; no people hired to bring works and authors to readers; warehouses and a sophisticated algorithm instead of spoken words.”
Apparently the Syndicat believes that no other publisher or distributor uses warehouses, or software, or any type of automation to produce and distribute books. No, only Amazon uses technology; all other books are delivered by fairies after springing fully formed from the brow of their noble creators.
Why is it that so many of Amazon’s detractors are so blinded by their hatred that they lose their ability to think critically or make a coherent argument?
The thing is, there is no good argument to be made for blacklisting this book. It was not published by Amazon; instead, it is the work of an author who used Amazon’s services.
To put it another way, the booksellers are refusing to stock a book because it was delivered by the truck company belonging to their mortal enemy.
Where is the sense in that?
image by ActuaLitté via Flickr
Alfa Romeo September 12, 2018 um 5:33 pm
We’re talking FRANCE here, right? Since when have the frogs ever made sense?
DaveMich September 12, 2018 um 6:14 pm
It’s worth pointing out that the author could not get the book published through "traditional" channels…
"The author of “Bande de Français” is hardly a newcomer in the trade. […] he says his last work, about French Jews who emigrate to Israel, was turned down by publishers – a decision he blamed on “delirious Israelophobia”."
Randy Lea September 12, 2018 um 7:12 pm
Maybe it would be better to develop a market for selling self-published works.
Darryl September 13, 2018 um 12:06 am
The sooner the French and the rest of the EEC start putting readers first the better. These book sellers and publishers are businesses, the majority of which cannot survive now without government protection. The case for such protection seems to me to be a very poor one, similar to the case rejected in most of the rest of the world. Then again, I am not French.
Xavier Basora September 13, 2018 um 6:49 am
As i’ve remarked here on numerous posts, the book publishers have successfully conned the govts to conflate their business model with cultural industries. You can’take imagine just how concentrated 5he you are and guild like in their mentality. To them only 5he printed book has any legitimacy. Audio and digital insolent posers.
Amazon threatens their pretentious lumber distribution/gatekeeper posture. The sooner Amazon blows away this hostile anti reader mentality, the far better of everyone will become
Nicolas Liseuse September 13, 2018 um 4:21 am
I’m french son maybe I can explain it a little more… (sorry for my bad english).
In France we have a law that organise the book industry like a "cartel".
A bookstore can’t fix a price on a book that is different from a concurrent (Amazon also must follow the rules in France for ebooks and paper books).
The problem is that if a bookstore want to sell the book "Bandes de Français", it has to order it from Amazon at the same price they sould sell it to respect the law.
The french book lobby just shoot them in the foot. They wanted so bad to kill Amazon (because, you know, they are just better at selling books because they have a better inventory) that they know see what is really comming in the next 10 years…
That’s all and they are mad now.
Nate Hoffelder September 13, 2018 um 8:33 am
So there’s no way for them to buy the book at the wholesale discount and sell it at retail?
That is actually a good reason to complain, and that fact no one raised this issue reinforces my point about the booksellers being too blinded by their hatred to make rational arguments.
Disgusting Dude September 13, 2018 um 1:35 pm
Not necessarily true.
Almost certainly false.
First, because the book is distributed by Createspace, not Amazon.
Second, because it is up to the author/publisher to select Expanded distribution, the wholesale price, and the retail price. Under expanded distribution the book is available to any retailer that chooses to order.
Also, retailers can buy any book, create space or not, at a discount from Amazon com, UK, or any non-price-fixed location.
So, unless the author is purposefully excluding local B&M shops for their own reasons, they are being disingenuous by saying they can *only* buy it from Amazon at full retail.
It is no different than the B&N-led boycott of APub titles in the US, where the books are available via Ingram but the retailers refuse to carry any of them because they think making the books Amazon-exclusive hurts Amazon when in reality it helps them.
Nate Hoffelder September 13, 2018 um 3:38 pm
I’m not sure you proved them wrong – your first link says that expanded distribution only covers the US, while the second one covers sales through Amazon.com, not Createspace POD books.
Disgusting Dude September 13, 2018 um 5:29 pm
Main thing is it’s not guaranteed that they have to go through Amazon.com at retail. And createspace does distribute to europe. They have printing facilities there.
What the bookshops object to is doing business with any Amazon subsidiary, not the price of the book.
Darryl September 13, 2018 um 8:18 am
Thank you Nicolas and Xavier. Nicolas. I can assure you that your English is far superior to my French.
You are probably aware of Author’s United in the US who ran this cultural argument in public letters signed by some prominent authors. It was widely ridiculed and went absolutely nowhere. I would like to say that I see a light at the end of the tunnel for both the EU as a whole and France in particular, but I’m really not sure how long the present situation can continue. I suspect change will be slow, though this is another small crack in the whole edifice.
Xavier Basora September 13, 2018 um 7:18 pm
The European directive on copyright that just passed has weaponized copyright. The tradpublishers will now use this to hound any independent authour and small ebook publisher out of the market. All under the guises of combating piracy, ensuring non extreme right content and protection of cultural industries.
Just watch the Big copyright owners become demented.
Allen F September 13, 2018 um 7:35 pm
That same European directive on copyright will hurt if not kill those tradpublishers, as no one in the EU can now 'link' comments about them or their books without 'paying' them for it. Nor will they be find-able using Google/facebook/twtter as they won’t pay to link either.
Which means the best way to find something online will be to see if it’s being sold on Amazon!
You really can’t make this stuff up, it’s like they said, "How do we make Amazon even more powerful?" And this ruling does only one thing, it takes the EU businesses/creators off the internet without keeping those in the EU from looking to the rest of the world for their news and entertainment.
Xavier Basora September 13, 2018 um 9:59 pm
Don’t worry. The trad publishers will cry and suddenly have a magic exemption. However they’ll ensure copyright protection against anyone Ho publishes with Amazon or independently
Samizdat will return
Will Entrekin September 14, 2018 um 8:39 am
At least it’s being considered. There are a LOT of awards that exclude "self-published" works, and not even anything to do with Amazon.
What’s interesting here is that it’s not because the book is "self-published" — it’s because booksellers can order it only through Amazon.
Allen F September 14, 2018 um 1:31 pm
"What’s interesting here is that it’s not because the book is “self-published” — it’s because booksellers can order it only through Amazon."
Which is the silliest part of it. A writer’s book can only have one publisher at a time – the publisher contracts demand it. If a book is only sold by PRH, then that’s the only place they can buy it. In this case though it seems the other publishers weren’t interested so the writer self-published and sells only through Amazon.
As to the book costs, well that’s the laws they had put in place working against them – they’ll just need to get the laws changed, oh wait – then Amazon could then sell 'all' their books cheaper – which was what that law was to prevent!
Once again, someone’s upset just because Amazon is playing by the rules/laws of the land.
Allen F September 14, 2018 um 1:47 pm
Oh, I’m not worried, but the fun thing about laws it that they hit 'everybody'. So something that helps publishers helps Amazon’s publishing arm too. Case in point is that 'European directive on copyright' bit. No linking without permission and payment? So no blogs pointing out things happening on other sites.
You have a new book out? No one can get the word out, no one can review it. You’ll have to pay for advertising. This helps the really big players but kills everyone else. At least self-publishing on Amazon means Amazon can suggest it to their shoppers – and show reviews as they’re were given to Amazon in the first place.
As I said above, any rule/law they try to make will harm others more than it will Amazon.
Jean Yves September 14, 2018 um 5:20 pm
Sorry for my english, I am french. I work in the digital publishing industry. Reading this interesting thread gives me the feeling that french people only live in the past, love gatekeepers and repudiate innovation. Let me give you some details :
– the french book market is quite different from the american one. For example there many more bookshops all over the territory in comparison. This is one reason that explains that ebooks dont seduce as much as in America, because in France you can find bookshops almost everywhere even in very small cities. French people dont particularly love gatekeepers and we criticize very easily, but we are pragmatic : buying an ebook is not so attractive when you find books everywhere around you.
– For the same reason, booksellers are powerful and french publishers very heavily depend on them to sell their books. It is a fight for power, like it was several years ago between Amazon and Hachette about ebook prices. Amazon behaves the same way. So it seems unfair to pretend today that french booksellers are a bunch of losers crying to get help.
– French createspace does not provide global distribution to bookshops. So if you publish on french creastespace your book will only be available on amazon. Even if you are a bookseller you won’t get any discount. So it is easy to understand that bookshops complain about a prestigious book prize which promotes a book that they won’t be able to sell with a profit (except for amazon).
– It is false to pretend that french bookshops criticize self-publishing in this case. On the contrary they do insist that self-publishing in not the matter. Several self publising platforms provide wide distribution in France, so Mr Koskas could easily have published with wide distribution.
– Mr Koskas is not really a nice gentleman. For example, when asked about the Lulu platform which provides wide distribution (like several other french platforms) he answered that he would never publish his books on a platform whith such a "ridiculous name"… It is his right to behave so and he may be a great writer anyway, but for sure it doesn’t help his marketing.
– There is one thing that deeply shocks french and european people, and it is a mistake to underestimate it : Amazon (like apple, facebook, etc) dont pay regular taxes on the business they do in our european countries. They use sophistical law manipulations to escape them. This is an important thing to understand about Europe’s opinion on american digital leaders. I don’t pretend that it explains all the opposition, but it is not negligible. Imagine a french company coming to America and doing the same, would you say "Ok it’s great innovation, let’s go, never mind if they don’t play by the rules and destroy our american companies who pay regular taxes and can’t offer the same service to their customers without losing money" ?
Of course I don’t pretend that everything is bad with amazon, it is a great company, but things are more complex than they appear. Hope it may nuance your opinions.
Allen F September 14, 2018 um 6:38 pm
"So it seems unfair to pretend today that french booksellers are a bunch of losers crying to get help."
But this is the bunch (along with your publishers) that got those price fixing laws/rules passed that now force Amazon to sell the bookstores the books at those prices. Fix your laws.
"Mr Koskas is not really a nice gentleman."
Because he won’t do it your way? Gee, in that case I know a lot of very un-nice people – they are only un-nice because they won’t do things the way I think they should be done.
"Amazon (like apple, facebook, etc) dont pay regular taxes on the business they do in our european countries. They use sophistical law manipulations to escape them."
And yet your countries haven’t sued them into the ground or kicked them out. Do you know 'why' that is? It’s really quite simple, they are playing by the very same rules and laws that your own companies are playing with. This is why France or Germany doesn’t just make a new law to hurt Amazon – because then that same law would hurt their own companies – possible more than they can hurt Amazon.
The problem with laws and rules is like the ocean – all boats will rise/fall with the laws/tides. Whether you sink because your boat wasn’t seaworthy or you run aground because the water was too shallow.
What seems to annoy the heck out of a lot of people and businesses is that Jeff built his Amazon boat to handle whatever type of water he placed it in, deep/shallow/high waves/calm he can handle; it’s all those older boats that can’t figure out that they need to adapt to this changing world – or the will sink and die.