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Hachette Responds to Amazon

amazon frownFollowing Amazon’s first and only comment on the ongoing Hachette contract dispute, Hachette responded this morning with another public statement.

Hachette, which first released a statement when news of this dispute broke in the NYTimes (and has been subsequently leaking details right and left), put the blame for this dispute and the resulting fallout squarely on Amazon’s shoulders.

Hachette claims to want  a solution that values an "author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them". Funny, Amazon distributes the books they sell, not Hachette, and as anyone can tell you most marketing is left to Amazon and or authors.

It’s also worth noting that what Hachette calls limiting a customer’s ability to buy Hachette titles is in fact “making Hachette books available on the same terms as those of smaller publishers, including its own KDP authors.” (Thanks, Marc!)

It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives. For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles.

Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult mission to communicate with readers. In addition to royalties, they are concerned with audience, career, culture, education, art, entertainment, and connection. By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon—which has been a great partner for years—but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them, at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator. Once we have reached such an agreement, we will be happy to discuss with Amazon its ideas about compensating authors for the damage its demand for improved terms may have done them, and to pass along any payments it considers appropriate.

In the meantime, we are extremely grateful for the spontaneous outpouring of support we have received both privately and publicly from authors and agents. We will continue to communicate with them promptly as this situation develops.

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flyingtoastr May 28, 2014 um 5:07 pm

"as anyone can tell you most marketing is left to Amazon and or authors."

Anyone who’s told you that has no idea what they’re talking about.

fjtorres May 28, 2014 um 5:12 pm

So all the midlist authors with decades of experience reporting this all over are making it up?
They aren’t required to pay their own way to mandatory book signings or maintain blogs at their own expense?

flyingtoastr May 28, 2014 um 5:17 pm

How many midlist authors are paying to have ARC’s bound and mailed to buyers and reviewers? How many are paying promotional kickbacks to the bookstores and Amazon? How many are paying for their cover art and typesetting? How many are paying for placement in the trade magazines or wholesaler monthlies?

Marketing is far more than the public stuff that people outside the industry see.

fjtorres May 29, 2014 um 1:58 am

Product placement is not marketing or promotion.
And even if it were, the payola is only exerted for a few targeted bestseller-designates. No publisher bothers to spend coop money on a book they paid $4K for an advance, that kind of effort is reserved for the Pattersons and Snooki’s of the world.
Tradpubs do a lot of things simply because they’ve been doing it for decades. But just because getting a review in a New York paper sold a few more books back when 75% of hardcovers sold in NYC and the Manhattan mafia cranked out a few thousand books is no guarantee it does any good in an age where the Randy Penguin alone puts out 14,000 new titles and the active titles sold online number in the millions.
The vast majority of new releases are lucky to get a three line listing in the monthly release catalog, a three copy spineout placement on a bottom shelf, and a trip back to the warehouse after three weeks.
Ship it and hope it sells is no marketting plan.

Now the name brand folks, yeah, they get talk show tours, interviews in local media and lots of publicity. But the typical $4K midlister gets zilch in the way of meaningful promotion.

Timothy Wilhoit May 29, 2014 um 2:23 am

$4k, that’s what the typical midlister is getting now? I can see the Author Earnings statement "In absolute numbers, more self-published authors are earning a living wage today than Big-5 authors" as being completely feasible.

fjtorres May 29, 2014 um 6:58 am

That’s the last number I saw at a credible source.
With the caveat that I’ve heard some newcomer romance writers have been offered advances in the *hundreds*.
I’m not an insider but, as you know, people are less afraid of the big bads these days and talking more openly. No names are cited to keep the lawyers at bay but people are talking.
Talking about the advances, "nurturing", "transparency", "respect" and oh-so abundant "support" they get.

Basically there is a generational divide emerging between those authors tradpubbed before 2010 and those tradpubbed since 2010. The latter are less beholden to the establishment and much more critical, for reasons that are becoming more and more obvious each day. Like the most recent Author Earnings report.

flyingtoastr May 29, 2014 um 1:22 pm

"Product placement is not marketing"

This is how I know you’re either trolling or really have no idea what you’re talking about. Product placement is the VERY DEFINITION of marketing. Planograms, promotional sales, store displays, greasing the wheels of Amazon’s recommendation engine – all of these are examples of product placement that is marketing.

As you pointed out, Random House Penguin publishes tens of thousands of books each year. Guess what? You local bookstore isn’t going to order every one of those books. They’re going to place orders for the ones that they are getting coops to carry, or were featured in the trade or wholesaler monthlies, or had an ARC sent to a buyer who thought there was potential after reading it, or had a favorable prerelase review. All of these are marketing, and all of them cost money.

"Marketing" isn’t limited to billboards and superbowl advertisements. If you don’t know anything about how retail sales work, don’t open your mouth.

Bob W May 28, 2014 um 5:19 pm

Wow they must have some old authors they’ve been partners with for over two centuries. I wonder if they’ve checked for a pulse recently. My guess is they died 150 years ago and Hachette hasn’t noticed.

fjtorres May 28, 2014 um 5:30 pm

As long as they hold the copyrights they can milk even the dead.
Two hundred years is a bit long for copyright squatting but with life plus seventy it’s not out of the question… 🙂

Valentine May 30, 2014 um 2:05 pm

Yeah, thank God, Shakespeare, Mozart and others like them, lived and died so long ago.

fjtorres May 28, 2014 um 5:20 pm

BTW, Hachette cares so much about their authors they categorically refused to help fund and distribute the joint royalty restitution fund Amazon suggested. Presumably they fear that if the authors get relief they’ll lose their hostages’s wailing.

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