Hachette logoFinally!

While I’m sure that Authors United and their compatriots will continue to find something to harp about, it should stop being how big bad Amazon is bullying poor benighted Hachette.

According to the letter to Hachette authors and agents (via Joe Konrath):

The new agreement delivers considerable benefits. It gives us full responsibility for the consumer prices of our ebooks. This approach, known as the Agency model, protects the value of our authors’ content, while allowing the publisher to change ebook prices dynamically to maximize sales. Importantly, the percent of revenue on which Hachette authors’ ebook royalties are based will not decrease under this agreement.

Amazon says they are happy with the deal and that “it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices, which we believe will be a great win for readers and authors alike,” said David Naggar, Vice President, Kindle.”

It sounds like both sides are presenting it as getting basically what they wanted. There are no surprises here, making me wonder, yet again, what all the sound and fury was about. I particularly liked Hugh Howey’s comment on Konrath’s blog post.

Hachette just signed the same basic deal they were offered in January. A deal they were probably close to signing in June before the PR campaign began and they said, “Hey, let’s see how this plays out.”

They got spanked up and down the street, readers and writers were damaged, and the people with the loudest opinions on this will continue to understand almost none of it.

Go Hugh!

Or as Nate at The Digital Reader put it:

So Hachette went through 8 months of financial pain (as Amazon stopped providing services which were no longer covered under a contract), and undertook a vicious media campaign, and all they got was a contract that S&S got through negotiating patiently and honestly.

Why did we have to live through all these months of wailing and knashing of teeth again? Based on the relative peace of the S&S deal, I’m hoping the remaining Big 3 follow their model and not Hachette’s.

No, I’m not naive enough to think this had nothing to do with the upcoming Holiday shopping season.


  1. Quote: ” it should stop being how big bad Amazon is bullying poor benighted Hachette.”

    I really doubt anyone referred to a Big Five publisher as poor and benighted. I know I was stressing that small publishers and independent authors should stand behind Hachette because they’d get no better deal than it. Imagine being a first grader on a playground being bullied by a third grader. You’d be happy to find a third-grader taking on that bully wouldn’t you. That’s what was happening here.

    And do you really want to argue that taking weeks to ship Hachette books wasn’t bullying when other publishers had their’s ship on the day they were ordered. Sounds like bullying to me. It was certainly enough for a host of successful authors to become openly anti-Amazon despite the nasty tricks Amazon could play on them.

    The details still haven’t come out, but I doubt this is the contract being suggested earlier this year, If it was, why was Hachette objecting to being able to set prices. That’s what they’ve wanted. Why pick a fight if that earlier deal meant continuing to receive the same royalties. Also, why would Amazon feel it needed to bully them into accepting terms that were as good or better than what they were already getting? No, that claim makes no sense.

    My hunch is based on what a long-established industry insider suggested. He said that Simon & Schuster was so huge, that even Amazon wouldn’t dare to bully it. What may have happened is that Hachette held out long enough for S&S to get the favorable contract its muscle let it get. Then Hachette made a proposal to accept essentially the same deal. Amazon knew it had no legitimate reason not to agreed to that and, if it didn’t, it would remove all doubt (except perhaps at Teleread) that it was a bully. A bully, we might recall, is someone who preys on the small and typically panders to the powerful.

    I’ve yet to see any details about terms for product placement and promotion. That’s where I suspect Amazon was the most zealous to win. There is can make fat profits for what it has often done in the past for nothing. Pay us X, it was saying, and will make your books appear more places. Pay us Y and we’ll make competing books disappear from search results. That sort of thing.

    That’s the outcome that holds the greatest potential for harm for small publishers and independent authors since it ends any semblance of a level playing field between the big and small in publishing. Amazon online will become like a B&N megastore. Only those who pay will get a front of the store display. And that, I might add, is a zero-sum game. Visibility for some means no visibility for others.

    The alternative, by the way, is to let reader interest and sales drive visibility. An independent author who sells well doesn’t have to pay Amazon to get prominent display. Instead, both she and Amazon benefit simply from increased sales. No kickbacks.

    And if it proves true that Amazon’s “win” was in that pay-for-display, then we’ll hear little about it. Neither Amazon nor the major publishers will want to advertise that is happening. Smart readers will realize that Amazon and those publishers will be playing games with what they buy.

    That does, however, create an opening for what publishing and authors desperately need, which a well-publicized website where the public can go and publishers or authors can control how their book is linked. The simple, default display would show virtually every way to get that book in print or digital, including the price, at one stop.

    But the system would also allow a publisher or author to steer readers to where they’d like their book to be bought. As a for-instance, one of my ebooks pays me twice as much if a reader buys it on the iBookstore rather than from Amazon. I’d love to be able to tell readers, “If it makes no difference to you, help me by buying it from Apple.”

    I’ve tried to get Google to do this since it would give them a larger presence in the book world, but so far I’ve drawn a blank. Maybe, if the can put that Goggle Book Settlement behind them they can think more strategically.

    As authors, we desperately need on webpage we could link to that would tell potential buyers everywhere they can get our books and at what price. Creating those links by hand is a pain. I know. I’ve done it.

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