Monday, June 9, 2014

The Non-War of Hachette vs. Amazon

If you're in the book biz, all you've heard in the last three weeks is "AUGH! Amazon is taking over the world!"

No, it's not. Although, I'm sure Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would love to.

As I've said before, Hatchette Book Group, USA, is hardly a wilting Southern flower being trampled by the longhorn bull that is Amazon. They are two multi-national companies duking it out over--

See? No one really knows what the specific issues are because Amazon and Hatchette signed a negotiation non-disclosure agreement.

Oh, you can guess and speculate, but you don't really know. What we do know is that Hatchette has orchestrated a massive PR campaign to paint Amazon as an evil ogre that eats babies. Hey, when you've got newspapers and TV stations in your pocket, why not pull out all the stops when you're not getting your way?

But there's two little problems:

1) The mass of the human race doesn't give a flying fuck what two mega-companies are doing right now. It's one more case of white noise in a multitude of crap they have to deal with in  their daily lives.

2) Even the publishing industry is getting tired of Hatchette's whining.

How bad does a publisher have to be before the rest of the trad industry stops taking your side? Hatchette may have hit that point. Last Friday, Publishers Weekly ran a piece that was, for once, even-handed in the current business negotiations between Amazon and Hatchette. Until now, PW has been on the trad publishers side, touting the party line that Amazon is evil, indie writers are producing a tsunami of swill, and only trad publishers can protect and cherish American literary culture.


As one small publisher stated in the article, no one blinked an eye when a similar negotiation/battle went on for six months last year between Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster. In their case, the issue was end cap and  front table pricing. B&N pulled the same under-ordering tactics that Amazon are, but the only ones who complained were authors whose books came out during that period.

Ironically, Simon & Schuster released indie phenomenon Hugh Howey's print version of Wool during their tiff with B&N. The paper version could have been S&S's 50 Shades of Grey last year, but it had mediocre sales because B&N refused to order large amounts of the book.

But did anyone raise the hue and cry like Hatchette is doing now? Nope. And writers in trad contracts should take a damn hard look at the similarities between the two situations.

Did Simon & Schuster acknowledge their part in your lack of sales last year? Were any guarantees made that you wouldn't lose your contract due to the conflict with B&N? How many of you did lose your contracts due to low sales number in 2013?

As much as Hatchette bitches and moans about Amazon, they won't remove their products from Amazon's virtual shelves. They can't. They'd lose too much money, and their corporate master in France would kick them to the curb in a heartbeat. In fact, Lagardere's CEO issued a statement that there would be a quick resolution to the situation. Reading between the lines, he's telling Hatchette US to get their shit together.

So how much longer will the publishing cyberspace be inundated with anti-Amazon propaganda? Who knows? But no one's paying attention, and even the people carrying the signs are getting tired.

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