In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I received an e-mail from Amazon KDP. (The Passive Voice reprinted the full text of the e-mail sent to KDP authors.) It was a request to e-mail Michael Pietsch, the CEO of Hatchette Book Group USA, and tell him why he's wrong. Amazon even thoughtfully provided suggested language and provided Mike's e-mail address. Amazon also asks that they be copied on the e-mail the KDP author sent to Mike.
My initial reaction was the same as Selena Kitt's. Except with a lot more swear words.
So of course, when PG posted the letter on his blog a few hours later, I put my two cents in:
I read this shortly before I went to bed. I shouldn’t have checked my e-mail because I ended up tossing and turning as I composed a response to Jeff Bezos.
I didn’t appreciate Hatchette’s efforts to pull me into their little war. And I know I’ll be in the minority here at TPV, but I don’t appreciate Amazon’s either.
Yes, I’ve watched Hatchette harm friends’ careers over the years. I don’t agree with their pathetic propaganda campaign. And it makes me sick that Hatchette and their one-percenters spread their elitist BS across the world when it’a all about how many extra Benjamins they can collect.
On the other hand, Amazon isn’t innocent, and they have caused me direct harm when they’ve removed my books from their retail site by arbitrarily and randomly changing the rules of what’s acceptable erotica. They also froze my account for several hours in December because I dared to question their policies even though it was a polite, professional e-mail. Frankly, I don’t trust Amazon any more than I trust Hatchette.
So my question becomes why should I support either of these multi-million dollar companies in what amounts to a public schoolyard fight?
There’s no reason to. Hatchette already lost the e-book/change war when they entered into a conspiracy to price-fix with four other publishers and Apple. As for Amazon, someone else will replace them as the top U.S. retailer in twenty or so years.
My only concern here is my own company and my own bottom line. Because it’s just business, right? Or at least that’s the line both companies have dished out when they screw over someone.
So here’s my answer to both Michael Pietsch and Jeff Bezos: When you pay me, I’ll do your company’s dirty work. Until then, leave me out of your playground slap fight.
I hoped that someone would pick apart my points, show the flaw in my logic. The regular commenters at TPV are a bunch of really smart people.
What did I get? A list of people who agreed with my points. And it unsettled me.
Then Barry Eisler popped in, and his take unsettled me even more. He talked about the "revolution in publishing" and "becoming a victim in someone else's war." When Toni McGee Causey disagreed with him, Barry ripped into her for using flamboyant, over-the-top language.
So of course, I had to jump in the middle:
Barry, I respect your opinion and normally, I agree with you on how things are developing in the publishing industry.
But “smart alliances” for you is not necessarily a good choice for me. Amazon treats you very differently than they treat me. If James Patterson walked up to another Hatchette mid-list author not as well known and said exactly what you said here, how would you take it? Because to me, it sounds like a subtle threat, even though I sincerely doubt that’s how you meant it.
I’ve learned an important lesson from the Big 5, and that’s not to put all my eggs in the one basket. Thankfully, I learned that lesson before the Kernel Pornocalypse last fall. Who stood up for the erotica writers then? It sure wasn’t Amazon.
As you and Joe Konrath have said numerous times, we don’t know the exact terms Amazon and Hatchette are fighting over. Oh, we can guess, and I have a suspicion about which guesses are correct. But right now, I have to wonder if Anonymous B. is also correct in his/her comment above. Why do supporters need to CC Amazon if they write to the Hatchette CEO?I fully expected to be ripped into as Toni had been. I got a bare acknowledgement of my points and that the effect on KDP authors wasn't his "primary interest." In other words, this has turned into an ideological battle for him as much as it has for James Patterson and Douglas Preston. And he avoided my specific questions, something he often rails at Patterson and Preston for doing.
I thought Barry Eisler was better than that. I'm disappointed at finding out yet another hero has feet of clay.
Through all of this, no one's asking the bigger question: Why the hell does Amazon think they need the help of a bunch of indie authors, whom Hatchette is going to ignore anyway?