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Child, Grisham, Patterson in Amazon protest

An open letter signed by a number of bestselling writers has called on "Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers". The letter, instigated by US writer Douglas Preston, also calls on "loyal readers" to email Amazon founder and c.e.o. Jeff Bezos to "change his mind".

The letter states: "As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be 'Earth's most customer-centric company'."

Authors to have signed the letter include David Baldacci, Lee Child, Amanda Foreman, John Grisham, James Patterson [pictured], Anita Shreve, Scott Turow, Anne Applebaum, Clive Cussler, Richard North Patterson, and Simon Winchester. Preston told the Wall Street Journal he had received messages of support from a few hundred authors—the overwhelming majority from authors not published by Hachette. Publishers Lunch reported that it now totalled more than 100 signatories.

The letter in full is below. Preston has said that he will post it on his website. Preston noted: "If I were Jeff Bezos, the one thing I would fear most is if authors organized themselves and took broad, concerted, sustained, and dignified public action."

A letter to our readers:

Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette, which owns Little Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.

But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.

For the past month, Amazon has been:

--Boycotting Hachette authors, refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette’s authors’ books, claiming they are “unavailable.”

--Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette’s authors’ books.

--Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette’s authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.

As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be “Earth's most customer-centric company.”

All of us supported Amazon from when it was a struggling start-up. We cheered Amazon on. Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)

We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.

We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, c.e.o and founder of Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails from this account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.
 

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Authors..., more suckers them, as Amazon shows it's true face.

After years of hard work I finally got my Kindle Sales to pay the rent and cover my expenses, and then from out of nowhere...

Two Billionaires start fighting over percentages and getting their millionaire employees to call for a Boycott of Amazon.

And in the process I lose 60% of my Kindle Sales.

That is really not cool.

If Hachette isn't getting your books to the marketplace, maybe you should reconsider your relationship with them. What is Hachette doing to earn their huge percentage of your royalties?

My debut novel received two award nominations this year and I owe this success to Amazon. I initially self-published this novel via KDP and CreateSpace. A few months after release I was offered a contract by the acquisitions editor at Amazon Publishing’s science fiction imprint 47North and my novel was re-released. To my knowledge only two bricks and mortar bookstores have been willing to stock my 47North book – The Washington University Bookstore in Seattle and Forbidden Planet in London.

Not only is this letter technologically ignorant and paranoid (Amazon and Hachette are in a negotiation and pre-orders cannot be taken, for example), the reaction of these rich writers protecting the status quo is deeply disappointing.

A little more time acting as mentors to fledgling writers and a little less time guarding their monopoly is what I expect from artists.

What I see is a bunch of shallow, cynical business people.

"What is Hachette doing to earn their huge percentage of your royalties?"

1. Paying you a nonreturnable advance against those royalties, thus removing any risk of you losing money on the book.

2. Paying a small army of publishing experts - editors, designers, typesetters, marketeers, salespeople, production and eproduction controllers, audiobook departments, foreign rights salespeople, and so on - to package, polish and publish your book as effectively as possible.

I mean, what else did you think they were doing?

Once you deduct all the costs against any given Hachette book I think you'll find that across their list they're making about the same profit margin as the authors.

There's a problematic obsession with just one number in these kinds of discussions - the royalty percentage. It simply doesn't tell the whole story.

Authors..., more suckers them, as Amazon shows it's true face.

After years of hard work I finally got my Kindle Sales to pay the rent and cover my expenses, and then from out of nowhere...

Two Billionaires start fighting over percentages and getting their millionaire employees to call for a Boycott of Amazon.

And in the process I lose 60% of my Kindle Sales.

That is really not cool.

If Hachette isn't getting your books to the marketplace, maybe you should reconsider your relationship with them. What is Hachette doing to earn their huge percentage of your royalties?

"What is Hachette doing to earn their huge percentage of your royalties?"

1. Paying you a nonreturnable advance against those royalties, thus removing any risk of you losing money on the book.

2. Paying a small army of publishing experts - editors, designers, typesetters, marketeers, salespeople, production and eproduction controllers, audiobook departments, foreign rights salespeople, and so on - to package, polish and publish your book as effectively as possible.

I mean, what else did you think they were doing?

Once you deduct all the costs against any given Hachette book I think you'll find that across their list they're making about the same profit margin as the authors.

There's a problematic obsession with just one number in these kinds of discussions - the royalty percentage. It simply doesn't tell the whole story.

My debut novel received two award nominations this year and I owe this success to Amazon. I initially self-published this novel via KDP and CreateSpace. A few months after release I was offered a contract by the acquisitions editor at Amazon Publishing’s science fiction imprint 47North and my novel was re-released. To my knowledge only two bricks and mortar bookstores have been willing to stock my 47North book – The Washington University Bookstore in Seattle and Forbidden Planet in London.

Not only is this letter technologically ignorant and paranoid (Amazon and Hachette are in a negotiation and pre-orders cannot be taken, for example), the reaction of these rich writers protecting the status quo is deeply disappointing.

A little more time acting as mentors to fledgling writers and a little less time guarding their monopoly is what I expect from artists.

What I see is a bunch of shallow, cynical business people.