Douglas Preston, founder of Authors United, has said Amazon appears to be meeting the group’s efforts with “disparagement and what seems to be an escalation in sanctions”.
Authors United has been urging Amazon to stop what it calls “sanctions” against Hachette Book Group authors following a dispute between the two companies in the US. Hundreds of authors, including Donna Tartt, Lee Child and Philip Pullman, signed a first letter from Authors United, which was founded by Preston.
In a second letter, the group of authors appealed to Amazon’s board, warning them that Amazon’s reputation, and the reputation of its directors, is at risk because of Amazon's actions during the dispute, which include removing pre-order buttons from some titles and delaying shipping on others. Authors United is now preparing a third letter, this one to the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) antitrust division, asking it to look into Amazon’s market practices.
In an email to signatories of the first two letters, Preston said: “I am very sorry that this step [the call to the DoJ] is necessary. I had hoped our efforts would have resulted in some gesture from Amazon, which is well aware of the damage it is doing to the careers of several thousand authors. Instead, we have been met with disparagement and what seems to be an escalation in sanctions, at least in terms of the number of books that are affected.”
The letter to the DoJ is being spearheaded by author Barry Lynn, described by Preston as “an authority on antitrust issues”. He is working with several antitrust lawyers in drafting the request.
The letter to Amazon’s board was sent on Friday 19th September, and delivered on Monday 22nd September. As yet, none of the board members have responded.
Meanwhile in a conversation with indie writer Joe Konrath via email, Child said he signed the original Authors United letter because he does not “want Amazon to be the only publisher”.
He said Amazon’s efforts to get into publishing may not have created any big hits so far, “but Bezos never gives up, and he wants Amazon to be the only publisher, and he’ll do what it takes to make it so”.
Child said the dispute was “half-rational, half-emotional”.
He continued: “And flawed – Amazon wants more protection money now (yes, it’s really that simple) but it isn’t prepared to get up from the table and walk away. Neither is Hachette. Hachette’s best play – logically – would be to walk away and suffer a few lean years before an alternative presented itself. I’m absolutely sure its parent company wants it to do that, and would support it in so doing. Huge European corporations are good at the long game. But local management is resisting, because the hiatus would derail too many careers. Again, half-rational, half-emotional.”
Amazon has yet to comment.