Saturday, June 7, 2014

Special Edition - Amazon Vs. Hachette

I’ve been following the Amazon/Hachette story on several levels.  I’ve read and listened to the arguments by James Patterson, JA Konrath, and several others…and all I can do is offer my opinion on the subject.

I’m not a bestselling author, not by a long shot.  My opinions will be from a position of looking up, not down.

I began my writing career in 2009, when I finished my first novel, If You Could Read My Mind – A Nicholas Turner Novel.  I thoroughly researched the available data online and at my local library, and I figured out that the big publishing houses won’t even look at a manuscript unless the author has an agent.  Okay, I was starting at the top and working down, and it looked like I needed to find an agent.  The quest was on.

One sidebar here:  JA Konrath, in his blog, has referred to the Big 5 publishing houses as the self-appointed “gatekeepers” of what you, the reader, can choose to read.  I found that to be only partially accurate.

Literary agents are the gatekeepers to traditional publishing.  I discovered that the Big 5 won’t even consider reading a novel unless it has been passed to them by one of these ethereal legends.

So, back to my story:  I set out to find a literary agent.  I queried, I emailed, I called, and I lost count of how many I contacted in the course of trying to peddle my novel.  Many never responded.  Many requested the first three chapters, then never responded.  One agent read the first three chapters and liked it, then requested the rest of the manuscript…then said that they weren’t interested.

I was becoming disillusioned quickly.

I had heard for many years of the stigma of “self-publishing”.  I had been told that it was elitist, narcissistic, and only reserved for those that could not get published by “real” publishers.

I had also heard of the new Kindle from Amazon.  An e-reader that was capable of holding more than 3500 books, and that buyers were beginning to embrace this new technological breakthrough…but, the lack of content being supplied by the Big 5 was holding it back.  All of this I had read or seen on news outlets.

Meanwhile, I was writing away on my second novel, Mama Told Me Not To Come – A Justice Security Novel, but it looked like I wouldn’t have an outlet for that one, either.

Then, one day, as I was about to order another movie for my collection, I accidentally scrolled to the bottom of the page at Amazon.  I glimpsed the words, “Independently Publish With Us”, all in blue “link” letters.  I clicked on it, containing my skepticism for the moment, and read all of the details for publishing with Kindle, which led me to CreateSpace, and then, last year, to ACX and

Seventy percent royalties!  Wow!  That’s pretty good, when you think about it.  An ebook for $2.99 yields a royalty to the author of approximately $2.05, give or take a few cents.  The irises in my eyes changed to dollar signs as I dreamed of the massive sales I would generate!

Well, reality has stepped in on that account.  I’ve made some decent money with my writing, but I still can’t quite afford to do it full time.  But, I’ve done it on my own, with Amazon’s help, and I’m grateful to them!

And, that first novel that no agent would take?  Nothing but four- and five-star reviews on Amazon.

From what I’ve read, traditional publishers do NOT pay that much in royalties.  Heck, they pay only pennies, and gleefully chuckle all the way to the bank.  I’m not averse to anyone making money.  I have a real problem with the accounting provided and the royalties paid to authors by the Big 5.

To James Patterson, Scott Turow, et al, I say this:  Why in the name of God would you want to create an artistic piece of literature, go to the trouble of copyrighting it, then, not only sign the publishing rights away forever, but sign them away for a meager pittance?  Why would you place yourself at the mercy of…well, face it – a huge conglomerate of various entities whose only desire is to make money from your creations?

Mr. Patterson, Mr. Turow, your names are big and well known.  You could self-publish for the rest of your writing careers, and make a bloody fortune!  Much more than you can make with the Big 5…and Amazon could do that for you!  Are you afraid to try it?  Are you frightened of the idea of making it on your own, without the major promotional money behind you?  Or have you become elitist snobs, content with publishing ghost-written product that has little to do with your original creations?

Personally, I like having control of my own stories and novels.  I decide where and when they appear, and what format in which they appear.  Most of the money made from the sale of one story or novel comes to me, as it should.  It’s my responsibility to create stories that people want to read, and for me to write it as well as I can, and as quickly as I can.

Now, the other side of the coin:  T. M. Bilderback, the voracious reader.

I love my Kindle.  It stores books for me without using massive shelf space.  It frees me to take my entire library with me wherever I go.  I always have something to read!  And, if the truth be known, I have two Kindles:  A regular Kindle, and a first generation Kindle Fire.  I’m an avid comics fan, and I use the Kindle Fire to read and store comics.  The regular Kindle is for normal novels and nonfiction.  I am replacing many of my space-sucking traditional books with ebook editions, and I, of course, want to do it as inexpensively as possible.

I keep lengthy Wish Lists on Amazon containing Kindle books that I want or need.  One list is for new material that I’ve never read, and the other is for Kindle books that replace traditional books that I own.

Friday night, June 7, I went through both lists and deleted anything that I had added to the lists that were provided by Hachette.  That included the new books from Mr. Patterson, a few back titles from Preston & Child, and several others.  As long as Hachette sticks to its desire for keeping ebook prices high, I won’t pay for them.  And, if I choose to read one of those titles, I will go to a used book store, and purchase a previously-read traditional book.  No money from my wallet will be transferred to Hachette as long as this feud persists.

I’ll back my opinion up with my wallet, and choose reading material from independent authors, and from publishers that keep prices low.

This may seem drastic, but Amazon is not hurting authors.  Amazon is not refusing to sell books from Hachette.  Amazon is a business that responds to the desires of its customers.

And its customers want the lowest price possible.

If any harm is coming to authors as a result of this feud, it’s because the authors have signed Draconian contracts to the Big 5.

I will also add this:  If the Big 5 will begin to give their authors at least 60% royalties on each ebook purchase, I would consider paying those outrageous prices.  But, I wouldn’t be able to buy as many books as I could if the prices were lower.  An $8.99 list price for one book keeps me from buying three books at $2.99 each.

I ask Hachette, and Mr. Patterson, and Mr. Turow:  Would you rather sell a thousand books at $8.99, or ten thousand at $2.99?

Well, there you have it…my opinion on the matter, both as an author and as a reader.  Amazon has been good to me, and is doing nothing wrong or underhanded in this matter.  I’m proud to be associated with them.

How about you?

Keep reading!

Michael (T. M. Bilderback)

P. S.  This entry was edited to correct the spelling of the publisher's name.

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