Could it be any Clearer?
For the longest time, getting a word out of Amazon required rubber gloves, lube, a stick of gum, and a length of string. During the ongoing negotiations with Hachette, that has changed. I mean, Amazon practically won’t shut up these days. Their latest blog post is particularly dense with revelations, and it should serve as a wake up call for authors and readers.
Here’s a link to their post. You should read it. Seriously.
As many have been predicting, Amazon is fighting for lower prices for their customers. It has also been posited over and over that lower ebook prices would generate more revenue for all involved, and now Amazon backs this up by revealing calculations pulled from their industry-best sales data. So who is Hachette fighting for, if they are resisting terms like these? The only people I can think of are those who sell millions of physical books at bookstores. You know, the Prestons, Pattersons, and Colberts. The top 1%.
Just as immense here is Amazon’s call for higher pay for authors, which is neatly tucked within the folds of their post. Amazon comes right out and states that they are asking for 30% on the sale of ebooks, which is what they currently get from most self-published titles. It is an entirely reasonable percentage for a retailer (bookstores get 40% – 50%). What I love, though, is that Amazon then suggests that the remaining 70% should be split evenly between the author and the publisher.
As Barry Eisler points out, Amazon just became the closest thing we have to a writers’ guild. Not only are they fighting for lower prices, which sell more books, capture more of an audience, and make more income . . . but Amazon just came out in favor of ebook royalties of 50% of net. That is twice what authors are currently offered.
Authors currently make 25% of net on ebooks, which is unconscionably low. To have an organization like Amazon mention fairer pay is more than most writing groups have been willing to do. Imagine if those groups (like SFWA and the AG) actually applied some pressure as well. I mean, can you believe that our guilds and associations aren’t fighting our employers for better pay, so it’s being left up to a retailer to even mention it?
I’m getting a metric ton of email and messages about Amazon’s public statement. Authors are getting in touch to let me know that after reading Amazon’s position in these negotiations, they immediately went and signed the petition at Change.org that asks Hachette to negotiate in good faith. That petition now has over 7,500 signatures. I hope now that Amazon has stated that they are fighting on behalf of readers, writers, and book culture, that even more people sign the petition.
There will be those who continue to doubt Amazon’s sincerity and motives. There will be those who continue to lionize publishers because they produce the books we know and love. But one of these companies has a long history of making reading accessible while paying authors more than they have ever made in history. The other has a history of illegally colluding with competitors to raise prices on their readers while paying authors shit.
Which of these companies do you support? Which one does your writing group or organization support? The correct answer has been clear to me for a long time. But with this last public statement, it just got even clearer.