Hachette

Archive for Hachette

AmazonShippingPic
In the latest twist in the Amazon-Hachette dispute, Amazon has proven once again that it has the best PR team in corporate history. Following an open letter from authors involved in the current issue which stated that their livelihoods were being impacted by Amazon’s refusal to concede to Hachette’s terms, Amazon offered to give the authors 100% of the price of their sales until the matter is resolved. This offer would have meant that neither Amazon nor Hachette would receive any of the sales price on these authors’ titles, a move which Amazon claimed was meant to spur the parties into reaching an agreement while still ensuring that the authors were not harmed by the negotiations.

Interestingly, despite insisting publicly that Amazon’s ongoing inability to accept the new publisher terms is hurting its authors, Hachette turned down Amazon’s suggestion and dismissed it as simply a ploy. Other entities like the Authors Guild followed suit, quickly spurning Amazon’s offer.

Now, Amazon has offered to take its percentage and Hachette’s percentage and offer those to literacy charities, while still giving the authors their royalty. While the intention is still to ensure that authors are not affected by the drama, the retailer feels like this will force the two parties involved to come to terms that both can agree on.

According to an article in The Bookseller, author Douglas Preston informed Publisher’s Weekly about the offer from Amazon, but said that it has already been rejected by Authors United, the group which penned the open letter and has promised a forthcoming letter to be published as a full-page ad in the New York Times. What is truly interesting is the coverage that this announcement has received, including headlines like this one, and the noticeable reduction in anti-Amazon sentiment in the comments sections of these posts.

ereading
As Hachette, Amazon, and the laundry list of household name authors who make up the faux-power group Authors United continue to battle and make headlines over the contract dispute, there’s another major player who’s caught in the crossfire of the whole mess: the readers.

While critics and supporters on both sides argue over the costs of doing business, the power of capitalism, even the poor contract terms that many traditionally published authors face, the sad fact is that the readers are being left out of much of the discussion. How the contract agreement–whenever it may come about–affects book pricing will directly impact consumers and their ability to continue to purchase books.

Unfortunately, Authors United, the group of authors who penned an open letter to Amazon asking the retailer to resolve the issue and agree to terms, has now threatened to call on its readers to help stand their ground, despite Amazon’s offer to give Hachette’s authors 100% of the sale price of their books until the matter is concluded. AU has now written a second letter stating that it will write another letter…then post that letter in a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Through author Douglas Preston, AU has made the following bold statement: “We have many loyal and committed readers. They listen when we speak. That represents power; perhaps even enough power to face down one of the world’s largest corporations.”

The level of arrogance required to state that AU can use its own reader fans in its fight to increase the price of books for those very fans is astounding, as this is one of the biggest shows of us-versus-them in publishing to be made public in quite some time. Hopefully these authors will quickly come to understand that if it weren’t for Amazon, many of those readers couldn’t even afford to be their fans.

amazon-logo upside down
In a semi-olive branch move, Amazon offered last week to extend 100% of the sales price of Hachette titles to the authors themselves, in a conciliatory move meant to eradicate fears that Amazon’s alleged “sanctions” against Hachette have hurt their authors. In an effort to avoid dragging the children into this while the grown-ups fight, Amazon offered to give the entire purchase price of Hachette titles to the authors, assuming that Hachette also wouldn’t take any percentage, as a push to get both sides to work harder on a resolution.

Of course Hachette refused.

Yes, the very publisher who claims to be fighting for its authors in this situation refused Amazon’s generous offer, basically calling it a PR stunt. What is so interesting is the vocal criticism from (shock, surprise, horror!) the Authors Guild. The same organization who keeps claiming to speak up for authors has also refused to accept Amazon’s offer, which is really interesting because the Guild has no dog in this fight other than sticking its collective nose in.

Admittedly Amazon did send an outline of the terms to Authors Guild as a respectful gesture prior to submitting it to Hachette, but as mothers everywhere state, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Instead, AG opened its mouth and took the opportunity to rail against Amazon, rising to the challenge of proving once again that it has nothing to do with authors’ best interests, and instead is focused on being an elitist club so disconnected from the reality of funding one’s own writing that it sides with a traditional publisher when terms are offered to benefit authors.

Publisher’s Weekly posted Amazon’s statement in response to being thwarted in its efforts to support authors during this difficult time:

“Our offer is sincere and it stands—Hachette need only say yes to help their authors. We also wonder what this letter [from AG] would look like if Hachette had posed this idea and Amazon had rejected it. The letter conflates the long-term structure of the industry with a short-term proposal designed to take authors, the constituency this organization supposedly represents, out of the line of fire of a negotiation between large corporations. Given that the Authors Guild are an author’s advocacy group, it is hard to believe they don’t support this. They are the Authors Guild, not the Publishers Guild.”

What purpose does the Authors Guild serve, exactly?

Comments (2)

rp_kindle-new.jpg
Despite the hordes of critics who have verbally assaulted Amazon for its greed in the Hachette dispute, an article for Forbes today demonstrated the outcome of the current contract negotiation holds a certain percentage of Amazon’s revenue in the balance. How much is that revenue? Around eleven million dollars.

As in, 0.014% of its total $78billion business.

Apple was criticized for not taking the judge’s ruling lying down when it came time to a $200+ million verdict against it in the DOJ ebook pricing fixing lawsuit, despite the fact that the amount was less than one percent of its cash on hand. The critics argued that Apple has already spent far more than that amount in legal fees, but the tech giant claims that it’s not about the money, it’s about the guilty ruling.

If Apple will fight for $200 million and some change just on principle, then Amazon’s fight for $11 million is equally important, except that Amazon is fighting for its customers, not its drop in the bucket. Once the door opens with Hachette to dictate its own terms, terms that will block Amazon from offering its titles to readers at a discount, then that same door is thrown open even wider for other publishers to follow suit. Eventually, the retail book market will be a landscape where even lower-priced ebooks are a luxury item that consumers can no longer afford.

Amazon’s recent request to support Hachette’s authors in what is arguably a difficult situation for them by offering the authors 100% of the sales price of their books has yet to be agreed upon.

Comments (1)

Amazon Holds News Conference
In another twist in the ongoing fight between Amazon and publisher Hachette, Amazon has either demonstrated its true spirit of support for authors and readers, or made the best PR move in the history of book publishing. Yesterday, in a King Solomon-like letter that has not been sent to the publisher but was sent to various experts and author organizations for feedback and weighing in, Amazon has offered to give Hachette’s authors 100% of the sale price from the ebook sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. The goal is to force both parties’ hands into resolving the matter, as this will cost both Amazon and Hachette their royalties.

Hachette (and several of the authors, in syrupy open letters) has maintained that Amazon doesn’t care about authors or the damage this contract negotiation does to the authors’ livelihoods, that it only cares about its bottom line. While that is even allowed to be true and is even accepted in the world of free market retail, Hachette has been equally unmoving in its inability to compromise on the terms they seek with Amazon, even to help their authors.

So Amazon has put its money where its mouth is. If the real victims in this battle are the authors, and food is being ripped out of their mouths while the grown-ups argue, then this should help them get by while the terms are still negotiated. Right?

Wrong. Amazon has already been accused of playing this up for publicity, and the offer hasn’t even been made to the publisher yet. The retailer is willing to forfeit any fees or costs associated with bookselling in order to give the full purchase price to authors (knowing full well that Hachette won’t make a dime on the sale either), yet that is not enough for those who froth over their anger towards the retail giant. The Author’s Guild has already (and characteristically) denounced the offer.

Interestingly, Amazon had also reportedly already offered to fund a pool (50% of which would come from Amazon, the other 50% from Hachette) to help see the authors through this difficult time. That offer was rejected.

The best part of this scenario is Hachette can’t possibly turn it down. What would be their logic, except to finally admit that their authors are just a commodity? Amazon has deftly demonstrated its true feelings for the authors who’ve made it what it is today, while also throwing open the door to show the rest of the world (namely, its critics) what publishers really believe.

Despite early and biased coverage of this proposal in news outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, it’s GigaOm’s Laura Hazard Owen who has gone to the effort to make the letter available to readers.

Comments (2)

3-June-2013-Indie-Bestsellers-signing-on-30th-Howey-Freethy-510x317
There are a few groups out there that claim to be the voice of advocacy and support for authors. Chief among them is the Author’s Guild, an organization that actively works to block self-published authors from its inner sanctum by imposing hefty sales requirements before indie authors can join, thus making them a retailer’s guild, rather than an author’s guild. There’s also the newly formed Author’s Alliance, although their noble cause of furthering open access is more appropriate for non-fiction authors of academic publishing. In an interesting aside, I do wish to point out that I cannot get behind any group that doesn’t move the apostrophe to reflect that they represent the plural of “author.”

Before this rant goes any further, I would like to point out that the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Writer’s Guild (again with the singular possessive, but I digress) do great work for their members, but both have their limitations and their highly specific mission goals. This is the very reason that self-publishing success story and vocal champion for indie authors Hugh Howey has suggested the formation of an actual union for indie authors.

Well, that and the fact that a lot of people seem to have a lot to say about the battle between Amazon and Hachette, and that those who support the publisher don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

Howey published this POST on his website that explained some of the disillusionment behind these so-called advocacy groups that speak for authors without ever actually consulting authors. Howey summed it up best when he said this:

“Groups like the aforementioned SFWA have minimum requirements for membership. I think there should be maximum requirements for representation. That is, once your earnings hit a certain level, your rights are no longer the focus of the group. Those rights might align at times with the focus of the group, but it won’t be an active concern.

“Why? Because labor unions shouldn’t exist to win raises for the managers and the foremen. They sometimes devolve into this, and that’s the beginning of the end of their usefulness. Our guild long ago subscribed to that philosophy. I like to think it happened unintentionally and innocently, bias building upon bias, closed rooms echoing, monocultures spreading. I think some of the people who have it all and are fighting for more aren’t bad people; they just aren’t exposed to enough dissenting opinions. Many of those fighting for Hachette have no clue what is happening in the publishing trenches right now. They’ve been in tents with generals for far too long.”

Truer words in publishing haven’t been spoken in a long time. The traditional industry is fighting with all its might and enlisting the help of entities that once had authors’ interests at heart (note the placement of the apostrophe on the plural form of “author”), but who now cater to the powers that are still trying to hold court over the industry.

What does Howey want, and what do authors want?

They want to know that their voices will be heard, not just from the mouthpieces who have stepped in and claimed to speak on their behalf, and not just from the people whose job it is to ensure that the pockets are lined. There should not be requirements for membership in an authors’ organization other than having written something. Writing and selling are two very different aspects of publishing, yet no one has stepped up and admitted owning the Author-Retailer’s Guild. In order to know which entities are actively working on behalf of authors and readers alike, the powers that be must be replaced with organizations that actually work to further literature of every kind.

silkworm-300
Verdict: 5 Stars

Rowling/Gilbraith has done it again, and this one may be even better than the first in her Cormoran Strike series.

It was both sad and amazing when JK Rowling returned to fiction writing after closing the covers on her Harry Potter series. As she transitioned into becoming the head of the worldwide wizarding empire that has seen a movie franchise, interactive website world, licensed products, and even a theme park, her writing bug may have been quieted by the other projects, but it certainly hadn’t died. With her embarrassingly disappointing first adult novel, no one could argue that Rowling didn’t stay true to herself and write the book she wanted to write, critics be damned.

But with her second series, Rowling smartly opted for a pen name to avoid the comparisons. Her adult fiction is nothing like the world she built for avid young readers, and she avoided being associated with the first book for as long as she could. Still staying true to her literary choices, she penned the book she wanted to write and her audiences responded favorably.

With the second installment, The Silkworm, Rowling crafted an even more gripping story than the first Strike novel, this time focusing more on the literary world. After a novelist goes missing and Strike is called in by the wife to find him, Strike discovers that the writer’s most recent manuscript is a tell-all that would expose people who know the novelist personally, including his own wife. Someone has a motive for murder, and Strike must sift through the saga of dirty laundry in order to beat the killer to it.

Even more than the ever-present writing ability of an author who has the ability to put her readers in the setting, whether it’s a dark alley or Diagon Alley, this is one book that might hit too close to home for the world famous author herself. Who better to write about the perils of literary fame than one of the highest grossing authors of all time? It was easy to wonder “what if” as I read, wondering how much of the torment her character feels applies to her own life.

Despite the ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette, this title is now available in all formats (paperback still pending).

2010_10_06_department_of_justice_doj_006
When the dust finally settled from the Department of Justice lawsuit against Apple and five of the then-Big Six publishers for illegally colluding to inflate the price of ebooks, essentially bilking consumers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to grab some more market share away from Amazon, the terms of the judge’s ruling included a caveat. That statement was that Apple could not engage in book discounting under the agency model for at least two years, and then it could only negotiate terms of the so-called “agency model” (in which the publishers set the prices of their books, not the retailer) with one publisher at a time spread out over a period of six months each.

Guess who the first publisher in line is? Hachette.

Yes, Hachette, the company who is in heated, contentious dispute with Amazon, currently isn’t allowed to sell titles through Apple without giving Apple the right to discount as the court ruling from Judge Denise Cote states that Apple cannot engage in agency pricing for a predetermined period of time.

Hachette wants Amazon to have to submit to the no-discount policy of agency model pricing, knowing full well that Apple is legally bound to not enter into that agreement and can therefore discount ebooks all it wants to. Amazon will be held to whatever price Hachette decides to charge, while Apple can set its own prices, including selling titles at a loss.

I’m sorry, I’m confused…who’s the bad guy again?

Interestingly, two other publishers have jumped into the debate. Macmillan and Simon&Schuster have filed court documents contending that the entire situation will work to harm their businesses. Since Apple is filing appeals and has therefore not resolved the issue on when agency model can be reinstated, and since Macmillan and S&S are presumably now at the back of the line of publishers, they cannot institute agency pricing with Apple (and therefore, by common sense, any other retailers) until sometime in late 2017.

Is it any coincidence that Hachette attempted to return to agency pricing with Amazon (and not Apple) at nearly the same time that Apple’s new iOS 8 update will make the iBookstore easier to access from its mobile devices?

While the open letter writing, name calling, and petition signing in the Amazon-Hachette battle continues to rage on, it’s important to remember that the end result of Hachette getting its way will be that Amazon will not be allowed to discount ebooks, and by law Apple will. I seem to recall there was a massive lawsuit because one retailer had too much of an advantage…

JULY
As the Independence Day festivities carry over for many people due to the long weekend, it’s time to load up the e-reader with Amazon’s list of best books for July. The titles are selected by the editorial team at Amazon Books, and just as with every other list the group produces for months or holidays, they’re not based on book sales or ranking, but rather on the human input of the editors who are themselves readers who’ve enjoyed the titles.

The complete list of titles includes: War of the Whales: A True Story by Joshua Horwitz (July 1), California: A Novel by Edan Lepuki (July 8), High As Horses’ Bridles by Scott Cheshire (July 8), Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty by Elizabeth Mitchell (July 2), Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival by Laurence Gonzales (July 7), The Fracking King by James Browning (July 1), Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (July 29), Landline by Rainbow Rowell (July 8), The Girls from Coronoa del Mar by Rufi Thorpe (July 8), The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (July 15), and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (June 26).

Links to the titles can be found HERE.

Interestingly, Amazon was criticized when the list came out for July as it includes a title published by Hachette Book Group, California, by Edan Lepuki. Due to the ongoing dispute Amazon is engaged in with Hachette, books by that publisher are not available for pre-order and many are listed as out of stock until further notice. Despite the downright nastiness that has been lobbed in Amazon’s direction for what it claims to be its fight for its customers and low prices, Amazon has openly encouraged readers to purchase Hachette titles from other sources until a resolution can be reached.

But how can Amazon include California on its list of best titles if it won’t even sell it? Good e-Reader reached out to Amazon for comment, and this was their reply:

“Amazon’s editorial team chooses their book recommendations independent of other teams. California will be available for customers to order on its publisher designated on-sale date of July 8.”

Regardless of what critics have to say about a retailer and its business practices, it’s hard to find fault with an organization whose own editors have the ability to promote a book based simply on its merits as a great read, even if the parent companies involved are still battling it out. It would be not at all unheard of for a corporate official to order California off the list due to the politics involved, but that isn’t the case here.

While the arguments rage on, one group of nearly thirty indie authors has shown its support for Amazon and the good work that it has done in revolutionizing nearly every aspect of the publishing industry. A petition at change.org has been established to show Amazon that it does have friends in the business.

Photo courtesy of ebookbotics.com

Photo courtesy of ebookbotics.com

Despite the letter circulated by some well-known authors that urged Amazon to behave itself in its ongoing dispute with Hachette, a new open letter and petition has surfaced. This time, nearly thirty indie authors signed the letter thanking Amazon for its service to the reading public and to authors in particular. The authors include the usual suspects, such as Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, and more, people who’ve been quite vocal about the good that Amazon has done in disrupting the status quo in the publishing industry.

In fact, the authors outline so much good that Amazon comes across as a veritable saint for self-published authors, and if all things are taken into consideration, it’s easy to understand why Amazon is so beloved in the eyes of self-published authors.

While the full text of the petition can be found HERE, this quote sums it up quite nicely:

“Much is being said these days about changes in the book world, but not nearly enough is being said about the most important people in our industry.

“You. The readers. Without you there wouldn’t be a book industry.

“We owe you so much, and we are forever in your debt. Thank you for reading late into the night. Thank you for reading to your children. Thank you for missing that subway stop, for your word of mouth, your reviews, and your fan emails.”

It’s quite telling that traditionally published authors sent a “letter” to Amazon, whereas self-published authors initiated a petition on change.org to let readers sign their support for the company. This is simply indicative of the publishing industry as a whole, where the tiny handful of millionaire bestsellers don’t have to connect with their audiences in the way that self-published success stories do. Rather than pen the traditionally published self-centered thoughts and issue them as a command to resolve their differences in order to continue funding the twelve-bathroom mansions that some of them own, the self-published authors opened the door to discussion and inclusion, much like Amazon has done for them.

“New York Publishing once controlled the book industry. They decided which stories you were allowed to read. They decided which authors were allowed to publish. They charged high prices while withholding less expensive formats. They paid authors as little as possible, usually between 2% and 12.5% of the list price of a book.

“Amazon, in contrast, trusts you to decide what to read, and they strive to keep the price you pay low. They allow all writers to publish on their platform, and they pay authors between 35% and 70% of the list price of the book.

“You probably aren’t aware of this, but the majority of your favorite authors can’t make a living off their book sales alone. Very few authors could when New York Publishing was in charge. That is changing now that Amazon and other online retailers are paying authors a fair wage.”

The crux of the authors’ point comes down to the fact that the retail industry for all forms of media has changed, but that the Old Guard somehow want books to be exempt from that, as though they have a different innate worth than music or movie downloads. The real issue is control, though, and as the petition points out, no one has given this much control and income to authors before or since Amazon.

AmazonShippingPic
A headline in the Wall Street Journal today promised that a senior executive at Amazon had finally spoken openly about the ongoing dispute between the online retail giant and Hachette Book Group, one of the mainstays of publishing and a member of the Big Five. And the remarks attributed did come from VP Russ Grandinetti, but that’s really where the amazement of the announcement stopped.

Grandinetti maintained the position that Amazon has held all along, that it is simply fighting for the best prices to give its customers. But instead of taking that at face value–despite the fact that Amazon has built itself into one of the most customer-centric entities in the retail space–those who hate the empire that it has become are determined that there is an ulterior motive, that the retailer is just throwing its weight around and outlining terms that will be adhered to at all costs.

Odd…the Publix grocery store in my town refuses to sell my favorite brand of vegan cheese, and no one’s picketing out front.

As the country wrestles with the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision this week that gave another company the power to do pretty much as it pleases with regard to how it conducts business and employee relations, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Amazon is not required to conduct business with any single entity. In fact, Amazon has been criticized in the past for refusing to sell certain books and for removing content that it deemed inappropriate from its retail shelves, but is now being criticized for not stocking titles from a supplier with whom it currently has no valid terms.

However the terms and the battle end, it is nice to know that both companies feel so strongly about their positions–one that customers deserve the best possible price and the other that authors are true artists who need to be compensated as much as possible–that they are willing to continue the fight in order to achieve their goals.

Comments (0)

153845-perseus_books_group

Perseus Book Group was founded in 1996 and has been acquiring small imprints to expand their business.  Over the course of the last few years the entire publishing industry is consolidating and Perseus was a solid acquisition target. Hachette has announced they are purchasing Perseus and absorbing all of their imprints and then selling the distribution business to Ingram.

Hachette is  currently the 4th largest publisher in the US and the absorbing of Persius will boost their annual revenue an extra $700 million dollars. This stems from the many imprints it now owns, such as  from Avalon Travel, Basic Books, Da Capo, The Economist, Nation Books, Running Press, Seal Press, Weinstein Books and Westview.

Not only does Hachette get access to all of the current catalog of titles but also access to 6,000  backlist of titles it can now issue as eBooks.  These include  perennial sellers such as “Friday Night Lights” by Buzz Bissinger and “Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.

Perseus can be considered by some, to be the largest book distributor in the US. Under the terms of the Hachette deal Ingram will absorb the client services division, which provides back-end services like marketing and distribution, to Ingram Content Group.

Categories : Business News
Comments (1)

AmazonShippingPic
An article appeared this past week in the New York Times that finally shows a bookseller and book industry professional doing something about Amazon. Instead of blog posts about the retail giant’s underhanded ways or entire three-day conferences devoted to how publishers can bring down the largest online retailer their industry faces, one book shop is going about the competition a little differently, namely by offering the titles that consumers currently can’t buy from Amazon.

According to the article by James B. Stewart, Third Place Books’ Robert Sindelar decided to take the high ground and offer certain Hachette titles at a significant discount, and even went so far as to hand deliver an eagerly anticipated bestseller’s follow-up to customers who pre-ordered it, something those same customers cannot currently do on Amazon. This extra effort may have seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth, but Stewart stated sales of the title were around twelve times higher than they would have been without these steps.

While Amazon and Hachette battle it out over the terms of their contract, retailers like Sindelar stand to gain by turning consumers’ attention to the benefits of shopping locally for their books. The extra effort might have only resulted in a small pay out right now, but these are the kinds of customer service steps that booksellers and publishers are going to have to envision if they want to get serious about the rising power of Amazon.

Unfortunately, one comment in Stewart’s article is as misguided as it is explanatory of the reason that nothing has been done about Amazon’s stronghold yet. Sindelar remarked that Amazon’s withholding of Hachette titles and refusal to allow pre-orders “violates our ethics as retailers.” There’s a code of ethics that business people are supposed to follow? Did someone forget to tell Amazon? For that matter, did someone forget to tell the publishers, who needed the Department of Justice to remind them of their so-called ethics?

A lot of the anger directed at Amazon in this instance comes from the notion that somehow books are more sacred than other objects that are for sale. And in many ways, books are more special than oil filters or diapers, not that Amazon doesn’t sell those objects as well. Possibly the fact that Amazon does sell those objects is what has made the bookselling side of their business into just another commodity, but it is the public who’s in the wrong for thinking that Amazon has some noble duty to be better than that, to rise above the sheer desire to make a profit. When the rest of the industry understands that Amazon is first and foremost a for-profit business, then perhaps they will start to interact with the retailer as though they are a business. The downfall right now is in pretending that Amazon has any goal in mind other than profit, and once publishers finally treat the retailer like its profit margin is its ultimate goal, then they can start to see new ways of doing business–with or without Amazon.