What’s Next for Authors United? Publishing

Authors United has been spectacularly unsuccessful in its supposed mission to get Amazon and Hachette to agree a deal. By contrast, Simon & Schuster was able to agree a deal in just three weeks – without the intervention of Douglas Preston’s group. To be fair, Authors United has been very good at one thing: getting media attention. Perhaps it’s time for Douglas Preston to widen the aims of the group and start campaigning on issues which actually matter. It would be great if Authors United could get the media to focus on any of these problems. Alternatively, Authors United could continue to focus on propping up a broken system which only rewards those at the very top (like Douglas Preston, surprisingly). Read More…

Amazon and S&S Agree Terms. Who’s The Bad Guy Again?

Simon & Schuster has agreed a multi-year deal with Amazon covering both e-books and print books. Business Insider reported that negotiations only took three weeks and were concluded two months before the original contract expired. I’m confused, does this mean the end of literary culture or not? Someone needs to run up to Douglas Preston’s quaint writer shack to find out. (If you get lost, it’s at the back of his 400-acre estate). It also begs a question: what exactly is Hachette holding out for? As everyone knows at this point, Hachette’s contract with Amazon expired in March and the two parties have been unable to agree a deal since. The narrative being pushed by the media was that Amazon’s desired terms Read More…

Self-Publishers Aren't Killing The Industry, They're Saving It Publishing

In light of current events, I thought it would be good to re-run Ed Robertson’s excellent guest post from November 2012 where he highlighted interesting parallels between historical paperback pricing (pre-industry consolidation) and self-published e-books. It’s unlikely I’ll have time this weekend to respond to emails, or tweets, or jump in the comments, as I’ll be busy editing, but this should give you something to chew on. I’m sending the 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital to the editor tomorrow, and I’ll be blogging about that Monday or Tuesday. Oh, and the Spanish translation of Digital has just been released. You can grab it for free today only. More at the bottom of Ed’s post: Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Read More…

Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It Publishing

In light of current events, I thought it would be good to re-run Ed Robertson’s excellent guest post from November 2012 where he highlighted interesting parallels between historical paperback pricing (pre-industry consolidation) and self-published e-books. It’s unlikely I’ll have time this weekend to respond to emails, or tweets, or jump in the comments, as I’ll be busy editing, but this should give you something to chew on. I’m sending the 2nd edition of Let’s Get Digital to the editor tomorrow, and I’ll be blogging about that Monday or Tuesday. Oh, and the Spanish translation of Digital has just been released. You can grab it for free today only. More at the bottom of Ed’s post: Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Read More…

Gatecrashing the Cosy Consensus on Amazon

A group of bestselling traditionally published authors – including James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Douglas Preston – engaged in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy on Thursday with an open letter calling on Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette. The letter is incredibly disingenuous. It claims not to take sides, but only calls on Amazon to take action to end the dispute. It also makes a series of ridiculous claims, notably that Amazon has been “boycotting Hachette authors.” Where do I start? The Phantom Boycott First of all, refusing to take pre-orders on Hachette titles is not a “boycott.” Pre-orders are a facility extended to certain publishers – not all publishers. Many small presses don’t have a pre-order facility. Most Read More…

Media Bias and Amazon

There is so much crap being spouted in this anti-Amazon media push that you need a nose-peg and waders to get through it all. Let’s take a look at what happened this week. Hook, Line & Sinker Statements from either side in the Amazon-Hachette dispute have been thin on the ground. Both companies are said to have signed NDAs – restricting formal comments while negotiations are ongoing – but Hachette has been leaking to reporters, and marshaling authors and industry figures in its defense, leading to an extremely one-sided depiction of events in the media. Which is fine, it’s a pretty standard negotiation tactic, and a clever one if media conglomerates like Bertelsmann (part-owner of Penguin Random House), CBS (owner Read More…

Fake Bestsellers, Concern Trolls and Hidden Agendas Bewares Publishing

Last Friday we were treated to a story from the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, where Tony Horwitz claimed “I Was A Digital Bestseller” then complained about how little money this made him, and how he would now stick with traditional, print publishers as a result. Then this Op-Ed was held up – in outlets like Gawker – as another example of how writers have it so tough in this scary new digital world which is going to lead us all into penury. Just like the story I wrote in January – Fake Controversy Alert: Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller – the key “fact” in Horwitz’s tale of woe doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Can Read More…

This Is The Kind Of Competition Publishers Want Publishing

Since the huge shift to online purchasing and e-books, a common meme is that there is some kind of “discoverability” problem in publishing. The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering. The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem. Amazon regularly gets slated for purported anti-competitive actions, but it has done more to create the digital marketplace Read More…

Why Is The Media Ignoring Author Exploitation By Publishers? Bewares

The Amazon-Hachette dispute has caught the media’s attention. But what about the story the media refuses to cover? The media is more concerned with one-sided accounts of Amazon’s perceived actions – when no one really knows the exact nature of the dispute. The media is more concerned with what Amazon might do in the future, than actual author exploitation by the world’s largest trade publisher: Penguin Random House. Penguin Random House owns the world’s largest vanity press – Author Solutions – which is currently subject to a class action for deceptive business practices, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violation of business statutes in California, New York, and Colorado. The court papers cover the same ground that I’ve been blogging about for the Read More…

Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

The internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette. Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business. Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started. In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.) At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely Read More…