Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hatchette v. Amazon

This is my two cents on this touchy subject.



There is a lot of talk going around about the “Evil Empire that is Amazon”. It’s the same talk as a year or two ago, about how evil Amazon is, how its forcing brick and mortar stores to close, and how its hurting the traditional publishers and now, the traditionally published authors.

Let me tell you about my experience with Amazon.

Were it not for Amazon and the KDP program, I would not be where I am today. I would still be stuck in a dead end job that I did not like.

Were it not for Amazon, I wouldn’t have been given the chance to publish my books. Ever. Because, according to New York/Traditional publishing houses, the romance genre is dead, series books don’t sell, and no one reads historical fiction/historical romance anymore. And ‘clean’ romance novels don’t sell at all. (I write Scottish Historical Fiction/Romance, now have two series, and all my books are ‘clean’ compared to many in this genre.)

In 2011 I published my first book. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Not. One. Clue. But, because Amazon made it so easy, I was able to get this little book, that in truth was only meant as a gift to my mom, published. That was December of 2011. In the book world, I was an unknown. Just a woman with a story to tell. My goal at that time was to sell ten copies in my entire lifetime. I would have been over-the-moon happy with selling just ten copies.

By February of 2012 — just two months after hitting that lovely ‘publish’ button — my book was #2 on Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers List in Scottish Historical Romance. I kept thinking that Amazon would call and say it was a mistake. That I wasn’t really selling 250+ copies of that book a day, and don’t give up your day job.

Amazon did call me in March or April of 2012, but it wasn’t to tell me it was a mistake. They called to congratulate me and give me my own KDP representative. Yes, it blew my mind too!

By October of 2012, I was able to give up my day job. I was earning so much more at writing than at my day job. In fact, one month my royalty check was the equivalent of 10 month’s salary at day job. That’s right. It would have taken me ten months of working 8 to 5, five days a week, to earn what I made in one month as a writer. The decision to give up the day job was settled.

Were it not for the KDP program and Amazon, I would not have thousands of devoted readers. I wouldn’t be adding on a 24 x 30 room addition to our home (paying cash for it, no loans). I wouldn’t be able to pay for all my mom’s medicine that medicare doesn’t pay for— and trust me that gets very expensive! I wouldn’t be able to help my kids through college, and pay down our debt. I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things that I’ve been able to do in the past two and a half years. I’d still be stuck in my dead end job. And writing full time would still only be a dream. A wish I’d make when blowing out birthday candles or on a falling star.

Were it not for Amazon, I wouldn’t have made all the wonderful friendships with so many of my readers. I wouldn’t have forged friendships with fellow authors. I wouldn’t know who Hugh Howey is, or Liliana Hart, or Tanya Anne Crosby or Kathryn LeVeque or the countless other awe inspiring people I’ve met along the way.

In my humble opinion, the big, traditional publishing houses are worried that they’re losing their stronghold on publishing. The Kindle has opened up new territories for readers. And were it not for readers, none of us, not the traditionally published authors or the indie authors, would be here. It is the reader who makes us all successful. And that is who I think is getting lost in this argument.

Readers are not as stupid as New York likes to think they are. They’re intelligent people who love a great story. And many readers are probably like I was three years ago: limited funds to spend on books. Before becoming a writer, I had a monthly book budget. I could read three to six books a week depending on the length of the book and free time. For me, I would rather read ten good books in a month than just one. So if I could get ten books for ten bucks, that made more sense than spending ten bucks on one book. I love James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Lisa Gardner, and John Grisham. They’re wonderful story tellers. But honestly, I couldn’t afford $10 to $20 for an ebook. I just couldn’t. So I would get their books from the library and spend my book money on less expensive — but equally beautiful and wonderfully written — ebooks. I think many of my readers are in the same boat that I was. We want to read. We want to read a lot. We read many different genres and many different authors.

The traditional publishers just don’t get that. And the traditionally published authors don’t get it either, at least not the big named authors. What they’re forgetting is the reader.

I can’t tell you the number of times a reader has contacted me via Facebook or email or blog and when I respond to them, they are stunned. “I can’t believe you answered my email!” or “I can’t believe you’re talking to me on Facebook!” Indie authors understand that the relationship between us and the reader is important. Our readers are important. We do our best to give them good stories and we love hearing from them and talking to them. The indie author isn’t afraid to form a friendship with their readers, to ask questions about what they like or didn’t like about our books, or what they’d like to see next.

I often get asked “Why are your books so inexpensive?”

I keep my prices low for a couple of reasons. One and foremost is for my readers. If they’re on book budgets like I was a couple of years ago, I want them to be able to afford my books. The second reason is this: I’d rather sell 10,000 copies of a $2.99 cent book each month, than 10 copies of a book priced at $12.99. It just makes good economic sense for me.

I owe Amazon a great deal. Because of them, I have so many opportunities to write, to publish, to reach my readers. Amazon has literally changed my life. I would not have the income that I have with a traditional publisher. Authors with traditional publishing houses make between 2% to 12% of sales. Indie authors get 35% or 70% (depending on what we price our books at.) So which would I rather have? 2% of an ebook priced at $8, or 70% of an ebook priced at $3.99? And when Amazon discounts a paperback, I still get the same royalty as if they hadn’t. Trad houses don’t do that. They don’t treat their authors with the respect they deserve, they don’t pay them enough to give up their day jobs, and they certainly do not treat them as well as Amazon treats the indie author.

I have a few questions: Why must Amazon be the one to give in? Why not Hatchette? Why does Hatchette insist that Amazon raise its prices? Why shouldn't Hatchette lower thiers?

I'd also like to know -- and I received this question/though from another author on a different forum -- should I boycott Barnes & Noble because they won't put my indie books in their stores?



Thanks for letting me have my two cents. :D

Suzan




17 comments:

  1. I love Amazon....The affordable prices lets me read as much as I want without breaking the bank... I appreciate the prices and the authors that are on there I appreciate prime and being able to afford things at a reasonable price it's no different than HSN or QVC....Brick and Mortar stores are not like they used to be the customer service is just not there....

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    1. I agree, Colene! Even I have a book budget and a limit to what I'll pay for an ebook. :D

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  2. In any free competition, capitalism will win. Companies who artificially game the economic system will lose if other choices are available. Shame on Hachette for trying to charge us more. The problem with economic policies that depend on such pseudo-socialist cost sharing is that, "Sooner or later, the other guy's money runs out."

    I'll keep my Amazon. Thanks for a clear post on this issue, Suzan.

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    1. Hachette can charge as much as they want to. What irks me is that they want Amazon to raise their prices to match Hachette's. I'm sorry, but just because you are pricing yourself out of the market doesn't mean everyone else should too. :D Thanks for your input! xoxoxo

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  3. I have wondered for many years why companies don't realize that if their price is low, they will sell more and thus make more? And more recently, why do those not doing the hard work (CEO's, CHQ staff, etc) making more money than the people who are doing the hard work to make the money? It's never made sense to me at all.

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  4. Excellent post, Suzan! You are an inspiration and I love your success story.

    As many midlist authors (trad) would likely say, my sales have fallen way off in recent times and I am pretty sure the reason is the high cost of the ebook ($8.) Even long-time loyal readers will hesitate to buy an ebook at that price. So I am really feeling the pinch. My writing income is it, my only income. So it is scary to see sales evaporate. But I have zero say in NY pricing. Different with my indie titles. I price them at reader friendly prices ($.99 - $3.99) and am hopeful to reach new readers along with keeping my long-time readers happy. It took me over four years to get a few out of print titles reverted. Most are still held firmly by NY. So I only have one e-book and two e-novellas currently indie pubbed. But more will come soon. I am working hard and am excited about the opportunities available to writers now. Everyone benefits from affordable books: readers and authors.

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    1. Just keep writing and focus on your indie books. You won't regret it! I love your writing and others will too! xoxoxo

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  5. Am I crazy or did I actually read at the beginning of the conflict that Amazon would accept orders for Hatchette books that Hatchette left sitting in the warehouse and thus ruining Amazon's reputation of ontime delivery? Once I saw that, I formed the opinion that the problem was with Hatchette and not Amazon. So glad an author is speaking up in defense of them.

    As a librarian, if has always blown my mind that ebooks are priced so highly. When you get a print book, there are physical costs involved, paper, presses, ink, etc. And then once read, the book enters the secondary market and has a long life span. I've been appalled at the fact that once you purchase an ebook, that's it. The end of the road. If I die, my books die with me. How wasteful. What am I getting in return for those high dollar amounts? Until publishers can answer that question, I feel those high costs are unwarranted.

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    1. Oh, we do have cost associated with ebooks. We still have cover artists, editors, etc. But, the actual cost of getting the book into the hands of the reader is nil. So many things about this irks me, lol. Thanks for your two cents and I LOVE librarians! :D

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  6. A non-price related point I'd like to make is that I'm tired of publishers telling me what I want to read because readers are all alike. I have no desire to read the contemporaries with the tattooed bodied motorcycle club members. I love my historicals (particularly the Medieval and Western periods), I love my fantasy and paranormal romance. And I like romantic suspense with cops, p.i's, bodyguards etc. I read for escape. If I want contemporary, I can just look out the door.

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    1. Amen, Cindy, Amen! According to NY/Traditional houses my books won't sell because: 1. They're historical romance/fiction. 2. They're part of a series. 3. They're 'clean' or 'clean-ish'. HA! Tell that to my readers. Oh well, they're putting themselves out of business. And I'm glad you like historical romance/fiction!!! :D

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    2. And I like them clean too, tired of all the rampant sex. Heck, when I read erotica because I like the story (and yes, there are a few), I skip over the sex scenes. And you're right, they are parting themselves out of business. I follow a lot of the indies (including you on FB) and follow the links for the books or my first stop is Smashwords as well. I'd rather buy the books from authors who are writing what I want to read.

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  7. I don't see this as a black and white situation. The Big Five don't like not being in control, and in many ways, they deserve what they are getting. But their authors do not, and I don't like to see Amazon targeting them in the effort to make Hachette say "uncle." Most of them are not blockbuster sellers like Patterson, and they depend on their royalties to pay the bills.

    Amazon is setting itself up as a monopoly…and not just on books. Monopolies worry me. Money and power corrupt, and all humans are vulnerable. Monopolies do not work out well for anyone but the monopoly itself. As long as they control everything, they don't have to care what anyone else thinks. The Big Five controlled publishing for decades. I don't see how passing on the power to Amazon will end up doing any favors for authors or readers.

    Suzan, I'm so pleased that things are working out for you. I have no doubt that you are a fantastic author and deserve your success. But I've heard that 2011 was the "magic" year for indie publishers. Those who started that year had a better chance of being discovered than in recent years. Since then, there has been such a glut in the availability of books that the odds of finding success such as yours are much lower. Not impossible, but much, much harder.

    I'm GLAD that there are options out there for authors besides New York publishers. I believe Amazon has done a lot of good for authors and readers. But I'm concerned that Amazon may be turning into Godzilla. I still think competition is a good thing.

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  8. I agree that competition is a good thing and I don't like monopolies either. I do think it would be great if there were other places like Amazon -- not just for authors, but for consumers as well. I know that my story is unique and not the norm -- a 'results may vary' thing, lol.

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  9. I feel the need to weigh in here. Like you, my stories would still be in my head were it not for Amazon. Yes, initially I was "traditionally published" but not by one of the big boys. My books were picked up by a small press who would not be in business were it not for the advent of e-publishing. I would also still be bound to that publisher were it not for the simplicity of publishing via Amazon. I have had the surreal joy of listening to my own words read to me because of ACX (an Amazon company) and I can hold a physical book in my hands because of CreateSpace (another Amazon company).

    I am all for competition, but it is out there. B&N, Kobo and Apple are all in the same space. The technology is simple enough that if Hatchette wanted to create and sell their e-books from an online store it would be easy to do so. However they didn't make that choice. The first Kindle was released in 2007 and technology rolled on from there. If they failed to embrace the technology and carve out their piece of the market, whose fault is that? For the last seven years they have been willing to sit back and let Amazon sell their books while holding steadfastly to their old publishing model (where they control what the public gets to read). During that time Amazon also chose to nurture the disenfranchised of the publishing world (like me), again changing the landscape.

    My heart is not bleeding for Hachette and I do not fear Amazon becoming a monster monopoly. Competition will come from visionaries.

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    1. Amen sister, Amen! Excellent points Ceci.

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  10. I dislike how the traditional publishing houses band together acting like a single conglomerate to keep "business as usual" so all e-book prices, yes Sue-Ellen Welfonder price point not quality is the reason for low sales, stay high operating on the assumption readers are idiots and authors are not business smart. I abhore how Amazon is the elephant in the room nobody wants to discuss because the have helped Indie authors. Amazon is great, when they get their way... The bulk of their profits derive from their supply chain folks! I would like other sources to be out there, business wise that is because I dislike this Amazon monopoly regarding self-publishing. I do not like the fact e-books are not available on all platforms... Just my business observations however I am proud of each of you fighting to work outside of traditional publishing and hope you remain successful in the future!

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