Looking Like A Fool With Your Foot In Your Mouth

In the wake of the Amazon-Macmillan war, I came to one inescapable conclusion: trust no one.

I heard so many varying reports on how royalties are paid, who did what to whom and the legal variables I ended up with a headache. As a result, I clearly stated some things (I think mainly in comments here on Crimespace) that are probably incorrect.

I say probably, because everyone seems more invested in playing PR games than in the truth.

Scalzi has the post that wraps it up that's probably the only must-read. Unless, of course, you're on Amazon's side. Then you won't like it.

I do think this was a very dangerous game of chicken that Amazon and Macmillan played. I also think anyone who says this is about protecting consumers or about protecting authors is probably smoking something that's probably illegal. This is about control, and I don't think it panned out well for anyone in the end.

The one thing I'm completely willing to stand behind is my belief that if the iPad hadn't launched last week, this probably wouldn't have happened, and if it had Macmillan would have lost.

As an author, I have to take a dispassionate view of the selling side of the business. My books are carried at WalMart stores in Canada, at the very least, and major chains on both sides of the border. I will not fault consumers for where they decide to purchase their reading material, and I do understand the convenience of Amazon. When I lived in rural Alberta it was incredibly convenient, and less expensive, which enabled me to buy more books.

However, I fear for the mega-sellers and what they're doing to Independents, and what they could do to domestic publishing. As an author, I'm glad my books are carried by multiple venues and wherever readers purchase them, I'm just glad they did.

As a reader, I'll be keeping my primary purchasing in brick and mortar stores, and I won't be getting an e-reader any time soon. Unless it's an iPad. Which looks cool.

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Comment by Jon Loomis on February 2, 2010 at 9:47am
John D: as near as I can tell, the lower-priced copies of High Season that Amazon's still selling are basically remainders that they bought up at big discounts and repriced, or something like that. That's my best guess, anyway.
Comment by John Dishon on February 2, 2010 at 8:50am
Jon, High Season is up on Amazon, for 8.47, through Amazon, but Mating Season isn't. They're both listed as being published by Minotaur. What's up with that? Did they miss one?
Comment by I. J. Parker on February 2, 2010 at 8:13am
Umm, we have another post on Forum that maintains Amazon won.
Apart from feeling sorry for Macmillan authors (Publisher's Lunch theorizes that Amazon will hold out on reloading Macmillan books until the Ipod thing is settled), I am out of the loop on deals between publishers and sellers. My opinion will not be considered by either. Publishers do not listen to authors. They don't even listen to agents. I can publish directly on Kindle and make 70 %. A publisher will pay me 25 % (and Macmillan had plans to pay 20%). Amazon carries my books. Regular stores rarely do. I need Amazon.
Comment by Sandra Ruttan on February 2, 2010 at 5:25am
John, LOL. Crazy indeed.

BR, all we can do is put our heads down and focus on what we do. I've always believed in understanding something of the business, but right now it's hard to get a grasp on things when they're changing so much. Indeed, authors will hold the bag. I remember when I was being published at first, making the rounds to the conventions, and hearing other authors say, "I can't afford to be published." I've spent far more in promotion/travel and other expenses than I've ever earned in advances.

Jon, I do agree with you. I did hear that Amazon hasn't put the Macmillan books back up yet - they've said they'll have to give in, but apparently nobody knows when they'll actually follow through. But I do agree with you - our publishers pay us. We have input with them. Hell, I've bought things off Amazon, in my account, and it won't let me post in the forums because it can't connect the dots to my purchases. You'd think they'd like authors to promote their books, but nope. In fact, their actions tell me it's not about selling books at all. They've been using books as lost leaders for ages, and that's the whole point with Kindle sales as well.

I'm glad Macmillan "won" as well, although I'm still convinced if the iPad hadn't launched last week, Amazon would have come out on top. That's why competition in the marketplace is so important. The idea of Amazon having a monopoly scares the crap out of me.
Comment by Jon Loomis on February 2, 2010 at 3:31am
I've written elsewhere that this is indeed about power/control, and in that context I support the resolution that promotes shared power between retailer and publisher over any resolution that furthers the trend toward a few big retailers monopolizing the industry. I'm glad Macmillan "won" this round (even though there's no immediate direct benefit to me other than getting my books back up on Amazon, which still hasn't happened, btw) for a number of reasons: First, Macmillan pays me, Amazon doesn't. Macmillan pays advances that make it possible for me to keep writing, Amazon doesn't. My agent negotiates with Macmillan, not Amazon: I have some say over what happens in my dealings with Macmillan, none with Amazon. I have personal contacts and relationships with people at Macmillan, none with Amazon. If Macmillan does well, I can reasonably expect to benefit from that down the line in the form of bigger advances and better promotion for my work. If Macmillan goes under, I'm out in the cold, looking for a new publisher.

Wow, John. I'm not going to ask who that editor is--I don't want to know.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 2, 2010 at 3:22am
Listen, the publishing industry is in a gigantic friggin' free-for-all thanks to Amazon, and now Apple (maybe). If you're inclined to be a pessimist then the you're only conclusion is it's the End Times for a writer to make any money. If you're inclined to be an optimist (like me . . . most of the time) then it'd be best just to sit back and see how this jigsaw puzzle eventually fits together. Either way there's gonna be changes. And as writers usually do, we're gonna be left holding the bag. Best just to wait and see and then figure out a way to live with it.
Comment by John McFetridge on February 2, 2010 at 3:09am
Yes, I agree, however people get books is fine. I've bought from Amazon and from chains and from indie stores. I've had good and bad experiences with all of them.

I don't have an e-reader but I've been following Joe Konrath's stories about selling Kindle books- and giving away books on the Kindle - and I like the idea of getting stuff out there. I like the idea of being able to try out authors before I buy.

Here's something I find funny. A couple of months ago my editor asked me if I would be willing to write a novella to be given away for free on the Kindle - as a promo. Well, as a reader I'd like that so I said okay (I read Konrath's "Serial" as an example).

The editor who asked for something to be given away for free on the Kindle worked for Macmillan.

This whole industry is crazy.

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