Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Communication


I've been away for a few days, and behind on everything, including blogging and emails. I apologize for any delays people may be seeing. But I wanted to mention one email that I did notice while I was away. On Friday I received and email from the CEO of Hachette Book Group informing all 4,000+ authors that the dispute currently waging between Hachette and Amazon took a turn for the worst as now pre-ordering has been removed.

For those that don't know, pre-ordering is extremely important in the book business. In many ways, the fate of a book is largely determined by the numbers of pre-orders.  It can influence the size of the printing, the amount of marketing dollars expended, and most importantly, it affects the all important first week's sales.  This "first week's sales" is critical because it is the best chance an author has of hitting a highly coveted bestseller list such as the New York Times or USA Today.  I don't have any books in pre-order, but I'm saddened for those that do. Once again fighting between the publisher and retailer is bleeding over to the author.

I'm glad that Michael Pietsch sent this letter, and to see his commitment to keep the authors "updated with important developments." But it also reminds me of the months of runaround when I couldn't get any straight answers to the Amazon problems I was seeing. When discounting disappeared on February 7th for my books and almost all other Orbit author's titles, the response wasn't, "Yeah we are in contract negotiations and Amazon is using this to strong arm us." Or even, "Yes we know about this, but we really can't tell you what is going on just now."  No, the answer I got was very much business as usual.  The actual response was, "Unfortunately Amazon decides what books to discount and by how much and we have no say over their decisions." While technically true, it also concealed the fact that something more was going on, and I wished Hachette had come clean about it back them.

During the various articles being posted about the Amazon-Hachette dispute I found it interesting that the problem goes back even further than February according to agent Kristen Nelson who said, "I’ve informally known about this since late fall 2013 (as early as November). The problem? My Hachette authors and I noticed this “shipping issue” multiple times and brought it to our Hachette Editors’ attention. Multiple times. Repeated emails. We were assured that all was fine. (Which we, of course, did not believe since it kept happening….)."

I echo Kristin's frustration that once more a big publisher chose not to partner with authors and agents in telling us the truth about what was going on. This isn't the way to foster trust and as Kristen also pointed out makes us look more suspiciously the next time the publisher's response is "all is fine."

So thank you Michael Pietch, for being so responsive with this latest bit of news, but please in the future continue this trend and keep the lines of communication open and let us know immediately when there are issues going on that may affect the sales of our books. Remember we are in this together.

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