Saturday, May 10, 2014

When Amazon and Publishers fight it's the authors and readers who are bloodied.

If you don't follow publishing news, you may not be aware about the Hachette and Amazon dispute...but you may have noticed that books you want to buy on Amazon are higher priced, and taking longer to deliver. Well, now we know why.

I first noticed a problem on February 7th when my books that were usually discounted 25% - 30% on Amazon lost all their discounts. I wasn't alone.  Every Orbit paperback and ebook I looked at was at full price (except a few in pre-order and those released VERY recently).  I brought it to my publisher's attention, but they said that Amazon discounts however they wish, and they could do nothing about it.  About a month later I noticed my books weren't being restocked as they normally are.  From time to time you can see a book go from "in stock" to "xx left more on the way" usually before that number gets too low a new shipment comes in and it goes back to an "in stock" situation.  In early march my books started showing "Usually ships in 2 - 3 weeks).  I wasn't the only Orbit author whose books were this way...nor was I the only Hachette author.  For weeks Robin was emailing to Orbit, not much in the way of explanation was forthcoming. But our suspicion was that Hachette and Orbit were in some form of contract dispute and are books, and most Hachette author's books were pawns in the chess game.

We were right.

Yesterday The New York Times broke the news that Hachette was accusing Amazon of holding back orders.Other venues like The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times,  Publisher's Weekly, Digital Book World,  The GuardianCNN Money, Gigaom, and many more picked up the story.

Today, Forbes ran an article on the situation, and rightly pointed out that the consumers are the one's hurt,  and I agree. But they went on to indicate that authors really aren't:

The Times reveals more about its biases and its audience when it makes the whole story about how writers are the real victims. “Writers Feel An Amazon-Hachette Spat,” shouts the headline. Do they? Consumers do, if their books take longer to ship. But do writers actually feel it?

To answer Forbes's question - Yes...we do actually feel it.  I make my living from writing and when the price of my books goes up, and the stocking of the titles goes down...yes I feel the pinch.  In fact since this whole thing began my sales are off 30%.  How would the reporter for Forbes like it if his paycheck was cut by 30%?  It's especially frustrating since we have  no idea how long this will go on.  It's already been 3 months and I'm tightening my belt.  But how many notches do I have to go in?

I do agree with Forbes that the readers are also being hurt. I don't want my readers to have to pay full price. I can't do anything about the ebooks (except Hollow World), as I'm not allowed to sell those, but I can help for the print copies.  All my books are in stock and discounted  15% - 20% from my store. So, if you want an alternative source for buying my titles while Amazon and Hachette battle this out, please consider purchasing direct from me.


  1. I agree it's a cruddy thing to do to both readers and authors. I think it's good that you and other authors are getting the word out to their readers about alternative places to purchase the books and obtain competitive prices.

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  2. Thanks E.L. I hope this gets resolved sooner rather than later.

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