Money, Money, Money: Amazon vs. Publishers

For a writer on the sidelines (*ahem* not yet published, I mean), it’s an interesting time. Self-publish, indie publish, Amazon CreateSpace, imprints, university presses, Big Five… it’s sort of a mess right now. The Amazon-Hatchette showdown is definitely the matchup to keep an eye on right now: worst, I don’t even know what side, if any, I’m on.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Amazon–the big gorilla in the current publishing market, dominating ebooks, self-published, and even books published more or less traditionally under their imprint–is duking it out with Hatchette, publishing’s fourth-largest company. We don’t know for certain what they are fighting about… well, we know they’re fighting about money. But we don’t have details.

Some folks have guessed that Amazon wanted to own 50% of every book sold, instead of 30%. That’s a big price hike, particularly in an industry that hasn’t been doing that great. (But, says Amazon, most of your customers are buying from us anyway. Without us, you will fail.) Because Hatchette didn’t budget, Amazon has been slowing down the deliveries of customer orders.

This tactic may have backfired, however; authors big and small, including the likes of Stephen King, got together to sign a petition against Amazon, complaining this tactic is anti-consumer (and anti-author). Amazon lashed out, saying Hatchette was using authors as “human shields.” (Woah now.) [Hugh Howey and Chuck Wendig have also both weighed in, on opposing sides of the debate, despite being published by Amazon.]

The big publishers (and especially the small publishers) say they can’t afford any more fees, that Amazon is a near-monopoly and a “bully.” Amazon claims the publishers don’t treat their authors well enough, that they can’t keep up with the times, that they are an obstacle to affordable and accessible literature, and basically just need to put up or shut up.

I…don’t know what should happen. Amazon’s demands do seem extreme to me, and I am deeply concerned with the idea in which Amazon were the only “publisher” left. It also alarms me that Amazon might one day turn on their authors; perhaps they’ll have a bot they think can churn out better fiction? And then they’ll see no need for us. Then again, I think traditional publishers don’t do enough for their authors anymore (both in support and in money). [Here’s the chart featuring how much in royalties you can make in different formats.]

I’m still on the fence about my publishing path, but I have recently been leaning ever-closer to self-publishing. It’s not a free and easy path, however; just different.

What do y’all think of the recent controversy between Amazon and the publishers?

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