Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

The Latest On Macmillan-Amazon

STATUS: A bit frustrated with all this Amazon stuff.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NEVER THERE by Cake

Which is to say the latest is not much. The links are still not on. February 16 is fast approaching for my author Paula Reed and the debut of HESTER.

As authors, if you are impacted, I think it’s important to have your voice heard on the Amazon Kindle forum where there is a lot of chatter going on. The average everyday customer really doesn’t know much about the ins and outs of publishing and what the hoopla is about.

This in from John Sargent earlier today….

To: Macmillan Authors and Illustrators
cc: Literary Agents
From: John Sargent

I am sorry I have been silent since Saturday. We have been in constant discussions with Amazon since then. Things have moved far enough that hopefully this is the last time I will be writing to you on this subject.

Over the last few years we have been deeply concerned about the pricing of electronic books. That pricing, combined with the traditional business model we were using, was creating a market that we believe was fundamentally unbalanced. In the last three weeks, from a standing start we have moved to a new business model. We will make less money on the sale of e books, but we will have a stable and rational market. To repeat myself from last Sunday’s letter, we will now have a business model that will ensure our intellectual property will be available digitally through many channels, at a price that is both fair to the consumer and that allows those who create and publish it to be fairly compensated.

We have also started discussions with all our other partners in the digital book world. While there is still lots of work to be done, they have all agreed to move to the agency model.

And now on to royalties. Three or four weeks ago, we began discussions with the Author’s Guild on their concerns about our new royalty terms. We indicated then that we would be flexible and that we were prepared to move to a higher rate for digital books. In ongoing discussions with our major agents at the beginning of this week, we began informing them of our new terms. The change to an agency model will bring about yet another round of discussion on royalties, and we look forward to solving this next step in the puzzle with you.

A word about Amazon. This has been a very difficult time. Many of you are wondering what has taken so long for Amazon and Macmillan to reach a conclusion. I want to assure you that Amazon has been working very, very hard and always in good faith to find a way forward with us. Though we do not always agree, I remain full of admiration and respect for them. Both of us look forward to being back in business as usual.

And a salute to the bricks and mortar retailers who sell your books in their stores and on their related websites. Their support for you, and us, has been remarkable over the last week. From large chains to small independents, they committed to working harder than ever to help your books find your readers.

Lastly, my deepest thanks to you, our authors and illustrators. Macmillan and Amazon as corporations had our differences that needed to be resolved. You are the ones whose books lost their buy buttons. And yet you have continued to be terrifically supportive of us and of what we are trying to accomplish. It is a great joy to be your publisher.

I cannot tell you when we will resume business as usual with Amazon, and needless to say I can promise nothing on the buy buttons. You can tell by the tone of this letter though that I feel the time is getting near to hand.

All best,

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11 Responses

  1. Lisa Desrochers said:

    Got my author letter from my editor just before it posted on PM. I was glad to finally hear something. I’ve been telling everyone who will listen what the deal is, but it’s a tough sell for Kindle users who spent $$$$$ for a reader with the understanding that books would be ten bucks. They don’t get that they should blame Amazon (not Macmillan) for setting an unsustainable price point for e-books that they would inevitably raise when they put everyone else out of business.

    But I can’t help hoping that the Kindle “Macmillan boycott” blows over before my book comes out in Sept.

  2. Eridani said:

    I just moseyed to the Kindle forums and yikes! 17 bucks for an e-book? It’s not one I’m interested in, but for someone who’s used to paying between $6 and $12 per Kindle book, $17 is out of the realms of the reasonable. Current Kindle customers are going to be experiencing some serious sticker shock. I’m wondering what impact this price hike will have upon Macmillan’s Kindle sales.

  3. Anonymous said:

    It still seems an awful lot like Amazon is playing “God”.

    Is it just me, or was it not entirely infantile to react by removing the “buy” buttons in the first place? Reminds me of a child’s reaction. And they still haven’t replaced them. ????!!!

    I think their misplaced fit at least merits an apology to those authors whose sales continue to suffer.


  4. Joni Rodgers said:

    I can honestly see valid points on both sides, but they could have settled it without inflicting all this collateral damage on authors.

    It might not make a big difference, but I’m purchasing one Macmillan imprint book every day and featuring new Macmillan imprint releases on my blog as long as the buy-button bash-down lasts. Please have Paula flip me an email. I’d be happy to feature HESTER on Feb 16 if the pi$$ing contest is still at an impasse.

  5. Kim Kasch said:

    This seems . . . crazy, like shooting yourself in the foot. In these hard economic times shouldn’t bookmakers and booksellers be advocates for one another?

  6. _*Rachel*_ said:

    Once Amazon gets the books back up, I might start using the mp3 store again, but I’m going other places for books. I’m mad at Amazon and I’m taking it out on the local indie bookstore tomorrow–in a good way. (After all this hubbub, I feel like a big splurge on books at a place where I can see who benefits. Plus, I hear they have cats in the store.)

    And I have indeed let Amazon know. For those who want to have their say, here’s the Amazon forum:

    Whether I’m buying Amazon or not, here’s to hoping the books are up soon!

  7. Eridani said:

    Current ebooks are DRM’d files on proprietary hardware. You can’t lend them, you can’t back them up, you can’t read them on any other product. And Amazon can recall them any time for any reason – they refund your money but you still lose the content. When I buy a Kindle book, it’s with the knowledge that I’m not getting a ‘real’ book, and that I’ll end up buying this book again in 2-3 years due to format/hardware issues.

    That said, I’m okay with those things but not for a mere 10%-15% off the price of a paper book. Not when I paid 300 dollars for their stupid reader on top of all that. At this point in the digital book wars, a digital copy doesn’t have anywhere near the same value as a paper copy. Trying to make us pay a very similar fee for it is a little ridiculous. Scalzi was 100% right that Amazon dropped the ball.

  8. Nicole Chardenet said:

    I’m with Lisa and Eridani here. Frankly, I wish Amazon hadn’t caved so quickly to MacMillan. $15 an ebook is positively *outrageous*. No one in their right mind thinks it costs as much to produce a dead tree book as an ebook.

    I suspect Amazon’s strategy here is to give MacMillan (and by extension, the other publishers) what they want, so that, when e-book sales fall calamitously, they can learn the hard way that readers aren’t nearly as stupid as they think.

    I also strongly suspect that MacMillan has just hung out a big flashing neon sign that says, “Please pirate our e-books immediately.” I’m not defending piracy, just saying, as Lisa points out, people didn’t buy a Kindle so they could download e-books for the same price as a dead tree book. It’s unfair to the writers but that’s what I think will happen (remember the days when CDs were ridiculously high until the US DOJ came down on the record companies for their pricing structure? *That’s* why you’re no longer paying $17 average for a CD) Frankly, I think $10 was a bit much for an e-book but it’s a durned sight better than the extortionate prices MacMillan et al want to charge.

  9. AstonWest said:

    Joe Konrath has had plenty to say on this topic, and has shown with raw data that lower prices drive up sales…the only thing I can figure is that MacMillian hopes that others will follow their footsteps and attempt to kill the rising e-book business by charging such outlandish amounts in comparison to a paper copy.

  10. Amy said:

    You know, I’d be happy to put together a file for you that you can keep, lend to others, whatever. And I’ll make it TWICE as big as what you buy on Amazon! And I’ll sell it to you for $5!!

    You don’t want it? I know. It’s not about the file. It’s about the story.

    If you like the feel of a book, you like storing it on the bookshelf, you like to easily lend it to others, then buy the paper book. Who needs an ereader??

    If you like not having to find a spot for a new book on your bookshelf, you don’t care about lending (hey, my friend never returns things to me, anyway), and you like deciding, buying, and reading all from the comfort of your reading chair, then maybe ebooks have some value to you. Maybe even a great deal of value.

    I happen to think people are nuts to pay $4 for a cup of coffee. Who in their right mind would do such a thing?? But you know what? Starbucks did just fine. All without a dollar from me.

    Let me tell you. There’s a lot of people not in their right minds out there. And I have no problem paying $15 for a book I really want.

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