Amazon and the Independent Author

I received a disturbing email yesterday evening, one that makes me very happy that I have diversified my publishing platforms.

The email – and any other Indie Authors out there probably know exactly what email I am talking about – was from Amazon, asking me to step up and support them in their war against Hatchette.

As you may or may not know, Amazon has been at war for a little while with the Big Publishers over the pricing of e-books. The BPs like to price their e-books at prices comparable to paper-back prices while Amazon prefers lower price models to keep sales flowing.

It’s an age-old pricing concept. If you sell items at $14.00, people looking to limit their spending may only purchase one or two. If you sell items discounted at $10.00, consumers recognizing the discount will purchase more items. Consumers who before only spent $14 or $28 will now spend $20 to $40 (those buying one more likely to buy two, those buying two more likely to buy three or four).

What Amazon wants me to do is email Hatchette and tell them to stop being big, mean, bad people and stop trying to bully a big company like Amazon.

Yes, I’m being up on the melodrama, but it is not undeserved.

Look I am not going to take a side in this. This fight Amazon is having should only affect the price offering of books put out by the big publishers. This does not, and should not ever, affect the price I put my books out or the compensation that I get for them.

This email from Amazon, however, indicates to me that such a thing is a possibility. Why the slippery slope concern? Well, because Amazon is already trying to get me in the middle of a fight I’m not part of – in a hypocritical way.

This is what they want me to include in the email to Hatchette:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

So, they accuse Hatchette of putting Hatchette authors in the middle, using them as leverage to keep e-book prices high, but they want to use me – who has nothing to do with Hatchette – as leverage to keep e-book prices low.

With this type of stupidly obvious hypocrisy and dishonesty, why wouldn’t I think that Amazon might later use this to affect my pocketbook, no matter the outcome?

And where does this leave me as an independent author if – not that I will because, to borrow from a Diva online, not my circus, not my monkeys – I were to participate? How would this look for an agent if they are shopping my novel to a publisher, that publisher happened to be Hachette, and Hachette said “Why is that name familiar? Oh, yes, this is one of the tools of Amazon that emailed us during our pricing disputes. I want to work with this author why, exactly?”

No thank you. I’ll stay neutral in this dispute, if it is all the same. Amazon only gets the rough treatment because Amazon was foolish enough to try to drag me in. If I get an email from any of the big publishers (ha!) or any representative of them trying to do the same, I’ll do the same thing.



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