Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Amazon look to self published authors to fight their battles

I received an email from Amazon today imploring me to step into their ongoing dispute with Hachette.  I'm not renowned for my diplomacy skills, so I'm guessing mediation wasn't on their agenda.  I'm more of a direct problem solver, willing to roll my sleeves up.  Which sometimes gets a little misinterpreted as aggressive, but there you go.

Anyway, Amazon didn't just email me, they emailed every KDP author as far as I can tell.  They outlined their case for not bowing down to Hachette's pricing policy for ebooks, with the upshot being that they are trying to bring ebook prices down, helping promote sales which, they claim, will help authors realise more royalties.  To that end they have requested every KDP author to email the CEO of Hachette to tell them to back off, or something like that. 

Now Hachette don't publish my books and probably never will.  So their pricing policy is irrelevant to me as an author.  If they want to overprice ebooks it just makes my books look like better value than ever.  Why would I want to meddle with that?  Because of the dispute many Hachette titles are not being stocked by Amazon at the moment, so if I did want to pay over the odds for one of their books I can't buy them from Amazon.  No problem, Amazon are big, but they're not the only option, which is a good thing.  I'll take my business where I need to.

But the real big issues for me are, firstly, that I don't like spam and really don't like being asked to contribute to a spam offensive.  Big companies like Amazon shouldn't be canvassing customers to do this kind of dirty work, surely?  Secondly, I don't think Amazon have got the point that ebook pricing isn't the problem, exclusivity in retail markets is.  And Amazon are trying to tie all ebook authors up to an exclusive deal with themselves through their KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited programmes.

So I did send the CEO of Hachette an email, actually as a cc correspondent,  The main recipient of my email was Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.  I've little faith that Mr Bezos will read my email, CEOs are busy people, but by including the CEO of Hachette in the distribution I'm sure someone at Amazon will read it, to find out what Hachette are being told.  Possibly both CEOs will become aware, briefly, of the email.  It won't change the way either company works, I wouldn't expect it to.  But if it provides Amazon with a moment of reflection on their pursuit of exclusivity then my time will have been well spent.  Here's the email:

Dear Mr Bezos

I'm writing to you partly because one of your minions has undertaken to ask myself and, I'm assuming, every other KDP author to write a letter of complaint to the CEO of Hachette regarding the ongoing dispute between your respective companies. Although I'm cc’ing Mr Pietsch this email out of courtesy I'm not going to send him an email supporting your case for the following reasons:

  1. I don't think large companies such as Amazon should be inciting their customers to spam the CEO of other large companies.
  2. The dispute is irrelevant to myself and probably 99.999% of KDP authors - Hachette don't publish my books and probably never will. Spamming their CEO is unlikely to increase the likelihood of them choosing to publish me, either. Consequently, as an author, their pricing policy doesn't affect me, although their inflated prices will make my books look a whole lot better value.
  3. As a book consumer I'm relatively insulated by your dispute. I'm unlikely to pay their prices for an ebook, but if I decide one is worth it then I will source it from any ebookseller that is selling the book. If your dispute means you won't stock their books, then you just lose a sale to someone else.
  4. Hachette and their pricing policy isn't the big problem around ebooks today, Amazon's KDP Select programme is. Your company is trying to become the sole provider of ebooks through exclusive deals with authors, augmented by a brazen attempt to bribe us. Check your records, I've resisted this programme since inception because it is anti-competitive and we all know monopolies are unhealthy. The benefits of Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited are obvious enough for consumers, who won't care less whether the books they can borrow through these schemes are exclusive to Amazon or not. In fact, by dropping the requirement for exclusivity you will find you can offer many more books to make your programmes even better at no cost to your company. You would even be able to drop the monthly bribe slush pot, so you would save money while enhancing the attractiveness of Amazon.

I hope you resolve your dispute with Hachette amicably, however please ask your staff to avoid canvassing my support in such matters in future.


Ray Sullivan
Visit my Book Website here

    Visit Project: Evil Website here                                        Visit DLF Website here

        Follow me on Twitter  - @RayASullivan

        Join me on Facebook -  use to find me

No comments:

Post a Comment