Monday, June 23, 2014

AiIP: Raising the Hachette

At first blush, the Amazon/Hachette flap has little bearing on the world of indie publishing. After all, they're one of the BIG FIVE that the independent author seeks to be, well, independent of. And surely, as that Guardian article points out, it's not as if Hachette is without resources, whereas your run-of-the-mill indie author is pretty much a one person show.

So where's the connection? It ties back to my whole anti-Amazon thing lately. I don't actually believe that Amazon is evil in and of themselves- I believe they are trying to make money, and are going to do what makes them (or what they believe will) the most money. While bookselling is a pretty noble profession, there's a reason they're not just given away- we're all trying to make a living here. Where it crosses the line for Amazon, as it does for anyone, is when it ends up being greedy and all-consuming.

Kindle is not the only E-reader out there
That this is going to happen is a reality of business. But, again, the author-publisher is trying to make a living as well, and Amazon has catered to that in a way that can ensnare all of us in a net. Amazon- along with (at least very nearly) every other ebookseller out there- offers the author publisher a 70% cut of a sale. You don't have to be an accountant or industry expert to know this is pretty damn good. There's not even a lot of fine print a bait-and-switch; it is what it says it is. So what's the problem?

It comes in the form of what is happening with Hachette- if Amazon controls the market, it holds all the cards, and why on earth will they give away money when they don't have to? To the point at hand, if everyone registered on KDP received an email stating that in 30 days, that cut would change from 70% to 50% or 30%, what recourse would the indie community have to protect themselves? As one would expect, it is stated in the Terms & Conditions (yes, I read them) that they may be changed at any time, and as regards royalties and grants:

2 Agreement Amendment. The Program will change over time and the terms of this Agreement will need to change over time as well. We reserve the right to change the terms of this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion. We will give you notice of the changes by posting new terms in place of the old at http://kdp.amazon.com/ and http://kdp.amazon.co.jp/ with a revision date indicated at the top or by sending an email to the email address then registered for your Program account. Here are the rules for when changes will be effective and binding on you:

2.1 Changes to Agreement Terms Other than Those in Sections 5.4.1 (Royalties) and 5.5 (Grant of Rights). Changes to terms of this Agreement other than those contained in Section 5.4.1 (Royalties) and 5.5 (Grant of Rights) will be effective on the date we post them, unless we otherwise provide at the time we post the changes. You are responsible for checking for updates and your continued use of the Program after we post changes will constitute your acceptance of the changes. If you do not agree to the changes, you must withdraw your Digital Books from further distribution through the Program and terminate your use of the Program.

2.2 Changes to the Terms of Sections 5.4.1 (Royalties) and 5.5 (Grant of Rights). Changes to terms of this Agreement contained in Sections 5.4.1 (Royalties) and 5.5 (Grant of Rights) will be effective and binding on you on the date 30 days from posting or on the date you accept the changes, whichever first occurs. You accept the changes by either (a) clicking agree or accept where you're given the option to do so or (b) by using the Program to make additional Digital Books available through the Program. Changes to the terms of Sections 5.4.1 and 5.5 will only apply prospectively with respect to Digital Books sold after the date thirty days from our posting of the changes, unless you accept the changes as provided above. If you do not accept the changes, you must withdraw your Digital Books from further distribution through the Program and terminate your use of the Program prior to the date thirty days from our posting of the changes. Note that we may make acceptance of changes a condition to continued use of the Program.
This is, in a nutshell, why I would like to see both consumers and authors diversify when it comes to bookselling, and see indie bookstores find a way to have happier marriage of the two (and for a lot of self-published authors to, you know, suck less). If people are buying books other places, and authors are going get a bigger cut other places if the bottom drops, Amazon will not have the leverage to drop royalties. As the caption to the image in that Guardian article referenced earlier states, selling Hachette titles is one of the things that has made Amazon the bookseller it is. Indie authors are another- but unlike with Hachette, Amazon has all the cards.

-DESR

Dean is the author of 3024AD and other stories, engineer, and geek about many things. He lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. You can listen to him ramble on Twitter and muse on his blog.

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