Amazon vs. Hachette

As anyone who follows the business news probably knows, Amazon is in the middle of a major contract dispute with Hachette, one of the big five traditional publishers.

I’ve been watching this battle with great interest. I’m no disinterested observer, but firmly in the Amazon camp, not because I’ve been drinking the Bezos kool-aid, but because I can clearly see where my interests as an author lie.

Like the fox, the traditional publishers know many things, many of which are turning out to be wrong, but hey, it used to work, so we’ll just keep doing it, and whine like little children about how the world owes us a living, and don’t worry about screwing the consumer and authors along the way.

Amazon, like the hedgehog, knows one big thing, which is that long-term success comes from delivering maximum value to customers. To do that, they need to offer a better product (or range of products) at a more competitive price, and offering authors a much better deal is part of that strategy.

As an unknown author I get about as much marketing support from Amazon as I would from a traditional publisher, which is to say none. But every other aspect of the deal offered by Amazon is superior:

  • I didn’t have to ask permission to publish my book, endure endless rounds of rejection (except from readers if it’s no good), or wait years
  • I’m not locked into a long term contract (I’m committed to Amazon for only 90 days at a time, assuming I choose to participate in KDP select, which I do)
  • I have full editorial control and can update my books any time I like
  • I own all the rights to my work in perpetuity, including the rights to any future, not yet conceived format
  • I get to set the price for my books.

For all these benefits you’d think I’d pay some price, but my royalties are many times what they would be with a traditional publisher. It truly is a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the scions of the publishing establishment, at places like the New York Times, and a favored few fabulously successfully authors are rushing to defend the status quo. Hachette has not shared one cent of the greatly increased profits it makes on ebooks with its authors, yet somehow these people want us to believe it has the high ground in this dispute. If their world was any more incestuous and self-serving, I think I’d throw up!

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