Writer vs. Writer

As a member of their KDP program, I received a notice from Amazon today that suggested I write the head of the Hachette Publishing group a sharply worded mail. As if that will make any difference in their pissing match. Personally, I think the whole thing going on is enough to make the heads of every author on the planet swirl with fear–which probably they should, seeing as neither side is actually putting the concerns of their authors first.

In fact, I suppose it’s fair to say that they should not even consider putting the needs of their authors first. They are not that altruistic, nor should they be in the end. Authors, well, we come and we go as far as they are really concerned. History says there will always be someone with a book they want to sell, and someone willing to read it.

So this morning’s mail is just the latest in the series of strange volleys of dis-information shot over the bow of authors across the world.

Needless to say, I’ve read lots of interesting posts coming from authors over the past months. And I’ve had several good conversations with authors and insiders at conventions. I’ve been trying to understand the business ramifications of it, you see? I’m just this little guy–this little short story writer with plans to move onto bigger and better things. I always try to stay up on the business doings of the machine above me.

But then this morning I saw something on twitter that gave me a pause. Here’s the tweet:


This statement, on the face of it is true. As a business arrangement, an author owes Amazon only that which is due them–their commission. But in reality, the underlying elements of this tweet belie the root of the split between authors who lean on indie publishing and authors who are traditionally published.

It probably is completely true that indie publishing “owes” a debt of gratitude to Amazon, because Amazon is the entity that has created the base infrastructure that has actually enabled the indie publishing world to exist–at least at the magnitude it needs to exist to compete with the major publishers as it is.

I understand that using my argument, the internet itself is the real source of this enabling, and that if Amazon hadn’t done it, someone would–but that’s not the point…Amazon was the group that actually made this indie publishing world viable. It is, therefore, quite reasonable for people who are making their existence off indie publishing to feel quite passionate about Amazon’s perspective in all this. If Amazon were to go away, then they would be in great trouble.

Of course, Amazon is not going away no matter what happens.

So, that said, I’m struck with a big “why does any indie published author care?”

Publishing is not a zero-sum game, who cares if Hachette sets high prices on their e-books? No skin off my nose. I’m, of course, very interested in the contracts that Hachette authors sign, and I would certainly hope that they would get a bulk of the royalties from their work. All for one and one for all, and all that. I would definitely love to be a traditionally published author (of novels) in the right circumstance. But, seriously, from the perspective of the raw business level dealings between Amazon and Hachette, I can’t see that a purely indie published author should care one way or the other.

Perhaps I’m wrong.

I just don’t see it.

The fact, however, that traditionally published authors don’t get the connection between the indie published community and Amazon does seem to me to show a lack of understanding about what the mere existence of Amazon has done for them. To discount this connection is somewhat akin to disrespecting a person’s homeland. It’s not attractive. Just as it’s not attractive for an indie published writer to chortle in ill-disguised glee as mid-list and new Hachette writers get screwed.

I think this is the thing that I’m getting out of the whole Amazon/Hachette thing, myself. The business war between the two companies is ugly, but will eventually be resolved (as all things money are). But the conversation going on within the community of writers is more interesting, more telling, more filled with insecurity and bitterness and jealousy and oblivion. It is fueled by human nature and its needs for stability, and fulfillment, and fairness, and justice.

And, unfortunately, I figure this conversation will probably not ever really be resolved.

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