Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who Cares About the Authors?

What a rude shock to wake up this morning and find that Amazon has stopped selling all books published by Macmillan, including the new paperback release of Towers of Gold.

Macmillan has told Amazon it wants to set its ebook rates at $15 rather than Amazon's standard $9.99. In an attempt to pressure Macmillan, Amazon has removed the "buy button" from every Macmillan books. (This also has a lot to do with the new iPad and Steve Jobs comments' that lots of publishers are unhappy with Amazon.)

This is disturbing. What is equally disturbing are all the comments left on the New York Times website about the controversy. Most say ebooks aren't worth $15, go to your library, wait and buy the books used for .01. The emphasis is on finding a bargain.

What's left out of this equation is compensation for the author. It takes a long time to write a book and the average author probably loses money on his or her books.  I spent eight years researching and writing my book and the last 18 months promoting it. Believe me, I am running a deficit.

If readers want  new books, they have to spend money on the books so authors can afford to write them. That's why it is reasonable to ask $15 for a Kindle version (of which I would get a few pennies.) Yes, electronic books are less expensive since there are no direct publishing costs, but don't forget all the back end costs of editing, preparing boos, designing the book, promoting it, etc.)

I for one, am going to stop using Amazon and I urge everyone to do the same. If you want to buy a book on line go to Powell's Books or Indiebound instead.

UPDATE: Later in the day, Macmillan CEO John Sargent bought an ad on the website Publisher's Marketplace. It was a letter to all Macmillan authors and illustrators and their literary agents explaining the disagreement. I am glad Macmillan is trying to communicate with us.


Nani said...

Frances, so glad you brought up this issue and I totally agree with you, having also just spent years researching and writing my book and definitely, at this point, running a deficit. Just last week saw that my book was on Kindle (and no-one mentioned it to me), but evidently it is selling for $19.95, perhaps because it is not in paperback.

Still, I am frustrated that books sell for so cheap on Amazon anyway, and that the publishers often sell to them at a deep discount, as compared to selling to bookstores, to whom they don't cut the same deal.

Thanks for giving me a chance to rant.


Anonymous said...

Your glad that the Publisher is trying to force pricing on the industry, versus what we have today where the Seller (Amazon in this case) can choose to price it however they want? I'm shocked by all the people who keep saying this is Amazon's fault. It was Macmillan who went to Amazon and tried to re-negotiate their contract so they could dictate the price.

Mj Campbell said...

Well said - except for libraries. Many authors become successful by word-of-mouth. Granted, libraries do not have publishing advert money but we do offer a great service to the community. Most of the books I have now were first discovered in the library.
I know that you were not sniping at libraries but,now, when budgets are so bad -expect closings- libraries and authors deserve all the help we can give them.
Every community deserves a first rate library. It is from there that people discover the truly fantastic world of books and a feast for the mind.

Zoe FitzGerald Carter said...

That sucks, Frances! I am gnashing my teeth on your behalf. It just underscores the annoying fact that, as "the talent" in this equation, we are woefully underpaid and under-appreciated. Keep us posted...(no pun intended)

Andy Ross said...

I just woke up to learn this astonishing news.

Th Amazon has been relentlessly pursuing a monopoly strategy since their beginning. And these are the grapes of wrath.

Frances is right to be concerned about what this means for authors.I think that even the $15 price that is being pushed by Apple is too low. It should be obvious to everyone who has thought about this, that the culture of the Internet places a very low value on intellectual work.

And the practice by publishers of giving authors reduced royalties of 20-25% on ebooks is unconscionable. Publishers make a lot of money on ebooks. They incur no manufacturing costs, no transportation costs, no warehousing costs, no packaging costs, and, most importantly, no returns. They have designed the books to be non-transferable. Ultimately this will compromise the used book business and probably libraries as well.

But publishers are using ebooks as an opportunity to increase their own profits at the expense of the one party, without which their product would be worthless: the author.

Peter Richardson said...

Amazing. As you probably know, it's tough for publishers as well as authors in this environment. Strange that Amazon doesn't just take its markup like every other retailer instead of boycotting a publisher's entire line.