Amazon stand-off not just with Hachette anymore…
For those not in the know, Amazon and Hachette had some kind of breakdown during negotiations a few weeks back. Although no one has told us what exactly this breakdown was over, we can speculate that Amazon asked for some kind of price drop from the publisher to which they refused – telling Amazon that they think they get their books cheap enough already. Whatever happened, the result was that Amazon took action. The Pre-Order option was removed from all Hachette books and some authors have even been unlisted. Worse, delivery times for books – presumably – in stock have been lengthened in what seems like an attempt to put people off purchasing titles.
Although you guys may not have heard of Hachette, you’ve likely heard of their child companies, Orion and Gollancz – two of the biggest genre publishers out there. These guys are responsible for publishing work by friends of Fantasy-Faction such as Brent Weeks, Sam Sykes, N.K. Jemisin, Brandon Sanderson, Sarah Pinborough Patrick Rothfuss, Tom Lloydd, Joe Abercrombie, Stephen Deas, Ben Aaronovitch, Elspeth Cooper, Saladin Ahmed, Francis Knight, Trudi Canavan and so, so many more…
This is worrying enough, but when you add to that fact that Amazon have close to 90 per cent of the UK ebook market and 60 per cent of the American – with around 50 per cent of total book sales in each country – you have quite a scary situation on your hands. Hachette haven’t revealed any details on how it has affected them, but I can summarise and say: it would have fricken hurt. The worst part is that Hachette isn’t in the position to take this kind of a hit. Just a few months back they announced they’d need to cut 3% of their staff, so this dispute is not only risking the income of authors, but also the job security of publicists and stability of publishing as a market.
I believe the big problem is that Amazon doesn’t really have too much to be concerned about. Amazon is so big these days that book sales aren’t its only income. Video Games and Movies are where the real money is at and with their increasing range of services in those markets they don’t have to be too concerned about an angry publisher or two.
But, today, something interesting happened. Today Amazon in the US stopped taking pre-orders for Warner Bros DVDs and Blu-rays, including The LEGO Movie! Apparently it was a similar story… Amazon went to discuss their contract with Warner Bros, Warner Bros didn’t want to concede to even less of a margin and so Amazon are using the same ‘halt pre-order tactics’ as they did with Amazon.
As we all know, Pre-Order sales help boost hype and sales figures. Upon release, if a title is top of the charts there is a snow ball effect. People checking the top ten items in a particular category will see the title right up there and presume it kicks arse and give it a go. If the book sells massively it might even find itself on a national newspaper’s bestseller list. As well as boosting initial sales and improving their longevity, sequels can use ‘voted best seller on the ‘*Insert National Newspaper Name* list’ and this can has people impressed enough that they go back and pick up the first book and then the sequel. Also, when sending a sequel for review, if book 1 didn’t get anywhere you are likely to have a hard time convincing one of the bigger publications to review it too.
As you can see, for any author unlucky enough to find themselves affected by the Amazon/Hachette stand-off right now the outlook is pretty bleak – but it is for us readers too. If the publishers concede to Amazon every time they look to cut margins they have to make that money up somewhere. They either cut staff, they cut royalties or they stop taking as many chances on new, non-guaranteed hits. I don’t think it will ruin anyone’s career as it stands (although it may eventually), but with the minimal income so many authors make it is certainly going to hurt them financially and likely cost them a great number of sales. If I set out to order a book for my holiday in August and I find that the book I want to pre-order (out in July) is not available, I may purchase my second choice instead – or just not bother.
My thoughts go out to authors losing sales and publishers worrying about the current state of things. I love how easy Amazon makes buying books, but I am terrified at the power we – book buyers – have given them. Until further notice I will be taking down Fantasy-Faction’s Amazon store and recommending you only purchase from local Booksellers for now.