An honest appeal.

Amazon is reaching out to us, the indie authors that comprise their main support in their ongoing battle with the Big 5 publishers. They sent us KDP authors this:

Please read it and come to your own conclusions. This is the letter I sent to Hachette;s CEO:


Hello Mr. Pietsch,

You’re going to be getting a lot of these, so let me get to the point. I would like to hear your side of the story.

Amazon makes a striking argument in your very public dispute: your illegal collusion is fact, and you refused to accept Amazon’s offers to make it easier on us, the authors. (Which I have been following in the media you own so much of, not taking as rote.) You offer no alternative to Amazon’s distribution, other than the brick and mortar store, whereas other major publishers are only now starting to set up online shops. I don’t see how Amazon can restore your preorder/sale buttons without an agreement, not so much a strongarm as a responsible reaction. I don’t like being used as a prybar, and I would like to add Prudence to my Amazon wishlist already.

As a maker and consumer of books, I have witnessed firsthand how traditional publishers like you do business. Your insistence on keeping books at a premium is harmful to the general reading public, as Amazon says. Having books sell for relatively high prices in a store at essentially consignment is insulting and contrary to how people read. A 90 day shelf period, on average, is hardly enough time to gain a following. Furthermore, you exist as a gatekeeper in this industry: if we want to be heard, we have to ask you, the publisher for permission. Your offerings are so often obvious attempts at turning a buck, they’ve turned our popular literary landscape into a wasteland of shiny vampires and entitled metropolitan women. As a Cantonese author with a unique point of view, I have almost no chance at traditional publishing. What’s the demographic on that, something like 3 billion Chinese? We happen to be a very international crowd. That’s a lot of airport sales.

On the other hand, Amazon offers us a way to reach our audience with no time limit, eco-friendly print on demand, and a flexible editing framework. That speaks well for a diverse, vibrant literary landscape. Where else can you get a book about women cavorting with dinosaurs, or straight up fanfiction? Amazon even reached out to us via our email, which just smacks so pleasantly of 2014 IT geekery. Sure, Amazon engages in some shoddy labor and tax dodging, but no company is immune from that. In fact, since publishers are so happy using Amazon as distribution, publishers are complicit.

Amazon wants us to tell you authors are not united on this front, but in a way, we are. As an indie author, I want Amazon to succeed, because I will succeed. Their numbers breakdown is pretty convincing- at a lower price and high readership, a good writer will come out ahead. Your authors likely have a similar argument in your favor. Yet, indie and traditional authors have something in common- we started out as readers. As a reader, I don’t want to pay for something gaudy, printed on 100% recycled, gluten-free paper, with six months of marketing that hypes it up so much disappointment with the actual work is inevitable. Frankly, I don’t like waiting a year or more for the paperback when there’s a hardcover book I want to read. That stuff takes up valuable shelf space. I want my trashy pulp novels, literary magnum opuses and cult favorites at my fingertips, for a decent price.

I have enjoyed Hachette’s work,and I love the authors you choose to support. Yet, your actions to date seem not to agree with your published content. Are you for-profit only, and too much of a dinosaur to see the changes on the horizon? Are you even invested in literature at all? Are you complicit in Lagadere’s attempts to use their media influence to blindside the public in your favor? Mr. Pietsch, in the face of this damning evidence, I have one question for you: What’s your story?


One thought on “An honest appeal.

  1. Pingback: Hachette’s Reply to My Letter | Voxvorago

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