Amazon, Hachette, The New York Times, and Me
I’ve been following the power struggle between Amazon and Hachette with great interest. It’s so complex, with so many issues, and involves so many positions, voices, opinions and high stakes that I can’t take sides nor do I want to. I don’t have a dog in that fight. But I did have a thought about it. I sent my two bits to the New York Times, and my letter to the editor appeared in the August 14th paper:
To the Editor:
I’m one of the bit players in the drama of the Amazon versus Hachette epic battle. I’m what is known as an “indie author.” When publishers turned down my recent novel, Amazon provided a platform for me to self-publish it, find readers and even make a little money. For that I am grateful.
Hachette and company are battling for their authors (and themselves). Their authors are on the whole beloved, successful and financially profitable (and deservedly so). But those same publishers are the gatekeepers for books like mine (rightly so or not).
Admittedly, self-published books run the gamut from if not the sublime then certainly the worthy to the ridiculous. But Amazon, for all its faults and problems, has democratized publishing in a way that has changed the game, and that is for the good.
Minneapolis, Aug. 9, 2014
I wonder if Jeff Bezos will read it.
I’d been looking forward to reading the full-page ad from a group called Authors United re: its anti-Amazon position, signed by 900 writers, which the Times said would appear in the paper this past Sunday [Plot Thickens as 900 Writers Battle Amazon].
It wasn’t there. I was flummoxed.
I emailed the Times to ask Whaddup: Maybe the ad signers hadn’t bought space in the Midwest edition? Maybe we received an early edition and the ad didn’t make it, like late sports scores?
The Times responded that the DISTRIBUTION CENTER had the sole discretion about whether to include the ad in the papers they delivered, and they hadn’t included it. WTF!
I was not happy. I emailed back that the ad was more than an ad, it was news, part of a story the Times itself was reporting on extensively. The Authors United letter was something a lot of people (like me) were quite eager to see. Someone at the distribution center had made what I considered an editorial decision not to include it.
I was wobbed!
I’ve asked the Times to send me the ad and told them they owed their subscribers who did not receive it an explanation.
And another thing. Amazon recently instituted something called Kindle Unlimited. As an author whose books are already available through Amazon’s KDP Select platform, I got an email from Amazon about how “excited” they are about Kindle Unlimited. When people subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, they “enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles for just $9.99 a month . . .”
Now on my Amazon book pages, the first price you see is $0.00—for Kindle Unlimited.
I’m being wobbed!
I emailed Amazon to ask What-the. I hadn’t signed on for Kindle Unlimited. It didn’t exist when I signed up for KDP Select.
Amazon emailed back:
I understand that you want to know if you can opt out of Kindle Unlimited
program without opting out from KDP Select.
Unfortunately, if your titles are enrolled in KDP Select, they are automatically enrolled as part of Kindle Unlimited. You would not be able to opt out of the Kindle Unlimited program individually.
So what’s in it for me?
I also understand that this would not benefit you financially as the customers would get to read your book for free through a monthly subscription. However, once a customer reads more than 10% of your book, or a Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customer downloads your book, you’ll receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund.
We base the calculation of your share of the KDP Select Global Fund by how often Kindle Unlimited customers choose and read more than 10% of your book, and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customers download your book. We compare these numbers to how often all participating KDP Select titles were chosen.
For example, if the monthly global fund amount is $1,000,000, all participating KDP titles were read 300,000 times, and customers read your book 1,500 times, you will earn 0.5% (1,500/300,000 = 0.5%), or $5,000 for that month.
Now I’m afraid if I make too big a fuss, Amazon will Hachette me.
So I’ll wait and see what happens with my books with this new problem. I mean program.
What does it all mean?
What’s a girl to do?
Keep writing that next novel.
That’s the only sanity I know in all this publishing chaos.
P.S. The Times couldn’t send me a copy of the ad, but they did send me a link to the letter: authorsunited.net