Amazon makes its case and it’s pretty compelling

Amazon released its most detailed explanation of their side of the Hachette feud, and it’s a pretty compelling argument. They manage to demonstrate how lower ebook prices will actually help Hachette sell more books and make more money which in turn will help the authors make more money.

An excerpt:

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

My favorite excerpt:

One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.


Here’s the link to entire piece: Update re: Amazon/Hachette Business Interruption


How to decide which side to take in the Amazon/Hachette dispute

The Amazon/Hachette brouhaha has been so difficult to figure out. It’s hard to know which side to support. Let’s face it, we’re talking about two corporations worth billions fighting over mo’ money. It’s a tad bit difficult to relate. Some authors with major lit-cred have been working hard to sway public opinion in Hachette’s favor because they feel like Amazon has stabbed them in the back. Meanwhile, Amazon has accused Hachette of using its authors as “human shields.” In short, it’s getting nasty. As an indie author, I really don’t have a stake in this fight, but as a reader, I do.

Today it hit me that there’s a very easy way to decide which side you’re on in this thing. I’ll break up this handy-dandy guide in two sections – one for readers and the other one for authors.

The Reader Amazon/Hachette guide:

A. I want to pay higher prices for e-books from traditional publishing companies like Hachette.
B. I want to pay lower prices for e-books from traditional publishing companies like Hachette.

If you selected ‘A’, you support Hachette. If you selected ‘B’, you support Amazon.


The Author Amazon/Hachette guide:

A. I want to help foster and force change in the publishing industry that will ultimately give authors a more equitable share of royalties earned on their books.
B. I want to keep things the same and maintain the current royalty structures that see authors earn a minuscule amount of royalties earned on their books.

If you selected ‘A’, you support Amazon. If you selected ‘B’, you support Hachette.

In the words of Nick Burns Your company’s computer guy, “Oh by the way, you’re welcome!”

A note:  Believe it or not, I’m not one of those indie authors that doesn’t see a future for traditional publishing companies.  I do, but not under the current business model.  They have to adapt to accommodate the changes in technology and retail. The music industry fought to hold on to the old way of doing business until there was virtually no music industry left to hold on to.  The publishing industry needs to get in front of this thing before it’s too late.  The first order of business is to get rid of the current industry standard contracts and form partnership deals with their authors, ones that give authors, at the very least, half of the royalties earned on print sales and more than half on e-book sales.  The second order of business is to ditch six-figure and up advances and scale up marketing dollars.  The third order of business is to hire back all the editors you’ve let go over the years.  They are the major factor in taking an average book and making it great.

Amazon vs. Hachette – An Indie Author’s Thoughts

The first rule of Book Fight Club if you're Amazon is don't talk about Book Fight Club.

The first rule of Book Fight Club if you’re Amazon is don’t talk about Book Fight Club.

Before you read this please keep in mind that this is an opinion piece.  I am not privy to any inside information.

I haven’t weighed in on the Amazon/Hachette dispute yet because it is so confusing it’s hard to really gauge what’s going on. What the fight is even really about is fuzzy because Hachette has done nothing but spread over-the-top anti-Amazon crap that’s difficult to take seriously, and Amazon has said virtually nothing at all. This nothingness technique is a deep-seated corporate philosophy that takes Zen-like discipline to adhere to in this “must respond on Twitter immediately” world we live in. Amazon’s silence is all at once both maddening and admirable.

In the interest of full disclosure, I once worked for CreateSpace, an company, and currently I write freelance articles for CreateSpace’s online community of authors. In addition, I publish my books through CreateSpace. In short, I have ties to the Amazonians so keep that in mind as you read. I recognize I am not totally unbiased in this matter. I loves me them folks because they’re good people.

Here’s what you need to know about the fight between Amazon vs. Hachette from my perspective in a handy-dandy bulleted format. (This is all speculation and conjecture on my part)

  • Amazon will win – To call this a fight is really inaccurate. Amazon holds all the cards, and they’ve got a legal team that is unmatched in the corporate world. Yes, Hachette is part of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, and they are a formidable opponent, but they are really out of their depth. I know this has been a cause célèbre for a lot of famous authors, and they’ve been vocal in their support of Hachette, but trust me when I tell you Amazon doesn’t care about the public campaign being waged against them. They have a superhuman way of shutting out the noise and focusing on what matters most to them. What matters most? See the next item.
  • Amazon cares about one thing above all else – What I am about to say will sound insane, but trust me when I say Jeff Bezos (and by extension, Amazon) truly only cares about one thing – the customer. That is not PR spin. It is a core belief that is at the center of every decision Amazon makes. This fight, whatever the specifics, isn’t about making more money for Amazon. It’s about Amazon’s customers. Bottom line. Period. Stick a fork in it. While I worked at CreateSpace, I saw some crazy decisions made that cost the company money all because it was the best solution for the customer.
  • Amazon wants zero inventory – As I understand it, Hachette is upset because Amazon eliminated their pre-order and buy it now buttons. In order for either of these two buttons to be available, Amazon would have to either agree to carry or actually currently have books in one of their fulfillment centers. Amazon has been working for years to find ways to carry fewer products not more. Housing inventory costs money. They want to cut that cost as much as they can. They would prefer not to have to store any books at all. They’ve put tremendous amounts of money into CreateSpace because they’re trying to develop the perfect print-on-demand alternative. And in actuality, they are working towards a day when there are no physical books at all. Just Kindle versions. While I have no inside information on the Hachette deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the issue is that Amazon does not want to carry physical copies of books by midlist and lesser known Hachette authors. It’s a cost they often can’t recover, and instead of absorbing that cost or passing it along to the consumer, they’d like to avoid it all together. Amazon has the capability to manufacture and deliver physical books in 24 hours. They more than likely would like all but a select few of Hachette authors to be non-inventory authors, a prospect that terrifies other publishers because they would have to eventually agree to the same deal. But who can really blame Amazon? In the end, it’s an arrangement that makes the most financial sense for the online retailer.  I know at the center of this fight is the court mandated price negotiations after publishers got busted for ebook price fixing, but knowing what I know about Amazon’s long term long tail plans, my gut tells me inventory of physical books is a huge divide in the negotiations.
  • Publishers and ebooks – What Hachette has to be careful of is dragging this fight out long enough for their authors to realize publishers are not only unnecessary in a world moving towards a dominate digital format, they’re a money-suck.  There are a lot of authors who are losing money publishing ebooks with publishers, especially the way publishers currently have the system structured.
  • Hachette doesn’t care about its authors – Traditional publishing companies are becoming increasingly less necessary simply because they are fighting to hold onto an outdated business model. Technology has changed the way books are written, designed, published, and sold yet traditional publishers have done little to keep pace with these changes. Amazon has not only embraced the changes, they’ve been the arbiter and creator of some of the most crucial changes. It is true that as a publisher Hachette takes on a significant amount of risk when they publish a title, but most of the risk is of their own making. Historically, 70% of books published by traditional publishers fail to make back the advances paid to the authors. And we’re not talking six-figure deals. Most deals are five-figures or less. How do they stay in business? The 30% that make money usually make a lot of money, and most of the money made goes to the publisher not the author. In addition, traditional authors are required to take on more and more of the financial burden when it comes to marketing their books. The primary role of a traditional publisher today is to place books in bookstores. That’s the real benefit they bring to their authors. But if Amazon is trying to reduce the number of books they’re carrying, and focus on digital and non-inventory sales, that makes traditional publishers close to obsolete. I refer you back to my “outdated business model” remark.
  • Why are big name authors coming to Hachette’s defense? – Authors like Stephen King, James Patterson, John Green, and Malcolm Gladwell have taken Hachette’s side in this fight. If what I just said about Hachette not caring about their authors is true, why would authors be defending them? Because, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Gladwell, they are outliers. They are part of an elite group of authors making bank in the traditional publishing business model. I’m not suggesting they are being disingenuous with their support. They truly think Amazon is making unfair demands even though they probably aren’t even completely aware of what Amazon’s demands really are. The system works for them. They don’t want to change it. Again, who can really blame them?
  • Amazon’s offer to Hachette Authors – Recently Amazon broke their silence. Not to give their side of the dispute, but to offer Hachette authors an olive branch. Among other things, it included 100% of the profits made from the sale of their individual titles provided that Hachette shared the burden of such a deal. Hachette declined, and I have no doubt Amazon knew they would. Was it a PR move on Amazon’s part? Yes. Does that make it a hollow offer? Yes. But it does illustrate the point. Hachette is in this for the company’s self-interest. They don’t care about the authors. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re glad that the authors are caught in the middle. It gives them a sympathetic public face in this fight. If Hachette was smart, they would have taken the deal and forced Amazon’s hand. It would have given them some leverage because in the end Amazon isn’t an altruistic entity. They are a business designed to make money. Paying J.K. Rowling gobs of money without any return would not have been a sustainable strategy.
  • Wait for Jeff to speak – Nobody in the blogosphere knows what’s really going on in this fight. In an effort to steer public opinion in their favor, Hachette hasn’t been completely honest. Amazon has kept a muzzle on everybody in the company. As one of the previously muzzled, I know the warnings that have been surely issued to all public facing employees. As one of the previously muzzled who foolishly ignored those warnings, I know the wrath of upper management when they discover your foolishness. It’s been about six years since I got pummeled over a speaker phone for replying to a New York Times reporter via email, and I still dream about punching the two guys who yelled at me for doing so. I was clearly in the wrong, but as an adult, I’ve never been spoken to in that way. I say all that to say this. We won’t know Amazon’s side of the story until Jeff speaks, and I’m guessing he’ll do it in a big way. Barbara Walters may even come out of retirement (again) to do the interview. I’ve never met Jeff, and I’ve heard conflicting second-hand stories about his demeanor. So I don’t know what to believe about him. But, I do know this; he’s the captain of that ship. I’ve been to Seattle, and I’ve walked through the cubicle mazes at HQ. I saw a lot of over-worked, gray-complected employees working on special Jeff projects. Nobody wanted to disappoint him. When he wants this issue to be resolved, it will be resolved, and he won’t want it resolved unless the customers’ interests have been given the greatest consideration.

I can’t give specific opinions about the details of the dispute because I don’t know the specifics. I’ve tried to layout what I think is going on in general terms. I lean towards Amazon based on what I know about the industry and its future. Indie authors really don’t have a dog in this fight, but from my indie-author colored glasses, Amazon has given me the greatest opportunity I could have ever hoped for, an opportunity nobody else would. I’d be hard pressed to ever turn my back on them. I don’t think Hachette is an evil company. I do think they are doing an excellent job of manipulating public opinion, and they aren’t being forthright about their motives, but that’s the world we live in. They’re just playing the game like everyone else plays the game.


I TOLD YOU SO!!!! – Warning this post contains Breaking Bad Spoilers

Could he come knocking again?

Could he come knocking again?

I know some of you are still getting into the Breaking Bad phenomenon, and you haven’t seen the entire series as of yet.  Out of deference to you, I am going to make this first paragraph filler so you can have adequate time to back out of this post and not cast your eyes upon the major spoiler below.  If you don’t wish to know how Walter White’s saga ends stop reading… NOW!

(BTW – What is wrong with you people?  I’ve watched the entire series twice already!)

This goes out to all those people who thought I was crazy.  I told you before, and I’ll say it again.  HE’S NOT DEAD!  The producers brilliantly left the ending open to interpretation.  It was so brilliant most viewers thought it wasn’t open to interpretation at all.  They walked away convinced Walt was dead.  But not this rabid – bordering on irrational – fan of all things Breaking Bad.  No, no, no! I immediately turned to my wife and said, “He’s not dead.”  I told the clerk at the store, “He’s not dead.”  I told my dentist, “He’s not dead.”  I told the Girl Scout at the neighborhood Bi-Lo selling cookies, “He’s not dead.”  They all looked at me like I was crazy.  “He’s dead,”they assured me. “You’re out of your mind,” they snarked.  “We’re out of thin mints,” the Girl Scout said mockingly.

But today I am vindicated.  Today, Bryan Cranston himself has hinted to what I’ve been saying all along, “He’s not dead.”  In a post on, Cranston refused to rule out a Breaking Bad comeback saying, “You never saw bags zip up or anyone say … you know.”

My guess is that within five years we’ll be watching Walt breaking out of prison to save his family the only way he knows how, the Heisenberg way.  My hat’s off to Cranston for playing the uncertainty card in true Heisenberg fashion.  

I am not J.K. Rowling

Proof that I am not R.W. or J.K. Rowling.

Proof that I am not R.W. or J.K. Rowling.

As if we needed further confirmation, we now have undeniable proof that I am not J.K. Rowling or in any way related to her.  On more than one occasion, I have received emails that have started with Dear R.W. Rowling.

The actual literary Rowling confirmed this week that she has published a book under the pen name, Robert Gailbraith.  Sales for the book written under her nom de plume, The Cuckoo’s Calling, soared an astonishing 507,000% shortly after her announcement.

Recently, I made a similar announcement on this blog that I too published under a pseudonym.  Sales did not increase 507,000%.  They went up about 300%, but I have a feeling we are talking even more dramatically different actual sales numbers.  She can buy an island with her 507,000%.  I can maybe buy a “J.K. Rowling bought an island and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” t-shirt with my 300%.

So congratulations, J.K. Rowling!  You win! Again!  You couldn’t even let me have this one thing, could you?

BTW – I feel compelled to say that the snarkitude of this post is all in good fun.  I truly do admire Rowling and appreciate everything she’s done for publishing.  Let’s face it, she made reading cool to an entire generation.

Why don’t men read more?

This might explain it.

This might explain it.

I hear from a lot of male readers, both young and old(er).  As a result, I may have a distorted view of the readership in the U-S of A – America (can you tell I get a lot of spam?).  I am told by publishing industry pundits that men don’t read as much as women.  Therefore, the female reader is highly coveted.  I look at bestseller lists these days, and I do see a lot of romance themed novels flooding the top of any given list.    Further solidifying the point that more women buy books than men, agents and editors have taken to the Twittershere with the hashtag MSWL (Manuscript Wish List).  A quick survey of the list reveals a large number of references to themes that would appeal to female readers: strong female protagonist, romance, heroine, mother/daughter, female pirate, etc.

So my question is why don’t more men read?  Is it a cultural construct or do they not read because the publishing industry doesn’t seem to produce material that appeals to them as much?  Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.  Why don’t men read books with strong female protagonists, and why are we, the male of the species, so opposed to romance novels?

As an indie author, I may be more concerned about these issues than most people, but I find the topic interesting in a perplexing kind of a way.  So I guess the real question is are men the problem or is the publishing industry the problem?

BTW – The ‘s’ only looks unnecessary in the hashtag MSWL.  MS is the accepted abbreviation for manuscript.

BTW2 – I would totally read a book about a female pirate.

A song for the frustrated Bigfooters

I’ve purposely not commented on Dr. K’s newly released DNA paper because I’m waiting for those with bonafide chops in the study of such things as genetics and other science-e endeavors to weigh in with conclusive opinions. The behavior of some of the individuals publicly involved in the study is leading me down a very cynical path.  To be frank, I don’t like what I’m seeing and it leads me to believe that something less than honorable is afoot.  Let’s call that a suspicion not a indictment.  Suffice it to say, I’m keeping up with the drips and tiny bits of information coming out, and if I feel I need to comment, I will.

For now, here’s an original song by Youtuber mctrmt that sums up how I feel.  I give you Wake Up Matilda.

Stop with the ridiculous false flag conspiracy theories!!!

This man's name is "Eugene" Rosen.  He lives in Newton, CT.  He is not an actor.  He's a man who stepped up and did the right thing, and now he's being harassed for it by "red flag truthers."

This man’s name is “Eugene” Rosen. He lives in Newtown, CT. He is not an actor. He’s a man who stepped up and did the right thing, and now he’s being harassed for it by “false flag truthers.”

Unfortunately, the Sandy Hook tragedy has uncovered an ugly side of America that is shameful and disheartening, and goes beyond the actual shooting.  It is the rise of the “false flag” brigade of “truthers,” a group filled with sociopaths and assault weapons apologists.  For those that don’t know, “false flag” is a term used by conspiracy theorists that identifies an event as being orchestrated by the US government in order to take rights away from American citizens.  And, “Truthers” are those people who think they’re smarter than the facts.

I get that some people don’t support any kind of gun control because they think it violates the 2nd Amendment.  I don’t necessarily agree, but at least it’s something we can discuss intelligently.  But, to latch on to this ridiculous “false flag” conspiracy theory because you don’t want to give the opposition any kind of leverage in the debate and you hate President Obama, is disgusting.  Normally I wouldn’t be so blunt, but this diseased theory is becoming a movement that is victimizing the Sandy Hook community all over again.

I’ve seen the “Sandy Hook Truther” videos. They are laughable.  The only thing they prove is that – surprise, surprise – there was a lot of confusion immediately following the shooting and the media reported a lot of erroneous information.  That’s it.  When you tell a father how to grieve, or you can’t accept the fact that a little girl is wearing her murdered sister’s dress, you do nothing but showcase you’re own delusions.

Can we please back away from the fantasies and have a real discussion?

Yahoo News has an excellent article about the damage and impact these theories are starting to have.  Why Sandy Hook Massacre Spawned Conspiracy Theories 

Russell Wilson gets away with block in the back to help beat Redskins

The day John Riggins retired from the Washington Redskins I stopped being a Redskins fan.  In fact, in last nights playoff game I was pulling for the Seattle Seahawks, and they were clearly the better team.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the Seahawks benefited from a blown call in route to a 24-14 victory over Washington.

Marshawn Lynch ran for a 27-yard score with 7:08 remaining in the game.  It was a fantastic run that was made even more compelling because Lynch’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, threw a key block that allowed the running back to score.  TV announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were duly impressed by the rookie QBs gutsy play.  And, it was gutsy.  It was also a penalty.  Missed in the excitement of the score and the unusual lead blocker was the fact that Russell Wilson committed a “block in the back” penalty that should have negated the score and moved the Seahawks back 10 yards from the spot of the foul, the six-yard line.


Russell Wilson leads the way with an illegal block in the back!

By my calculations, that means the Seahawks should have had it first and ten at the 16-yard line instead of a touchdown.   It’s a fairly significant non-call because the Seahawks were behind 14-13 when they scored.

What does all this mean?  Nothing except that it may demonstrate further that the Seahawks are a team of destiny this year.  They benefited from a bad call by replacement refs earlier in the year in  a game against the Packers.  Green Bay intercepted a ball in the end zone with no time left on the clock only to have a replacement referee inexplicably call it a touchdown for the Seahawks.  Without that win, it’s possible the Seahawks wouldn’t make the playoffs.

I happen to think Seattle is the team with the most momentum remaining in the playoffs, and I’m predicting they will beat the Falcons next week, but it’s still fun to piss off the Seahawks faithful with speculations of what could have been had the referees not missed that call.