Okay. Now it's personal.
Amazon has been in a pricing war for a while by charging their e-books at the rock-bottom price of $9.99. And some of you have loved it. Who wouldn't? Buying books by your favorite authors for your Kindle, the Amazon e-book reader (that won't let you buy from other e-stores. Can you say "monopoly"?) at cheap prices. Ah, but only the first few are cheap. As soon as you are all hooked, the prices will all go up. You knew that, didn't you?
Amazon CEO Steve Besos is fond of saying that after the book is in print it costs nothing to make it an e-book. Well, costs of printing aside, there is editing both by the editor and copy editors (and the editor deals mroe with content, shaping a book so that it's the best read possible, not just cutting stuff to make it shorter), marketing, book cover deisgn, and...um...let me see. I know there's someone else...oh yes! The friggin' author! The person who created the whole darn book to begin with. Yeah, we'd also like to be paid. Amazon takes a loss at the $9.99 price, which means it's about selling Kindles. Prices would eventually have been raised on e-books and now they can conveniently blame the raise in prices on the publishers.
Now Macmillan, the parent company of quite a few big publishers, namely Henry Holt & Co., Tor/Forge, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and St. Martin's, has been arguing with Amazon for some time on this issue. Well today, Amazon pulled all the Macmillan titles from their site. Did you notice the last publisher in the list there? St. Martin's? That's my publisher. So if you go to Amazon and look up Veil of Lies or Serpent in the Thorns, their pages are still up, but you can't buy from Amazon. You can only buy "new" copies and used copies from third party sellers.
Now in order for books to be published--ie, publishers make money and therefore publish new authors--they have to be paid for the books they produce. If you buy used books none of the money you pay is going to the publisher and consequently to the author, who get their money from the publisher for all new books sold, no matter where they are sold. I don't know who these third party book sellers are who are selling books "new" on Amazon but I'm also uncertain as to whether they are actually new and monies collected go to the publisher.
Now, I'm pretty sure this brouhaha is temporary, but in the meantime and for all time, I have removed my amazon links. If you wish to buy my books, may I recommend that you first go to your favorite neighborhood independent bookseller. If you are lucky enough to have an independent mystery bookseller nearby, even better. To find some, go to Indiebound.org. If not that, then toddle on over to Barnes & Noble (forget Borders. They don't have my book. They don't carry a lot of St. Martin's authors. That's an entirely different issue.) If you prefer to order online, your friendly neighborhood bookseller probably has an online store. So does Barnes & Noble. Please go there for your next purchases. Amazon's choke hold on the market of e-books is only the beginning. Soon they will wish to dictate to publishers what books to publish. We can't have that.
If you'd like to read more, read the story in the LA Times which links to the story in the New York Times.
Here is an update from the CEO of Macmillan published in Publisher's Weekly:
To: All Macmillan authors/illustrators and the literary agent community
From: John Sargent
This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon. The books will continue to be available on Amazon.com through third parties.
I regret that we have reached this impasse. Amazon has been a valuable customer for a long time, and it is my great hope that they will continue to be in the very near future. They have been a great innovator in our industry, and I suspect they will continue to be for decades to come.
It is those decades that concern me now, as I am sure they concern you. In the ink-on-paper world we sell books to retailers far and wide on a business model that provides a level playing field, and allows all retailers the possibility of selling books profitably. Looking to the future and to a growing digital business, we need to establish the same
sort of business model, one that encourages new devices and new stores. One that encourages healthy competition. One that is stable and rational. It also needs to insure that intellectual property can be widely available digitally at a price that is both fair to the consumer and allows those who create it and publish it to be fairly compensated.
Under the agency model, we will sell the digital editions of our books to consumers through our retailers. Our retailers will act as our agents and will take a 30% commission (the standard split today for many digtal media businesses). The price will be set for each book individually. Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99. At first release, concurrent with a hardcover, most titles will be priced between $14.99 and $12.99. E books will almost always appear day on date with the physical edition. Pricing
will be dynamic over time.
The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.
Amazon and Macmillan both want a healthy and vibrant future for books. We clearly do not agree on how to get there. Meanwhile, the action they chose to take last night clearly defines the importance they attribute to their view. We hold our view equally strongly. I hope you agree with us.
You are a vast and wonderful crew. It is impossible to reach you all in the very limited timeframe we are working under, so I have sent this message in unorthodox form. I hope it reaches you all, and quickly. Monday morning I will fully brief all of our editors, and they will be able to answer your questions. I hope to speak to many of you over the coming days.
Thanks for all the support you have shown in the last few hours; it is much appreciated.
All best, John