Amazon has declared war on one of my publishers, Hachette Book Group.
Being as more complex business issues tend to escape me, I don’t want to talk about the whys or whats of the fight. I don’t know enough to argue the actions Amazon has taken against Hachette. What I do know is how their tactics have affected me and other Hachette authors. So that’s what I’ll talk about.
I knew something was wrong even before the story broke in the media. Being as I’m an incredible Type A personality, I tend to check how my books are doing in Amazon rankings a few times a day. (Okay…I’ll admit it. A few HUNDRED times a day.) When I pulled up Signed, Sealed, Delivered, my July 1st release, I freaked that Amazon had suddenly declared it “unavailable.”
Say what? Unavailable? Where did my pre-order button go? Where did my ranking (which had been steadily improving) go? How could my book suddenly have been yanked from the Amazon lineup? Was this my fault? Amazon’s? My publisher’s?
I scrambled to check my other pre-order book, Sealing the Deal. Just as I’d discovered earlier, this book was now “unavailable.” The only thing I kept saying was, “What the hell?” I had to have muttered that a few dozen times as I fired an email off to my editor, asking what had happened and what we could do to fix it.
There was one other weird thing I noticed as I checked all of my other books to see if any other stories had suddenly become “unavailable.” The Bottom Line, the first book in my Hachette series, had already released. Thank heavens, it was still for sale in both ebook and paperback. But a new rather prominent banner had been raised along the top of the page. Amazon now gave readers less expensive choices to my book. (In the last couple of days, the banner seems to have been removed. Or at least I haven’t seen it as often.)
I was outraged. My book had been selling very well since its release, and now Amazon was doing everything they could to steer readers away, not only from that book but from the two sequels. I had become collateral damage in the war they were waging with Hachette.
Again, I don’t have the knowledge of the business world to understand what Amazon wants and why Hachette is resisting. But I do know bullying when I see it. And this, in my opinion, was nothing short of bullying. Amazon seemed to be pushing authors to gripe to Hachette, probably hoping in response to all the author pressure, Hachette might cave. That was the only reason I could figure out for what Amazon was hoping to accomplish. That, and forcing Hachette to make lower profits and perhaps cave to Amazon’s demands.
As I happily bought almost all the books I read from Amazon, even using the website to order gifts for family and friends and finding other products at great prices, I never realized what a monopoly Amazon was becoming. Sure, Barnes & Noble is still in the mix, and a lot of independent publishers are chugging along quite well. But the majority of what I buy to read—and sell as an author—is on Amazon. That makes me one of the monster’s creators, I suppose.
So now, the only option I have is to wait this out. There’s no way to fight back, nor is there really anyone to fight! This war will go on until someone finally declares an armistice. By then, I can only hope that we all get back to the business of selling books.
How many readers have I lost? I can never know. All I can do is keep on writing and hope that I’m ultimately not a casualty.