Amazon vs. Hachette – are they really holding publishers hostage?

The Amazon-Hachette debate is raging on and much like Bruce Springsteen’s thoughts on Luis Suarez or David Bowie’s thoughts on independence, I’m not overly concerned about what huge, best-selling authors have to say about the importance of supporting small publishers. I say this because regardless, they’ll do well in sales. It doesn’t affect them. The same way Luis Suarez’s gnashers don’t affect Bruce Springsteen and New York City dwelling David Bowie will not feel the effects of a Yes vote. Authors who have backed Hachette include J.K Rowling, John Green, James Patterson (who is now granting £250,000 to independent bookshops) and Malcolm Gladwell. All of these are and have been best selling authors. They have sold millions upon millions of books, have become household names and are at no risk of ever struggling to make a living through writing. So why are we following their words? As far as I know (the tax-dodging debacle aside for now…) Amazon sell great books at very affordable prices, they have Kindle offers which tend to have a lot of popular, contemporary books and it gives self-publishers a huge platform. So, where’s the problem? John Green has said:

“… Most good books are NOT created solely by one person: Editors and publishers play a tremendously important role not just in the distribution of books, but in the creation of them. Without my editor, there would be no great perhaps in Looking for Alaska, no Augustus Waters in The Fault in Our Stars, and no Agloe, New York in Paper Towns. Without copyeditors and proofreaders, my books would be riddled with factual and grammatical errors that would pull you out of the story and give you a less immersive reading experience. This is true not only for traditional/legacy publishing but also for self-published books. Authors are not islands.”

This is for the most part, true. Authors in the past have struggled to get by without a team of publishers but given that the Kindle market is now so enormous, they may be becoming obsolete. This is a scary thought for those who cherish the publishing industry in the same respect that small bookshops closing down is a daunting thought for those who cherish the integrity and overall feel of independent bookshops. In  the publishing industry right now, there’s not enough consistency. Number 2 in the Kindle chart right now is Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott. Where is it in the official book charts? Well, you tell me. It’s certainly not in the top 40.

I caught up with Ben Hatch who is one of Amazon’s best success stories in terms of Kindle sales to briefly discuss this situation and to get his thoughts on why the publishing world is in such disarray. benhatch(1) As a lesser-known author, how do you feel about indie bookshops in comparison to Amazon?

[Mid-list writers] all love indie bookshops and want them to flourish but Amazon gives authors another chance. If you’re not a celeb, a crime writer or a big seller, where are you going to make a living?

How profitable are Kindle sales for authors?

I know authors who make a living solely on Amazon. I’ve sold more than 100,000 ebooks.

Then why don’t bookshops promote you?

Publishers pay to be in promotions and they only pay when it’s cast-iron they’ll sell buckets. They don’t take chances whereas Amazon decide what’s in their promotions and have picked my book and don’t ask for money.

What would you say is one of the underlying reasons for the decline in bookshops supporting smaller authors?

The trouble is bookshops went bananas for celeb memoirs and cookery books and forgot about mid-list writers who’ve found a home on Amazon.

 

Amazon and Hachette both have said they see no ending to this debate for a while and with everything taken into account, it’s easy to see why. There is an argument on both sides and even corporate giants like Amazon still promote and help independent authors so who exactly is in the wrong? Is publishing dead? Did Amazon kill it?

What do you think?

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