Amazon vs Hachette, praying for peace.

stick with me, people with internet power, i may need you more than i thought. like mr. colbert (who shares his lovely, safe for work, “digit” here), i am a hachette author. which feels ridiculous to say because i’m not an author. i still feel like a songwriter/performer/blogger who is (badly) masquerading as a book-writer. you know i’m writing a book, right? THE SOUL-SUCKING LIFE-CONSUMING HELL-BOOK THAT IS NOW SIX WEEKS LATE GETTING TO THE PUBLISHER??

guess who the publisher is? hachette! and my hell-book, The Art of Asking, which is supposed to come out on november 11 (11/11) on the hachette imprint grand central publishing, is…actually almost done! i have been spending eight hours a day for the last three weeks straight, with my ass in a chair editing this fucking beast of a memoir-wtf-non-fiction-motherfucker. and it’s going to be a great book! and guess what else? i’m on hachette!!

so is colbert, J.K. Rowling, james patterson, malcolm gladwell, and two really nice people i met at the same lunch: candace bushnell (the original sex & the city columnist) and seth grahame-smith (who wrote, YES, abraham lincoln, vampire hunter)…they both also have books coming out on Grand Central in the coming months. and…we’re all on hachette!!

if you haven’t been following the hachette/amazon drama, here’s a breaking news piece about it: bit.ly/NYTonHachette
the man in that article, michael pietsch, was seated next to me at a hachette luncheon the other day at Book Expo America, and he told me he really, really liked “the ukulele anthem”. he gets the full seal of approval.

now: it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on back there in the negotiating rooms, but it’s high octane who-owns-the-future-shit. it also means that if things don’t change, y’all will NOT be able to pre-order my book through amazon. which blows. it’ll really hurt the book sales, given that i’m hoping this book will actually reach beyond the walls of my inner-sanctum fan-base.

i will, of course, try to guide traffic to the good guys (stephen colbert is sending his fans to powell’s books…YAY POWELL’S!!!!!), overwhelming their stockroom with requests, which is awesome. but just a warning.


and i hope it dies down fast, because…yeah.

anyway, here’s the clip from The Colbert Report, to watch and share: bit.ly/CRonAmazon

and you can read a bit more about his fight over at bit.ly/ColbertVsAmazon

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  • Starcatbooks

    I own & run an indie bookstore, Amanda. You bet your ass I’ll be carrying your title. In fact, I have a hanging order to fill tomorrow with Baker & Taylor; I think the title’s available for preorder now, so I can get that taken care of while I reorder some of Neil’s books that keep selling out on me. (Want to come see the beautiful Upper Valley of VT/NH? :) It’s heaven. So much terrific, funky, weird, fun, gorgeous art being created everywhere!)

  • R.C.

    We’ll order it straight from your website!

  • http://www.kseniaanske.com/ Ksenia Anske

    Hey! I’m not anybody’s author (*cries big tears*), so I’m my own author and still alive! WE WILL LIVE THROUGH IT!!! Much love, as always. Here is to the bright glorious future of publishing. XOXO

    • Estel

      Exactly – I think I’m stopping to understand the whole “book drama”. I have no idea what decisions Amanda took, and I’m no one to judge them, but wouldn’t it be easier to “just write” and publish when you’re done, instead of counting on publisher deadlines or whatsnot?

      And, more importantly, if a music Album can (and should) be crowd-funded, does book really need to have a big-ass publisher and a “label” selling it? It all seems to me like a big step back in “we are the media” department. I just don’t get why book can’t get produced and sold in the same manner than crowdfunded albums are (minus the fiasco with kickstarter backers getting their bonuses for months or years, but I guess/hope that it was one-time incident).


      • Starcatbooks

        Not to oversimplify, but it comes down to distribution. People like to see/hold/page through a book before buying (primarily people who aren’t familiar with the author or if this is a new endeavor for an artist in a new genre), and you can’t get into bookstores most of the time if you self-publish. Even nowadays.

        • Estel

          I’m aware of it and agree with your argumentation, but it’s completely unrelated to the problem at hand. Conflict between Hachette and Amazon is entirely about e-books (and e-books only). Basically, it’s about the fact that Amazon want having rights to sell e-books with deep discounts (just like Steam does in gaming industry), still making profit from sheer volume – at the same time, putting out of business smaller publishers, that won’t ever sell a volume that makes them profit at such low prices.

          OTOH, Hachette&friends were accused (rightly so, by every proof that we have and their own reaction) of conspiring to set e-book prices universally high (and at comparable level between all conspiring publishers). So, both end of stick have their equal share of nasty actions, and I don’t see why anyone should get rallied to support greedy bastards (on whatever side).


          • SitsUnderWaterfalls

            Sorry if I’m being dumb, but if the argument is about ebooks, why is it affecting shipping of physical printed books?

          • Estel

            You’re absolutely *not* being dumb – the whole situation is so non-transparent, that it’s absolutely normal to feel confused.

            At this point, I’m not even sure if Amanda is talking about physical copies on Amazon – maybe she had e-books only in mind. If not – well, it’s possible, that Hachette contract with Amazon is signed as one document for all the forms, and stalemate about e-books blocks signing contracts for all forms.

            Anyway, we won’t know, as their contract disputes are *no* made public, and the exact nature of conflict is just a “public guesswork” (with controlled “leaks” of informations from both sides), from time to time.

            Generally, now it looks like “Hey, guys, rally to helps us to get our [TOP SECRET] rates from Amazon, cause they’re offending us with their offer consisting of [TOP SECRET]. You know that small publishers like us are always better than big ones like Amazon, so you don’t need to know the details, don’t you?”.

            Maybe I’ve become transparency orthodox, but I don’t trust companies than don’t play open cards. Also, I don’t have any reasons to think that small companies just recently guilty of conspiring to fix prices, are in any way better than Amazon (which I don’t have any sympathy for, too).

            It just all seems that someone is trying to play public opinion/community for a fool here, with a moderate success. I’m a little sad that Amanda jumped into that bandwagon, too (albeit for personal reasons – as she’ve admitted, she is Hachette’s writer, too) – I would preffer to get “rallied” by people that I trust only for the cases, that are confirmed to be “worthy”. Otherwise it boils down to every other classical media information – check it at the sources first, don’t trust the messenger.

            Sure, fair enough, but I would really like to treat those few special artists/activist as more trustworthy source of information, than your everyday newspaper/info portal.


          • Starcatbooks

            Hachette is far from being a small publisher (if I’m reading one of your arguments here correctly — pardon me if I’m not; I plead far too little sleep and almost no coffee!), but is instead a big arm of publishing that has many large imprints under its umbrella, including Little Brown, for one.

            The ebook debacle is indeed what Amazon is really using this tactic for — they’re basically blackmailing Hachette they way they did other publishers in the past, in order to get lower overall rates for ebooks so they can do the same for ebooks that they do for print books: undercut prices across the board so nobody can compete with them. The problem with ebooks is they have to be paid for just like print books: authors, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, “typesetters” (composers), and even distribution. Amazon’s pricing makes it so authors especially get screwed (not to mention production people: don’t get me started — this is why I’m not copyediting anymore: pay rates have halved down to 1984 rates!).

            BUT … the ebook stuff is in the background here. What’s happening to Amanda (or may happen) and to other authors writing under the Hachette umbrella is that Amazon’s blackmailing scheme to get Hachette to cry “uncle” is to de-list their books at Amazon. Or in some cases list them, but at full price (even more than B&N has it online). Since so many lemmings … um, people … use only Amazon and don’t know how to even order books otherwise, if it isn’t listed at Amazon, they think the book doesn’t exist and therefore they don’t buy it.

          • Estel

            Absolutely agree with all your points – BTW, the “small publisher” thing was my irony about the way Hachette vs Amazon conflict is portrayed in the media (David vs Goliath, etc). Sure, Hachette is in no way size-comparable to amazon giant, but still, I feel the way it’s all portrayed quite unfair.

            The whole fuss tried to convince us, that Hachette is fighting for public interest, at least, while, in fact, they’re fighting for their own business and profits. What they want to win, is good contract with “bad guys” at Amazon, further reinforcing the mindless treating of Amazon as “one and most important” source of books. I think that the “sell elsewhere” approach – including educating potential customers about “why” – is the way that would benefit “public interest” more. Anyway, i, for one, doesn’t see a single reason why I’ve should support one greedy company business negotiations with another greedy company. It’s just their damn business, public interest/domain is somewhere else, totally.


  • Overit

    I don’t know. I didn’t really come here for books or articles. I came here for music. But whatevers.

  • RiverVox

    Oh no, not DRAMA! Madame, I live for drama, having been trained in your inner sanctum for years.

    I will order your book from my local store, Brookline Booksmith, and recommend they stock many copies.


  • jim

    I’m drunk and I need more persuasion to buy this

  • DDfan

    when are you going to have some new music?

  • JenB

    I’m sure the new book will be just lovely, but I’m still jonesing for the next album.
    As far as the drama with the publisher is concerned, I have a number of writer friends and I understand that, much like the music industry, the publishing world is it’s own beast. Thanks for giving us the heads up on this.

    It seems like the TED audience is one that has received your thoughts on the Art of Asking with the most interest and, from those who listen to TED that I know, it seems that many of them are most inclined to support independents whether it be artists or bookstores, so if the Amazon thing does not resolve itself with ease, I’m sure there are many other avenues to achieve success with the book launch. Best of Luck!

  • Krissy Whasserface

    Personally, I intend to pick up the book in person because:
    A) I find it easier to budget when I’m not spending on things that I’m not getting that month
    B) I want to support my local bookstores
    C) I like the joy of picking up the hard copy, taking it to the cash, and seeing if the cashier is going to read it and maybe spark up a conversation about books. Maybe I can recommend they read it and other books, maybe they can recommend more books to me.

  • ursulas

    I buy all of my hard copy books from a local Indie bookstore and I get my ebooks from KOBO or my local library. I can’t wait to get your book! I have all of your music! XO!

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