February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Authors John Green and James Patterson Stuck in Midst of Ongoing Battle of Amazon vs. Hachette

In the ongoing battle between Amazon and Hachette Book Group over renegotiating the contract for book sales and profit share, the two sides have yet to have come to agreement. Amazon has been publicly cited for using bullying tactics, such as raising Hachette book pricing and deliberately delaying the publisher’s book shipments, in order to strongarm the publisher into concession of Amazon’s terms.

(For an overview of the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute, read the Los Angeles Times’s “Amazon and Hachette: The dispute in 13 easy steps.”)

Public opinion has landed on Team Hachette, with comedian and “The Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert, one of Hachette’s authors, telling Amazon off in this clip of a June 4 episode.

Both Hachette authors and non-Hachette authors—like Amazon’s current #1 best seller and YA author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, 2012), who is published by Penguin/Random House, dared to criticize Amazon, by saying:


John Green, not a Hachette writer, is Amazon’s #1-selling author and spoke out against the retailer.

“The breadth of American literature and the quality of American literature is in no small part due to the work that publishers do, and it’s very unfortunate, in my opinion, to see Amazon refuse to acknowledge the importance of that partnership.”

He also was quoted as saying that “he worries Amazon is trying to ‘bully publishers into nonexistence,'” according to the Associated Press.

James Patterson pic

James Patterson publicly spoke out at BEA against the tactics Amazon has been using to negotiated with Hachette.

James Patterson, a Hachette author, used his attendance at this year’s Book Expo America (May 28–30), as an opportunity to publicly weigh in on the dispute:

“Right now bookstores, libraries, authors, publishers, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war between publishers and online providers. To be a teeny tiny bit more specific, Amazon seems to be out to control shopping in this country. This will ultimately have an effect on every grocery- and department-store chain, on every big-box store, and ultimately it will put thousands of mom-and-pop stores out of business. It just will, and I don’t see anybody writing about it, but that certainly sounds like the beginning of a monopoly to me. Amazon also, as you know, wants to control book selling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy.”

Blink’s Malcolm Gladwell, a Hachette author, was asked by Hachette to give some time for them to negotiate before speaking out. On May 30, a Q & A piece with Gladwell ran in the New York Times, where he said, “It’s sort of heartbreaking when your partner turns on you. Over the past 15 years, I have sold millions of dollars’ worth of books on Amazon, which means I have made millions of dollars for Amazon. I would have thought I was one of their best assets. I thought we were partners in a business that has done well. This seems an odd way to treat someone who has made you millions of dollars.”

More recently in early July, best-selling author Douglas Preston (of the “Pendergast” series), who is with Macmillan, began collecting author signatures for a letter-writing campaign asking Amazon to “resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.” The letter went viral, and more than 300 authors signed their signatures to the letter. In response, Amazon spokesperson e-mailed the following to Preston:

“Our focus for years has been to build a bookstore that benefits authors and readers alike. We take seriously and regret the impact it has when, however infrequently, a terms dispute with a publisher affects authors. We look forward to resolving this issue with Hachette as soon as possible.”

On July 7, Amazon’s David Naggar, vice president of Kindle content, wrote a letter to Hachette suggesting that if the publisher was concerned about the financial well-being over their writers, they could give their authors 100 percent of the royalties on all their e-book sales through Amazon, according to Publisher’s Weekly. This exchange is just part of the ongoing public exchanges not helping Amazon’s public image or the sales of Hachette book sales. (Amazon controls over 40 percent of the overall book sale market.) What is evident is that a lot is at stake with no easy resolution in sight.

Carolyn Sun About Carolyn Sun

Carolyn Sun was a news editor at School Library Journal. Find her on Twitter @CarolynSSun.

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