Amazon behaving badly

I’m sure most of you have heard about the tiff between Hachette Book Group and Amazon.

It’s a contract dispute, and according to an article in the Washington Post titled Amazon said to play hardball in book contract talks with publishing house Hachette, Amazon isn’t exactly playing fair.

Amazon has allegedly held up shipment of select Hachette books, listing them out-of-stock and not filling orders in its usual timely manner (Hachette books can take 2-3 weeks to arrive).

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“Hachette, which owns Little, Brown; Hyperion; and Grand Central, says that Amazon is deliberately slowing sales of Hachette’s books in an effort to pressure the French publisher into agreeing to new contract terms on book pricing. Hachette says there is no shortage of the books,” the Washington Post reported.

Amazon is supposedly putting the heat on authors in hopes that they’ll in turn put the heat on publishers to agree to Amazon’s terms, settle the dispute (in Amazon’s favor, of course) and get their books moving again.

It’s an ugly situation, and it’s the author shouldering the brunt of the fallout.

I understand this far too well. My book Dolls Behaving Badly is being held “hostage” by Amazon.

Print copies are indicated as out-of-stock on the Amazon site and the book is priced at a whopping $52.75, with a note below: “Usually ships in 3-5 weeks.”

WTF?

My agent Elizabeth Wales talked with my editor over at Grand Central Publishing, who verified that my book is not out of stock and shipments have been made to Amazon.

Yet nothing has changed for weeks. No one can order a print copy of Dolls. It’s stagnant. It might as well be asleep, at least on Amazon.

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Luckily, people can order copies on IndieBound and Barnes & Noble.

Still, I’m angry. I’m furious that I’ve unwittingly been caught up in a conflict between a major publisher and major supplier. I’m a pawn, and like all pawns, I’m the “little” guy (or gal). I’m pretty much helpless. And I don’t see much of a win in sight.

I’m not sure of a solution to this whole mess. If authors put heat on publishers to lower Amazon profits, we’re actually demanding that we get paid less, since those profits will trickle down to us in the form of lower advances, profits, etc.

It’s depressing and stressful and has come at the worst possible time: Right as I mailed in my signed film rights option contract to LA (I’ll talk more about this cheery and exciting news in my next post). It’s almost as if Amazon knew this.

So, I’m stuck in limbo. My book is stuck limbo. It’s as if we’ve both been thrown out in book purgatory, paying for the sins of profit and corporate greed.

And it totally and completely sucks.

At the same time, I read on a Kindle, which reads off Amazon eBooks. I’m as guilty as the next for “feeding” the great Amazon machine.

I don’t know the solution for any of this. I’m just putting it out there for discussion or something to ponder late at night when you cant’ sleep. I doubt that anyone really cares that my book is listed as $52.75 on Amazon. Except: It could happen to you.

 

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14 thoughts on “Amazon behaving badly

  1. I’ve noticed the exorbitant cost of some books many times in the past, and have always wondered what gives. If you read the last 2 weeks of discussion on this topic on Amazon, everyone points the finger to the Sellers raising prices, not Amazon. I too, always assumed it was the Seller call. Not having any control in your pricing is outrageous. So sorry Cinthia. I hope you keep us up to date on any changes.

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    1. No, if you read the media’s account, and not accounts on Amazon, it points to Amazon requesting (demanding) a higher percent of profits for new contracts. Publishers are bulking, so Amazon is therefore, in order to prompt publishers’ to agree to their terms, bringing authors into the mix, and without any approval of said authors either. It’s an ugly situation and mirrors what is happening across the country with major corporations trying to squeeze out the competition. Books should be about reading and the love for words. Unfortunately, they’re also about profits, big profits. I have no idea what the solution is but fear that authors will have little say and may end up carrying the brunt of the decision. Cheers and hope you’re outside enjoying the sunshine, Monica.

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  2. This is the kind of thing that causes me not to be able to sleep! Totally unreal.

    My initial reaction is BOYCOTT, but then, as you point out, Amazon is probably the biggest source of revenue for authors, in the aggregate, so we’re only hurting ourselves if we hit them where it hurts. Then I think, What about a letter-writing campaign? Swamp them with a tsunami of complaints. But we probably wouldn’t be able to come up with sufficient numbers to make an impression. Only readers would be able to do that, and it’s not likely we could motivate them as a group. What do they care about the problems of one publishing house? There’s plenty to read out there.

    Once again, the author is the collateral damage. I’m not sure what Amazon wants from Hachette, but I don’t doubt that it will make it harder for Hachette to increase its advances or publish more books by first- and lesser-known novelists. If they succumb, just the opposite is likely to happen.

    I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this as it develops, but thanks for personalizing what seems like a technicality to most people. This is your baby!

    By the way, your book is excellent but I have to say, $52.75 is a tad high for a paperback…

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    1. I know, Kevin. It just really, really sucks. And the worst, as you pointed out, is that we as authors are pretty much helpless. Even if we banded together we would be such a small voice–who would listen? And most of us simply can’t afford to boycott Amazon. The cost would be too great, which of course Amazon knows. Anyway, hope you’re all having a great summer. It’s in the 70s up here in Alaska, a rare and wonderful thing.

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  3. Guess I’ll be buying books from B&N. Screw Amazon. It would be great if this could backfire on the company, but Amazon is too big for much impact from us little people. Then again, maybe the future isn’t too rosy for Amazon. The company is building a big warehouse in FL which means FL residents will now have to pay sales tax on Amazon purchases which means the company may become less competitive, at least where buying books are concerned. At least Amazon can’t say your ebook is out of stock. As for your paperback, I just bought a copy through B&N 🙂

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  4. So sorry to hear about this, Cinthia. You’re right, the author is stuck in this situation. I like the idea of telling others about this–at least then readers will know why a book might be listed with Amazon at an outrageous price.

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  5. Shit.
    I’m reading Dolls right now, but I borrowed it from the library. I’m a big fan of e.m. and heard about the option. Great book! Thanks for writing it.
    Give Amazon Hell.

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  6. How horrible! I just checked your book’s page on Amazon, and now it looks like you can only buy used copies of the print book (starting at 1¢, geez) or the Kindle version. I know authors don’t get paid when people buy used books, so that still sucks, but at least people can get copies. Oddly, this Amazon BS is making me eager to buy lots more books — just not from Amazon! Bet they weren’t counting on that…

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    1. Laura! Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I love the way your mind works. And you grew up eating Polish comfort food–too, too cool. Now I’m hungry. I think I’m going to bake tonight, hee, hee. Cheers and happy writing.

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