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Sigh. Thanks For the Teamwork, Guys.

January 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

So... I just found out that my soon-to-be-released novel, Bitter Seeds, has disappeared from Amazon.com.  Along with the vast majority of books from other Tor authors, and the vast majority of books published by other branches of Macmillan.

Apparently this is a slapfight over ebook pricing.  (Which makes this even more awesome for me, since of course I have no idea if my book will be released in an ebook version, and if so, when.)

Scalzi has the scoop here, with further thoughts here.  (And I second him, especially on the part about remembering when people trample me into the dirt.)  More details can be found here, here, and here.  For the record, and to be completely honest, I want my publisher to make a better margin on my books.  I have worked very, very hard to write the Milkweed novels, and it would be nice to one day see my efforts rewarded with the occasional royalty check.  (A guy can dream, can't he?)

Sigh.

I hope this gets resolved, and quickly.  Because, you know, it would be nice if my first book were available at one of the largest online booksellers on Earth.  For the moment, it isn't.   But it's available many other places. 

You can pre-order Bitter Seeds at any of these fine venues:

Barnes and Noble

Borders

Powell's Books

BooksAMillion

Tor.com

Macmillan

You know, between this and Google's blatantly-evil rights-grabbing end-run around copyright law, I find myself getting a little tired of everybody and their brother going out of the way to kick writers in the tackle.  And I haven't even launched my novel career yet.  

Whee.

Addendum, 30 January 2010, 9:07 PM:

On one of the (several) writing-related email lists where I lurk, somebody posted a message strongly supporting Amazon's decision to unilaterally pull Macmillan books.  I found that unfortunate, since the fellow in question is an aspiring writer.  Here is my response to him:

You're a writer. Do you honestly support a negotiation strategy that is targeted at hurting writers where they live? Because in the short term this hurts the people at the bottom—and, sadly, that's us—more than anybody else. In the longer-than-short term, it will get resolved one way or another. But writers will still have taken the hit.

I completely agree that ebook pricing and distribution is very much unsettled and in flux. And that production and distribution costs for ebooks shouldn't come close to that for print books. And that publishers need to be versatile, now more than ever.

But. Speaking as a small fry caught up in this latest mess at Amazon, I very much do not agree with the notion of punishing writers over things that we cannot control, or even influence.

When you're a small fry, every sale is precious. And every lost sale is bad news.

Addendum the Second, 31 January 2010, 2:13 PM:

Tobias Buckell has an excellent writeup of the situation, and its fallout for the people involved, here.

Comments

Melinda Snodgrass January 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm
Hmm, Scalzi makes some really good points. Of course he frequently makes really good points. It was the fact that if you buy a Kindle you're stuck buying from Amazon unless your a bigger computer whizz then me, that made me decide to wait and see if the Apple tablet was real. And yeah, it's real, so I'm getting one of those this summer. It does seem like the universe conspires against writers, doesn't it? Or as we said in Hollywood -- in the big totem pole of life the writer is the little frowning guy at the bottom with everyone else sitting on his head.
Victor MilŠn January 31, 2010 at 3:31 am
Clearly what Amazon is doing is hurting readers, writers, and themselves. Isn't Macmillan doing the same? Do you think people will buy more of your ebooks if they're $15, or $10? Does it really make sense to raise prices in hard economic times, when people have less and less discretionary income? You might find value in Cory Doctorow's take at boingboing: http://is.gd/7ntJj. To tell you the truth, I don't see a reason on Earth an ebook should cost as much as $10.
Victor MilŠn January 31, 2010 at 5:05 pm
And - Amazon folds like an empty shirt: http://is.gd/7rjCh. I foresaw they'd back down soon - they're in the business of selling books, after all, not of not-selling them. Such a quick, complete (abject?) capitulation surprises me. While I feel both sides' actions hurt readers as well as writers, I think this outcome will prove bad for writers, and potentially disastrous.
E J Frost February 7, 2010 at 7:16 am
This is hideous, Ian. Every sale is precious. I hope this gets resolved, and quickly. On the bright side, you can pre-order the hardback at Amazon.co.uk, which I've just done. :) Wee! How exciting will it be to see your book in print!
Ian February 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm
Vic! Sorry about the delay. My blog-comment notifications went wonky, apparently 10 days ago. So, alas, I didn't see your comment until just now. As to whether or not Macmillan's strategy is more hurtful to writers and/or the writing industry than Amazon's, I'd point out that they appear to be taking a view toward the long-term health of the industry rather than a vindictive short-term view, which, just to be clear, is Amazon's position. Amazon tried to use us writers -- people who have NO CONTROL over any of this -- as hostages. Any writer who supports that tactic needs to get his head examined. It is a myth that e-books should easily cost less than $10 for new releases. Scott Westerfeld debunks that here: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/?p=2138 Toby Buckell also took a swing at it: http://tinyurl.com/y9rrtd7 And Charlie Stross has some interesting thoughts: http://tinyurl.com/ye8errm And Teresa Neilsen Hayden gives her view of Macmillan's position, Amazon's position, and the "agency model" here: http://tinyurl.com/ykcvzh6 TNH's analysis of Amazon's strategy should be quoted widely. To wit:
Amazon also wants to have the Kindle edition go on sale at the same time as the hardcover, and it wants to set a single price for the Kindle edition that undercuts the new hardcovers like crazy. This is a major problem. The revenue from hot new hardcovers is what keeps most conventional publishers afloat. It enables them to buy odd books and small books and first novels, and to put real effort into editing and packaging and promoting their books, and to pursue long-term projects like developing their authorsí careers.
Ian February 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm
Well hello, Ms. Frost! I was just thinking about you yesterday. You, madam, are a lady of extraordinary tastes. Let's talk offline about that book-- I think you deserve a signed copy.
Victor MilŠn February 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm
Thanks for your response. Hadn't seen the Westerfeld comment before. Candidly, I don't buy it. The effective added cost to a publisher of doing an ebook through Amazon is nothing. The income from ebooks amount to pure profit. Might it help to recall that until the last few years publishers had to make all their income without ebooks? So, it's all paid for. Mr. Westerfeld is clearly an intelligent man. If he had actual facts to support his contentions on ebook costs, wouldn't he have used them, instead of trying to stop further discussion via insult? What everybody appears to miss about the price increase is that by and large the customers won't pay it. I wonder if the publishers aren't trying to kill the ebook format, in order to keep authors the more firmly under their thumb.
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