Things are heating up in the Amazon/BookSurge debate, if you can call it that. No one sitting on this side of the fence (meaning on the side opposite Amazon and BookSurge) sees anything to debate. Amazon and BookSurge are obviously in the wrong. It’s a case of the big guys against the little guys. The whale wanting to eat up all the minnows. The king wanting to take over the adjacent smaller kingdoms.
As for us writers, however, speaking for myself, I’m still waiting to see how it all pans out. My manuscript will remain at home with me until I get a better feel for what the POD marketplace will look like when the fire dies down. I’d be curious to know how many authors who intend to self-publish their books are simply going ahead at this time. Are they voting for the small POD publishers by handing over their manuscripts and their money despite the fact that their books may never appear on Amazon.com with a “buy” button or are they waiting for the smoke to clear before they decide which POD publisher will actually publish their book? (Or have they changed their minds about self-publishing altogether and opted to find an agent and a traditional publishing house?) How much money is this Amazon/BookSurge issue costing POD publishers every day at this point without even considering the future cost of printing through BookSurge or of not selling books through Amazon? And how much time is it costing writers?
Back to the news… Today, Monday, April 7, 2008, the UK’s Leading Writers Website, YouWriteOn.com, called for a Boycott of Amazon. I found this posted on WritersWeekly.com:
I manage YouWriteOn.com, the UK’s most popular Arts Council funded site for budding writers, with leading publishers such as Random House involved who consider highly charted new writers in our charts, and also free critiques from editors for publishers such as Bloomsbury and Orion. We are calling for a boycott on Amazon here in the UK over the news about Amazon and Print-On-Demand which we consider are attempts to monopolise the POD industry and will lead to considerably less choice, less opportunities, and less royalties for POD writers, and also opens a door for Amazon to consider similar approaches for other mainstream commercial publishers and authors. This YouWriteOn move has been reported in The Bookseller: http://thebookseller.com/news/56180-youwriteoncom-calls-for-amazon-boycott.html
YouWriteOn.com in response is inviting all POD authors everywhere to list their books on our site with a free ‘book-buy’ link to any bookseller other than Amazon. Effectively we are calling for a proactive boycott of Amazon and are encouraging all writers and readers and other writers’ sites to join in this by doing the same in their writers communities, which drive the POD industry, and to also email their discontent to Amazon. It is also a red-flag to the publishing industry in terms of how Amazon may use their influence on books from mainstream commercial publishing houses in the future.
POD may sometimes be viewed as ‘vanity publishing’ but it can be an important progression step for writers who are locked out from mainstream commercial publishing by the current ‘mid-list’ book problems that authors suffer in the industry. We have helped writers achieve success with publishers like Random House and Quercus, and for non-mainstream publishing we give, as an example, Bufflehead Sisters by YouWriteOn US member Patricia J. DeLois, which was turned down by agents and publishers here and in the US. We published the novel by POD and it sold 1,200 copies over Christmas 2007 and the author received agent representation and is being considered for a two book deal by a leading publisher as a result. Amazon’s move would have seriously impacted on the writer’s chance of this opportunity as well as leading to considerably lower royalties for her. POD is driven by writers outside of mainstream publishing, and, in the same way that peer to peer feedback on YouWriteOn has helped writers achieve publishing success, we’d like this boycott to be taken up by all writers communities.
In case you don’t subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly online, which you should if you want to be kept up to date on what’s going on in the publishing industry, here’s the latest story. It’s good news — The Authors Guild is examining BookSurge’s move for antitrust issues. As I told Angela Hoy when I first heard the news about BookSurge demanding that all POD publishers use their printing facilities, somebody’s bound to sue BookSurge or Amazon over this. It just reeks of monopoly in a country built on free trade.
Authors Guild Looking at Antitrust Issue of Amazon’s POD Plan
By Jim Milliot — Publishers Weekly, 4/6/2008 10:03:00 AM
Saying it is reviewing the antitrust and other legal implications of Amazon’s “bold move,” the Authors Guild sent an e-mail late Friday to its membership questioning the motives—and implications—of the e-tailer’s new position on print-on-demand that makes publishers use its BookSurge division if they want the sell their titles on Amazon in the traditional manner. While Amazon is pitching the move as a consumer-friendly change that will improve the speed of shipping books and other products, the Guild says it suspects the motivation has more to do with profit margin than customer service.
If Amazon is successful in wresting a large chunk of pod business away from current leader Lightning Source (which the Guild says does a good job), they will have taken a huge step in controlling publishing’s supply change and thus control much of the industry’s long tail business, the Guild said. “Once Amazon owns the supply chain, it has effective control of much of the “long tail” of publishing,” the statement reads. “Since Amazon has a firm grip on the retailing of these books (it’s uneconomic for physical book stores to stock many of these titles), owning the supply chain would allow it to easily increase its profit margins on these books: it need only insist on buying at a deeper discount — or it can choose to charge more for its printing of the books — to increase its profits. Most publishers could do little but grumble and comply.”
If Amazon does impose deeper discounts, the big losers, other than Lightning, will be authors, since many are paid for on-demand sales based on the publisher’s gross revenues, as well as publishers, the Guild says.
The statement closes by inviting anyone who has information that could help the Guild investigate the matter to contact it by phone at 212-563-5904 or through its site, authorsguild.org.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the news by going to WritersWeekly.com’s clearinghouse (http://www.writersweekly.com/amazon.php), here’s the run down since I last posted.
After Amazon began threatening publishers who offer customer-direct discounts on their own web sites, things heated up last week in the publishing industry.
In addition, the American Society for Journalists and Authors released a statement on Friday denouncing the Amazon/BookSurge ultimatum to POD publishers. They also sent a letter to their general membership. You can read both at http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewtopic.php?p=63789. The Author’s Guild also published a statement. You can read it here: http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewtopic.php?p=63794. Another POD publisher, AuthorHouse, appears to have fallen into BookSurge’s den, and Scott Flora of the Small Publishers Association of North America sent a letter to Jeff Bezos at Amazon. You can read that at http://www.spannet.org/Amazon-POD.htm.
If you haven’t already, be sure to sign this petition: Stop the BookSurge Monopoly
And check out these blogs, which are much more up to date than mine:
More in a few days or when some really breaking news happens. (Although I might just pop in to give you some better news about blogging for authors…)