Amazon's 'Offer': 100% of E-Book Sales for Hachette Authors
It seems a bit like a mugger wanting praise for donating stolen goods to a charity.
In a letter sent to select Hachette authors, literary agents and Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson over the weekend, David Naggar, Amazon's v-p of Kindle content and independent publishing, said the online retailer was looking for feedback on an idea it "is thinking of proposing": that publisher's authors "would get 100% of the sales price of every Hachette e-book we sell. Both Amazon and Hachette would forgo all revenue and profit from the sale of every e-book until an agreement is reached."
Gigaom noted it "is likely that the company suspected--or hoped--the letter would become public as a means of putting pressure on Hachette," but pointed out that since Amazon "takes a 30% commission on each e-book sale (it is reportedly looking to increase that commission as a result of these negotiations) and Hachette gets 70%, Hachette gets a worse deal from such an arrangement than Amazon does."
Both companies issued statements yesterday, with Hachette saying: "Amazon has just sent us a brief proposal. We invite Amazon to withdraw the sanctions they have unilaterally imposed, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith and with the hope of a swift conclusion. We believe that the best outcome for the writers we publish is a contract with Amazon that brings genuine marketing benefits and whose terms allow Hachette to continue to invest in writers, marketing, and innovation. We look forward to resolving this dispute soon and to the benefit of the writers who have trusted their books to us."
Amazon countered: "We call baloney. Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate. It wouldn't be 'suicide.'* They can afford it. What they're really making clear is that they absolutely want their authors caught in the middle of this negotiation because they believe it increases their leverage. All the while, they are stalling and refusing to negotiate, despite the pain caused to their authors. Our offer is sincere. They should take us up on it."
(*The term "suicide" referred to Hachette's earlier description of Amazon's proposal as "suicidal" in a statement to the Wall Street Journal; that story was subsequently updated and the reference removed, Gigaom wrote).
Douglas Preston, who drafted an open letter--signed by a number of bestselling authors--last week calling on Amazon to resolve the dispute, told the Wall Street Journal the new proposal would be "devastating" to Hachette while "barely hurting Amazon at all." He also objected to the proposal because Hachette has supported him throughout his career: "There's something wrong with this. My publisher gave me a very large advance for the book they are about to publish. Morally, I would have to turn over that [Amazon] money to them."
"We made an offer in April that was the largest we ever made to any retailer, and in May made another that was higher still," said a Hachette spokeswoman. "Both offers were rejected."
In the New York Times, Authors Guild president Robinson said if Amazon "wants to have a constructive conversation about this, we're ready to have one at any time. But this seems like a short-term solution that encourages authors to take sides against their publishers. It doesn't get authors out of the middle of this--we're still in the middle. Our books are at the center of this struggle."