Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Hachette to the Head

A lot of folks like to jump on big companies and thrash them for being good at what they do.

Alas, these are the days for that sort of behavior and a lot of vocal individuals are saying some very angry things about the way Amazon does its business. I am not one of those people.

The way that innovation is made out to be villainous is pathetic. I haven’t witnessed a more irritating display of stubbornness since I was eight years old and my neighbor’s mom made her son fight another kid on her front lawn, and she kept jumping in to tell the other child he couldn't hit her son like that anymore because it wasn't fair.

The hardest part of this, for me, is that Amazon started with nothing. Mailing books out from a garage sounds scary, doesn't it? Yeah, they were the bully on the block alright. They got to be big because they offered consumers what they wanted: cheap books!

Hachette was around for a long time before amazon started doing their thing, and in all that time they did nothing to revolutionize their product. They were happy charging so much for their product that people began to see reading as a more expensive habit than going to the movies every night, or paying $250 a month for cable.  

Then along comes Amazon….

In a scant number of years they have changed it all and are literally putting their competition out of business. For $9.99 you can read as much as you want every month: this is book heaven!

Yes, the company that started out mailing books from of a garage has made a major difference in the culture of our world. More of us are reading than ever before, and we are enjoying it. More authors are writing now than ever before, too. Amazon changed it all slowly, bit by bit, and in plane view of the world.

Fast forward to 2014 were we get to this fight that has everyone shouting vulgarities at each other….

Hachette was there when Amazon began, and they took no notice except for the fact that they were making more money selling books. 

Now, we are expected to believe that the company who ignored the requests of hundreds of (now) best-selling Authors to be published has Authors’ best interest in mind? I know we have all heard the story of an author submitting request after request to publishers, only to see rejections come flying at them faster than an under-cooked filet in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. We are to believe that they have authors’ best interests at heart because they published (No offense intended, I seriously worship your writing!) J.K. Rowling?

No joke, everyone from Joe Konrath to, well, me, is talking about this fight. Though you won’t find as many, nor as novel-like lengthy (is that at word?) blog posts on my little corner of the internet, I happen to think Joe says it (just check out the last gazillion posts and you'll see) right. But for me it really all boils down to a few simple paragraphs.

You shouldn't sit on top for decades, squashing the competition that attempts to rise up. If you do, then you shouldn't sit by and watch someone build, piece by painstaking piece, over years and years, something that is innovative and promises to take your place, and do nothing about it. If you've already made these pitiful mistakes and can no longer compete in the market the way it is, you probably shouldn't start whining about how the big bad Amazon isn't fair to you because you’re not making enough money in a small investment business. You should have seen it coming and did something about it. I mean really, your business is books, right?

If you actually cared for the authors, and readers, you would have been the first to offer innovation. How hard would it have been to let authors publish under your imprint by letting us upload books, pay your editors to edit, pay your cover designers to design our cover, and when we are happy we hit the publish button and keep 35% of the profit? As it is, Self-published authors have to learn the hard way how to find  good editors and cover designers, often having to pay several times (we've paid for editing twice on all of our books, and may still do it again!) for a service we already thought was done correctly. I don’t think it is too late to do just that, either. Joe Konrath seems to think the Authors Guild should be responsible for that, but as a Self-Published, Award-Winning, Best-Selling author all I can say is: Authors Guild who?

A lot of people would pay good money to have Hachette edit their book, design their cover, and be listed as their publisher! Hachette could eliminate the need for authors to learn the hard way by only having to pay once for a service and have it handled by industry experts! Hachette would have to do nothing but let them use the name, and let’s face it there are a lot of crumby books that already have the Hachette name on them so they wouldn't lose any traction or respect from readers—we already know that books can’t be judged by their covers, or publisher. But does Hachette want to help authors and themselves, or just themselves?

If someone innovates your field, offer more innovation and keep the blame-thrower stowed neatly in the closet. Whining only earns the my disdain, not sympathy. I know Amazon would welcome innovation from you. Competition is good for business, and none of you are offering the reader, or the writer, anything of value that isn't already better on Amazon. Maybe you could offer the editing services before amazon starts doing it? I wouldn't put it passed them because they have a vested interest in the quality on their site. This is economics 101 folks.

Compete or die—it's that simple.

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