(Just a quick reminder that I'll be appearing on January 15th on a Digital Book World panel in New York entitled "Authors Facing the Industry: Data and Insights From Authors on the Publishing Business, Author-Publisher Relations, and Marketing."
Click here or on the image to view the full DBW agenda. Time is 3:00 to 3:50PM. You can save 5% on your attendance with Speakers Code DBWSPEAKERS; make sure you register today. The agenda is very broad and provides extensive coverage of issues of interest to both traditional and self-published authors. I intend to ask some Amazon people some hard questions if can get near an audience microphone.)
During the Hachette vs. Amazon struggle, I started to visit some of AAAG's (Aggregated Amazon Ankle Grabbers) most prominent websites and ask some hard questions. As I pointed out in my series on the book channels, independents had no stake in the outcome either way, but AAAG's intense interest in the business practices of the publishers inspired me to spend time investigating Amazon's pricing and operations model as it applied to indies. This was an issue in which I had a stake.
The results were not very informative. I did learn a few things about how AAAG operates. The Passive Voice (a lawyer guy) deals with hard questions on his blog by not allowing them to appear via comment blocking. Ditto Hugh Howey. Joe Konrath was a bit better, but is given to rewriting history. As he squirmed and evaded my straightforward questions about Amazon's pricing and marketing practices model, the inevitable hints about being banned were issued and the history rewrites began. For example, despite copious words to the contrary, he suddenly announced he'd been OK with agency pricing all the while, though he'd have to be suffering from the same brain dysfunction that Guy Pearce exhibited in Memento for anyone to believe that.
David Gaughran was the worst. In two posts on his blog, I asked my hard questions and received the usual blast of blather and evasion. For example, he called my observation that Amazon's pricing model as it applied to indies was a modified form of agency "nonsensical." Apparently, while holing in up in Prague, he'd failed to talk to Hugh Howey about this issue, who referred to the model as "Incentivized Agency." Perhaps it was the different adjectives that confused him.
When I stayed on topic, I was eventually "banned" from the blog after the inevitable, unctuous, weaselly speech about his undying devotion to freedom of speech. Take this to the bank. When a blog owner affirms their commitment to First Amendment principles, you're about to be censored. It's how hypocrisy works.
But after all the fireworks and fun, the one thing I never ever received from AAAG were coherent answers to my questions, particularly the most important one of all. And that is: Why has Amazon placed indies in a $7 dollar pricing box? Why does it grab 65% of your revenue (not counting its transmission fees, which it charges on every transfer and which vary based on book size) if you price under $2.99 and the same if you charge over $9.99? This is an issue of critical importance to indies because it is not financially feasible to hand over that level of margin to a reseller for a download service. (And if you think Amazon is paying you a "royalty" when you fork over that 65% operating expense, please stop reading now. You are incurably ignorant and I cannot help you.)
The most coherent answer I ever received from AAAG acolytes was "because they can." When I'd respond that Hachette was therefore perfectly justified in providing that same answer to Amazon over the issue of agency pricing, AAAG people became very unhappy, though never informative or more coherent.
I'll give one member of AAAG credit for integrity and that is Dan Meadows of The Watershed Chronicle. He runs what I regard as an AAAG-lite site, and most of his articles on H vs. AMZ focused on his amazement that Hachette actually insisted on negotiating in its best interests, not Amazon's.
But to his credit, I've never seen any comment blocking or banning threats. And when he asked in an article how writers had benefited from the whole contretemps, and I told him how, he was honest enough to acknowledge that indies had benefited from the fight as Apple's and the publishers' introduction of the proposed 70%/30% agency split had forced Amazon to compete and offer indies the same deal for books in their pricing box. Prior to that, Amazon charged indies 65 points to use their download service regardless of the book's price.
(What, you never read that fact on the AAAG sites? Hmmm. Fancy that. You indies can make it up to Apple and the publishers by saying a little prayer on their behalf to the God of Book Publishing tonight. But don't go overboard. The publishers still need to rethink their royalty structure in this new era.)
What's Wrong With Amazons's $7 Dollar Pricing Box?
Let's count the ways. Before I begin, let me stipulate for all of the following points the underlying issue is that Amazon's policies are depriving indies of revenue now and in the future.
What Is To Be Done?
How can all the above issues be quickly resolved? The answer is simplicity itself. Amazon should lift all restrictions on book pricing and establish a uniform service fee for the use of its downloading infrastructure. Within this framework, the authors will quickly learn what works for them and their books. Amazon's "assistance" is not needed.
To help speed up the implementation of this logical and intelligent course of action, it's time for Hugh Howey, Joe Konrath, David Gaughran and the rest of AAAG to raise their palms off the pavement, rise up, and ask Amazon, for the benefit of indies, the industry, and ultimately Amazon itself, to burn the price box. It's one way they can atone for the atrocious misreporting they provided us during the Hachette vs. Amazon battle. And in the end, AAAG's bottom lines and book sales will benefit as well.
Review Submission Guidellines
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Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
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