8.09.2014

My Response to Amazon's "Important Kindle Request"

Irreconcilable Differences, anyone?
If you're an author with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program (and in some cases, even if you aren't), you're probably aware of the increasingly ridiculous fight dragging on between Amazon and publisher Hachette over contract terms. You probably also received a very strange email from the "Amazon Books Team" this morning. You can read it here, if you like. For accompanying music, I recommend Orff's O Fortuna. 

Okay, now that you're mostly caught up, let's just get down to the nitty gritty. I have no interest in regurgitating excerpts of the communique and "fisking" it paragraph by paragraph. A lot of great bloggers have done that already. Instead, I'm going to come at this purely from the angle of the small-time, nobody KDP author that Amazon was directly addressing and hoping to recruit.

Dear Amazon,

First off, I want to thank you for giving me space in your digital bookstore over the years. It is your platform that allowed me to grow a readership that caught the attention of my current publisher and gave me the confidence to elevate my career to the next level. After signing with a big shot agent last month, I've never felt more optimistic about my future as a writer, and it all started with you. I have sung your praises a lot over the years as a business partner who offered fair terms to author-publishers looking to get a leg up and push their books out into the world. Because of the ease of your program and the ability for people to sell through the biggest ebook marketplace in the world, stars were born, and indie books had serious footing on bestseller lists right alongside traditionally published authors. And through this whole battle with Hachette, I have been careful not to go "all in" with Hachette, and I have given you concessions on certain matters. For instance, I agree that $14.99 is too much for ebooks. I know I don't pay that much as a consumer. I just haven't been in agreement with your particular brand of arm twisting, which has really only hurt authors, even when you've been assuring them you're on their side. I also find your approach of pitting $9.99 against $14.99 disingenuous, when there are several more price points than that, which you have refused to elaborate on.

But this morning, after sifting through your over-wrought and downright bizarre screed, I have come to the conclusion that you have crossed the line. In fact, I find your stance to be an insult to the very same KDP authors you're attempting to recruit to sling mud for you.

Right off the bat, I find the Orwell and Hitler/WWII parallels to be tasteless and beyond the pale, as well as insulting to the actual victims of oppressive regimes, as I can assure you that Hachette and other traditionally published authors are not. Your hyperbolic language has only served to make you look desperate and highly manipulative. Second, as a KDP author, I consider myself part of the value segment of your ebook market. Most of us have been shoehorned into the $2.99-$4.99 price point segment for years now, and we've found a way to thrive there. That's our "turf," if you will. So why would I fight harder to make ebooks from traditional publishers cheaper when it would only lower the perceived value of my books? You want to cap at $9.99, but chances are likely that many of those books will actually sell for $7.99 or possibly less. This does ME no favors. In fact, we wind up getting priced right out of existence. Your attempt to recruit me in your battle to lower the prices of Big 5 ebooks is diametrically opposed to my best interests as a KDP author. Their higher prices make MY rock bottom prices look more appealing. When a reader has a choice between a $4.99 book from a nobody indie or a $7.99 book from a traditionally-published bestseller, guess who's going to have to lower their prices back down to the $.99 and $1.99 shit pit of oblivion to stay competitive? That's right, me.

That you would enlist me and others like me as a foot soldier in this fight without acknowledging that only tells me what little you think of KDP authors. Of course, your KDP Select program already made that more than evident. Requiring us to give you exclusive rights to sell our work in exchange for a few choice perks has always been disingenuous. This was only made worse when, upon the release of Kindle Unlimited, we learned that certain high-tier authors were offered far better terms than we unwashed KDP peons. While they were getting 60% and no requirements for exclusivity, we were relegated to a cut of a pre-determined honeypot that you continue to sweeten with zeroes in the hopes we wouldn't notice we were being fucked by the mathematics.

And NOW you want us to rise up and fight your battle with Hachette for you? Sorry, Amazon, but I'm going to have to sit this one out. While I think Hachette has to provide better terms for their authors, I cannot sit idly by and pretend that what you are doing is even remotely about the authors. In fact, neither of you appear to give much of a fuck about the authors getting trampled under your boot treads, but it seems after this little email stunt of yours, the mask has come off, your PR illusion shattered. This dispute belongs to you, not me. I can handle being a nobody. I've long adjusted my appetite to accept the crumbs that fall from the tables of royalty in every single facet of my life. But in this particular fight, I refuse to be your bitch.

Sincerely,

Allison M. Dickson

P.S. To all the authors who are still confused as to what to do next, I can only offer this little nugget of wisdom: spread your work far and wide. Keep the alternatives alive. Neither Amazon nor Hachette is your bestie, but keeping our options varied is the only tonic we have to fight against monopolistic tendencies of companies that have grown far too big to fail. Furthermore, I very much appreciated James Patterson's appeal to Jeff Bezos's better angels in this article yesterday. Of course, as evidenced by today's weird stunt, I don't think Bezos is listening.