Two weeks ago bestselling author Douglas Preston began quietly circulating a to other writers that encourages readers to write to Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos. The letter, which calls on Amazon to "resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers," is something Preston initially hoped a handful of other authors would sign. He wound up collecting hundreds of signatures.
Preston quickly found support from David Baldacci, James Patterson, and Joseph Finder. “I guess I’m kind of a naive person,” Preston told PW. He had hoped to find "12 courageous authors," because he had heard from several writers, including other bestsellers, who were afraid of retaliation.
Instead, since the letter went viral on Wednesday, Preston has had 300 writers ask to have him put their name on the list, including Stephen King and Nora Roberts. The list of signees even includes David Maraniss, associate editor of the Washington Post, which Bezos owns.
“I’m not against Amazon. It’s a wonderful company that sells books,” said Preston. To explain his stance on the company, he used the analogy that you can be against the Iraq war, but still be patriotic. What Preston objects to is Amazon’s "scorched Earth tactics" to gain leverage. "I don’t think Amazon knows what it’s doing, the kind of human wreckage they’re causing.”
As for the authors who have signed the letter to date, Preston said: “I think everyone feels this is not the way you treat your friends. Amazon can not treat authors and books the way they treat the manufacturers of toasters and televisions and computer cables.” He feels particularly concerned for struggling debut and midlist authors, who have been caught in the crossfire.
Preston is still collecting signatures for the letter, and asks those who would like to sign it to email him. He declined to state when and where he will post the completed letter, along with the full list of those who have signed it.
Update: After this story was initially posted Amazon spokesperson Sarah Gelman e-mailed a response to the authors' concerns. The statement reads: “Our focus for years has been to build a bookstore that benefits authors and readers alike. We take seriously and regret the impact it has when, however infrequently, a terms dispute with a publisher affects authors. We look forward to resolving this issue with Hachette as soon as possible.”