Although the Authors Guild hasn’t been shy in speaking up when it thinks Amazon is in the wrong, the organization has not released any official statement about the ongoing terms dispute between the e-tailer and Hachette. That changed on Thursday.
The Guild has sent a letter to its members written by co-vice president Richard Russo saying the organization cares, first and foremost, about "a healthy ecosystem where all writers, both traditionally and independently published, can thrive." It goes on to say that said ecosystem needs to be "diverse" and that it "cannot exist while entities within it are committed to the eradication of other entities."
This latest letter comes after a flurry of public correspondences about the ongoing stalemate over sales terms between the retailer and publisher.
Earlier this week, Amazon's David Naggar wrote a letter floating the idea that Amazon and Hachette could give the publisher's authors 100% royalties on all of their e-books sold via the e-tailer. And Guild member Douglas Preston has been gathering signatures for a letter of his own (not endorsed by the Guild, but signed by many members).
In Russo's letter, he addresses Amazon’s offer, made in Naggar's letter, to “take authors out of the middle” of the dispute between with e-tailer and Hachette. This, Russo explains, is "impossible" because writers "write the books they’re fighting over." Russo continued: "And because it is the writing life itself we seek to defend, we’re not interested in a short-term windfall to some of the writers we represent."
In closing, Russo notes that the Guild is not anti-Amazon and acknowledges that traditional publishers have not treated writers fairly when it comes to e-book revenues. But, he continues in closing, “To our knowledge, Amazon has never clearly and unequivocally stated (as traditional publishers have) that books are different and special, that they can’t be treated like the other commodities they sell.”
Update: After reading Russo's letter, Amazon issued this statement regarding its offer and the Guild's response: "Our offer is sincere and it stands—Hachette need only say yes to help their authors. We also wonder what this letter would look like if Hachette had posed this idea and Amazon had rejected it. The letter conflates the long-term structure of the industry with a short-term proposal designed to take authors, the constituency this organization supposedly represents, out of the line of fire of a negotiation between large corporations. Given that the Authors Guild are an author's advocacy group, it is hard to believe they don't support this. They are the Authors Guild, not the Publishers Guild.