Since Douglas Preston began circulating a letter to other marquee and midlist authors late last month in an effort to remove writers from the Amazon-Hachette dispute, he has captured nearly 1,000 author-signatures. Now Preston tells PW he has gotten a second offer from Amazon's v-p of Kindle Content, Russ Grandinetti, along with a request from the executive to quiet the chorus of authors speaking out against the e-tailer.
In the latest phone conversation, which took place Monday after The Bookseller broke the news that the authors who signed Preston's letter are forming a group called Authors United, Grandinetti made a new offer to Preston.
In Amazon's earlier proposal, which was a nonstarter, the e-tailer said it would give authors the option to receive 100% of the revenue from sales of their e-books, a sum that would include what both Amazon and Hachette normally earn from each sale. At the same time, Amazon would continue to work toward an end to its stalled terms negotiation with Hachette.
This time around, Grandinetti suggested a what-if scenario in which Amazon would return to delivering Hachette authors their standard royalties on e-books, and return to stocking of all the publisher's titles. Amazon and Hachette, meanwhile, would continue to negotiate, turning all proceeds each company normally earns from the sale of e-book titles over to an agreed-upon literacy charity. Like the first offer, this one would motivate both companies to negotiate, something Grandinetti accused Hachette of stalling on. "We tried to talk to them for months," he reportedly told Preston.
Preston echoed his response to Amazon's first proposal, saying that this offer from Grandinetti "has the same effect of crippling Hachette. If [Hachette] wasn't making money for Lagardère, they'd shut it down."
Amazon, of course, feels that authors are not seeing Hachette in the right light, as a multi-national corporation no different, on many levels, than the e-tailer.
When PW contacted Amazon about the conversation, a spokesperson for the company said: "You have to look at the parent company--Lagardère Group--rather than just the Hachette division. Kindle books are only 1% of Lagardère Group's sales. They can afford it, and should stop using their authors as human shields."
Preston, however, remains unswayed by this new proposal, and by Grandinetti telling him that the authors are having the opposite of their intended effect. "Every time [the authors] make a statement, it makes Hachette less willing to compromise," Grandinetti is reported to have said.
Instead, Preston is moving forward with plans to publish the initial letter. In a day or so, Preston will stop adding names to the letter so that he can finalize a copy for a full-page New York Times ad that could run as early as this week or next. “I have never seen authors come together like this,” Preston said, pointing out that writers aren’t known as "joiners" or team players.
Among the bestselling and prize-winning signers of the letter, 13 offered to donate to the cause. Those willing to be named include Lee Child, Stephen King, John Grisham, David Baldacci, James Patterson, and Stacy Schiff. The group easily generated, Preston said, more than enough money to pay for the ad. “We do have other plans,” Preston added, noting that Authors United is "being realistic" about the fact that the struggle between Amazon and Hachette is going to be a lengthy one. "I really feel like Amazon has a long-term strategy,” he said.
Preston believes that the e-tailer’s attempt to divide Hachette authors from their publisher won’t work. “First of all, I’ve been with Hachette for 25 years," he said. "I have a six-book contract with Hachette. The thing about Amazon, they think it’s all about money. It’s not [all] about money,”
For another group of writers, though, Hachette, not Amazon, is the bad guy. A letter/petition to Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch posted three weeks ago on Change.org, has gotten over seven times the number of signatures as the Authors United letter. Among the 7,300 signers of the Change.org petition are Hugh Howey, a leading spokesperson for indie authors.