It’s been almost a month since Authors United, a group of more than 900 authors concerned about Amazon putting writers in the middle of its dispute with Hachette, published a full-page ad in the New York Times. Now the group is getting ready to push forward its objections to Amazon’s negotiating tactics, which it claims have been harmful to debut and midlist authors.
In an e-mail letter which went out Wednesday, sent to those who signed the ad and others who recently added their names, author Douglas Preston writes: “Amazon is continuing to sanction books: 2,500 Hachette authors and over 7,000 titles have now apparently been affected. Hachette authors have seen their sales at Amazon decline at least 50% and in many cases as much as 90%. This has been going on for six months.”
Preston also raises concerns about what might happen to Simon & Schuster authors, another publisher in negotiations with Amazon. He concludes by writing: “we are forced to move on to our next initiative. . . . and the use of your good name.” That initiative could take place as early as next week.
The full letter reads:
I want to thank you for signing the letter, and I would also like to welcome those of you who have recently added your name to our effort.
As you may have noticed, the letter we published in the Times generated a great deal of media attention and changed the conversation. In reaction, Amazon established a "readers united" website that seems to be a corporate creation posting official Amazon corporate statements. In the process Amazon managed to misquote George Orwell (which generated this response from the George Orwell estate.)
Amazon is continuing to sanction books: 2,500 Hachette authors and over 7,000 titles have now apparently been affected. Hachette authors have seen their sales at Amazon decline at least 50% and in many cases as much as 90%. This has been going on for six months and it has been particularly damaging to struggling debut and midlist authors. Amazon is reportedly in negotiations with Simon & Schuster and we can only hope they will not start targeting S&S books next.
Amazon has been falsely trying to depict us as "rich" authors who are seeking higher e-book prices, while it is fighting on behalf of the consumer for lower prices. Unfortunately, some media outlets have bought this Amazon disinformation campaign. We have not, of course, made any statements whatsoever on book pricing. Our point is simple: we believe it is unacceptable for Amazon to sanction books as a negotiating tactic. Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal than harming the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world. Amazon could stop the sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate with Hachette.
And so we are forced to move on to our next initiative. I will be asking you once again for the use of your good name -- perhaps as soon as next week. Stay tuned.
Again, I want to thank you most sincerely for your courage in standing up for books and the literary community. I will be in touch.
P.S. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to do what we can through social media, blogs, opinion pieces, and other means to counter Amazon's disinformation campaign. The writer Janet Fitch, for example, publicly released her letter to Jeff Bezos, which generated this excellent story in the Los Angeles Times.