Macmillan Authors Rally Fans in Battle with Amazon

Macmillan, Tor/ForgeWhether you agree with Macmillan’s push for new terms of sale for their ebooks or not, one thing that’s been particularly impressive is the extremely vocal support they’ve received from their authors, particularly those published by their sci-fi/fantasy imprint Tor/Forge.

As the news broke last weekend, several Tor/Forge authors immediately reacted to Amazon’s ceasing direct sales of their books by replacing Amazon’s links on their sites and redirecting their fans to Barnes & Noble and IndieBound. Among them was Cherie Priest, whose popular steampunk novel, Boneshaker, was recently honored with a PNBA 2010 Book Award, and as of 12:45pm EST on February 5th, still wasn’t available for direct sale on Amazon:

But at the end of the day, there are lots of other places selling books. In fact, if you go to IndieBound I bet you can find a number of fine, upstanding, book-selling establishments in your own neighborhood. Or if online ordering is your pleasure, Barnes & Noble has a great selection and pretty good prices (for example, right now Boneshaker is available at the member’s price of $11.51). And you can find a listing of all my books available through B&N right here, easy peasy. Don’t forget, you can also order signed copies (at no extra cost, and from anywhere in the country) through the University Book Store here in Seattle.

Another Tor author, Jay Lake, posted “An open letter to Kindle enthusiasts and ebook activists“, offering a very thoughtful take on the situation while shooting down the meme that the agency model will mean more expensive ebooks across the board:

Second, Amazon in their letter to the Kindle community cited the high end price point of Macmillan’s proposal, but didn’t cite the low end of $5.99 or talk about the dynamic pricing. This would include older books reaching that much lower pricing point and staying there, which means over time an increasingly large number of ebooks, and eventually most Macmillan titles except the very latest, would be priced well below $9.99.

That second point seems to be an important factor that’s being ignored in the outrage by the Kindle community. Many seem to assume that Macmillan is simply lying about lower prices, but why would they? That dynamic pricing model is exactly how print books are priced today, as they go from first release hardback to mass market paperback to backlist. The publisher knows how to manage that, the book buying public knows how it works. And they want your business as a book buyer, whether ebooks or print. Why would they lie about this?

Commenting on Jack McKeown’s op-ed declaring “Amazon is the Loser“, another Tor author, Mercedes Lackey, pushed back on the notion that Macmillan authors might no longer needed their services and could instead strike out on their own:

I hear a lot of calls for authors to do something else and somehow magically produce and publish, or at least sell, their own books. I do not, however, see a lot of calls for that from writers.

Anyone wonder why that is? I can tell you, because I may be one of the few people commenting that actually HAS some small business experience. Having had, and failed, in a small business, there are a thousand things you must do that are invisible to the customer to keep a small business going…

Start a book business myself? That’s the sound of hysterical laughter you hear. Thanks, I think I’ll stab myself in the eye with a fork a few times instead.

And last but not least, yet another Tor author, John Scalzi, has blogged prolifically on the Amazon situation over the past week, including the humorously scathing, “Why In Fact Publishing Will Not Go Away Anytime Soon: A Deeply Slanted Play in Three Acts“:

STRAÜMANN: Then release the book electronically to skip on all those printing costs!

SCALZI: Yes! And then sell it for a reasonable price!

STRAÜMANN (shrugs): Well, do what you want. I’ll be getting it off a torrent.

SCALZI: What?

STRAÜMANN (brandishing his electronic reader): I paid $300 for this thing! Honestly, how much do you expect me to pay to fill it?

SCALZI: So, pay people nothing to help me create a book I make nothing on, for people who will refuse to pay for it.

STRAÜMANN: I wouldn’t put it that way. But yes.

Macmillan executives should consider themselves fortunate to have such vocal support from their authors, especially among those so deeply engaged within an active, outspoken niche like sci-fi/fantasy. That, coupled with their innovative Tor.com online community, gives them the kind of connection to their readers most publishers dream of.

If niche is truly the key to publishing survival, then there appears to be at least one division of Macmillan that’s well-positioned to survive the digital transition.

3 thoughts on “Macmillan Authors Rally Fans in Battle with Amazon

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  2. Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    The science fiction (&f) community has always connected, fan and pro alike, going all the way back to the 1930s. All the characteristic pre-internet fannish technologies — fanzines, APAs, and attendee-run conventions — are mechanisms for enabling many-to-many communication. Fandom is a multipart conversation that never stops.

    The SF world took to the internet like ducks to water. The first Usenet newsgroup that wasn’t about science or computers was about SF. It wasn’t until the World Wide Web got going that the profiles of “internet users” and “science fiction readers” diverged.

    Obviously, Tor loves science fiction and fantasy, and appreciates and supports the SF world. I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, Tor has always reached out and made that connection with the readers and fans, and yes, it’s put real work and resources into building on that; but Tor knows it didn’t invent the SF community. What Tor is, is part of it.

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