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Amazon and Hachette's literary showdown continues

The negotiations between Amazon and Hachette are getting uglier. Last week, Amazon proposed a plan to offer Hachette authors 100% of ebook profits until negotiations are over, a plan Hachette swiftly rejected.

According to Amazon, the prolonged negotiations put authors in a bad position. With their proposed plan, authors would at least be able to make more money while the two companies resolve their differences. “Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate … They can afford it. What they’re really making clear is that they absolutely want their authors caught in the middle of this negotiation because they believe it increases their leverage.” It’s unclear what percentage of Hachette’s book sales are ebooks, but for the industry overall, about 30% of book sales are ebook sales, and 60% of Hachette’s ebook sales are from Amazon.

An Amazon representative told EW, “You have to look at the parent company — Lagardère Group — rather than just the Hachette division. They can afford it, and should stop using their authors as human shields.”

A spokesman for Hachette Livre said Amazon’s statement misrepresented Hachette’s finances, telling EW that “amalgamating Hachette’s and its parent company’s finances as if they were just one big budget is childish and can fool no one with a minimal knowledge of business practices.”

Amazon offers to pay Hachette authors 100% of ebook profits

In the latest development of the ongoing negotiations between Amazon and Hachette, Amazon may be trying to sidestep the publisher altogether and work directly with the authors. David Naggar, VP of Kindle content and independent publishing, contacted several Hachette authors, book agents, and The Authors Guild offering a temporary truce until negotiations are over: “For as long as this dispute lasts, Hachette authors would get 100% of the sales price of every Hachette ebook we sell,” he wrote in a letter. “Both Amazon and Hachette would forego all revenue and profit from the sale of every ebook until an agreement is reached.”

For months, Hachette and Amazon have been negotiating what percentage of revenue from ebook sales should go to each company. Presumably, the revenue lost by giving all book-sale profits directly to authors would “motivate both Hachette and Amazon to work faster to resolve the situation,” as Amazon said in their letter. It isn’t clear which authors Amazon contacted, but Hachette is one of the biggest book publishers in the world, and publishes books by J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and James Patterson, among others.

Roxana Robinson, president of The Authors Guild, publicly declined the offer. “This seems like a short-term solution that encourages authors to take sides against their publishers,” she told The New York Times. “It doesn’t get authors out of the middle of this—we’re still in the middle.”

For the proposal to work, Hachette would need to agree to it. It appears as though Amazon meant to make this deal a kind of meta-negotiation to speed up the process of the more important negotiations. However, Amazon addressed the letter to authors and members of the publishing industry to solicit feedback. They didn’t initially bring the proposal up with Hachette, saying that they were unresponsive to negotiations.

In the original letter, Amazon wrote:

We heard nothing from them for three full months. We extended the contract into April under existing terms. Still nothing. In fact we got no conversation at all from Hachette until we started reducing our on-hand print inventory and reducing the discounts we offer customers off their list prices. Even since then, weeks have gone by while we waited for them to get back to us.

Hachette responded. “We believe that the best outcome for the writers we publish is a contract with Amazon that brings genuine marketing benefits and whose terms allow Hachette to continue to invest in writers, marketing, and innovation,” the company published in a letter. Hachette also denied Amazon’s accusations that they’ve been unresponsive to the ongoing negotiations. A representative of the company told The Wall Street Journal that it “made an offer in April that was the largest we ever made to any retailer, and in May made another that was higher still. Both offers were rejected.”

Amazon, however, said that turning down the offer to give authors a higher percentage of ebook revenue is bad for authors. “We call baloney,” they said in a statement. “Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate … They can afford it. What they’re really making clear is that they absolutely want their authors caught in the middle of this negotiation because they believe it increases their leverage.”

In 2013, Amazon accounted for 60 percent of Hachette’s ebook sales.

On the Books: Lena Dunham discovers Alice Munro

Lena Dunham wrote an essay about discovering Alice Munro for Zoetrope, the literary journal run by Francis Ford Coppola. “I came to Alice Munro after her Nobel Prize win, like a girl discovering Maroon 5 circa 2014 and deciding they are an indie band,” she wrote. “Because, new as I am to her, and sure as we all are that she is the queen of her form, I still feel that Alice Munro is mine. I am the perfect audience for her brand of quiet, seething feminism.” The essay is titled “Hateship, Loveship, Viewership, Readership,” riffing on the title of the Munro’s classic story “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” which is reprinted in the magazine. [Zoetrope All-Story]

Barnes and Noble is splitting its retail and Nook operations into two separate companies. Though there’s no guarantee that the split will be successful, the company hopes to complete the process by the first quarter of 2015. As it is, Barnes & Noble isn’t doing to0 well—retail sales are down 6 percent this year, Nook hardware sales are down 45 percent, and digital content sales are down 21 percent. Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble announced that it would invest fewer of the company’s own resources into the Nook division and would instead partner with Samsung to develop a tablet. Hopefully, one of the companies will be called “Barnes” and the other “Noble.” [Publishers Weekly] READ FULL STORY

Amazon picks best books of 2014 so far

Redeployment

2014 is about half over, and the Amazon team has already chosen their top 10 books of the year so far, just in time for you to make a few additions to your summer reading list before the avalanche of prestige titles hits in the fall. There are already books here that will likely make plenty of top 10 lists at the end of the year, including Redeployment by Phil Klay, as well as some books that should have been a bigger deal: Red Rising by Pierce Brown, anyone?

In case you’re wondering, none of the books in Amazon’s top 10 is a Hachette title, although a few made the top 20: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (#11), The Fever by Megan Abbott (#14), and Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (#19). See below for Amazon’s list: READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Do you want to die in the next 'Game of Thrones' novel?

If you know anything about Game of Thrones, you know that author George R.R. Martin kills off a lot of characters. If you’d like to join that esteemed company, here’s your chance. Martin is offering the opportunity to “meet a grisly death” in the next Song of Ice and Fire novel if you donate $20,000 to a fundraiser for the Wild Wolf Spirit sanctuary in New Mexico and The Food Depot of Santa Fe. You’ll be able to choose your position in the world (knight, peasant, whore, lady, etc) as well. But hurry! Offer only good while supplies last. Only one male and one female character are available. Other awards including sharing a breakfast with Martin, tickets to the show’s season 5 premiere, and even Martin’s hat. [Prizeo]

Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins will soon be joining the fray in the Amazon-Hachette war. According to Bloomberg News, their contracts are up for renewal next. This means that Amazon will be up against bigger arms — the publishers’ respective owners are News Corp. and CBS Corp. It also means that Veronica Roth and Stephen King will join J.K. Rowling and James Patterson in the controversy. Independent bookstore owners have also started yelling battle cries – the American Booksellers Association made digital banners reading, “Thanks, Amazon, the indies will take it from here,” “Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always,” and “Pre-order and buy Hachette titles today.” Among all this, Hachette is laying off 3 percent of its staff. [Bloomberg]

Debut novelist Eimar McBride won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, one of the most highly regarded prizes in English-language literature. You might have heard of it when it was called the Orange Prize, sponsored by the British telecom company Orange, but it switched names and sponsorship this year. The book, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, beat out Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah for the award, as well as four other novels on the shortlist. “I hope it will serve as an incentive to publishers everywhere to take a look at difficult books and think again,” McBride said at the ceremony. “We are all writers but we are all readers first. There is a contract between publishers and readers which must be honoured, readers can not be underestimated.” [The Guardian]

In honor of the upcoming World Cup, the curator of Brazilian literature festival FlipSide, Ángel Gurría-Quintana, gives a rundown of the country’s literature — and there’s plenty of it. “Despite the common complaint that not enough Brazilian literature is published in English,” Gurría-Quintana writes. “This is an auspicious moment for new Brazilian writing in translation.” [The Guardian]

Stephen Colbert gives Amazon the finger

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“I’m not just mad at Amazon, I’m mad prime,” said Stephen Colbert on his show last night.

That was just the first in a barrage of zingers against Amazon, which is currently in a legal battle with Colbert’s publisher Hachette Book Group over sharing profits. Colbert put Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos on blast for what many see as bullying tactics to make Hachette titles difficult to order, such as eliminating discounts and delaying shipments. “If you ordered Hachette’s 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart, by the time it arrives, you’re still fat,” Colbert joked. The rant culminated in Colbert pulling two middle fingers out of an Amazon package and declaring, “Watch out, Bezos, because this means war.”

Joking aside, Colbert is taking real action against the corporation by encouraging readers to slap “I didn’t buy it on Amazon” stickers on books. And after plugging debut novel California by Edan Lepucki, the title shot to number one at the indie bookstore Powell’s in Portland.

Watch the video below: READ FULL STORY

On The Books: BookExpo to feature Neil Patrick Harris, Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler

The annual publishing convention BookExpo America began Wednesday at New York City’s Javits Convention Center. The four-day-long event will feature appearances from Neil Patrick Harris, Lena Dunham, and Amy Poehler, all of whom are promoting their forthcoming memoirs: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (Oct. 14), Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl (Oct. 7), and Poehler’s Yes Please (Oct. 28); other events include previews and discussions of film adaptations. EW’s YA expert Sara Vilokmerson is moderating The Fault in Our Stars event with author John Green and director Josh Boone, and EW’s Anthony Breznican  is moderating the This Is Where I Leave You panel with author Jonathan Tropper and actors Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. In addition to these star-studded events, the first-ever BookCon, modeled on ComicCon, will take place on the final day of BookExpo – organizers expect as many as 10,000 readers to attend. We can expect that the ongoing battle between Amazon and Hachette books will be a topic of discussion during BookExpo. [USA Today] READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Hachette Amazon feud escalates, affecting Rowling and Connelly

The feud between Hachette Book Group and Amazon has intensified. The Los Angeles Times reports that Amazon has taken the pre-order buttons off of big Hachette titles, like The Burning Room by Michael Connelly and The Silkworm by Richard Galbraith, the pen name for J.K. Rowling. This is in addition to allegedly extending back order times for popular books, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Hachette has issued a statement saying they are “sparing no effort and exploring all options” to resolve this conflict, but Amazon has declined to comment. Hachette author James Patterson has been very outspoken about this battle. “What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.” READ FULL STORY

On The Books: Publisher accuses Amazon of deliberately delaying shipments of books

The publishing house Hachette Book Group has accused Amazon of deliberately delaying shipments of their books as a negotiation tactic to pressure the publisher into giving Amazon more favorable terms. Amazon has reportedly been marking many books published by Hachette as not available for at least two or three weeks. Titles by Malcolm Gladwell and J.D. Salinger are being delayed. Stephen Colbert’s America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t is listed as three weeks away, while James Patterson’s Alex Cross, Run is listed as a five-week wait. The New York Times reports that over the years Amazon has employed a number of ruthless tactics against publishing houses, even removing the “buy” buttons from some books! [New York Times] READ FULL STORY

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