Oh, Big Six…foot, meet bullet.

The Big Six publisher companies have declined to renew a contract with Amazon.

Which can also mean that all the trad-pub books available for Kindle can get de-listed.

Seriously? Oh, traditional publishers, what the fuck are you doing.

Very similar to Barnes and Noble deciding to point a 12-gauge at its business-model foot and pull the trigger, the Big Six are doing the same. For the last damn time, people: you cannot hold onto an outdated way of doing business. The key benefit from having Amazon listing your product is exposure. You gain it. Amazon is a great marketplace, and what it claims for a distributor’s percentage is basically couch change to them. The publisher gains something major: revenue. If more people are keen on buying the same book online, then there’s a source of revenue that counterbalances the decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

I know that Amazon is starting to look like the Big Business Trust from the 1900s. Well, here’s a question: where’s the competition? Borders and the Kobo market folded, and B&N seems to be clinging to the idea that e-material just ain’t as popular as print books, even though sales of the Nook e-reader are just as popular as the Kindle. The publishing world is having a very hard time accepting that the business model of book publication is changing rapidly.

As a result, bad business decisions are being made across the board on the side of those who are used to the old model; that is to say publishers and bookstores.

Look, I have no love for the Big Six. Their treatment of authors can stand to do better. They shamelessly appropriate the author’s rights to their work under such draconian terms that it is next to impossible for the author to wrestle out their rights from under the Big Six thumb if they want to take the story to another market. And for the trad pub authors who end up going self, they find that there is a lot more flexibility with the sort of stories that they can get published, because the publisher just doesn’t want to take a risk with a book that doesn’t fit the mold. As a result, many books that would otherwise be a smashing success with the trad-pub marketing engine never see outside the slush pile.

However, distributing within the e-medium and with Amazon is possibly the smartest thing that they could have done. It opened them up right to the new and rapidly growing e-book market.

But the fact is, e-books are immensely beneficial for the author, whether self-pubbed or trad-pubbed. It’s quick exposure, easy revenue, and much easier to market. The more mediums, the better. Why, why in the blue everloving fire of Hades’s head, would anyone knowingly limit a distribution medium? Unless there is a massive no-no in the works – which this article is suggesting is the terms of the contract – then I see no reason to limit the author’s distribution. That’s just bad service to the author, whom the publisher is supposed to, you know, take care of.

This is the thing, though. Amazon had been offering this contract to the Big Six for quite a while now, I think ever since the first Kindle had come out. They jumped on board. Did they realize that the authors now see better options for distributing their e-work than to go through the trad-pub medium and see only 15% royalty for e-sales? I understand 15% for print sales in trad pub, but e-sales…come on. So what’s changed? Why are the Big Six digging their heels on something that will easily benefit them more in the long run?

The other side of that same coin is if Amazon’s terms really are that draconian, then I want to see where. Are they taking a larger than previous cut for their distrib? That could be solved by cutting the publisher’s own overhead costs on e-editions, which will 1. keep the author royalty the same and 2. not hamper distribution, so that 3. the publisher can recoup losses in volume of sales. Amazon needs things to distribute, if its main purpose is to be a distribution engine. They benefit from the arrangement too, and again – I want to see their terms.

I am well aware that the publishing world is in disarray right now, but we can all agree on one thing: cutting out e-books and wider distribution options is not a good idea. So can someone explain to me exactly what benefit the Big Six have from doing what amounts to exactly that?

I also want to know what the trad-pub authors, who are losing out on revenue, thinking about this.

K.G.

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