Amazon’s Latest Attempt To Resolve Feud With Publisher Involves Offering Authors 100% Of e-Book Sales

A deal between Amazon and publisher Hachette doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, but that’s not stopping the e-tailer from using its pocketbook to entice a new ally in the fight: Hachette authors.

The online retailer appealed directly to Hachette-published authors on Tuesday with a letter suggesting that the authors receive 100% of their e-book sales while the feud continues, The New York Times Bits blog reports.

A letter penned by vice president of Kindle content, David Naggar and sent to a small group of Hachette authors and literary agents for feedback, suggests that until a definitive deal is reached neither Amazon nor Hachette would make any money off the authors’ e-books.

If Hachette agrees, for as long as this dispute lasts, Hachette authors would get 100% of the sales price of every Hachette e-book we sell. Both Amazon and Hachette would forego all revenue and profit from the sale of every e-book until an agreement is reached.

That means if an e-book sells for $9.99, then the author would receive the full amount. Amazon suggests the deal would represent “many multiples” of what authors would normally receive for the purchase of a book.

Additionally, while Amazon officials said last week that its negotiation tactics – including the removal of preorders and delayed shipping of Hachette books – were in the best interest of consumers, the company appears to be singing a different tune in the letter.

The company proposes returning to normal levels of on-hand print inventory, return to normal pricing in all formats and for books that haven’t gone on sale yet, reinstate pre-orders.

But before authors begin rejoicing at the thought of making a profit or returning to business as usual, Hachette would first need to agree to the proposals.

And according to Amazon’s letter, the publisher’s “unresponsiveness and unwillingness to talk” started the whole mess in the first place.

Our first choice would be to resolve a dispute like this through discussion only. We tried that already. We reached out to Hachette for the first time to discuss terms at the beginning of January for our contract which terminated in March. 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. After our last proposal to them on June 5th, they waited a week to respond at all, promising a counteroffer the following week. We are still waiting a month later.

Amazon makes it clear in the letter that the company has yet to actually propose the suggestions to Hachette, instead its asking recipients for their input.

And some of the input so far has been less than favorable for the online retailer, with some in the literary world viewing the suggestions as an attempt to putting a wedge between authors and the publisher.

“If Amazon wants to have a constructive conversation about this, we’re ready to have one at any time,” Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, tells the Times. “But this seems like a short-term solution that encourages authors to take sides against their publishers. It doesn’t get authors out of the middle of this – we’re still in the middle. Our books are at the center of this struggle.”

Amazon Tries to Woo Authors in Hachette Dispute [New York Times Bits Blog]