909 Authors Write Amazon Asking It To Call Off E-Book Feud With Hachette

The battle royale continues between Amazon and book publisher Hachette, and more than 900 authors are joining the fight.

The New York Times reports that Hachette-published author Douglas Preston wrote an open letter to readers and fellow authors asking them to contact Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to stop hurting writers during the ongoing negotiations between the publisher and e-tailer.

The ordeal began more than three months ago when the two companies failed to reach an agreement over e-book pricing. Since then Amazon has used what some call unsavory negotiation tactics – including the removal of preorders and delayed shipping of Hachette books, moves officials say were in the best interest of consumers.

So far, 909 authors have signed on to the open letter, including big names like Stephen King and John Grisham.

“We feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want,” the letter states.

In addition to the letter, the authors, who formed a group called Authors United, took out a full-page, $104,000 ad in the upcoming Sunday New York Times.

Instead of listening to Preston and his fellow writers, the Times reports that Amazon has gone on the defensive, calling the writer “entitled” and “an opportunist.”

The company issued a statement regarding the writer backlash, but managed to put Hachette in the crosshairs.

“First, Hachette was willing to break the law to get higher e-book prices, and now they’re determined to keep their own authors in the line of fire in order to achieve that same end,” the statement reads. “Amazon has made three separate proposals to take authors out of the middle, all of which Hachette has quickly dismissed.”

Preston tells the Times that since the letter went public, Amazon officials have tried to contact him twice to entice him to endorse the company’s latest proposal to settle the dispute that includes selling Hachette books but donating all proceeds to charity.

A similar proposal was leaked in early July. That deal included a direct appeal from Amazon to Hachette-published authors that suggested the writers receive 100% of their e-book sales.

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.

Preston tells the Times that Amazon’s attempts to sway authors simply won’t work, since it’s the e-tailers fault the writers are involved to begin with.

He says that while half his book sales used to come from Amazon, since the fighting began his paperback sales are down 61% and his e-book sales are down 62%.

Not everyone feels Amazon is in the wrong in the negotiations, though. A petition on Change.org, which has garnered 7,650 signatures, sings the praises of Amazon.

Major publishers like Hachette have a long history of treating authors and readers poorly. Amazon, on the other hand, has built its reputation on valuing authors and readers dearly. The two companies didn’t simultaneously change directions overnight.

Plot Thickens as 900 Writers Battle Amazon [The New York Times]