With a standoff with Hachette continuing to linger on, Amazon has attempted to appease the major publishers’ authors with a potentially lucrative royalties offer.
The online retail giant’s months-long feud with Hachette has focused on ebook sales. Amazon wants to take home more on ebook sales from the publisher, while Hachette has said it’s unwilling to oblige. Amazon has made it more difficult for shoppers to purchase Hachette books as a negotiating tactic, and even said customers looking to get some Hachette products might be better off shopping with a competitor.
Through all of this, Hachette authors have been pretty unhappy, with many of them taking to social media to campaign against Amazon. So Amazon’s latest tactic is an attempt to appease those writers. The so-called “everything store’’ is offering to let individual Hachette authors keep 100 percent of ebook revenues for their titles sold through the site during the course of the dispute, cutting the feuding corporate powers out in the process.
The Wall Street Journal reports Hachette brushed off the offer, saying: “Amazon has just sent us a brief proposal. We invite Amazon to withdraw the sanctions they have unilaterally imposed, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith and with the hope of a swift conclusion.’’
The move puts Hachette in the awkward position of denying its authors a short-term resolution to a problem they say is affecting them. After Hachette rejected the offer, Amazon issued a statement highlighting that.
“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,’’ Amazon said. “All the while, they are stalling and refusing to negotiate, despite the pain caused to their authors. Our offer is sincere. They should take us up on it.’’
It’s sort of a funny statement, considering Amazon certainly has leverage to gain by getting Hachette authors on their side. The move feels sort of like a child who’s been denied permission by one parent trying to get the other on his side—only the child is super-powerful within the family dynamic, perhaps a kid actor or budding sports star who represents the family’s best bet at fortune. (About 60 percent of Hachette’s ebook sales came through Amazon last year, according to The Journal.)
But in a statement to Boston.com, Amazon stressed that Hachette is a subsidiary of a much larger company, Lagardère Group, and that ebook sales represent a small fraction of overall revenues for the organization. “They can afford it, and should stop using their authors as human shields,’’ Amazon said.
The proposed move also represents Amazon acknowledging that it’s upsetting more than just a dueling corporation in the process. More than 300 authors penned a letter to Amazon this summer urging the company to resolve the dispute without hurting authors, according to Publishers Weekly.
Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from Amazon to Boston.com.