Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Write On - YouWriteOn!

I take back what I said about YouWriteOn and the links not being on their site yet to post books on. It was not obvious on their home page yesterday, but it is now! A search of the Internet revealed the following page on the site which explains what they are doing and why in much more detail. I have emailed them accordingly, with a link to this site, so that they can see the actions that I have taken and what I have to say on the subject. Thanks to them this will reach a much wider audience and do much to help the cause of print on demand authors countrywide, helping to end the discrimination that we face once and for all. YouWriteOn definately have the right attitude - right on !

Attorney General issues statement about Amazon/Booksurge

The following is a copy of an email sent to Richard and Angela Hoy and posted on their website earlier today:

Dear Richard and Angela

The Washington Attorney General's Antitrust Division has received several inquiries and concerns regarding the new "print on demand" or "POD" policy recently implemented by Individuals who have contacted our office claim that Amazon is engaging in "monopolistic practices." I wanted to take this opportunity to update you and your readers of our office's work regarding this issue.

As with all complaints regarding a business, we have advised of these concerns and have asked the company to respond to us. In the meantime, the Antitrust Division is conducting an initial review of the marketplace and will respond more fully once that review is complete.

In order for the Attorney General's Office or another enforcement agency to take action on an antitrust law violation, a court must be convinced that a company has attempted to monopolize a relevant market or is attempting to exclude others from a market it has already monopolized. The relevant market is judged not only in terms of what products are in question, but the geographic service area in which competitors compete.

If it is determined that the markets involved are national in scope, it may be more appropriate to refer this matter to one of the federal antitrust agencies for review.

Additional Resources: * Consumer tips can help enforcement agencies identify unethical and suspicious corporate behavior when it occurs. Individuals who have unique information about the market that they would like to share are invited to complete a complaint form and submit it to the Antitrust Division. The complaint form can be found online at

You may wish to direct your readers to our website at where this information is currently posted.

Kindest regards
Kristin Alexander
Seattle Media Relations Manager
Washington State Attorney General's Office

The universe responds in kind

When the working week began, following my reading with Diana Summer on Friday, I was determined to change my mindset and stop seeing my job as a problem that was preventing me from fulfilling my true vocation. I went to work on Monday determined that my attitude would be different and have been surprised at how things have changed. It is remarkable how quickly the universe can respond when you give it the opportunity.

Now I know that the job is designed as a challenge, I have been responding very differently, and allowing myself to become much more the observer. I have been very mindful of my thoughts and actions this week, and found myself noticing the fact that I am not thinking about the book hardly at all. It occurs to me though that the fact that I have noticed that I am not thinking about the book means that I am! Now that's a philosophical question ... Coran assures me though that this is just a part of re-training my mind to think and feel differently, and I believe that as usual, he is right.

I have also become aware that the sooner I work through this challenge the sooner I will be able to leave this job. The observer in me has noticed that there are lots of reasons why it would be in my interests to do so, and I know that when the time is right the universe will respond by presenting me with an opportunity that fulfils all my needs. I also know that my needs and my wants are not necessarily the same thing, and so the next job may be even more of a challenge.

My tenth house is the area in my birth chart astrologically speaking, where most of my planets are located, and this is also the house that governs work and career. It should then come as no surprise that this has been where most of the challenges I have faced in life have come from. The universe does though occasionally give some respite, and I get the feeling that my next job will be much easier all round. What will be though will be.

There was a temporary blip last night when I made the mistake of going to the Bookseller website and read their debate regarding Amazon's attempt to undermine publishers ability to discount their own books. There were some comments made in response to some of my comments that left me reeling and I felt the anger and frustration rising to the surface once again. I allowed this to surface, knowing that it is necessary to work through this, and went to bed still feeling angry and frustrated. I woke up the same way and was almost ashamed and guilty to see that I arrived at work with this still on my mind, having been unable to let go, and even found myself discussing book stuff with my colleagues again.

As soon as I noticed this though I made efforts to change my mind set, and concentrate on my work, and I am pleased to say that the customers obliged by coming in to the shop and giving me some healthy sales. The day ended with us having taken a little over £3000, which is not the best day, but certainly not the worst.

Despite Diana's instructions not to go anything relating to my book, it has been very difficult not to do things relating to publishing. One has to after all remain up to date, and when calls and emails come in, they have to be answered. Most of these though have not been directly connected to my own book, but more to do with publishing in general. I guess then it is okay to deal with these and carry on following what goes on in the publishing world, as long as I do not start to email and call book stores and other suppliers and worry constantly about the number of books that may or may not be selling. This I feel is the key, and this is what Diana really meant when she said that I needed to step back. I must say that the sense of relief is wonderful, and it feels like a ten tonne weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The right one has been rather stiff and painful today, as has my right wrist, but these tensions have to be worked out like anything else, and things often get worse before they get better. This is good though, as pain is just fear leaving the body.

I will not then be booking a ticket for the London Book Fair, the deadline for which is tomorrow, and I will not be using one of my last precious days holiday on attending this event. I will instead, weather permitting go for a long walk with my beloved and get some fresh air and exercise.

Tomorrow then is my last day of work for this week and then I have five days off. My next holiday after that will be to my beloved Lundy on June 21st - that will be a birthday to remember.

Monday, April 07, 2008

YouWriteOn urges authors to boycott Amazon

Regular readers of this blog will know that when the whole Amazon thing kicked off, just over a week ago, one of the first things I did was email everyone on my mailing list, and also post on here, encouraging everyone to boycott Amazon and not have any further dealings with them until further notice.

I am pleased to see that I am no longer alone in this endeavour, as the managers of, a website funded by the Arts Council and aimed at budding writers, who review others work in exchanging for having their own reviewed, for a chance of getting a critique by industry experts, including leading UK publishers, have now added their weight to the anti Amazon campaign.

A report written by Graeme Neill in today's edition of The Bookseller online reads as follows:

", the Arts Council initiative for new writers, has called for a boycott of Amazon after the retailer's move to push publishers into using its own print on demand service.
Last week Amazon caused anger among small and independent publishers in the US when it told them that all p.o.d. titles would have to be printed at Amazon's fulfilment centres by its POD service BookSurge. It sparked fears that Amazon was trying to squeeze competitors out of the POD market.

There are no current plans to introduce BookSurge into the UK. However, has invited all POD authors to list books on its site with a free link to any bookseller apart from Amazon. It called this "effectively...a proactive boycott of Amazon".

"It seems that Amazon are effectively attempting to monopolise the POD industry, and monopolies are never to the benefit of individuals. This will inevitably lead to less choice, less opportunities, and less royalties for POD writers," said Edward Smith, manager of YouWriteOn.Com. "It is also a red flag to the publishing industry in terms of how Amazon may use their influence on books from mainstream commercial publishing houses in the future."

The trouble is that having gone to their site, I cannot for the life of me see exactly how POD authors are supposed to do what Edward proposes. All I have received so far is an invite to review a book. Perhaps I am meant to do this first and then I can upload my book to their site. The report in The Bookseller should really make this clear, and much as I admire their philosophy and what they are trying to do, this does smack in its own way of their own attempt to not just help POD authors, but also to increase their membership. This may of course be my well developed inner cynic talking here.
I know that this is becoming big news when I see that this is the third report on the Amazon debate to appear on The Bookseller online today. Graeme Neill also reports regarding the Authors Guild statement that I mentioned on Friday, where they surmise that Amazon are attempting to control much of what the Guild refer to as the 'long tail' of publishing. The Guild, echoing the views of so many others state that in their view "once Amazon owns the supply chain, it has effective control of much of the 'long tail' of publishing - the enormous number of titles that sell in low volumes but which, in aggregate, make a lot of money for the aggregator."
This is what we in the UK would call back list titles, those books that sell in relatively slow but steady numbers, as indeed mine does.

It is uneconomic for book stores to stock many of these titles, since they cannot get sufficient discount, and the books are also non returnable. Once Amazon has control of the supply chain for these books, via Booksurge, they will be able to dictate any terms that they want, having both authors and publishers over a proverbial barrel, or so they think.

Owning the supply chain would allow them to easily increase profit margins on these books by insisting on higher discounts and upping the prices for printing. Most publishers, the Guild state, would be able to do little but grumble and comply. If Amazon really think this, then they have an awful lot still to learn and are in for one hell of a shock.
The Guild go on to state that "We suspect this maneuver by Amazon is far more about profit margin than it is about customer service or fossil fuels. The potential big losers (other than Ingram) if Amazon does impose greater discounts on the industry, are authors - since many are paid for on-demand sales based on the publisher's gross revenues - and publishers."

The third story to appear today is regarding Amazon's attempt to control pricing as reported a few days ago in Publishing News. I am totally incredulous to see two messages of support that actually agree with this policy, by Julian Rivers and someone purporting to be a tree (if I was a dog I would cock my leg against them and see what they think of that!)

This person states that in their opinion "publishers should stick to publishing and if this action stops publishers stupidly trying to undercut retailers to make a quick few quid, then that's good news for them all from the mighty Amazon to the humble indie. Publishers should support and work with retailers, not cut corners and cut them out." What a shame this does not appear to work the other way.

Julian in the meantime states "Amazon are just like any other trader who realises that their supplier is their competitor as well . They are completely correct in assuming that the new RRP is the price that the publisher is seeking to sell the book to the public at. How else could they judge it? I personally think that all the big players should follow suit, and the small ones too for that matter. The publishers need to respect their trade customers large and small, and thank goodness that Amazon are now strong enough to take the publishers on. All the retail trade needs to follow their lead." He does not get it though - it is the retailers that cause the problem, not the publishers. Publishers would never offer to sell books at high discount unless the chains did not do this themselves. What we need is for all of them to get round the table and discuss this in a sensible and rational manner, realising that when it comes down to it, both want the same thing - to make money by selling books. There is nothing wrong with this, but not at any price, for one has to work with the competition and not against it. Competition is healthy, for it keeps us on our toes.

As I say, let's not forget that without the authors who write books there would be no Amazon, and no book industry full stop.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Amazon from a spiritual perspective

When I visited the Books and Tales forum today that I often post on, I found an interesting reply on one of the threads regarding a partnership between Lightning Source and On Demand Books (the owners of the Espresso Printing machines that I mentioned on here some time ago). The poster of this article links to an original article posted in February on Publishers Weekly, which seems to be the American version of Publishing News.

The article, written by Judith Rosen states that the two are entering into a partnership whereby On Demand Books will have access to to all data held by Lightning Source, enabling them to print not just American books, but any book at all listed in Lightning Sources' vast and rapidly expanding catalogue. These books will be printed not in 2 hours as is currently the case with Lightning Source's own machines, but in fifteen minutes, and for a fraction of the cost of conventionally published books. Will that change things or what? !

Granted the machines are expensive, and for the moment at least there are only a handful in commercial use, in the following locations: University of Alberta Bookstore in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; the Internet Archive Office in San Francisco, California; the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont; the Bibliotheca Alexandrina at Alexandria, Egypt.

Lin Robinson, who posted this on Books and Tales, goes on to say that there will very soon be several more - at the New Orleans Public Library in New Orleans, Louisiana, The University of Michigan Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan and at DA Information Services in Mitcham, Australia.

This news is remarkable by itself, but even more so in the light of recent events regarding Amazon and their acquisition of print on demand company Booksurge, which was rapidly followed by their insistence that all those who wished their print on demand books to be listed directly on must have their books printed by Booksurge.

It would appear Amazon, in its blatant attempt at creating a monopoly and controlling the authors right to choose, is flying in the face of a revolution in publishing that will eventually leave them floundering. The Espresso and Lightning Sources' partnership will change the face of publishing forever so that books no longer have to be printed in large print runs at all, and print on demand becomes the norm. It will revolutionise the way in which we do business and turn things around, so that print on demand authors and all authors in fact have much more control over every aspect of their work, and are no longer at the mercy of these faceless corporations who think we have no rights and that they have the right to walk all over us.

Thousands of books and periodicals will be there on these machines as searchable items which the consumer can print in minutes. Maybe then Amazon's move was an effort to get as big a slice of the pie as the possible before the wall comes tumbling down, like it did in Berlin all those years ago. How exciting would that be ...

I feel that there is definitely more to this than meets the eye. There are other issues at work here than just trying to monopolise the market. One has to understand why Amazon feel driven to do this. There is a lot of fear around in the US right now with the recession, and money is tight - things are far, far worse than we in the UK have been led to believe. Amazon are trying to strengthen their position as the number one discount retailer in the only way that they know how - by flexing their muscle. Maybe it will work, maybe it will fail, who knows - that is up to the public and not me. I do feel though that perhaps the only way to really stop this is to bring it off the Internet and into the printed press - on to the pages of the New York Times and newspapers across the length and breadth of America - but also in the UK. I am heartened then to see that this is now beginning to happen. This story though needs to reach the readers and those who buy books, as they are the ones who have the real power to change things by voting with their mice.

In the UK of course things, have taken an even more sinister turn, as Amazon are now threatening that if publishers offer books at discounted prices on their own websites, then Amazon will take the discounted price as the RRP (recommended retail price) and offer them 50 percent of that rather than 50 percent of the actual RRP. This is what I mean when I say that this is fear driven, and they are trying to ensure that they maintain their position. This though is not the way to do it, and it will fail, as we have laws in place in our country to stop this kind of thing - quite apart from the fact that it is breach of contract.

I can't help feeling that there is also a higher dimension to this - and this is about bringing these things into the open and levelling the playing field. It is not of course all about money, but this is an issue - the fact that book stores etc take so much of it. The shop that I work in doesn't have a 40 percent margin on the products we sell - on some products it is a lot more than this, but it averages at around 25 percent. It should then be the same in the book world. Why should they take all the money when we wrote the books? No other business either (with the possible exception of the music industry) has the right to return stock that they haven't sold up to a year after they bought it, so why should they be able to, and more to the point, why should authors and publishers be the ones who have to subsidise and pay for their mistakes? Why as well should we settle for low advances and shoddy treatment when celebrity ghost written titles get nominated for book prizes as recently happened with Katie Price?

You could get angry and frustrated at all this, and for a long time I did, but that does not help. Complaining does nothing except make you even more angry and frustrated, leaving you with no energy to do the other things that you need to do. What we need is to look at this from a detached perspective without getting overly emotionally involved; just state the facts quietly and calmly in as many places as we can, and let the book buying and reading public, as well as the publishing industry as a whole, understand where we are coming from and that things have to change. This is the only way that things will change. It took me a long time to understand this and to realise how unhealthy it was for me continually getting angry and fighting, but when I did finally realise this it was tremendously freeing, as the emotions no longer control me. I am now in control instead.

It is interesting to see how this is not just about POD authors, as it also effects the larger publishers - since many of them also now use POD for certain celebrity titles and to maintain back lists. POD is no longer a niche thing, but is becoming mainstream - it is big business now in the UK - heck, even literary agency PFD were talking on The Bookseller the other week about how they are starting an initiative with Lightning Source to bring their authors out of print titles back into circulation, prove that there is still a market for them and then try and use these sales to get the books published again. The number of books in print has never been higher and this is largely attributed to the rise in self publishing - in particular POD - I wrote about this on here just the other week.

The consensus seems to have been, for writing bloggers both in America and the UK for a long time now, that the old ways of doing business in publishing are no longer working and that something needs to change. This is way of forcing that change.