Friday, February 24, 2012

Caught in the middle: Amazon vs IPG

A little over a year ago - February 10, 2011, to be exact - Medallion Press released my thriller, FINAL VECTOR, in ebook form. Sales were sluggish for most of that year, until finally beginning to hit their stride in early February of this year.

Following the phenomenal success of my next thriller, THE LONELY MILE, FINAL VECTOR began to develop a following, spending most of the first three weeks of this month hovering between #75 and #100 in Amazon's Political Thriller category. Sales, while not earth-shattering, were steady and increasing.

On February 19, I made the disturbing discovery that FINAL VECTOR was no longer available for sale at Amazon. Not wanting to overreact, and assuming there was some sort of computer glitch going on, I did nothing. The book remained unavailable the next day, and by the 21st, when it was STILL not available at Amazon, I informed a representative of my publisher, assuming the situation would be rectified.

It wasn't, and I have no idea when it will be, if ever.

Medallion Press uses IPG as their distributor, and when negotiations over the terms of a new contract between IPG and Amazon fell through, Amazon made the decision to pull all IPG ebook titles from their digital marketplace. According to IPG President Mark Suchomel, "Amazon.com is putting pressure on publishers and distributors to change their terms for electronic and print books to be more favorable toward Amazon...I have spoken directly with many of our clients and every one of them agrees that we need to hold firm with the terms we now offer."

I'm being advised by Medallion Press that they support IPG's decision and am being asked to support Medallion in the interest of fairness and balance. Here is my take: Not being privy to the details of the negotiation between IPG and Amazon, it would be presumptuous of me to support either side.

I am being asked to take on faith that Amazon's contract demands are unfair to IPG, and perhaps they are. But without seeing those demands I cannot know. Here is what I do know, though. Amazon is the largest ebook retailer in the world and they are growing, and any distribution agreement for one of my books that does not include Amazon is unacceptable to me. Period.

Amazon is perceived as the big, bad bully on the block, and if IPG, or anyone else, wishes to make a stand against them on principle, that is their right. More power to them. But their principled stand is affecting plenty of other people who may or may not wish to be affected.

I'm not here to shill for Amazon. I don't know whether they're trying to bully IPG or not. But the nature of negotiation is that the side with the power gets to dictate the terms of the agreement. The more the power rests with one side, the more that side can set the terms. It's the way of the world.

And here's the thing. Amazon is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the ebook world because they are not afraid to try new things, to innovate. My thriller, THE LONELY MILE, has become successful largely due to promotional processes Amazon has developed and used to promulgate their success.

Anyone who does not like the way Amazon does business is free to shop elsewhere, and, in fact, should do exactly that. But my goal as an author is to entertain readers, and being asked to do so without having the opportunity to entertain the millions of readers who routinely shop at Amazon does not work for me.

FINAL VECTOR is still available at other outlets, such as Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and others, and of course Kindle Fire users can download apps allowing them to purchase the book elsewhere and still read it on their Kindle. But all of that is beside the point, which is this: IPG's job is to distribute my book to where the readers are. If they are unable or unwilling to do that, they should step aside for a distributor who will.

11 comments:

Vernon Baker said...

Well said and with quiet, non-hyperbolic truth.

Al Leverone said...

Thanks very much, Vernon. I fully admit to being a bit biased - Amazon has done a lot to foster my career, much more than has IPG. I want to see the two sides reach a fair agreement, though, and hope they still will. But I cannot acccept my book not being available for sale at Amazon...

Ramon said...

Writers need to exercise this type of thinking before jumping in the boat of a cause.

Mark Young said...

'Between a rock and a...' type of situation. Sorry you caught in the crossfire. I hope this gets resolved very soon.

Anissa said...

Al, I very much agree with you. It is impossible to know who to stand with when you have little or no information. I also believe that when you agree to go with a distributor, that you go based on their ability, and if you do not like it, that is when I believe you should have the right to pull your book from their distribution and do what is right for you. I hope that this is resolved quickly and that your book continues to find success.

Don Broma said...

This is an unfortunate situation, and I'm glad you were willing to put it out there. I hope IPG and Medallion don't try to retaliate against you for not blindly supporting them.

Al Leverone said...

Don, I hope not, too, although by their stance on this they are already hurting me - and in my opinion, themselves - as much as they probably can...

Julia Madeleine said...

Hey Allan, that sucks. I tend to be biased with Amazon myself, being that they are so author friendly. Maybe Medallion will return the publishing rights to you and let you self publish Final Vecotor. All the best to you :)

Troy Lambert said...

horruI agree Allen. I am an author because i love it but also I am in it to make money. If my books are not on Amazon sales slow to a trickle. The KDP program, much maligned, has been a source for great success by many authors.

If publishers have to renegotiate with Amazon then they do. If they need to find another way to get books on Amazon, they do. Because I can't ignore millions of readers worldwide on a principle I declare for certain that I support.

Robin Spano said...

Hey this is funny - I'm glad I read your blog because I also blogged that I was hesitant to take a side without knowing the terms. (My books are caught in the same mess.) My publisher also firmly supports IPG's decision to hold out. After speaking with them, I also firmly support IPG's decision to not short-sell our work. But I agree with you - you can't jump on a bandwagon just because you like the underdog, and Amazon has been amazing for the book industry in so many ways.

jason said...

Allan, that is terrible. Ask for your rights back. It's worthless to the publisher if it can't sell it. Let them make a futile stand with someone else's work, not yours. The terms Amazon offers are fair. Publishers are more greedy and lazy rather than adapting to the market environments and being innovative. Besides, if nobody wants to pay a higher price for your book, it's essentially worthless.