The Politics of Publishing

There’s plenty of evidence out there that supports my thesis that I am a very naive person.

Take the recent dispute between Amazon and MacMillan. Being a first time book author, I never gave Macmillan much thought. I knew, in a vague sort of way, that they owned St. Martin’s Press (who published 99 Drams of Whiskey). but I believed that this was a nugget of information that was only relevant to me indirectly. My agent and I are working with St. Martin’s, and we’re trying to develop some long term writing/publishing relationship. I imagine that this is a regular process that many writers go through.

Think of it this way. In my experience, writers and publishers have an open relationship. When a writer hooks up with a publisher to release a book, the experience can go either well (the publisher makes money, or a firm foundation is set to make money in the future, and the writer is treated fairly), or not well (the publisher loses money and/or the writer is treated poorly).

From all evidence, St. Martin’s and I are having a good relationship. As I mentioned, we’re working on developing new books, and they have the right of first refusal on my next few proposals. The open relationship comes into play if they turn down those proposals, I can pursue other publishers.

This is my extended way of saying that I have some measure of loyalty to St. Martin’s. I want to see them succeed, and want to ensure I have some future with them.

As far as Macmillan goes? They’re my partner’s parent whom I’ve never met. What happens with Macmillan has little bearing on me, being a mere once-published writer trying to hold her own in the big bad publishing world.

That changed this weekend. Amazon, in a snit, had stopped directly selling Macmillan books this weekend, and has removed many a Kindle edition from the Macmillan library from their Kindle shop. As St. Martin’s falls into the Macmillan family, this means that 99 Drams of Whiskey was pulled from their list, along with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other authors.

What this means is that, because of a feud in an arena that is many, many layers above my tiny position in the world, I will now make less money now, than I had if this stupid, stupid reaction from Amazon hadn’t happened at all.

I am a realist here. I don’t think for a moment that the money lost equates to anything more than a few dollars. 99 Drams is a niche book that was selling steadily, but it was certainly not breaking sales records. We had conservative sales goals with the book, and it was hitting the marks it was supposed to hit.

But for any once published writer trying to establish a reputation and credibility, every sale counts. It matters not if it is an e-book sale or a hardcover edition. Numbers matter. What Amazon has done was shut down a well-traveled road that allowed me to establish those numbers.

Suddenly, my indirect relationship with Macmillan matters a whole bunch. This week, I bet there are a whole slew of writers waking up to that realization.

We can all talk big picture here, and decide whether Amazon or Macmillan are in the right. But I have a huge bias here. Amazon is impeding my future in their own small yet pathetic way.

And it pisses me off.