Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Keep those authors in mind for a few moments.
The publishing industry has been up in arms – and name calling and rock throwing and swearing and petition signing – for the past few weeks as Big 5 publisher Hachette and online mega-retailer Amazon have locked themselves into DEATH BATTLE 2014! Writing giants such as Hugh Howey with his gladius and James Patterson wielding a hasta have squared off against each other to decry the penny pinching of Hachette or the inhumanity of Amazon.
(For the record – Hachette is a very large corporation trying to make money. Amazon is a very, very large corporation trying to make money. Any authors who now find themselves caught in the middle of these two behemoths needs to remember that both companies have boards of directors and stockholders who could care less if either is nice to their authors unless it means more money in the coffers. Amazon is not completely wrong and Hachette is not completely wrong in this fight so the smart authors are protecting themselves and keeping as many publishing avenues open as possible so they do not find themselves cut out completely.)
However, this contract fight ends, an interesting side note has pounded a fist into the side of the heads of the big publishers.
No one knows who they are.
In the past few years because of the Internet and other technological advances, customers have become more comfortable dealing directly with the producers/retailers where they buy their goods and services. And the companies who have performed very well are those companies who have found ways to reach out and interact directly with the end users. This is a lesson the newspaper industry has been beaten over the head with the past few years and now it is publishing’s turn.
And no one knows who the Big 5 publishers are.
But everyone knows Amazon and that, ultimately, is where the “power” in this Hachette/Amazon power struggle lies. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at that list of authors again:
Andy Weir – “The Martian”
Gillian Flynn – “Gone Girl”
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child – “White Fire”
John Scalzi – “Redshirts”
These novels are the last four I have reviewed for our company’s entertainment magazine so I know all four of them were best sellers. Who published them?
For the record, in order: Crown, Crown, Grand Central Publishing, and Tor Books.
My guess is that no one reading this post knew all four publishers and I will back up that evaluation with a confession of my own. Neil Gaiman (“Neverwhere,” “American Gods,” “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”) is my favorite author and I did not know William Morrow was his publisher until I looked for the information for this post. I am a writer who pays attention to the industry so why would Regular Joe reader know who was publishing their favorite author’s books?
My guess is that fact, as much as the wheeling and dealing with Amazon might affect Hachette’s bottom line, is even more frightening to the company’s officials than the realization they have no real interaction with the end user except through someone like Amazon.
That cannot be a good feeling.