Dear Mr. James Patterson,
Maybe I’ve been in Hawaii for too long (okay, no) but your comments linking Amazon to the death of American literature are totally bumming me out, man.
See, here’s the thing. Amazon is one of my publishing partners. Partner, I say, not publisher. It’s in important distinction, Mr. Patterson.
Years ago, Amazon did something amazing with KDP. They opened up the world to authors. Some were horrible. Others were okay. And others were AMAZING. Some of those authors had been rejected by the BUSINESS of traditional publishing. Not because they weren’t great, but because they weren’t marketable. (That’s business.) Some of those authors had been traditionally published, but sought to make long out-of-print books available again to readers. And some authors chose digital publishing first.
Those authors, like me, saw the birth of digital publishing though partners like KDP, Smashwords, and Nook, as a way to chart our own course in a rapidly changing publishing world. And Amazon did something amazing. It created a level playing field for us to reach readers.
A level playing field against the big guys. I will never, ever forget that.
Authors like me have retained our creative and legal rights. We have full control over our work and have been able to profit from it. Many, many of us have found success. We’ve connected with readers and booksellers around the world. We have written what our hearts told us to, free to our own vision, and hopefully aided by the skill and talent of freelance editors and artists who make our work the best it can be.
How is having that option bad for authors? How is it bad for readers? How is that bad for American literature as a whole?
Amazon, the business that made self-publishing a commercially viable option for so many writers, is one of my MANY publishing partners. Just as it is for you. (I’m assuming, because I haven’t checked to see if your publisher has pulled all of your titles from the site.) Like all of my partners (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and others), Amazon is a business. Just like your publisher is, Mr. Patterson. It’s a business. Most NY publishers are parts of massive international media conglomerates. Why are we painting them as underdogs? That just doesn’t make sense.
I love bookstores. I love that independent bookstores are finding my work and recommending it to readers. (Like that awesome indie bookstore in Australia that a reader told me about. Thanks, guys!) I love that my readers are going into local bookstores and ordering my books from local sellers. I also love that those who live in places that don’t HAVE a bookstore (which is a lot of the country, Mr. Patterson) have the option of ordering from online retailers like Amazon.
I like my books–any books!–reaching readers. Physical books, e-books, whatever way they find them. Because anything that promotes READING is good for American literature. It’s great, in fact.
I’m a fan of all businesses, online retailers like Amazon AND large publishers, being scrutinized by watchdogs in media. I think it’s great to be informed. I don’t think it’s great to spread misinformation. And I don’t think fear-mongering over what might happen in some unknown future is cool. (I mean, except in dystopian literature, because that’s why we love it.)
Let’s scrutinize Amazon. Let’s scrutinize publishers. Let’s ESPECIALLY scrutinize publishers who are funding and lending legitimacy to rackets that are ripping off new authors. (I’m looking at you, Author Solutions.) Let’s scrutinize everyone.
But let’s not make sweeping pronouncements that dismiss the opportunities that Amazon and other digital publishing platforms have given to writers and readers. Because the world is changing, Mr. Patterson.
The way I read books will not be the way my son and most of his friends read them. They won’t discover them the same way. And the way that technology is changing means that in ten years, if Amazon doesn’t continue to innovate, they could easily be a footnote in the book world. Some start up that is only a slip of an idea right now could sweep in and take over.
Technology has leveled the playing field in a lot of ways. The book world is changing. But that doesn’t mean it’s ending.
Sincerely, Elizabeth Hunter