Dear Mr. Patterson, You’re bumming me out.

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

Posted in Uncategorized.

21 Comments

  1. Brava! As someone who is both traditionally and indie/self-published, I heart my publishing partners…Amazon included. I’m an avid reader with no bookstore or library nearby. Therefore, online is where I get the vast majority of my books. As you say, ANY avenue that gets books into the hands of readers is a good thing!

  2. Wholeheartedly agree! I love your books, and would never have found them without Amazon. I am slowly adding each and every one to my Kindle library. Books are wonderful, and e-books are too. I am very grateful to Amazon for giving us readers a chance to find authors like you.

  3. I couldn’t agree more! Books rock no matter how you look at it, how you get them and I take my hat off to authors every day. I love Indie authors, my world is a better place because of you and no matter what Amazon’s faults are I have discovered you and many others through them. Thank you!

  4. As a new Kindke owner the world of books became even more diverse fir me, I have read books from the classics to the paranormal that maybe would never have found without Amazon. Didn’t even realise you could self publish, so to writers like you Elizabeth I am grateful to have found you xx

  5. As an avid reader, I totally agree. It seems to me that the big publishing houses are going the way of the big record labels. They are reaping what they have sown by their greed and habit of not treating their authors/musicians right. Scrutinize, yes. I benefited from the last lawsuit that gave refunds through Amazon from publishers who were not playing fair. Thank you to Elizabeth for speaking out. Thank you Amazon for being there for those of us who wouldn’t have access to so many wonderful books without you.

  6. If not for Amazon, I would never have accidentally stumbled upon many of my current favorite authors, including you. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I’ve read far more and at a much faster pace since purchasing my first e-reader than I ever read when purchasing from traditional book stores. Though I was skeptical at first (“How am I supposed to read a book that doesn’t feel and SMELL like a book???”), I now believe that electronic publishing may be one of the best things that ever happened to the literary world, for both authors and readers. Well said, Elizabeth!

  7. Most people do not realize that most of this “Amazon is evil” stuff comes from the publishers (who happen to own various media outlets) and is all part of the hardball negotiations going on at present for those SAME publishers who got caught trying to fix artificially high prices. People never stop to question who is really getting hurt and who is actually benefitting.

  8. I love traditional books. I love the feel of them in my hands, the smell of the ink and paper, and, of course, reading them! HOWEVER, I started exploring the digital book world years ago because I didn’t have room for the physical books… I also did not appreciate the escalating price of a new hardback book. Amazon became my place to find second-hand books… Then my husband bought me a Kindle. I never looked back!! I too discovered your books through Amazon, and I might not have found them otherwise. I have every book you have written. Waiting for more….
    Another thought: I have vision problems, mostly due to aging eyes. Large print books cost more. With my kindle I pay the same price and I can adjust the font size to my needs without extra cost.

    • I read. A lot. I have over 3000 books in the house and over 2800 on my laptop. I read 2 books a day. My blind husband reads. A Lot. My brother is an author. I wish people in your situlation would take the time to realy think before they talk.

      • Obviously, what I meant to say did not come across here. I’m so sorry if I said something to offend you! I also love to read, and I read constantly. The digital format has helped me so much! My mother was nearly blind before she passed, and we all read books aloud because she was always an avid reader. Believe me, I am on your side!

  9. Thank you Elizabeth for a wonderful open letter. I stumbled across you when one of your books came up as free on Amazon and I decided to give it a try. IT WAS AWESOME and I ended up buying the whole series and am reading the next. Where I live within a reasonable distance is a Wal-Mart and a Barnes and noble. Walmart has only books from “big” authors. Barnes and Noble I’m sure if I dig well enough I could find some good ones but honestly ever since I got my kindle I love the convenience of being in bed at midnight and finishing book 2 and being able to instantly buy book 3 of a favorite series. I love the authors I’ve found from the free lists or the recommended or just by searching and reading the review. I know its not a perfect system, but its pretty good. I could say some pretty not so nice things about James Patterson and his “writing” but im going to stay classy.

  10. I so agree with everything you’ve said. As a reader, I NEVER want to go back to a time before Amazon, before e-books. I remember when beloved authors couldn’t get the books they wanted to write–and that I wanted to read–published because The Market wasn’t hot for them that year. I remember when the local bookstores carried only the most recent titles from certain authors. If you wanted something else, you were out of luck. Particularly in genre titles, if the book you wanted was more than a year or two old, it was out of print and because publishers controlled the rights, you might never find a copy. I used to have to haunt thrift shops and used book stores to find the backlists of my favorite authors. Whatever Amazon may or may not have done to “literature,” it has only made reading a better, easier, and more affordable experience for me. When books are easier to find and buy, you’ve got to figure that more get sold. At least, that’s what my Amazon account shows…

  11. It’s because of Amazon and my Kindle that I discovered you, and many other wonderful authors. I am no longer able to hold real books and my Kindle has helped me to carry on reading. I am addicted to your books and waiting with bated breath for your next one :o)
    Jackie xx

  12. Well said! I am a confirmed, diehard book reader. E-books have opened up a whole new world for me and I am always thrilled and excited about being able to read new authors. Because of my IPad I discovered you and promptly had to buy all the other books you’d written. Love it! Am looking forward to the next one.

  13. Elizabeth your at an exciting author. I can’t wait to read your books. I have all of them on my kindle plus dozens of other authors. I love on a small apartment and would never have the room to store all those books. Keep on. A big fan

  14. Mr. Patterson is apparently unaware of the story of the posthumous publication of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, _A Confederacy of Dunces_ by John Kennedy Toole. The book was rejected by all of the major publishers (Toole killed himself after trying for YEARS to get a publishing house interested) and only saw the light of day when Toole’s mother, who continued to fight for its publication after her son’s suicide, finally was able to enlist the aid of a big name author, who reportedly told his own publisher they’d never get another of his books unless they published _Dunces._ It kind of begs the question of how many other exceptional works of literature haven’t made it into print because of the stranglehold of these same publishing houses?

    Authors who are willing to do the work to independently produce and package a marketable and competitive product deserve *respect*. An open marketplace serves both authors and readers better in the long run. Artistic freedom is also, bottom line, a _very_ GOOD thing for the future of literature (I feel like I should put a capital “L” in that). Those who want to go with a “traditional” corporate publisher, and deal with the 5% (or whatever they’re offering now) payment rates (for hardcover sales), as well as having to make their artistic output fall into the mold the publisher thinks will make them the most money, along with the often crappy covers, inane blurbs, slapshod accounting, “work for hire” initial contract offerings, and other “sharp” business practices, should be perfectly free to make that choice too.

  15. Thank you. My husband made me buy a kindle 6 years ago because I love to read and it is a stress reliever for me but with my health problems (and a trip to Washington DC where I brought 3 books in my carry on) I can not hold a book for very long without pain. Without amazon and now my iPad I would not be able to read as much as I do. I still go to small book stores and buy hardback books for my kids and gifts for others but let’s face it our world is changing.

  16. Before Amazon, I only borrowed books from the library – I never bought them. But since I got my first Kindle, I’ve bought hundreds of books. Maybe thousands, but don’t tell my husband!
    (And Elizabeth, you are one of the “amazing” authors. I own all of your books and only wish you could write twice as fast!)

  17. I am an avid reader. My eyes no longer allow me to read regular print books. I now have a Kindle with over 3,000 books purchased through Amazon. Being able to enlarge the font has renewed my love of reading. I am sorry you got stuck paying hefty fees to your publisher but quit taking it out on independent writers. My top four favorite writers, which include Elizabeth Huner, are all independent.

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