After Stephen Colbert Push, Edan Lepucki's Debut Tops Powells Bestseller List

Edan Lepucki's debut novel California hits the bestseller list after push from Stephen Colbert - peoplewhowrite

Edan Lepucki

Maybe all the publishing industry needs is focused and targeted support of new, untested authors by star scribes and bestselling veterans.(See: the time when David Sedaris surprised author Tim Johnston with an endorsement of his novel Irish Girl.)

Ever since Stephen Colbert recommended fellow Hachette author Edan Lepucki’s California (in response to bruising negotiations between Amazon and publisher Hachette Book Group), it has become “one of the most preordered debut titles in Hachette history”. The New York Times adds, “Little, Brown and Company, the Hachette division behind California, has increased the initial print order and doubled the length of her author tour.” (Wait, she got an author tour? :-))

The article is careful to add: “Even before the boost from Mr. Colbert, California was receiving praise from respected novelists like Jennifer Egan and Ben Fountain and popping up on summer reading lists. Little, Brown ultimately printed 60,000 hardcovers.”

Perhaps the most ironic (and awesome) detail of Lepucki’s story is that her husband works for Goodreads, which Amazon acquired last March. Seems the power doesn’t necessarily lie with any one retailer or publisher or prize. A reader’s decision to pick up a book comes down to what it always has — a powerful recommendation (or three).

Hachette Announces Layoffs

Hachette Book Group announces layoffs - peoplewhowriteToday, Publishers Weekly reported Hachette Book Group is eliminating 3% of its U.S. personnel, or 28 employees. A company statement quoted on PW called the cuts “essential to our company’s continued growth, and our ability to carry out our primary goal: to publish our authors’ work with passion, originality, and impact.”

The layoffs come amidst news of the publisher’s tense negotiations with Amazon. Hachette, the subsidiary of French multimedia company Lagardère, is allegedly at loggerheads with the etailer over e-book profit margins. In a statement released last week, Amazon expressed that, until the dispute is resolved, it is “buying less (print) inventory and ‘safety stock’ on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future.”

Comedian Stephen Colbert, whose new book America Again is published by Hachette, is among a number of authors including J.K. Rowling and Malcolm Gladwell caught between their publisher and the retail giant that commands more than 30% of book sales. Colbert is asking his fans to temporarily boycott Amazon until they cease delaying orders of Hachette, while Gladwell told the New York Times “if [the standoff] keeps going, the authors are going to have to get together.”

Stephen Colbert Advocates Amazon Boycott Until Hachette Dispute Resolved

Stephen Colbert invited viewers to download

Stephen Colbert invited viewers to download “I Didn’t Buy It On Amazon” stickers in solidarity

Stephen Colbert believes he can sell more books than Amazon. On a recent episode of his show The Colbert Report, the comedian/author whose recent release America Again has been among the many Hachette Book Group titles impacted by the standoff between Amazon and the publisher, invited his viewers to shop Portland-based Powells.com for books until the dispute was resolved. Specifically noting the effect Amazon’s admitted slow delivery of Hachette books will have on first-time and little-known writers, Colbert joined fellow Hachette author Sherman Alexie in promoting Edan Lepucki’s debut California. He asked his fans to download an “I didn’t buy it from Amazon” badge in solidarity.

It will be an interesting test to determine whether celebrity can trump the e-tailer that now dominates more than 30% of the book retail market. A test that, by the way, has been playing out in different industries for years. When Beyonce opted to release her most recent album secretly via iTunes, Amazon and Target refused to sell it. The singer responded by treating a Walmart store packed with fans to $50 gift certificates. Whatever the impact of Colbert’s challenge to Amazon, it’s a step in the right direction: writers taking more direct control of the retailing of their books.

Read more about this on Publisher’s Lunch.

Bring in the Negotiators: Amazon vs Publishers Continues to Shaft Writers & Readers

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that Amazon is now “refusing orders” of upcoming Hachette titles:

The retailer began refusing orders late Thursday for coming Hachette books, including J.K. Rowling’s new novel. The paperback edition of Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon — a book Amazon disliked so much it denounced it — is suddenly listed as “unavailable.”

In some cases, even the pages promoting the books have disappeared. Anne Rivers Siddons’s new novel, The Girls of August, coming in July, no longer has a page for the physical book or even the Kindle edition. Only the audio edition is still being sold (for more than $60). Otherwise it is as if it did not exist.

Right now the link to Stone’s book seems to be working, but Siddons’ Amazon book page shows the book as “currently unavailable.”

With Barnes and Noble flailing and Amazon flexing, everything seems to be pointing to writers creating their own sales centers for their books.

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Publisher Hachette says Amazon is deliberately delaying orders of its books, including Stephen Colbert's America Again. - peoplewhowrite

Publisher Hachette says Amazon is deliberately delaying orders of its books, including Stephen Colbert’s America Again.

It’s time for publishers, Amazon, and bookstores to squash their beef. It’s hurting readers, and making it even more difficult for writers, especially new ones, to find an audience and generate strong sales.

Today’s New York Times reports that Amazon is “marking many books published by Hachette Book Group as not available for at least two or three weeks.”

Writer David Streitfeld elaborates:

A Hachette spokeswoman said on Thursday that the publisher was striving to keep Amazon supplied but that the Internet giant was delaying shipments “for reasons of their own.” …Generally, most popular books are available from Amazon within two days. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

If your impulse is to “show” Amazon by buying the book from Hachette’s website, you’ll be greeted with a message that reads: “Ebooks purchased from the Hachette website will not work on a Kindle eink device or within Apple’s ibook reader. To read ebooks purchased via Hachette you’ll need a free Adobe ebooks account.” The thing is, most people who read e-books, do so on a Kindle.

The fact is, Amazon, which has a 65% share of the e-book market (that accounts for 30% of total book sales revenue), and the traditional publishing industry have been inflicting pain on each other for several years now — but neither has shown they can win outright control of the publishing market.

When Amazon opened a publishing arm and recruited industry power player Lawrence Kirshbaum to head it up, they could not recoup the advances they paid their bestselling and celebrity authors because Barnes and Noble refused to stock their titles. A recent piece on Forbes (that references George Packer’s 13-page feature on The New Yorker) shares that Amazon gave Penny Marshall an $800,000 advance, but the title sold 17,000 copies. Bestselling cookbook author Tim Ferris had a similar experience when he published a book with Amazon.

Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble has been struggling to maintain its 141-year foothold in book selling as more and more readers seek the discounts and convenience Amazon offers. B&N felt Simon and Schuster was not standing in solidarity with them to face the challenge, so they reduced orders of S&S titles by as much as 90%. Last July, the bookseller’s CEO resigned, a month later they mended fences with S&S after an eight-month standoff that likely impacted sales of debut authors most. Just last month, Barnes and Noble Chairman Len Riggio sold $64 million worth of the company’s stock.

It’s clear that publishers, Amazon, booksellers, AND writers need to lock themselves in a room and figure this madness out i.e. learn from each other, once and for all, because neither has shown they can do it on their own with consistent success. As industry heavyweights Molly Stern, Eric Simonoff, Jonathan Karp and Reagan Arthur admitted in a panel last November, “Amazon’s focus on the customer–-from discount pricing to the convenience of delivery and expediency of the Kindle–-is an incredibly difficult thing to compete with, but also admitted their current business model can’t withstand the eradication of the chain bookstores.” Symbiosis, people. Please!