If you need context for this, try Google. Jeff Bezos’s e-mail address can be found the same way.
Hi Jeff,

I realize you probably have nothing to do with this personally, but I feel like it’s worth saying, since the company’s actions reflect on you.

Having your company attempt to get writers to act as unpaid lobbyists against another company’s CEO is a crappy thing to do.

Writers? Writers don’t earn much. I write full time, and I’m very lucky to be able to do so with the support of my family. I’ve been chasing my break for about the past five years. Last year I earned £1237.97 through writing, of which about £100 was earned through Amazon. The rest was earned through work-for-hire, a system in which I retain no copyright to my work, but I do have a guaranteed payment about on par with an entry level office-worker for the investment of my time. This year I anticipate earning closer to £4500, possibly about the same next year if the work-for-hire title I’m working on at the moment sells well enough for the company I work for to offer me a sequel, giving me work for about two or three months of the year. I self publish a little and I traditional publish a little — currently have a novel I’m sending around to agents for six months before I bite the bullet on whether or not to self publish it. In total, I earned around two thousand dollars (based on recent exchange rates) last year, working just about full time as an artist.

Based on my current sales through Amazon, which was a hundred books last year, it will take me roughly a decade of sales on any given work I try and sell in order for me to earn the SFWA pro rate of six cents a word while self publishing. I’m sure there’s room for improvement there, more marketing techniques I could try, putting out more material for self-publishing, but the fact remains, in my current situation, that’s what it takes for me to earn back my time — ten years of sales.
I know, artists aren’t supposed to earn all that much, and my personal situation pales in comparison to one of the self publishing big-shots who are supposedly making hundreds of thousands a year through Amazon sales, but my situation isn’t their situation. They don’t speak for me.
If you want your company to represent authors, to negotiate for authors, I suggest you change the way Amazon does business.
I need a healthy publishing ecosystem in which as many publishers as possible are thriving — each separate publishing company is a separate set of editors, marketing types, and other professionals dedicated to helping me take my artistry and turn it into something people can buy. The more there are, the more opportunities exist for me. I need a publishing ecosystem in which self-publishing authors aren’t treated as a commodity to be mass-mailed as a lobbyist force and to have their books pigeon-holed at a price of 9.99 or 2.99 or free because ‘that’s what the market wants’ — that’s what one of the primary storefronts of the self-publishing economy, Amazon, have determined as what Amazon wants. The systems Amazon uses to present books to buyers are something there’s a cottage industry in trying to cheat — buying and selling reviews of books on Amazon, the use of ‘free’ sales, promotional websites… all of this is very useful for those who want to market their books, those who want to focus on salesmanship, but it doesn’t help those who want to write them.
Publishing companies of the old style supported new and developing writers by paying them an advance fee against their future royalties, the majority of whom would never be expected to actually ‘earn out’ their advance fee by selling a thousand, two thousand, or more books. They were, and in some cases still are, able to do this by sinking the profits they’ve developed with popular bestselling authors into providing this patronage for younger, developing talent. The time in skills development required for one author is up there with training an astrophysicist.
They say it takes a million words before a writer can write anything worthwhile. I recently hit the million-word mark myself, after working towards it since 2009. They say it takes ten years to achieve mastery — I started writing seriously in 2005, I’m getting there. The skills investment I’ve made, the time I’ve put in, allows me to enter the bottom rung of what is required for an author in today’s marketplace — I’ve been hired to do work-for-hire, I’ve had a short story published professionally. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have the support of my family — who have made financial sacrifices they shouldn’t have had to — I would never have achieved any of this. It is impossible for me to make any real contribution to my living expenses through my earnings writing.
I don’t think Amazon is my enemy, and I don’t think Hachette is, either. I think both companies are ultimately disinterested in me, and in all authors. The self-publishing boom is a way for your company to skip over the messy business of supporting and nurturing developing authors by snatching up the bestsellers directly, without having to sink years of time and the equivalent of a few years’ salary in developing a stable of potential future bestselling authors, thus turning a better profit by eliminating that margin.
That’s fine, and while it would be nice for one of the most successful companies in the world to pay more attention to directly developing the artists it makes so much money from, I don’t expect that.
I don’t expect to be recruited to wave the flag for your company with a badly misrepresented George Orwell quote, for no pay and no recognition, either.
I like Amazon as a marketplace, and I use it as one myself. It has brought opportunities, for which I am thankful. But it is a faceless marketplace that is attempting to commodify me, in much the same fashion it commodifies its warehouse workers. I may not like this, but I accept it — the onus is on me to adapt and find a way to make a living from it. The popular myth would imply that I am too lazy or unintelligent to do so — descriptors I think the editors I work with would strongly refute. The fact, as I see it, is that you, your company, and negotiations like the ones presently taking place are built around squeezing the margins to extract the most profit possible.
We live in two very different worlds, Jeff. I’m a two thousand dollar a year man, and an artist. You’re one of the richest men on the planet, and a CEO. You don’t stand in the margins, I do. I’m not empowered to do something about the publishing ecosystem which has cut an average author’s earnings to £11 000 ($18 333.33) a year. (According to this: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/08/authors-incomes-collapse-alcs-survey). You? You’re empowered to do something about it.
If your best shot at a solution is honestly ‘let’s make e-books $9.99 and no more’, I really must applaud your sense of optimism. I suggest you investigate the early lives of any of your favourite authors, before and after their success, and what their financial situations were like. Most authors struggled in poverty for a long time, and by far the majority of those always will. I very much doubt that fixing e-book prices at a given price point will do anything to change that.
Finally, given that your company has invited me to lobby on your behalf, I invite you to lobby on mine and directly support ‘reading culture’ by promoting or donating to any of the philanthropic organizations working to increase literacy and a love of reading in the public, or perhaps by starting one of your own.
Please reconsider whether ‘The Amazon Books Team’ and ReadersUnited.com are really the best way for your company to use its assets.

– Malcolm Cross