Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Amazon, Marshall Cavendish, and me

Wow. I was at my desk at eBay yesterday when the publisher of Marshall Cavendish sent through a press release about their sale of the Marshall Cavendish Children's Books line to Amazon. Wow.

The release was pretty vague, so of course I had about 63 questions after reading it. I touched base with my agent to see if she could distill any more from it and she said she had as many, if not more, questions than I did. She knew as much as I did, of course. My wonderful Cavendish editor invited me to call her to find out more. So I called her this morning.

My takeaway is complicated, my feelings complex, and leaves me (and I think all Cavendish authors) in an interesting position.

On the one hand, I am sad.

Sad for the wonderful booksellers of the world. But I'm sad for them for 2 reasons. One is that I'm reading that now they will 'never buy another Cavendish book' for their stores again. Basically, as an FU to Amazon. I totally get that, and understand and empathize with their anger. But then, how many amazing books will your customers miss out on because of this boycot? (I'm not saying this to toot my own horn - Cavendish books won several awards this year). Will booksellers be doing their customers a disservice to not carry MCCB books, just to take a stand against Amazon? Again, I don't fault them for feeling this way, as I might do the same thing. In my humble opinion, it's all about that personal touch and being able to recommend that perfect book for a child, and maybe that perfect book won't be on their shelves because they refuse to buy from Amazon.

Sad because I fear that my editor may have to change roles, not be my editor anymore (down the road), or even perhaps at some point be out of a job. Then I will be assigned an Amazon person who has never acquired or edited a children's book as my 'point of contact' within the behemoth company.  That makes me a bit nervous.

On the other hand, I am a little bit excited.

Amazon has reach like no other company out there. Where Cavendish had a small marketing staff and essentially I was/am my own publicist, perhaps Amazon may promote my books to their enormous customer base. Maybe my book will be in homes I could never have reached myself because I am simply one person and don't have the manpower or funds to tour the world.

They will likely make my book an eBook - which was only an inkling of a possibility before. It could be a color eBook for the new Kindle Fire. I like the idea of having a print and electronic version of my book.

Maybe I'll make more money with Amazon, and maybe not. But as I said to my agent today, no authors get into the children's book industry to 'make it rich.'

All I can hope for is that my books will still be relevant - to bookstores, to parents, and to children everywhere. I hope booksellers don't unintentionally punish the hardworking authors and illustrators who had no say in this decision. I hope with all my heart that my local bookstores - at least - will still allow me to do events in their stores, because I am still me.

I just want to keep sharing my books with children. Because that's all that really matters in the end. 


  1. Sue, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Wish you all the best and watch with interest.

  2. Thanks for posting on this important subject and your (and your agents) immediate response.
    The MC sale to Amazon came as a big surprise to many of us. Though my titles are with MC Benchmark which was not included in the sale, I wonder if this will allow MC to focus on the educational market and increase their reach globally in this market. The unfortunate thing for authors of their educational books through MC Benchmark is that authors are contracted on a WFH basis.

  3. Thanks Hazel.

    Stephen, it sounds like they'll use the $ from the sale to really focus on their educational books, so it could be very good for you. Here's hoping it's good news for all of us. Cheers.

  4. I hadn't heard about that sale before. Thanks for sharing the information.

  5. Why do you assume the Amazon person you may work with in the future will have no publishing experience?

  6. Alice, good point. I'm not assuming they don't have publishing experience, (they have a whole arm already) but I heard they have no children's book editors on staff, hence why they are acquiring the MCCB editors too. My hope is that they keep them on long-term, in addition to beefing up the children's editorial staff, over moving adult book editors into the children's department.

  7. I have to say, as a customer I do not like this. I dislike Amazon and purposely avoid buying anything from them. I used to love Amazon but in the last few years I've gotten the feeling they'd love to see print books die so everyone will buy a Kindle. I hate e-books and I just feel that Amazon is anti-print book and would love to just make money on e-books. I stopped buying from them after they temporarily delisted a publisher's print books because of ebook pricing disputes.