Public Statement on the Book Group Dispute

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) calls on both main players in the negotiation between online retailer and book publisher Hachette Book Group to work in good faith toward an immediate resolution of their protracted and damaging disagreement. As it stands, individual authors are caught in the crossfire, and are seeing incomes and potential future earnings severely damaged.

It’s clear there are two well-defined sides to choose from in this ongoing disagreement – in favour of Amazon’s relatively new pricing/royalties design and a promising digital marketplace for all authors (both publisher-affiliated and independent), or in favour of traditional publishers like Hachette Book Group who have seen online sales unreasonably curtailed for the purposes of negotiation (a reprehensible tactic that does nothing more than hurt authors).

TWUC chooses a third side – that of the full spectrum of today’s professional authors. Simply put, neither nor Hachette Book Group would exist without the work of professional authors.

TWUC’s position on e-book royalties is on the record – we believe the current industry standard of 25% does not reflect a marketplace reality, and TWUC’s Royalty Math calculator clearly shows the publisher/author partnership on e-book sales would be more equitably represented at a 50% royalty rate. We call upon all traditional publishers to address this inequity immediately.

On the other hand, restrictions to online sales, the slowing of delivery and other such widely reported hardline negotiation tactics are abhorrent, and represent, we believe, attacks on the free market and free speech. On this issue, TWUC stands with independent booksellers who have stated “Independent booksellers sell books from all publishers. Always.”

All authors, those housed at large publishers, those at medium and small houses, and those professionally self-published through an expanding universe of online services – all of us – benefit from an industry that contains and sustains both traditional publishing and As well, all of us suffer when large players in the marketplace restrict access to books, refuse to compromise on terms, and ignore market realities.

Forbes magazine has recently predicted the Book Group dispute could stretch into 2015. That is unacceptable. The Writers’ Union of Canada joins with author groups worldwide in demanding an immediate resolution. Authors who have worked for years to bring their books to market in the coming months should not suffer because two giants refuse to come to terms with each other.