Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Will Amazon Take A Hit On J.K. Rowling's Latest?

The Silkworm, a new detective novel by Robert Galbraith, is the guaranteed hottest bestseller of the summer.  If you've never heard of Galbraith, try J.K. Rowling, who has now written two books under that nomme de plume since publishing the last book of her wildly popular Harry Potter series.  But what makes the buzz over this book different than the usual reviews of recommended beach-reading mystery fare is that Amazon, by far the world's largest bestseller, is taking a beating over its consumer-friendly image because of it's ongoing sandbox fight with Hachette Book Group, whose Mulholland Books imprint, a division of Little Brown, publishes The Silkworm

The exact nature of the sand throwing is itself a mystery, but has something to do with Amazon wanting a bigger cut of each Hachette e-book it sells.  Amazon has given customers trying to buy the 5,000 Hachette titles it lists the middle finger by telling them there will be lengthy delays before delivery, as opposed to its famous Prime service, which delivers e-titles immediately and most hardback and paperback titles to your doorstep within 48 hours, and sometimes less.  The initial wait time for The Silkworm was one to two months, now down to two to four weeks as of this writing.
I have been an Amazon Prime customer since the service began in 2005.  My recent purchases have included a garden hose nozzle, low-cut athletic socks, a hickory walking stick and another batch of racket balls, which are rugged enough and not too small for our brother-sister chocolate Labradors to fetch, chew to their heart's content and drool all over, but they eventually get lost when the current in the creeks and rivers where they swim carries them away.
But I digress. 
I will not be ordering The Silkworm from Amazon less because I don't want to wait up to a month (I've got a big unread book backlog as is), but as an author myself with some grasp of the publishing biz have become weary of its bullying. 
Retailers like Walmart are drooling at the anticipated sales bonanza because of Amazon's hissy fit.  Walmart is deep discounting The Silkworm, but I won't be buying the book there because of its abominable labor practices.  I'll probably eventually buy it from an indy seller like Third Place Books in Seattle, which happens to be where the vast Amazon empire is headquartered.
For the record, the Harry Potter books bored me, which is to say that I tried to read the first couple and then bailed on the last five, while Rowling's first post-Potter offer, The Casual Vacancy, was pretty bad, especially considering that she is one of the most successful authors evah.
As for The Silkworm itself, I anticipate it to be just as good as Rowling's . . . er, Galbraith's terrific No. 1 bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling, the inaugural offering in what is likely to be a long series of books featuring detective Cormoran Strike, who lost a leg to a landmine in Afghanistan, and his comely sidekick, Robin Ellacott.  (Think Holmes and Watson.)  Strike is endlessly described as a loveable Rubeus Hagrid type by critics who just can't let go of the Hogwarts analogies.  Somewhat ironically, Strike wades into the dark underbelly of book publishing in the new offering.
Anyhow, reviews of The Silkworm have been uniformly adulatory even if I do suspect that many critics not only have a hard time avoiding the Potter references, but judging Gailbraith on "his" own terms.

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