Once Upon A Nightmare: The Amazon Situation

You may or may not be aware of the battle going on between Hachette Book Group, who owns Little Brown Books For Young Readers who publishes my book "Once Upon A Memory," and discount digital giant Amazon.com. I became aware on May 9th when an email from Little Brown publisher Michael Pietsch explained the "situation," which sent me clicking over to Amazon to see for myself. Lo and behold! There was the sales page for my book, "Once Upon A Memory," which had been selling well after winning the Crystal Kite Award for the West Region, and now it was hardly selling at all. Amazon had removed the usual discount (which people seem to demand) and raised the book to its full cover price. That in itself was not terrible. What was terrible is that they placed a banner over the book touting books that were "similar but lower in price," and they were saying that the book would ship in 3-5 weeks- even though it was available and in stock.

This was Amazon's way of negotiating for lower prices and bigger profit margins from Hachette- in effect using books as collateral. I was furious. I was frustrated. In the dark of night, in my office, by the light of my laptop I typed up a complaint letter and submitted to Customer Service at Amazon, knowing full-well that no one would read it. Sure enough, the next morning I received a "robo reply." However, that did not thwart my efforts. I had copied the letter and I had also decided to share it publicly on Facebook. Little did I know that it would go viral. Here is the letter that I shared on May 16th:

I have supported Amazon for as long as Amazon has existed. I've been published for 20 years now and you have sold so many of my books. I am frankly shocked and angry at what you are doing to my new book "Once Upon A Memory" which has just won the Crystal Kite Award and is published by Little Brown. You are punishing me- the author- because you want a deeper discount from Hachette- this is deplorable. You want authors and illustrators to suffer being used as pawns and we have nothing to do with this. Your actions to raise the prices of our books, place banners touting books that "are similar but lower in price" and saying that our books will ship in 3-5 weeks when they are in stock is not only a disgusting negotiation practice, but it has made me tell my readers to shop elsewhere- and they are and will. Authors and illustrators struggle to make low percentage royalties. We are not "big businesses," yet we are the mainstay of what you sell. Do you really think that this will endear Amazon to us, or do you- does Jeff Bezos- truly not care? It's all about money, I am sure. You make more and we make less. Not a recipe for good will, but perhaps you don't care about that. As a Seattle resident I am doubly upset at you, Amazon for doing this. I am going to share this letter and I hope others will share it, too.
I'm sorry that I've supported you in the past.
You have let me down.
Children's Books Author/Illustrator
Nina Laden

Over 470 people shared it- and it was tweeted. (Not by me, I'm not on Twitter.) Then on May 23rd it was quoted and linked in the New York Times Blog. On the morning of May 24th I had an email from a producer at Bloomberg Tech News. I did an interview with them via Skype and that aired online. Then my agent called and told me that CNN International had contacted her and wanted to send a Town car to take me to their Seattle affiliate to do a live interview with their London correspondent Richard Quest for his show "Quest Means Business." I was so nervous but I kept my wits, even when he baited me with a question about whether the US Government should step in. (This is not my area of expertise and I deflected.) I also did a phone interview with APR Marketplace reporter Sabri Ben-Achour that aired that evening.

The next day, Saturday, I was quoted in the actual New York Times. I still have not seen the paper. I was at our island cottage and our store doesn't sell The NY Times. This morning, May 29th I was on NPR's Morning Edition in a very short clip with Arts Correspondent Mandalit del Barco. Mandalit told me that her daughter loved my book, "Roberto the Insect Architect." I enjoyed talking with her; we talked for about ten minutes, but only ten seconds were used in the actual piece.

The media exposure- a complete shock and surprise to me- has garnered me many new friends and followers on Facebook, most of them fellow writers, illustrators, teachers, book people, and I've had a lot of positive feedback. I have no idea if this will help make up for lost sales from Amazon.com for their tactics against Hachette. What I have also done is to become an "IndieBound" affiliate- a wonderful organization that will find all of the independent bookstores that carry books you are searching for- near you. You can purchase my book "Once Upon A Memory" this way. Many independent bookstores, like the University Bookstore in Seattle, even offer free shipping. Other bookstores: please chime in here in the comments and add your links!

But at this point I've done all that I can do and I just have to re-focus and get back to the business of making books, letting the giant corporations deal with their stalemate... Pawns, such as myself, don't usually get to "Checkmate." I just hope that my next royalty check will not reflect this ugly game.

Thanks for your support, dear friends!
With Love, 


  1. Brava to you for speaking out, Nina, and congratulations for making Hachette back down, and best of luck in all of your triumphs to come!

    1. Thanks Dorian- it's Amazon, though, who needs to stop these bullying tactics. Hachette is the owner of my publisher. They are trying to negotiate with Amazon but Amazon holds all the cards.

  2. I'm also a Hachette author like Nina - and so glad to meet you Nina - it's Amazon playing dirty. I liken it to holding my books hostage.

    1. I totally agree, Vicky. It's playground bullying with corporations.

  3. You go, Nina! I just read about Amazon's monopolistic tactics in The Seattle Times. I was so disappointed and appalled by what they are doing to so many authors. I was so happy to hear that you've been fighting the good fight on this. Glad you're getting the word out there!!! Hope it leads to something good for all the authors represented by Little Brown and other publishers owned by Hachette.

    1. Thanks, Peg! I'm doing my small part here, hoping to advocate not only for my book, "Once Upon A Memory" but also for all of Hachette's books and the people who create them. We are not corporations. (most of us... I'm sure J.K. Rowling is incorporated...) ;)


I welcome your comments, but please play nice! If my feelings get hurt I may have to ask you to take a time out and comments will go away. Think constructive if you must criticize.