where the writers are
Nightmare on Amazon Street
Chained by Corporations

So, for those who don't know, as of this moment, Macmillan and their imprints (mine being St. Martin's Press) have been pulled off the virtual shelves of Amazon. For me, until I learned about the war I thought something awful had happened to my book.


 My first hint of trouble came during a Friday night computer conversation on She Writes, an online community for women writers, when someone said that she couldn't buy my book on Amazon.

I rushed to the Amazon site in a virtual run.

My book was only available, according to Amazon, from ‘third party sellers.' I was no longer a member of the Kindle family. The Murderer's Daughters was homeless. Thinking this was an individual software problem, I shot off a Friday night email to my agent, editor, publicist, rabbi, primary care physician and God.

My beloved agent responded with calming words, but was mystified by the problem.

Being incredibly neurotic in the department of ‘must address now' (a quality which does not endear me to anyone but my doppelganger sister) I foolishly called Amazon. An hour and a half later, after being fobbed off from one clueless rep to another, I was sobbing, yes, actually sobbing, on the shoulder of my husband. "But what if my review (I was expecting a major newspaper review) comes out tomorrow?"

Still thinking this was a ‘me' problem, I went to my usual source of writerly comfort, Backspace for Writers, where I posted my crisis on the forum. After many loving replies assuring me that Amazon is not the only bookseller, in fact, not even the top bookseller, I got an instant update, simultaneously, from Backspace and Twitter, that more than one St. Martin/Macmillan author was missing from Amazon.

Soothed into the misery loves company arms of shared sadness, I wrested my arms from around my laptop and went to sleep, certain that by morning this technical glitch would be solved.

At 6:30 I plugged back in. And there was twitter confirmation from my new BFF in Australia: it's an Amazon vs. Macmillan vs. Amazon problem. Quick, to Backspace, there it was-links to the New York Times and Publishers Marketplace articles. Jesus, it's a corporate smackdown. Amazon was throwing its weight around like an Internet J. Paul Getty.

I breathed. Made coffee. Took in our hard copy Boston Globe and New York Times and tried very hard to keep my hands off the computer for five minutes. Unsuccessfully.

It's scary. I am a new author of a debut novel (it came out on January 19th.)  And like when I was in the throes of the incredible mono-mindedness of mothering a newborn, I find myself spending every possible moment babying my book. So, having it thrown out of one of the major nurseries in the nation, that's scary.

I've been reading the tweets pinging back and forth in the virtual world, along with the few articles that have surfaced so far. There are pro-Amazon factions. There are pro-Macmillan factions. Pro-reader. Pro-consumer. Pro-frugalistas. And I can't help feel a little lost here.

The helpless writers have no weapons (except words) despite having quite a dog in this fight.

Hello, Barnes and Noble. Love you, Powells!

Most of all, thank God for independent booksellers, right? I've always done as much as my buying there as possible. Now I am willing to truly talk with my wallet, forgo the temptations of discounts and armchair shopping (though you can certainly shop Indies on line!) and support my fellow authors at full price. I'll never take my local bookstores for granted again!

Lesson learned

This began on Friday. It's Monday morning and Macmillan books are still unavailable on Amazon (despite giving notice on Sunday, that they will reinstate them.)

Lesson learned.