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Amazon and Hachette Shake Hands on Distribution Deal; Hachette Authors No Longer in Limbo

It’s over.

This morning, after a nasty and very public corporate stalemate, Amazon and Hachette jointly announced they have come to terms. Their new multiyear contract will allow Hachette to set its own e-book prices, but that arrangement will be tempered by “financial incentives” for Hachette to keep those prices low, according to the companies’ joint statement.

The dispute became big news in the book world this May, when it became known that Amazon was purposefully chilling Hachette authors’ book sales as a way to pressure Hachette to adopt the retailer’s preferred terms. The most immediate beneficiaries of the détente are Hachette authors, whose books will once again receive standard treatment from Amazon, their visibility and shipping time restored. In a letter to Hachette authors and agents, CEO Michael Pietsch promised that “Hachette titles will be restored as soon as possible to normal availability on Amazon, will be available for pre-order, and will be included in promotions on the site.”

In its particulars, the Amazon-Hachette agreement seems to resemble the deal struck between the retailer and Simon & Schuster three weeks ago. If that’s the case, and two similar deals have been struck with two separate publishers, attention will turn to the three major publishers who haven’t yet negotiated new contracts with Amazon—HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House—and the question of whether their discussions will move more quickly.

“We welcome the end of the Amazon-Hachette standoff as great news for Hachette authors, especially coming in advance of the holiday sales season,” said Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson. “We congratulate both parties on finally reaching an agreement. It was heartening to see so many writers rally to the defense of their colleagues. We’d like to think the display of communal spirit played a part in bringing the negotiations to an end—and we hope it prevents authors from being dragged into corporate disputes in the future.

“We’ve heard that this deal is favorable to authors, but we have no way of knowing right now. In the meantime, it’s our hope that Hachette—in light of the loyalty its authors have shown throughout this debacle—takes this opportunity to revisit its standard e-book royalty rate of 25% of the publisher’s net profits.”