Random House, I Really Hate Your Ass Right Now

With the news that Random House has adopted the Agency model effective tomorrow, I have one thing to say.

Cee Lo Green “Fuck You”
Uploaded by Push36. – Link to the original video.


General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Alex says:

    One of my friends used to be quite high up in the HR department at the UK arm of Random House – oh she can tell a tale or two about the way that company works.

  2. 2
    Betsy says:

    Sorry for my naivete, but I read the statement, which was typically corporate, and utterly opaque.  From your tone, the terms are not good, but for readers?  For authors?  What part of the statement indicated that this was bad news?

  3. 3
    CCD says:

    I don’t understand it either, what is the “Agency model”? Sounds a euphemism for something f-u, alright… but still, what is it?

  4. 4
    Emily says:

    I having so much trouble commenting but yes I am utterly confused. Sorry I have no clue on what;s going on please explain.

  5. 5
    Ell says:

    Earworm alert! (Song stuck in my head AGAIN!) (This is not actually a bad thing.)

  6. 6
    TaraL says:

    This is pretty depressing…. they have heard the news that the economy is in the crapper and most people’s “disposable” income is dwindling, right?

    I went to the Random House website to see what authors I couldn’t afford to buy anymore. Luckily, there was nothing I couldn’t wait for to show up in my local UBS.

    Avon is the one that really gives me fits. I have 4 or 5 of their authors who have been on my auto-buy list for years whose latest books (sometimes two) have been languishing on my wishlist for ages. I finally gave in, sold some blood (well, practically, it felt like it) and bought four full-price Avon books a few days ago. Opened the 1st one last night, gleeful with anticipation, and the print was so big I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I paid $8 for one of my favorite authors, and I get something category length, blown up to look like a delicious, full-length single title. Unbelievable…

    Looks like I’m going to be reading more freebies. Sure a lot of them are crap, but they’re crap I can afford.

  7. 7

    Sarah:  I’m going to have to join the chorus here.  If you’re this much against the agency model, I think that we could generate a very lively and fruitful discussion if you could explain specifically why having a minimum price point on e-books across the board is a bad thing.  (I’d certainly be interested to hear your take!  Ideally using examples from other retail sectors.)

  8. 8
    NatashaB says:

    I think this means that Random House will set the price the ebooks can be sold for even though they will not impose this on the paper version. This would mean that retailers will not be able to have offers/discounts that is not agreed with Random House first.

    That is my understanding from reading the article.

  9. 9
    Sandir says:

    Boo Random House – that is such a shame. Now I guess all new release ebooks will be priced higher than the hardcovers along with all the typos and formatting errors and our inability to lend or re-sell them. And it looks like publishers are going to continue to make it more difficult to borrow ebooks from the library. It is almost like they want people to stop reading.

    On another note, that really is a catchy tune!

  10. 10
    Jessica says:

    Damn it!  This is a terrible week for ebook news.  I used to go out of my way to buy from RH because they didnt adopt the agency model…..

  11. 11
    LG says:

    @Betsy -

    Sorry for my naivete, but I read the statement, which was typically corporate, and utterly opaque.  From your tone, the terms are not good, but for readers?  For authors?  What part of the statement indicated that this was bad news?

    I’m not Sarah, but I’ll take a stab at this. Say the price point is $9.99 (which I think is what at least one other publisher decided upon). No seller can offer sales that go below this price.

    This can be bad for both readers and authors, particularly if the price point is higher than what readers are willing to pay.

    Sellers can no longer put e-books that are at the minimum price point on sale, something that does not apply to physical books – so you could have times where the physical book is cheaper than the e-book, even though readers have ownership rights with physical books that they don’t have with e-books. Unless you are very wedded to the e-book format, suddenly the physical books are much more attractive than the e-books. An author’s e-books sales could take a hit.

    If there can be no sales, and if the minimum price is higher than what readers want to pay, except under special circumstances (“I really, really want to read the latest book by my favorite author, and I only want it as an e-book”), an author’s e-book sales could go down. Readers might have been willing to try new authors if the e-book price had been lower, but now the price can’t go lower, because the publisher has determined what the price will be for everyone.

    I’m not yet an e-book buyer (I had planned on buying an e-reader soon, and now all this with Random House and HarperCollins is happening, so I may be putting my plans on hold. Again.), so I don’t actually know all of this from personal e-book shopping experience. If I’m wrong about any of this, please correct me.

  12. 12
    Sarah says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with the anti-agency pricing mindset happening here. Amazon has been cheerfully selling eBooks at a gigantic loss for some time to prevent competition from other booksellers. Do you know what it’s been costing an independent bookstore to match their prices? I once price-matched 5 of Amazon’s top titles and only advertised that price to our local users for three days. We lost a thousand dollars on that promotion. I’m sure that’s a drop in the bucket to Amazon, but to an Indie Bookstore that’s catastrophic.

    Meanwhile, almost ALL our agency ebooks are selling for 9.99 or lower. It’s incredibly rare that I see anything at a higher price point – and I spend my days featuring the big titles. Most romances are in the 4-5 dollar range (I also spend my days trying to get our local readers to try romance – no easy task).

    I do agree that we may still be seeing price points that are a bit high when DRM is taken into account, and this is dialogue we need to have with the publishers. But if you want to see multiple bookstores thrive, Agency Model pricing is a must. And furthermore, I firmly believe that if Amazon were able to cut out all the competition, you’d see their low pricing disappear. They have no incentive to offer you a cut-price if they’re the only player in the game.

    TL;DR version
    1) competition is good for bookstores
    2) Amazon hates competition
    3) Bookstores cannot compete on eBooks with Amazon without Agency Pricing

  13. 13
    meoskop says:

    Most romances are in the 4-5 dollar range


    First, I am so tired of hardcover pricing and MMPB (mass market paperback) prices being conflated. Agency pricing puts the ebook several dollars higher than the paper book. (7.99 on average, sometimes as high as 12.99 vs 5 to 6 for a MMPB)  This has been proven over and again. The paper book can be resold, it can be loaned, it can be used without stupid computer permission tricks.

    Agency pricing screws the reader who needs ebooks for accessibility issues. Agency pricing promotes piracy because the lesson of purchasing hurdles increasing piracy has been proven in other industries. Agency pricing does not save indie booksellers. I used to buy 100% from Books on Board, now I have little reason to do so. I might as well buy from Amazon if it’s all the same price, right? Or not buy at all.

    1. Agency pricing of MMPB in ebook format is promoting piracy
    2. Agency pricing of MMPB increases Amazon’s market share – why shop around? Use what’s easiest and most feature filled.
    3. Focusing on hardcovers ignores the massive amount of the market who went from loving pubs to loathing them.

  14. 14
    T. L. Haddix says:

    This seems to be an absolutely ridiculous move to me.  I mean, it makes as much sense as raising taxes when people are struggling to put food on the table.  Discretionary spending for consumers is getting lower, not higher.  It’s going to be interesting to see the fallout from this. 

    I’m sorry, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to you, Sarah, but I don’t agree that we should all be happy about this because it means smaller retailers can now compete with Amazon.  I’m all for the little guy getting a leg up, but knowing what goes into the production of an e-book, I think $9.99 is a ridiculous price for anything but a new book, and a hot one at that.  The $5-7 range is where most books should be within the first year of availability, and it should drop from there.  I can’t see how this is a good thing for consumers.  It’s liable to have the opposite effect of what is expected – and that is going to be that Indie and small-press books, those which are not priced like someone’s kid needs braces and an Ivy League education?  Sales there are going to take off because a lot of readers won’t bother making the switch.  It might not be a huge wave at first, but it is definitely coming. 

    Oh, and I don’t know if I can refer y’all to another site here or not, but Stephanie Laurens just started a new blog re: the changes coming in the publishing world.  Her post this week is particularly relevant to this discussion.  http://ofdinosaursanddaffodils.blogspot.com/

  15. 15
    Sarah says:

    I’m curious where everyone is running into these super expensively priced eBooks. I checked some of our paperback romances (I used paperback as an example because SO much romance is published in mass market format right away as opposed to other genres):

    The Elizabeth Hoyts are all the same price as the MMPB.
    Laura Kinsale’s Avon books, same.
    Lynsay Sands, same.

    Etc., etc. Older books (I’m thinking some of Jayne Ann Krentz’s backlist, for example – something I only checked because we’re having an event with her in April) run about 4.50 average.

    I agree, once again, that we need to let the publishers know that we are not okay with DRM.

    However, the assertion that this will not help Indies strikes me as ludicrous. When we survey our customers about why they’d like to use us (we primarily serve up Google eBooks) or Amazon, they talk about Amazon’s prices. It’s ALWAYS price. We have people who want to shop with us, but their budget doesn’t extend to buying a Random House title for $17 (that’s with the 30% discount I put on them) from us versus $9.99 at Amazon. That price point is what’s keeping customers away.

    I’m curious, Meoskop, how you can back up your point number 2? I have constantly heard from our customers about their desire to support their local shops. They WANT to shop with us. They just don’t want to spend an additional 8 bucks on a book. I also disagree that the Indies are harder to shop from.

    Now, if Random House immediately prices all its agency titles at 16.99, you’re all welcome to send me well-deserved raspberries via e-mail. However, based on the price points I’m seeing from the other Agency publishers (which, again, are primarily $9.99), I doubt you’re suddenly going to be spending more.

    I don’t think I can do a good TL;DR version for this one, so apologies for the length.

  16. 16
    TaraL says:

    1) competition is good for bookstores

    Apparently not. Borders may have a different take on “competition” than you do.

    2) Amazon hates competition

    So do indie booksellers. I see them all over the internet, griping about competition from BN, Borders and Books-a-Million and any other brick and mortar store who dares to be bigger than they are. As for the BN’s and BAMs, they are competing just fine against Amazon price-wise. When you compare apples to apples, Amazon isn’t such a BigBad as folks like to make out.

    3) Bookstores cannot compete on eBooks with Amazon without Agency Pricing.

    Again, a lot of the other big bookstores are competing just fine. If, as a small bookstore, you can’t compete, then don’t sell eBooks. Or close your bookstore and open a coffee shop and compete with Starbucks. They are as over-priced and snooty as most indie bookstores, so you can probably compete against them.

    I once price-matched 5 of Amazon’s top titles and only advertised that price to our local users for three days. We lost a thousand dollars on that promotion.

    Then you screwed up. You need to find things that your clientele wants, which you can make money on and promote the hell out of that. Or find a loss leader that actually leads to more sales of things you can make a good profit on. That’s how capitalism works.

  17. 17
    Gina says:

    Charging $9.99 for an ebook is a ripoff when I can get the mmpb for $8.99 or less with sales/promotions. I will not pay that much for an ebook, and apparently I’m not the only one. I can’t sell it, loan it, or donate it to my local library if it’s not a keeper. Hell, sometimes I can’t even get the ebook I’ve already paid for to actually open. It’s not just that I’m paying more, it’s that I am getting less.

    All I care about as a reader is getting what I want to read for a reasonable price. I’m willing to pay $6-7 for an ebook. I’m not willing to pay $9.99 so the ebook can be sold for the same price at every retailer.

  18. 18
    Sarah says:


    1) Borders didn’t suffer from competition, it suffered from over-extending itself in the market, just as Starbucks did.
    2) You see whining, I see discussion of unfair tactics. Publishers, for years, have extended better terms and better loans to B&N and Borders. Also, Borders and B&N are not competing well – witness the shutdown that you referenced. B&N is closing many of their bookstores as well.
    3) Bookstores will not survive without becoming part of the eBook game. When’s the last time you saw a local record (or should I say, really CD) store?
    4) We do promote consistently, and we do quite well on that. However, as I referenced above, the shift is to eBooks.

    I have to admit, I don’t have a good response for “That’s how capitalism works.” I guess I just don’t ever want to live in a world where capitalism is the guiding social construct.

  19. 19
    meoskop says:

    I’m curious, Meoskop, how you can back up your point number 2?

    Because it’s what I did? Because it’s what my friends have done? Because as a consumer I can continue to buy from the indie e-tailer I was and manage my own books OR (since price is the same) I can go to Amazon and have them manage my library, put it on devices for me, let me lend copies, and save my spot in the book? Or, I can pay the same price to NOT have those features out of love for my e-tailer?

    Since Agency I am spending far less on books. Fact. I know many people doing the same and some who have gone pirate. Fact. I don’t know anyone who said “wow, now I can support my favorite indie e-tailer without worrying about a price difference!”

    I’m curious where everyone is running into these super expensively priced eBooks.

    There is no indie bookstore near me that will stock romance. this is true for many readers. We buy our MMPB’s at big boxes with various discount prices. Our ‘real world’ price is 2 – 3 dollars less than MMSRP, so the Agency e-book price is a big price jump. With the advent of ebooks I was able to start supporting indies. Now I have stopped.

    Also, you cite Kinsale. I totally got burned on Kinsale (I think, I’d have to go check) with a $12.99 ebook Agency price tag on a new release MMPB. Avon has lowered the price, but they wanted $9.99 for the MMPB reissue of Believe.

    These conversations go in circles because customers (like myself) show what has happened to their own purchasing and their own shopping carts and Agency supporters say “I don’t believe you.” Fine. But my checkbook isn’t lying. And having to ‘prove’ it each time the conversation comes up again doesn’t change the reality.

    Agency pricing will hurt indies, increase piracy and hurt the big 5. I don’t need anyone to believe me, it’s reality. Like Charlie Sheen, Agency publishers have a Winning Theory that consumers. I’ve already worked for large companies that imploded from refusing to listen to the public. I sold my retirement stock before we tanked.

  20. 20
    meoskop says:

    Ugh, that lost a word.

    Winning Theory that consumers.


    The missing word is reject.

    Fitting, really.

  21. 21
    Sarah says:


    Just FYI, Kinsale is being pubbed through Sourcebooks now – only pieces of her backlist are with Avon (most are now with Sourcebooks, who are doing amazing covers). So if you got burned on a new release of hers, it was from Sourcebooks who are not an agency publisher.

  22. 22
    meoskop says:

    So if you got burned on a new release of hers, it was from Sourcebooks who are not an agency publisher.

    May not have been Kinsale then. Thanks for info.

    How about the Nov release Taken By Desire from Lavinia Kent? Avon asked $9.99 for a $7.99 MSRP that sold locally for $6 in paper. I didn’t buy it. I could pay nothing and have a pirate version. I chose not to read it instead. They have now lowered the price to $7.99 but I still refuse to buy it.

    Agency pricing will not save indies.

  23. 23
    Bonnie says:

    I just paid $12.99 for the Kindle version of JD Robb’s new book.  Something I swore I would never do.  *sigh*

    I justify this by not buying as many books as I used to.  I don’t think I’ve read more than 10 books in the past year.  This whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth.

  24. 24
    Sarah says:

    My problem with that example is that isn’t the norm. Where I mostly see higher priced ebooks is from the small university presses who don’t change the price after the book comes out in paperback – and they’re not the agency model.

    With the increasing sale of eBooks, it’s important that you talk directly to the publisher – the sheer volume of people switching means that just “not buying” an eBook is not going to get their attention. Most publishers are, basically, reasonable (I except Diamond Comics from that statement, but they are really a distributor if I’m honest) and DO value feedback on pricing like that.

    I do agree (brace yourself! :)) that agency pricing won’t save Indies. A lot of independent bookstores think they can coast through and let sales happen. I know that’s not true. But it will give us the ability to actually compete – and that is VITAL to our chances of survival.

  25. 25
    Elaine says:

    So when Deirdre Martin’s Ice Breaker came out and got some good buzz, I decided I would download the first in the series, Body Check, to see if I liked her writing.  Amazon lists it as $7.99, the same as the mmpp, with the note:

    Sold by:    Penguin Publishing
      This price was set by the publisher

    Needless to say, I will not be trying this author.  Sorry, Deirdre. I won’t buy DRM encumbered files for the same as hardcopy, and I doubt I will find it on the shelves at my local B&N, if I remember to look.

    Word:  tried36.  I tried, I did!

  26. 26
    Elaine says:

    I agree, Bonnie.  I have been buying JD Robb on the Kindle at $12.99 but she is about the only one. 

    It has become quite obvious to me that the publishers are trying to knife the baby of ebook publishing in the cradle.  I think they will fail.  I think there will be years of turmoil before the business models shake out.  All I want is a way to pay to read ebooks by the authors that I like without feeling like I am being f****d-over financially.

  27. 27
    T. L. Haddix says:

    I recently discovered Loretta Chase, and since I was going through some health problems at the time, I purchased her books for the Kindle instead of heading to my local UBS.  I think I paid $5.99 for a couple, but the rest were $7.99, including Lord of Scoundrels and several others that were just about as old.  To pay that much for a book that has been out for something like fifteen years is ridiculous.  I don’t care if it hasn’t been out that long in e-book format.  It’s robbery.  If I’d been able, I’d have hit the UBS. 

    Smashwords just changed over to the agency model, and as I understand it, the reason was primarily to keep publishers from getting the shaft.  Now, Smashwords mainly services Indie authors, but still, what would happen is something like this:  Kobo would discount a $2.99 book to $2.39.  Amazon would then beat it, not able to tell that the author themselves hadn’t lowered the price, and BN would try to beat Amazon.  Vicious cycle, writers/publishers ended up getting the bad end of the deal.  The agency model is there to protect publishers, not to protect the interests of consumers.  At a certain price point or under, it’s a good thing.  When we start talking about prices on books going through the roof with no end in sight (okay, slight drama-queen exaggeration) like NY tends to think it can get away with, it’s a whole other can of worms.

  28. 28
    meoskop says:

    My problem with that example is that isn’t the norm.

    The thing is, Sarah, that it is the norm for the audience you’re talking to here. 90% of the book buying being discussed on this format isn’t LSU’s excellent series on history through blues music, it’s MMPB romance. So our examples are the same every month.

    We (the buyers) aren’t going to talk to the publishers. The publishers have been giving us the middle finger for more than a year. it’s clear they don’t want us. The publishers that do are going to get our money, but the money not spent, the money diverted to other entertainment choices isn’t coming back.

    That said, I don’t have a problem with the new JD Robb at 12.99. It’s a hardback. It’s discounted. That’s what the ebook model should be – a lower price in exchange for the rights restrictions. If Agency pricing protected indies by offering flat market pricing at the old pricing structure of a dollar or two less than paper, you’d see a lot less hate toward the concept. It’s not about that. It’s about monetizing the consumer short term while ignoring what’s happening long term.

    People feel ‘better’ about seeding pirate copies when they feel cheated. Music industry has been there and done this.

  29. 29
    Jessica MD says:

    I’m with Gina.  I have my nook and love using it to read ebooks, but I still buy 3-4 hard copy books for every one ebook and its all because of the price. 

    I believe that publishers and authors should be fairly compensated for their work, but I don’t think charging the same price for both a mass market edition and an ebook edition of a novel is fair to the reader.  There’s no way that the costs of producing an ebook is the same as producing (and shipping) paperback book, yet just about every reader can find the paper back edition at a cheaper price.

    My example:  when I went to buy Jeaniene Frost’s This Side of the Grave, I saw that the nookbook version was selling for $7.99, the same as the list price for the mass market version, but with a 33% off coupon from Borders (luckily I still have one that isn’t closing by me) plus the Borders reward plus discount I paid less than $5.

    AND I can lend it to my bff when I’m done.

  30. 30
    Amy says:

    I have to admit, I don’t have a good response for “That’s how capitalism works.” I guess I just don’t ever want to live in a world where capitalism is the guiding social construct.

    WARNING: Swinging Way Off Topic

    I thought the was interesting because we already do live in a world where capitalism is the guiding social construct.

    However, that does not mean that the individual people living within that system are all about capital accumulation and then 100% keeping to themselves.  Arguably, Bill Gates is one of the greatest capitalists of our generation.  And he’s now full-time giving way his money full-time by following probably one of the best American traditions we have.

    I’m not defending all capitalists.  Some of them are greedy rotten bastards.  Nor I am pretending that the system is perfect.  It’s just that a whole lot of the good stuff in my life (including the laptop I’m typing this on) was developed capitalists.  Capitalism creates the profits that allow us to do good works for others.  Capitalism, when the referees are honest, may in fact be the stablest social construct we have in a post-hunter/gather world.

    So ultimately, indie bookstores can’t be non-profits (unless we can get Bill Gates to give them a grant).  :(  And their struggle to survive might be an indication they are no longer needed by society at large because technology is moving away from that model.  (Just as the number of horse tack shop seriously declined with the automobile..:( )

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