Janet Fitch reveals her letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

Janet Fitch has appealed to Amazon about its dispute with her publisher, Hachette. Above, Fitch in 2006.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Another writer has decided to speak up about the business dealings of Amazon: Janet Fitch, who after signing the Authors United letter, has gone a step further.

As Neal Pollack was penning his story for Slate about his treatment as an author publishing with Amazon -- “while everyone seems to hate Amazon, my personal experience with this supposedly evil corporate behemoth has been fantastic” -- Fitch was deciding to present an open letter to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO.

Over the summer, authors began speaking out about the business dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group over the wholesale and retail prices of e-books. Since May, Amazon has delayed shipments and not allowed preorders of most Hachette books.


In August, more than 900 authors signed an open letter to Amazon calling on the company to resolve the dispute. Fitch was one of the signatories, alongside such writers as Stephen King, Donna Tartt and James Patterson.

Fitch, whose novels “White Oleander” and “Paint it Black” are published by Hachette, sent a letter in July to Jeff Bezos but has not received a reply. In it, she appeals to Amazon’s CEO “to please reconsider the effect of your demands upon publishers, authors, readers and our democratic nation as a whole.”

Introducing the letter on her website, she explains her motivation for making the letter public. “As a middle-aged woman who has had some luck as a writer, I’d like this profession of author to remain a possibility for young writers in the future — and not become an arena solely for the hobbyist or the well-heeled. What will be lost when working writers no longer can support themselves pursuing their ideas, their art? What will be lost to this country, if these most talented can no longer make a living? I am making this an open letter, because I believe we are at a crossroads, and decisions are being made now which will affect our country permanently.”

Her letter begins, “As a reader and an author, I find Amazon does a wonderful service, but is in danger of killing the little central nugget from which the rest of your vast online business stems. Amazon is a marvelous conglomeration and delivery system for products of every imaginable function. But the book ‘business’ is really not the same as the sale of lawn rakes or adapters for telephones. It is the intellectual and cultural lifeblood of this nation or any nation.”

Before the Authors United public letter, many authors privately expressed concerns about alienating Amazon, which is America’s biggest individual bookseller. Fitch’s success with “White Oleander” appears to have given her the confidence to speak up.

Later in her letter, Fitch acknowledges Amazon’s dominance: “The sheer amount of power you have gained in the literary marketplace negates any disingenuous argument that it’s just ‘business as usual.’ With the amount of wealth and power Amazon has accumulated, you’ve also put yourself into a position of responsibility — wanted or unwanted — for the intellectual life of the country. You have seated yourself at that table. I urge you to consciously accept that responsibility.”


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