Another Neu Wannsee conference: rich guy buying writers like pet dogs

From Publisher’s Lunch:

Three years ago we were the first — and up until this weekend only — news organization to report on the existence of Jeff Bezos’s annual Campfire gathering in Santa Fe, NM. This weekend the event made page one of a New York newspaper, and the Santa Fe New Mexican notes that no local authors (including part-time resident Douglas Preston) were invited. They point out that Bezos was born in Albuquerque. And “pilots are warned about extra traffic at Santa Fe’s airport during Campfire weekend because of all the incoming Lears and Citations.”

The “page one of a New York newspaper” was the New York Times. (A Writerly Chill at Jeff Bezos’ Campfire – And the story had me gasping.

Here we have not only a very rich man, but a man who has garnered his wealth by establishing a virtual monopoly over book sales and who has punished one large publishing company which resisted his pricing by not selling their books. And this man has commanded a Koch-Bros-like annual gathering of writers (he pays for everything, natch) who, thanks to his dominance, show up and willingly bleat like sheep. Or maybe that’s the wrong image. Maybe licking his face like pet dogs is more correct.

Except for the ones who object to his treatment of publishers. They have been dropped from Bezos’ invitation list.

Here are a few tidbits from this article:

When Jeff Bezos tells writers to keep quiet, they obey.

Every fall, Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, hosts Campfire, a literary weekend in Santa Fe, N.M. Dozens of well-known novelists have attended, but they do not talk about the abundance of high-end clothing and other gifts, the lavish meals, the discussion under the desert stars by Neil Armstrong or the private planes that ferried some home.

Writers loved it. There was no hard sell of Amazon, or soft sell, either. The man who sells half the books in America seemed to want nothing more each year than for everyone to have a good time. All he asked in return was silence.

You get that, right? A guy who has something to say about their book sales invites them to a posh weekend, but insists they tell no one about it? What’s he afraid of? People like me thinking there’s something, I dunno, weird and even fascist about commanding people who write to shut up?

For four years, the bargain held. But the fifth Campfire, which writers say is taking place this weekend, is a little different. Amazon’s acrimonious battle with Hachette, the fourth-largest publisher, is fracturing the secrecy and sapping some of the good will. (Amazon will not confirm that the event is even happening.)

So weird.

Some repeat Campfire attendees who have supported Hachette in the dispute say they were not invited this year. Others say they are having second thoughts about going. The event has become as divisive as the fight.

“My guess is a lot of writers turned it down this year,” said James Patterson, who attended last year’s festivities. Mr. Patterson, whose novels are published by Hachette, gave a speech in May, when he warned that Amazon needed to be stopped “by law if necessary, immediately.”

“I wasn’t invited again, and I wouldn’t have gone if I had been,” he said. “I would feel very odd being there.” He noted, however, that the event had been “terrific.”

 Read the whole thing. There’s a lot more to gasp about.

PS. I guess I won’t be publishing on Amazon.

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