Authors United
P.O. Box 4790
Santa Fe, NM 87502

Letter to Amazon.com, Inc. board of directors

The letter, with the list of signatories attached, was sent by Federal Express to each of the ten board members of Amazon.com, on Friday, September 19, and received on Monday, September 22. The recipients are:

Patricia Q. Stonesifer
Martha's Table
2114 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Thomas O. Ryder
RPX Rational Patent
1 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105

Tom A. Alberg
Madrona Venture Group
999 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104

John Seely Brown
Visiting Scholar and Advisor to the Provost at USC
University of Southern California
3601 Watt Way, GFS-315
Los Angeles, California 90089

Alain Monie
Ingram Micro Inc.
1600 E. St. Andrew Place
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Jonathan J. Rubinstein
Qualcomm Incorporated
500 Somerset Corporate Blvd
Bridgewater, NJ 08807

William Gordon
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
2750 Sand Hill Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Jamie Gorelick
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

1875 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006

Judy McGrath
President, Astronauts Wanted
550 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Jeffrey P. Bezos
President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board
Amazon.com, Inc.
1200 12th Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98144

Dear [name],

We are writing to you in your capacity as a director of Amazon.com, Inc. As we all know, Amazon is involved in contract negotiations with the publisher Hachette. About six months ago, to enhance its bargaining position, Amazon began sanctioning Hachette authors' books. These sanctions included refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors' pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books.

These sanctions have driven down Hachette authors' sales at Amazon.com by at least 50 percent and in some cases as much as 90 percent. These sales drops are occurring across the board: in hardcovers, paperbacks, and e-books. Because of Amazon's immense market share and its proprietary Kindle platform, other retailers have not made up the difference. Several thousand Hachette authors have watched their readership decline, or, in the case of new authors, have seen their books sink out of sight without finding an adequate readership. These men and women are deeply concerned about what this means for their future careers.

We urge you to review our names at the bottom of this letter. No group of authors as diverse or prominent as this has ever come together before in support of a single cause. We are literary novelists, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and poets; thriller writers and debut and midlist authors. We are science fiction and travel writers; historians and newspaper reporters; textbook authors and biographers and mystery writers. We have written many of your children's favorite stories. Collectively, we have sold more than a billion books. Amazon's tactics have caused us profound anguish and outrage.

Russell Grandinetti of Amazon has stated that the company was "forced to take this step because Hachette refused to come to the table." He has also claimed that "authors are the only leverage we have." As one of the world's largest corporations, Amazon was not "forced" to do anything. This is an obvious fact. We all have choices. Amazon chose to involve 2,500 Hachette authors and their books. It could end these sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate. Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids' college educations. We'd like to emphasize that most of us are not Hachette authors, and our concern is founded on principle, rather than self-interest.

We find it hard to believe that all members of the Amazon board approve of these actions. We would like to ask you a question: Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books?

Efforts to impede or block the sale of books have a long and ugly history. Would you, personally, want to be associated with this? We, the undersigned, feel strongly that such actions have no place in a common commercial dispute. Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal; it does not need to inflict harm on some of the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world.

Our position has been consistent. We have made a great effort not to take sides. We are not against Amazon. We appreciate that Amazon sells half the books in the United States. But Amazon has repeatedly tried to dismiss us as "rich" bestselling authors who are advocating higher ebook prices—a false and unfair characterization, as most of us are in fact midlist authors struggling to make a living. And we have not made any statements whatsoever on book pricing. Our point is simple: we believe it is unacceptable for Amazon to impede or block the sale of any books as a negotiating tactic.

Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods in response to a pricing disagreement with a wholesaler. But books are not mere consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to another country. Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on his or her book finding readers. This is the process Amazon endangers when it uses its tremendous power to separate authors from their readership.

There has been much talk on the Internet about how traditional publishers like Hachette are "dinosaurs" defending a moribund business model. There have been claims that Amazon is leading the way to a new publishing paradigm, one that pays authors higher royalties, allows anyone to publish, and cuts out the elitist gatekeepers. We agree that Amazon has spurred important innovations in publishing, including a self-publishing model that has given many new writers a voice.

But what these commentators and Amazon itself may not realize is that traditional publishing houses perform a vital role in our society. Publishers provide venture capital for ideas. They advance money to authors, giving them the time and freedom to write their books. This system is especially important for nonfiction writers, who often must travel for research. Thousands of times every year, publishers take a chance on unknown authors and advance them money solely on the basis of an idea. By assuming the risk, publishers expect—and receive—a financial return. What will Amazon replace this process with? How, in the Amazon model, will a young author get funding to pursue a promising idea? And what about the role of editors, copy editors, designers, and other publishing staff who ensure that what ultimately ends up on the shelf is both worthy and accurate?

We are confident that you, as an Amazon board member, prize books and freedom of expression as much as we do. Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company's fine reputation last? We appeal to you, with hope and goodwill, to exercise your governance and put an end to the sanctioning of books, which are the very foundation of our culture and democracy.

Sincerely,

[Each one of us listed below has read, approved, and signed this letter]

  • Megan Abbott
  • Robert H. Abel
  • Devin Adair
  • William M. Adler
  • Elisa Albert
  • William Alexander
  • Nubar Alexanian
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Mike Allen
  • Jonathan Ames
  • Rudolfo Anaya
  • Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Roger Angle
  • Carol Anshaw
  • Anne Applebaum
  • Debby Applegate
  • Kelley Armstrong
  • Rilla Askew
  • Rick Atkinson
  • James David Audlin
  • Paul Auster
  • Ellis Avery
  • Avi
  • Barbe Awalt
  • Gillian Bagwell
  • Blake Bailey
  • Deirdre Bair
  • Jo Baker
  • Kevin Baker
  • Mishell Baker
  • David Baldacci
  • Melissa Bank
  • Linwood Barclay
  • Evelyn Barish
  • Juliana Barnet
  • Rebecca Barnhouse
  • Nevada Barr
  • T. A. Barron
  • John M. Barry
  • Thomas A. Bass
  • Quentin Bates
  • Elif Batuman
  • Douglas Bauer
  • Erica Bauermeister
  • William Bayer
  • Cris Beam
  • Greg Bear
  • James Beauregard
  • Antony Beevor
  • Adam Begley
  • Louis Begley
  • Hilari Bell
  • Madison Smartt Bell
  • Martine Bellen
  • Sam Bellotto Jr.
  • Aimee Bender
  • Karen E. Bender
  • Vincent Berg
  • Lou J. Berger
  • Daniel Bergner
  • Bob Berman
  • Anne Bernays
  • Suzanne Berne
  • Lauren Beukes
  • George Bibel
  • Clara Bingham
  • Lisa Birnbach
  • Michael Bishop
  • Lauren Bjorkman
  • Holly Black
  • Grant Blackwood
  • Linda M. Bland
  • Meredith Bland
  • Judy Blankenship
  • David W. Blight
  • Carole Bloom
  • Cas Blomberg
  • Roy Blount Jr.
  • Judy Blundell
  • Charles Bock
  • Paul Bogard
  • Johnny D. Boggs
  • Carl T. Bogus
  • Chris Bohjalian
  • Robert M. Bolstad
  • Raymond Bonner
  • Marianne Boruch
  • Pseudonymous Bosch
  • Joanhna Bourke
  • Betsy Connor Bowen
  • Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • Ben Bradlee Jr.
  • Elizabeth L. Bradley
  • James Bradley
  • Mike Bradley
  • Kelly Braffet
  • Jess Brallier
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  • Kylie Brant
  • Gary Braver
  • Catherine Brennan
  • Marie Brennan
  • Alan Brennert
  • Morgan S. Brilliant
  • Douglas Brinkley
  • Courtney Angela Brkic
  • Pope Brock
  • Laura Brodie
  • Lora Brody
  • Geraldine Brooks
  • Harriet Brown
  • Jennifer Brown
  • Lisa Brown
  • Monica Brown
  • Sandra Brown
  • Tina Brown
  • Jesse Browner
  • Bliss Broyard
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  • William Buckley Jr.
  • Marina Budhos
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  • Ernest Bywater
  • Pat Cadigan
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  • Kenneth Cain
  • Susan Cain
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  • Ron Carlson
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  • Mary E. Carter
  • Susan Casey
  • Carol Cassella
  • Brian Castner
  • Ernest Cerino
  • Michael Chabon
  • Will Charpentier
  • Thomas Chavez
  • Susan Cheever
  • Ron Chernow
  • Harriet Scott Chessman
  • Jaima Chevalier
  • Tracy Chevalier
  • Jennifer Chiaverini
  • Lee Child
  • Lincoln Child
  • Mark Childress
  • Kate Christensen
  • Jack Christophe
  • Jill Ciment
  • Sandra Cisneros
  • Stephan Eirik Clark
  • Breena Clarke
  • Antoinette Nora Claypoole
  • Andrew Clements
  • Katherine Clements
  • Rachel Cline
  • Mick Cochrane
  • David B. Coe
  • William D. Cohan
  • Joel Cohen
  • Leah Hager Cohen
  • Ann Patricia Coleman
  • Michael Collier
  • James Collins
  • Suzanne Collins
  • Dan Connell
  • Tom Connor
  • Christopher D. Cook
  • Robert Cook
  • Stephanie Cooke
  • Martha Cooley
  • Ellen Cooney
  • Karen Coody Cooper
  • Artemis Cooper
  • Constance Cooper
  • Jen Corace
  • Zizou Corder
  • John Cork
  • Douglas Corleone
  • Kelly Corrigan
  • Bruce Coville
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  • Robert Crais
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  • Elizabeth Crook
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  • Robert Dallek
  • William Dalrymple
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  • Leslie Daniels
  • Jack Dann
  • Edwidge Danticat
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Saul David
  • Lauren B. Davis
  • Lindsey Davis
  • Angela Davis-Gardner
  • Melissa de la Cruz
  • Jeffery Deaver
  • William deBuys
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  • Jonathan Dee
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  • William Deresiewicz
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  • David Dobbs
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  • Edward Dolnick
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  • Martha Egan
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  • Abby Ellin
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  • Joseph J. Ellis
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  • Ken Emerson
  • Alexandra Enders
  • Terry England
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  • Helen Epstein
  • Mark Epstein
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  • Mark Essig
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  • Susan Faludi
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  • Robert Feldman
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  • Lucy Ferriss
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  • Joseph Finder
  • William Finnegan
  • Karen Finneyfrock
  • Suzanne Finstad
  • Eric Fischl
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  • Noël Riley Fitch
  • Stona Fitch
  • Paul Fleischman
  • William Flesch
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  • Nick Flynn
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  • Amanda Foreman
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  • Karen Joy Fowler
  • Ruth E. Francis
  • Diana Pharaoh Francis
  • Judith Frank
  • Thaisa Frank
  • Laurie Frankel
  • Caroline Fraser
  • Laura Fraser
  • Ian Frazier
  • John Freeman
  • Pamela Freeman
  • Ru Freeman
  • Richard E. Friesen
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  • Laura Furman
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  • Nicole Galland
  • Jack Gantos
  • Nasario Garcia
  • Ben W. Gardner
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  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Jaym Gates
  • Alison Gaylin
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  • Nina George
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  • Malcolm Gladwell
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  • Stephen Goldin
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  • Jim Gorant
  • Mary Gordon
  • Meryl Gordon
  • Angeline Goreau
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  • Marie Grace
  • Cheryl Grace
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  • Jeff Greenwald
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  • Melissa Guion
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  • Dan Gutman
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  • Mark Haddon
  • Steven Hahn
  • Loretta Hall
  • Karen Hall
  • Emma Walton Hamilton
  • Jane Hamilton
  • Masha Hamilton
  • Mary Stewart Hammond
  • Patricia Hampl
  • Cathi Hanauer
  • Elizabeth Hand
  • Daniel Handler
    a.k.a Lemony Snicket
  • Sharon Hanna
  • Sophie Hannah
  • Thor Hanson
  • Alyssa Harad
  • Elizabeth Harlan
  • Ann Harleman
  • Stephan J. Harper
  • Stephen Harrigan
  • Ellen Harris
  • Sam Harris
  • C.C. Harrison
  • Carolyn Hart
  • Chester Hartman
  • Aaron Hartzler
  • Adrianne Harun
  • Yona Harvey
  • Todd Hasak-Lowy
  • Molly Haskell
  • Lyanda Lynn Haupt
  • Susan Carol Hauser
  • Katherine B. Hauth
  • John Twelve Hawks
  • Roy Hayes
  • Terrance Hayes
  • Toby Fesler Heathcotte
  • Jeff Hecht
  • Travis Heermann
  • Sarah Hegger
  • Ursula Hegi
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  • Marla Heller
  • Kaui Hart Hemmings
  • Amy Hempel
  • Paul Hendrickson
  • Joshua Henkin
  • Mark Henshaw
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  • Peggy Herrington
  • Rachel Herz
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  • Brenda Hillman
  • Hilary Hinzmann
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  • Jack Hitt
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  • Mary Ann Hoberman
  • Sheri Holman
  • Rachel Holmes
  • Elliott Holt
  • Woody Holton
  • Kay Hooper
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  • Nalo Hopkinson
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  • Tony Horwitz
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  • Hugh Howard
  • James Howe
  • Del Howison
  • Paul Huang
  • Susan Hubbard
  • Mary Hudson
  • Laird Hunt
  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault
  • Gregg Hurwitz
  • Nancy Huston
  • Siri Hustvedt
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  • James Hynes
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  • Allan Ishac
  • Steve Jackson
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  • Linda Jaivin
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  • Michael Jecks
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  • Mary Johnson
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  • Steve Jones
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  • Judy Joseph
  • S.T. Joshi
  • Mike Jung
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  • James Kaplan
  • Jim Kaplan
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  • John Katzenbach
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  • Judith Kelman
  • Ray Kemble
  • Steve Kemper
  • Joshua Kendall
  • Katrina Kenison
  • Brad Kessler
  • Frances Kiernan
  • Martin Kihn
  • Sarah S. Kilborne
  • Daniel M. Kimmel
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  • Dave King
  • Lily King
  • Owen King
  • Stephen King
  • Tabitha King
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Dave Kinney
  • Sheril Kirshenbaum
  • Floris M. Kleijne
  • Christina Baker Kline
  • Alethea Kontis
  • Lily Koppel
  • Anne Korkeakivi
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  • Sally Koslow
  • Alex Kotlowitz
  • Stephen Kotowych
  • Jon Krakauer
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  • Jon Krampner
  • Matthew Kressel
  • Katherine Kurs
  • Dale M. Kushner
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  • Sandra Gail Lambert
  • Anne Landsman
  • Mara Lane
  • Ruth Ryan Langan
  • Joe Lansdale
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  • Linda Lear
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  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Cherie Lee
  • Vicki T. Lee
  • Joan Leegant
  • Con Lehane
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  • Norma Libman
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  • Jayne Anne Phillips
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  • Sarah Ruden
  • Michael Ruhlman
  • Richard Russo
  • Amie Ryan
  • R. C. Ryan
  • Shawna Yang Ryan
  • Cynthia Saltzman
  • Martin A. Samuels
  • Lynda A. Sánchez
  • James Sanders
  • Luc Sante
  • Esmeralda Santiago
  • Mark Sarvas
  • George Saunders
  • Sam Savage
  • Jeff Sharlet
  • Orville Schell
  • Joan Schenkar
  • Ron Schick
  • Stacy Schiff
  • Cathleen Schine
  • Paul Schmid
  • Susan Schneider
  • John Schroeder
  • Daniel Schulman
  • Deborah Schupack
  • Christine Schutt
  • Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  • Edward Schwarzschild
  • John Sedgwick
  • Thomas L. Segerson
  • Scott D. Seligman
  • Maria Semple
  • Linda Gray Sexton
  • Bob Shacochis
  • Lawrence Shainberg
  • Kamila Shamsie
  • Dani Shapiro
  • Susan Shapiro
  • Bruce Shapiro
  • Kathleen Sharp
  • Anna Sheehan
  • Judy Sheehan
  • Gail Sheehy
  • David Shenk
  • Aaron Shepard
  • Stratford Sherman
  • Mike Shevdon
  • Jody Shields
  • Charles J. Shields
  • Peggy Shinner
  • Michael Shnayerson
  • Gary Shockley
  • Jennie Shortridge
  • Elaine Showalter
  • Anita Shreve
  • Susan Shreve
  • Alix Kates Shulman
  • Hampton Sides
  • Larry Siems
  • Joan Silber
  • Peter Silver
  • Kenneth Silverman
  • Dan Simmons
  • April Sinclair
  • Leora Skolkin-Smith
  • Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • Gillian Slovo
  • Jane Smiley
  • Anne Easter Smith
  • April Smith
  • Dwayne Alexander Smith
  • Lane Smith
  • Marion Roach Smith
  • Mark Haskell Smith
  • Sally Bedell Smith
  • Sharon Snyder
  • Amy Sohn
  • Andrew Solomon
  • Deborah Solomon
  • Sherri Somerville
  • Sandi Sonnenfeld
  • William Souder
  • Debra Spark
  • Scott Spencer
  • Mario Spezi
  • Dana Spiotta
  • Hilary Spurling
  • Walter Stahr
  • Nancy Star
  • Lynn Stegner
  • Garth Stein
  • Thomas Steinbeck
  • Sabra Brown Steinsiek
  • Leslie Stella
  • John Stephens
  • Sydney Ladensohn Stern
  • Ian Stewart
  • T.J. Stiles
  • Alexander Stille
  • S.M. Stirling
  • John E. Stith
  • Rebecca Stott
  • Peter Straub
  • Cheryl Strayed
  • Elizabeth Strout
  • Nancy Rubin Stuart
  • Elizabeth Stuckey-French
  • Ned Stuckey-French
  • Michael A. Stusser
  • Alexandra Styron
  • Cheryl Sucher
  • Mark Sullivan
  • Ellen Sussman
  • Robert I. Sutton
  • Terese Svoboda
  • Kiki Swanson
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Alison Sweeney
  • Jon M. Sweeney
  • Will Swift
  • Rachel Swirsky
  • Sam Swope
  • David Tabatsky
  • Marc Talbert
  • David Tallerman
  • Cecilia Tan
  • Dominic Tarn
  • Donna Tartt
  • Nick Taylor
  • Catherine Texier
  • Phyllis Theroux
  • Evan Thomas
  • David Thurlo
  • Lynne Tillman
  • Amy Timberlake
  • M.K. Tod
  • Tabatha A. Tower
  • Peter Trachtenberg
  • James Treadwell
  • Rose Tremain
  • Benjamin Treuhaft
  • Jonathan Tropper
  • Lily Tuck
  • Kenneth Turan
  • William A. Turnage
  • Ann Turner
  • Matthew Paul Turner
  • Scott Turow
  • Frederic Tuten
  • Cameron Tuttle
  • Gene Twaronite
  • Rachel Urquhart
  • Rachel Vail
  • Amanda Vaill
  • Neela Vaswani
  • Patrice Vecchione
  • John Vernon
  • Judith Viorst
  • Milton Viorst
  • Patricia Volk
  • Helena Maria Viramontes
  • Ken Wachsberger
  • Diana Wagman
  • Wendy Wagner
  • Dan Wakefield
  • Amy Waldman
  • Ayelet Waldman
  • Samuel Walker
  • Allison Wallace
  • Benjamin Wallace
  • Carol Wallace
  • Candace Walsh
  • Jess Walter
  • Geoffrey C. Ward
  • Tricia Ware
  • Melanie Warner
  • Frank Warren
  • Rosanna Warren
  • Elisabeth Waters
  • Ian Watson
  • Beck Weathers
  • Eric Weiner
  • Alan Weisman
  • Katherine Weissman
  • Rebecca Wells
  • Marcia Wendorf
  • Skeeter Wesinger
  • Carol Weston
  • Stephen White
  • Dean Whitlock
  • Jutta Wilke
  • Robert Willgren
  • Thomas A. Williams
  • Florence Williams
  • Cheryl Wilson
  • Robley Wilson
  • Simon Winchester
  • Terri Windling
  • Brenda Wineapple
  • Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop
  • Kit Wohl
  • Mary Wolf
  • Linda Wolfe
  • Tobias Wolff
  • Hilma Wolitzer
  • Meg Wolitzer
  • Patricia Smith Wood
  • Monica Wood
  • Summer Wood
  • Stuart Woods
  • Barbara Wright
  • Lawrence Wright
  • Dulce Xerach
  • Lois-Ann Yamanaka
  • Linda Yellin
  • Natasha Yim
  • Jane Yolen
  • Louisa Young
  • Robert Clark Young
  • Caroline Yourcheck
  • Barry Yourgrau
  • Cynthia Zarin
  • Michael Zeilik
  • Thomas Zigal
  • Peter von Ziegesar
  • Richard Zimler
  • Michelle Zink
  • Mitchell Zuckoff
  • Kerry Zukus
  • Maritess Zurbano
  • Markus Zusak

Next: A Letter to Our Readers