Monday, July 21, 2014

More Preston Nonsense

From The Bookseller, in bold italics.
Authors United, the group of writers who signed a letter calling on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette, has said it is “developing a long-term strategy”.
The authors include well-known names such as Paul Auster, David Baldacci, Tracy Chevalier, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Mark Haddon, Sophie Hannah, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, James Patterson, Philip Pullman and Donna Tartt.
Hachette Book Group (HBG) in the US and have been negotiating terms for a number of months now. During the dispute HBG authors have found their books subject to delayed shipping on Amazon, and some have had their books made unavailable for pre-order.
At the beginning of this month affected authors signed a letter, instigated by US writer Douglas Preston, which also called on "loyal readers" to email Amazon founder and c.e.o. Jeff Bezos to "change his mind".
Joe sez: The letter is now up to 798 signatures, plus the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, and the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference.
Color me impressed. They apparently got every author in the SFWA to sign. That's sort of strange, because I think it would be more powerful if the petition maybe listed every one of those authors in the SFWA. But I guess the SFWA had a vote and every member agreed, which is why Preston can add the SFWA to his letter. Or maybe they have some sort of democratic-republic electoral college thingy so the majority speaks for all.

Equally impressive is getting the trust of a dead photographer to lend their support. I mean, who has a bigger vested interest in this issue than Ansel Adams, RIP?

Also, a writing conference signed! That last one is a case of burying the lede, because when a conference develops sentience and can decide to add its signature to a letter, I'd think that's the real mind-blowing part of this story.

But should they keep calling themselves "Authors United"? Shouldn't it be "Some Authors, a Genre Writing Organization, a Trust, and a Sentient Conference United"? 
Why did Preston stop there? Why not add the City of Grand Rapids, the pyramid of Giza, and the Shakespeare Repertory Theater? I have a Mustang, and I admit my car and I sometimes feel differently about the publishing industry. If Preston asked, I bet he could also add "Konrath's Car" to his list of signatories.

But maybe I'm being too picky here. The point is, a lot of authors have joined with Preston to form Authors United.

Except, you know, the thousands that signed our letter.
Preston has now written to the signatories to say that a full-page advert will soon be published in the New York Times, funded by a dozen authors, which will include the letter and the names of the signatories.
Preston also wrote: “This struggle with Amazon may go on for a while. Our group, which we call Authors United, is developing a long-term strategy in case our effort here is not effective. I will be in touch with you about that.

Joe sez: A full page NYT ad! Wow! That has to cost at least $70k! What a bold, impressive statement! You guys are heroes!
“Together, our group comprises many of the finest writers in the English language, with billions of books sold, and we include journalists and authors in every field and genre imaginable and from all levels of success.

Joe sez: Billions of books! Wow! Not just heroes, but rich and powerful, too!

I suppose $70k isn't a lot of money to a group like that, but that's not the point, right? 

I would particularly note that many debut authors have courageously signed this letter. Amazon's recent attempt to dismiss us as a bunch of rich, bestselling authors trying only to protect our income is not going to work.

Joe sez: It certainly does take courage for debut authors, who probably haven't sold billions of books, to sign that letter.

Think of all the money those debut Hachette authors lost out on when Amazon offered to pay them 100% of the price of every book of theirs they sold.

Heck, think of how many of those debut authors could use some of that $70k being used to buy the NYT ad.


So a bunch of rich, bestselling authors, along with a whole writing organization, the ghost of Ansel Adams, and a self-aware writing conference, are blowing money on an ad that I'd argue would be put to better use by helping many of those same debut authors who signed the letter. You know--giving money direct to the suffering authors. Like Amazon offered to. 

Let me think about this a little more.

There have been billions of books sold by this group. I bet, collectively, these authors are worth at least a billion dollars. Seventy grand is like pocket change to them.

A full page NYT ad is a bold statement. In this case, the statement is, "We're so rich we can take out a full page NYT ad." 

But it is still a statement. Authors United feels so strongly that they have courageously banded together to change the publishing industry by making sure authors are treated fairly. For the first time in history, authors have joined forces to influence publishers to raise ebook royalty rates and eliminate unconscionable contract clauses.

They actually have the courage to band together and say, "Hey! We've sold billlions of books, but we're just the 1% of the 1% and 99.99% of our peers are getting screwed by bad publishing deals! So we're going to actually use our power and money to stand up against the hands that feed us and do the right thing!"

Wait... nevermind. My bad. They actually joined forces and are publishing this ad because Amazon took away some pre-order buttons.

But there is still heroism here. As Preston said in his letter:

This is a totally independent effort. No organization, company, or publishing house is sponsoring us.

Well, except for the SFWA and the living/breathing/thinking Hillerman conference (I never would have thought I'd live to see the day when a conference could pass the Turing Test), and good old Ansel Adams, one of our literary greats.

But they may not be sponsoring them, only supporting them. And there are no publisher signatories, so they obviously aren't supporting or sponsoring Authors United either. 

Not directly, anyway. 

If I had to guess, these rich, powerful authors who have earned in excess of a billion dollars actually get their checks signed by publishing houses. But that isn't a conflict of interest at all, because they're doing this independently, and they've already declared they're not taking sides

I mean, they might have called for Amazon, not Hachette, to resolve this dispute. And they might have told people to email Jeff Bezos. But they aren't taking sides. This is in no way self-serving or disingenuous. And the urge to throw up that I'm currently feeling must be entirely unrelated as well.
“We have many loyal and committed readers. They listen when we speak. That represents power; perhaps even enough power to face down one of the world's largest corporations.”

I won't opine about Preston having so much power over his readers that he can get them to do anything more than read his work, but there is a lot of money and power at play here. Money and power that could be used to help authors in mind-blowing ways. To change the industry for the better. To improve conditions across the board.

But instead, they're using it to protect the status quo. And the rich, powerful authors are standing shoulder to shoulder with debut authors who desperately want to someday be rich, powerful authors.

And that, indeed, makes me wince.

Preston no doubt gets better contract terms than EVERY SINGLE DEBUT AUTHOR who signed his silly letter. Is he fighting for them so they can get his preferred terms? Or is he using them so he can keep getting his preferred terms?

Instead of taking out an ad, why not boycott Amazon?

Instead of circulating a letter, why not tell Hachette that if they don't settle right now, you won't ever sign with them again?

Instead of using the media to try to win the court of public opinion, how about you actually take a long look at what you're fighting for and recognize it for the self-serving bullshit it actually is?

Every author who makes over six figures a year and signed that letter should be ashamed of your current behavior. You've conned the hopeful into standing alongside you by dangling the carrot of privilege in front of them. At the same time, you flaunt your wealth with needless, expensive ads, refuse to stand up against your corporate masters--the ones who are truly doing harm in this negotiation--and immediately reject a proposal by Amazon that could have helped those very authors.

I've been blogging for a while. I blog because I'm an activist, and I want to help. Not help myself, but help others who haven't gotten as lucky as I am. I try to remain populist. I try to share information, experience, and advice that others can use. My tone is often harsh, but I do my best to only attack those who are spouting harmful misinformation. I have no skin in this game and no dog in this fight, because I own my rights and didn't sign them away for my lifetime plus 70 years. Whoever wins the Amazon/Hachette dispute makes no difference to me, but I blog about it anyway because I want writers to be informed. This isn't an ideology. It's a business. But there can be helpful business practices, and harmful ones, and I make an honest effort to expose the harmful and spread awareness of the helpful.

However, I've reached a point where I'm so disgusted by the actions of publishers, and the rich and entitled authors who continue to side with those publishers, that I'm dangerously close to losing my cool.

So I'll just let Woody Allen voice my current sentiments.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Barry & Joe Discussing The Guardian Discussing AuthorEarnings

Joe sez: Yesterday, the Guardian reviewed aspects of the latest AuthorEarnings report in an article called, Self-publishing Surging to 31% of Ebook Market, Claims Report.

Barry sez: I’m a big Guardian fan and think it’s great that they’re covering the data AuthorEarnings has been crunching -- data that contradicts a lot of misinformation and legacy industry propaganda. I also think it was entirely sensible for them to reach out to Philip Jones of The Bookseller and Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors for a contrary view.

Joe sez: Maybe they also could have reached out to you for a supporting viewpoint, since you have written for the Guardian. Maybe they didn't have time, or see the need. But I see this as a biased piece questioning AuthorEarnings data.

Barry sez: Well, we can always argue about “balance” or whatever in these matters. In general, I like to see a contrary view. My concern about Jones’s and Solomon’s views isn’t about whether they were pro or con; it’s more that they weren’t very coherent.

Joe sez: We'll get to those views in a moment. What interests me most about the piece is its bias.

We all have bias. And if the media has no bias, it's a classic View From Nowhere case (which is of course itself a form of bias, and an especially insidious one), such as Porter Anderson's recent piece where he refused to take a position. Read the comments and see how he deflects my criticisms. Or rather, refuses to address them. Without bias -- supportable and defensible bias -- reporting becomes stenography.

Barry sez: “Bias” is just the accusatory way of saying, “worldview,” and everyone has a worldview. I’ve written about this at some length elsewhere, including a piece called The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled.

Joe sez: The Guardian is taking a position on the AuthorEarnings report. The position is skeptical, and Jones and Solomon are quoted to support that skepticism.

Barry sez: I think that’s a fair characterization. Again, I don’t care so much about a writer’s worldview so much as I do with whether that worldview is logically coherent and supported by evidence.

Joe sez: I agree. And I agree it's progress that AuthorEarnings is getting some media attention. But I'm still rolling my eyes at the way the media -- and the industry -- is reacting to the data.

So… on to the Guardian piece itself:

Guardian: A new report claims that self-published authors have surged to 31% of ebook sales on, and are now earning more ebook royalties than writers published by the "Big five" traditional publishers. Despite research published earlier this month finding professional UK authors' incomes plunging below minimum standards...

Joe sez: The diction is fascinating. AuthorEarnings is a report that claims. The UK thing is research that finds.

Barry sez: Hah. It reminds me of that great George Carlin sketch… your things are “shit,” my things are “stuff.” So, “Hey, can you move your shit? I’ve got no room for my stuff.”

Naturally, they would do so again because self-pubbing is a thankless, losing venture that doesn't make any money. You know, except for those "typically recouping their investment plus 40%"

Let's repeat that:

"typically recouping their investment plus 40%"

Once more, this time in unbiased English:

"self-published authors surveyed made money -- a 40% profit at the time of this study"

That last bit the Guardian didn't mention is important, because ebooks are forever. I made 40% profit too. And then the next day, I made more. And the day after. And the month after. And five years after.

When did the profit begin? How soon after publication? How long has it been tracked? (You know -- tracking data, like is doing). 40% is ludicrous. I've invested perhaps $30k in creating ebooks (cover art, proofing, editing, design) and I've made several million dollars. That's more than a 40% return.

Guardian: According to the Bookseller editor Philip Jones there are "large question marks" about Howey's data.

"This is a very narrow selection of a particular type of market at a particular time," he said. "Most people who've looked at this in any depth say you can't extrapolate from bestseller rankings on the Kindle store to a picture of the wider market. Howey sees an ice-cube, and shrieks 'iceberg'."

Barry sez: Wait a minute… “a very narrow selection of a particular type of market at a particular time”? They’re tracking over 100,000 titles! But hang on, let’s ask Data Guy himself...

Data Guy sez: The Author Earnings reports are cross-sectional studies of Amazon ebook sales.

The raw data for each is obtained by a custom-coded Java web Spider software program that crawls the thousands of Amazon category Best Seller lists page by page and then "reads" the Amazon product pages for each of the 100,000+ listed books, extracting each book's title, author, publisher, price, overall Amazon Sales Rank, review counts and scores, and DRM info. It works by parsing the raw html of ebook product pages, following links through all the main and then sub categories. Anything on a product page can be pulled into a spreadsheet cell.

The methodology involves an interplay of four factors: 1) The known overall rank of each title on the Kindle store. 2) The estimated daily sales for those ranks. 3) The sales price of the ebook. 4) And the royalty paid to the author.

1) Is known. 2) Has been compiled by dozens of indies, who note their daily sales at varying ranks, and these rates match up and are regularly re-checked. 3) Is known. 4) Is known for self-published titles and well-estimated for all others.

You can tweak (2) and (4) as much as you want and not break the conclusions found in our reports, which is that self-published authors have taken sizeable market share of ebook royalties on the largest bookseller in the world.

Joe sez: I believe the only way to deny the results of the AuthorEarnings data is to say that Amazon sales rank doesn't correlate to the number of books sold. Which is VERY presumptuous. When Amazon sneezes, a thousand indies check Jeff's pulse. If Amazon was tampering with rank, someone would be able to show it.

Almost all media sales follow a power curve. Looks like a hockey stick. You can adjust this curve all you like, but since the distribution of indies to traditionally published authors is even and consistent, it doesn't change the results. Move a legacy book up in sales by its rank, and the neighboring indies go up. Move an indie book down in sales per rank, and neighboring trad books go down.

What Data Guy discovered, in essence -- by looking deeper into the data than anyone had before -- was three things:

1) It isn't just indies in the top 100 taking up 25 - 30% of slots; it goes all the way into the top 100,000+ titles on Amazon.

2) It isn't just 99 cent works selling at high clips; it's a range of prices.

3) The difference in royalty rates (5.6x) more than makes up for the difference in price and ranking.

What is the opposing argument? I haven’t heard it from Jones or Solomon...

Barry sez: And who are the “most people” etc. Jones refers to? In the absence of any names or citations, I don’t know how to interpret the phrase other than as “my cronies who share my thoughts and want to believe the same things I do.”

Which, from a guy criticizing others for a lack of scientific rigor, is a bit disappointing.

Joe sez: I like Jones's iceberg analogy, but not in the way he'd want me to.

An iceberg is the visible part of something potentially much larger. The phrase "tip of the iceberg" has become cliche because we’re all aware of this. Equating ice-cubes to an iceberg is like equating the tip of the iceberg to the rest of the iceberg.

Perhaps if Captain Smith had been paying closer attention to ice-cubes, the Titanic wouldn't have sunk.

Howey sees what thousands of indie authors have known individually, and he and Data Guy are proving in the aggregate. We're making a ton of money. But because this is an untracked shadow industry, only individuals (and those we share data with) have known this.

Of course, Amazon also knows this. And they're so confident in the money indies are making that they began the Kindle Unlimited program, offering readers unlimited access to ebooks and audiobooks, many of them self-pubbed in KDP Select.

Being in KDP Select means being exclusively on Kindle. Amazon is so sure they, and their authors, will make money, they're using Kindle Unlimited as a perk to entice more self-published authors to go exclusive with them.

Ice-cube? It's a frickin' glacier the size of a continent.

Guardian: While Howey has sparked an important conversation about author earnings, Jones continued, the report's positioning and aggressive rhetoric obscures much of its value.

"The fact that we don't know who this 'Data Guy' is or where he's come from suggest that we should take the Author Earnings report with a large pinch of salt," Jones said.

Barry sez: So… someone compiles data from public sources and analyzes it. He provides full information about his sources and his methodology and publishes all of the raw data for the world to cross-check. And Jones prefers to ignore all of that in favor of, what? The absence of a long-form birth certificate?

The proper criticism of reports like the ones coming from AuthorEarnings is (1) your numbers aren’t accurate; and (2) your methodology is flawed. The fact that Jones is unwilling to engage AuthorEarnings on those two issues, and instead wants only to discuss who Data Guy is and where he (or she) comes from, is incredibly telling. Apparently Jones can’t dispute the numbers, he can’t dispute the methods, and he can’t dispute the findings. So he goes for the far less relevant “how can we trust this guy” dodge, instead.

On balance, Jones’s reaction is about as powerful an endorsement of the importance and accuracy of AuthorEarning’s conclusion as we could reasonably hope for at this point. So as an AuthorEarning’s fan, I just want to say… Thank you, Philip. :)

Joe sez: Apparently two plus two only equals four if the one saying it shows his credentials. And his driver's license, to prove where he lives.

"where he's come from"? Seriously?

Guardian: "I think of it more as part of Amazon's PR effort, rather than an objective overview of the digital marketplace,” [Jones said].

Joe sez: If Amazon wanted to issue a press release on how much money indies are actually making, the publishing industry would cry "No way!" and call Amazon a bunch of liars.

But Amazon doesn't feel the need to. And Jones doesn't want to see the threat, so he talks himself out of admitting there is one. Classic deer in headlights. Stand very still, and maybe the car speeding at you at 65mph won't notice you and subsequently run you over.

Barry sez: It’s pretty amazing that one sentence after acknowledging “we don't know who this 'Data Guy' is or where he's come from,” Jones accuses him of being part of an Amazon PR effort. “We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s from the Death Star!”

Joe sez: It's a trap!

Barry sez: It’s okay (indeed, unavoidable) to be biased. But you have to support your bias with logic, consistency, and evidence. Bias expressed like Jones’s makes your worldview untrustworthy and unpersuasive.

Guardian: The report's treatment of literary fiction is a case in point, he added. "In the real world, literary fiction is a vibrant market, albeit smaller in sales than commercial fiction, and so far not an attractive purchase for your average Kindle user.”

Joe sez: Of course lit fiction is a vibrant market, as evidenced by its constant appearance on the bestseller lists.

Er, I mean look how big the lit fic section is in bookstores.

Uh… look, lit fiction is important to culture. We all value culture, right?

Barry sez: I have to ask… what is Philip's “real world”?  With zero data or citations behind his claim, what can a reader conclude except that Philip's “real world” is the evidence-hostile zone that exists only inside his own head?

Joe sez: Did you catch Jones's informal fallacy? Because Hugh's report didn't give lit fic enough credit in Jones's opinion, Hugh's report can be entirely dismissed.

Once you starting eating a bowl of fail, it's apparently difficult to stop...

Guardian: “I see this as less a problem with the canon, and more an issue for the platform,” [Jones said].

Barry sez: LOL… of course! Because after all, unlike those lazy benighted people who rely on data for their conclusions, Philip is able to see the Real World.

I’m not sure how to measure “vibrancy,” or even quite what Jones means by it. Maybe he’s confusing an objective report about size of the market -- that is, number of books sold -- with importance? The definition and importance of the canon Jones refers to is an interesting and worthy topic, much debated on university campuses. But when he responds to a report on data with a rejoinder on “vibrancy,” you get the feeling that he’s trying hard not to hear.

Which, I should I add, I understand. No one wants to hear unwelcome news. But it’s important to be aware of that innate reluctance, and to try to guard against rather than surrendering to it.

Joe sez: He is the editor of The Bookseller. He knows more than we do.

Barry sez: It is indeed important to evaluate opinions primarily on who the opining party is and where she comes from.

Guardian: “But I've yet to see Howey look at a piece of data, and not seek to pass it off as a problem big publishers have caused," [Jones said].

Joe sez: Which Jones ably defends by citing…

Wait, he didn't defend it. No links, no quotes by Hugh, no references taken from

It's okay to have an opinion. I prefer my opinions to be informed, and defensible.

I suppose someone could look at AuthorEarnings and come to the conclusion that it’s somehow about the problems big publishers have caused. I happen to think its a collection of data that shows how much authors are earning. Hence the URL,

Barry sez: Yes, “I’ve yet to see Howey” is particularly beautiful coming immediately after Jones’s evidence-free assertions about Data Guy being an Amazon shill and literary fiction being vibrant in the Real World.

Guardian: According to Jones, authors and publishers would welcome an "adult debate" about ebook sales and author earnings, but in the absence of sales figures from Amazon that's just not possible.

"Nobody has a good view of this market, because Amazon holds all the data and doesn't share it," he said. "Anyone who claims otherwise is just making it up."

Barry sez: As opposed to all the legacy industry’s well-known data-sharing generosity…?

And Jones claims the Data Guy is a shill?!

I’m sorry to keep coming back to it, but this is another really great example of the pernicious effects of unexamined, unchecked bias. Yes, Amazon is secretive. But what does it mean when someone criticizes only Amazon for the very same secrecy that characterizes the entire legacy industry?

And what’s particularly amazing about Jones’s misleading claim is that the only data available to AuthorEarnings -- the only information they could use to extrapolate their results -- comes from Amazon! The legacy industry is a like a black hole -- you can’t see it directly, so you have to examine it obliquely through data that can be gleaned from Amazon. You know, the data Amazon won’t share.

Joe sez: Hold on a second. Are you saying that legacy author royalty statements aren't transparent and easy to understand? Or that prior to Nielsen Bookscan (a third party), publishers' data wasn't accessible by everyone?

I gotta shake my head in wonder. Attacking your opponent for doing the same thing you're doing is ridiculous.

So... Data Guy is either:

1) making up the data he got from Amazon 


2) the data he acquired somehow doesn't count because Amazon isn't the one who compiled it.

Why do I get the feeling that if Amazon did compile and release their own data, there would still be widespread disbelief?

Barry sez: What you’d likely hear then is that Amazon’s published data is false, while the legacy industry’s nonexistent data is reliable.

Joe sez: What's the term when a person refuses to acknowledge they are in danger, so they don't act at all?

Barry sez: You mean denial? I’m not sure if there’s a formal name. The phenomenon is, “I’m not acting, and even though my position is worsening, I’m not dead… and that thing out there is really scary. So I’m going to keep on not acting because so far I haven’t died." But I don’t know the name for it. A kind of denial, I guess.

Joe sez: I see a lot of that happening on all sides in this industry--authors, publishers, media, anyone connected to this biz. Lots of people refusing to give any credence to the very real threat of the two-headed monster in the room: self-publishing and Amazon.

Ignore it, discredit it, deny it, downplay it, pretend it isn't there.

Guardian: The general secretary of the Society of Authors, Nicola Solomon, welcomed Howey's attempt to shed light on a rapidly changing market, though suggested his conclusions should be treated with caution.

"First, these figures don't look at sales of print books, which will still be a major part of the earnings from a Big five publisher.”

Joe sez: Uh, didn't AuthorEarnings look at sales of print books on Amazon?

Barry sez: What’s that saying? “It’s not the things you don’t know that’ll get you. It’s the things you know that just ain’t so.”

And often, the things we know that just ain’t so are the product of a desire to believe something. If that desire is deep enough, it’ll cause people to overlook easily available evidence, as seems to be the case with Solomon here.

Guardian: “Even if you look at ebooks only, these figures don't take into account the risk and up-front costs which self-published authors take on themselves," [Solomon] said, "nor the impact of advances received by a traditionally-published author."

Barry sez: What “risk” are self-publishers undertaking? They control their rights. Self-publishing a book today doesn’t preclude legacy-publishing it tomorrow. You might coherently argue that self-publishing offers limited upside. But to argue that it involves material risk makes no sense. The real risk is in the legacy route, where you give up your rights forever pretty much no matter how things turn out.

As for the upfront costs of self-publishing, I would argue that these are relatively trivial. And there are plenty of costs involved in the legacy route, such as a dramatically lower per-unit royalties, vastly slower time-to-market, a permanent loss of rights, etc.

There’s a species of logical fallacy I see again and again in the publishing revolution, and it fascinates me. There’s probably formal nomenclature for it (and if you know it, please tell me in the comments!), but what I’m talking about is the tendency to attribute a negative trait only to the feared outgroup -- when it applies at least equally to the desired ingroup. A trivial example would be a Republican claiming, “Democrats lie!” Or a Democrat claiming the opposite. When in fact, obviously, all politicians lie.

So to try to dismiss AuthorEarning’s findings because the findings don’t discuss the (illusory) risks and (low) costs of self-publishing -- while failing to mention (and thereby implying the non-existence of) the real risks and high costs of legacy-publishing -- is deeply misleading.

Guardian: The report offers a snapshot of sales at only one retailer, she continued.

Barry sez: Over 100,000 bestselling titles is a “snapshot”? I’d call it a gigantic mural, at least. Has anyone ever crunched more numbers than AuthorEarnings? BookScan only examines a fraction of books sold, yet BookScan data is widely accepted as gospel. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that some people were -- consciously or unconsciously -- trying to deposition AuthorEarnings only because they don’t like its conclusions.

Guardian: "Do these figures really mean you should self-publish and ignore a traditional publishing deal?” [Solomon said]. “Well, no, not necessarily." But with self-publishing becoming increasingly attractive for many authors, traditional publishers need to offer more, she continued. "They should be offering better rates – 25% of net receipts is simply not fair – and they should be offering shorter timeframes on contracts before rights should either revert to the author or be up for renegotiation."

Joe sez: I don't think anyone is saying that legacy deals should be ignored. If I were offered a legacy deal, I'd consider it. Any reasonable person would consider any reasonable author.

But I doubt any legacy deal would tempt me. Their terms are too onerous. I agree with Solomon that legacy royalties are too low, and shorter timeframes are needed, but that's just (pardon me) the tip of the iceberg.

When authors can earn 70% and control their rights, and AuthorEarnings shows that how self-pubbing authors are earning more than legacy authors, any reasonable person should be paying attention.

And you do have to wonder… why is the general secretary of the Society of Authors using language that shows bias against self-pubbing, which is demonstrably beneficial to authors? Why the fear?

Barry sez: Well, this was a fun and interesting opportunity to examine some of the revealing human reactions to disruptive change in an industry. But I don’t want to lose sight of what we started with: it’s great that AuthorEarnings, despite their unwelcome conclusions, is getting increased attention in the mainstream media. So thank you, Guardian -- and Philp and Nicola, if we’ve misunderstood you or mischaracterized anything you’ve said, we’d love to hear from you in the comments (we’d love to hear from you generally). Most of all, we hope more authors will follow so they have better information to make better decisions for themselves. Because if there’s one thing probably everyone can agree on, it’s that writers have choices today that we never had before -- and that we should do what we can to ensure we’re making the best choices possible.