Saturday, March 10, 2012

Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow

Scott Turow, President of the Big Publishers Club (aka the Authors Guild) just blogged about the Department of Justice lawsuit against legacy publishing’s agency pricing model. I talked about how unfair agency pricing was to Amazon and to authors two years ago. I think I was pretty prescient about the future of ebooks, and of publishing, even if my numbers weren't nearly as optimistic as they could have been.

So now President Turow has written a call to arms, warning writers of the dangers of Amazon and the DoJ. I asked my buddy, bestselling novelist Barry Eisler, if he wanted to join me in commenting on the piece. Barry’s got a good bullshit detector and from time to time we’ve had fun dissecting and exposing obfuscation like Scott’s (see our thoughts on Hachette’s “We are Still Relevant” memo).

Scott's original words are in italics; my and Barry’s reaction follow in plain text.

Here we go...

Yesterday's report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

Joe: Translation: It will be grim news for bestselling authors and billion-dollar publishers.

Barry: I always wonder what people mean by these vague references to “rich literary culture” (and when I see the same phrase crop up in more than one place, it really sets my bullshit detector tingling). Ordinarily, these buzzwords sound appealing in the abstract, but dissolve like an urban legend when subjected to a bit of thought.

The only books that contribute to a rich literary culture are the ones sold at agency (meaning collusively high) prices by legacy publishers? Or sold through independent bookstores? The publishing establishment must be free to collude on prices or culture will perish? The publishing establishment contributes more to culture than books themselves? The publishing establishment is culture?

That’s Scott’s argument? It’s a strange one.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher's sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

Joe: Translation: Under the Apple model, publishers can set their own prices. That isn't Amazon's model, but if enough of us band together (i.e. collusion), publishers can force Amazon to accept the prices publishers set.

Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge.

Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, "We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can't bargain." Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn't necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple's offer and clung to it like a life raft.

Joe: Translation: It could be that publishers didn't collude, but all independently came to the same conclusion and independently presented it to Amazon at the same time with exactly the same terms.

Barry: Like the coincidental lockstep 17.5% digital royalties offered in all legacy publishing contracts. These things just happen sometimes. By accident.

Joe: Could be some sort of hive mind. Or psychic powers. I wonder if the DoJ will believe the "it's-just-random-luck" defense.

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Joe: Translation: Amazon was using free enterprise to gain market share, something that worries inferior competition.

Barry: Oh, come on. Amazon’s lower prices were intended to “destroy bookselling?” Not to sell more books and gain market share? It’s ipso facto evil to compete via lower prices?

I really wish all companies would collude to charge higher prices. The world would be a better place.

Joe: The Big Publishing Cartel monopolizes distribution for decades and that's fine, but some upstart comes in and starts treating authors and readers with consideration, and it is a call to arms.

Barry: This argument is just bizarre. I mean, Amazon, which sells more books than anyone, is destroying bookselling? Amazon is destroying bookselling by selling tons of books?

Watch the linguistic dodge: Scott is implicitly arguing that the only model that counts as “bookselling” is the current model, built and maintained by legacy publishers and brick-and-mortar stores. That is, “bookselling = physical bookstores. Online bookselling doesn’t count as bookselling.” He’s arguing as though physical booksellers are the only legitimate organisms in the forest, while Amazon is some sort of exotic interloping alien species rampaging through a healthy native ecosystem. This is the only way to make sense of an argument that states, “Amazon is destroying bookselling by selling so many books.”


Why not just state the argument clearly? After all, Scott is former litigator and presumably knows how to write a careful legal brief. He could have said, “Amazon’s low prices were attracting so many customers to online bookselling that brick-and-mortar stores were suffering.” But the reaction to such an argument is much more likely to be, “Well, that’s sad, but it sounds like the way of the world. Like the record stores. I guess you can’t fight technology.” So instead, he wrote, “Amazon is destroying bookselling!” Which sounds evil and scary and is therefore a better call to arms. The problem is, this is a terribly tendentious way to state the argument, and it’s also a contradiction in terms. Maybe Scott would also argue that Apple is destroying computer-selling by selling so many computers, but logically, it’s pretty hard to see how someone could destroy bookselling by selling tons of books. In arguing that bookselling is destroying bookselling, Scott is making his biases as clear as his argument is turbid.

Joe: I love the term uneconomic. A synonym would be "someone else is giving customers what they want."

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers.

Joe: Translation: Amazon listened to the thousands of complaints of its customers, who, incidentally, are also the customers of the major publishers.

Barry: “Old practices”? We’re talking about digital books. Amazon only released the Kindle in 2007. Scott makes it sound like windowing -- the practice by which publishers forced people who like digital books to wait for six months following the paper release -- is some sort of august, revered tradition dating back to the glorious dawn of legacy publishing.

But the main thing is, I hate when innovation forces stodgy companies to break old practices. Especially when the old practice prevented people who wanted books from obtaining them instantly, easily, and inexpensively, with unlimited choice.

This might as well read, “Newcomer’s innovation forces legacy player to adapt... bad newcomer! Bad!”

Again, what kind of biases would cause someone to use such misleading language and to adopt such an anti-innovation position?

Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss.

Joe: Translation: Amazon was being competitive, while also giving customers what they wanted. Which meant publishers and authors benefited, since they were getting higher royalties from ebooks than paper books.

Prior to the agency model, ebooks were sold to Amazon at 50% of the hardcover price. Authors got 25% of what the publisher received. So Amazon could sell Rain Fall at $4.99, and you'd get $3.12 while your publisher made $9.37. Now Signet sells it at $7.99, and you get $1.39 and Signet only makes $4.19.

And we both know that $4.99 sells more copies than $7.99.

Shame on you, Amazon! How dare you take a loss while authors and publishers make more money!

Barry: Here’s the overall state of play. Amazon identified a lower-cost and otherwise more efficient way to distribute books -- digitally. They developed the Kindle and sold digital titles at a loss to build and accelerate the growth of digital distribution. I don’t think you can call this strategy evil anymore than you can describe as evil legacy’s publishing’s countervailing strategy of trying to retard the growth of digital through high digital prices and delayed digital releases.

But I do think you can call one smart and the other dumb.

Joe: When publishers forced the agency model on Amazon, suddenly Amazon made a profit on each ebook sold.

That's the way to win a war? By arming your enemy? Okay...

This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon's predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon's deep pockets.

Joe: Translation: Amazon was trying to gain market share by taking a loss.

Barry: And accelerate the transition to a kind of book distribution that would involve lower costs, lower prices, more books sold, and higher profits. I can understand how this might feel “predatory” to a player tethered to a paper world, just as it probably felt predatory to record stores when music started getting distributed via mp3. Probably customer-centric innovation always feels predatory to any legacy player who for whatever reason isn’t inclined or able to adapt.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.

Joe: Translation: The consumer must consume media the way we want them to, not the way they want to.

Barry: Yes, and the establishment entitlement mentality is clear in his Netflix example, too. Because absent some sort of contractual obligation, so what if Netflix decided it could better serve customers and grow its market share by not forcing customers to watch movies the way movie theaters want them watched? Look, I wouldn’t blame theaters for trying to force a waiting period onto customers who would otherwise just watch the movie at home (though I don’t think fighting your customers is typically a good business model). But I also wouldn’t blame Netflix for adopting a countervailing strategy of giving customers what they want. But Scott is arguing that if Netflix acted to give customers what they want, they would be doing something unfair and illegitimate. In his mind, movie theaters are older, establishment players, and the newcomers of the world, like Netflix, must play by those old establishment rules or else they’re unfairly “undermining” those old establishment businesses. Disrupting, certainly, but “undermining”?

By the way, I bet Blockbuster felt Netflix was totally undermining them with predatory practices when Netflix started distributing movies by mail as part of a subscription service. I'd also bet cable TV companies felt threatened when Netflix began to stream videos. Again, this is just how it typically feels to be on the wrong end of innovation.

Joe: Here's the thing: those "furious" publishers were getting paid! Amazon didn't steal anything from them. Amazon didn't change the contracts it had with them. Amazon chose to take a loss -- a loss that is within their right to decide on, and a loss that gave publishers and authors more money than the agency model. And frightened publishers still tried to stop it, it seems, by colluding.

If Netflix paid James Cameron 10 billion dollars to release Avatar 2 through Netflix, rather than through theaters, how would that be unfair?

Barry: Also, there are so many things wrong with the way paper publishing has traditionally done business (consignment and returns, for example) that it’s a little disingenuous to blame Amazon for “undermining the hardcover market.” The hardcover market, as designed and managed by legacy publishing, had already done a fairly good job of undermining itself.

I imagine when Michael Dell figured out that he could lower costs and prices and provide custom computers direct by phone and website orders, HP complained that he was undermining their network of brick and mortar resellers. Again, this is a natural and probably universal reaction, but that doesn’t make it a logical or desirable one.

I can’t help but smile too at Scott’s acknowledgment that Amazon sells a shitload of paper books through its online store. Same guys who are destroying bookselling. Again, they’re destroying bookselling by selling tons of books? Those devious bastards, I knew they were up to something!

I don’t mean to be hard on Scott and I love his books, but the more I read his arguments, the more I see at work an exceptionally establishment mindset.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format).

Joe: Translation: With Amazon’s low pricing, a great ereading device, and a smart online store, people want to shop there.

Two years after it introduced the Kindle, Amazon continued to take losses on a deep list of e-book titles, undercutting hardcover sales of the most popular frontlist titles at its brick and mortar competitors.

Joe: Translation: Amazon took a huge gamble, when no one else in publishing was willing to.

Barry: How dare they sell a lower-priced format that more and more customers prefer compared to the high-priced formats legacy publishers had always forced on them!

It was also totally unfair to record companies when digitization and online music downloads eliminated their ability to force consumers to buy an entire CD instead of the one or two songs consumers wanted.

I know I’m repeating myself, but... the biases behind these arguments are fascinating. And telling.

Joe: I paid $17 for the song Tubthumping because I couldn't get the single. I got knocked down, but I got up again. You're never gonna keep me down.

Barry: Look, you can build a business by forcing your choices on consumers (commonly known as monopoly rents), or you can build one by figuring out what consumers would prefer -- and giving it to them. Consumers like buying books online and they like digital books. You can argue that all such consumers are evil or that they’re morons, but they like what they like, and innovative companies will try to serve them. That’s what's going on here, and legacy players would do better to compete than to complain. They might still lose, but competing would at least be more dignified.

Joe: The whiny dog gets fed. At least it hopes it does. It's much easier to whine for your supper than hunt for it.

Those losses paid huge dividends. By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Joe: Translation: Jeff Bezos's left foot is smarter than everyone at the Big 6 combined, and his right foot has more balls then all of publishing combined.

Amazon created a new market that readers embraced and that the competition was ill-equipped to cope with. That's their crime.

Barry: I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic because it must suck to be part of a long-established business ecosystem suddenly faced with a radically innovative new entrant that has discovered and is aggressively promoting a better way of doing the very business you thought was yours to own. But still... this is just the history of technological disruption in industry. It must have sucked for oral storytellers when Gutenberg invented the printing press. It must have sucked for horse-and-buggy stores when car dealers started opening, too. It must have sucked for telegraph companies when people started using phones instead. It must have sucked for typewriter manufacturers when word-processors became the norm. It must have sucked for record stores when music started being sold online.

Joe: It must have sucked for travel agents when Expedia and Priceline arrived. It must have sucked for writers when...

Oh, wait. Writers are the essential part of this business. Writers are the content providers. Without the content, there is no industry, digital or otherwise.

Funny how Scott seems to be forgetting that.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple's iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple's model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Joe: Translation: Authors would also make less money.

Isn't Scott Turow president of the fucking AUTHORS GUILD?

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time - it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon's discounting destroy their physical distribution chain.

Joe: Translation: "We're going to lose our jobs! Let's break the law!"

Barry: It might be true that they had no choice, in the way it’s true that once you’ve made every mistake possible in a jiu-jitsu match, you have no choice but to tap out. But that doesn’t free you of responsibility for all the things you did that put you in such an untenable position in the first place. Why didn’t big publishing develop online bookstores? Why didn’t big publishing develop digital readers? Why didn’t big publishing pioneer low-cost, instant, anywhere/anytime digital book distribution? Why did they wait until someone else innovated in all these areas, and in others, too?

Joe: It's even worse than that. When the climate started to change, why didn't they dress appropriately for it? If it drops below freezing, you put on a coat and hat. If the sun is blazing, you slap on sunscreen. But publishers seem to have done everything possible to retard change rather than adapt to it.

Barry: Yes, from the way Scott writes it, you’d think legacy publishers are just sweet, good-natured people, minding their business and doing a fine job, when all of a sudden a completely illegitimate shitstorm starts raining down on them from a clear blue sky. This is business, people. It’s supposed to be competitive. If you lie around lazy and complacent, you can’t really complain when someone adaptive and aggressive comes along and eats the lunch you’d long ago started taking for granted.

Joe: So now there is competition from Amazon, and Scott complains it’s unfair. The irony is that authors could easily claim the legacy publishing industry treated them unfairly, and that Amazon is now giving all authors a chance to make money. We had no choice before. We took the table scraps we were offered.

Now we finally have a choice. And the Authors Guild would rather fight it than embrace it.

Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores.

Joe: Translation: Now where am I supposed to buy my Abba LPs and Toto 8-tracks?

Barry: This is actually a good example. Record stores disappeared because people found they preferred buying music online. When enough people prefer one kind of technology to another -- cars over horses for transport, electric lights over candles for everyday lighting, online shopping over brick and mortar, digital books over paper -- the only way to stop it is through some sort of monopolistic power, or collusion. Or government intervention.

Joe: That's something the Big 6, the Authors Guild as headed by Scott, and all the brick-and-mortar booksellers, don't seem to understand.

Amazon isn't to blame. Consumers are to blame. They vote with their wallets. And they aren't voting for you because they found something they like better.

That's why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple's agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

Joe: Translation: The Authors Guild is in bed with Big Publishing. Why else would we support writers making less money?

If someone is going to dominate me, I'd prefer the dominator who can make me more cash. That said, the whole "What will happen when Amazon controls the world and creates robots that suck human blood" argument is silly. The Big 6 have been sucking my blood for a decade. We're supposed to fear what Amazon might do, while ignoring the teeth in our necks right now?

Our concern about bookstores isn't rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling.

Joe: Translation: Oops, I apparently forgot the part above where I stated Amazon controlled 75% of the physical book market.

Barry: Actually, I would argue that the Authors Guild concern about bookstores is very much rooted in sentiment. “Bookstores are critical to modern bookselling”? This is like arguing the telegraph is critical to modern communication.

As I pointed out above, Scott argues that what’s central to a “rich literary culture” isn’t books, but rather legacy publishers and brick-and-mortar stores. If this isn’t a sentimental concern, I don’t know what is.

Think about this sentiment. It’s built on the premise that what’s central to the religion isn’t the sacraments, but rather the priests. Now, I can understand how, if you feel like you’re one of the priests, you’ll naturally look at the world this way. We all tend to think we’re the indispensable actors in the dramas we take part in. But reality is otherwise. Books (that is, literature) are what’s central to a rich literary culture. Not who sells them. Not how they’re sold. Arguing otherwise is worse than narcissistic and elitist. It’s wrong.

Does this sound familiar? Actual priests reacted in a similar way to the advent of the vernacular bible. Bookstores and reviewers acted this way when Amazon first enabled customer reviews. Customers reviewing books? Unfiltered, unaided? But they might say anything! And what about female suffrage? Women, voting? Are you serious? But don’t they need men to guide them?

As I’ve said elsewhere, “I'm not a historian, but I have a feeling that in every revolution, as a certain class loses its erstwhile power and privileges, there will be people who fear the loss of that class will lead to an erosion of structure, of standards, even of civilization itself.”

Joe: Yet structure, standards, and civilization all still remain. This belief is rooted in existence bias.

Barry: Yes. Sott is sounding very much like one of those fearful people, and his arguments flow from his fear. His sentiments about the critical importance of how books are sold and by whom is just a current example of an establishment mindset reacting to the forces of democratization.

Joe: I've reached many more readers through Amazon than I have through every brick-and-mortar bookstore in the entire world combined. Ebooks don't require a publisher to distribute them. THAT is modern bookselling.

I've also made the case that people who think they love paper books are actually confused. They conflate the story on the printed page with the story in their heads. If you really think paper books are better, would you ever spend time touching, smelling, and objectifying a book with no words in it?

Barry: I don’t know. Personally, I’m happy with whatever way people want to read books -- paper, digital, stone tablets, audio...

Joe: You're biased about audio, because you perform your own audiobooks. And you owe me $50 for linking to them.

Barry: I love listening to audiobooks! But I love doing the narration myself, too.

Anyway, as long as people read literature, I think we’ll enjoy a rich literary culture. By comparison, where, how, and from whom they buy their books doesn’t strike me as particularly important.

Joe: I like bookstores. But I also like surfing Amazon; reading the customer reviews, clicking on the suggestions Amazon gives me (which are often amazingly on-target), flipping through samples. However, both are a means to an end. I'm looking for something to buy. It’s ultimately about destination value versus journey value.

Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online. In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it's by far the best way for new works to be discovered.

Joe: Translation: But I won't share these studies with you, or tell you who funded them. Also, anyone who surfs Amazon for books is apparently a coward and a moron who can't find anything to read.

Barry: Yeah, that was a weird argument. Online, readers aren’t open to trying new genres and authors? That hasn’t been my experience, but maybe I’m atypical. And I would love a few cites to those “by far” studies he says he’s relying on.

But look, even if in Scott’s mind brick-and-mortar stores are somehow better than online shopping, this doesn’t change the fact that readers increasingly prefer online shopping. I love brick-and-mortar stores (though I’ve visited so many on book tours I sometimes have flashbacks when I go inside) and I’ll be sad if they die out, but you can’t fight customer preferences. Well, you can, but again only via monopoly power or by getting the government to intervene. If consumers are left to their own devices, they just seem increasingly to prefer online shopping.


This isn’t to say nothing will be lost if brick-and-mortar stores go away. Something is always lost when a new technology or system replaces an old one. Something was lost when oral storytelling was replaced by writing; when typewriting replaced penmanship; when phone calls replaced letters; when cars replaced horse-drawn carriages. But this is the way of the world. You can fight it, or try to adapt.

Publishing shouldn't have to choose between bricks and clicks.

Joe: Translation: Publishing wants to sell paper books, because it controls the paper market. Now that Amazon controls the ebook market, publishing is scared shitless.

Barry: See how Scott’s piece is really about publishing, not about authors or readers? Because readers are choosing between bricks and clicks. So what does it mean that publishers shouldn’t have to? Publishers shouldn’t have to go in a direction dictated by end-user customers? Why shouldn’t they? Scott is arguing that publishers shouldn’t have to run their businesses based on what end-user customers want. Why not? What logic can we invoke that might create some special dispensation for publishers from the laws of business physics? It just doesn’t make sense -- except by resort to the kind of sentiment Scott claims isn’t part of his position.

I have to say, it’s odd to see such a legacy publishing-centric article written by the president of something called The Authors Guild. I know you could try to make a “What’s good for legacy publishing is good for authors” argument, and that is what Scott is implicitly doing, but still. The logic and connection are pretty strained.

Joe: Has any business succeeded by punishing the consumer? DRM, high prices, windowing, long lag times from manuscript completion to market, restriction of new works (aka the lovely non-compete clause), all seem to show disdain for readers.

But at least legacy publishers make up for that by treating writers so well.

A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers. Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution. While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.

Joe: Translation: Apple is really smart, so publishers just did what Apple said. They were just following orders when they broke the law and colluded, because they didn't think a company as smart as Apple would get in trouble with the DoJ.

Barry: This is just silly. “Apple sells electronics through brick-and-mortar stores and an online store, so books have to be sold the same way”?

What does Apple selling electronics have to do with booksellers selling books? You could as easily point to Amazon, which has only an online store and sells more books than anyone (though there are rumors they’re going to experiment with brick-and-mortar). Or to groceries, which are generally available only in brick-and-mortar. Saying, “Hey, computers are sold effectively this way, so books should be, too,” is just not a sensible argument for anything.


And by the way, a huge portion of Apple’s business is only available online. They’ve sold over 25 billion apps, and not one of them through a brick-and-mortar store. They’re the world’s biggest music seller -- also not available in brick-and-mortar. By Scott’s logic, Apple better start selling apps and music in its brick-and-mortar stores -- a robust marketplace demands it!

Speaking of which, that language is interesting. Scott says “a robust marketplace” is what demands online and brick-and-mortar bookstores. I think what he’s doing is avoiding the real demand that’s out there -- consumer demand for lower-priced digital books, sold online. I don’t know what marketplace he’s invoking, but consumer demand is the only market that really matters.

If you doubt me, take it from Scott. He himself points out that “While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.” Indeed, Apple stores are opening and bookstores are closing, most likely because of the nature of the market for each. If the market demanded otherwise, as Scott would have you believe, you’d have a different result.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes. Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart.

Joe: Translation: I'm rich, bitches!

I like how Scott seems to be lamenting the pre-Napster era. It underlines his ridiculous views about piracy and how he obviously pines for the days of old.

Hey, Scott? Napster revolutionized the music industry. More people than ever have more access to more music because of downloads and file-sharing. In part because of Napster, a computer company (one you seem to venerate) has become the biggest seller of music in the world.

Trying to fight piracy is like building sand castles to stop the tide. The Internet was created to share information. You can't police ones and zeros. Nor can you charge as much for them as a tangible paper product that is printed, shipped, returned, shipped again, returned again, and ultimately discounted without the author making a dime.

But what I really despise about this paragraph is the thinly veiled argument of, "I'm not going to be affected because I'm a name brand, but all of you who don't make as much as I do had better beware, because if bookstores go away you'll never be rich like me."

Seriously? Once bookstores disappear, people will only read name-brand bestsellers?

Actually, the opposite is happening. Scott should check some Kindle bestseller lists and see how many indies are outselling him.

Barry: This is another argument I don’t understand. Branded authors will always be in a better position than newbies -- it’s why any smart author will work hard to develop her brand. But what is Scott’s evidence that the existence of brick-and-mortar stores somehow levels the playing field between branded and new authors? You’ve argued convincingly the opposite: that it’s digital that creates a more level playing field because digital distribution is open to all authors, while airport kiosks, for example, will only hold so many copies, and the slots go to the big brand names. For example, James Patterson’s sales dwarf yours in paper, but for various titles in digital, you’re neck and neck.

Joe: Patterson is ahead of me, but I'll hit 1,000,000 ebook sales pretty soon.

Barry: At times Scott’s piece really reads like, “Hey you new authors, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! You should just listen to my bromides and be very afraid of a future not governed by the current publishing establishment!” I wonder if, as a strongly branded author, he senses that ubiquitous digital distribution will erode the advantage he currently enjoys, and this sense could be affecting the way he views changes in publishing? We’re all human, and where we stand depends at least in part on where we sit. And maybe he’s grateful to, and attached to, the system through which he became a star and of which he’s now a part.

But regardless, arguing that in an online world, branded authors will crowd out newbies worse than is the case is paper is belied not only by common sense, but also by empirical evidence. For example, in science fiction, of the top 200 Amazon books, 154 were self-published. Why doesn’t Scott address this real-world data? Why argue as though no data even exists?

For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets.

Joe: Translation: I don't read Konrath's blog. If I did, I'd understand how many authors who couldn't thrive in the legacy system are now putting food on their tables with the money they make from their books.

Barry: This is another one that just makes no sense. It sounds sort of appealing when you first hear it, but then you realize it’s gobbledygook. Like when Dick Cheney said at Gerald Ford’s funeral, “He knew there was no healing without pardon.”

No healing without pardon?! There’s no healing without justice, dude. Pardon the guilty and you’ll never have healing. It’s crazy.

Joe: You always digress to politics.

Barry: Digression? I think not! :)

Anyway, what smaller markets is he talking about? Online bookselling is a smaller market than brick-and-mortar? But Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the world. The online market is bigger already, and still growing, even as brick-and-mortar stores close. And the profession of writing is going to get more difficult for new authors without gatekeepers? That’s completely backward.

Joe: The Guild represents authors' interests... those authors who earn large interests on their bank accounts.

Snap!

And publishers won't risk capital where there's no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Joe: Translation: I truly believe my $12.99 ebooks are going to sell as well as my paper books once paper goes the way of vinyl records.

We authors need the many, many services publishers provide in order to effectively convey our messages so we can become brand names like Scott. We need to be micro-managed. We can't get decent editing, or a good cover, without a publisher. We certainly will never reach readers. We're lost without a firm, guiding hand that decides to cut our profits by switching to the agency model, that decides to grab erights even though our contracts never gave permission, that pays us twice a year with an accounting system so archaic it makes the bow and arrow look modern.

And apparently we need the Authors Guild to remind us how helpless and needy we are. Thanks for empowering writers, AG, and showing us that the best way to earn a living during this dramatic period of change is to suck it up, tighten our belts, and put all our faith in the Big 6 as they continue to piss down our backs and call it gentle summer rain.

Barry: Yeah, this is yet another one that just makes no sense. Readers only try unfamiliar works in brick-and-mortar stores, not online? Even when those online books are priced at under three dollars, sometimes under one dollar? Where is the evidence for this astonishingly counter-intuitive proposition? Why doesn’t Scott present it?

Does Scott really believe that traditional publishing gatekeepers are currently expanding reader choice, not restricting it? You could argue that restriction is good, that readers need legacy publishers to act as taste-makers. I wouldn’t agree, but the argument is at least coherent. But choice would be further restricted in an online world? Come on. That’s practically parody, like a network executive admonishing, “Don’t watch anything on YouTube, kids, there’s far less choice there! Let us choose for you, that’s what choice really means."

Joe: War is peace! Ignorance is strength!

Two years after the agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book market: its share has fallen from about 90% to roughly 60%. Customers are benefiting from the surprisingly innovative e-readers Barnes & Noble's investments have delivered, including a tablet device that beat Amazon to the market by fully twelve months.

Joe: Translation: See? It's okay that publishers may have broken the law, because they're getting what they want.

I love the term "chokehold", by the way. Amazon has a chokehold on the industry it created and nurtured.

Barry: Yeah, you can tell a lot about biases from the language people deploy. The other one I noticed was “bombshell.” Amazon, bombing and choking its way to predatory market dominance!

Joe: And blazing their path of destruction by treating readers and writers better! Those bastards!

Barry: By the way, I just want to add parenthetically that I hate when people say “12 months” instead of a year, or “36 months” instead of three years, or whatever. Doing so is intended to convey some veneer of precision, either where precision isn’t important or where it doesn’t exist, and it always sets off my bullshit detector. When people are being honest with you, they address you in plain English. When they use weird circumlocutions, you’re being bullshitted.

Joe: Hey, I gotta step away for 300 seconds. Be right back.

Barry: Anyway, I think it’s awesome that Amazon is facing real competition and I hope the competition will intensify. As I’ve said many times, the legacy publishing industry is sick, and when someone is sick, you don’t want him to die; you want him to get better. But I think it bears mentioning that if Amazon weren’t aggressively innovating, none of the players Scott salutes would be moving at all, or at least not nearly as fast. Competition is good. Amazon is causing it, and it’s nice to see other players reacting, if only as resentful and reluctant catch-up.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are starting to compete through their partnership with Google, so loyal customers can buy e-books from them at the same price as they would from Amazon.

Joe: Translation: I don't understand what an epic fail Google Books is.

Has any author or bookstore made any significant money via Google Books? Seriously, if someone reading this has, or can point me to an article, let me know. Why state that bookstores are starting to compete if there isn't any evidence to support it?

And didn't the Authors Guild just sue Google for something? Is Google the good guy now?

Direct-selling authors have also benefited, as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition.

Joe: What he somehow forgets to say is, the Big 6 didn't change their royalties, let alone double them. Their royalties still suck. But apparently that's okay.

Barry: I have to say, when the president of the Authors Guild praises competition for getting Amazon to offer self-published authors 70% and says nothing about legacy publishers all (coincidentally) continuing to offer only 17.5%, it’s a little... weird.

Let's hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

Joe: Translation: I'm very happy being a rich and famous author. I want it to stay that way and I believe Amazon threatens that.

And seriously, the Big 6 represent “real competition?” Where have they ever innovated? Where have they ever raised the bar? All I see is price fixing and royalty fixing. And so, apparently, does the DoJ.

"The Big 6 represents real competition." How does someone say something like that with a straight face?

Barry: Well, they say the GOP is the party of small government, too.

Joe: I think it’s time for that Orwell reference again: Ignorance is strength!

This would be tragic for all of us who value books, and the culture they support.

Joe: Translation: There are tens of thousands of authors making more money than they ever have in the history of humankind, and the Authors Guild won't even allow them membership because they don't meet their guidelines. Consumers are reading and buying more books than ever before. But this doesn't count, because the money isn't flowing where the establishment wants it to flow. But since I can't use numbers, facts, or logic to persuade, I'll try the emotional appeal. Hopefully no one will make fun of me.

Barry: Again, the conflation: without legacy publishers and brick-and-mortar stores, books and the culture they support will disappear!

Seriously, I’m starting to feel the way I did when Tom Ridge was manipulating the terrorism color codes and John Ashcroft was telling me to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape. Be afraid, people. Legacy publishing and books are one and the same. As goes the former, so goes the latter.


Joe: You digressed into politics again.

Barry: Heh. The dynamics are the same. And this attitude is in no way new. It’s just a recent coinage of “L’etat, c’est moi.” And, of course, “Apres moi, le deluge.”

Joe: People accuse me of shilling for Amazon, because Amazon is making me a lot of money. But here's something my critics keep missing: what I'm saying makes sense. And I have experience, examples, numbers, facts, and logic to support my position.

Now, Scott of course similarly can be accused of shilling for the Big 6, because they made him rich. Brick-and-mortar stores also added to his considerable wealth. But that’s not what matters. What matters is, his logic is bad, he's ill-informed, and he's the President of the freaking Authors Guild, which is supposed to represent authors, not publishers.

Does he really not understand, or not care, that Amazon is putting money in authors' pockets? Does he not see the flip side of this coin? Or does he just want to trick his peers into buying this bullshit?

Barry: I don’t know the the Authors Guild well, and I imagine they do various good things for authors. But when I read things like Scott’s piece (and the stunningly whiny and wrongheaded post someone did on the Authors Guild website a few weeks ago about how mean Amazon is), I start to suspect that while they might represent authors’ interests, what they really represent is those interests consistent with the interests of the larger publishing establishment with which the Authors Guild identifies and of which it is a part. That’s okay, as far as it goes, but I think it’s best for authors to have an accurate idea of just how, and how far, the Authors Guild actually represents their interests, and through what kind of a prism it views the world of publishing.

Joe: Beware any organization that’s more concerned about its Top 2% than its Bottom 98%. Beware any organization that is more concerned about its own survival than it is about solving the problems it was created to solve, or serving the people it was created to serve.

But most of all, beware any organization that can't argue based on facts, numbers, and logic, and that has to try to sway opinion with buzzwords and emotion, instead.

President Turow didn't say anything substantive here.

But what he didn't say speaks volumes.

Barry: Do you think he’ll respond to this? After all, we were courteous enough to respond to him.

Joe: Sure he will. Right after he leads the Authors Guild into forcing Big Publishing to raise ebook royalties to what Amazon pays.

Barry: Now that would be an Authors Guild worthy of the name!

But yeah, I’m not hopeful. After all, we’re just authors, not big publishing executives. But Scott, if you do respond, I think it would be helpful to explain why, in the entirety of your defense of the publishing system as currently constituted, you didn’t once mention legacy publishing’s lockstep 17.5% digital royalty rate or its lockstep refusal to include digital escalators equivalent to paper ones. Do you think 17.5% is fair, desirable, and acceptable? If not, what have you been doing to change it, and why have you thus far been unsuccessful?

Joe: Scott, I'd like to know why you and the Authors Guild are so concerned about protecting the status quo players, who offer us only 17.5% royalties, from an entity who offers us 70% royalties.

Barry: And for anyone who shares our concerns, why not tweet a link to this article to Scott’s attention at @ScottTurow? Maybe we can actually get his attention and an explanation. I love those forces of democratization!

Joe: BTW, I just noticed that David Gaughran wrote an excellent response to Scott’s letter -- see Scott Turow: Wrong About Everything.

To wrap this up, this is an email that author Suzanne White sent to the Authors Guild after their last bit of nonsense chastising Amazon. Suzanne also sent it to me, and I asked if I could post it here.

Suzanne: It's unfortunate that an entity which professes to be an "Authors Guild" doesn't work for authors. It works instead for the publishing industry. It works to try to protect what is obsolete.

Authors today can go to Amazon with books they have written, post them on Kindle or develop paperbacks with Createspace or seek to actually be published by Amazon... and get a 70% royalty on their sales. Do you encourage them? Do you help them to understand how they can gain their freedom? Do you applaud those courageous authors who self publish, sell on Kindle and make a living? No you do not. Instead, you warble on, lamenting the fact Bezos is taking over the crusty publishing industry. DUH!

Shame.

Where in the traditional publishing industry can an author command 70%? Where can an author have utter dominion over cover art? Formatting? Content? Illustrations? Impact? Marketing? The answer is Amazon. And a little bit Pubit and sometimes Smashwords or Apple as well. Where in the standard publishing industry can an author revive a book that he or she wrote in 1982, sold to a publisher who printed it, didn't sell very many and took it right off the market? Amazon, that's where. Author gets rights back, re-formats the book, slams it up for sale on Kindle and in six months is making money with that book.

Where? Tell me. Where can an author do better?

Why does a Guild for Authors rail on about monopolies and decry the demise of old-fashioned publishing as we knew it? Dinosaurs still prowling the streets of Manhattan want their good old boy industry back. Give it up already.

I have been an author for 37 years. I have had agents and publishers up to here. Most authors are, like myself, fed up with the good old boys. Publishers pay gigantic overhead for prime real estate offices and switchboards and secretaries and senior editors and junior editors and cafeterias and fancy seduction lunches for unsuspecting newbie authors and deign give 10 lousy % to an author? Agents? They don't work for authors either. They flog your book, take their % and when you get into a dispute with a publisher, agents crawl under the couch.

Is our Authors Guild really just an arm of the Publishers Guild? We authors who want to retain digital rights so we can sell our books directly are discouraged from even trying. "Don't self-publish. You might explode." You warn. "Get an industry standard, agency acceptable royalty."

You guys! Help authors reach their potential. Stop going to bat for the big guys. It's over boys. Move on out. Don't blame Bezos. Blame history. Ebooks are the future. Young people today grew up on screens. They don't know any other way. Can you really imagine you might convince the young to return to paper? It's Farenheit 451 in reverse. We are burning the books -- not because they contain information deleterious to society, but because they are unwieldy and wasteful. Yes, you can spill coffee on a paper book and it won't lose battery power. But if I pour my coffee on my Kindle and it seizes up, I call Amazon and they tell me how to restore it to its spiffy old self and they return all my books to me presto because they have stored them for me on their computers. I cannot take my coffee-stained copy of War and Peace back to the bookstore and ask for it to be replaced. No way.

I, for one, am content to have rigorously retained all my electronic rights. From the beginning in 1975. Thanks to digital rights, I now make a living from my books - which is more than I can say for all the years I was indentured to Simon and Shoestring.

Ciao Publishers. Ciao Agents. Ciao slavery.

Suzanne White



254 comments:

1 – 200 of 254   Newer›   Newest»
Karen McQuestion said...

Once again, an informative (and hilarious!) post. Thanks for the breakdown, Joe and Barry.

Steffan Piper said...

Dense but well-worth the read. I can imagine someone running off and paraphrasing this into a Reader's Digest Version for the 5-minute masses.

It doesn't bode well for Legacy Publishers if this truly was their argument for colluding. Even a second year law student would see what you two have and likely come away with a similar breakdown. They're definitely under the spotlight with this.

I think the real problem is how the DOJ will not necessarily handle the Publishers in this matter, but Apple, as they're likely to get more of a free pass with their "Venerable" status they seem to enjoy.

Will this just be a legal matter at the end of it with no consequence? Will there actually be some level of penalty assessed on the Publishers? Will this go on forever, creating a lot of wreckage like Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce?

Either way, all I can see is that the kicking and screaming is only going to get louder and louder.

The future may not be thiers, it's a shame they don't see it.

Linda Pendleton said...

I thought Turow's article was b/s when I received it the other day, and you two have emphasized all the reasons why.

I've been a member of the Authors Guild for 22 years and I am lately beginning to wonder why. I disagree with the stand they seem to take against Amazon.

And Joe you said, "Amazon was being competitive, while also giving customers what they wanted. Which meant publishers and authors benefited, since they were getting higher royalties from ebooks than paper books."

It's been worth it for me, not only as an author but as an Amazon customer (in all areas).

Thanks Joe and Barry for a good post.

chel.c.cam said...

Two thumbs up for another "he says, we says," post. Keep up the good (or evil, in the case of Legacy Publishing) work!

jack said...

You would think that as Prez of the AG Turow would be trying to get authors a better deal than their 17.5% ebook royalty rate. Instead he puts on the clown costume and shows everyone who he really works for.

If I was in the AG I'd move to have Turow impeached. The authors who elected him were fools.

Jon F. Merz said...

Great read, guys - thanks for dissecting it.

-Jon F. Merz (happily actually making a living from my writing now thanks to pretty much everything Scott railed against in his ludicrous letter)
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Jon F. Merz said...

Also, judging by the activity on Scott's Twitter feed and the fact that he completely does NOT engage with his whopping 489 fans on his Facebook page, I'm guessing the world of ebooks isn't the only thing ol' Scott's clueless about. Social media seems to have eluded his consciousness as well. Sheesh.

-Jon F. Merz
http://www.jonfmerz.net

Unknown said...

Turrow could save us a lot of time if he just said how much money he and other top authors expect to lose if agency pricing falls. Then we can feel his pain.

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...

I laughed so loud and so violently at the statements made by the supreme leader of the "Authors Guild" that I literally Turowed myself. Worst mess ever. What a dick. Great post gentlemen. Keep up the great work deseminating fact from fiction.

jack said...

Hate to see Turow be a stooge for Big 6 publishers. He wants to save world from Amazon’s predatory practices. Such as lowering the price of books and encouraging more people to read books–clearly something must be done to save authors and the culture of our civilization from this Amazon scourge of mankind and please we must save Turow’s publisher from all the stupid decisions they have made. They had to collude with Apple for a better margin.

Let’s save all pubishers while we are at it–because that’s the important thing to do…the right thing to do for mankind and our publishing legacy. Amazon has made it so disgustingly convenient and easy to buy books that something must be done to stop it. It is an outrage. Wherever will this lead to? This will cause the very downfall of our great human legacy of publishing.

Readers should have to earn the right to buy a book and not simply click and buy them online from the comfort of their homes.

They should have to get out into the car and traffic and find a bookstore and trudge up and down the aisles and buy books from the small selection bookstores offer and pay a high price and they should be happy for what books the publishers deem to publish. How many genres do you readers need anyway? That’s the way it has been and that is the way is should always be. And you should like it.

Adam Pepper said...

Bottom line, did they collude or not? Did they illegally fix prices? Yes or no? The Department of Justice isn't likely to care about sentimentality.

wannabuy said...

Windowing is, in my opinion, going to kill off those authors who stay loyal to the big6. What fraction of the market is intense readers? (IIRC, 70%). They do not want to wait for a book.

Note: Overpricing an ebook is just as effective a barrier. $12.99 for the ebook and $11.20 for the hardcover?!? I take neither and buy the indie author competition.

I find it amusing they're trying to fight this court battle in the media. That implies there is reason to fear the court.

Neil

David L. Shutter said...

Barry, Joe; great post, loved the fisking. And another steaming turd pile going up in flames.

Dave Gaughran made a great zinger of a point in his shredding of this.

In as many words; maybe the fear driving Turow's comments is because when the dust settles on the digital vs. print war he'll no longer be piled high on the front table (the front tables are all dissapearing) but he'll be a thumbnail on a page with everyone else.

I'll add that it's probably scary for him because all the "lesser writers" will no longer be sequestered to a single spine-out slot somewhere on the back shelf.

Their lower priced offerings will have the same thumbnail right next to his.

Anonymous said...

Adam,

We may never receive an admission of guilt. Based on the articles, several publishers have discussed settlement terms. Settlements typically avoid public admissions of guilt.

However, because a few publishers are already discussing settlements, agency pricing in its current form will soon be dead. In any case that involves multiple conspirators, the first settlement talks involve testimony against the other conspirators. Also, collusion can lead to fraud charges. Don't for a moment believe any of the conspirators will not give up his/her fellow conspirators for immunity from what may lead to a prison sentence.

Now, how much agency pricing is changed is left to be seen.

Darlene Underdahl said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing.

Eric Welch said...

The publishers may be in a bind they created for themselves. If they settle or cave and admit they colluded, they leave themselves open (I would guess) for having to pay substantial refunds in the class action suit filed last fall. I'm not sure if Apple would be in the same category since they were a retailer rather than a price setter even though they might have instigated the collusion.

Walter Knight said...

The Big 6 New York publishing establishment monopolized distribution for so long, they influenced our culture, just like ABC, CBS, and NBC did before cable TV.

If Amazon's recents moves are to be feared, it should be their wooing authors with the exclusitivity requirement for participating in their Prime promotions. All my books are Amazon Prime books now.

J.M. Ney-Grimm said...

Excellent! Seems to prove that financial power corrupts just like other types of power corrupt. (Not that I'd mind having a bit more financial power myself! Grin!) Thanks for the post! I'm a little too indignant about the shenanigans of the Big 6 cartel and their shills to laugh . . . but great expose.

Jim Kukral said...

I tweeted him, as others should do. Highly doubt he will respond. I'd pay a few hundred bucks to see you guys and him go at it on stage. Someone organize that for charity and webcast it.

Anonymous said...

Mah.

Guys... I know you like bagging on Trad. Pubs, but the whole thing - and what a lot of non-traditional writers don't get (because they have a stake) - is good for (some) of us. I want traditional publishing to set high prices on their books (PLEASE DO!)

Why? I'm 100% indie. No traditional books at all. If the new Tom Clancy novel is $14+, I'm happy. I don't want them to take his books (or other high skilled writers) down to $4.99 or, worse, $2.99. If they do then I have to compete. (Sure, I might be skilled too, but me vs. Tom... Hmmm... I'd lose 9 out of 10 times.) It's bad enough that JA is in my eco-system, let's not open the floodgates now.

Also, I THANK trad. pubs for their work. They create a great price comparison. $2.99 for my book with great cover, blurb and content vs. an old guard book at $12. THANKS FOR THE MONEY!

On the other hand, I get the ex-legacy author position. They have a stake in this game (I know there's more to it than that). If your publishers  lower the price then they sell more and make more (less?). It also feels good to have books priced as authors think they should be (rightly or wrongly). However, for me and only me, I'm not with you. Sure the income game sucks, but from my indie perspective, I don't have an interest in helping lower prices.

[Am I afraid of competition at lower prices? Of course. Does it sound like Scott above? Yeap. Is it wrong for me to believe what I do? For me, no.]

Also, question: As an indie only author/publisher, I can set my own price. Amazon can price match and discount within their contract terms. Do I want that to change? Do I like giving Amazon more power? Is it beneficial for the self-publisher to retain the status quo? Sure, it might not affect me, but am I sure it won't? 

Anyway, I enjoyed the post and my comments are off-topic in a way, but you inspired me to write them; hence, you made me think and I appreciate that. Cheers!

Tyson Adams said...

Just wanted to thank Barry and Joe for once again putting the author first and letting that voice be heard.

I'm wondering which stream to publish in, as a new author. Nothing makes me cringe more than hearing Scott's comments.

J. Philip Horne said...

Bottom line: collusion is patently obvious, and I suspect the DOJ can see it. And the Author's Guild needs to be reinvented to allow for some sort of representation of the long tail of the actual content providers.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Scott, baby, you need to go back to law school if this is the best you can do! I learned to avoid this kind of meandering and self-contradictory argument in my first year.

Exhibit 1: An author who never quite succeeded in breaking into legacy publishing after trying for 20 years -- who finally self-published, and has made 5 figures within a few months. It's not a living yet, but it will be. That amount could have been the entire (relatively generous) advance from a traditional publisher. And then it would have been over. Book off the shelves; end of story.

Now it's just the beginning to a career as a professional writer.

Mr. Turow, you aren't representing writers any more. You're just trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to hold onto the status quo ante. Let go!

Patrice Fitzgerald, Esq.
Author of the raucous political bestseller RUNNING
http://amzn.to/RUNNINGnovel

Sariah Wilson said...

Really enjoyed this post.

And on a side note--if Netflix would have new films even a few weeks after they were released in theaters, I would pay the same amount that I would have to pay were I to go to the theater. I'm waiting for that particular middleman to get eliminated because I loathe going to movie theaters (and only go because I love movies). I would be willing to pay quite a bit for convenience.

Doug Solter said...

Joe and Barry...you guys have inspired me. I'm going to epub my book this Spring because I'm no longer scared or intimidated by the need for getting permission to be "published" though traditional means. After ten years of writing hard, I finally see the light...a way to actually earn money doing something I love.

Thank you.

Doug

Eric said...

Thanks for some great and funny comments. I think this one that I pulled out of the middle:

Publishing wants to sell paper books, because it controls the paper market. Now that Amazon controls the ebook market, publishing is scared shitless.

is the real bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Barry and Joe;

Amazing how two guys can stir up so much shit. Seriously, you are making the Big 6 apoplectic.

Very nice commentary, but the icing on the cake was Suzanne White's letter at the end. She gave the Big 6 the middle finger, and there is it was, in fabulous, digital black and white.

No big publisher ever wanted me, either. But I've sold thousands upon thousands of books using Amazon, LSI, and CreateSpace (last month I sold over 11K copies, under three different pen names). In three distinct genres. If I has waited for the big six to give me a chance, I'd still be waiting.
-Marie Simas

Hope Welsh said...

Beware any organization that’s more concerned about its Top 2% than its Bottom 98%. Beware any organization that is more concerned about its own survival than it is about solving the problems it was created to solve, or serving the people it was created to serve.

let's simplify this. If you're a big name--whether it be author, publisher, store--you're going to get what you want.

Look at something as simple as taxes--who is taxed less? The 2% of people that have 98% of the money in the US or the 98% that have 2%.

Money talks. Period.

Wilhelm Reuch said...

Record stores did not disappear because the internet ran them over.

The music. business killed itself when they left the agency model. This meant gas stations and drug stores would set up a rack of top-20 records and sell at cost to get customers in the door.

This to la large degree emptied the well-stocked record stores. It also concentrated record sales to fewer big-sellers. This combination of these facotrs led to less venture capital invested in new artists.

In fact new artists are now more developed via tv-shows and by other criteria than musical.

The internet came on top of this to leave the music business where it is today. They are making money but new talent in the core area (music) is very thin.

India Drummond said...

It's honestly difficult to comprehend that Turow might actually believe what he's saying.

What. The. Fuck.

Jonas Saul said...

This is some serious shit.

"Publishing shouldn't have to choose between bricks and clicks."

The honor of this choice has not been bestowed upon them. The public has decided. Isn't it evident enough?

Long live Amazon, the King of the jungle.

Jonas

Archangel said...

Dear Joe and Barry, I'd sincerely suggest next time youre east, you sit down with Scott. I know Scott and he is not even close to the projections made on him here. Though you may look at a point of view of his today, you dont take into account (and dont have to unless you wish to) that what is here today as agency model was fought for over near zero for authors years ago. I no longer serve on AG board, but when I did there was so much sympathy and direct action aimed at what your concerns are, including as I left, discussion was underway re including ebook authors in membership and input. I truly wish that opportunity would not be squandered by lack of fact as to what AG has been doing for years, including keeping funds to help authors who are suddenly disabled, fighting federal legal battles hard, vetting for the cost of yearly membership all legal contracts (equiv 99 dollars a year) and going to bat for members when/if in impasse with publishers. And more. Giving ready to set up website access for ridiculously low fees, offering health insurance oppty's in many states. Just my .02 as I'm wholly outnumbered here I can see from the comments, I believe the authors at AG and NWU and AMZ and elsewhere are our family group of writers. If there's disagreement, I wish people would first talk to one another to find correspondences and proceed with regard to see what can be made stronger and better, together. Scott and other authors who have been in the midst of legal battles up to their chins for years now in behalf of many authors, deserve to be contacted, and not just with an email or a phone call, but a sit down. I hope maybe you will do that someday.

On another note, I am still fighting (now in 4th year) to free mss from big publishers so they can be ebooks. I wish I could hear support or encouragement from ebk authors. Selena and Kiana are friends who are the only ones I know who do encourage myself and many others. Perhaps someday other ebook authors will reach out to those of us who are still shackled against our wills. It's better, I think, when there is reciprocity. I have ever encouraged ebook authors who have or have not pub'd with a mainstream old pub co. to go all balls out into epublishing, and in fact teach ebook publishing to university and health professionals, as the preferred way to bring their works into the world. Many of my peers who are put down here, also encourage others consistently. It's just that you dont know them, nor hear them. I hope someday that encouragement will run in both directions. The downside of struggling to move from one paradigm to another, and alone. is just that, it is disheartening and lonely. And made harder by being put down. Not complaining. Just noting some facts. Just saying.

Thanks,
drcpe

Michael Stephen Fuchs said...

I hate to point this out - I'm onside with Konrath and Eisler 100% normally - but it's illegal to sell goods at below cost with the intention of driving your competitors out of business. (I.e. "predatory pricing" is not merely a florid description, but has legal status.) The reason for this is that most industries tend toward monopoly if unregulated. (And monopoly is understood to be very, very bad for consumers.) When one company has 90% market share, that's an ominous sign. This notion of unregulated, laissez-faire innovation is a straw man - in the U.S. we agree to regulate business to ensure competition.

Not unrelatedly, Amazon's proprietary format and reader are worrisome. They're essentially selling you books that you can only keep on their bookshelf, read with their table-lamp, etc. What happens to my library when Amazon goes out of business? I know I can keep my music library regardless of what the company who sold it to me does, listen to it with any player I like, etc., because of open standards. Just because Amazon's been wonderful for authors doesn't make them angels.

Back now to our regularly scheduled Konrath/Eisler/Indie E-Book Revolution Love Fest. 8^)

Unknown said...

From The New Yorker (almost 2 years ago)

Why, Mossberg asked, should consumers “pay Apple $14.99 when they can buy the same book from Amazon for $9.99?”

“That won’t be the case,” Jobs said, seeming implacably confident. “The price will be the same.” Mossberg asked him to explain. Why would Amazon increase prices, when consumers were buying so many books? “Publishers may withhold their books from Amazon,” Jobs said. “They’re unhappy.”



Scott Turow is dead wrong that bookstores are irreplaceable as places where readers can discover new books to read. Amazon, goodreads, librarything etc...are all great "discovery" sources for readers. Heck, even my blog http://ebooktop100.blogspot.com/ is as good a source of book discovery as a physical book store.

There must be some people out there who like a top 100 list of thrillers, romance, fantasy, mystery, sci fi etc...that are all under $3.99.

Scott said...

"I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic because it must suck to be part of a long-established business ecosystem suddenly faced with a radically innovative new entrant that has discovered and is aggressively promoting a better way of doing the very business you thought was yours to own. But still... this is just the history of technological disruption in industry. It must have sucked for oral storytellers when Gutenberg invented the printing press. It must have sucked for horse-and-buggy stores when car dealers started opening, too. It must have sucked for telegraph companies when people started using phones instead. It must have sucked for typewriter manufacturers when word-processors became the norm. It must have sucked for record stores when music started being sold online."


It also sucked when new technology destroyed the newspaper business, forcing many ink stained wretches like myself to find a different line of work. But, hey, that's life. I moved on and changed with the times and that's what the Big 6 needs to do instead of trying to hold onto the past.

Jens Hildebrand said...

On the power of the establishment: Amanda Hocking's "My Blood Approves" series is not available in English on Amazon.DE (only as audio CDs). Could the reason be that the German editions are published by Bertelsmann, who own Random House? So odd ... ;)

Oh well, I can download it from Amazon in the UK for 0,72 p. (BG)

Kevin Michaels said...

70% royalties versus 17.5%? Distribution within hours versus a 2 year wait before a book ever sees the light of day? Market share and audience versus dust, clearance bins, and returns?

It's been said before (maybe the Prez of the AG missed it because his head is up the collective asses of the Big 6) but evolution is the natural order of things in the business world.....guess he's still listening to his transistor radio and driving a 1950's Chevy.

Great post.

BTW- if Turow's posturing is indicative of his skills as a lawyer, it's not surprise he's made his living as a writer......

Inkstain said...

Jason Epstein of the redoubtable New York Review of Books has surprised me with this.
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/mar/11/publishing-the-revolutionary-future/

He seems to get it, while Turow doesn't! Thanks for this piece. I came home to the Author's Guild alert to Turow's piece, and reread it until my eyes were crossed. Surely our president wasn't arguing against everything that has brought my backlist of six novels, (three mystery genre, three comic literary) back to life from its graveyard.

Anonymous said...

"Michael Stephen Fuchs said...

I hate to point this out - I'm onside with Konrath and Eisler 100% normally - but it's illegal to sell goods at below cost with the intention of driving your competitors out of business. (I.e. "predatory pricing" is not merely a florid description, but has legal status.) The reason for this is that most industries tend toward monopoly if unregulated. (And monopoly is understood to be very, very bad for consumers.) When one company has 90% market share, that's an ominous sign. This notion of unregulated, laissez-faire innovation is a straw man - in the U.S. we agree to regulate business to ensure competition."

The meme that will never die. The intent you describe in this situation would be nearly impossible to support. Why? First off, Amazon did not take a loss on every ebook. It took a loss on best-sellers because those titles had a wholesale cost above 9.99, which Amazon believed should be the cap price of an ebook. Because the result may be competitors going out of business, it does not make the practice anti-competitive.

Even now, Amazon prices non-big-6 published bestsellers at 9.99. In this case, intent supports the Amazon company line. If it intended to price everyone out of the ebook market, it could have dropped ALL ebook prices to a penny above cost. You'd have a better case for intent if that had happened.

When Gamestop and EBgames wanted to merge in the mid 2000s, the only holdup was the regulators were worried those two companies would monopolize the used video game market--combined, those two companies would own 90% of said market. Why did they allow the merger? Because they looked at markets where those two companies did not compete and saw no variation in pricing vs where those companies did compete. Pricing was the company policy, not predatory.

Also, Amazon's 90% market share would never stand up as the basis for defining it as a monopoly. The ebook market, at the time, was a fledgling market. Some company is always going to get a massive amount of market share out of the gate.

Vincent Zandri, Noir Author said...

Excellent play by play commentary on a ludicrous letter on Turow's part...
Here's my take on the subject at The Vincent Zandri Vox...

"Freedom of Choice"

http://vincentzandri.blogspot.com/2012/03/freedom-of-choice.html#.T1zXF_VdC1c

Barry said...

Thanks as always for all the feedback, everyone.

Archangel, I don't doubt that Scott is a good guy or that he has good intentions. Nor do I doubt that the Authors Guild has done many good things for authors (I said as much at the end of the post). But that's not what Joe and I are addressing. We're addressing a public announcement Scott made, and quoting him verbatim. He's a smart guy, he's a former lawyer, he's the president of the Authors Guild, and presumably he meant the surprisingly illogical, tendentious, and unsupportable things he said in his post. If he didn't, he ought to take responsibility and correct himself.

You say, "If there's disagreement, I wish people would first talk to one another to find correspondences and proceed with regard to see what can be made stronger and better, together. Scott and other authors who have been in the midst of legal battles up to their chins for years now in behalf of many authors, deserve to be contacted, and not just with an email or a phone call, but a sit down."

If Scott had called Joe and me privately, we would have spoken to him privately. Since he posted his position publicly, we responded publicly. I think this is entirely normal, expected, and desirable. I agree Scott deserves to be contacted, and by our post, Joe and I have done so. If Scott wants to follow up in some fashion -- ideally, in the same public forum in which he issued his suspect thoughts on Amazon etc -- he can do so, and I certainly hope he will.

Good luck in your battle to get your ebook rights back from your publisher. I've tried to do the same, so far without success (I offered to buy them back, in fact, and was largely ignored). Perhaps this is something else on which the Authors Guild could help us!

Michael, I don't know much about antitrust law, but if you're right, and predatory pricing is not merely low pricing, but pricing "with the intention of driving your competitors out of business," than I'm not at all persuaded Amazon has engaged in the practice. Lower prices? Yes. In an attempt to gain market share? Yes. In order to drive competitors out of business? Where is your evidence for that? Though I imagine if the Justice Department has such evidence, it'll come after Amazon as it has the five legacy publishers and Apple.

As for the proprietary format etc, I don't like it either. I don't think it's good for anyone, including Amazon, and I hope they'll change it soon.

Scott, good point about newspapers. There are so many examples of industries disrupted by technology, it's hard to keep track of them all.

Ah, regarding Michael's point, I see Anonymous has responded better than I did.

Paolo Amoroso said...

My tweet to @ScottTurow: "I can discover new genres & authors online just fine. It's the 3rd millennium, is it time to learn how to use the Internet yet?"

Stephen T. Harper said...

Nice conversation fellas.

Personally, I love the agency pricing model and hope it's allowed to continue, because it lets me position my own little contribution to literary culture at a very competitive price and therefore... compete.

elysabeth said...

Great post on dissecting some otherwise difficult to read/understand posting from someone who is the president of an organization that is set up to protect the content providers. This seems to say everything totally opposite to the organization's point for existence.

To the commenter who said something to the effect of Amazon going out of business - not likely going to happen since Amazon does continue to innovate and expand and grow and has definitely set the bar for the others to try to attain.

I was with a small publisher and my royalties were only 10% with 5% going to me and 5% to my illustrator on books the publisher sold and on the flip side in order for me to have copies on hand to sell at events, even with supposed 30% discount as author cost, my books cost 3x what they are costing me from Amazon (fact in February, I ordered 10 copies from my publisher for an event I have this week - that is 5 copies of two different titles, and with shipping it cost me $85 - for 10 books; I ordered 72 copies of five different titles, one costing slightly more than the other four, from createspace for about $203 and that was including tax and shipping). I can't wait to have those two titles out of contract with the publisher.

I'm now publishing stories on kindle and my state books and others in print through createspace, so I don't see Amazon really going out of business - for a long time - at least not in my lifetime.

Barry, I haven't seen any newsletters of yours in a while. Does that mean you have gotten too busy to keep us informed of what is going on with you?

Joe, thanks for fighting for the little people and helping us see a much better way to get our books out there. E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery
"The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
"The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal romance ebook
"Bride-and-Seek", a paranormal romance ebook
http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com
http://eeldering.weebly.com

Kelly McClymer said...

I am now a huge fan of Suzanne White for her incisive logic and appeal to the AG to start representing authors instead of publishers. Brava!

When I read the letter by Turow, I twigged to something I had not realized: bestsellers (and their agents & publishers) are scared of Amazon not because they are destroying competition, but because they are creating competition.

How many of us who were traditionally published can tell a story about how our publishers privileged another book releasing at the same time for the end cap or display table slot, while relegating our book to be spine out on the shelf? I've had books handled both ways (never bestseller privileges, but I was okay with trying to earn those). The endcap/display books did better. Go figure.

At first, an author doesn't realize the game: there are only so many slots on the bookstore endcap, and publishers put out more books than they're willing to "showcase." A non-showcase book gets a smaller pre-order, a smaller print run, a smaller chance to be discovered.

After all, we've tried so hard to be published by polishing our manuscripts and query letters and being told not to worry about the business end until we get there...I always thought that was bad advice, but it was certainly common place. After I was published was when I became certain it was awful advice :-)

After doing the self-publishing thing for a year and a half...I no longer think that bestsellers make themselves. Some do. Most don't. And the bestsellers (agents & publishers) are starting to realize that the upstart indies are real competition.

Which begs the question: why the heck are they whining about it instead of competing in the marketplace by pricing and sales strategies that work? Why are they trying to browbeat customers into believing an ebook should cost as much or more as a trade paperback?

Of course, I was only ever published in mass market and trade paper, so I don't understand the hardcover world of Turow. And, as is clear from his letter, Turow doesn't understand my mmpb or indie ebook worlds. But he should.

Mari Passananti said...

Thanks for this. Turow's piece certainly read like advocacy for the publisher's guild.

I wonder if we writers (legacy or indie) want to open the predatory pricing jar of worms? We are talking about a product that costs any ebook seller pennies to deliver.

Blake Crouch said...

Fantastic and blistering response guys. Scott didn't just go off the reservation and write that embarrassing letter in a vacuum. I believe it signals that the rich old cadre of superstars are circling the wagons.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks Amazon will gouge consumers once if it achieves a monopoly should read this article from the Library of Economics and Liberty. It discusses the market of contestability, or why monopolies must now behave as if they have numerous competitors when they actually don't.

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/03/the_age_of_cont.html

Also take note of the last sentence. Although the author defends Netflix, it is a prime example of what happens when a near monopoly makes a poor decision. Customers flee.

I.J.Parker said...

Another excellent piece. Thanks, Joe and Barry.

I think it's time authors realized that Authors Guild doesn't care about them. They care about big publishing. I'm still furious about their deal with Google, struck without my consent. How did that happen?

Lisa said...

I don't think Scott is taking advantage of all of the perks of being a rich, powerful, loved author in the pocket of Big Publishing--I just clicked over to his Web site and immediately read "Ordinary Heroes, Published by Grand Central Publishing, Arpil 2011."

J. R. Tomlin said...

God, I read that letter yesterday and after pounding my head on my desk shouting: BS, BS, BS! I had to ask why anyone would belong to an organization that sold them out as badly as AB has sold out authors.

Needless to say, I agree with you and Barry.

Alan Tucker said...

The Author's Guild, in its current form, is a misnomer. Or, more to the point, the thousands of successful, and unsuccessful people who have written books and sold them to readers online are NOT AUTHORS, according to the Guild.

The likes of Hocking and Locke could not join this august group, even though they had sold hundreds of thousands of books, until they signed their deals with trad publishers. The Author's Guild doesn't care about your writing skills. It only cares whether you've won the publishing lottery or not.

Obviously, I'm over-generalizing here — short story, novella, and poetry writers grace the virtual halls of the Author's Guild, but only those who can document being published by a specific number of acceptable means. Exclusivity is catechism for the Guild.

So, when Turow asks for authors' support of his views, understand he is not asking for the support of the majority of us here. We are not Authors, by definition.

Lisa said...

Call me confused...
I've been self-published for four months, and I've made over $3500 from Amazon. Explain to me how that makes Amazon the bad guy? What has the Big 6 ever done for me beyond sending me wallpaper for my bathroom? My heart is bleeding peanut butter & jelly for the legacy publishers who sat on their duffs and didn't bother to innovate or adapt to change. I'll take my 70% to the bank, thank you very much. Great post guys!

J. R. Tomlin said...

And I meant to mention that is a totally rocking letter from Suzanne White.

Archangel said...

Thanks Barry for your response. I think it would have been good to contact Scott personally, even so. I see the tone of response here in your dialogue. To discuss the facts, to disagree is not at issue, I dont think. But I would prefer that people talk face to face about these important issues in open inquiry. Do you want to bring others with you who are trapped or not yet seeing? Or make it harder for people for they hear the tone and put downs first and the facts later, as we all do. Just thinking out loud. I know far more headway is made and bridges built when there are face to face civil discussions, not put down face-offs amongst reasoned people. We have literally millions of websites where people hurl insults and invective day after day, so that seems the weaker way of helping others to bridge. Just my .02 worth... My interest is in how to bridge.

I've seldom known anyone to learn new ideas by being yelled at or called stupid and other names. I think the valid points are made far stronger and others who are 'resistent' can hear far better when made without the coating of scorn. I dont think authors are enemies. I think we all belong to the same family. I believe we have means to talk to each other privately as well as publicly.

I hope you'll still consider contacting Scott personally. I cant speak for him, only for myself. No one I know has screed against ebook authors. IF they do, and I know many many authors, they are keeping it to themselves. I think authors I meet (and I teach authors) are only trying to take care of their families and keep head above water and find ways to remain alive not only in this changeover, but with their responsibilities to often ailing parents and also abysmal recession that had knocked many sideways, including their spouses and other family members. It helps to have friends who encourage personally, if one can find such.

I do understand what you said from your point of view and agree with many of your elemental thoughts. Thank you for replying Barry. Appreciate it. And I hope your books published by the big 6 will be released to you someday. We too have tried buy out; theyre not responsive. Also Authors Guild lawyers did go to bat and thus far have freed one book entirely, and possibly another. They hammered the publisher hard. AG also hammered for Kiana after the fiasco with Penguin. I think we are in the positions of (my contracts were drawn in the late 1980s and early 1990s) having made best decisions 20 and 25 years ago, but those decisions have gotten us trapped. I dont think any of us back then had a crystal ball. We have balls, I feel certain. Just not crystal ones. I hope I made you laugh with me.

Thanks
dr.cpe

Sandra Ruttan said...

Lots of interesting points raised.

I'm not opposed to traditional publishing. I'm not opposed to bookstores. I'm not opposed to e-books, and I'm not opposed to Amazon.

But I have a hard time taking some organizations seriously when they stand by and let authors be bent over. Consider the Dorchester mess. You would think that, since Dorchester hasn't been able to maintain my books in print for an extensive period of time, my rights would have reverted. You'd think since bankruptcy is now underway, the rights would revert, since the publisher is not maintaining my work in printed form. Yet they're still selling the e-books, still pocketing the money, still not paying their authors. Still selling books that the authors have regained the rights to. From what I understand, the rights to our books could be in legal limbo for years.

And where's the author's guild? Where's the call to action, for all rights to revert immediately? Where's protection for authors? Oh, wait, we'd probably make the books available on Amazon, and the guild doesn't like them, so they don't care about us.

I can't take it seriously when every call to action is one-sided and there's no action on behalf of authors who aren't being paid for their works. I'm all for competition, live and let live, go the road you want to go in this industry, make your choices with your eyes open.

Posts like this are helpful because they provide opposing sides and let people come to their own conclusions.

Archangel said...

@alan Tucker. Just to note. I spent the majority of my life not qualifying to be a member of many groups: sci fi, mystery, etc including AG. Then, I qualified, and soon, I believe ebook authors will too re AG. As I mentioned in a comment above, they are in discussion about how. That said, I dont know if we will qualify with ebooks only re romance, sci fi, mystery groups that give awards and other benefits, etc. I think too the time is ripe for good admin minded people perhaps to form ebook guild or by whatever name, to offer legal help, support of other kinds to ebk authors. Sometimes rather than adding on, it can be good to create from ground up. Perhaps you are the person to create such for other ebk authors?

Thanks
drcpe

David L. Shutter said...

Blake: I believe it signals that the rich old cadre of superstars are circling the wagons

I agree completely, I think this is only one of the first of many, many more such statements.

From the perspective of the top 1% of bestsellers, traditional publishing is the greatest thing since penecillin. They've packaged, promoted and distributed said handful to the tunes of tens and hundreds of millions of $.

Fine. Turow and others truly believe what's good for the legacy system is good for writers period.

I respect Dr. Cpe's earnest endorsement of Mr. Turow's character. Sure, I bet he's a wonderful guy whose used his standing over the years to help other authors.

But going back to his statement with all it's blatant bias and, as Barry pointed out, all the things he "didn't say" is just ugly and disturbing.

Archangel said...

@ Scott You wrote "It must have sucked for oral storytellers when Gutenberg invented the printing press"... Oral tradition continues today across the world, and strongly so; there are renaissances of it in the bard/griot/cantadora/cuentera traditions ongoing in our time and earlier times. And also books stand their own ground now too. Youre right, It is a good example of more than one pathway through to the listener/reader. Gutenberg was far better known in his time for publishing first and foremost, Bibles. His effect was not the oral tradition, nor his version of already standing printing presses. He enraged the church of Rome which had a monopoly on interdiction re the bible. For that they literally tried to kill him, not because he spoke, but because he said all people should be able to read the holy words for themselves.

Thanks
drcpe

Jake Scholl said...

Publisher prices books at good prices.

Translation. I buy and read more books.

Alan Tucker said...

@Archangel - Thank you for your comment. I realize my tone sounded bitter at the establishment, and I suppose it is to some extent. There are, in fact, several "Indie" support groups out there already, such as Independent Author Group, Indie Book Collective, and World Literary Cafe, to name a few. They are wonderfully helpful and supportive groups. They do not offer some of the litigation/legal help or insurance that AG does — yet — but, perhaps in time they will.

I honestly hope that AG will see their way to embracing this new era of publishing. Yes, there are many writers putting work out in the world that is sub-standard by most definitions, but the effort is honest in most cases and people work with what they have and know. Can my writing get better? Absolutely! Can I write stories that people enjoy? I think that answer is also "yes" from the response I've had thus far. Where does that put me on the Author scale? I don't know, but time will tell.

Barry said...

Elysabeth, I try to keep the newsletters down to just a couple a year so people don't feel spammed. For more frequent updates, follow me on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Barry-Eisler/234221025306?ref=sgm -- and on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/barryeisler.

Archangel, thanks for your additional thoughts. I have to say, I'm having a hard time understanding your point. Are you arguing that Joe and I should *not* have publicly responded to Scott's public post? That we should have contacted him privately instead?

Even if I had a way to contact Scott privately, and I don't, I wouldn't have done so. He took a public position and it's entirely useful and appropriate that it receives public responses. I did contact him publicly, by tweeting a link to the article to his attention and to the attention of the Authors Guild, and by encouraging other writers to do the same. Just in case he doesn't regularly read Joe's blog. ;)

Apologies if I'm reading you wrong, but this kind of "you should have talked to him privately first" sentiment is also common among establishment journalists. They say something on television, then complain, when someone writes a blog post in response, that the writer didn't call them first. My sense is that this sentiment is an outgrowth of an excessive attachment to authority -- that it arises from a belief that certain revered public figures are due an excess of deference, including private inquiries undertaken in advance of public responses.

I think this is nonsense. Call Scott for what? I can't see into his heart. I don't have access to his private thoughts. And even if I did, I wouldn't find either of those realms relevant to the *public* debate he began by posting his *public* letter. All I'm responding to, with neither fear nor favor, is his precise, public words. What, precisely, do you find objectionable in that? I'm not asking rhetorically; I'd really like to know.

Do you believe Scott would be behaving appropriately if he were to now privately contact Joe and me, rather than publicly responding to our post? I would be disappointed and in fact suspicious if he were to do so. What he wrote about is a matter of public concern, he has taken a public position, and suggestions that we now take our conversation offline smack to me of a misplaced sense of decorum, of undue deference to authority, and of suspicious back room dealings.

Scott's a big boy. He can take a little heat -- and if he can't, he ought to get out of the kitchen. I hope he'll respond publicly to Joe and me. Doing so would be as useful and courteous as what we have done for him.

Archangel said...

@I.J Parker... you wrote "I'm still furious about their deal with Google, struck without my consent. How did that happen?"

There is no deal, I.J. None. Judge Denny Chin, 9th district I believe, accepted no deal whatsoever. Ag and others including Judge Chin pressed hard to have an opt in re Google rather than Google's idea that authors would somehow magically know their works were scanned and monetized eventually without their knowledge, and only have to opt out.

Youre right, that that would have been insanely wrong. I'd agree with you wholeheartedly on that. But because Google did not want to somehow find a way to contact each author they had scanned to ask them to opt in... the deal went down... Google has many fine people who work for the company, but there are ever some who, I dont know I. J. ...who control the rest.

And, literally publishers, ag heard from many many authors as to what their preferences were. However, I could see that not all could be contacted as there many authors who just write and have a day job and dont belong to any group ever. There were many amicus briefs accepted by Judge Chin too, from what I heard.

The entire situation which has several arms and legs of legal issues, --some never before seen, and capable of establinging precedent--remains in limbo as of about 8 months ago as reported by MSM and others. There is no google or ag or publisher settlement. The original suit was brought by many publishers against google with ag joining and attempting to gain parity for so called 'orphaned works' and living authors who were caught in the wholesale scanning of their works.

It still remains that no author whose works Google and participating libraries scanned are allowed to have access to those scans f their own works themselves. Many different people have many different takes on that alone, which is but one of the dozens of issues on the block re the suit/potential settlement.

thanks,
drcpe

Jill James said...

I love the Joe and Barry banterfest. Thanks for a fun but informative chat.

Archangel said...

Dear Barry, I've no argument, only a preference. I am old school in some ways in terms of building anew, but that doesnt mean head in the sand. It means that making bridges personally with others can often increase the depth of understanding, and thereby the depth of discussion/ debate/ teaching, (which to my .02 are all of a piece) and ... measurable progress together can come from that combination. I have witnessed.

My thought about personal contact to open other avenues of knowing, has nothing to do with journalistic flim flam. I may be wrong, but I thought Scott was talking his point of view, not about ebook authors by name, not slamming them by name or place. Just my thoughts about bringing people with us into ebooks as e-authors, creating bridges.

My .005? In any new paradigm, I can see that many are called, but a few are 'frozen'... this is true across the board in most matters. I like the idea of helping to unfreeze those who are trapped, if I can. I see you do too. That's a bridge that I hope will hold between us, you and I... you in your way, me in my way.

As I said, I think I understand many of your elemental thoughts and agree. Peace and success to you Barry and all authors no matter what medium they are called to or find opportunity in, siempre, always.

Thanks
drcpe

Archangel said...

@ Alan Tucker, thank you, and no sweat, there's enough disappointment about 'the old establishment' to sink a city.

I agree with you that much of it is warranted. (And I know good, good people who are in that sinking city, who really did have care and love for books and authors, and that is sad to see them in their own ways trapped and struggling too)

Only speaking for myself, I think many of us were a little cattle-like, being herded and keeping our hearts on the true calling... to bring our work to readership. But, I think most of us did not realize how some of what seemed great one day in time would look like dead porridge years later. In my work as a forensics reader and post-trauma specialist mainly with war vets and critical incident work for 42 years now, I can see some similarity in that the psychology of 'awakening' to how one was actually being 'used' while being told otherwise, seems similar in quite a few authors I've spoken to, too.

Just in general, as people awaken to exploitation beyond the beyond, first comes bewilderment, then disbelief, then comes anger, reactive thinking, narrowed viewpoint... for a time. (It does not follow the tired old patter proposed years ago by Kubler Ross for grief, it is actually a pattern of revivifying rage, if I could put it that way.)

Then eventually, new life is planted, perhaps with one foot in the camp of rant, and the other in the new land of building for the now and for the future... not using much of past betrayal as basis anymore.

Not saying any author here follows such. Just saying if it were so, it would be a normal reaction to being betrayed at some significant level, e.g., not told all the truth and giving up much in the interim... Having one's sense of livelihood (parnassah) or refuge disrupted, remains a journey for many, for same and for different reasons as authors. As with vets and those harmed in other ways, it takes time to come through.

I say we are moving in different directions perhaps but we are all walking along together... the road is wider than wide, I think. And I think you and most others are right in the sweet spot of the craft. I've not yet met but only a handful of authors who worked their rear ends off to be wherever they are, who said they had nothing left to learn. We all do, I think, Alan. I am still learning, and want to. I think that's a ticket to ride in reach of us all

thanks
drcpe

Joe Konrath said...

Or make it harder for people for they hear the tone and put downs first and the facts later, as we all do.

You read my blog and you know what to expect. When someone is acting like a pinhead, they get called a pinhead. If they don't want to be called stupid, they shouldn't act stupidly.

Scott not only acted stupidly, but irresponsibly, considering his position as president of an organization that is purportedly for writers.

Barry and I always get called on for "tone" when we do one of these things.

What sort of tone should I take when someone does something so ridiculous, so disingenuous, so harmful as this?

I get attacked constantly for my views all over the Internet. I can take it. As a public figure, I invite debate, scrutiny, and disapproval, and I expect the derision.

But I'm not the leader of a prominent organization, and I don't have to wear kid gloves when I tackle a subject. I'm also aware that my tone brings a lot of traffic to this blog, which means more people get exposed to new ideas if only to see what Konrath is ranting about now.

Scott failed. Big time. And he was deliberate in his failure. This wasn't an accidental, "Oops, I guess I was wrong" situation. Barry and I aren't pouncing on someone who made an honest mistake.

I greatly respect your opinion, and I think you've said a lot of things on this blog that have been smart and helpful. If you are Scott's friend and you have his ear then you should tell him to stop acting like a fool in public. He's also free to run ideas by Barry and me next time he wants to speak on the topics of Amazon, ebooks, and piracy.

But I have a feeling Scott isn't going to be changing his mind about things, no matter who talks to him.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but why is Konrath responsible for privately contacting the head of the AG about a public letter sent out? As far as I know, this blog is well known, and Joe is among the most successful Indie author's in history. If Scott was interested in getting other opinions, it seems to be the burden of reaching out is on the head of the organization that supposedly represents authors.

But it's clear that the AG isn't interested in representing all authors.

So, in my mind, everything posted here is justified.

Alan Tucker said...

@Archangel - There's no doubt we've all been hounded at one time or another by the "you haven't been published by a 'real' publisher, so you must not be any good," meme — either internally or externally, sometimes both. The power to decide what had merit and what did not was misplaced for many, many years. We are only now beginning to wander our way out of those woods and into the sunshine.

Anonymous said...

To me it's sad when writers attack other writers.

Let me say it again. It really is sad when writers attack other writers.

Whenever that happens, I lose respect for the attackers.

I'd much rather see the issues attacked rather than the persons espousing them. Scott's brought a lot of enhancement to the lives of those who have read one of his books or seen the movies based on them. I for one tremendously liked Presume Innocent, so I'm in his debt. It pains me to see someone call him a pinhead, stupid, disingenuous, and all of the rest.

If the purpose of the name calling is to create an "exciting" blog, I personally don't feel that excitement trumps respect. Nor should it.

Scott's entitled to his view of the world, as we all are.

I.J.Parker said...

@ Archangel re Google deal.

Yes, I'm aware it fell through, but the books are still up and I have received no damages. Some ridiculous amount, such as 60 dollars had been negotiated by Author Guild, I believe.
The point is that Author Guild took it upon themselves to facilitate things for Google without consulting the authors in question. They got agents on their side, and my agent got very sniffy when I wouldn't sign off on the deal.

Joe Konrath said...

Scott's entitled to his view of the world, as we all are.

That doesn't mean he is entitled to respect. Especially when he's acting like a moron.

Respect is earned by our words and our deeds. What does liking Presumed Innocent have to do with the fact that his views are harmful to authors?

As for this being an "exciting" blog, one of my unavoidable traits is being outspoken. That brings people here. I call it like I see it, and I don't pull punches. But being outspoken doesn't matter if the things you are saying aren't helpful.

If some folks don't like my tone, they are welcome to express their displeasure. They can even do so here, under the protection of anonymity. And they can call me all the names they want to call me.

But they should try to back their opinions up with facts.

This blog post shows in excruciating detail how Turow says one moronic thing after another.

That isn't opinion. That is fact.

Archangel said...

Thanks Joe, for your offered respect to me, and for saying I'd mentioned some 'smart and helpful' things here at your place. Mine is returned to you also. In offering my opinions-- I hope that's still alright-- I was arguing for bridging personally too. For not pushing away those who are likely to be avid and able partners, hopefully eventually.

I agree with many of your points. And, as I mentioned I still think one could do both, reply to issues and bridge to a person who is disagreed with-- to see what other aspects they are about. I think there are many sides to any given person that once known can create understandings over and above the surface one, and that these might make pathways through even clearer.

I dont know who knows you or who does not, but I am getting to know you, and I value that.

I hear clearly your position about Scott. And, I'd offer further facts about AG too, sometime when warranted. They are not a megolithic structure made up as portrayed by some as authors who rode free. On the contrary, most all have worked very hard and continue to. And give back and work for others both inside and outside ag as well. I know you dont agree. But I think/ hope we can still offer what we find to be true, nonetheless.

Ive been a USAF military wife for 21 years. I know some of the most rough characters who've gone to war that have ever walked the earth. If you've been military you know what I mean when I say, "blue French" is spoken in this household. lol. When you say " ...you know what to expect. When someone is acting like a pinhead, they get called a pinhead..." Yes, Joe, I understand most 'calling a spade a spade" with affection, for the tradition which I share, and I was raised in. And what I know about 'roughness' in most is that it shelters a heart of solid gold beneath nonetheless.

Again, just my .02, maybe less.

Thanks
drcpe

Joe Konrath said...

They got agents on their side, and my agent got very sniffy when I wouldn't sign off on the deal.

That lawsuit was silly.

Turow is right that current copyright law is woefully out of date. But he thinks the answer is to make the laws and penalties stricter. That's ridiculous. SOPA is ridiculous. DRM is ridiculous. Trying to stop people from sharing information, when the reason the internet exists is to share information, is ridiculous.

One of the main reasons we became a successful species is out ability to communicate and to share. It is in our genes. It cannot be stopped.

When someone violates copyright by copying without monetary gain (as in file sharing, or digitizing books ala Google) they are helping to spread awareness of books and ideas. This is good for the author.

I'm pirated like crazy, and still getting rich.

Instead of worrying about protecting copyright, we writers should be worried about reaching as many readers as possible, by any means possible.

Archangel said...

I.J. < thanks. If your books are still up on Google, more than what they call 'a snippet,' one call from you,or your agent, or your publisher will take it down immediately, if you wish. You have full control of that as the author.

Ag did not negotiate 60 per book: that was all our own publishers, and given the octopus that the law suit was and is with many arms as I mentioned re orphan works, et al, ag said, in order to settle and not keep spending huge amounts of money when Google has the deeper pockets and can keep the suit in court forever, that they would support at least 60, which I think as I read the brief, but it's been a while ago, was the starting point of agreement.

I agree with you and disagreed with the sixty- anything, AND vociferously, for many reasons, one being that the puny 'go away, I paid you off' payment did not grant any author their own scans which are of great value to most authors precisely for their own ebooks launches. As I said, ag is not a monolithic 'yes man' voting block. Dissenters are ever present representing several points of view. I witness.

Thanks I.J. We're all finding our ways through, often daily as more light is shed.
drcpe

BK said...

At risk of repeating myself, thanks for keeping these discussions out there so authors can read and be informed.

Mira said...

Thanks for your analysis! I completely agreed.

Unlike others, I didn't think it was over-the-top personally insulting, and I'm pretty sensitive to that sort of thing. Thought it was mostly about the arguments made, and the position Turow holds. But, just my opinion.

Writers were silenced and in fear of blacklisting for so long, it's so refreshing to hear people speaking the intelligent truth as they see it.

Right on, guys! We need true advocates!

Edward M. Grant said...

The reason for this is that most industries tend toward monopoly if unregulated.

Generally speaking there are two ways for a company to gain a monopoly:

1. Economies of scale mean you're able to sell products for less than any competitor.
2. Convince the government to give you a monopoly.

In the former case, you're selling for less than any competitor, which means consumers are getting the best possible deal. If you try to push up prices your competitors become profitable and you'll have to lower them again.

In the latter case, government is the problem, not the solution. Which isn't surprising, since it's the most powerful monopoly in the country; you don't prevent monopolies by giving more and more power to the biggest monopoly in existence.

And if a company with high market share starts selling products for less than the competition? The horror! Consumers can buy the things they want for less money! Prices should clearly be forced up to make them pay more.

Or something.

The only way that argument makes sense is if you believe that once the company raises prices again its competitors won't then undercut it. In the real world, if Big Business, Inc is making big profits on its products and government hasn't imposed so many regulations that competitors can't enter the market, there will be a queue of companies lining up for a share of those profits.

Eric Christopherson said...

... if you're right, and predatory pricing is not merely low pricing, but pricing "with the intention of driving your competitors out of business," than I'm not at all persuaded Amazon has engaged in the practice. Lower prices? Yes. In an attempt to gain market share? Yes. In order to drive competitors out of business? Where is your evidence for that? Though I imagine if the Justice Department has such evidence, it'll come after Amazon as it has the five legacy publishers and Apple.

If the Justice department comes after Amazon it would mean a profound change in anti-trust policy in this country or rather a return to pre-Reagan anti-trust policy. All the Justice dept. cares about these days is the consumer and preserving low prices, whereas they used to have an interest in preserving competition. (A good summary of the historical changes in anti-trust policy can be found in this Harper's article on Walmart: http://bit.ly/ACdMvk).

That would be a wonderful outcome (I only wish it were more likely), given that if the agency model is outlawed Amazon will gain monopsony power and we will all be its bitch soon enough.

Mark Asher said...

@Edward Grant: And if a company with high market share starts selling products for less than the competition? The horror! Consumers can buy the things they want for less money! Prices should clearly be forced up to make them pay more.

Think of Wal-Mart. You know what they do. Squeeze the supplier. If Amazon gains a similar position why wouldn't they squeeze the supplier by cutting royalties?

Just curious, but how many people think Amazon will pay 70% royalty on books five years from now?

Alan Spade said...

@ Mark Asher : "Just curious, but how many people think Amazon will pay 70% royalty on books five years from now?"

That would only happen if there was a collusion between companies like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Google and Apple. Because elsewhere, authors would go to concurrence immediately.

Even if there was such a collusion, authors would not be defenseless : we could leave only parts of our books on Amazon and invite people to go to our websites if they want the whole ebook.

We have to think like businessmen, and to prepare future fights in order to avoid them. As an old saying goes, "Si tu veux la paix, prépare la guerre".

antares said...

"Why not just state the argument clearly? After all, Scott is former litigator and presumably knows how to write a careful legal brief."

A story:

When I was a cub lawyer with the ink still wet on my license, I wrote an answer to a Motion for Summary Judgment and handed it over to a senior attorney. Within a couple of hours I got called in and was told to draft a new answer.

"Okay," I said, "but tell me what's wrong with it so I know what to change. Isn't it clear enough?"

The senior attorney said, "It's too clear. Look, the way you've laid it out, it's as clear as a West Texas sky. The judge is gonna understand it, and he's gonna understand that we don't have a credible defense, and he's gonna grant the MSJ. Go back and rewrite it in gobbledy-gook. That way the judge won't understand it, but he'll think there must be something in all that mess, so he'll have doubts, and he'll deny the MSJ."

And, imo, that's why Scott Turow did not state his argument clearly.

When you have the facts, plead the facts.

When you have the law, plead the law.

When you have neither, shout.

John Muccigrosso said...

Two things:

1. DRM? Turow actually has a good point here.

2. This piece isn't so much about Apple, and it may be that they have behaved illegally. But consider this: Why shouldn't we see Apple playing the Big 6 the way they did the music industry?

Want DRM? Sure. Have it. You're making a mistake, but fine. (Admittedly with music Apple was able to push the prices down from the start.)

Meanwhile elsewhere in the digital world, prices are lower and DRM is going away. Eventually Apple makes it fairly easy for indies to publish their music, and gets rid of DRM. It also helps create a huge market for digital music at the same time.

For books, Apple hasn't been able to push prices down, but now they provided great tools that mean that anyone can produce a nice book and sell it. In fact they've made it possible to produce really slick eBooks in a way that no one else has been able to do. Oh, and they sell a device that makes using those eBooks a terrific experience.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the internets, Amazon and others are pushing prices down...though notice they're not doing much for DRM, are they?

I would not be surprised to see the entire landscape change within a few years, especially once the Big 6 and apparently the AG are beaten down.

Joe Konrath said...

though notice they're not doing much for DRM, are they?

Amazon lets the author decide. None of my ebooks have DRM.

Perry said...

Several of the agency publishers have shown their contempt for their readers by preventing libraries from loaning their ebooks. One publisher that is allowing access is charging several times the hardcover price, and another is limiting the number of loans to 26 before requiring another purchase.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/25/business/for-libraries-and-publishers-an-e-book-tug-of-war.html

Anonymous said...

I think we are all missing the true underlying of Scott's blog post. It isn't so much he is aligned with the big six, he is, he has to be. It goes deeper than that.
What will their relevance be when the big six are no longer the gate keepers? If all authors are selling their wares by themselves , who needs them (the big six). And if we don’t need help protecting our rights from the big six, why would we need the guild?
If there are no jobs is there a need for a union? Who would join a union if there are no jobs?
Who would join a guild that serves no purpose? Nostalgia?

Cyn Bagley said...

If you really think paper books are better, would you ever spend time touching, smelling, and objectifying a book with no words in it?

I am into digital books, but I do go to a stationary store every once in awhile to feel and smell a book with no words in it. Sometimes I use it for a journal. lol

Otherwise this was a great post and I am 100 percent behind it unless there is shooting. If there is shooting, I'll duck.

Cyn

Anonymous said...

You guys said:
"Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge."

Comment: No. If a retailer sells below cost, then it opens itself up to suspicion of anti-competitive (i.e., predatory) pricing practices in pursuit of a monopoly. Your statement may be *aspirational*, but it doesn't comport with commercial law.

Then you said:
"Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, "We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can't bargain." Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale."

Comment: It's downright weird that you use auto dealerships as your model. You can be sure that the "invoice price" that the dealership pays for the vehicle represents a pretty durn-near concrete price floor. Example-fail.

Later you said:
"...there are so many things wrong with the way paper publishing has traditionally done business (consignment and returns, for example) that it’s a little disingenuous to blame Amazon for “undermining the hardcover market.”'

Comment: Agreed; the returns policy in traditional publishing is bonkers (for those who don't know, unsold stock can be returned for full credit to the publishers at any time). But you know, Amazon could unilaterally "disrupt" this arcane practice by renouncing it and accepting a no-returns agreement with publishers. Given how 'granular' their data is, and how many super-efficient algorithms they have chugging through that data, and how long they've been selling physical books, you'd think they'd pretty much have the whole process of ordering just the right number of copies of paper books down to a science, right? Right. Someone wake me up when Amazon decides to "innovate" on this particular point.

Deny the 'shill' label all you want, but you two are definitely taking it upon yourselves to devote considerable time, energy, and words to preaching the Amazon gospel. Not just the ebook gospel--the *Amazon* gospel. That begins to look suspiciously like shilling. Especially since, as independent authors, you would think that the most productive and remunerative use of your time would be to write books, not flood the channel with advocacy for a particular corporation. Corporate cheerleading is a very odd thing for a writer to do, as you yourselves imply in your critique of Turow above. So why are you doing it so frequently?

scott m said...

Setting prices at below costs is not per se a violation of antitrust or predatory pricing. Almost all retail does this in some form. It's call a loss leader--offer a really low price on a popular product to get people in the door. That's what Amazon was doing. It was in no way a violation of the law.

Anonymous said...

I might have been willing to listen to this dolt, except that a reading of excerpts of his books on Amazon has revealed him to be a truly spectacularly bad writer - worse than the worst pulp writers of the 20s. No wonder he's got such a hate-on for the "establishment" publishers - they probably didn't want his garbage!

Anonymous said...

I am into digital books, but I do go to a stationary store every once in awhile to feel and smell a book with no words in it. Sometimes I use it for a journal. lol

I prefer to buy mine from the back of a moving truck. Stationary stores are for pussies.

Wayne said...

You guys said:
"Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge."

Comment: No. If a retailer sells below cost, then it opens itself up to suspicion of anti-competitive (i.e., predatory) pricing practices in pursuit of a monopoly. Your statement may be *aspirational*, but it doesn't comport with commercial law.

I'm sorry but the implication your making isn't true. Predatory pricing is only illegal if it prevents competitors from entering the market. Grocery stores have loss leaders in every flyer every weekend in my town, perhaps even in yours. Amazon was also only discouting bestsellers (if my understanding is correct), a big group of books but not everything by far. There is nothing illegal about selling under your costs in itself. It's only if you succeed in using it to drive some other company under or prevent others from entering the market that its considered predatory.

Corporate cheerleading is a very odd thing for a writer to do, as you yourselves imply in your critique of Turow above. So why are you doing it so frequently?

Perhaps because, like an abused wife who marries a new awesome guy, they praise the new guy to all their friends? If you don't feel Konrath was abused feel free to read backwards to some of his rants about how publishing is still screwing him over in his view.

John Muccigrosso said...

That some books on Amazon's store don't have DRM doesn't undermine the completely correct observation about Amazon creating a walled garden by having their own brand of DRM. That goes for everyone else too.

Apple has already shown itself in favor of reducing DRM in the very profitable iTMS.

And imagine this scenario:
Amazon sells books at a loss until it has no real competition. Then prices go up. Someone else enters the market. Amazon lowers the price again to drive them out.

That's not legal, and nobody likes it when Google creates a product which it gives away (yes, yes, I know, we're their product, not their clients), completely killing or preventing the growth of a new profit-based market, with the occasional result that they kill their own product later.

Joe Konrath said...

You can be sure that the "invoice price" that the dealership pays for the vehicle represents a pretty durn-near concrete price floor.

I've bought several cars. Haggling still happens, and still works.

If a retailer sells below cost, then it opens itself up to suspicion of anti-competitive (i.e., predatory) pricing practices in pursuit of a monopoly.

I opens itself up to suspicion? What does that even mean? Who cares if there is suspicion? Have any companies been successfully prosecuted for putting things on sale below cost? I couldn't find references to any in the US.

Corporate cheerleading is a very odd thing for a writer to do, as you yourselves imply in your critique of Turow above. So why are you doing it so frequently?

Did you check out the name of my blog? It's called A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Since 2005 I've been giving writers information and advice about this industry.

Right now the best advice to give is to avoid legacy publishers and self-pub. Amazon is the biggest player in the game, and where I made 90% of my income. That isn't shilling. That's a fact, and I use facts to back up my claims.

But you know, Amazon could unilaterally "disrupt" this arcane practice by renouncing it and accepting a no-returns agreement with publishers.

You mean like Amazon successfully fought the collusion of the agency model? :)

Joe Konrath said...

That some books on Amazon's store don't have DRM doesn't undermine the completely correct observation about Amazon creating a walled garden by having their own brand of DRM.

Are you sure you aren't confusing proprietary formats with DRM?

Publishers are the ones who insist on DRM, not Amazon.

Amazon does use a format that differs from other booksellers, but that is hardly a walled garden. Format wars are standard in media. VHS and Beta. LP and cassette. CD and DAT. DVD and Blu-Ray. Mobi and epub.

But I don't expect Amazon to stay proprietary forever.

DJ said...

When you have stuff, you fear change because that means you risk losing it. When you want stuff, you can't wait for change.

I'm a sales & marketing exec, not in publishing but business is business and I know whereof I speak. Right now Amazon is trying to take as much market share as they can before someone else comes along and out-innovates them. They need to keep growing esp as their share price is kind of wobbly right now. The big 6 have to struggle to stay above water and they're rounding up all their stakeholders, including the authors guild, to protect the model and hold the economics as they are or they will die, or worse, become insignificant.

Amazon does exactly the same thing in other areas in which they compete. Want to buy a coffee machine ? Go to Sears, price it, then scan it with the Amazon app and get a better price delivered to your door. That's what you can do when you have no bricks and mortar to pay for - your b&m competitors become your showrooms.

Amazon will continue to gain market share, then they will turn on us like rabid weasels and cut royalties and other costs as they try to keep growing their share price. And in 5-10 years another company will come along and out-innovate them, and then Konrath and Eisler and anyone else who has done well with Amazon will run to Amazon's defense. It's the way of the world, my friends.

I.J.Parker said...

"I'm pirated like crazy, and still getting rich."

Joe, you cannot assume that your situation fits all authors. I get pirated like crazy and am not getting rich. In fact, I get mad every time I see that half the google entries for my books are from pirate sites.

Piracy is theft, and I don't believe for a minute that all those "charitable" sites aren't making money from my books. (or Google for that matter).

(And blogger is being a damn nuisance lately, with its anti-robot bit and insisting on a preview click, so that we have to do the whole illegible I.D. again).

Joe Konrath said...

I get pirated like crazy and am not getting rich.

But how can you blame piracy for that? It is impossible to prove that a stolen book would have otherwise been bought.

If you look at the most widely pirated movies, they happen to be some of the biggest grossing films or all time.

The widely pirated authors, surprise-surprise, are mostly bestsellers. None of them are hurting for money.

In fact, I get mad every time I see that half the google entries for my books are from pirate sites.

I searched for "I.J. Parker" torrents on Google and didn't find too many. The few I found had one or zero seeders. I went to the private tracker Demonoid, and I found one seeder for one of your titles, downloaded 318 times in two years.

I've had tens of thousands of downloads on Demonoid alone.

Don't assume that every time you see a torrent or filesharing site that lists one of your titles that it is actually available or being downloaded. A lot of these sites say they share files, but they really don't.

It is impossible to control copyright in a digital world. Getting angry at something that has 100% chance of happening is like getting angry at nature when it rains.

I've blogged about piracy, and done my own experiments. I'm pretty sure it doesn't effect sales, and in fact can boost awareness for an author.

I've also said, many times, that the way to combat piracy is with cost and convenience.

My argument is simple: piracy doesn't prevent authors from getting rich. I'm proof.

The argument of: I'm not getting rich, so it must be piracy, isn't provable because there are other factors and you can't link causality.

Anonymous said...

If you needed any more proof that there are simply not enough faces left on planet earth to sufficiently palm in dismay, here are the latest "best" reason's to avoid self-publishing:

http://mikeduran.com/2012/03/heres-why-you-should-wait-before-self-publishing-your-novel/

I believe I gave myself a concussion reading this in a brave attempt to pull off the rare facepalm headdesk combo.

Anonymous said...

Anon above, regarding the link you posted:

Holy shit, that is sad. 10 freaking years and she's celebrating that someone finally gave her some scraps? Holy crap, 10 years.

It boggles my mind. And now she's gonna get 17.5% royalties? How could you let her do that? I thought she was your friend?

If Jessica was my friend I'd slap her and tell her to wake the hell up. Ego makes you wait 10 years for a "deal". Tenacity makes you go sell that shit yourself and move on to the next book.

Wow.

Alan Tucker said...

@2:28 Anon — I commend the woman's perseverance, but the argument is laughable, you're right. If she had waited twenty years would that have made her work twice as good? Just silly. And the exciting publication date of 2013 was equally laughable.

Alan Spade said...

All this patience to be anointed by trad pub. There must be something religious there.

Or rather, both religious and psychological. Writers who most research trad pub research legitimation. Trad pub feeds himself on authors lack of self-confidence.

No wonder the discourse of publishers like HBG is so paternalist...

Paolo Amoroso said...

That some books on Amazon's store don't have DRM doesn't undermine the completely correct observation about Amazon creating a walled garden by having their own brand of DRM.
The proprietary Mobi/Kindle ebook file format without DRM doesn't make Amazon a walled garden any more than the open ePub standard would. The Mobi/Kindle format is well documented. There are many tools for creating and converting ebooks in this format. The open-source, cross-platform Calibre application, for example, does a great job converting Mobi/Kindle to ePub and several other formats.

chris said...

I can honestly say that my small press publisher and I are in favor of what Amazon is doing at the present. I'm one of those SF authors who came out of gate, repeatedly placing in the top 100 Best Seller lists, because we lowered our price points and gave thousands of free-trial prequel shorts away. Alternating between free trials and price points has evolved into a formula (I call staggering) to sell more books than every before.

Planet Janitor hit its best rank every this morning, and will probably stay in the top 100 Best-Seller list for some time. Without Amazon, this never would have happened.

Watch and pay attention to Joe's pricing information and how he accomplishes what he does. He's on to something, even for a house-published author,

Chris Stevenson

John Muccigrosso said...

I didn't mean format when I wrote DRM. Kindle not only chose their own format (which is just a hassle), but they also put DRM on their books too, in an attempt not only to protect the content, but to keep people in their ecosystem. It wasn't until two years after the release of the hardware kindle that kindle apps came out, following competition from the Nook and native eBook readers on the iPhone.

Note that the Kindle still can't read the ePub format, but needs a conversion.

Also Amazon was originally keeping way more of the revenue from sales than Apple ever has.

And who can forget the remote removal of 1984?

Look, I agree with you guys on your main point that Turow is on the wrong side of history and acting like he works for the Publishers Guild, but you've swung a bit too far the other way in buying into his discourse that it's AG vs. Amazon, and lionizing the latter.

Cyn Bagley said...

I prefer to buy mine from the back of a moving truck. Stationary stores are for pussies.

Unfortunately, Anon, I think you must be a P***Y because you aren't man enough to put your name up here.

Thankfully, I am not a dick.

I have been reading this blog for a few years and I appreciate what Joe has to say.

Cyn

I.J.Parker said...

First off: thank you, Joe, for answering. Twice. I'm deeply honored. :)

Secondly, I'm reassured that you say web sites posting availability of free downloads don't necessarily provide them.

Thirdly, I write for a niche market, meaning I have a small number of interested readers. I don't blame my not getting rich on piracy. I just maintain that its effect is more noticeable in my case.

Lastly, I'm very grateful that you helped me find another way when I lost my publishers.

I take it you have no influence with Blogger.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm biased since I've hardly ever gone to a bookstore (I was 13 when Amazon launched) but I'm no fan of them or the traditional model. Where's the choice in the same damn authors up front and in-stock when the books I want are never there? Choice my ass.

Last month I read Charles Murray's Coming Apart. That book was big conversation in the media for weeks, but even the author himself admitted that more people talk about his books than read them. eBook price: $12.99. Published by Random House. With a cover that looks like an elementary school art student spent 15 minutes designing in Photoshop.

Fuck em. Let's get on with something better.

Barry said...

Anonymous said, "Deny the 'shill' label all you want, but you two are definitely taking it upon yourselves to devote considerable time, energy, and words to preaching the Amazon gospel. Not just the ebook gospel--the *Amazon* gospel."

Why are you calling it ebook "gospel" and Amazon "gospel"? It's odd to hear someone who describes a car example as "downright weird" resort to such an inapplicable and loaded word.

FWIW, I don't see gospel in any of my arguments, just opinions I try hard to support with evidence and logic. I'm not preaching, and it's fine with me if people don't agree with my take on where the book business is going (though I think if they listen to what I have to say, they will be better able to make informed decisions).

Does the following really feel like "gospel" to you?

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/11/guest-post-by-barry-eisler.html

Does this?

http://writerunboxed.com/2011/11/25/11329/

If so, I think this preaching-the-absolute-truth framework you're proposing is something that exists more in your mind than it does on the page.

Which is certainly… downright weird.

"That begins to look suspiciously like shilling."

I suppose if I agreed we were preaching gospel, I'd agree with this, too.

"Especially since, as independent authors, you would think that the most productive and remunerative use of your time would be to write books, not flood the channel with advocacy for a particular corporation."

What "channel" are we flooding? What does that even mean? Who talks this way?

Anonymous people, I guess.

As for the notion that anything that doesn't represent the maximally productive and remunerative use of someone's time is ipso facto suspect, I'm beginning to understand why you would post anonymously. It sounds like you have a pretty sad and money-grubbing way of approaching life. But unless you were paid to spend your time posting a comment here, I assume you don't practice the "if it doesn't earn you max money, it's suspect" philosophy you preach. I hope you don't, anyway -- for your sake.

"Corporate cheerleading is a very odd thing for a writer to do, as you yourselves imply in your critique of Turow above. So why are you doing it so frequently?"

To the extent Joe and I are cheerleading for Amazon (we do that sometimes, when we're not preaching the gospel), it's for reasons we've laid out many, many times -- reasons that would be obvious to anyone paying even minimal attention even without having read us. Amazon pays anywhere from two to four times the digital royalties legacy publishers pay. They release books faster. They offer authors more control. They've developed an entirely new platform for authors who want to make a living from their writing.

These are just facts -- I'm not even including my opinions and my subjective experience. If our reporting and commenting on these facts makes you feel like we're shills, corporate advocates, and gospel preachers, I think that says more about you than it does about us.

Barry said...

DJ said:

"And in 5-10 years another company will come along and out-innovate [Amazon], and then Konrath and Eisler and anyone else who has done well with Amazon will run to Amazon's defense. It's the way of the world, my friends."

I'll never understand this kind of cheap cynicism. If Joe and I are saying things in support of Amazon that you believe are contradicted by evidence, then cite your evidence. Use logic. Argue on the merits.

Anyone with ten firing neurons can say, "Oh, they're all biased, they're all just whores." Why won't these people actually make an argument and take a position? Is it laziness? Cowardice? The self-pleasure that comes from feeling like you're above it all?

This reflex to dismiss the speaker and never engage the argument… I don't get it.

John, I hear you. There are various things I'd like Amazon to do better, mostly having to do with exclusivity, which I think is bad for everyone, Amazon included. But on balance, based on the facts I enumerate above, I think the good Amazon has brought to the publishing industry far outweighs any bad. But in rebutting AG President Scott Turow's tendentious and unsupported piece of pro-legacy, anti-Amazon advocacy, I'm naturally primarily responding to his faulty arguments rather than focusing on Amazon's own shortcomings. That's a separate topic.

Cyn said, to one of the anonymussies:

"Unfortunately, Anon, I think you must be a P***Y because you aren't man enough to put your name up here… Thankfully, I am not a dick."

LMAO… thanks, Cyn, that was beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Hey! HEY! Just because some of us are anonymous cowards doesn't mean we are lesser people. Snobby goddam "named" people. At one time nobody had to know that you were a dog...

Cheryl Tardif said...

Joe, you know I have sometimes disagreed with some of the things you've said, but in this case I agree completely with you and Barry. :-)

I think once many authors got over the initial shock of Amazon's KDP Select program and obvious dominance in the market, they realized that with change comes opportunity. And in no time in the past has there been better opportunities for independent/self-published authors or small publishers.

I had an issue with Amazon's exclusivity clause when they first announced it. But a day or two of thinking about it made me realize they're doing what any smart business would do--crushing the competition by securing more authors and more titles.

I think sometimes we try to hold onto old ways far too long. Some are just too afraid to take the plunge and try something new. That's the problem with this whole industry. And what's worse is that those who refuse to change with it will get left in the dust.

Amazon has given authors opportunities that were not possible even a few months ago. Amazon has made me more money in the last 2 months than in the last year!

In the past 4 days alone I've earned over $10,000 (yes, ten thousand dollars!) from 1 title that is now #18 on Amazon's Top 100 PAID Kindle bestsellers list. It's the second title of mine to hit that list in a month.

Prior to Select, I was a Canadian author who had made a name in Canada and was still trying to get known in the US and beyond. I had never made the Top 100 overall bestsellers list. Until now.

Even when I was distributed by Canada's leading book chain, they never gave me this kind of opportunity to get my books (I have 9) out there.

I'm also a publisher. Yes, some people still want that. They don't have the time or experience or whatever to go it alone. If they do later, I'll applaud them. For now, I am proud to publish their works. And many are enrolling in Select.

Yes, it's tough to decide to go with one company, one source of distribution. But isn't it time authors were paid for their time, words and dedication? I think so. And I'll be very happy to accept my $20,000+ check (or whatever it ends up being) for this month. ;-)

P.S. I wasn't sure I'd ever see the day when I can say, "Joe, right now, I'm outselling you." But I can. lol

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
www.cherylktardif.com

Joe Konrath said...

Cyn and Barry--

You guys didn't get anon's stationary joke?

Let me rephrase it:

I went into a stationery store, but couldn't buy anything because all the employees were standing still.

The point of the joke is he's leaping onto a moving truck--a daredevil act--to buy paper, because the truck isn't stationary.

Stationary and stationery.

A joke, kids. And one I chuckled at. ;)

elias said...

I haven't read any of these comments, so maybe someone has already brought this up, but it seems to me that the motivations of the Authors Guild become more clear if you think about their role.

The Authors Guild ostensibly exists to defend the interests of authors. Against what? The interests of paper publishing industry. In this sense the Authors Guild is just another middleman, whose services are no longer needed in the absence of an oppressive status quo.

Really, if the Authors Guild advocates for authors, and then Amazon comes along and provides authors better terms than the Authors Guild has ever been able to do, you can see how Amazon would be framed as a competitor and an enemy. After all, what use does a self-published author have for the Authors Guild, anyway? If every author goes in that direction, where will that leave the organization? Where will they get their dues?

Joe Konrath said...

Kindle not only chose their own format (which is just a hassle), but they also put DRM on their books too, in an attempt not only to protect the content, but to keep people in their ecosystem.

John, publishers put DRM on ebooks. So do authors. Amazon offers them a choice.

And I don't understand how you believe DRM keeps people tethered to Amazon. DRM prevents copying.

My Amazon ebooks don't have DRM, so anyone can copy them, reformat them, and read them on Nooks, Kobos, etc.

Joe Konrath said...

I suppose if I agreed we were preaching gospel, I'd agree with this, too.

Barry, I'm really getting tired of your preaching and shilling, and I will censor you if I have to.

Blake Crouch said...

congrats, Cheryl...your story and countless others are not being given credence in this larger discussion. The meme is...."people like Joe, Blake and Barry got lucky. Yeah you might get rich self-pubbing. You might also win the lottery."

Fuck the elitist Author's Guild for not recognizing, championing, and helping to spread the word that more writers are earning a living wage b/c of Amazon and other ebook platforms than ever before.

I'm not talking about getting rich. I mean writers making $3K, $4K a month, which in the current economy is pretty damn good and far beyond what the majority of people are ever paid by the Big 6.

What Turow has done is to intentionally mislead 90% of writers whose lot in life could be drastically improved by just knowing the truth, in the service of supporting a system that only works for a very small percentage of writers, including Turow. And he's doing this as the president of the Author's Guild. It's not just hypocritical, pathetic, and sleezy.

It's class warfare.

It's a breach of trust.

And I hope he and the Author's Guild are held publicly accountable.

John Muccigrosso said...

Joe,

You can't read Amazon's DRM'ed stuff except with Amazon's products.

Or so they intended. Their DRM was broken - which is illegal in these United States - and so that's that, but clearly not what they intended. Why on earth did they need their own format/DRM, if not to keep their customers coming back?

Again, your main point is spot on, but I think you err on the side of too much Amazon (Barry, I get it), and I think you underestimate Apple. If the court says, no more of this collusion, Apple will say, "Great!" and continue to make big bucks as they innovate eBooks into great things. Their handling of music shows that.

Oh, and once more: Amazon didn't come out with all the lovely Kindle apps until they had too...which was my point above.

Meanwhile the most popular e-reader probably remains the iPhone. So what does that say?

Wayne said...

DJ said:

"And in 5-10 years another company will come along and out-innovate [Amazon], and then Konrath and Eisler and anyone else who has done well with Amazon will run to Amazon's defense. It's the way of the world, my friends."


Cool? So in the meantime use Amazon to your benefit while watching for that new company. And if in 10 years your in on the new company and they aren't then you can run a blog talking about old school publishing via Amazon and point out all its flaws versus the new model.

The fact is that people like Zoe Winters and others before her were in the first wave of eBook self publishing. Joe took notice with the release of the Kindle and started realizing the changes it made to publishing and tried it out. People like Barry are what, 4th wave to carry the analog along? The benefits and risks from being an early adopter are available for all.

Scott Turow doesn't like Amazon and that's fine. But he should use real arguments. He should be mentioning alternatives like Smashwords, All Romances, etc. Recent previous AG blogs have argued for B&N which was the boogeyman not so long ago. Now he's proposing Google, which the AG is still in legal battles with, might be a nice competitor?

Joe Konrath said...

Konrath and Eisler and anyone else who has done well with Amazon will run to Amazon's defense.

Or Konrath and Eisler will criticize Amazon and then champion whatever is best for authors. Like they've always done.

I have no problem lauding business partners who have helped me thrive.

I also have no problem condemning them when they screw up.

Joe Konrath said...

Fuck the elitist Author's Guild for not recognizing, championing, and helping to spread the word that more writers are earning a living wage b/c of Amazon and other ebook platforms than ever before.

Blake, I'm disappointed in your inappropriate use of language.

You could have made your point much better if you'd said, "Fuck the fucking elitist Author's Guild."

I hope you know fucking better for the next time.

Blake Crouch said...

I have "tone" issues.

Sean Roney said...

It's funny that fatcat dead tree publishers have authors believing the lie that Amazon is evil, when in fact publishers and their demonic agents are the true enemy to literature and the arts!

Cheryl Tardif said...

Thank you, Blake. And you're right. I might not be making the numbers Joe and others have made, but I think $10,000+ a month isn't a bad start. And that's how I see it. As a start.

Last month $10,000; this month $20,000; next month...? Who knows? But I'll never be back to making a few hundred dollars while having to literally break my back toting heavy print books all over the place.

The bottom line is this: the money is there and Amazon allows authors a fair share of getting some. Yes, you'd better have a professionally designed cover, well edited material and a story that grips readers. Add Select to that mix and you have a recipe for success.

I received the email from Scott, read the first few lines and deleted it. Why should I go back to earning below minimum wage? I've worked my ass off to be where I am today.

I've put in the hours slogging away at signings and events since 2003, appeared on TV, radio, newspapers etc, held virtual book tours that took months to organize, done everything we were expected to do (especially when I was traditionally published), only to feel like I was taking three steps forward and one step back.

I'm Canadian. I live in Edmonton, Alberta. I'm one of the better known authors here. But I'm still making 10+ times more with Amazon than I was before Select. I have translations deals, movie interest and bestsellers.

If I can do this, so can many others. I haven't sold my soul to Amazon. I could unpublish and go back to making less than minimum wage if I wanted to. Uh...yeah...right.

Just checked my stats...I've now made $10,400 in under 4 days for one single title.

My motto: Dare to dream...and dream BIG!

Cheryl

Elizabeth Lang said...

Wow, lots of writers are now making a living out of writing because of Amazon? I'd like to see some real numbers across the board, not just the very few exceptions, because I highly doubt giving a way books for free or selling them for dirt cheap will make much of a living except for the lucky few.

I agree with Turow. Amazon is destroying bookselling. I hardly call giving away books as 'selling.' And reducing the cost of books to the price of a cup of coffee so that publishers can't make any money is hardly good for anyone, not even authors. Why? Because someone still has to do editing, proofreading, book covers, etc. Guess who bears the cost of that under the new Amazon model? That would be the hapless authors who think it's wonderful that they can now do all these things themselves so that they can save Amazon the percentage that actually goes to the publishers who normally do these things. Amazon who gets 70% if you sell under 2.99. And the authors get a measly 30%, but now bear the brunt of the work and expense of bringing their books to market. They even have to upload the files themselves. Good going. I can see how that makes Amazon great for authors. Darn those dastardly publishers. How dare they do all that work for you with professional people and actually expect part of the percentage for doing it.

To think of defending yourself as collusion...I can see how that's really fair. Because if Amazon attacks ten people, it's really illegal for all ten of them to fight back. Maybe if only one of them defended themselves and the rest continue to let Amazon shove a knife in their backs, then the DoJ and all the Amazon-lovers would be happier?

And really...the publishers artificially inflate prices unfairly? How about Amazon artificially deflating the prices unfairly? Do people really think that it takes nothing sell a book online? That all you have to do is upload a file? Anyone who sells, knows that overhead has to be figured into account. Only the ignorant don't realize this.

When I tried to self-publish, in order to get a cover, I had to spend a lot of valuable time trying to design one, and even then, it wasn't that good. I ended up paying someone to do it. That costs money. Does it cost nothing for me to upload a file? Hardly. And editing...anyone who thinks they can get a writing group or several friends to beta read a manuscript and that it will be as good as having a professional edit and proofread it, is deluding themselves. A freelance proofreader charges several dollars per page. And those are just a fraction of the cost a publisher puts into publishing a book. So, artificially inflating the prices unfairly? I think it's very unfair and insulting of people to think that publishing a book only takes as much cost and effort to click the upload button.

It costs Amazon nothing for an author to publish a book. What do they care about the overhead of publishers? And the result? I've never heard so many readers complain of crap books as those who buy books from Amazon by self-publishers. Some download the free books, just because its free, but can they get past the first page? Rarely.

That is detrimental to the book industry. That is why Amazon is destroying the book industry. By flooding the market with mounds of crap because it thinks that it can get rid of publishers by pricing them out of the equation.

Aric Mitchell said...

Elizabeth, you clearly have no idea how easy it is to use Amazon. Ever uploaded a photo to your Facebook account? Well, there ya go. That's how bad of a strain it is on an author. With Scrivener it takes less than 10 minutes to format a professional looking book. If you can't do that, then I applaud your decision to stick with traditional. It's the right one.

DJ said...

"Or Konrath and Eisler will criticize Amazon and then champion whatever is best for authors. Like they've always done."

Joe - fairly put and I appreciate the response. I'm not trying to be cynical, I have at least 11 intact neurons. It was unfair for me to slam you and Barry, your dialogues have been illuminating. I'm just trying to keep my head up on this. I agree the Big 6 run an outdated and unfair model. Amazon is great for us right now, but I worry about what they'll morph into once they have sufficient control of the market.

David L. Shutter said...

Mrs. Tardiff

Congrats on your growing success this year. Sounds very well earned.

Joe Konrath said...

I'd like to see some real numbers across the board, not just the very few exceptions, because I highly doubt giving a way books for free or selling them for dirt cheap will make much of a living except for the lucky few.

Then you should inform your opinions before stating them publicly. Read my blog going back to 2009. Then go to Kindleboards.com and spend a few days counting all the writers making a living.

And reducing the cost of books to the price of a cup of coffee so that publishers can't make any money is hardly good for anyone, not even authors.

The value of a book is how much money it earns the author, not the cover price.

Guess what? Starbucks has made millions of dollars charging a few bucks at a time for a cup of coffee. Authors can do the same. Except authors don't have the overhead that Starbucks does.

Never discount the importance of volume, especially in a global marketplace where the costs of distribution and manufacturing are zero.

And editing...anyone who thinks they can get a writing group or several friends to beta read a manuscript and that it will be as good as having a professional edit and proofread it, is deluding themselves.

I guess the dozens of writing friends I have are delusional, since that is what we do.

Because if Amazon attacks ten people, it's really illegal for all ten of them to fight back.

Collusion is illegal. Nothing Amazon did is illegal. Who do you think Amazon is attacking, and how? I'm pretty sure Barry and I nullified this argument. Did you read this blog entry at all?

I've never heard so many readers complain of crap books as those who buy books from Amazon by self-publishers.

What is that 1-800 hotline you have, where all readers can call you to complain about the quality of ebooks?

Wait... you don't have a 1-800 hotline?

Okay, so can you list some sources where you're hearing all of these readers complain? I mean, the way you're talking, it has to be at least tens of thousands of readers. Please point them out.

By flooding the market with mounds of crap because it thinks that it can get rid of publishers by pricing them out of the equation.

Because that is how a free market system works, by forcing consumers to buy crap.

Wow is right.

Anonymous said...

I hoped one day that the ebooks would make the car payment.

DONE

Now, I'm watching to see if the borrows + paperbacks will cover the car payment. Looks like we have a good shot this month.

Let the ebooks pay the rent!

Is that "success"? HELL YES it is.

PASSIVE income paying my rent and car payment????? Feeling pretty successful!

Oh, I got my first one star review. It stung a bit. Then I remembered what Joe said, (paraphrasing) "When you get one star reviews, you are finally outside of your primary audience."

So, I celebrated being outside of my primary audience and got back to writing my next book.

Thanks Joe.

kathie said...

Elizabeth--just to offer some info from a less wildly successful author...my 1099's show that I made about $34,000 since May 2011 with just one book. No, I'm not making the numbers some are, but that's not bad for a start. And, no my book isn't perfect, but knowing I put out a strong product on my own to a market who likes what I offer is a solid argument for going it alone.

Wayne said...

Elizabeth,read this please.
http://kevinomclaughlin.com/2012/02/26/survey-of-a-genre-science-fiction-ebook-market-under-the-microscope/

Please keep in mind that 1) Sci-fi is not the biggest category(Romance, Thriller/Mystery are), 2) each of the $2.99 sales is making a bit over $2 per book for the author.
2500 sales = the average advance payment these days. And its paid out over 3 payments over up to 1.5 years. The math from there is interesting.

Morbideus said...

In spite of you two using words like turbid, tendentious & obfuscation, clearly logic and common-sense is on your side. It's that "free-Market" that some claim will save our country, unless it works against the Establishment, then they have no problem invoking the Governments Right to interfere with Business.

THIS is what I see as the basis of his argument: "Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss."

Selling anything at a loss with specific intent to steal Market Share is considered an unfair business practice, and is the argument by which Standard Oil was brought down in what would be the "Original" antitrust lawsuit.

I don't agree with him for a single second, but he *may* have a case, based on that factoid alone. The rest of his argument is clearly horse-shit.

Anonymous said...

(I am published by a large, well-funded digital press, a small publisher of approximately the same caliber as Elizabeth's, and self-published. The large publisher has been known to be spiteful, and the small publisher is doing its best. Hence, anon.)

Elizabeth, I went and checked out your book.

You are being badly published. You are ranting about the value a publisher provides, but you're not getting any. Neither the cover or the editing or the promotion you've received is good, and the publisher is sucking away half of what you are managing to earn despite the odds against you. Furthermore, they have a terrible reputation for being publishing amateurs. You can see comment threads at Absolute Write, among others. Finally, your paperback is priced at fifteen dollars with a sample quality that doesn't justify the cost, and your ebook pricing is either free, 2.99, or $4 at B&N. Your publisher is not helping you there, either.

My own small press experience mirrors yours in terms of cover art, editing (I happen to be an editor - I don't do the final edit on my own work if I can help it, fresh eyes are best, but I do know how to spot terrible editing), and promotional reach. Our sales rankings for our small-press titles are even near each other in the sub-basement.

However, my sales at my large and extremely professional publisher aren't really that much better. The art and editing are top notch, and their promotional outreach is second to none. They take a bigger chunk of the sales money, too, because they know they're better than any other digital publisher (and they also do paperbacks for high performing titles, and they know authors are often suckers for the paper).

My self-published work is just as well edited... because it's my large press editor, moonlighting. The press pays her a flat fee per MS, and it comes out to well below minimum wage for her, so she's available for self-pubbers to hire. She's not alone.

I've learned to fake a passable cover. Still learning to do a decent blurb ;) But even with deficiencies in cover and blurb, and **absolutely no promotion whatsoever**, my self-published work is selling fewer copies than my large press books... but making me more money and getting better reviews. The "brunt of the work and expense" you mention is neither onorous nor difficult to earn out within a few weeks.

You are actually a PRIME candidate for self-publishing. Your story has promise, but the editing is very, very bad and killing the story's presentation. You could have done as well or better with a copy of "Self-Editing For Fiction Writers" by your side. You need to write more books instead of worrying about promotion (the which your publisher isn't doing either). If you don't want to self-pub, hold out for one of the big six. But don't blame Amazon for your troubles. Your publisher is the one screwing you.

Cyn Bagley said...

Okay Joe -
Finally got the stationary joke. Feeling abashed. I blame it on WG (Vasculitis disease) and the meds they make me take (chemo & med). Maybe age? I don't know why Barry didn't catch it. But he can ride on my coattails. I don't mind.

Cyn

PS DST is really getting me grumpy this time. I still don't like any ANONs. My personal preference.

Joshua Simcox said...

@ Sandra Ruttan:

If Dorchester is still publishing titles they no longer have rights to, you may want to consider Scott Nicholson's advice to self-publish the hell out of those titles and undercut Dorchester on price. With their current financial crisis, Dorchester is certainly in no position to sue, and they've obviously breached your contract with them by profitting off works they no longer possess. That alone should absolve you of any legal obligation to continue getting screwed by a publishing house that has now become the biggest joke in genre publishing.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no lawyer and I'm not in the habit of dispensing legal advice. This is simply an idea Scott Nicholson passed along to another writer in your position, and I think it makes a lot of sense.

As for the ceaseless bitching about Amazon, I simply don't understand it. Back in college, I discovered a terrific author named Christopher Golden. The local big-box book stores didn't carry Christopher Golden.

Amazon did. Dirt cheap, too. I was a fan for life at that point.

It's hard to find too much fault with a retailer that inexpensively offers consumers exactly what they want.

--Joshua

Cheryl Tardif said...

I don't agree with much of the publisher slamming here (as I'm a publisher too), because you can't judge every publisher by what the "old ones" have done. Some pubs, like my company, actually WANT authors to do well and be successful.

I look at Imajin Books as a stepping stone and a way to feed a need that's still there. Some writers want the publishing contract and want a publisher to do the "work" of creating the book. Some want the experience and an opportunity to learn how to market their book, rather than being thrown into it as a s/pubbed author. As long as there are authors who want a publisher, there will be publishing companies--just maybe not the "old" kind.

Keep in mind, I know both sides. I started as a self-pubbed author, was picked up by a publisher, signed with a major New York agent and then went back to indie publishing and started my own company so I could help others.

Elizabeth, you really don't seem to understand how Select works. Or the potential and opportunity it allows authors. I'm not one of "very few exceptions." There are many more like me who are earning more money now than ever before.

I highly doubt giving a way books for free or selling them for dirt cheap will make much of a living except for the lucky few.

Then I must know an awful lot of lucky people--from debut authors to ones who've been at it a while. I'd call making over $10,000 a month a good living. Heck, in today's economy, making over $3000 is damned good.

I hardly call giving away books as 'selling.'

You're right about this. Giving away means FREE. :-) Just like many other companies that give something free to get sales, we now have the ability to do the same--if we want to. I don't normally sell 20,000 ebooks in 2 days. But I was able to give away 20,000. Now 20,000 new readers are reading one of my books. And I've received more reviews, fan mail and huge SALES as a result. If you saw my before Select sales and the after Select sales you'd understand.

And reducing the cost of books to the price of a cup of coffee so that publishers can't make any money is hardly good for anyone, not even authors.

At Imajin Books we focus mainly on ebooks and give our authors higher than average royalties. Our ebooks are priced under $5 because that's what consumers want to pay. We're unique in many ways and we're still making money. We don't have the overhead of a big pub. We don't have the massive, wasteful print runs. We make enough to keep going.

Someone still has to do editing, proofreading, book covers, etc. Guess who bears the cost of that under the new Amazon model? That would be the hapless authors who think it's wonderful that they can now do all these things themselves so that they can save Amazon the percentage that actually goes to the publishers who normally do these things.

I'm an indie author. I'll gladly pay for editing, covers, formatting etc--a one-time fee of maybe $1000-$1500--to make $12000 in 4 days, which is what I made today on ONE ebook. I'm not "hapless," I'm making money...

Cheryl Tardif said...

Part 2...hehe

Amazon who gets 70% if you sell under 2.99. And the authors get a measly 30%, but now bear the brunt of the work and expense of bringing their books to market.

Of course they could just price their books at $2.99 or $3.99 or $4.99...and earn 70%.

They even have to upload the files themselves.

Yikes! Uploading may scare you, but it doesn't scare me. Takes me about 10 minutes to publish/upload a book.

Darn those dastardly publishers. How dare they do all that work for you with professional people and actually expect part of the percentage for doing it.

I agree. Publishers have to pay for services. But they need to find new ways to pay their authors ,and lower costs and overhead.

Do people really think that it takes nothing sell a book online? That all you have to do is upload a file? Anyone who sells, knows that overhead has to be figured into account. Only the ignorant don't realize this.

I've been at this biz for 9 years and have pounded the pavement selling my books, doing over 200 signings and events, talking to bookstore owners etc. It's not easy. But that's the OLD way. We don't have to do that any more. And publishers don't have to have such high overhead any more. Online marketing is far easier, once you know what works.

When I tried to self-publish, in order to get a cover, I had to spend a lot of valuable time trying to design one, and even then, it wasn't that good.

Why would you try to design a cover if you're not good at it? That's what professionals are for.

I ended up paying someone to do it. That costs money.

If you're not willing to invest in your business as a writer, why should anyone invest in you and buy your books. This is a business for most of us. We'll invest in covers, editing, formatting etc if we want people to see us as professional.

I've never heard so many readers complain of crap books as those who buy books from Amazon by self-publishers. Some download the free books, just because its free, but can they get past the first page? Rarely.

Rarely? Where are the stats on that? I have 10+ new reviews from readers in the past few days who picked up my book for free. I'm guessing they must have read past the first page to give it 4 and 5 stars.

This is why Amazon is destroying the book industry. By flooding the market with mounds of crap because it thinks that it can get rid of publishers by pricing them out of the equation.

There was crap on the market long before Amazon opened KDP. Some of the crap I've read had typos galore, changes in character names and other glaring errors--and these were NYTs bestsellers.

Publishers who continue to do things the old way will not have an easy time. You have to embrace change and find your place in this market--whether it's as a publisher who does things differently, an author who signs with the new model of publisher or the indie author who goes it alone.

Not all publishers are bad or evil or have "evil agents," as someone put it. It's all about choices now. For authors. We have a choice. And opportunities to earn more than ever before. :-)

Just checked my stats: I've now made almost $13000 on one title in just under 4 days.

Cheryl

Richard Herley said...

The original post and many of the comments here show how touchy self-publishers still are about their status. Why waste your time complaining about people like Turow? You don't need to prove anything to him.

Many years ago I joined the Society of Authors here in Britain. The subscription wasn't cheap. When I finally needed to enlist their aid in one of my many battles with Heinemann, I soon perceived that they were not on my side. They favour publishers, because without the abusive relationship between publishers and authors, an authors' trade union has no purpose. Where would the police be if they finally put an end to crime?

Ignore the (admittedly amusing) braying of the dinosaurs in their tarpit. As for your and Mr Eisler's fisking of Turow's post in such microscopic detail, may I suggest your time would have been better spent in almost any other way?

Alexis Harrington said...

I read Turow's rant when it came the other day. After I plowed through the rhetoric, it made me wish I had this year's dues back. I am completely baffled by the Authors Guild's position to hang onto the shreds of what was a demoralizing system of servitude. Over the years I was told there was nothing effective I could do to promote my book. Was the publisher going to promote it? No, they threw it out there like an abandoned baby in a garbage can. If someone found it, great, otherwise it would die a quiet death. Then *I* would be blamed for having lousy "numbers," that sales score that follows an author like a police rap sheet from one house to the next. For the first time in 20 years, I'm actually earning a living at writing. It's pretty damned hard to argue with that.

Alexis

Joe Konrath said...

As for your and Mr Eisler's fisking of Turow's post in such microscopic detail, may I suggest your time would have been better spent in almost any other way?

Not every author is as obviously enlightened as you are about the current state of publishing.

If you don't see the need to take the Authors Guild to task, might I suggest a pair of reading glasses to help with your myopia?

This is a revolution, Richard. You can sit back and watch from the sidelines, or you can participate and perhaps help some of your peers so they won't make the same mistakes you did. That includes warning them about the bullshit the status quo tries to pull.

How could you warn people about the Society of Authors, and in the same breath belittle what Barry and I are doing?

Nancy Beck said...

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format).

A proprietary format? Use Calibre, and you can switch it to another format.

What a silly argument among several silly arguments. ;-)

My Website

Tom Maddox said...

How can the agency model be some saving grace to our rich literary culture? The agency model applies only to e-books and e-books are a new development in our literary culture. How can the agency model save bookstores? The agency model applies to e-books and the vast majority of bookstores don’t sell e-books. How does Amazon’s pricing on one product affect a store that does not offer the same product?

So, what is killing the bookstores out there? Maybe it is the fact that they don’t carry the book format (e-books) that many of us prefer to read in.

So, the only way that Turow and the publishers can believe that the Agency model is saving bookstores is because they know they are keeping the prices high to make paper seem like a more attractive alternative.

As a reader, and I always like to point out that my perspective is not as an author but a reader, I would much rather pay $2.99 for a Konrath book knowing the most of my money is going to the person who created the work I am enjoying. I don’t want to pay $12.99 and know that the majority of my money is going to the suits in New York. I really don’t believe they are adding $10 of extra value or $10 more entertainment than Joe’s $2.99 books. I am happier knowing that my purchase of one of Blake’s books may help him pay his mortgage instead of purchasing a Legacy Published book where my money is helping pay for someone’s fancy office.

This letter from Turow makes me believe that the Authors Guild is more concerned about protecting only the authors earning their living through traditional publishing and is not concerned at all about those who now can make a living thanks to their ability to self-publish.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, Konrath didn't get his start in ebooks but is now trashing the "legacy publishers" that got his name out there. He's telling his yes-men sheep followers, all wannabes who think they actually have a future as writers, that they don't need those publishers. Well, if you read some of the excerpts of Konrath's books on Amazon maybe it doesn't take any talent to get an ebook published. Consider this from A Shot of Tequila:

Chico was a small-times hustler and big-time loser who liked to bet the ponies and hit women. He was more successful at the latter.

Does it get any worse than that? The old time pulp writers would have been ashamed to turn out something like that.

Jim King said...

"Unfortunately, Anon, I think you must be a P***Y because you aren't man enough to put your name up here… Thankfully, I am not a dick."

LMAO… thanks, Cyn, that was beautiful.


How does putting a name on your post make you less anonymous? It could be invented, and even a picture doesn't mean much as you could just take someone's picture from the internet. I'm not saying anyone here has done that, only that they could.

Joe Konrath said...

The old time pulp writers would have been ashamed to turn out something like that.

In fact, Charles Willeford rose up from his grave and slapped me for that line.

Then we had a few beers and laughed at trolling anonymous cowards who read my blog because they're man-crushing on me but too embarrassed to admit it.

It's okay that you jerk off to my picture. No one will judge you here.

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...

"Chico was a small-times hustler and big-time loser who liked to bet the ponies and hit women. He was more successful at the latter."

"Does it get any worse than that? The old time pulp writers would have been ashamed to turn out something like that."

Dear Anon,

Is there an argument or anything of use to the nature of your recent post? Or is that just senseless and useless bashing? Or worse off jealousy.

I and many others her I am sure, would love the opportunity to critique and criticize your writing as you have done with Mr. Konrath's. I am pretty certain I too could pick out something in your work. If any such work does exist.

Your hiding behind the name anonymous. Expose yourself and let us critique your work. Let us see your sales figures on your books. Let us be the judges of you and your work.

As suspected, that is not going to happen is it?

You are simply a troll who makes posts of little or no relevance to anything. Post that only suggest you have the innate ability to insult rather then intellegently argue points. Consider becoming a publisher. You Anon, are a natural fit for it. The least you could have done was posted something that was even slightly amusing or of wit. You have done neither. Go back to your hole.

Sad.

Joe Konrath said...

You are simply a troll who makes posts of little or no relevance to anything.

I think he was relevant. On the surface is a mask of hatred, but deep inside is a gooey bromantic desperately yearning to serenade me. That's how it is with trolls. They just want a warm hug because they never got any growing up.

Todd Trumpet said...

Damn, late to the comment party.

Has Turow been convinced to stop returning checks from his Amazon sales?

Todd
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Bob Fleck said...

Ignoring the hype back and forth, Joe, I have one quick question: Why is it okay for you and other "independent" publishers to use the agency model but not for "legacy" publishers?

If the DOJ finds the agency model to be illegal, should you and other independent writers be forced to also switch to a classic sales model where you tell Amazon and other ebook distributors how much you want per copy and they set the price, or choose not to sell your work at all at the price offered?

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...

"You are simply a troll who makes posts of little or no relevance to anything."

"I think he was relevant. On the surface is a mask of hatred, but deep inside is a gooey bromantic desperately yearning to serenade me. That's how it is with trolls. They just want a warm hug because they never got any growing up."

Lol. Ok I re-submit not only my original take on Anon and on the wonderful world of trolling, but I re-submit with quotes the words of the wise and self-published experienced, to which I make no such claim,

"I think he was relevant. On the surface is a mask of hatred, but deep inside is a gooey bromantic desperately yearning to serenade me. That's how it is with trolls. They just want a warm hug because they never got any growing up."

Now thats constructive debate and argument where on side secedes to the others point of view through facts and sensible relevant on topic remarks.

Congratulations Konrath, on winning our debate/argument on Anon and ultimately trolls.

Adam Pepper said...

Tom Maddox, you are an author's dream.

Bob, I could be wrong but I don't think anyone contends the agency model is illegal. The collusion and price fixing en masse is at issue.

Joe Konrath said...

Congratulations Konrath, on winning our debate/argument on Anon and ultimately trolls.

We're all winners on my blog, Jirka! :)

Whenever someone does their best to offend me, I remember the Shakespeare quote, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

If they are so passionate about me they must post anonymous insults, it no doubt indicates obsession. It's flattering.

So rather than get angry the next time some pinhead disparages you anonymously, just remember that trolls are special little guys who need attention in order to feel good about themselves.

T. B. Back said...

Read Turow's drivel yesterday. Read Jonathan Franzen's delusions the other week. The fact is, the digital comet has struck and the print publishing dinosaurs need to adapt or keel over and die.

Bob Fleck said...

But Adam, the agency model is the tool of the alleged price fixing. No agency model, no publisher control over the price.

JM said...

Joe, ignore the trolls that try to demean what you do. Every post has some gem in it, usually several, that have motivated me to take control of my own career.
It took me a while, but just last month I released my first self-pubbed erotic romance. Am I making a buttload of money? No. Not yet. But that $17 I've made is more empowering to me than any of the other money I've made from my e-pubs in the past year.
In trying to pay the knowledge forward, Donna McDonald, Kallypso Masters, and several others of us created http://kentuckyindiewriters.blogspot.com/ . There are so many questions out there that the organized author groups are unwilling or unable to answer about self-publishing. Are we experts? Heck no, but we're learning from our mistakes, and we're willing to pass those lessons on.
I'm dismayed at how many authors sincerely believe that the organized groups work for them.
Keep plowing on Joe and Barry!

Matthew Lee Adams said...

I've seen some pretty bad cover art from traditionally publishing, including bestsellers.

There are some beautiful covers produced for traditionally published works, but they're not the norm. Most simply falls into the middle ground and is derivative.

I'd suggest grabbing books from your bookshelves and take a good look at the covers.

Just looking at covers on the NY Times bestseller list, Jodi Picoult's "Lone Wolf" has three wolves on the cover. Hmmm...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiK1smzPZPQ

I'm a wolf! I'm an actual wolf!

I'm three wolves...and a Moon

Robyn Carr's "Redwood Bend" has the kind of cover art picture taken when you stop by the side of a road to stretch your legs. Maybe that was the point, I dunno.

Jonathan Kellerman's "Victims" evokes Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" mixed with the house from "Psycho" - or maybe "Amityville Horror."

Some of these covers look fairly clean and well laid out, but rarely does a cover convey what the book is about. And just as rarely is a cover arresting.

But that's fine. 70% of the cars on the road are white, black, silver, or gray:

http://www.cars.com/go/advice/Story.jsp?section=top&subject=colors

I see a typical range of covers on Amazon for both self-published and traditional. For genre, we see the expected elements - if it's a romance, we get a typical romance-themed cover, paranormal has its usual elements, westerns have rugged characters, and so on.

There are beautiful examples of covers no matter the source. And others that don't do the novel justice. Barry Eisler has written about experiences with "green garage doors" as someone in the Art Department's idea for cover design. I'm reading Patricia Briggs's "Mercy Thompson" series, and the sultry character on the covers don't jibe with the character in the books. Granted, "chick with unbuttoned shirt and bare midriff striking hot pose" is probably eye-catching.

Joe Konrath has devoted time to discuss costs and methods for creating covers as well as editing. Dean Wesley Smith also offers his own practical advice - even to use PowerPoint for covers:

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=6347

I ended up using Photoshop CS5 - simply because my wife has it. I'd never used it before, and still was able to work up five book covers, spending only a few hours on each one. I don't know whether they're arresting, but I think they're as good as anything I've seen on shelves:

http://www.amazon.com/Matthew-Lee-Adams/e/B006Z27HFI

I chose to evoke mood with the covers rather than the typical literal depictions that are more common. People take different approaches with covers - sometimes utilizing symbolism, sometimes stark, sometimes eye-catching yet a bit bizarre (the famous "Great Gatsby" cover comes to mind), and sometimes "green garage doors."

Matthew Lee Adams said...

As far as editing goes, I'd say traditionally published works tend to have few typos or outright grammar errors. But as others have noted, I've seen typos and grammar issues in even bestsellers. This is without even commenting on the Harper Collins release of Raymond Feist's "A Crown Imperiled":

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/03/2012/giant-mistakes-in-raymond-feist-book/

Editing is pretty hit-and-miss, and extremely subjective. Obviously, bestselling authors don't get as much - partly because the author has more clout to resist it, and because the books will sell anyway. I greatly enjoyed Jared Diamond's "Collapse" - yet I still wish it had been as tight as Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us." Stephen King's "The Stand" got edited by the accounting dept. His revenge was releasing an expanded edition and writing even bigger doorstoppers that still sell like mad.

But even other authors don't seem to receive editing that would help prevent glaring plot deficiencies, paper-thin characters, bad dialogue, cliches, and so on.

Actually, all of that is perfectly fine. And you know why? Because none of those things I just mentioned have ever been an impediment to some books becoming bestsellers - whether in the traditional or self-published arenas.

Readers are looking for story and characters and plot that strike the right notes with them. There isn't a bestseller out there that hasn't taken criticism for a range of issues that "editors should have fixed." And it all depends on whether the book resonated with a reader. If it resonated, the "errors" are barely noticed.

And minor issues get missed by editors in bestsellers all the time. In Patricia Briggs's "Moon Called," I noticed the protagonist stow her revolver in her pack because she didn't have a holster. A few paragraphs later, she holstered her revolver (after not pulling it from the pack). Doesn't matter. It was a fun book.

Barry said...

Joe, re stationary vs stationery, I got the joke. If someone non-anonymous had made it, and maybe put a smiley emoticon next to it, I would have smiled. As it was, I thought it felt mean-spirited. But I might have been being too sensitive there.

Tom said:

"How can the agency model be some saving grace to our rich literary culture? The agency model applies only to e-books and e-books are a new development in our literary culture..."

I think the idea is that the agency model will make ebooks more expensive and therefore less attractive, and thereby keep legacy publishers and brick and mortar bookstores (the bedrock of RLC!) in the game. For the reasons Joe and I set forth in our post, I think the notion that paper, legacy, and B&M are the foundation of RLC and that RLC would disappear without them is silly, but the "make digital sufficiently unattractive and you can preserve the position of paper" logic is sound. It's the same reason butter makers lobbied to have margarine dyed blue. Ostensibly, it was about protecting the consumer; in fact, it was to make margarine unappetizing and protect butter sales thereby.

You nail this when you say, "Turow and the publishers believe the Agency model is saving bookstores because they know they are keeping the prices high to make paper seem like a more attractive alternative."

One of the anonymussies said of the jacket copy for A Shot of Tequila:

"Does it get any worse than that? The old time pulp writers would have been ashamed to turn out something like that."

Actually, I liked Tequila a lot, but that's just a matter of taste. Like your expression of disdain for the jacket copy. I doubt anyone here cares what an anonymussie says he does or doesn't like, but if you could analyze the shortcomings of the jacket copy in objective terms by reference to the principles of effective jacket copy in general and the objectives of this copy specifically, and if you could then offer objectively sounder alternatives, that would be a useful exercise. More effort and less self-pleasure, true, but you'd seem like much less of a worm if you could give it a try, and you might feel like less of one, too.

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jirka Samuel Borovec said...

"We're all winners on my blog, Jirka! :)"

Im feeling it Joe. In the words of the great and immortal Charlie Sheen "Winning."

Keep on doing what you do Joe. I am so close to self-publsihing it hurts and the advice you and guest posters like Barry and others you run with provide, is nothing short of gold to a soon to be "Newbie Self-Publisher" like myself. Thank you.

Nancy Beck said...

Joe Konrath has devoted time to discuss costs and methods for creating covers as well as editing.

So, so true. I use PS Elements 7, which I picked up off of eBay for about $60.

I tried my hand on the first cover for my novella series, but got stuck at what to use for the 2nd and 3rd covers. Because of a link on Kindleboards, I found a pre-made cover that I thought was perfect for the 3rd book (it's my current profile pic).

I like it so much, that I decided to contract the artist. Didn't cost me an arm and a leg. She told me her price for doing all 3 novella covers - it helped that she was trying to increase her e-cover stable - and I agreed to it.

Way, way, way below the thousands some have spent. She tweaked that 3rd cover, did a great job on the other two - and since I have a sole proprietorship business, I'm pretty sure I can take that off as a cost of doing business. (Handed my stuff to the accountant a few days ago.)

As for editing, I do it myself, and although I've always been very good with grammar, etc., I have a back up - Serenity Software's Editor program. It does waaaay more than spellcheck or grammarcheck in Word. (Not an affiliate, BTW; I just like using the software.) Which reminds me, that might be another expense I should send to the accountant...

And I've now written a romantic comedy novelette under a pen name and will only do my own covers for shorter works.

Really, go out there and learn how to do your own covers. Maybe even take a course. (I found an online course that didn't cost a ton of a money, and I really think it helped.) It's lots of fun! :-)

But as you can see, you don't have to spend thousands on a cover (unless you really want to AND have the dough in the bank), you don't have to spend hundreds on editing.

And graphic artists/cover artists are willing to listen how you can pay them. Seriously. The woman I contracted I paid on an installment basis. All you have to do is ask.

It's not easy, but I like having personal control even though I'm not bringing in a steady stream - yet. :-)

Robert Browne said...

I have to wonder if the publishing companies and their supporters were crowing about the end of the world when Mr. Fawcett introduced paperback originals to the world and they became an instant hit?

I'm sure there was talk about these cheap paperbacks devaluing the work. Paperbacks written by MacDonald and Goodis and Thompson and Stark. Imagine how much better off the world would be if we had never been introduced to these writers...

Anonymous said...

trolling anonymous cowards who read my blog because they're man-crushing on me but too embarrassed to admit it.

I know you don't really believe that. Like most blogs yours has as its usual readers and commenters only the sycophants, any dissenting voice having long since abandoned the place or, if new, having found it so unwelcoming abandoned the blog. I'd like to see you instead try to justify yourself and your work, something you won't do. I don't doubt you're making a lot of money from your books - not Stephen King money, maybe, but a living - but is that enough? I quoted from the first page of A Shot of Tequila as a brief example of some of the worst writing I've ever seen. Whether or not I could do better is irrevelant. It's the quivalent to one of those shows where they judge a person's singing - bad singers receiving such harsh criticism only because by going on the show they're saying "I believe I'm good enough to be a professional." No, we don't expect mere thriller writers to be Hemingway but compare your writing to someone like Clive Cussler or even Tom Clancy - and it still falls short. There are many people here, almost a full 100% of the comments and surely almost all your regulars who are in love with you. Someone who expresses a contrary opinion, no matter if they're anonymous or not, would receive the same treatment - the attempt (notice the stress on that word) of a smackdown.

Is there an argument or anything of use to the nature of your recent post?

Of course there is, and it's right there in front of you. I'm clarifying it for you even though I'd have thought that unnecessary.

I and many others her I am sure, would love the opportunity to critique and criticize your writing as you have done with Mr. Konrath's.

There isn't anything to criticize. I found my way here via a link from the Scott Turow article. I'm not someone seeking Konrath's wisdom on how to self-publish. You're attempting the old "if you can't do better you have no right to criticize" argument which has always fallen short. Really, though, even if I couldn't do better it's hard to see how I could do worse. Compare Konrath to any of the well known pulp writers - rather than, say, Hemingway - and he still doesn't measure up. Robert E. Howard, for example, wasn't the world's greatest prose stylist but he definitely had talent - he could turn a phrase and his writing had an energy that isn't easily matched. The same could be said for Edgar Rice Burroughs or Lester Dent. Or a modern example of higher quality in the pulp tradition - Elmore Leonard.

Your hiding behind the name anonymous. Expose yourself and let us critique your work. Let us see your sales figures on your books. Let us be the judges of you and your work.

As I said, there's nothing to critique and no sales figures as I've not published anything and never will. You made the usual blunder of assuming that anyone who calls out a bad writer is just a frustrated and even less talented writer.

Post that only suggest you have the innate ability to insult rather then intellegently argue points.

The reason I quoted from one of Konrath's books was so that you wouldn't have to take my word for it that he's a bad writer. I figured I could let the writing speak for itself.

Consider becoming a publisher.

I have even less interest in doing that than in becoming a writer. Besides, if Konrath's to be believed they're on their way out and the field was too crowded long ago already.

The least you could have done was posted something that was even slightly amusing or of wit.

Well actually I did - even Konrath admitted to liking my stationary joke.

Anonymous said...

Go back to your hole.

I would if I had one but I'm too tall to be a Hobbit and only the rich ones lived in holes anyway. And they were nice, warm, comfortable holes well stocked with food and drink and other comforts.

On the surface is a mask of hatred, but deep inside is a gooey bromantic desperately yearning to serenade me.

The ones with the hard on for you are your yes-men suckups, Joe, and you know it.

Congratulations Konrath, on winning our debate/argument on Anon and ultimately trolls.

You can't win if you don't play and he didn't play.

So rather than get angry the next time some pinhead disparages you anonymously, just remember that trolls are special little guys who need attention in order to feel good about themselves.

This way of thinking is no doubt better for you as it saves you having to think. Based on the quality of your writing, though, it's probably something best avoided. Although I.Q. scores aren't all they're cracked up to be, I suspect yours wouldn't be in Doogie Howser territory.

If someone non-anonymous had made it, and maybe put a smiley emoticon next to it, I would have smiled.

You should try judging comments on their own and not on who said them. The smiley face is a crutch - like a laugh track for a sitcom telling idiots when to laugh.

Like your expression of disdain for the jacket copy.

That was from the first page of the book.

More effort and less self-pleasure, true, but you'd seem like much less of a worm if you could give it a try, and you might feel like less of one, too.

I posted a sample for the readers here to judge for themselves, and compared it unfavorably to the pulp writers of the past whose work is in the public domain and therefore easily obtained. Try some Doc Savage or Conan or Burroughs' Mars or Tarzan books. Awful writing, but with a certain style and energy to it. What you want is for someone to do all your thinking for you. Like most of the people here you've selected Konrath for that.

Joe Konrath said...

The ones with the hard on for you are your yes-men suckups, Joe, and you know it.

Just can't stop touching yourself while thinking of me, huh? And who ever said masturbation isn't a group activity.

Robert Browne said...

Anonymous said: Does it get any worse than that? The old time pulp writers would have been ashamed to turn out something like that.

WTF? You come to a man's blog and ridicule his work and expect people to take you seriously?

For one thing, the excerpt you posted was pretty fucking snappy—the kind of writing I and a lot of people respond to.

For another, your literary snobbery—in place of an argument—is pretty disgusting.

Jim in Missoula said...

Thanks for explaining all that. I figured it would end up being something like what you said - b/s. Oh well, keep writing, keep reading, keep blogging.

Joe Konrath said...

For another, your literary snobbery—in place of an argument—is pretty disgusting.

He's not a literary snob, Rob. He's just a cute little guy who wants attention, but can't ask for it out of cowardice so he posts anonymously while typing one-handed. Kind of like a puppy who puposely piddles on the rug.

I've got lots of guys on the net who obsess about me and try to get me to notice them. It's funny, and makes life more interesting.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I'm with Rob.

The excerpt has attitude, a sense of humor, and it gives the reader a good feel for who that character is in very few words. That is not an example of poor writing.

Neal said...

Turow's a lawyer. So's my brother-in -law. Even in polite conversation my brother-in-law says "I hate lawyers".
Small wonder they want to protect the status quo. If you make it you should be able to sell it for whatever you want to. Some of the best musicians I know make a good living with "pay what you want to" pricing. Wage and price controls didn't work when Nixon tried them and they won't work now...or ever.
Keep rockin'Joe. It inspires.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

BTW, I didn't post that to defend Joe. No need. There's no one who loves a good troll spat more than him.

Matthew Lee Adams said...

@Nancy Beck -

I agree. There are a lot of very talented artists out there who are happy to do covers for reasonable prices. People can really spend as much or as little as they wish.

Joe Konrath has mentioned cover artists before that he uses. And I've seen many referenced on other sites. DeviantArt has quite a number as well.

I've read enough authors who've spoken of how little input they have into cover design (plus Barry Eisler's "green garage door" - what were they thinking?). The results tend to be hit-or-miss sometimes, or more often just "it'll do."

Whether someone designs their own covers or utilizes some of the ready talent from a very broad pool of artists, I do feel that is an advantage self-publishing has over the traditional model.

As far as those concerned with the outlay - as Dean Wesley Smith has said, PowerPoint or similar can be used at the least cost for many or most people. Otherwise, some people have Photoshop and similar applications. And hiring an artist is another route. But with traditional, you're still paying the artist (assuming your book has enough sales to cover "costs" regardless of profitability). It's just an indirect payment, as with all the other overhead (editing, production, etc.).

Joe Konrath said...

Lots of fans want to see a sequel to Tequila. I've made more from that one than I have from many of my legacy books.

In a writers forum, it's fun to pick apart what works and what doesn't and debate why. But this isn't a writers forum--it's a blog about publishing.

Critics need to check out my blog post called Be Deliberate, where I explain why those who make blanket statements such as "that sucks" are pinheads.

If you want to publicly offer an opinion, defend it or risk looking foolish. Defending means going into detail to explain why something isn't working.

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jirka Samuel Borovec said...

"The Sadness Of Trolls" by Anon the Troll.

He/She makes me laugh. Still off topic and still sad. Thank you for continuing to bring up your valuable insights on the original blog post itself, "Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow"

Again, I restate/repost "You are simply a troll who makes posts of little or no relevance to anything. Post that only suggest you have the innate ability to insult rather then intellegently argue points."

I think its time for you to Fuck Off and get back in bed with Scott. The two of you can slowly fade off into dream mode of the good old days of publishing. A time where only those hand picked by wealthy little status quo pricks would ever have a voice or an opportunity to make a living. Guys/Gals like you and Scott Turow think that if enough voices/pens are silenced then you remain relevant. Your right. Thank God we are headed in the opposite direction.

Shit sorry, I take it back, thats Scotts dream alone. Yours is more in the realm of, trolls who make it big by going from site to site spewing off topic remarks and finally one day making it big with their very own blog following and most likely entitled something along the lines of "A Trolls Guide To Insulting Everyone & Everything"

:-) Get it? :-) Get it? , "Cue the smiley face"
Bitch - You know the one...."the laugh track for a sitcom telling idiots when to laugh." Its not much different then the one that relays the message, exit stage left now. See if you can figure it out. Think of it as your homework and dong come back till you have it. A non-response from me will let you know you haven't found it.

Now fuck off, your boring me and Im pretty sure 97.8% of here. Your shit gets old Troll. Ive seen you on so many other blogs and forums. Stop following me and the others. Unless you've got something constructive to say about either Barry's points, Joe's points and even the points of the guy that your laying beside in bed right now uttering, "but you six promised me I would remain relevant if I did your bidding" why don't you just piss off?

Somehow, I can only assume you think your on a roll and will be back, won't you?, you little troll you. You little trolls always come back. Prove me wrong, please.

P.s. Be a good little troll and do your homework. Don't forget. Now run along, Mamma Turow is worried about you.

Anonymous said...

New anon here.

Just checked in and started to read the posts from the most recent, which was one by someone named Jirka.

I learned very quickly that this is not a place I want to be.

So, leaving. I'm sure I'm missing something of substance somewhere, but the price is too high to get to it.

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Pain and The Joy said...

Been away from Newbie's Guide for a while. Now I remember why I used to be faith. You're back on my daily read list.

Jirka Samuel Borovec said...

Article On Anons:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/11/tech/web/online-comments-sxsw/index.html?iref=allsearch

Sorry everyone, thats the last post I make for the original post "Barry, Joe & Scott Turow". I just hate trolls, thats all.

My apologies for stooping so low as to be face to face with Anon.

Mira said...

Yes, I have to say, as a new poster to this site, I've noticed the comments section can turn into what seems like a bit of a feeding frenzy.

That pushes me away, which is a shame. I really support indie publishing, and agree with the content here very much. I also realize Joe has a real 'tang' to his expressions, which is fun and part of the draw to the site.

But I do wish difference of opinion was abit more respected here. And there is no need to pile on and start an insult war with the 'trolls'.

I know it's tempting, but it's really hard to engage with a troll without looking bad yourself, so it's often best to rise above it.

Marie Simas said...

Like most blogs yours has as its usual readers and commenters only the sycophants, any dissenting voice having long since abandoned the place

People just don't get it. Authors don't come here to lick Joe's ass.

We come here because this blog is our online bar-- this is where we come to talk, mingle, and drown our sorrows. Except that lately, a whole lot of us are making tons of money. There's not a lot to cry about, unless you're a traditional publisher.

I've been contacted by a lot of writers because of my posts here, and made some great friends and contacts.

This isn't a circle-jerk. It's a meeting place. I don't always agree with Joe (we don't agree on the subject of POD, and I don't agree with him about KDP Select, either), but that doesn't mean that I don't like to chill out here.

Joe Konrath said...

When the trolls get too annoying, I turn of anonymous comments for a while and they go play with themselves elsewhere. But I like having anonymous comments. It allows who believe they have legit reasons to remain nameless to add to the conversation.

But everyone should keep in mind that this is my house, and if I don't want you here I'll kick you out. Be civil.

Joe Konrath said...

People just don't get it. Authors don't come here to lick Joe's ass.

Hey! I encourage that!

Woelf2.0 said...

This blog post is getting some attention at eBooknewser: http://tinyurl.com/6v6953m

Anonymous said...

I've got lots of guys on the net who obsess about me and try to get me to notice them. It's funny, and makes life more interesting.

This and variations of it seem to be the only response of which you're capable.

I'll leave you alone with your fans.

P.S. Guys like Jirka Samuel Borovec, even though he's on your side, just make you look bad.

Dave Nielsen said...

I suppose Salman Rushdie is also full of shit, because he's said pretty much the same thing as Turow.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous - you're taking credit for my joke about the stationary! I'll anonymously report you to the Anonymous' Anonymous for anonymously stealing my anonymous joke!

Jim Thomsen said...

In Salon, Scott Turow elaborates on his letter. An excerpt:

"One way that 25 percent of net became the standard royalty for e-books was because publishers said, “We all know they can’t go on selling e-books at a loss forever and sooner or later this pricing structure has got to change.” They told authors they couldn’t agree to a different royalty because everyone knew that Amazon wouldn’t be paying them $14 to $15 per title indefinitely."

The overall message is: "My real problem is with publishers choosing to be weak but I don't want to actually say that, so I'll blame Amazon for my publishers being weak even though I praise them at several points in this article because they do a lot of good. But. Stockholm Syndrome. Y'know?"

The whole thing is here: http://www.salon.com/2012/03/13/scott_turow_on_why_we_should_fear_amazon/singleton/

Joe Konrath said...

I'll leave you alone with your fans.

No you won't. You'll be back. You obsess about me too much to stay away for long.

And now you're reading this, wondering if you should comment because you don't want to show me you returned. But the tracking software doesn't lie.

Sad, dude.

Joe Konrath said...

I suppose Salman Rushdie is also full of shit, because he's said pretty much the same thing as Turow.

Anyone who agrees with Turow is full of shit. A bad argument is a bad argument, no matter who supports it.

Suddenly 2 + 2 = 5 because some famous authors said so? I think not.

Jude Hardin said...

The anon who criticized Shot of Tequila is not only rude, but apparently rather dense as well. Joe was obviously going for a humorous homage to voices from a bygone era, in the same way Tarantino and Rodriquez did with Grindhouse.

It's a shame when criticism is based on ignorance. I imagine many of the one-star customer reviews on Amazon are the same way.

Joe Konrath said...

Paypal reversed their decision. They are now allowing all legal erotica.

:)

Jim King said...

Joe was obviously going for a humorous homage to voices from a bygone era, in the same way Tarantino and Rodriquez did with Grindhouse.

No, he wasn't. All his books are like that. Your argument doesn't hold water. It reminds of Puzo saying that if he had known how many people would read The Godfather he'd have written it better. It was quickly pointed out that none of his later books, assured of a very large audience, were any better.

Anyone who agrees with Turow is full of shit. A bad argument is a bad argument, no matter who supports it.

No, Rushdie was correct. A quote:

"Anyone who thinks that fair pricing that allows authors to make a living is a cabal or cartel system is deep in the grip of Napsterism – the belief that it's OK to acquire people's work for almost nothing."

He's right about that. You may be content to sell for so much less, but people like him - writers of talent with something to say - won't sell for peanuts. Put a hardcover price on A Shot of Tequila and there would be very few takers. Put it at $2.99 and you will find a lot of people who will take a chance but there will also be a lot of buyer remorse and not many coming back.

Feel no need to reply to this. I can predict what your reply will be, so you might as well not bother. I won't be back so I won't see it anyway.

Maybe on your deathbed you might wish you'd cared a little more about quality, and that you hadn't always tried to take the easy way out.

Jim King said...

One thing before I go:

http://mikecanex.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/joe-konrath-needs-to-shut-the-fuck-up/

Pretty funny and very, very accurate. Well, I'll let you get back to your semi-literate asskissers, Joe.

Barry said...

Weird, posted this earlier and it seems not to have gone live. So one more time:

Anonymous said:

"You should try judging comments on their own and not on who said them."

This is an overly broad argument. Who says something affects the way the utterance is intended and the way it is received. Foul language, for example, can foster intimacy between friends while the same language would be an attack from a stranger. Consider, for example, the many ways people can use the phrase, "Fuck you." How it comes across is in large measure determined by who is saying it to whom. Same principle for terms of endearment. I like when my wife calls me sweetie. It has a whole different meaning when a stranger tries it.

"The smiley face is a crutch - like a laugh track for a sitcom telling idiots when to laugh."

I think of emoticons as just another set of tools that can provide some of the nonverbal emotional cues ordinarily present in face-to-face conversation but lost in text conversations over the Internet. You don't have to use them anymore than you have to use semicolons. It's up to the writer.

I find I use emoticons infrequently when corresponding privately with people who know me well, and more frequently when corresponding in public -- where, in the absence of nonverbal cues, my tone might be misunderstood. An appropriate emoticon next to your "stationery" comment would have cued me that you were gently teasing; instead, I came away sensing that you were more interested in self-pleasure. I have to say, everything else you've posted here so far confirms that initial impression.

"That was from the first page of the book."

My argument still applies. Saying, "that was bad writing!" without bothering, or apparently being able, to articulate why, is no more interesting or useful than saying, "I didn't like the taste of that food!"

If you don't understand what it means to back your opinion with some measure of objective evidence, Ann just gave a nice example. Sure, she likes the writing, but that's not what matters. What matters is, she articulates why. That makes her comment useful to others, whether or not they share her opinion.

I accept the writing in question didn't agree with you, but in the absence of more, who cares? Do you really expect an unbacked anonymous opinion to the effect that "I didn't like something!" to matter to anyone but you?

Of course you don't. Which leads me to conclude Joe is right, whether literally or metaphorically, about you typing one-handed.

Jude Hardin said...

No, he wasn't. All his books are like that.

So you don't care for Joe's writing, yet you've read all his books. I'm finding it hard to stop ROFLMAO long enough to even comment on that.

I won't be back so I won't see it anyway.

Oh, please come back. There are never quite enough trolls around here to keep us amused.

Barry said...

Jim said:

"Rushdie was correct. A quote:"

"'Anyone who thinks that fair pricing that allows authors to make a living is a cabal or cartel system is deep in the grip of Napsterism – the belief that it's OK to acquire people's work for almost nothing.'"

But this is just a conclusion masquerading as an argument. If the prices publishers charge are fair, there was by definition no price fixing because price fixing is unfair. It's also a non sequitur. Whether authors can make a living pursuant to the prices, fair or unfair, publishers charge is irrelevant to the issue of collusion. Rushdie might as well have said, "How can there be collusion when publishers sometimes take authors out for a lunch of linguini and clams?"

You don't have to be in the grip of "Napsterism" to believe that charging lower prices can lead to greater profits because of increased volume. You just need to have taken a starter level economics course, or to employ minimal common sense and real life experience.

Do you see how even a probably smart guy, here Rushdie, can have his ability to reason severely hampered by ideology, self-interest, and an attachment to silly, made-up buzzwords like "Napsterism?"

"You may be content to sell for so much less, but people like him - writers of talent with something to say - won't sell for peanuts."

Nor should he. He should sell for whatever he wants to, and so should his publisher. Under the law, they just can't collude to do it. Is that really so hard to understand?

"Put a hardcover price on A Shot of Tequila and there would be very few takers. Put it at $2.99 and you will find a lot of people who will take a chance but there will also be a lot of buyer remorse and not many coming back."

This is irrelevant, speculative, and increasingly silly. The price of Tequila reflects Joe's best estimate of what will maximize his profits overall. Could he sell as many copies in hardback as Rushdie sold The Name of the Rose? Who cares? Some writers will be able to command higher prices for their works; others will find their profits maximized with something lower. Ken Follet's publisher, Putnam, priced the digital version of Fall of Giants at over $20 and the book seems to have done very well indeed (whether it could have done even better at a lower price point is an open question). Amazon and I didn't even think about trying for something equivalent with The Detachment. We went with $5.99 -- and I sold far more copies, and made far more money, than I have for any of my previous $12.99 titles.

But again, who cares? What does any of this have to do with Turow's weak arguments about legacy publishing, or collusion, or anything except your antipathy to Joe?

Barry said...

Last thought on Rushdie: his reference to a "cabal" is a straw man, because so far as I know no one has ever called legacy publishing "a secret political clique or faction." It also suggests that Rushdie, though an acclaimed writer, doesn't know what the word means.

Jim King said...

So you don't care for Joe's writing, yet you've read all his books. I'm finding it hard to stop ROFLMAO long enough to even comment on that.

You're an idiot, then. The quoted passage was from the free pages Amazon provides, and I looked at those for some of his other books. Your stupidity is truly astounding.

Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in.
-Michael Corleone

You can get back to laughing your fool ass off now.

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