Thursday, May 10, 2012

AAR Fail

I just read the letter the Association of Authors Representatives sent to the DOJ yesterday. 

Then I threw up in my mouth. Ack. 

The letter in plain text, my comments in bold. 

My comments will not be kind. 

May 8, 2012
John R. Read
Chief, Litigation III Section United States Department of Justice 450 5th St NW Suite 4000 Washington DC 20530


Dear Mr. Read,
I write to you as the President of the AAR, the largest organization of literary and dramatic agents in the United States, and on behalf of the unanimous AAR Board of Directors. Our more than four hundred seventy-five members represent writers who number in the tens of thousands. We want you to know in the strongest terms possible that we firmly oppose the proposed settlement between the Justice Department and three publishers with respect to e-book pricing.

Translation: We're about to put our collective foot in our mouth. Stay tuned!

Joe sez: I count thirteen names on this letter. I don't see the names of the other 462 AAR members, nor the names of the tens of thousands of authors they seem to be insinuating they speak for.

They DO NOT speak for me. And I hope the majority of the AAR who didn't sign their name to this nonsense show some guts and leave an organization that erroneously claims to speak for them. Or at least fire the board members that sent this without getting a majority vote.

Readers, writers and the general public benefit when there is a healthy competitive literary marketplace. Two and a half years ago Amazon, with its proprietary Kindle devices and its willingness to discount e-book “bestsellers” to a level at which it sustained a significant loss on each copy sold, threatened the entire marketplace for books. 

Translation: Amazon invented a device that consumers wanted. That's BAD. Readers were getting cheap ebooks. That's BAD. It may not seem bad on the surface, and we don't back-up our claim with any actual evidence, but boy oh boy trust us it really is because we say so.

Amazon’s practice of targeting the very titles that drive profitability of our entire industry and pricing them several dollars below cost was clearly leading to the demise of the independent bookstore, hastened the loss of Borders, and threatened the existence of Barnes & Noble, the one remaining large chain store that sells books. 

Translation: Customers were changing how and where they shopped because Amazon gave them a clearly better alternative; ebooks delivered instantly for less.

Joe sez: Apparently the AAR doesn't remember that under the previous model, their authors were making more damn money.

Doesn't AAR stand for Association of AUTHORS Representatives? Why are they suddenly spokesmen for Barnes and Noble?

And Borders? Weren't they on the verge of bankruptcy (or at least in serious trouble) before Amazon even introduced the Kindle? Blaming Amazon for Borders’ woes is bullshit correlation. Or as a friend of mine calls it: causality magical thinking.

This was not healthy for competition or for authors or indeed for consumers in the long-term. 

Translation: Trying to outsell your competition, or attract customers with lower prices and better service, is bad.

And it's bad when authors get paid more for each copy sold and sell more copies because of lower prices. 

And lower prices are bad for consumers, because maybe one day Amazon will again raise prices, possibly even up to the lofty heights publishers have them raised to now under the current Agency Model.

Retailers shouldn't be allowed to set their own prices. That's bad. It's much better for the wholesaler to set both the wholesale and the retail price, because THAT and THAT ALONE encourages healthy competition. ESPECIALLY when there are several wholesalers in lockstep. 

Nothing is better for consumers than a group of companies who set wholesale and retail. And even though they set the SAME prices, it really still is competition! Really!

The steep discounting from Amazon was a practice of selling our clients’ work at a loss in order to make it impossible for other businesses to enter the e-book marketplace in a way that made financial sense for them.    

Translation: This predatory pricing is driving competitors out of business, like it did with... um... what's that famous case where a company lowered prices, destroyed competition, and then became a monopoly and raised prices?

It must happen all the time, right?

Or if it doesn't, it's because the government steps in and stops it. Like in the case of... um...

Joe sez: Like in the case of the DOJ stepping in because 5 of the Big 6 were colluding to raise ebook prices?

This artificially low pricing unfairly threatened the world of publishing and bookselling and would ultimately have a devastating effect on the choices available to book consumers.

Translation: Apparently starting a company that allowed writers to self-publish their books, and that sold all the major publishers' books for less, is VERY BAD for authors and readers. Because more titles being sold at lower prices means less choice. 


Joe sez: How could they write that with a straight face? What's worse, knowing you're spouting BS and doing it anyway to further your own self-interests, or actually believing the BS you're spouting?

What's a better quality to have for an agent? Someone more concerned with buddying up with Big Publishing at your expense, and making bullshit arguments to defend Big Publishing? Or being so stupid they actually believe they're correct?

Personally, I want my agents to be smart and to look out for my best interests. I want them to recognize they work for me, not the Big 6 or bookstores. And if I were repped by one of the 13 agents who signed their name to this, I'd be a lot angrier than I am right now. 

When Apple launched the iPad and offered to sell books at the “agency model” terms it was already using for other media sales, our members breathed a sigh of relief. This would create a fair playing field for Barnes & Noble, Apple and others to develop devices and join the e-book marketplace. 

Translation: For healthy competition to exist we need to disregard consumer preference and put floundering competitors on life support. Because no one can ever start a company to compete with Amazon.

Which is odd, because Amazon started a company to compete with bookstores and did just fine. 

And soon Amazon will compete with publishers as its imprints begin to outsell theirs. 

Which is what we're REALLY afraid of, because Amazon doesn't return our calls. Or take us out to lunch all the time at posh Manhattan restaurants.

Consumers would be able to buy their books at various retailers or e-booksellers; the threat of a monopoly was diminished. 

Translation: Consumers couldn't buy ebooks from other retailers prior to the agency model. After all, there was only Kindle.

And the Nook.

And the Kobo.

And the Sony Reader. 


And even though publishers band together to control price, making it impossible for these different companies to ACTUALLY compete on price, it really really still is competition. 

We cheered this development despite the fact that, as you no doubt know, under the agency model publishers were taking in less money per copy sold and therefore we and our clients were getting less in royalties and commissions. But we believe this sacrifice was in the best interests of the book landscape and therefore our clients long-term.

Translation: We're in bed with Big Publishing, even though we allegedly work for authors. 

Joe sez: How noble of you guys to sacrifice your authors' incomes by taking up this worthy cause, without consulting us.

How about changing your name to the Association of Book Landscape Protectors? Or the Champions of What We Call Healthy Competition Even if Authors Get Screwed?

The proposed settlement would allow for a resumption of predatory discounting of our clients’ most important and profitable new ‘frontlist’ and bestselling titles and undermines the growth of a competitive marketplace for books. 

Translation: Discounting is predatory, even if it benefits our authors and consumers in general. But higher ebook prices via collusion and lower royalties isn't predatory, it encourages a competitive marketplace.

Also, the Big 6 in no way ever undermined the growth of a competitive marketplace for books.

Sure, the Big 6 never created an ereader or an ebook store. And never innovated anything. 

Sure, the Big 6 all price their books comparably.

Sure, the Big 6 offer authors shockingly similar contract terms and royalty rates.

Sure, the Big 6 fit the definition of a cartel.

But Amazon is the real enemy here! Can't you see?

Joe sez: This is the part in the letter where Mr. Reid is laughing so hard he falls off his chair.

It seems to us outrageous that the Department of Justice would choose to interfere in a functioning marketplace where consumers can choose from a broad array of titles with huge differential in prices and formats with a very unclear picture of whether or not ‘agency pricing’ did indeed raise e-book prices on anything but a select number of titles that had been targeted for underselling by Amazon. 

Translation: The marketplace can only function to our satisfaction with collusion and price-fixing, even though we admit it is harmful to our clients' wallets. You DOJ folks should just mind your own business. Stop picking on our crooked industry!

We do not want to return to an environment in which our clients’ intellectual property is irrationally priced in order to stifle innovation and harm consumer choice.

Translation: Because the only choice consumers should be allowed is paying more money for ebooks, which is what Big Publishing wants. 


Joe sez: Where is there more choice—the legacy way? Or via the kind of self-publishing Amazon has enabled? Which system produces more titles and more variety? Which bestseller list has more variety—the NYT? Or the Kindle Store? Which bookstore has more variety, a brick and mortar shop stocking 200 copies of Patterson's latest near the front door, or an online bookstore were EVERY title ever in print is available and given equal virtual shelf space?

Of course we have no way of knowing if there was collusion among the publishers and Apple. 

Translation: We didn't do nothing! We swear! We can’t look to the lockstep royalties, the draconian rights lockups, and the absolute absence of innovation from legacy publishing, to see if maybe there’s been some collusion. We can’t even read the allegations in the DOJ’s own complaint or in the complaint brought by sixteen states! There’s just no way to know! What are we, psychic or something?

But this proposed settlement damages our clients and the industry in a way that goes beyond any appropriate remedy for any possible misconduct. 

Translation: Any possible misconduct?!

Look, I know we did a crappy job of presenting our terrible argument, but it should be okay for the Big 6 to break the law. So can you allow it? Just this once?

We urge you to reject the proposed settlement and allow the market to return to one that protects the value of our clients’ intellectual property from unfair and predatory discounting. This will protect and encourage broader competition among all booksellers, will allow the consumer the protection of a range of choices in format, price, and retailer, and will encourage digital innovation in the burgeoning field of e-book publishing and retailing.

Translation: If we keep repeating the same bullshit over and over, maybe someone will believe it.

Respectfully,
Gail Hochman,
President, AAR
The AAR Board of Directors:
Brian Defiore
Mitchell S. Waters
Anne Edelstein
Beth Blickers
Sarah Lazin
Jim Rutman
Jodi Reamer
Liza Dawson
Ellen Geiger
Dorian Karchmar
Barbara Hogenson
Anne Reingold

Here is my response, which they won't reply to but will be seen by over a hundred thousand people this week thanks to readers like you.


Dear AAR-

I understand these are uncertain, even scary times. But methinks you're forgetting who you work for.

Your clients are writers, not publishers. Your job is to make them more money, not support a program (the Agency Model) that makes them less money. 

Your job isn't to defend publishers—that would be the job of the Association of Publisher Representatives. 

Your job isn't to make sure Pop's Books on 3rd Street doesn't go out of business—that would be the job of the Association of Brick-and-Mortar Representatives. 

Again, last I checked, you were calling yourselves the Association of Author Representatives. If the name you’ve bestowed on yourselves means anything, you should be representing authors. By costing us money without even consulting us, you’re not representing us. You’re screwing us.

I know you're worried that without the Big 6, more and more authors will self-publish, and won't require your services to the extent they do now. But the disservice you're doing your authors with this letter is damn near unforgivable. 

You are taking the side of the companies you're hired to negotiate with. You really don't see a problem with that? Even worse, the side you're taking is one that continues to screw authors--your clients--in many, many ways.

Am I the only one who sees ethical problems with this stance? First the Writers Guild, now the AAR. Those who are supposed to protect authors, are betraying authors. 

It's appeasement, caused by fear.

Winston Churchill said it best. “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.”

I've accused authors of having Stockholm Syndrome. Apparently it is alive and well in the agent biz as well.

I know you feel threatened by Amazon just like publishers do. But your letter is bullshit. To imply that the tens of thousands of writers you represent agree with your bullshit is even more bullshit. 

I assume John R. Read will be able to detect bullshit when he hears it, but I'm going to send him a copy of this blog post just the same. 

If this blog post made you mad, your anger is misplaced. You shouldn't be pissed at me, or the DOJ. You should be mad at Big Publishing, which has screwed you guys the same way it has screwed your clients for decades. Think about all the books they abandoned or orphaned or tanked or passed up on, all the hoops you had to jump through to get your clients slightly better terms, all the onerous, unfair clauses in those archaic, one-sided contracts that they en masse refuse to consider changing, all the accounting errors and questionable royalty statements, all the shitty covers and poor editing jobs, all the late checks and late contracts, all the pain and depression your writers have had to deal with because they had no power and no other choice. Now publishers have forced Amazon--a company that benefits authors and readers--to accept the Agency Model, which I've clearly explained sucks

And how do you react? You defend them.

Your clients trusted you. You were supposed to be advocates for authors. Champions for authors. 

Instead, you've shown yourself to be self-interested cowards.

You've sold out. Shame on you.

Once upon a time I praised the AAR for its ethics and standards.

I won't be doing that in the future. Your behavior has made it impossible. 

Joe Konrath


Addendum: Many have asked why I haven't taken agent Simon Lipskar to task for his bullshit letter to the DOJ. Now I have. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/05/simon-says.html

Bestselling author Bob Mayer also wrote a terrific piece worth checking out. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/aar-publishers-bookstores-facilitators-need-to-adapt-not-defend/

109 comments:

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Comparing the Big Six to a cartel is just too awesome for words. I salute you sir.

Isaiah Campbell said...

One single point of contention:
It's not presumptive for the chairman and board of the AAR to claim that they speak for all the members of the AAR. That's the reason the AAR exists is to speak on behalf of its members. And any author who is represented by an AAR member should have considered the ramifications of their advocate (the agent) having her own advocate group (the AAR) that has permission to speak on behalf of the agent and, in turn, of the author. That's why authors need to consider greatly and extensively before they sign with any agent.

A.G. Claymore said...

They're trying to convince themselves that the ship isn't sinking but they are already in the lifeboats.

Quick, somebody throw them an anchor...

J.M.Cornwell said...

Bravo! Joe. It's time more authors spoke out.

The Daring Novelist said...

I'm not making much money at self publishing, but I am Sooooooooo glad it became viable over the last few years.

In some ways, I'm not sure the DOJ action matters -- I see the cartel sinking anyway. And Pop's Bookstore is going to survive based on whether Pop finds a business model his customers like.

JPK said...

Again, I'm shocked by the apparent ignorance of all these literary "pundits." Here is the literal translation of that letter:

We applaud and encourage "healthy" competition, yet we realize that we totally SUCK at it and refuse to let go of our legacy ways--as evidence by this letter and the obvious shift in the publishing landscape--so please feel sorry for us. Don't, please, don't do this to us. We need this! It's all we have left. Please stop kicking us when we're down! Take your foot off our throats, please! We can't change. NOOOOOOOOO!

Alan Tucker said...

Yet another cry of, "Kill more trees!" disguised as, "Amazon is bad."

Pandora's Box is open folks. The milk is spilt. The Bastille has been stormed. Stop wailing about how it was so much better before and find a business model that will work for the present and the future.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Nice rebuttal and I think they 100% meets the requirements for being defined as a cartel.

J.Carl Raphael said...

Oh... There will be blood. It seems the revolution is growing day by day, a revolution for what an author really deserve.

Great job Joe!

Greg said...

I'm not usually one to assume the 'other side' is merely corrupt (when chances are they have legitimate points of their own) but this letter really does seem to betray an actual, factual, and frankly fucking frightening subversion of what SHOULD be a champion for the cause of authors.

Marta Szemik said...

I hope the DOJ is able to translate the letter as well as you have Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

I hope the DOJ is able to translate the letter as well as you have Joe.

They won't have to. I'm sending them a copy.

I've also emailed a few other writers to weigh in.

I'm angry. Everyone with an agent should be angry, even if they have no clue what the DOJ is doing, or don't care if the DOJ is right.

When a group of author representatives side with a group who subjugates authors, that's reprehensible.

Adam Pepper said...

Very informative letter. I didn't know until I read it that the agency model not only has brought down the price of ebooks and ereaders, created an environment of competition and encouraged innovation in business and the arts, but it also cures most diseases, prevents dandruff and tastes great on a pita.

The agency model: works wonders on most anything!

Edward G. Talbot said...

My guess would be that most agents agree with the content of this letter. If not, this isn't like the Author's Guild where most authors really don't care. If a few influential agents really don't agree with the letter, the repercussions will be felt for a while.

Regarding the whole defense of agency pricing, it has reminded me of what we've seen more and more of the past decade or two in politics: you muddy the waters by accuse the other side of doing what you're actually doing.

Walter Knight said...

I am 'all in' with Amazon.

Jay Allan said...

I agree with the more or less principle-based argument that all of this is outrageous, but it also makes some other points worth considering.

For one, publishing, like every other business in the world (or government or any other major entity), is deeply and thoroughly corrupt, and how they present themselves is not at all the same as how they will act.

Agents are a good example. What agent would ever (ever?) jeopardize a relationship with a major publisher for their client, however much the agent may purport to represent that client's interests? Of course agents work for the publishers, and it's foolish to think otherwise, so nothing about this should be surprising. What agent wants a publisher to think, "oh yeah, this is that pain in the ass agent who keeps trying to rewrite our contract."

It is also worthwhile noting that the interests of agents and authors diverge sharply with regard to new technologies and markets. What do agents offer of significance besides presumptive access to publishers (hence those relationships that are far more important to them than you are)? All these changes that threaten publishers' stranglehold on book distribution also threaten the agents' presumptive role as gatekeepers.

This isn't about vilifying individual agents, just about paying attention to where the bread is buttered, so to speak.

But don't be surprised that the "representation" industry is trying just as hard to turn back the clock as the publishers themselves.

Mark Terry said...

I find it more than a little ironic that one of the bitches is that Amazon sold books at a loss in order to sell more Kindles.

During most the 80s and 90s independent bookstores were screaming bloody murder when Borders, B&N (and Kmart and Walmart and...) sold bestsellers at 30-40% off (and sometimes even 50%), because they were selling them at a loss or the break-even point to get people into the stores. Publishers didn't complain. Agents didn't complain.

Anyway, this just strikes me as agents are aware they're fighting a forest fire and they're only armed with squirt guns.

I don't know where so-called legacy publishing will go in the next couple years. Smaller, I'm fairly certain, with a couple of the Big 6 disappearing. But I'm pretty sure that the majority of agents are getting killed by the changes of the industry and if they want to survive they need to come up with some other service or value-added component (film rights, foreign rights, marketing, etc.).

I'm not holding my breath. But then again, I let my agent go a couple months ago because she wasn't doing anything for me and vice versa and I could do all the other indie publishing things myself.

Dan DeWitt said...

It's amazing to what lengths the anti-Amazon people have gone to frame the DOJ action as an attack on agency pricing, and not on the collusion that clearly took place.

Laura Landon said...

Thank you, Joe! I knew we could count on you to write the PERFECT reply letter.
Thank you!
Laura

DJ said...

"But this proposed settlement damages our clients and the industry in a way that goes beyond any appropriate remedy for any possible misconduct."

Does it really ? Are you sure about that ? WTF. Could they perhaps spend a sentence or two elaborating on what this possible misconduct is ? They are spending so much time defending the Big 6 they seem to have missed that little point. Come on, AAR, what exactly was the possible misconduct ? Can you even say it or do the words burn your tongue ?And what makes you the arbiters or experts of what an appropriate remedy might be ? Even moreso, what gives you the moral authority to do so ?

So now the wagons are circled, they have Scott Turow President of the Authors Guild and the AAR all saying exactly the same thing. Exactly. The Same. Thing. Can't you picture them all sitting with the Big 6 lawyers and PR experts in a Sheraton meeting room somewhere laying out the plan and drinking the collective koolaid ?

Joe - thanks for doing this

Karen Cantwell said...

Amazon put the independent bookstores out of business??? Um, wasn't that the mammoth book retailers such as Borders, B&N, Books-a-Million,etc. that rose to power in the 1980's and 90's? In fact, with most of those gone now, I see more mom & pop bookstores popping up every day. . .

Anonymous said...

I made 30K self-publishing last month, my biggest month ever.

I've never had a publishing contract with any major publisher, (but I did get a few rejections before I gave up and just published on my own).

The thing I don't understand is: Does the the AAR even matter anymore?

I remember trying to join the Writer's Guild years ago (in 2007) and found out that self-published author's couldn't join. So... I just saved the money I would have spent on their useless membership.

-Christy

Anonymous said...

*authors.

Sorry-- I hate that!

-Christy

Derek J. Canyon said...

"But this proposed settlement damages our clients and the industry in a way that goes beyond any appropriate remedy for any possible misconduct.”
So, punishment for possible misconduct is in this case unwarranted because the AAR claims the purpose of that misconduct was noble? They are actually defending "any possible misconduct" when they admit that they don't know what the misconduct might be. Essentially they are saying: Don't punish these people, no matter what they have done. Don't even investigate. They are paragons of righteous virtue, who's only selfless goal is to ensure that literature does not vanish from this Earth.

Adventures in ePublishing

Merrill said...

What Christy said.

Merrill Heath

Anonymous said...

Joe, would you be happy with a world free of the Big 6, and free of B&N? Serious question.

Anonymous said...

Defend the hand that feeds at all costs.

Spike said...

Thanks Joe, Please add my signature to the list of persons in agreement with you.

Marcia Colette said...

Thanks for posting the names of the agents who signed away their rights to common sense. If I'm ever in the need of an agent--LMAO--I'll be sure not to contact any of them.

I. J. Parker said...

The people who signed (for shame!) are the president and the members of the board of AAR. Did they get the approval of all their members before sending this letter?

It reminds me of the behavior of the Author's Guild in the matter of the Google settlement.

Mind you, these agents do have a livelihood at stake.

David Rozansky said...

I have been a professional writer since 1988. Never had an agent, never wanted an agent. This failure to serve authors is why.

The agency model clearly hurts author because price-fixing clearly makes their customers pay more, and thus buy less. An author's career is based solely on the number of readers they reach, not how much a book costs. Excessive pricing creates smaller fanbases.

This is so confusing, because authors get the same royalty whether the book is priced according to the agency model or the free-market model.

THe shenanigans of the Big 6 and the literary agency model is exactly why I founded Flying Pen Press. This is a publishing company meant to give authors like myself the respect that the industry has not given them previously. I think most small independent presses feel the same way.

Now, as a small-press publisher, I stand with the DOJ, as agency pricing hurts not only consumers, it hurts smaller publishers as well.

Finally, I can say that this letter from the AAR to the DOJ is no surprise. I have long held AAR in contempt. I have carried on my writing career according to the Journalist's Code of Ethics. When I examine the AAR code of ethics, I find it is anything but ethical. It talks only about how to share funds with authors, which is a noble sentiment, but nothing about how to faithfully serve authors in matters such as these. That the AAR dumbed the code of ethics down earlier this year was very telling.

Then again, so few agents have any idea of what it means to be an author. Why anyone would sign with a literary agent who has not authored at least four bestseller books is beyond me. It's like hiring a couch potato to be your guide up Mt. Everest.

I do so remember the publishers and agents agreeing in concert about ebook pricing years ago. They all complained that the readers were going to get used to lower prices on ebooks, and that refusing to participate in ebook publication for their books was the way to keep prices high. Remember when you could not even buy Harry Potter as an ebook? Now they can't avoid ebooks, but they still have the same attitude. This is all old hat.

Keep 'em Flying,
David Rozansky
Publisher, Flying Pen Press,
Author,
and Author's Business Manager

Anonymous said...

Actually, Simon Lipskar of Writer's House did back this up with evidence. See here:http://aardvarknow.us/2012/05/09/letter-to-the-department-of-justice/

Milton Bagby said...

For the record, Borders went out of business because a series of revolving door CEOs made numerous poor choices in the final 4-5 years of the company's life.

In addition to a failure to understand ebooks until too late in the game, other problems included an unwarranted expansion into overseas bookstores, hanging onto unprofitable inside mall stores, and the addition of non-book lines such as junk toys and cheap gifts that confused customers and weakened the core mission.

Borders also had and lost a growing relationship with Amazon, which, in retrospect, might have saved them had they understood its ultimate value.

All this was presided over by a weak and uninsightful board of directors. In sum, a recipe for disaster.

I.J.Parker said...

My guess is that there are far more conventionally published authors angry with their publishers and agents than those who are happy and grateful for the way they have been treated.
In other words, neither the AAR or Scott Turow speak for the majority of authors.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, would you be happy with a world free of the Big 6, and free of B&N? Serious question.

Not at all.

I'd be happy with a Big 6 that treated authors fairly (let's start with 70% royalties on ebooks) and a B&N that competed with Amazon better.

But do I want the corrupt pinheads in office immediately removed? Hell yeah!

Joe Konrath said...

Actually, Simon Lipskar of Writer's House did back this up with evidence.

No he did not.

I'll be getting to Simon soon.

D.L. Kung said...

SURPRISE! The first agent signature on the list is that of Brandt and Hochman, Gail Hochman, who is the longtime agent of Scott Turow!

Nuf said.

Marla Miller said...

Joe
So well said---my shortened version is posted on PW & Facebook-it goes like this:

RE: a fatally flawed understanding of the economics and history of the emerging ebook industry ..

In my humble, the only flaw here was the industry's lack of vision----for years, their denial of epublishing's impact is why they're fighting so hard now against Amazon/Kindle & this decision that the Justice Dept just made....perhaps, a little late..? the horses already left the barn...

Anonymous said...

Konrath, after reading your comments compared to what you are complaining against, this post has ruined your credibility. What an ass you are. While I won't say that the traditional publishing industry isn't corrupt (I could list the many ways) you are siding with a corporate giant (Amazon) against them and the AAR simply based on the prices Amazon charges and ignoring their own corrupt practices. You must be an Amazon stockholder to be so blind, so focused on the dollar that you ignore the publishing industry as a whole (from the corrupt big 6, to the indie publishers, to the self published authors and the companies that make that possible, to the retailers, only one of which is Amazon). A healthy industry requires competition at all levels. When you side with a company known for its corrupt business practices over the good of the entire industry, you have no morals left. That's one less blog I have to keep up with. Good riddance.

Anonymous Independent Author

Dan DeWitt said...

The post above me is mind-numbingly stupid and is a great example of what happens when you drink and post.

Or when you have no clue what you're talking about and post.

One of those.

Gretta Curran Browne said...

Late payments, late contracts, questionable royalty statements - oh Joe, you say it all on behalf of us!
But for publishers to do this is not surprising as self-interest and self-profit has always been the ethos of their trade - but for Author's AGENTS to back them in this is, as you say - fricking unforgiveable!
But then, self-interest and self-profit has always been the main aim of agents too, and all of them, publishers and agents alike, living like greedy parasites off the hard work of authors.
Yet without authors none of them would have a reason to get out of bed in the morning - without authors none of them would have an income or any products to sell competitively or any other way.

SHAME on the AAR, utter SHAME. If the Society of Authors who represent us here in the UK acted in the same way there would be a massive walkout and ending of membership fees paid.

David A. Todd said...

Joe: I agree with you, yet at the same time...

...I think of my dad's experience with his union. They argured for higher and higher wages, more and more benefits, and got them with each contract renewal. Never did they ask themselves if a little bit smaller raise and a few less benefits would help their industry to be stable and their jobs available long term. As a result, technology overwhelmed their trade and Dad lost all his union benefits and was forced into early retirement.

I'm not defending the colluding 6. Breaking the law is never a solution. But arguing for greater financial return is not the only thing to consider. The health of the industry should also be a consideration.

All that said, I'm on the side of the DOJ. But I hope the broader publishing industry can figure out how to survive.

Gretta Curran Browne said...

David Rozansky said:

Then again, so few agents have any idea of what it means to be an author. Why anyone would sign with a literary agent who has not authored at least four bestseller books is beyond me. It's like hiring a couch potato to be your guide up Mt. Everest.

Bloody marvellous statement! Something I have thought for years.

Ty Johnston said...

Whether I agree with Joe or not, I always get a good giggle when the anonymous "this post has ruined your credibility" folks show up.

What is this, about the tenth blog post that has ruined Joe's credibility?

Angela K Roe said...

Thank you for standing up and being heard!!! I applaud you and stand next to you, as should every single author.

Jill James said...

So, let me get this straight. The agents think it was okay to make less money for themselves and their clients to prove a point?

Did anyone ask the authors if they were willing to be the sacrificial lambs to save the lions of publishing?

DJ said...

Hey - Has the AAR or the Authors Guild provided any statement or explanation to authors in general (or individually) as to why the Big 6 should be supported in this case. Everything I'm reading is written to the DoJ and is based on legal opinion and on a macroeconomic platform. Where is the argument being made to authors giving a rationale as to why this approach is better for us ? Why are we all being forced to sit at the kids table scrounging for leftovers while the grownups talk grownup stuff and eat our cake ? Dumb it down for us if you think we can't handle the big words

Tom Maddox said...

"This will protect and encourage broader competition among all booksellers, will allow the consumer the protection of a range of choices in format, price, and retailer,"

HA! AAR, Please show me where I can find a range of choice in prices for the newest Agency published bestseller?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Pamela Clare said...

I think you just handed AAR its ass. Thanks for this post!

Joe Konrath said...

this post has ruined your credibility

Oh no! I guess I'll never blog again!

What an ass you are.

An ass who has the balls to sign his name to his opinions.

I allow anonymous posts so those in the industry don't get punished for their statements, not so wussies can play name-calling games without consequence. Grow up, you baby.

As to the whole "Amazon is bad too!" argument, that's a logical fallacy. In other words, it doesn't invalidate any of my points.

Tu quoque, you nameless coward you.

That's one less blog I have to keep up with.

I'm sure I'd miss you terribly, if I knew who you were.

Nah, I wouldn't.

Joe Konrath said...

Defend the hand that feeds at all costs.

I don't necessarily have a problem with defending the hand that feeds. But I think the smarter thing to do is look for ways to feed yourself. Especially when the hand that feeds becomes abusive.

I defend Amazon. If Amazon began to screw me, I'd be the first to criticize Amazon.

Laura said...

I ceased working with literary agents years ago--and this AAR letter is a really good reminder of WHY.

The two points of that idiotic AAR letter that really stand out to me:

One is the repeated insistence in the letter that Amazon's $9.99 was/is an "artificially" and "unprofitably" low price point for an ebook.

Er, REALLY? =My= traditionally published new titles, distributed by one of the big houses in question, are all priced at $7.99 in ebook format. Um, $2 =UNDER= the "articially low" and "unprofitable" price this letter is complaining about. Lots and lots and LOTS of other writers' new (and old) titles released by these houses are ALSO priced $7.99 and $8.99 =as the publishers' own suggested retail prices=.

Oh, come on, AAR. Who do you think you're still kidding with that bulls**t?

This mess has always been about trying to set ebook prices at a level that protects print prices--specifically hardcover and sales--as well as trying to price ebooks high enough to compensate for fiscal losses on print books.

The market (and certainly the DoJ) are well past the point of believing that $9.99 is an "artificially" low and "unprofitable" price point for an ebook. Why even try to revive that dead duck, AAR? No one is buying it.

AAR, you look particularly silly making that claim when EVEN THE PUBLISHERS have switched their strategy to trying to jusitify this practice, rather than still trying to pretend $9.99 is an "unprofitable" price for a book in e-format.

The other key point of absurdity in this letter, of course, as already highlighted by our blog host, is: "We cheered this development despite the fact that... therefore we and our clients were getting less in royalties and commissions. But we believe this sacrifice was in the best interests of the book landscape and therefore our clients long-term."

Joe has already covered just how idiotic, unprincipled, and unethical this position is in people paid to represent the best interests of writers. I can only add that this statement confirms the extremely low opinion I have long held of the AAR.

TK Kenyon said...

Go, Joe!

Laura Taylor said...

Two words, JA Konrath:
THANK YOU!
Three words, AAR:
SHAME ON YOU!
Laura Taylor
(legacy publishing survivor & now happily connecting with romance readers across the globe via ebookstores)

Judy Griffith Gill said...

Anonymous said:"When you side with a company known for its corrupt business practices over the good of the entire industry, you have no morals left. That's one less blog I have to keep up with."

Um, exactly what are those corrupt business practices to which you refer with such confidence? Is it corrupt to make a profit? Is it corrupt to pay the authors of electronic editions of their own brain-children 70% instead of beween 3% and 10%? Is it corrupt not to make them authors wait and wait and wait some more for monies their books have earned? Is it not more corrupt to blame an author whose book shipment was lost between the publishing house and the warehouse because of flood or rail disaster, and tell them their numbers were so low (because the bloody books never made it onto the shelves) on the last book, the four book contract is being cancelled?

Oh, dear Anonymous coward, tell me, please!

Anonymous said...

I'm a different Anon than the other Anons who have posted on this comment list so far.

I would be tremendously happy if the Big 6 charged HIGH PRICES for FAMOUS AUTHORS.

Then there would be MORE TRAFFIC & CUSTOMERS for the LOW PRICED INDIE TITLES.


Go LOW PRICED INDIE versus HIGH PRICED FAMOUS AUTHOR!

Woohoo! Go, go, go!

Reina Salt said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. It gives little guys like me hope.

Glenn Gamble said...

^^^ Same thing I was thinking.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Surely you must see that it would be bad if Amazon were the only player in town. I for one mourn the loss of physical book stores

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I have only just read the anonymous comments and I must say I do agree with one of his points, though by posting anonymously he somewhat negates his argument. However Joe I don't think you are an ass but I do think you are siding with Amazon because they have worked for you and that is all very well. I just feel that there is no balance to your arguments and that you will side with Amazon no matter what. We need the publishing industry and when the eBook bubble bursts I believe they will still be there - hopefully, leaner, fitter and more caring of authors.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Konrath, your reply to my post justified my opinion of you. As I am a indie writer through KDP and I still think you are an ass, I would be included in the "don't get punished for their statements" category. Not that you would, but I have no intrest in someone hunting me down and punishing me for calling you on your crap or calling Amazon on theirs.

Amazon may not have treated you badly, or other writers for that matter, but they have treated others badly. Their call for shoppers to go to their local stores, find an item, and buy it on amazon for less was a wonder image of corporate greed. The entire process of taking a loss on virtually all ebooks was unfair to their conpetitors. You expect some of that, but their discounting was deeper and further reaching than simply trying to one up the competition. It was designed to drive them under and it worked with Borders. You may not like physical stores, but some of us do. That is still how many people shop. Amazon drives them under and leaves a city with no bookstores and it will drive more bussiness online. There may be nothing truly illegal in their actions, but it is unethical. It is less ethical than how the publishers treat writers.

I stand by my previous post and posting sans name. I like how there is the impression that anonymous equates to cowardice. Ha! at least I am posting. At leat I am sharing my opinion. My name would add little to my comments. I could just as easily create a fake account. Rather than lie, I remain annonymous. And I hope, Mr. Konrath, that you can see how one very opinionated piece of writing deserves another. Good day to you.

Anonymous Independent Author (from 1:48 PM)

Yuwanda Black said...

Never had a traditional book deal, so I find the ins and outs of how that industry works fascinating.

If it wasn't coming from a reputable source like you Joe and the other authors who chime in on your blog, I'd really think the way the Big 6 works was a work of fiction -- one penned by a disgruntled author.

I make a good living selling my self-published ebooks.

Man, I'm soooooo glad that I was never "traditionally" published.

Thanks for keeping all of us writers clued in.

Shelly Thacker said...

Wow, AAR. Thanks for clarifying exactly where your loyalties lie -- with the publishers who've been using and abusing your clients for years.

I no longer have an agent, I'm no longer a member of the Authors Guild, yet I'm happier than I've ever been in my career. Huh. Go figure. Funny how getting a four-figure deposit in my bank account every month will do that.

And what's the only thing sweeter than getting those monthly royalty payments? Not owing 15% to an AAR member.

T.L.S Clarke said...

Letters like this are simply more nails in the coffin for the big 6 publishers and represent a series of final death throws in a feeble argument that has holes as wide as the grand canyon.

New authors, yet to publish (like myself), will ONLY choose to self-publish in the future. It does not make sense to do anything else. You're to blame, Konrath. You heretic. Whether you know it or not, you have become the pied piper of self-publishing. You have doomed us all with your infamous words. You bring logic and reason into your summations; shame on you. We're all awake now, and we're permanantly damaged because our minds can never return to their original state of blissful ignorance. I hope you're happy. You monster.

You turn us away from the holy truth of the Big 6. You lead us into temptation that we actually have the power within ourselves. You show us a world without them. A very real world with demonstrable results. Tsk tsk. Facts and figures. Case studies and anicdotes. Can you see what you have done? Can you?!

This unacceptance, this Big-6 denier philosophy that you, and many like you, have infected us with... the oceans of prose, tales and stories unsanctioned will drown us all. The survivors only hope will be to cling to the tallest mountains that in themselves will become but islands surrounded by unfiltered creativity. May the gods have mercy upon your soul.

It has been said that we should not place importance on the unanswered questions, but instead look towards the unquestioned answers, for it is there that we will find the fallacies and illusions. You point to them. You spell it out for those of us new to the game, (or at least those wanting to play.) You see Mr. Konrath, I'm a convert. You've got me. Hook, line and sinker. The consequences for this, heresy, are yet to be realised. But one thing I do know. I now have hope. To be a genre novelist; and do it for a living.

Words have power, indeed mightier than the sword. I have lurked on your blog for some time and I just wanted you to know that your words have made a difference to me.

Thank you.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

You said: "Agents are a good example. What agent would ever (ever?) jeopardize a relationship with a major publisher for their client, however much the agent may purport to represent that client's interests? Of course agents work for the publishers, and it's foolish to think otherwise, so nothing about this should be surprising. What agent wants a publisher to think, "oh yeah, this is that pain in the ass agent who keeps trying to rewrite our contract."

Rob says:

While I'm in no way endorsing this letter, I have to say that my agent and agency regularly go to bat for their writers, trying to negotiate the best deals they possibly can. My agent has gotten me more money and better terms than I could have dreamed of having. And their work is evidenced by the large crossed-out sections and edited versions of the contracts they send me.

While I understand the sprit of what you're trying to say, I think agents simply try to find a balance, because their livelihood depends on good relationships with both parties. No agent wants to lose a client. And no agent wants to lose a receptive editor, either.

Becca Mills said...

Those agents should be spending their time figuring out what they're going to do when they don't have any clients left.

Joe Konrath said...

Go LOW PRICED INDIE versus HIGH PRICED FAMOUS AUTHOR!

I disagree. Lower prices across the board means more people buying more books. I'll blog about this in more detail someday, but I'm sure I mentioned it before.

John Paul Allen said...

Bravo.

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon drives them under and leaves a city with no bookstores and it will drive more bussiness online.

Damn you, Amazon! Stop giving customers lower prices and more choice! Stop selling to all customers, whether they live near you or not! STOP COMPETING! IT'S UNETHICAL! IT'S ANTI-AMERICAN!

I stand by my previous post and posting sans name.

Um, actually you aren't standing by anything. In order to stand by something, you own up to it.

I like how there is the impression that anonymous equates to cowardice.

It's not just that. In your case it's cowardice, paranoia, and ignorance.

Do you understand what tu quoque means? My defending Amazon doesn't negate or effect my attack on the AAR. Your argument has zero merit, even if Amazon was Satan himself. It is a logical fallacy.

You're also disingenuous, claiming you wouldn't keep up with my blog anymore. Yet here you are.

I have zero respect for most anons. Especially those who call me names. Respect is earned. You haven't earned any.

If you'd have owned your words, I would have treated you in a civil manner. Instead, you get to be the butt of my insulting jokes. Is that the point you want to make?

Anonymous said...

when the eBook bubble bursts

Can you describe a plausible scenario in which this would happen? When the solar flares knock out global electricity, perhaps? When the internet shuts down? When people decide to stop reading and take up triathaloning, instead?

E-books are simply a new, cheaper, more efficient format of delivering book content. Like, you know, there was a printing press bubble, but it died and people went back to hand-illuminating manuscripts on vellum.

--yet another anonymous

Anonymous said...

Mr. Konrath, you did not start by treating the letter from the AAR with respect so why should I think you'd treat me any different.

You are just so pro Amazon that you can't see straight. There is no point expanding on what I said about Amazon because you are so certain you are right that you won't listen. That's fine. It's no skin off my nose. You obviously get so many people agreeing with you that my continued disagreement just baffles you. Fine by me.

And I am not following your blog. This page is comments by other people and I have only come back to see what you said in response t what I had posted earlier. So sorry, you are wrong, I'm not following your blog only my own comments. But I shall make you happy and not come back again.

I may be an ass myself for calling you an ass in public, but the tone of your response to the AAR letter fit the description.

Anonymous Independent Author (from 1:48 PM)

Thom Bray said...

A dear friend once said to me: "even if you see them kneeling down in church, remember--they're stillagents."

One point: some folks here may be confusing the Writer's Guild with the Author's Guild. The WGA represents those of us who write film and TV. We actually can go on strike when we get pissed off.

Joe Konrath said...

There is no ebook bubble.

Joe Konrath said...

There is no point expanding on what I said about Amazon because you are so certain you are right that you won't listen.

I listened. You said I can't call the AAR or the Big 6 bad, because Amazon is bad too.

But you didn't listen, or else you'd realize your argument sucks. In fact, you have no argument. You just don't like Amazon. So don't shop there.

As an author, I explore multiple venues to earn money. Right now, I earn the most on Amazon. Next year it could be something else. If so, I'll blog about it. That's what this blog is about. Me sharing the results of my experiments.

But I shall make you happy and not come back again.

Stop it. I'll cry.

Chantilly White said...

Rock on, Joe. This made my decade. Thank you.

Chantilly White, ecstatically indie publishing

Eric said...

Anyone want to take a bet that Anonymous Independent Author (from 1:48 PM) has been back to check the blog several times even after saying that he would leave forever? ;-)

What I really suggest to the AAR and the Big 6 is to read "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Dr. Spencer Johnson.

Honestly, things change and you have to adapt to those changes.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

All this talk about Amazon being a bully makes me laugh.

I'd wager that if you looked in a trade journal or a newspaper from the fifties, you'd find publishers and book retailers complaining about Fawcett Publishing and the low prices of paperback originals that were selling in--gasp--drug stores!

MMOs were a new thing at the time that many felt "devalued the work." I'm sure they were screaming unfair competition then, too.

Just saying.

J. M. Strother said...

You say they are an association representing authors, but they aren't. They are an association representing agents, not authors. So the question is, do agents make more money via the agency model or via discount model? If they make more money via the agency model, then it makes sense for the AAR to favor that model. That may be a screw job for the authors, but stuff flows downhill and the authors are at the bottom of the hill.
~jon

Jay Allan said...

While I'm in no way endorsing this letter, I have to say that my agent and agency regularly go to bat for their writers, trying to negotiate the best deals they possibly can. My agent has gotten me more money and better terms than I could have dreamed of having. And their work is evidenced by the large crossed-out sections and edited versions of the contracts they send me.

While I understand the sprit of what you're trying to say, I think agents simply try to find a balance, because their livelihood depends on good relationships with both parties. No agent wants to lose a client. And no agent wants to lose a receptive editor, either.


Like I said, I'm not trying to bang on individual agents, just making the point that the interests of agents are aligned with that of the publishers, and not the authors. First, they are part of the whole gatekeeping machine, which is what makes them useful. When authors no longer need the gate, they lose power. Yes, they can still market ancillary rights, and there is probably a business model in there for agency that involves marketing support for indie publishing, but I am sure they would rather hang on to the status quo. Very few people adapt to new models, they are replaced by new people.

I'd wager that most authors want an agent because they feel that will make it easier to get their books published, and only very secondarily for help in negotiating a deal (since most authors are too worried about finding any publisher to worry upfront about the deal they will get). You don't get the ear of someone to sell things to them by being a pain in the ass. So unless you are JK Rowling I wouldn't expect an agent to go toe to toe with a publisher for you. They may get a few extra bucks, but they aren't going to tear apart contract terms and brand themselves a troublemaker.

I'm not making any ethical judgment on all of this, just saying that no one should be surprised that an agents' trade group is in the tank with the publishers.

Anonymous said...

When authors no longer need the gate, they [the agents] lose power.

I agree with this. The AAR is trying to serve two masters: the author and the publisher. It's a hard row to hoe. In fact, it looks like they've failed to row that hoe.

I've been following this blog for years, and read some of the most heartbreaking author stories here (Kiana Davenport's fairly recent experience with a horrible traditional publisher brought tears to my eyes). Kiana has more writing talent in her little finger than most writers have in their whole body, and the way she was treated was just unforgivable. I have at least two good author friends who have similar stories.

It's not a rare occurrence. Author abuse is an epidemic. And hopefully, this new publishing revolution will change that.

I've gone the "Dan Poytner" route from the beginning, so I have no idea what it's like to get screwed by a publisher... thank goodness.

-Christy

D. L. Kung said...

PRESUMED SUSPICIOUS

I spent twenty years as an investigative reporter in Asia. My training tells me to look in the corners of restaurants and examine the ownership/profits reports for the links that affect our world. Stop talking about "organizations."

Link up the people:

I repeat, fellow Indies, PLEASE NOTE, the President of the AAR signing this letter, Gail Hochman, is the longtime agent whose legacy agency Brandt and Hochman, relies on the big chunk of change they get from the books of president of the Authors' Guild, Scott Turow.

When we talk about Big 6 lunches in Manhattan, can it cozier than Scott and Gail sewing up the advocacy of our two major representative organizations? I suspect nobody formally consulted their membership, I just think it's Scott and Gail planting their conjoined flags on behalf of their mutually profitable career which goes all the way back to Presumed Innocent.

Almost all the deals Gail signed for Scott's books are with Grand Central, part of the Hachette group, which along with two other publishers, capitulated to the DOJ's accusations last month regarding collusion.

But obviously they haven't given up the guerilla war.

Wasn't it Hachette that "leaked" that silly memo last December (http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/leaked-hachette-explains-why-publishers-are-relevant/) that told us why legacy publishers and editors were absolutely central to our existence?

I think we can expect more such alignments to become more visible through the morning fog as the sun rises on the e-book revolution.

Wayne said...

Anonymous Independent Author said:
The entire process of taking a loss on virtually all ebooks was unfair to their conpetitors. You expect some of that, but their discounting was deeper and further reaching than simply trying to one up the competition. It was designed to drive them under and it worked with Borders.

Lol, that's some interesting misunderstandings of how things worked.
a) They weren't discounting virtually all eBooks, they were discouting a small number of titles, mainly bestsellers, though it was lots of copies of them. These are the same ones I see at 30% off when I walk into Coles(Canadian chain).

b) In 2008 when Borders was failing, eBooks were 0.6% of the trade market. In 2010 when Agency went into effect it was approximately 6%.

c) http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3749336/Borders+Breaks+Off+7Year+Amazon+Partnership.htm
Read that from 2008, where its mentioned most of Borders competition is still from other physical bookstores. And that they were looking for a buyer. From before 2008 they were staggering from poor decisions and being squeezed by their main rival B&N, it just took them several years to use up their last chances.

d) Finally the point that it was unfair and designed to drive their competition under. WTF? It was going to drive Google with its $3 Billion in cash, or Apple with its $110 Billion in cash reserves out of the book business? The majority of B&N's sales were in physical stores(see sales %'s). All they needed was a decent web site to compete online.

Feel free to read various actual news articles from the time period before accepting publishers versions of the events. There's no doubt Amazon works hard to compete and they keep their margins small but they didn't have the cash to sell all their eBooks at a loss.

Danielle Blanchard said...

Could not agree with your sentiment more. Someone forgot their meds or has a comprehension problem which is a huge issue in modern America today. Thanks for expressing what I was thinking. ;-)

marshacanham said...

I stand wholeheartedly beside you, Joe. I think agents are scrambling just as hard as publishers to figure out where the rug under their feet went. I've been blogging about unfair royalty practices for the past couple of days, and now you've got me all revved up to blog about agents LOL. Case in point, my former agent...who has a huge firm in NY...asked me why I wanted the rights back to my backlist books. She said: What can you do with them? I know they're not earning much money now, but something is better than nothing.
Augh. I ended up having to write to the publishers myself and thank goodness I did *when* I did because shortly after I had the rights reverted, they've put the brakes on and refused a lot of authors' requests.
This is the same agent who said "sure, go ahead and sign, nothing will come of it" when all of RH authors were sent addendums to their contracts to establish the 25% royalty rate for electronic copies.
Agents need to wake up and smell the exhaust cuz the bus has left the depot.

marshacanham said...

oops, small correction to my previous post. That would be BDD, not RH who sent out the addendums.

Regina Richards said...

Well said!

Liz said...

Thanks, Joe, for the helpful and informative blog. I wonder if you would address couple of issues that I'm still puzzled about:

1) Yes, I can see that self-publishing is working for you, but that might not be the case for writers in every genre. What do you thing about publisher vs. self-pub for children's, middle grade, and even YA writers?
2) I couldn't agree more that many of the services that publishers once provided are now obsolete, with one important exception: editing. I've seen a lot of unevenly and poorly edited self-pub books on Kindle. Any thoughts on self-pub and the need for (and perils of) professional editing?
3) How many books can new writers expect to sell? How many copies sold make a "popular" book, for example? There's so much secrecy about the numbers of copies of books sold...but perhaps relating it to Kindle rank or something along those lines?

Thanks!

DED said...

Would someone please explain to the AAR how capitalism works.

Ron Edison said...

Where was the outcry when Borders and B&N started selling bestsellers at 20-30% discounts? And worse, when WalMart and Best Buy began selling at even greater discounts? (I believe those contracts even cut into the author’s share, not the publisher’s, to make the price point.) I thought it was only in Hollywood that writers were so disrespected and abused. Makes me want to get an agent just so I could fire them.

Laura Resnick said...

Bob Mayer has an article today in Digital Bookworld about adapating to the changing marketplace. It opens by highlighting exactly how misplaced the focus is of the Association of =Authors= Repesentativves:

"The AAR recently sent a letter to the DOJ unanimously supporting the Agency model. I find it odd that the AAR has yet to send a collective letter to the Big 6 asking for higher, and fairer, royalty rates for their authors’ electronic rights."

Full article at:
http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/aar-publishers-bookstores-facilitators-need-to-adapt-not-defend/

The AAR has long failed to lead. Now they need to either follow or just get out of the way.

Tracy Sharp said...

Woohoooo!!!! Damn, Joe! You are one badass mother****!!

Fantastic!

Todd Trumpet said...

More shades of Hollywood...

Even the biggest literary agents and agencies will only represent their scriptwriting clients' best interests to a degree. In the end, they, too, are really more interested in maintaining a status quo relationship with their own "Big 6" masters, the studios and networks.

And the beat (down) goes on...

Todd
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Alan Spade said...

What I find interesting in all that uproar is the silence. Silence of big authors like Stephen King.

Stephen King is able to take side, like he did with his recent position to pay more taxes.

Perhaps I'm misinformed, but in all this big changes taking place, I haven't heard him talk.

He wrote in one of his books that you have not to spit in the soup. So, I think he's sticking to that.

Yet, I find it interesting the silence of these big authors, who don't seem to be very eager to rush defending big publishing (except for authors like Scott Turrow).

Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

Anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can now write and publish anything, any time, and ask any price. Amazon understood this, and provided a ready-made marketplace for above-mentioned "anyone" at no upfront charge, and a system for getting paid for it in case someone thought the stuff worth paying for. You get to set your own price, as long as it is no lower than a dollar - which won't buy you a new book anywhere else. They take a cut if you do sell, nothing if you don't. They can't and don't force anyone to sign up. If you're already in, and they decide to change their rules, they never asked you to sign over your rights, so you can pull your stuff and leave whenever you wish.

No matter how many times I read the above paragraph, I cannot find anything in it that blocks diversity, competition or choice, be it on content, genre or price. Guess I'm not ready to represent authors :-)

Wayne said...

Liz, he's replied to some of the those questions in the past but you might find the Think Like a Publisher series by Dean Wesley Smith interesting along with his post on prices from earlier in the year, its from Febuary so I don't think he still responds to comments on it but there's 113 already to read from people. There's talk about YA sales etc.

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=6391

Vanessa Kelly said...

I spent years working in the labor movement before I began writing. To say that my first set of contract negotiations was a surprise is an understatement. And I still continue to be mystified by how unwilling agents in general are to fight in a more organized manner for their clients.

I'm not burning up the bestseller lists with my indie pubbed books, but with one exception, my indie books have all outsold my traditionally published books. Not a whole lot of incentive for me to walk away from indie publishing, that's for sure!

Jennifer Fiddes said...

The industry is dead, long live the industry.

At least for me. I can't work with people like that.

Ric 'The Turtle' Ryan said...

Writing is a business and Amazon is following the lead of the two largest businesses in America cause it works. Walmart and McDonald's got where they are by offering quality service and products at the lowest possible, but profitable rate. The idea that Amazon consistently sells at a loss to get business is total ignorance of the basics of business. You sell at a loss and sooner or later you go out of business. I do not see that happening anytime soon for Amazon. The AAR certainly is not representing the interests of their members. Maybe it is time to start a competitive group and somehow get a copy of their mailing list. I would not be above writing and asking all their members to leave and join a group that truly represents authors. However I am past the point in life where I am willing to do that. It sure creates an opening for a dedicated and motivated individual who can and would pursue the matter. Go, Joe, Go

Iola said...

Passive Guy also referred to this letter (http://www.thepassivevoice.com/05/2012/bizarre-misunderstanding-of-e-book-business/). His post referenced a graph that the AAR put together (the graph showed a woeful lack of understanding of statistics, excel graphing capability and the PC screen capture facility, but that's beside the point).

The interesting point was that the AAR graph showed that Agency 6 books cost approximatly three times as much as non-Agency books.

And that's supposed to be good for the consumer. Oops.

Esther Cotton said...

Awesome letter. I wonder if Big Publishing will EVER change up their model to better accommodate authors' and consumers? The music industry has already gone that route, and the film industry is following close behind. We really need a bigger change with our books!

- Esther
http://roseywinterrose.blogspot.com

Warren Fahy said...

Oddly, the same aggregate argument is made to defend pirating -- that since the same TOTAL NUMBER of books/games/movies continue to be made the consumer is unharmed, therefore pirating is OK. Never mind if individual creators are wiped out, more come forward to fill their place and the sum total remains unaffected, like some kind of annual wheat yield. Thanks for spotlighting this, Joe. -Warren Fahy

nukemhill said...

I don't know if it is addressed in the comments, and you don't really spend any time on it in your post, but Apple seems to have relatively clean hands with this. It appears they were handed the pricing structure as a fait accompli. There is no evidence that they participated in the process of generating it. That was all in the hands of the publishers.

If there is evidence indicating otherwise, I'll change my tune (and yes, I'm a bit of an Apple fan; guilty as charged!). And I'd love to see Apple modify its policies towards royalties, etc. in general. I'm an app publisher, and I think a 30% cut is a bit steep. But it's not abusive at this point, as I'm not seeing huge chunks o' change from massive sales. I might get a bit more upset if I start seeing real sales and suffer as a result of Apple's "abusive" cuts. But I'll happily rant if I ever reach that point. :-)

All this is minor, though. Brilliant post, and I wish you luck in your battle against the cartel and its enablers. I have significant problems with the current Justice Department, but I think they might be on the side of the right and just this time.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Good old unbiased responses there.

Anonymous said...

This is just an American agents problem, right? Literary agents in the UK aren't behaving like this, are they?

~Katya

alex a. akira said...

I'm just a little person who always wrote and recently self published. I am thrilled to have an endgame for my stories, and am happy I can now afford to purchase and amass a library without killing trees.
I've been exposed to new writers and feel my education is expanding.
I am constantly telling my friends that I am so happy to be alive in the middle of a Renaissance, because that's what this is.
Thank you Joe and all of you for fighting for me to have these wonderful experiences.
Alex a Akira

Steve said...

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U. S. Army

Runaway Pen said...

Dear AAR:

Seems like nobody needs an agent anymore.

Good luck looking for a new niche,

-Indie

D. D. Scott said...

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by either the AAR or Authors Guild responses.

Before I Indie Epublished, I not only tried to go the TradiPub Route for 10+ Years (yes, because back then I wasn't that smart), but I also worked for one of the Big Six in their Returns Center.

Most agents have refused to touch the returns issues for years too and address the inaccurate "accounting" there, even after I asked several to.

I've just never had the feeling that agents in general were working for the best interests of authors, just the publishers giving them their paychecks. That said, I know there are some good ones still out there.

I was agented for three years, by one of the Top 20 Dealmakers according to Publishers Marketplace. But not any more. I handle everything myself.

D. D. Scott said...

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by either the AAR or Authors Guild responses.

Before I Indie Epublished, I not only tried to go the TradiPub Route for 10+ Years (yes, because back then I wasn't that smart), but I also worked for one of the Big Six in their Returns Center.

Most agents have refused to touch the returns issues for years too and address the inaccurate "accounting" there, even after I asked several to.

I've just never had the feeling that agents in general were working for the best interests of authors, but rather for the publishers giving them their paychecks. That said, I know there are still some good ones out there.

I was agented for three years, by one of the Top 20 Dealmakers according to Publishers Marketplace. But not any more. I handle everything myself.