Thursday, May 29, 2014

James Patterson BEA Fail

James Patterson just spoke at Book Expo America.

He's trotting out the same old nonsense. So I'm going to expose it for nonsense it is. Again.

Patterson: Hello, I'm Jeff Bezos.

Joe sez: No, you're not. Bezos is smarter and richer than you are.

Patterson: No, I'm not, but I'm sorry, I can't do that maniacal laugh ...

Joe sez: I'm guessing it's a laugh that shows the publishing world he's right and going to triumph, and they're wrong and going to lose.

Patterson: I'm trying to get people to focus on the perilous future of books in this country. And that future is happening right now, this year.

Joe sez: The perilous future is apparently more authors than ever making money, and major publishers posting record profits.

Sounds awful.

Patterson: There is an evolution/revolution going on and it affects everybody who reads, everybody who writes, everybody who publishes books.

Joe sez: I agree. But for many writers and readers, it affects them for the better.

Patterson: Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are closing, libraries are having serious trouble getting funding, especially school libraries.

Joe sez: Bookstores are closing because people are buying their books online.

That's like saying, "all the laundromats are going out of business!" which implies people aren't washing their clothes, but ignores that every home now has a washer and dryer.

Patterson: Every publisher and the people who work in these publishing houses is feeling a great deal of pain and stress.

Joe sez: So? We don't need publishers. We need authors, readers, and a way to get books to those readers. Publishers are a value added service, not a necessity.

Patterson: If we don't fix those problems, the quality of American literature is going to suffer. Fewer or no more Infinite Jests, Blood Meridians, or Book Thiefs, less of a chance for young writers, like James Patterson back in 1976, to be published — or maybe that would have been a good thing?

Joe sez: Why do you think writers will stop writing if publishers disappear? If anything, there are more writers than ever before. And these books can reach readers directly. They won't risk being passed up by the gatekeepers, like many great books have been. And they'll never go out of print because publishers did a poor job promoting them.

And why did you pick those particular titles, all bestsellers? Surely you know not every book that publishers deign worthy enough to release is a masterpiece, or a huge hit. With publishers as vanguards of American literature, I argue we can use some new vanguards.

I have a wacky idea. How about letting readers decide for themselves what is worthy?

Patterson: I'd like you to think about this, and I'd like the press to think about this: Publishers are not terribly profitable. If those profits are further diminished, publishers will produce less serious literature. It's just a fact of life.

Joe sez: Publishers don't produce literature. They release it. Writers produce it.

Patterson: And that's one of the reasons why right now, the future of our literature is in danger. I will say that there are no clear-cut villains —  yet — but there are no heroes either,

Joe sez: I can point to plenty of heroes.

  • H.M. Ward 
  • Hugh Howey 
  • Data Guy
  • Barry Eisler 
  • Bob Mayer 
  • Kris Rusch
  • David Gaughran 
  • Passive Guy
  • Dean Wesley Smith 
  • Joanna Penn
  • Amanda Hocking 
  • Bella Andre
  • Selena Kitt
  • Blake Crouch
  • Mark Coker
  • Darcie Chan
  • C.J. Lyons
  • L.J. Sellers
  • Marie Force
  • Liliana Hart
  • Courtney Milan
  • Russell Blake
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Theresa Ragan
  • Jeff Bezos and Amazon

And villains? I'm not going to be so mean as to name names, but you can spot many of them within these groups:

  • Legacy publishing
  • The Authors Guild

Patterson: and I think it's important that major players involved in publishing, as well as the press, and our government, step up and take responsibility for the future of our literature and the part it plays in our culture.
[Big applause.]

Joe sez: Rah rah rah. Cue the Star Spangled Banner.

I'm not sure what hurts more, a smart guy like Patterson sporting bullshit, or the crowd eating it up like it's free brownies.

Yes, let's get the press and the government involved in saving the publishers. Publishers, those philanthropic innovators who spent the last fifty years screwing authors, trying to stall technology, and charging readers too much. Because publishers are so inept, so clueless, so greedy and stupid, that only a government bail-out can save them.

Because only a few enlightened people in NY can safeguard our culture.

Ack.

Patterson: Right now bookstores, libraries, authors, publishers, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war between publishers and online providers.

Joe sez: Pretend there's a humorous cartoon here of a novel dodging bullets in a battlefield. The novel says "Cultural American Literature" on it. The people firing guns are labeled "Amazon".

I like how Jim said publishers are caught in a war between... publishers. That implies they're shooting themselves, which metaphorically they are. But I'm guessing Jim just screwed up his speech there.

Patterson: To be a teeny, tiny bit more specific, Amazon seems to be out to control shopping in this country. This will ultimately have an effect on every grocery- and department-store chain, on every big-box store, and ultimately it will put thousands of Mom-and-Pop stores out of business.

Joe sez: Because Amazon is forcing everyone to shop with them.

Oh, wait... people are shopping at Amazon willingly. Because they prefer to.

So that would mean Amazon isn't putting anyone out of business. CUSTOMERS are putting people out of business.

Patterson: It just will, and I don't see anybody writing about it, but that certainly sounds like the beginning of a monopoly to me.

Joe sez: Which is why Jim demanded all of his books be pulled off of Amazon.com immediately.

On the off chance that Jeff Bezos is reading this, please take Patterson's books down right now. We don't want Patterson to look like a hypocrite, do we?

Patterson: Amazon also, as you know, wants to control book selling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy.

Joe sez: A national tragedy that includes more choices, lower prices, and more people reading.

I can almost hear "Taps" playing in the background. It's heartbreaking.

Patterson: If this is to be the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed, by law if necessary, immediately, if not sooner.

Joe sez: Apparently Jim didn't read my prior fisk, or he would have gotten rid of the monumentally stupid line "immediately, if not sooner." And stopped the patriotic culture nonsense.

Patterson: I think that might have been a worthy subject for this BEA. I think it's a subject that Indie Bound, the PEN American Center, the National Book Foundation, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington, and NPR should latch onto with vigor, with passion, with urgency.

Joe sez: What subject, Jim? You didn't actually say anything substantive. And what you did say was either false or made no sense.

Patterson: Thank you for this generous honor. It means a lot to me, it really does. I'm pretty emotional about it, more than I ever am at speaking engagements. It means a lot to my wife Sue who's here, and to our son Jack, who has become a big reader primarily because of independent bookstores pushing books at them. Thank you very much.

Joe sez: Patterson got the Indie Champion Award for pledging $1,000,000 to help indie bookstores. So I can understand his speech being slanted to his audience.

But he could have focused on what indies can do to compete with Amazon. Blake Crouch and I had plenty of ideas.

Instead, he went the lazy route for easy applause, spouted a lot of nonsense, and offered no solutions other than let's get the press and the government against Amazon.

I'm getting tired of calling out Patterson on his bullshit. But he keeps spreading it around, and people cheer and get all patriotic and riled up, and common sense flies out the window.

We can't allow that. Not as authors. Not as readers.

Please retweet, comment, and link to this. Let's spread a little sanity and common sense to make up for the silliness.

114 comments:

Anonymous-9 said...

I've always defended James Patterson when some snotty keynote speaker speaks ill of him at a writers' event. But how can I defend this trainwreck of a speech that wants to return to the past and cut me off from my success with Amazon? It reminds me of Shakespeare: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." What the heck are Patterson and Hachette hiding, I want to know?

Anonymous said...

Joe I believe the events of the past week are a vast conspiracy to stop you from writing books by responding to everyone else.

Sarra Cannon said...

I think it deserves to be mentioned that while the bestselling authors you highlighted by name are heroes of Indie publishing, there are thousands of us who are paying our bills because of self-publishing. We're all heroes here.

Indie publishing isn't just about those making millions of dollars and hitting the top of the charts. It's about the mid-list now becoming a place where authors can live and grow and feed our families. It's about all of us now having the opportunity to get our stories out there in front of readers without some middleman judging whether or not we're worthy.

To James Patterson, this lack of a middleman means the end of great literature. But he's wrong. In truth, it means that all stories have their chance and Americans (as well as those in many countries around the world) become the judge of what's good literature instead of leaving it to NY editors. What could be more American than that?

Sarra Cannon

Sarra Cannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Lawson said...

Because only a few enlightened people in NY can safeguard our culture.

This.

I'm not making Konrath money (yet) -- but my rejected novel has made more since I self-published it than it did while waiting to be rejected again, with a form letter, because I haven't been adequately sprinkled with culture water by The Right People.

Sarra,
I don't even think Patterson thinks the lack of the middleman means the end of great literature. I think he has a sweet deal (one of the few) and is doing his best to protect that and his friends in the industry -- the people who are making money hand over fist.

I've seen zero evidence Patterson actually cares about the little guy or literature itself.

One more thing:

Literature survived eons without modern publishers.

Andy Jennsen said...

Patterson is attached to the publishing model because it's where he gets his ghost writers. Without a powerful publisher to draft his writers in with a promise of publishing their works, what is he going to do?

I'm not even slightly surprised to see someone of his mediocre talent flacking for the old way of doing things.

As for the gatekeepers, I think we can do with a little less Young Adult/Blockbuster movie tie ins somehow tied to the overall media empire the publisher is attached to and a little more creativity, freedom and experimentation in publishing.

Of course, the best part about this is that if Hachette and the old guard win they get to keep their ebook prices in the stratosphere and will continue driving customers right to where they are right now.

Jim Kukral said...

"Joe sez: Publishers don't produce literature. They release it. Writers produce it."

This really nails it because the publishers really do honestly believe they produce content. They've convinced themselves this is true and it's not.

"Because only a few enlightened people in NY can safeguard our culture."

Again, they really believe that. They are a bunch of people who have convinced themselves they are some kind of Gods, and are needed.

This was probably one of your better posts skewering them. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

I think what's happening now in publishing rivals the invention of the printing press. The printing press made books available to an educated middle class. E-book publishing has made people in the smallest village in Africa, with a cell phone, able to download books. And the wealth of books that the ability to self-publish has made available ensures there will be books of interest to everyone.

It is such an exciting time to be writing and reading books. I foresee an explosion of literacy, all over the world. There is no way the Big Five will be able to hold this back.

A personal note: I was a midlist legacy writer whose earning and prospects dwindled to nothing. I am so happy self-publishing. This month, I added about a thousand dollars to my checking account--and that pales before the fun I'm having.

Michael Z said...

Does James Patterson even write his own books anymore? I see his book cover, but then there's another author's name at the bottom. It seems he's merely a producer now. Pathetic.

Barry Eisler said...

Patterson says, “I’m pretty emotional about it.”

Yes. And this is exactly the problem.

I think Patterson is smart, but his overriding emotional response to the revolution in publishing is rendering him situationally stupid.

Patterson says, "Amazon seems to be out to control shopping in this country… and I don't see anybody writing about it, but that certainly sounds like the beginning of a monopoly to me."

If you don’t see anybody writing about Amazon being out to control shopping (if not the world) and being a monopoly, you have to be blind. Those stories are *everywhere*. You’d have to avoid Streitfeld in The New York Times, Packer in The New Yorker, The The Seattle Times, the entirety of the blogosphere and Twitter… and that’s just off the top of my head, there are so many more. Saying “I don’t see articles about Amazon being a monopoly" is awfully close to saying “I assiduously avoid reading (or even seeing) anything at all about current events, particularly the events I’m addressing in front of a crowd at BEA today.”

As for this zombie monopoly meme, you don’t have to be a lawyer to know it’s bullshit. All you have to do know is how to use Google and how to read the articles that turns up when you search for “Amazon Monopoly.” Like this one, from yesterday’s Fortune:

"Amazon isn't -- and likely never will be -- a monopoly: Antitrust courts since the 1970s have consistently held that it's not illegal for a company to hold huge market share, as long as they aren't using that power to raise prices for the end consumer.”
http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2014/05/28/amazon-hachette-book-industry/?iid=F_F500M

How does Patterson know Amazon is becoming a monopoly? Because he knows monopolies are bad, he knows Amazon is bad… and that’s about as deep as his analysis or research takes him.

Barry Eisler said...

He says, "Small bookstores are being shuttered.” Like his fears about monopolies, this one exists entirely in Patterson’s mind, and his obvious and egregious canard is easily dispelled with literally thirty seconds of online research. Google “Independent bookstores thriving” and you’ll immediately find multiple articles on the topic, including these:

Atlantic Monthly — "How 'Indie' Bookstores Survived (and Thrived)”
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/12/how-indie-bookstores-survived-and-thrived/281974/

New York Times — "No Big Hits, but Bookshops Say They’re Thriving”
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/books/small-bookstores-say-theyre-thriving-even-without-big-hits.html?_r=0

He says, "If we don't fix those problems, the quality of American literature is going to suffer. Fewer or no more Infinite Jests, Blood Meridians, or Book Thiefs, less of a chance for young writers, like James Patterson back in 1976, to be published — or maybe that would have been a good thing?”

This is a classic Panglossian argument: “Everything is perfect in this most perfect of worlds.” But as a matter of logic, you can’t know. We only learn about the books that have made it through the legacy system, not about the ones that it buried. So it’s at least equally possible that the legacy gatekeepers have snuffed out thousands of deserving titles that by definition we don’t know about, and that, in the absence of the legacy boot heel, those titles will now be able to bloom.

But this is another thing that Patterson just *knows*, because he feels so strongly.

Anytime an industry is disrupted by technology, some people lose jobs while others gain. I’m sure it was much the same during the early days of the automobile, the telephone, the personal computer, and I know it was during the early days of the Internet. And probably the Gutenberg press put a lot of scribes out of world, too! But you know how we could stop all this? We could just make things less efficient. For example, if we took away all the shovels at construction sites and replaced them with spoons, construction companies would have to hire more people. More jobs! Is that what Patterson wants to be "changed, by law if necessary”? Alas, in all his vague calls for government intervention, he never spells out just what laws he wants passed.

I’ve met Patterson and heard him speak and have little doubt that overall he’s an intelligent person. So the only way I can explain his egregious errors of fact and logic, and his failure to pressure-check his opinions with even the most rudimentary online research, is that he's become situationally stupid. He’s so in the grip of his emotions on this issue that he can’t access his reason. Not uncommon, but unfortunate nonetheless.

SM Barrett said...

Patterson: "If we don't fix those problems, the quality of American literature is going to suffer."

It doesn't take long to find all sorts of lists like this online; http://writerswrite1.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/50-iconic-writers-who-were-repeatedly-rejected/

Now consider this. How many great writers gave up on the old system before reaching the magic number of 10, 20, 100 rejections? How many can now publish something that current Manhatten editors wouldn't even consider.

How many bestsellers, life-changing, culture- bending works of literature, have been LOST FOREVER by the creaky, self-important gauntlet of old-school publishing, all because they didn't fit the temporary fashion of the moment?

It feels to me like the dawning of a new day. I don't begrudge those who have adapted to the darkness shrieking at the light. That shit has to sting.

SM Barrett said...

Funny - I wrote the above, posted it, and saw Barry had made the same point.

Anonymous said...

98.9% of self-published work is dreck. Absolute drivel. Would you want TV networks to go away so writers and actors can be free to produce cable access shows in their basements?

Tony said...

"98.9%..yadda, yadda, yadda..."

Hush, child.

David L. Shutter said...

"I'd like you to think about this, and I'd like the press to think about this: Publishers are not terribly profitable."

WHAT??? Seriously, who the hell does he think he's kidding?

Isn't the guy who's been a top bestseller since I was on a tricycle (I'm actually sorta old now) know his own business?

Record profits for S&S.

http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2014/02/simon-schuster-finishes-record-profits/

Booming profits for Random Penguin Vanity and Anti-Trust.

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/penguin-random-house-booms-in-2013-growing-revenue-profit/

Harper Collins is pulling cash in by the truckload.

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/ebooks-and-divergent-drive-revenue-and-profit-increase-at-harpercollins-in-the-second-quarter/

Maybe we're supposed to sympathize with Patterson himself? Making $94mill in 2013 off 14 ghosted titles he revised. Maybe his gargantuan backlist, available as highly priced e-books on Amazon, helped out a little. Maybe a lot more than a little.

But I guess money isn't everything.

"Every publisher and the people who work in these publishing houses is feeling a great deal of pain and stress."

Well, we know for sure this supposed pain and stress isn't from poor sales and decreasing profits.

Maybe, (and this could be a HUGE blind, leaping guess) but just maybe their current "pain and stress" is because they can't gang up on Amazon in collusive re-negotiations to secure their coveted agency pricing. Again.

Each company has to go it alone now, without Apple in its corner, across the table from their primary distributor. The company, ironically enough, who's largely responsible for all these record profits. And, no doubt, for Patterson's mind boggling income as well.

A company they need a LOT more than it needs them.

But maybe the timing for these concerted pleas to wrangle in Amazon is just a wacky coincidence. Or not.

Anonymous said...

More Patterson BS about the big 5 publishers saving American Literature... What a load of hooey. It's more of the same old elitist fearmongering claptrap.

Amazon is big because readers prefer it to every other form of online shopping for books -- and eventually, other consumer products if Bezos has his way.

Readers increasingly want to buy their books online instead of going to bookstores.

Readers are increasingly choosing to read their books on eBook readers instead of print.

Readers are increasingly buying and loving indie books, giving them high ratings and providing the indie writers with a living income from book sales. Customers don't care who publishes the books. They only care if they are reading a good story.

Amazon merely does it better than everyone else. If they didn't, readers wouldn't choose to buy there and indies wouldn't publish there.

Amazon puts all books out there and lets readers decide what they like. Not agents in Manhattan. Not editors in Manhattan. Not publishers in Manhattan.

Readers.

What would happen if the worst fears of the traditional publishing world came true and the behemoth that is Amazon became the sole way that books were published and bought and read? If all authors published independently through Amazon? If all books were sold through Amazon? If all books were read on Kindles?

Here's what:

Writers would still write. They just wouldn't use the big 5 publishers. They'd use freelance editors and book cover designers and maybe some marketing people, but they would still write and their books would still be published.

Critics could still read books and opine on what was the best, thus American Literature, as opposed to books of the Fifty Shades of Grey variety, would be recognized and preserved for posterity.

The big 5 publishers would be out of business and I expect offering their editing and promotional skills to Amazon writers as freelancers.

That exact future is not going to happen. Someone is always going to come along with a better idea and compete with Amazon in the long term. Yes a lot of agents and editors and execs at publishing houses may lose their jobs in that future, but writers would keep writing, readers would keep buying their books. It's just the way it happens that will change.

By the way, Joe -- a fellow indie author friend of mine just turned down an offer from one of the Big 5 for a two-book deal. She's an indie with a two bestselling romance novels. She turned the deal down because the advance was about as much as she could make on her own in two months as an indie. Why would she give up her rights and creative control for two lousy months of income?

SMH

Sue



Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Clap. Clap. Clap.

Joe, you make my day.

John Ellsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nirmala said...

Andy said, "Of course, the best part about this is that if Hachette and the old guard win they get to keep their ebook prices in the stratosphere and will continue driving customers right to where they are right now."

I agree....let the publishers have complete control of pricing again. It was the best thing that ever happened to self-published authors. Maybe Joe should change sides in all of this and start coming up with more reasons why big publishers should keep doing what they have been doing up to now :)

Joe Konrath said...

Joe I believe the events of the past week are a vast conspiracy to stop you from writing books by responding to everyone else.

No kidding...

Shelly Thacker said...

The idea of America's wealthiest author standing up in public and claiming that traditional publishing is "not terribly profitable" is beyond hypocritical. Okay, Mr. Patterson, if you're so offended by Amazon's business practices, it's time for you to take a stand. A =real= stand: have your publishers immediately pull every book with your name on the cover from Amazon, and sell them exclusively through independent, BEA member-owned bookstores. You could singlehandedly turn this "war on American literature/culture" around.

C'mon, Mr. Patterson. Put your $94 million where your mouth is. And don't tell me you don't have the power to tell your publishers where to sell your books. Most authors don't. You do. Use it.

Go ahead. Lead the charge. Judging by all the blog rants this week, scores of trad-pub authors will eagerly follow you. Starting with the Hachette crew.

Unless, of course, your entire speech was nothing but hot air and you want to continue collecting millions of dollars in royalties from Amazon while publicly chastising them.

So, Mr. Patterson, are you a hypocrit or a hero? There are a couple of days left at BEA. Plenty of time to make a big announcement about your bold new "save the bookshops" distribution program.

We await your speech with bated breath.

Terrence OBrien said...

This can be great fun. What does Patterson want the government to do to save literature?

We have never had more books available to more people at such low prices. Never. Not at any time in history. What part of that can the government fix?

Anonymous said...

"I think it deserves to be mentioned that while the bestselling authors you highlighted by name are heroes of Indie publishing, there are thousands of us who are paying our bills because of self-publishing. We're all heroes here."

I'd agree Sarra. I'd not relish seeing another 'inner circle' of authors, just like trad publishing also cobbles together.

I'd rather not 'copy' trad 'lit' publishing with their small list of 'breakthrough authors,' roman a clef short list of 'innovators,' and self awards and cronie awards for those 'daring' to what... write... like everyone else. Those who wow, took a risk and did x. Life is a risk. No awards for that.

I like that some who have risked late or early in this game starting at least with Stephen King's experiment, write about their point of view. But the majority who are writing for ebk trade, are writing books, not blogs so much. Maybe that's what makes that huge group of heroic people easy to overlook. I hope its not because so many are the equiv yet of ebk midlist and are treated thereby as in trad pub, as invisibles

Luke Wintersen said...

Power always tries to justify itself by appealing to lofty ideals.

(Reposting because I didn't intend to be anonymous.)

David Gaughran said...

Patterson is exactly right... if you don't consider e-books real books and completely ignore self-publishing.

Dan DeWitt said...

I see that idiots have adjusted the "99% of self-published books are shite" canard to the much more accurate-sounding 98.9%.

creecherteacher said...

I keep thinking about that author who was "discovered" by a publisher at the age of 93 after throwing away over 60 books he had written that had been rejected. How many more wonderful authors are there out there like him?

Monica Shaughnessy said...

Publishers are not terribly profitable. If those profits are further diminished, publishers will produce less serious literature. It's just a fact of life.

So they're going to "produce" crap to stoke the bottom line, proving they are no less greedy than Amazon. Why? Because they exist to make money. And that's okay. But let's at least be honest about it.

Case in point: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Crappy-Childrens-Art/Maddox/9781439182888

Anon said that 98.9% of indie books are terrible. But if Big Pub doesn't gain public sympathy and topple Amazon, Patterson's implying that they will put out the same drivel to justify profit. But hey, it's okay when they do it because their crap is gold-plated.

Tasha Turner said...

Patterson: Right now bookstores, libraries, authors, publishers, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war between publishers and online providers.

One of the big problems libraries are having is the limited access to ebooks by the legacy publishers. Of the limited ebooks they are allowed to buy it cost them more than consumers and they have to repurchase books after they've been loaned x times. I don't see how that helps libraries stay vibrant and relevant. I do know it affects their budget and limits what they can buy and offer patrons which is bad for libraries as the more they can offer the better a resource they are. And studies continue to show that library readers go on to buy books/authors of library books they've read so its a win/win but trad publishing is still not behind it.

On the other hand we have Smashwords working with libraries to get indie books in libraries at a reasonable price with, I believe, a one time purchase and discounting based on but buying books in "blocks". I also know many indies are happy to give their books to local/hometown/featured in the book libraries for free as it's good for discovery and it's the right thing to do.

Jude Hardin said...

Several of the people on Joe's list of heroes have helped me in one way or another through the years, including Joe himself, so they are heroes to me, along with many others. Just wanted to take the opportunity to thank them and congratulate them on their successes.

G.P. Ching said...

Sarra, you beat me to the punch! Amen, sister.

Anonymous said...

I was in the audience yesterday when Patterson spoke and as a writer I was deeply insulted and ashamed that another writer would suggest that without the publishing system as we know it great literature would not exist. I felt as if the world had turned upside down. Writers will always tell stories- readers will always want them and the middlemen will always be nervous about a smarter middleman showing up. But for an author to suggest that the middlemen are more important than the creators or the readers???

Anonymous said...

Patterson: I'd like you to think about this, and I'd like the press to think about this: Publishers are not terribly profitable. If those profits are further diminished, publishers will produce less serious literature. It's just a fact of life.

Joe sez: Publishers don't produce literature. They release it. Writers produce it.


May I say, that's one of the great ripostes, PLUS it is the same size as a Patterson chapter. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Why does he keep lumping libraries in there with the publishers, et al.? Libraries are suffering because their budgets are being slashed and publishers are limiting their access to material and jacking up the prices of the things they are willing to sell. This has nothing to do with Amazon, or self-publishing. In fact, a lot of libraries are having to turn to Amazon to buy their print books, because they are cheaper and faster, and they don't have the money to create their own ebook platforms to purchase self-published ebooks. Publishers are not the friends of libraries, they are out to squeeze as much money from them as possible, just like they squeeze authors and readers.

Kim Cano said...

I'm thankful for self-publishing. I had a job I didn't like, working retail at Northbrook Court mall, dealing with very demanding clients. It was so awful it sucked the soul from my body. This month's royalty check marks the first time I've matched what I made as a sales manager there per month. And I've only been at this for a year and a half. My guess is 5 years from now I will be making more than I ever could've made in retail since raises were almost unheard of. More like benefits being cut and hours increased.
I also disagree with what he said about the quality of the books coming out from Indies. My favorite author happens to be on that list. I would've never found and been able to enjoy reading those books if it wasn't for Amazon.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Who is James Patterson, and exactly what items of literature has he written...I mean by himself?

Dale Young said...

On a side note, why aren't the Greenies attacking Patterson? Imagine all the trees that are being saved by the ebook revolution.

CeeCee said...

I don't see Amazon as being a villan of the people. They have helped so many Indie Authors but...In one respect they are much like the Big 5 or how ever many there are.
They only promote their OWN published authors when they send you an email concerning new releases or what ever lingo they want to promote. They ignore authors who have self-published with someone else but are available on Amazon

Alan Tucker said...

Patterson doesn't want to see the middlemen die because he IS one now. When was the last time you saw a book with his name on it WITHOUT another name in much smaller print below it? Patterson is business savvy, there's no question, but, as Barry says, he's become situationally stupid.

The thing is, he'd probably continue to make money doing exactly what he's doing. I'm sure there are plenty of writers out there who'd jump at the chance to ghost write with him — regardless of how the book was distributed.

Now, if his "government assistance" includes subsidies for us struggling authors, hey, I'm all for it. Give me a check each month to write, just like we give farmers checks NOT to grow certain crops. Heck, let's support all artists so they can create unencumbered! Painters, sculptors, break dancers — they all deserve government support because they are creating ART!

Patterson, please, wake up and smell the e-ink.

bengals78 said...

If 98.9% of self-published work is dreck, why are readers buying it (see Author Earnings Report)? And why is the traditional publishing side so threatened by it (see Author Earnings Report)?

It reminds me of when American Idol began. There were a surprising number of established "artists" that were very critical about anything connected to the show. I sensed even at the time that they were just concerned their "musical genius" would be put in doubt if some game show trotted out half a dozen singers that could do as well or better.

We're watching the same dynamic play out in our industry. I'm just hoping that Patterson turns out to be the aging rock star covering his flaws with Auto-Tune, and that I'm eventually closer to Kelly Clarkson than Sanjaya. Either way, it's nice to know it's up to me.

Tom Maddox said...

I am a reader and not a writer, self-published or otherwise, and even I can detect the extreme amounts of BS contained in his words.

Also, why should the government get involved now if they did not get involved with the music industry, when Apple started throwing weight around? Is Snookie's latest tome a part of our culture that needs to be protected more than the latest recording by Yo Yo Ma?

Anonymous said...
98.9% of self-published work is dreck. Absolute drivel. Would you want TV networks to go away so writers and actors can be free to produce cable access shows in their basements?


YouTube is full of dreck made in peoples basement yet somehow I have been able to find quality content on Youtube that I find more enjoyable than many network shows. Just because the networks spend more does not automatically make their shows higher quality.

The last book I read was by Hugh Howey. The current book I am reading is by Blake Crouch. Somehow I have managed to find these quality authors without wading through the so-called dreck and without the anointing of them by the any of the BPH. Quality will find a way to rise to the top.

celtgirl68 said...

I'm new to following this whole situation, but seeing some of the vitriol that is being spewed- first at Amazon and now at indie authors as well, it all smacks of panic to me. If an indie can do as well or even better, then perhaps these legacy published people are starting to fear they weren't actually anointed with holy oil by the NY publishing world. Patterson I can't even take seriously, yes, he makes bags of money but he doesn't even write his own books anymore- to me that kind of denigrates his authority to speak to this. So many of the legacy authors I've seen complaining or flat out panicking this week, don't seem to understand the situation at all. It's their publishers holding their books hostage, not Amazon, which we all know but they can't seem to comprehend. I guess they are just parroting the company line though. And now, we have the 98.9% of indie work is drivel/dreck, etc. I've seen that figure trotted out in three places since last night. Which makes me wonder if they all just circle certain tidbits of others' rants and don't actually look any deeper, like some literary version of the Mad Tea Party.

However, it does all smack of panic- because the revolution is so far underway and the 'aristocracy' is only just waking up to it. Well I say 'Vive la revolution' the rabble isn't just at the gate, we tore it down some time ago.

Anonymous said...

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, and they've a right to speak it.

But when a corporation does things that you don't like, and you call for laws to be written to stop it? Sorry, you better be talking about how they're giving workers black lung or rendering swaths of land untouchable by people for generations, or conducting medical research on unwilling participants.

I mean, I think it's criminal the way he slaps his name over some other author's on just about every book that comes out these days, but you don't see me writing my congressman about it.

Alexander Mori said...

Joe,

You forgot one name on the hero list. Just remember, you'll always be my hero!

And I seriously can't wrap my head around the idea that Art suffers if we allow more people the ability to produce it. My brother can't draw for shit. But he likes to do it, and it makes me happy when he shows me his new and inventive characters, even if it looks like a kindergartener drew it. So what! Does {enter top producing painter here} suffer because my brother draws something crappy? Does the art public suffer? Maybe the Pixar animators?

Thanks, Joe, for the perspective on this issue as it has blown up this last week. I looked smart twice in front of my wife by bringing up points discussed on your blog. And if anyone reading this wants some crappy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle drawings, hit me up and I'll get my brother right on it!

Daniel Powell said...

Strong post, Joe. It's all just so insulting, not only to the average writer, but also to the average consumer.

The factually incorrect stuff Patterson says shouldn't be forgiven, but anyone that has even a little bit of perspective on the state of publishing culture in the United States has been reading article after article refuting his statements on how bad things are for the indie bookstores. Barry included some good links. Here's another: http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2023704178_apxbooksindependentstores.html

The factually incorrect stuff is bad, but the insinuation that consumers can't find worthy materials on their own, without gatekeepers and curators to help them understand their own tastes, is much worse. In the last week, I purchased Nick Cutter's The Troop and the anthology Fresh Fear. The former is from a major traditional publisher, the latter from a small press. Both have been good (I read a lot of horror fiction--love your short stories, Joe!), and both were reasonably priced at around $4.00.

I noticed yesterday that King's The Shining was 1.99, and From a Buick 8 was 2.99. Joe Hill is having good success going ala carte on his short stories, something I've experienced some recent success with as well. Pricing, distribution, and the diversity of products (shorts stories, novellas, anthologies) is changing. Writers from all camps--indie, hybrid, and traditional--seem to be enjoying a wave of solid success at present.

Yet it's the mega-watt stars, the lottery winners, in Joe's parlance, that seem so invested in defending the legacy system. Of course they will. They benefited hugely from that system, as lottery winners, and they have the platform and the symbiotic interest in keeping these structures in place.

Amazon changed the game, and that change has been hard to deal with for folks in the traditional publishing realm. Even through profits are up, I think it's midlist, traditionally published writers that have had the hardest time in the e-book boom of the last half decade. There is stratification within these publishing houses, and very few will get the top-flight exposure and marketing push that a Patterson is fortunate to have.

Opening the doors to choice is a good thing. I look at the traditional offerings in the theater this weekend, and I don't see much that piques my interest (might go see The Railway Man this weekend), but I'm finding some amazing independent short films almost daily on Vimeo.

I appreciate the posts, Joe. Here's hoping you hit a monster word count on the fiction next week!

Paolo Amoroso said...

As a citizen of a country that had some government involvement in the control of culture, I say to Patterson no, thanks.

Sue Trowbridge said...

"Fewer or no more Infinite Jests, Blood Meridians, or Book Thiefs..." Of course, when I read that, i couldn't help think of one of my favorite books, "A Confederacy of Dunces." If indie publishing had been around when O'Toole was trying to break into print, we might have had many MORE books by him, instead of one posthumous masterpiece.

John Ellsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Here in the UK we used to have a thing called the "Net Book Agreement", a price-fixing mechanism that prevented discounting. Anyone who dared discount would no longer be supplied by publishers.

In 1994, the NBA was ruled "against the public interest" and was abolished.

On the downside, independent booksellers disappeared in large numbers, but this has also happened in countries who still have NBA in force, such as Germany. So it is not at all clear that abolishing price-fixing in the publishing industry and small booksellers going out of business are linked.

On the upside, here in the UK, more titles than ever before are being (traditionally) published than ever before, and book sales by volume are up 30% to 2006 (I don't know beyond this).

Furthermore, I see no reduction in the terms offered by traditional publishers to their authors.

My own conclusion that allowing discounting harms neither publisher nor author.

Regards

Nick Rose

Na Pow said...

Never was a fan of his book, not for any particular reason, just not my genre. But after reading his pretentious and self-righteous response to the future of literature, I'm taking aback.

Who does he think he is? More importantly, why does he feel his opinion matters?

If he feels so strongly about Amazon being a monopoly, which it isn't, then he should create a similar business that does all the wonderful things he seeks in a company.

But it seems he'd rather run his mouth and give his two cents on a subject he knows little about, than doing anything constructive.

Maybe, he'll write a book about a terrorizing business tycoon that seeks to destroy all the little guys, mom and pops and small businesses, until one day, Jack Reacher says,"No more."

Maybe I should ghost write for him, hahaha.

John Ellsworth said...

It seems to me the First Amendment gave us the freedom to say what we need to say, but it didn't give us the right to be heard.

Amazon has given us that in equal measure. At Amazon you cannot "good old boy" your way to the top, you cannot "attend the right schools" to the top, you cannot incorporate, find investors and advertise your way to the top. You can be put there in the only way that matters to me as a writer: by readers loving my work.

For me, this is true Democracy, because I never was good at the good old boy stuff, I didn't attend the right schools, and I never had the money to advertise.

Thank goodness.

Had I, I would today possibly be adherent to a legacy contract that was ruining my art, and--much worse--probably believing that my own pop literature had some value besides escape inside fantasy.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

98.9% of dreck is literature. Some examples:
Fart of Darkness
The Old Man and the Pee
The Divine Commode
Great Expectorations
The Sound and the Fury
One Hundred Years of Soiled Dude
PeePee Longstocking
War and Piss
Remembrance of Things Passed
Hadtopiss the King
...Just to name a few. WTF it's Friday.

Stacey Cochran said...

And where's the outrage when Barnes & Noble refuses to stock Thomas & Mercer, 47N, and other Amazon-published titles?

Mark Edward Hall said...

I'm very happy to be making a living and paying my bills as an indie author.

I sense a tone of fear in Patterson's rhetoric. It's the same fear that's sweeping the legacy publishing world. They will never admit to that fear, but it's real.

JKBrown said...

98.9% of self-published work is dreck. Absolute drivel. Would you want TV networks to go away so writers and actors can be free to produce cable access shows in their basements?

Hehe, I chuckled when I read this, because this is exactly what I want, and there's a name for it, too.

It's called YouTube. For a more professional route, it's called Netflix.

You think for an instant better writers aren't finding a way past the dribble on Youtube? Lindsey Sterling was rejected by America's Got Talent, and now has become a worldwide sensation thanks to Youtube (Crystallize hit 9th highest-viewed movie in 2013, beating out a guy falling from space! Even the announcers had no clue what to make of her at the time). Nostalgia Critic used Youtube to greatly expand his audience and build new faces, and now he has a huge variety of good content beyond his original material. Heck, CarbotAnimations became such a huge hit through YouTube that Blizzard Entertainment showcases that guy for his Starcraft cartoons. At first glance the kiddie art looks nothing like the game, but the stories he told won him respect from one of the biggest gamemakers in the industry.

There are huge numbers of others who don't get that big. They too create solid-quality product and develop a strong fanbase.

Can aspiring authors find a way to reach to their wanting fanbase? Can readers wade through lesser-quality material to find their new favorite writer(s)?

The answer is a resounding YES. As the writing community booms, both parties will get better at this over time. You just proved it through your own snide example. Well played, anon.

By the way, I predict this new influx of stories and writers will have a dramatic change in how Hollywood operates. We all know the movie industry could use a facelift beyond rehashing the same material.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Great point, Stacey. And where was the outrage the countless times B&N refused to stock a book because they didn't like the cover art?

Anonymous said...

Amazon is just getting started.

My husband is a stock holder. He said Amazon is coming out with a telephone. They're partnering with the US Postal Service for next day delivery on all items and Sunday delivery.

Whining is not a business strategy. Figuring out how to compete is a business strategy.

Something tells me the phones will have awesome book-reading capability.

David L. Shutter said...

"Amazon is just getting started."

And so is the Evil-Zon PR bullshit. You think the pleas for intervention are bad now? Wait until it's Harper Collins (owned by NewsCorp) and Simon & Schuster's (parent company owns CBS) turn in the Amazon negotiating hot seat.

Then the biased, anti-Amazon reporting will move, quickly, from the Legacy pundit/mega-seller/agent/entrenched writer soapbox to primetime news.

"This just in; Jeff Bezos is evil and an Amazon monopoly is out to destroy America and your children's future. Story at 11."

Am I the only one that can already see the smoking hot, vapid reporters muddling through their carefully prepared scripts, trying to imitate intelligent conversation with "expert" commentators?

Anonymous said...

I agree that this vitriol will get worse before it gets better.

I wonder, and this is just idle wondering, if it might lead to another boom period for indies - as the big guys start throwing their weight around (and shooting themselves in the foot).

Burritoclock said...

The government did get involved... but I don't remember the DoJ targeting Amazon.

Alan Spade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Spade said...

As someone said, Patterson is his own legacy publisher, now. He's doing what legacy publishers do: clinging to paper. By chastising Amazon, he says to bookstores: "buy my books! I'm on your side!"

I wonder if Hachette has told Patterson about policy in France regarding books and ebooks. French ministry of culture, a legacy author, has said: it's publishers that are making authors".

France has a policy named "prix unique du livre", similar to the "Net Book Agreement", a price-fixing mechanism preventing discounting books as well as ebooks.

France has even passed an "anti-Amazon law", and now, Amazon cannot simultaneously discount books and do free delivery.

So, I think France may be Patterson's "pays de cocagne".

Yet, bookstores are closing in France, even bookstores chains like Chapitre or Virgin. Ebooks' market grows much much slowly than in the US, but it does grow. Hachette is still in a duopolistic situation (almost a monopoly), but Amazon is now the retailer that sells the most books in France.

And the number of people saying self-publishing is the future grows daily...

Joe Konrath said...

You guys have been killing it in these comments. So many great points.

Jason Brant said...

'Every horse breeder and the people who work in the stables is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. If we don't fix those problems, the quality of American transportation is going to suffer.' - I wonder if this is what Patterson would have said after Henry Ford put his boot on the throat of the horse and buggy industry.

Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself, I like the smell and feel of horses more than those metallic cars.

Lori said...

It's obvious what he's really saying here... he thinks self published books and in general commercial fiction is crap. He, obviously, doesn't think his books are commercial fiction, but something that should be put on a pedestal. We have more books than ever, more variety than ever, more authors than ever. So what's his issue? He states it quite clearly..."publishers will produce less serious literature." There is obviously still that snobbery directed toward Indie books and probably always will be. And I've said it before and i'll say it again, I find it laughable that people have suddenly put B&N on a pedestal when only 5 years ago they were demonizing B&N for taking business away from small book stores.

SM Barrett said...

I agree. I'll always love horses. Automobiles are too sterile, no personality. Plus, when you open a horse, you get that smell. No car will ever smell like that, and I don't have to worry about dropping an open horse in the tub.

Anonymous said...

For me, this thing just keeps coming full-circle back to Honore de Balzac. The repeat irony of a French company once again involved in suppressing/controlling literature is just too beautiful to pass on. Idiocy down the ages.

Out of all the great French writers, Balzac was a man of the people. The arts academy in Paris refused to allow Balzac to become a member, despite the lukewarm urging of Hugo (Les Miserables) and Dumas (The Three Musketeers), both of who more or less sucked up to the ones in charge to keep the money flying in.

Balzac, frustrated by the Parsian printing establishment as well, ended by buying his own press shop, thinking to publish what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. While Balzac had the right idea, he sucked at the money end of things and it didn't pan out.

But Amazon doesn't suck at the money end. I have strong hopes that some seriously literate shit will be emerging in the next few years, solely due to the advent of e-publishing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, hit the anonymous button in error. The Balzac tirade was mine.

Anonymous said...

This is bizarre. Balzac tirade by m.r. storie. Don't know why my kid's computer won't function.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

But Amazon doesn't suck at the money end. I have strong hopes that some seriously literate shit will be emerging in the next few years, solely due to the advent of e-publishing.

That's been happening for a while now.

Guido Henkel said...

I'm not making more than a total of $10 a month off 15 self-published books, but that doesn't mean it's not a viable option. Plenty of other people out there who prove the point.

I really think it is evident that Patterson like so many traditional authors and publishers are simply in denial. they can see the world changing around them and they realize that they are becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

Patterson is very clearly afraid that people may by other authors' books. Books that have been self-published, because his publisher can no longer control who is seeing what on store shelves, can no longer pitch his books exclusively while leaving other authors in the rain. He is afraid and angry because he will no longer be the center of attention. The spotlight will move elsewhere on authors who did not have to bend backwards and let themselves get bullied by publishers and still managed to become equally or more successful than he is.

Broken Yogi said...

Patterson: Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are closing, libraries are having serious trouble getting funding, especially school libraries.

Joe sez: Bookstores are closing because people are buying their books online.


This is a pernicious falsehood I would have thought Joe would have known better than to perpetuate.

Independent bookstores are not in decline. In fact, since 2006, independent bookstores are on the rise. Why? For two reasons.

One, Amazon has helped do away with their main rivals, which are chain bookstores. With Borders gone, and Barnes and Noble closing chain stores, there's more market for the Independents to play with.

Two, the smart Independents are figuring out that they can provide things that Amazon can't, such as a personalized, literary environment, a "Clean, Well-Lighted Place" where book lovers can congregate, browse, and enjoy both the physical presence of books, and the physical company of other book lovers, along with cafes, gift shopping, and even ebook downloads at the store itself. Smart Independents are offering things that Amazon can never compete with, and they are doing quite well with that. The chains are not.

That's why Independent bookstores have grown from a low of 1,600 in 2008, to 2,022 last year. And that's even considering that the Kindle was introduced in 2007, and by some people's thinking has made things more difficult for Independents to compete. Apparently not. For chains, yes, but not Independents.

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2023636933_smallpublisherxml.html

Dale T. Phillips said...

I tried not to comment on all this, but couldn't help it, and linked to here as one source: Amazon and Hachette- Godzilla vs. Mothra
http://daletphillips.blogspot.com/2014/05/amazon-and-hachette-godzilla-vs-mothra.html

Anonymous said...

James Patterson isn't stupid. He's the disproportionate beneficiary of a publishing system that can take a book he produces that actual readers pan and review horribly and turn it into a massive New York Times bestseller.

He's a smart businessperson who has his own dedicated Hachette staff, and whose editor describes as the co-publisher of his own books. Patterson launched his own mega-bestsellerdom by spending his own money on television ads for Along Came A Spider that led to his publisher pushing it with massive retail co-op in bookstores.

And because he's so much smarter than the technophobic baboons who run the Big-5 publishing houses, he looks at e-books and he sees the writing on the wall.

While they crow over their temporary e-book profitability, James Patterson is smart enough to understand what it really means:

They've become irrelevant.

And soon they won't be able to make a
ZOO into a bestseller anymore.

Because pretty soon, those bestsellers will be decided by readers.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

They only promote their OWN published authors when they send you an email concerning new releases or what ever lingo they want to promote. They ignore authors who have self-published with someone else but are available on Amazon.

Not true. A number of people have told me they've seen my books in Amazon emails. Some have even gotten emails that feature all of my books. I think you've been misinformed.

Bob said...

Oh Cm'on Mr Patterson, EVERYONE knows that the traditional publishers hold significant market power in the publishing industry. The big 5 are an oligopoly. They’ve directly controlled the barriers to entry for new writers to enter the market. And they called themselves the Guardians of (American) Literature and presumed every new author aspired to have a stamp of their imagined “Prestige” on their book.

Well guess what? Their artificial barriers have sunk under the ocean like Titanic. They can no longer control what gets published and what not. How in the face of technological innovation, spearheaded by Amazon, can the traditional publishers even hope to maintain these ridiculously artificial barriers? Their market power, which they held so dearly in their hands, is leaking from between their fingers. Naturally, some of them will soon go out of business. Their market power is eroding, and if they are clever enough, they will come up with innovative solutions to stay in the publishing industry. But they will have to deal with much less market power. And all those associated with these publishers (bookstores, authors who chose traditional publishing) will not go unaffected. That is the writing on the wall.

Suzanne Cowles said...

As a new author I've seen so much poppycock in this industry, so I come to Joe's site for the latest reality TV based drama and a few good laughs...

Money is the root of all evil, so follow the money.

Look if I wanted to write a book for myself, I would have stopped at the Word document. No, I've busted my ass slaving away at this "author platform" BS so I can make a buck. And the more time I invest, the more entitled I feel.

Creative writing is an expression of art at the most basic level, but I could walk on the beach if I just wanted to kill time. I'm in it for the money, plain and simple. And so are a lot of other people.

As a citizen of this country I want a level playing field, unlike what currently exists. I want a reader to be the judge of my work and have fair access to it. And I want the ability to make a profit (this ain't no charity).

Why does everyone else have to make this soooo complicated?

Anonymous said...

First, Joe, we may be wrong in thinking the big 5 want agency. I just reread the settlement statement the DOJ issued, and even if they get agency, they cannot prevent retailers from discounting, so it may be about slicing the pie, as news commentators are insisting.

The media sees this as David and Goliath, but I just don't see it that way. I see it as Jeff Bezos v. all the big corporations. He's true innovator, an upsetter of apple carts-- and he thinks gatekeepers hinder culture.

There is one place I miss traditional gatekeepers: Newspaper reporting. It has gone steadily downhill since the 1990s. Reporters run stories without checking facts, it's all sensationalized. I have a friend who was a reporter but the jobs are gone.

If Jeff Bezos not only saves the Washington Post but brings it back to its former glory of first rate investigative reporting. what will the Bezos-destroys-culture folks say?

Broken Yogi said...

I have a simple question about Amazon’s current pricing of self-published books (ebooks and POD), that’s come up in discussions elsewhere.

For all my enthusiasm about the prospects of self-publishing, I haven’t yet self-published, but am thinking about doing so. I was under the impression that self-publishers on Amazon have complete control over the pricing of their books, but I’m being told that’s not true. My impression has been that the author sets the price of their book at, say, 4.99, thus getting a 70% royalty of about 3.50 (minus transmission charges), and that even if Amazon discounts the book on their own, say to 3.99, the author still gets that 3.50 royalty. And similarly with POD. So that, while Amazon may discount as they wish, they still have to pay the “wholesale” price to the self-publisher.

Is this not true? Someone is claiming that Amazon can change the price of your self-published books at their own whim, lowering them even to 0.99, and pay you the accordingly low 35% royalty rate of about 0.35, which is a tenth of your normal royalty. I have never heard this before. Is there any truth to it?

Thanks to Joe or any other self-publishers out there who have direct experience of self-pubbing with Amazon who can answer this.

JT Bock said...

Sarra Cannon said: To James Patterson, this lack of a middleman means the end of great literature. But he's wrong. In truth, it means that all stories have their chance and Americans (as well as those in many countries around the world) become the judge of what's good literature instead of leaving it to NY editors. What could be more American than that?

Couldn't have said it better. Excellent point!

Alan Spade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Spade said...

"Someone is claiming that Amazon can change the price of your self-published books at their own whim, lowering them even to 0.99, and pay you the accordingly low 35% royalty rate of about 0.35, which is a tenth of your normal royalty. I have never heard this before. Is there any truth to it?"

Broken Yogi, Amazon can adjust prices with ebooks, because they want you to make your ebook as competitive on KDP as it is, for example on Kobo. If your ebook is priced $0.99 on Kobo, it cannot be priced $2.99 on Amazon. I see no problem there.

However, POD is another story. I've written (in French, sorry), an article titled "Ingram, Createspace and Extended Distribution" on my blog. After that, amazon gave explanations, but I was not satisfied with them.

When you choose Extended Distribution, a free feature with Createspace, it appears that Amazon send the PDF files of your POD book to its distribution partner, Ingram. Ingram works with partners, and in the UK, one of those partners who get your digital file appears to be The Paperback shop.

The Paperback shop may distribute your POD book to other retailers than Amazon in Europe. But it appears that two sellers on Amazon.fr, livres-allemands and books_and_music, are in fact owned by The Paperback shop.

Those two sellers are selling on Amazon.fr below the price you have fixed for your book, on a "new" tab (so they are selling new POD books you have written, not used ones). Big problem here: when they sell a new book you have written on Amazon, the ranking of your book doesn't improve. Createspace doesn't show you on your dashboard if a sale come from Amazon or from a third party-seller like books_and-music (The Paperback shop).

So, you can't check if a sale of a new book has been made by a third party seller. You are effectively blind.

In my opinion, there's a big danger here. You don't control anymore the file of your POD book. It can be printed and sold without you being aware of anything. So, I have decided to disengage almost all my books from extended distribution on Createspace.

The issue does also exist with Ingram Spark.

Gary Ponzo said...

Amazon certainly isn't a non-profit organization, however, I'm sure I'm not the only one who was contacted by Amazon Crossing to inform me that my German translation contract was flawed and was set to pay me on the net profit instead of the gross sales. This was an oversight on their part which would have paid me much less in royalties. They contacted me to let me know my contract would be rewritten to allow for the higher payment schedule. I thought that was very professional.

Broken Yogi said...

Thanks Alan. The claim being made goes beyond price-matching, however. They say that the Amazon KDP contract allows Amazon to change prices at will, and to adjust royalties accordingly. I'm not a lawyer, so maybe Amazon does reserve that right. But does it every exercise that right in any circumstance other than to match prices at other sites? When it discounts a book as a normal course of their business practice, do they also pay a lower royality based on the discount price, or do they still pay the full royalty as though it were their wholesale price?

As far as I know, they don't change the basic royalty when they discount. Maybe you or Joe or others can comment on this. I had been under the impression that one of the main benefits of self-publishing at Amazon was the power to set your own prices and gain full royalties whether or not Amazon discounts (again, except in the situation where they are matching a discount at other websites)


So does Ama

Angry_Games said...

(1 of 2)

Joe,

Why don't you and a few other influential indie / self-pub authors come up with a serious contract proposal for trad pub houses? You know, state how we MIGHT sign with them if we the following (but not limited to) things:

1. Pubs NEVER get copyright/control of our work. They "rent" or "lease" it for 3, 5, 7, whatever number of years, and after that, they get 30 days of "first rights" negotiating with the author to resign.

2. The "lease" period is more than enough time to put their money where their mouth is... if they can't make a book successful in 3, 5, 7, etc, years' time, then it means they haven't promoted it properly. If they want authors to resign a book with that publisher, they'll do their best to promote it (some books will still fail, of course).

3. Royalty rates start at 50%. Sure, Amazon pays us 70%, but I'd bet a lot of authors would be willing to take 50% royalties for 3, 5, 7 years. This would help the pubs recoup their 'editing / cover art / distribution' costs and give them some profit. No way any of us would be willing to sign over our rights forever just to get some editing, cover, and distro.

Better selling titles, especially on a renegotiation after 3, 5, 7 years would mean better royalties for the author (i.e. if a book under pub contract is selling 1 million copies per year, you get into volume, sort of like Wal-Mart, so even at 30%, trad pubs are still making a hell of a lot more money than they spent to edit, provide cover art, distro, etc.).

4. No non-compete clauses. EVER. Most authors write more than two books per year, and we like to write in the same genre (usually our 'bread and butter'). More books = more money for publishers, should they choose to take the 'risk' on it. If one of my sci-fi titles is selling well, why wouldn't my other sci-fi titles do just as well? Why would a trad pub want to limit the amount of money they are making?

5. Authors get to decide / dictate the cover art. It's our book, not the publisher's book, so why shouldn't we get the final say when it comes to art?

6. Authors get a hell of a lot more power over editing. No more 'pubs get final editorial decisions.' Too many authors have had to nix their 'vision' of the story because a trad pub editor doesn't think pink cats with nuclear missiles strapped to their backs is a good idea (it sounds like a good idea!). If the pubs don't like the direction of the author's book(s), they can choose to not publish it (but cannot choose to keep it from being published by another publishing house or self-pub).

7. ebook royalties are to be paid monthly, just like Amazon and others. I get it that print books and the distro model means monthly royalties might be a little unrealistic, but quarterly royalties seem very doable. This would give authors much more choice as to whom to publish with (Hachette pays only bi-annually? Great for them, but Penguin House pays quarterly on print, so I'll go with them!).

Angry_Games said...

(2 of 2)

Right... I'm probably forgetting a lot of very important points that Mr. Konrath can fill in, but here's my idea:

If the big hitters in indie/self-pub can come up with something concrete that a lot of us can agree on (getting ALL authors to agree on something is like asking for a miracle that the Cubs will win the World Series before we're all dead and wormy). Then it becomes more like a 'manifesto' but it also becomes a negotiating point. A self-pub talking to a trad pub can simply pull out the sheet and ask if the pub is willing to agree to the terms. If not, time to move on or self-pub.

If trad pubs begin to see only the 'manifesto' (you can call it something a little less aggressive) from us indies/selfs, they'll eventually figure out that they have to change before their ship sinks.

More importantly, if all of us begin demanding the details of the manifesto, think of how many trad pub authors would begin to see it and then look at their own contracts and wonder why the fuck they are working for peanuts when the rest of us are demanding to be treated like worthy human beings.

Trad pub won't change their ways until one of two things happen:

1. they go bankrupt (this isn't really a great thing, but necessary if no one will change their tunes)

2. the majority of authors all present the 'new terms' for contracts (the manifesto), and balk at signing a contract that doesn't meet the demands/standards of the manifesto.

Kings never changed their policies until either they were beheaded by the peasants, or the castle was under siege by the peasants, and the only way they'd go home is if the King publicly changed policies.

I truly believe that until not only self-pubs, but trad pub authors as well, begin to band together and demand a change to the contracts, this will be a never-ending war until Amazon, Trad Publishers, or Authors all go broke. Out of those three, I can guarantee that only Publishers will go broke, since the rest of us (including Amazon) are making a pretty goddamn good living with Trad Publishers.

Okay, I apologize for wall of text. Been thinking about this for a couple of weeks. We don't need an "Indie Authors Guild" to make this happen. We just need a few very powerful/influential names like Konrath, Howey, Ward, Casey, etc, that begin putting something together (trust me, a majority of us would be onboard because we know you guys would be working in our best interests, not pub interests).

Feel free to fisk me, or fill in the bits that are important that I forgot.

Joshua Simcox said...

"Patterson: If we don't fix those problems, the quality of American literature is going to suffer. Fewer or no more Infinite Jests, Blood Meridians, or Book Thiefs, less of a chance for young writers, like James Patterson back in 1976, to be published — or maybe that would have been a good thing?"

I'm still waiting for the next BOY'S LIFE or SWAN SONG to emerge from self-publishing, so, ok, I kind of see where Patterson's coming from here. But how many new authors and established mid-listers were squeezed out when James and his publishers decided the world needed two dozen new Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club books every other Tuesday? How many writers fell through the cracks when James demanded the lion's share of his publisher's attention and promotional dollars?

"Patterson: Amazon also, as you know, wants to control book selling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy."

Everyone seems to think that Amazon is the retail equivalent of the Kanamits from that classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode, "To Serve Man." Everyone's waiting for that moment when someone shouts, "It's a cookbook!"

Maybe. But I don't see it.

- Joshua

Alan Spade said...

"As far as I know, they don't change the basic royalty when they discount."

Yes, to my knowledge, they don't change the basic royalty when they discount. But do they discount self-pub ebooks? I had the feeling only highly-priced trad pub ebooks selling well were discounted.

Yet, it's possible that highly-priced indie ebooks selling well be also discounted. You could ask the question on KBoards Writer's Cafe.

Heather Justesen said...

Amazon has occasionally discounted some of my books now and then by a dollar or so. My $$ didn't go down with the discount, though. If I priced the book at $3.99 and they dropped it to $2.99 they always paid me my $2.70-ish, not the $2.00 I would have gotten if I priced the book at $2.99. I can't say it never happens, but it has never happened to me.

Steve Peterson said...

Now Slate has weighed in on the Amazon issue, and Patterson's comments: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/05/amazon_hachette_dispute_how_the_big_five_publishers_could_have_avoided_the.html

The best part are the commenters... who are zeroing in on the shitty royalties Hachette is paying on e-books.

NJMANGA said...

VIZ MEDIA IS CURRENTLY BEING SPANKED BY AMAZON, they are losing preorders button as well, guess they were next after hachette
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2014-05-31/viz-media-amazon-disabling-preorders-until-contracts-finalized/.75082

Anonymous said...

Susan Cowles said: "Money is the root of all evil."

One of the most misquoted passages of scripture. What it actually says is, "FOR THE LOVE OF money is the root of all evil."

In other words, money in and of itself isn't evil, but merely a medium of exchange. What's evil is the intentions behind the money, much like the Amazon Derangement Pavlovian Syndrome being spread by less than reputable media for the benefit of the dogs who salivate at the chance to call Amazon evil simply because they have the audacity to be as successful as they are. Poor Hachette! Poor Patterson! Poor bestselling authors! Cry me an ocean.

Angry_Games said...

@Steve had to reply at Slate. Normally I don't comment much, but the last three days I've been a bit riled up. I think it is mostly because after 14 months, I'm finally starting to see the fruits of my labor. I've almost recouped the costs of all editing, cover art, etc. Sales keep tripling every month, and I keep telling myself I'm so very glad I found Joe Konrath's website just as I was beginning to seriously consider publishing.

I'm hoping not to change publisher minds, because that isn't going to happen until one of the Big Five buckle and force the rest to follow (we might be ice skating with Satan before that happens).

I'm hoping authors, both professionals who are with big publishers, as well as those about to hit the publish button somewhere (or submit to the publishing houses) will think carefully about what they are giving up in exchange for the possibility to be successful.

Plus, I'm a goofy American who always hears about how we're supposed to buck up and make it on our own. I'm happy that I'm making it on my own and control everything in my little empire (hehe). I want other authors to see it and change their minds. When enough authors refuse to sign a new contract, sign their first contract, or even submit to the slush pile, pubs will be at the precipice.

ONLY THEN will they change. Until then, they will wage PR wars (even if they lose every single one) because it's better to delude themselves they will actually pull off the win than it is to shed a tear at reduce profits in the short term while they transition and make authors give them a really close look again.

The stupid thing is... publishers can't seem to be able to see how much money there is to be made once they slim down, move to the midwest, streamline their distribution of physical goods operations, and maximize on ebook sales (you know, by recognizing that $2.99-$4.99 ebooks from names like Rowling, King, Patterson, and such, will sell FAR MORE copies than they would at $7.99-$9.99.

It's a pipe dream, but I sort of woke up this morning and realized that publishers won't change, and shouldn't be the target of those of us who are self-publishing. We need to target traditionally published authors, but without the hard sale or insults. Simply laying out the pros vs the cons is enough for most level-headed Jims and Janes to recognize which is the better deal.

We don't have to hard sell anyone anyway. Look at the comments on the article at TPV where self-pubs talk about when they quit their jobs because they were making enough to pay the bills writing. All of them (and me) wish to get rich, but all of the comments so far have just been sheer joy that they can make enough to do what they love without digging into a hole or having to go back to a 'real job' (that they generally seemed to hate).

Start listing names like Konrath, Howey, Casey, Ward who have truly found success, then hit them with the hundreds of names who are paying the bills and more often than not making more each month than the previous.

Right. Babbling wall of text again. I apologize if you sat through that. If it makes you feel better, I did it in the Slate comments as well ;).

Lily Silver said...

a similar revolution happened in the art world in France in the 19th century. People like Monet, Van Gogh and the impressionists painters were locked out of the art gallery world by art curators who thought their new method of painting was crap. So, they held thie own art shows i. the park, they went indie, and guess what, the average person LIKED this new revolution in art, despite curators and art brokers trying to cut thE impressionsit artists out of the circuit by boycotting their works. So, long live impressionist art, Amazon and indie authors! Let the people decide what is good or not so good, not the gatekeepers of modern 'culture' who fear change.

Rae Lori said...

I couldn't agree more, Sarra. Hope you don't mind if I quote you in a blog post. :-)

Donya Lynne said...

I lost my job in 2010 and with the job market in such a wreck was unable to find new employment. For years, I had been taking writing courses to hone my love of writing so I could "...one day be an author." Sitting on unemployment for over a year, I slowly found my confidence to put my writing and all my hard work in front of the world and self-published my first book in March of 2012. I did end up finding a temporary job a few months later, after publishing my 2nd book, but by then, I was beginning to see promising profits. A year later, I no longer needed to work outside the home at a job that was going nowhere and that made me absolutely, utterly miserable. At the start of 2013, I earned more royalties in three months than I had in a whole year at my day job, but I can honestly say that self-publishing prevented my husband and I from going into foreclosure and having to file bankruptcy. The government certainly did do that for me. Working a 9 to 5 didn't, either. It was all me. I work harder and longer hours now than I ever did before, and you know what? I love it. I'm a "small business owner" as an independent writer, and Amazon is a huge reason behind my success.

I'm living the American Dream, all due to my own hard work and Amazon's help in reaching readers. And, my books aren't dreck. They're well written, well edited, and readers loves them. Self-publishers are growing smarter, savvier, and better every day. So, no, we don't need laws and government to interfere.

Amazon has helped more people succeed because they were innovative and proactive enough to see the future while NY sat back and counted their money and failed to acknowledge the digital age. They rested on their laurels and turned a blind, ignorant eye to a publishing revolution they, more than anyone, should have seen coming. I mean, really, they say in business that if you're going to maintain the edge, you need to stay ahead of your competition. They failed. They poo-pooed digital publishing away, while Amazon was forward-thinking enough—and hungry enough—to grab on to NY's refuse and turn it into gold. And now NY publishers want to play the blame game instead of owning up.

They say that when you make your bed, you need to lie in it. Well, NY needs to get good and comfy on their lumpy, medieval mattress made of straw, because Amazon dug from the dumpster the adjustable Sleep Number bed NY threw out.

Kiana Davenport said...

Tell Patterson to put his $95,000,000 where his mouth is. Half of his talk is pure sophistry and HE CONTRADICTS HIMSELF repeatedly.

And by the way, to reiterate a comment above, has anyone ever heard of Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, etc. Curators wouldn't represent their work, too 'radical, anti-social, anti-art.' So the boys started having their own shows, selling their own art and well...the rest is history. Press on , you guys.
Imua!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Patterson's not a writer as such, he's a industry in itself.

Burton said...

WAAAAAAAAH. Readers can now buy whatever the hell they want without first getting my approval.

WAAAAAAAAH. Writers aren't all falling over themselves to worship at my feet and ask for my permission to publish.

WAAAAAAAAH. I can't arbitrarily turn down a writer because he forgot to dot his I's and cross his T's and he has a character name Beth in his book and I HATE characters name Beth!

WAAAAAAAAH. Authors are making too much money and forgetting to give me my cut!

WAAAAAAAAH. WAAAAAAAAH. WAAAAAAAAH.

That's all I've been hearing lately.

What makes me cringe is published writers toeing the company line. Literally, in this case. Guys like Lili Saintetc. I wonder if Lili will make more than $200K this year, cause that's what I'm on course to make from just 3 books. And no one knew I even existed until I self-published 6 months ago.

Anonymous said...

You are going to love what the Authors Guild has to say when given an opportunity to opine.

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/amazon-re-writes-book-sale-rules-in-hachette-battle-GQDDYXh3R8iexE8S19PAJw.html

Ryan Haynes said...

Thank you Mr. Konrath for always giving us excellent informative posts. Every time I see a quote from this Patterson guy, he's acting like he's the savior of American Literature. His books are sold at the grocery store. It's hard to take a guy seriously when you see his name next to cereal boxes.
Can he at least stop saying "American" Literature, and just say "Literature"? It's embarrassing. He's not exactly our Jean-Paul Sartre. He should keep his mouth shut about literature and never speak the word "art".
If we want to hear anything from him, we'll ask the deli clerk what aisle he's on.

Anonymous said...

Hey Konrath, I like fisking of legacy publishers and authors but I'm kinda starved for your words of wisdom and encouragement about writing and self-publishing. Need more posts on writing advice (guest posts would do).

Michael J. Sullivan said...

Yes, publishers are more vulnerable then in the past, but as I've mentioned before this is a bed largely of their own making for not embracing change and being agile as reader's habits changed. But we have more books and more author producing books then ever before.

Amazon is winning because it is doing things right...I know people are afraid of whoever is the biggest and most successful, but I think they overlook all the ways Amazon has improved the lives of readers, writers, and the "book business" in general.

Anonymous said...

Great article by a small publisher mirroring your post. Basically says from their perspective, big 5 have kept even small publishers out of stores by having more money to pay for shelf placement, etc. Amazon displays all equally. So Amazon isn't just good for indies, but even small publishing houses. Sure, it's ruthless, but in the way the big 5 were when they owned the battlefield. Here's a link to the article but I think you have to subscribe: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e6349bb0-e820-11e3-b923-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz33U1xGePN

David L. Shutter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry said...

You would think that the Big 5 would select a writer that actually WRITES HIS OWN BOOKS to be their poster boy. Having someone that is, at most, just a generic outlining machine talk about the value of books and writing is sort of sickening.

A.L. Patterson said...

Take it easy on my Uncle James. He's an old school guy with old school views. Sure, he's not always right but his heart is usually in the right place.

Ima Shrew said...

Just found this about Amazon & Walmart in todays news.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-book-feud-sparks-walmart-fire-sale-161539822.html

Alan Spade said...

"Just found this about Amazon & Walmart in todays news.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-book-feud-sparks-walmart-fire-sale-161539822.html"

Hilarious! How does Hachette want to negociate a fixed price with Amazon if Walmart is able to discount HBG books to 40%?

I don't think Hachette is strenghtened by this kind of retaliation. On the contrary, its position is weakened. Independent booksellers have the right to point the real evil of this kind of scheme.

Anna Erishkigal said...

Dear Mr. Patterson:

News flash about the failing bookstores and libraries. Indie authors also happen to be some of the most voracious readers on the planet. Many started writing when they could not find a book which hit the sweet spot for what they were looking for to read, so they wrote a book, and then proudly took that brand-new baby to their local bookstore, their local library, the place they had always frequented and given their money, and when they held out that proud new baby as an offering and a gift, the local bookstore, the local library, pulled back as if repulsed by that baby and refused to even look at it.

I now do all my book shopping online...

The last I heard, nobody in New York City bought books at our little local Cape Cod bookstore or donated $$ to our local town library. The local authors, however, are miffed, and they are very vocal and articulate when they stand up at town meeting and shoot down a multi-million dollar new library to warehouse books from NYC when e-technology is so cheap and so many indie authors books now free through Overdrive.

If indie bookstores and libraries want their most eager LOCAL supporters to shop LOCALLY, then perhaps they should support LOCAL AUTHORS and stop kowtowing to arrogant publishers in a distant city who don't buy from them or donate to their cause.

Thank you Mr. Patterson ... I hope you grasp this concept.

Signed,

An Indie Author whose six 4.3-star Amazon top-100 in sub-category selling books were snubbed...

Renee said...

Interesting.

I was at BEA, but did not attend this engagement.

I did notice, and found it interesting that a few of his books were discarded on the tables in the shipping area. Knowing how many Indie Authors I met while I was there, I think I may have found the reason they were abandoned.

I grabbed one. Maybe I should have left it there. :)

Jim Self said...

Joe, you already said it, but Patterson needs to have all of his titles removed from Amazon right now, lest he be a hypocrite. Oh right, he doesn't even have control over his own titles, his publisher does...

This crap makes me want to rant about how much of an idiot the guy is being, but then I remember that he used to be an ad man. In his mind I'm sure he's just trying to "sell" his side, and nothing sells better than emotion and desire. Thus, the lack of logic in what he's saying isn't a problem for him.