Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So the Real Authors Guild is... Amazon?!

Joe sez: This is from Barry Eisler's blog. My comments to follow.
Barry sez: In case you missed it, today Amazon issued an update on its stalled negotiations with Hachette.  It’s a great read:  short, clear, and devastating to the meme that Hachette is in any way the good guy in this fight.  But if you want just the executive summary, it’s this:
Amazon wants most ebooks to be priced at below ten dollars; Hachette wants ebooks to be priced higher.

So far, so simple.  But what’s critical to understand is that lower ebook prices create more revenue — a lower price for the customer, and more income for the retailer, publisher, and author.  In other words, a win for everyone:
We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.
The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%.
This is what Hachette opposes.  This is what the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” are fighting to prevent.  More money for authors.  And not just that:
This is good for all the parties involved:
* The customer is paying 33% less.
* The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that's 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who's trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)
* Likewise, the higher total revenue generated at $9.99 is also good for the publisher and the retailer. At $9.99, even though the customer is paying less, the total pie is bigger and there is more to share amongst the parties.
For anyone who follows Joe Konrath’s blog, none of this is news — Joe wrote a post over two years ago laying out why The Agency Model Sucks.  Legacy publishers know — they have long known — that the sweet-spot price for most ebooks (the point at which per-unit price multiplied by volume maximizes revenues) is lower than what they insist on charging.
So why do legacy publishers insist on high prices for ebooks?
As I started pointing out about three years ago, “The current business imperative of legacy publishing is to preserve the position of paper and retard the growth of digital.”  Why?  Because although the legacy industry offers various value-added services (at least in theory), the only critical service they’ve ever offered — the only one an author couldn’t get any other way — has always been paper distribution. Paper distribution is the foundation on which the legacy industry built its agglomerated business model.  That is:  “You want distribution?  Then you’ll have to take all the services you could have outsourced for a flat fee elsewhere (editing, jacket design, etc) along with it, and you’ll have to pay 85% of earnings for the agglomerated package.”
But in a digital world, authors don’t need distribution services from publishers.  In digital, individual authors have exactly the same distribution reach as any corporate publishing partner, and for the same flat rate of 30%.  Digital is changing the role of publishers from something authors needed to something authors might, for reasons separate from distribution, merely want.
Having the nature of your business go from “I’m a business necessity and the only game in town” to “If I can prove my value, authors might still want me” represents a cataclysmic change for legacy players.  Remove the criticality of distribution from the equation, and the entire nature of the publishing business model dramatically changes, with services that once upon a time could only be had as part of a mandated and expensive prix fixe meal now available as low-price a la carte items authors can order from the menu however and from whomever they like.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is.  Forcing someone to buy an unessential item as the price of being able to buy the essential one is called tying and it is frequently illegal, especially in the context of intellectual property.  Or, for another example of tying, recall the pre-digital-distribution era way the music industry allowed you to buy the one song you wanted:  by forcing you to buy the entire CD along with it.  There are many other examples.  What they all have in common is that in whatever context it develops, tying can only exist in the presence of disproportionate market power.
There’s much more to be said on the origins and nature of the legacy publishing business model; if you’re interested, here are some thoughts I offered in a Pike’s Peak Writers Conference keynote a little over a year ago and in a follow-up piece I wrote for The Guardian.  And here’s some terrific analysis from Porter Anderson at Writing on the Ether.
But even if you don’t want to dive that deeply into this topic, the main thing to understand is this.  When legacy publishers choose the price of your digital book, they are not doing it primarily to maximize your revenue (in fact, they’re doing it with the full knowledge that their price will shrink your revenue).  Instead, they are choosing that price primarily in the service of their strategy to preserve the primacy of paper.
To put it another way:
The legacy imperative of using high ebook prices in an attempt to maintain the primacy of paper costs legacy-published authors money.
Otherwise known, in legacy-speak, as “nurturing authors.”
Now, the biggest bestsellers in the industry — say, James Patterson, or Doug Preston, or Richard Russo, or Scott Turow — sell the majority of their books in paper.  After all, they’ve won the distribution lottery and their books are available in every airport kiosk, Wal-Mart, drugstore, and supermarket across the land.  So their interest in retarding the growth of digital — where the same distribution is available to everyone — and in preserving the position of paper is identical to that of their publishers.  It stands to reason they would fight to maintain the system that has made them so rich.  But if you’re a legacy-published author whose sales are increasingly digital, you need to understand that the legacy strategy of pricing ebooks high is costing you money.  Is that really something you want to help perpetuate?  Yes, it works for James Patterson, but what is it costing you?
Also, for the “Books Are Special Snowflakes” crowd:
Keep in mind that books don't just compete against books. Books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.
My favorite part of the update was this:
So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger - how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% -- we did have a big problem with the price increases… While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” try to spin this.  Fascinating in no small part because Amazon is taking the very position on digital royalties you would expect — indeed, you would insist on — from any organization worthy of inclusion of the word “Authors” in its marquee. Instead we have Amazon championing authors, and “Authors” championing publishers!
Imagine what the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” could accomplish if they caught the pass Amazon just threw them and drove toward the end zone.   Instead, expect them to run in the opposite direction, as confused and frightened as creationists fleeing from carbon-dated dinosaur bones.
Look, I’m not saying anyone here lacks self-interest.  Of course businesses are self-interested and that’s not the point.  The point is, there’s enlightened self-interest… and selfish self-interest.  A guy who steals a car and a guy who buys one aren’t the same because, hey, each just wanted a car.  And in publishing, we have one camp that seeks to profit by keeping consumer prices high and author incomes low, and another camp that seeks to profit from lower prices and higher incomes.
Which side is deserving of your support?
Over to you, Authors Guilded and United...
Joe sez: For the TL;DR crowd:

If you signed Douglas Preston's letter, you picked the wrong side. 

Even if you're a millionaire bestselling author, driven by greedy self-interest, you're still screwing yourself in the longrun by siding with Hachette.


Preston: Unfortunately, Amazon's actions are hurting, most of all, the debut and midlist authors who haven't yet built up a loyal audience. I'm okay, and the bestselling authors, we have an audience and they're going to find our books one way or another.

Joe sez: Wrong, Doug. It's Hachette's actions that are hurting all authors, including you.

Amazon is trying to sell more of your books and make you more money by stopping your publisher from making ebook prices too high. 

Preston: But we're not against Amazon. And we're not for Hachette at all. We're really trying not to take sides. We're just asking Amazon to resolve its issues with Hachette without affecting authors, without dragging us into it.

Joe sez: I'm not judging you, Doug, but you're a complete pinhead.

See what I did there? I said I wasn't judging you, but I went ahead and judged you.

Exactly like you keep saying you aren't taking sides, but you keep asking Amazon to resolve its issues with Hachette.

If you weren't taking sides, you pinhead, you'd be asking Hachette the same thing.

Preston: But we're not fighting anyone's battle for them. I'm not even in contact with Hachette. They have nothing to do with it. We're just fighting our own battle.

Joe sez: Preston's complete lack of self-awareness astounds me.

Doug, how about you actually get in contact with your damn publisher and wield the power of Authors United, "power to face down one of the world's largest corporations", and tell those morons that they need to accept Amazon's proposal, which will make all authors more money?

Preston: We just want to be able to write our books, and have them sold fairly at the largest bookseller in the world and not have those sales blocked or impeded. If Amazon were a small bookseller, it wouldn't be so concerning. But they have 41 percent of the entire book market and, like, 55 percent of the entire ebook market. Amazon sells probably half the books I sell. So it's very concerning to me.

Joe sez: Then you shouldn't have signed away your rights to a corporation bent on exploiting you. Because if you want them sold "fairly" it should't be at the $14.99 that Hachette wants.

Hire a lawyer. Get out of your contract. Then you can deal directly with Amazon, and they'll give you 70% instead of 17.5%

But the problem, of course, is that Amazon pubbed and self-pubbed books are boycotted by B&N and most indie bookstores. 


Hey! Here's an idea! Maybe the surging, unstoppable powerhouse that is Authors United can do something proactive about that! How about... hmm, what could you do to make a huge impact?... I got it, how about a $70,000 NYT full page ad! That'll show 'em!

Preston: Books are different from toasters and wide-screen TV sets.

Joe sez: Ah, the appeal to emotion fallacy

This is what millionaire authors trot out when they can't say the truth:

We make a shit-ton of money selling paper books. That's what this is really all about.

Preston: "It was when the evidence emerged, that Amazon had been holding certain books  hostage and delaying delivery of other books as a negotiating tactic in a dispute with Hachette. I felt that was unfair. We [authors] had not done anything to Amazon and aren't party to the dispute. And I felt it was unfair of Amazon to target authors as a means of leverage. That's what gave me the idea that we should try to address the situation, to try to change Jeff Bezos' mind.

Joe sez: And who moved my cheese!?

Doug, I'm actually begging you now, please open your mind a teensy weensy bit and see that Hachette has been delaying negotiations because they want ebook prices to be higher.

Amazon has no obligation at all to sell any Hachette books whatsoever. They don't even have a current contract in place with Hachette. The fact that Amazon is still selling any Hachette books at all is a supreme act of generosity, which they are probably doing because they don't want to screw authors by completely removing all Hachette books from their store, which is entirely within Amazon's right to do.

How about you force Hachette to accept Amazon's offer? And maybe, at the same time, force them to double author royalties to 35%?

Oh, wait. I forgot. You aren't in contact with Hachette.

Well, at least you keep insisting that you aren't taking sides. 

Preston: I think most of us think that Amazon is a good company. We're grateful to it for selling our books. We've been a partner to it, we've been supporting Amazon from the very beginning, from the time it was a start-up. And we've felt a little bit betrayed by this. I'm speaking to you now, not as an official spokesman for anybody. That's how I felt personally, and it's turned out a lot of other authors felt the same way.

Joe sez: Ah, the harsh sting of betrayal. Because you've supported Amazon for so long. How selfless of you to do so, when Amazon has 41% of the book market and 55% of the ebook market. 

Maybe you should reconsider your contract with Amazon since you feel so betrayed.

Oh... wait. You DON'T HAVE A CONTRACT WITH AMAZON.

You actually have a contract with.... Hachette! They are the ones preventing you from having pre-order buttons on Amazon, because they are the ones failing to make a deal with Amazon to do so.

If you're going to feel betrayed, pick the right betrayer.

Preston: Is this going to be Amazon's MO [mode of operation] from now on? -- to hurt authors and inconvenience their own customers every time they run into a rough patch negotiating with a publisher? I guess our feeling is that that's not acceptable.

Joe sez: Is this going to be legacy publishing's MO from now on? -- to use their authors as pawns to sacrifice in order to control ebook pricing, which hurts authors and customers?

Is this going to be rich, entitled, self-interested millionaire NYT bestsellers' MO from now on? -- to use their celebrity in order to secure media attention so they can protect their positions as rich, entitled, self-interested millionaire NYT bestsellers?

Unlike you, I don't need to guess what my feelings are. That's NOT acceptable.

Preston: You can't outsource Lee Child to China. They should not be treated as if they're boxes of cereal occupying grocery store shelves.

Joe sez: How about we please let Lee Child do the talking from now on? 

I disagree with Lee about a lot of things, but at least he can ably defend his position. Lee wouldn't say something stupid like "you can't outsource me to China". Books are not special snowflakes, and Lee doesn't need to be outsourced to China because he is no doubt already selling truckloads of books there.

Comparing books to cereal boxes shows that you don't even seem to know what outsourcing is. And stop clinging to the belief that books are special. It is such self-interested BS.

We are entertainers. We aren't curing cancer. We aren't feeding the poor. We're incredibly lucky that we can make a few bucks doing something we love, which is a luxury most people don't have. But we don't deserve special treatment. Amazon removing pre-order buttons isn't equivalent to Alexandra burning. 

If you truly believe reading books is as essential as eating or breathing, take the money you've raised for the NYT ad and give it to www.firstbook.org

Preston: These are books and authors and writers whose livelihoods are affected by this.

Joe sez: Then force your publisher to negotiate.

Oops... I keep forgetting, you aren't taking sides, and you aren't in touch with Hachette. My bad.

Preston: (Amazon's previous offers to authors are) a lopsided proposal which would severely impact the publisher financially but wouldn't impact Amazon financially very much at all. It's almost like an attempt to ask authors to load Amazon's guns for them. And I don't think it's a serious attempt to bridge a gap, I think it's simply an attempt to divide authors from their publishers."

Joe sez: Why do I feel like I need to spoonfeed you common sense, Doug?

If neither Hachette or Amazon were making money off of Hachette titles, and instead the money went to authors, or charity, it would compel both companies to resolve this issue sooner.

As Amazon has said, Kindle books are only 1 percent of Lagard√®re Group's sales. Both companies can weather this storm, but something could be done to bring a faster resolution. Amazon has repeatedly tried to do that.

WTF has Hachette done in order to speed this process along? Why haven't you mentioned that?

Preston: There's a lot of stuff going around the Web, and views  being imputed to us, views being imposed on us that are not accurate. People saying [for example] that we're for higher ebook prices. Well that's absurd. We haven't made any comments about ebook prices. I think if you looked at our list of signers, you'd probably find that most of us were in favor of lower ebook prices and discounted books.

Joe sez: Doug, you can't say you want the state to execute a convicted murder, and then say you are against capital punishment. That's some serious cognitive dissonance.

The position you and Authors United are taking will result in higher ebook prices. Period.

Preston: And then they say we're calling for a boycott of Amazon. Absolutely not. We're not calling for a boycott. I'm an Amazon Prime member and I'm still using the company. I guess I'd put it this way: you can be against a war and still be a patriotic citizen. I'm an Amazon customer, I'm just taking exception to this one thing they're doing.

Joe sez: Doug, you're the one that said Amazon is boycotting authors. Which they aren't, by any definition of the term. 

Our letter asked readers not to boycott Amazon, because Amazon isn't at fault here. Authors United, and Stephen Colbert, are unjustly painting Amazon as a bad guy. 

When you start whining in public about being treated unfairly, what do you think will happen? Could a consequence of your actions possibly be that some readers will agree with you, and subsequently not shop at Amazon anymore? Do you think, maybe, that might happen?

For example, I don't have an iota of the untold power that Authors United has (I haven't sold billions of books, and I'm under no delusion that I'm one of the finest writers in the English language). But I can guess, as a consequence of this blog post showing my readers how absolutely wrong you are about this issue, some of those readers won't buy your books anymore.

I'm not calling for a boycott of Douglas Preston books. But in fisking you, I know that a certain percentage of people are going to think you're ridiculous, and they are going to voice their opinion with their wallets. As a direct consequence of me whining in public.

You most certainly can be against a war and still be a patriot. I can love my country without loving my government. But your analogy is poor.

By continuing to sell your books on Amazon, by continuing to shop at Amazon, while stating publicly how harmful Amazon is toward authors, it shows you are a hypocrite. 

A patriot against a war will refuse to fight in that war.

Preston: But I'll say this: there certainly should be room for both indie publishers and traditional publishers, for indie authors and traditional authors. I think we're all in the same leaky boat, and we should be bailing together. I think we should be friends. 

Joe sez: I'll be your friend, Doug. And as your friend, I'll give you some heartfelt advice: Stop doing interviews about this topic.

Indie authors are not in the same leaky boat that Hachette authors are, because we control our IP. We're not subject to the boneheaded negotiating tactics of our publishers. And your pandering to indies is, well, kinda creepy and kinda elitist in a "let's make friends with the backwards savages" kinda way.

But maybe I'm just reading you wrong. I know how interviews can sometimes fail to convey tone and intent.

Preston: Most of the world doesn't give a damn about books and reading, frankly. Ninety percent of the world not only doesn't give a damn about books, they're actually hostile to books. So traditional authors and indie authors have a lot in common and should be friends. Let's not fight. We're not against independent publishing at all.

Joe sez: The world doesn't give a damn? But, but, but books are special! They aren't like toasters or boxes of cereal!

Doug, allow me to let you in on something: indie authors aren't against legacy publishing. Indie authors are pro choice, and some indies will take legacy deals. 

But what all authors seem to be against is getting screwed. In fact, that's why you wrote your letter to Bezos. You incorrectly believe Amazon is treating authors unfairly.

In fact, it's the legacy system that has treated authors unfairly for decades. And it continues to treat authors unfairly. You don't seem able to grasp that, because you won the legacy lottery. You're rich. You have widespread distribution. You were plucked from the masses and given the star treatment.

The rest of us don't get that kind of treatment. But Amazon has allowed us, for the first time ever, to make some money and captain our own ships.

I'm not anti-legacy. I'm not pro-Amazon. I'm pro-author, and in this particular case, the interests of Amazon and of authors are aligned. 

The only ones who can't see that are the entitled millionaires and those suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Preston: I want you and everyone else to understand how much we are in favor of self-publishing and indie publishing. I personally am and other authors [in his group are]. So I say let's extend hands, let's shake hands, let's be friends, and not view ourselves in opposition to each other, because I don't think we should be.

Joe sez: Then stop going to the media and saying Amazon needs to stop hurting authors. Stop saying that Amazon is boycotting authors. Don't take out a full page ad that will paint Amazon as the enemy. Stop rejecting Amazon's offers to help the very authors you claim to be trying to help. 

Stop the stupid.

Preston: "Hugh is a nice person. And Hugh feels that Hachette forced Amazon to take these steps, that in order to get Hachette's attention, it had to do what it did."

In speaking with Amazon's Grandinetti -- "he's called me a couple of times" -- Preston says he's heard the same thing from him, as well, an assertion that Amazon, in Preston's take on Grandinetti's words, "had to do this to show Hachette that we were serious."

"But my response to that would be, 'Nobody forced you to do it. I mean, how old are we?' Look, we all have choices. And Amazon is a very powerful company...No one made it do anything."

Joe sez: This is exactly the type of stupid I'm talking about.

Hugh is right that Hachette forced Amazon to take these steps. Hachette refused to negotiate, even after their contract with Amazon ended. What was Amazon supposed to do? Would you allow Hachette to keep publishing your books if you no longer had a contract with them? 

But you don't address that, Doug. 

Russ has called you a couple of times. Has Hachette called you? Why don't you mention that?

Your response is "how old are we?" 

I dunno, Doug. Are we a bunch of petulant, whiny two-year olds who aren't getting our way so we take out a $70k ad in the NYT?

You keep defending Hachette while admitting you haven't even been in touch with them. You like Hugh but don't respond to his well-reasoned points, just simply disagree without defending your position or countering his. You blame Amazon, reject their offers, and apparently absolve all the shitty things your publisher does.

And you do this publicly. You're trying to get people on your side. 

And you want to be friends? Really? 

Preston: There's really a great diversity of opinion among the letter signers about such things as the right price of an ebook, how should publishing look at the future...what kinds of royalties authors should get...but the one united thing we all share is asking Amazon, as simple as this: just settle your differences with Hachette without hurting authors. That's all.

Joe sez: Amazon has made three offers to avoid hurting authors.

You don't care about authors being hurt, Doug. You care about Hachette. Every offer Amazon has made, you reject because you feel it will hurt Hachette.

You can't keep saying Amazon is hurting authors. It's 100% wrong.

By dismissing Amazon's offers, Hachette is the one hurting authors. And so are you.

Preston: If Amazon were to say, 'Okay, we'll put the [pre-order] buttons back, we'll go ahead and sell the books the way we did before -- and we're not going to do this again' -- I think we'd close up shop" on the Authors United effort.

Joe sez: Why stop there? Why not also ask Amazon for a pony, and a blow job?

But whatever you do, don't ask Hachette for anything at all. Just think what would happen if you did. I mean, you might actually be able to force them to accept Amazon's proposal of 35% royalties for authors, 35% to publishers, 30% to Amazon.

And if that happened, it would hasten the end of paper's dominance. And then you would lose all the perks you currently have.

This isn't about helping authors, Doug. It's about helping yourself. 

The inimitable David Gaughran has some questions for Doug at the end of the FutureBook interview:

1. Your comments focus a lot on the loss of pre-orders on certain Hachette titles. Are you aware that self-published authors and many small presses don't have a pre-order facility on Amazon? 

2. Do you have an escalator/bonus in your contract with Hachette which kicks in if you hit the New York Times bestseller list (or similar lists)? Is this the real reason you are so upset about Amazon removing the pre-order facility?

3. Your letter described Amazon's actions as a "boycott" when it is no such thing. Here’s what a real boycott looks like. Since October last year self-publishers have been banned, en masse, from the e-bookstore of the UK chain WH Smith. The company has given zero indication when this ban will be overturned. How come you guys have never written an open letter condemning this actual boycott?

4. Why is this the issue you decided to organize a protest about? If you really cared about the plight of the average author, why have you never campaigned to raise royalty rates, or remove toothless reversion clauses, or awful non-compete clauses? Why have you been silent about the exploitation at (Penguin Random House-owned) Author Solutions?

5. You say you aren't in favor of higher prices. I find this incredibly disingenuous. It's clear  that Hachette's aim in these negotiations is to take back control of retail pricing and/or restrict Amazon's ability to discount e-books. In other words, if Hachette prevails, e-book prices will increase. That's what you are campaigning for.

6. Your letter also complains that Hachette books are no longer being discounted to the same levels as before. Are you aware that Hachette is seeking to take discounting power away from Amazon? In other words, Hachette books will be discounted *even less* if Amazon listens to you and caves to Hachette's demands. Do you see the cognitive dissonance here?

7. You make reference to two of Amazon's offers to compensate affected Hachette authors, depicting them as either disingenuous or unfair. However, you fail to reference Amazon's first offer. That offer was to estimate lost book sales and pay out the respective author royalties from a pool, the cost of which would be borne equally by Hachette and Amazon. (Note: this was exactly what was agreed between Amazon and Macmillan in 2010). Hachette also rejected this offer. I'd love to hear how this first offer was either unfair or disingenuous. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the complete lack of counter-offers from Hachette to compensate affected authors. It seems to me like Hachette wants to keep its authors in the firing line to keep the pressure on Amazon.

Joe sez: I'll add a few questions of my own.

8. You said our petition caught you by surprise. Did you even read it? Have you read any contrary point of view? Why haven't you responded to any of your critics? 

9. Do you understand that if Hachette accepts Amazon's offer, Hachette can still control wholesale price? In the pre-Agency model days, authors and publishers made more money per ebook sale. 

10. Have you ever negotiated with anyone? If Amazon shouldn't have removed pre-order buttons, what do you suggest it should have done when Hachette refused to respond to Amazon's attempts to negotiate, even after Hachette's contract with Amazon ended?

11. Why the hell haven't you contacted Hachette? You've done nothing but defend them, even when admitting you don't know what the negotiation is about. They're your publisher. Your lost sales are a direct consequence of their decisions. 

Now, I predict Doug isn't going to answer any of these questions. Maybe, if he gets publicly shamed enough, he won't run the NYT ad. But even if he doesn't, his mind is already made up on this issue, and no amount of common sense or facts will open his mind.

What Preston needs to do to help his cause is stop all activism. Every time he flaps his jaws, it empowers Hachette to stall negotiations longer. Also, because his position is so indefensible, and the comments he makes so damn stupid, he's become a better pro-Amazon spokesperson than an indie author could ever be. The more he yaps, the more public opinion turns Amazon's way. Amazon couldn't pick a better poster boy.

Stop it, Doug. Really. I'm trying to do you a solid here. Stop the petition. Stop doing interviews. Stop the NYT ad. Stop it all.

For your own good, and for the good of all authors.

Barry sez: It would be encouraging if Preston would respond to David Gaughran's excellent questions above. And if he would respond to the questions I asked in this post:

http://barryeisler.blogspot.com/2014/07/amazon-cancer-cure-stunt-to-separate.html

After all, isn't Preston concerned that his failure to meaningfully engage his critics is what's allowing "the most vociferous voices take over the online discussion"?

At a bare minimum, it would be a really terrific development if Preston and "Authors United" could offer even a single proposal for how Amazon and Hachette might resolve their impasse that doesn't involve Amazon simply capitulating to all Hachette's demands. Have another look at the last paragraph of Porter's post and you'll see this is exactly -- and only -- what Preston claims would be satisfactory.

Which, of course, is the ultimate laugh-line in response to Preston's persistent eye-lash batting demurral that he and "Authors United" aren't taking sides in this dispute. "We're not taking sides; we just want Amazon to stock Hachette's books on whatever terms Hachette wants!"

It's been my experience that the most partisan people believe they have no politics, that the most biased journalists believe they're entirely objective, and that the most destructive personality types truly believe they're good people with good intentions who will produce only good results. What makes people like Preston so pernicious is precisely this:  even as they fight someone else's battle, they're absolutely convinced they're as neutral as Switzerland. In other contexts, it might be funny, or it might be sad. In this one, unchecked, Preston's myopia is apt to cause a lot of harm, which is why I'm glad to be one of the people who's working to expose "Authors United" for all the qualities Preston is too blinkered to see.

53 comments:

Steve Peterson said...

John Scalzi raises some other points on his blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/07/30/amazons-latest-volley/

I think Scalzi's missing some of what Amazon is saying; he argues that Amazon's math is general and not specific, and that's bad, but I think that's the whole point. Amazon is looking at a statistically valid set of data, not trying to generalize from a handful of cases.

He does make a good point about remembering that Amazon and big publishers alike are all entities that you do business with, and you need to read the fine print. These are businesses with their own agendas, and they are not writing contracts and setting out terms because they want to be your friend. Go into any of these deals with open eyes.

Which is why it's so distressing to see groups that are ostensibly representing authors, and well-known authors, taking the side of Hachette in defiance of the facts and clear logic.

w.adam mandelbaum said...

Do kdp select authors qualify for the pony and the blow job, or is it the pony or the blow job? If it is or, well I wasn't interested in equine quadrupeds anyway.

Alexander Mori said...

Do the writers who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome really believe the BS they are shoveling? Or do they finish interviews like this and say, "Think anybody bought that?"

I am surprised it took Amazon so long to release a statement outlining their intentions. But now that they have, I am really interested to see what the AG, James Patterson, Hachette, Colbert etc. have to say about it.

Smart Debut Author said...

Hey Hachette, Amazon sez...

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BySsqeyVFthOSy1wZ0NRWW1fWUE/edit

Smart Debut Author said...

The traditional publishing model:

- ebook buyers subsidize hardcovers
- genre book buyers subsidize literary fiction and “important” nonfiction
- midlist sales subsidize coop and marketing for megabestsellers
- low midlist royalties subsidize oversize advances for megabestsellers
- authors who don’t have healthcare subsidize publisher salaries and benefits

It’s sorta like Robin Hood. But in reverse.

Marcel said...

... as confused and frightened as creationists fleeing from carbon-dated dinosaur bones.

This is why I'm a creationist... evolutionists are just too dumb.

From Wikipedia

The oldest dates that can be reliably measured by radiocarbon dating are around 50,000 years ago...

(For the record, I'm a fan of Konrath when it comes to publishing.)

B.T. Mienore said...

It is amazing to me the lengths people will go to protect their old guard model. I have been following you for years and self-published our Zombie novels with Amazon. Here is our take:

Why we support Amazon

Ted Atchley said...

Regarding Preston, people that don't get it often don't get that they don't get it.

What I found fascinating was discussing the situation with friends on Sunday. Most are voracious readers. The leader of the group is finishing her 30th book of the year.

Remarkably, few had even heard of the dispute between Amazon and Hatchett. Even after I told them about it, they didn't seem to express much interest in it outside of wondering if they would be able to get books they wanted in a timely manner.

Most could not name the publisher of their favorite authors.

Anonymous said...

@Marcel

Change radiocarbon to radiometric and you're good to go for a few billion years:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiometric_dating

Marcel said...

@Anon: absolutely. Like in that joke, it wasn't a hundred million dollars, it was a billion; it wasn't oil but weapons; and I didn't earn it, I lost it.

This isn't the first time Konrath discusses the subject; it's just the time it really pissed me off. I've been arguing with evolutionists for over 20 years, I don't have any illusions that anyone's mind will be changed - theirs or mine :)

Joseph Ratliff said...

If only Mr. Preston would read one, just one, of Mr. Konrath's "fiskings" ... then he might consider changi..........

Wait, no he won't, forget it.

Keep those blinders on Mr. Preston.

Jill James said...

Books are special snowflakes and not cereal, blah, blah, blah.

Except that is exactly where they are stocked if you are lucky enough to get into a supermarket. Or in the case of my local market, next to toilet paper and condoms. :)

Walter Knight said...

I don't see there is really a competition between E-books and paper books because a Kindle owner is not going to buy a lot of paper books, no matter what the pricing differences.

Joe Konrath said...

I've been arguing with evolutionists for over 20 years

Which is 1/250 of the time the earth has existed, since the earth is only 5000 years old. :)

Angry_Games said...

Scalzi is so locked in his own taint of self-interest (and self-aggrandizement) that he's absolutely blind to what's going on. If you don't believe this, just go back through his blog a few weeks and see his thoughts/comments.

The worst part is he's nothing more than a self-published author who got lucky (it helped that Old Man's War was a fantastic book, but it doesn't change the luck factor) by being picked up by a trad pub. As his fame and fortune has increased, his roots have withered and died. He's almost entirely hostile to self-publishing (look at his derogatory comments calling it trash, low quality, etc).

John Scalzi is about as intelligent and helpful and useful in this debate as Preston and Patterson (other than using them as examples of people who really should STFU and let adults negotiate).

I predict that the tide will begin turning quickly away from Hachette now. Except those suffering from ADS.

Also: I've been arguing with evolutionists for over 20 years

Well, when you show me an archeological dig site where humans and dinosaurs were living together 6000 years ago like the Flintstones, I'll jump on your bandwagon and fight to the death for creationism.

Varnbyrde said...

Angry_Games

Completely agree with you. Scalzi is most definitely on one side of the fight, even when he tries to mask his disdain for sp with it's a 'business' argument.

Liz said...

I used to think Preston was just naive. Now I think he's flat out lying because he looks like he hasn't thought any of his comments through before making them. I also don't like that he and his buddies claim repeatedly that they're trying to help debut authors and midlist authors. They obviously don't care about other authors. Hachette's whole business is predicated around taking advantage of the authors that aren't as rich as Preston. If it weren't, Hachette would have a lot less in profits.

Paolo Amoroso said...

"I think we should be friends": that's why they call it Facebook.


You have 1 friend request.

Authors United - 0 mutual friends

_Add to List_

[CONFIRM] [Ignore] Send Message

D. U. Okonkwo said...

What's difficult to witness is that many new authors really do believe still (as I once did) that they need publishers to publish their book. not sure they realize how easy it is to self-publish. I know that many authors - both new and those who are veterans - believe that publishers give their books more credibility.

It's just about discoveriing the truth about what most publishing contracts for new authors actually entail. I think once they do they'll realize how hard it would be to earn out their publishing advance if their publisher prices their ebook so high.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

I actually feel queasy reading the whole, "we should be friends," thing. It really is creepy.

As long as we stay of his lawn, it should work out fine.

Christina Pilz said...

Here's what Preston said:

"When asked about the general tone that seems to pervade so much of the self-publishing community's rhetoric this summer, Preston says he thinks we hear from hotheads, but not from the wider community of authors who may not harbor hostility for the traditional publishing world."

and he said:

"I think what you read online," he says, "is not necessarily how everyone feels. I think the most vociferous voices take over the online discussion. I know a lot of independent authors and self-publishing authors, they're friends of mine and colleagues of mine. And they're not mad."

For one thing, Preston can't do a web search worth beans, because if he could, then he'd find that it's not just one or two so called hot heads who are speaking out, it's so many indie authors who are speaking out against the wickedness of trad publishers, who have kept our brothers and sisters in chains for too long.

Second, the "wider community of authors" is such a general statement, as is "may not harbor hostility"...which demonstrates that Preston is stating what he hopes to be true. He doesn't know what people truly think, he doesn't know what indie authors think, because otherwise he'd know what we were saying.

The fact that he was surprised by the Change.org petition speaks volumes about the fact that Preston doesn't know what indie authors think. It means that he speaks for himself and his NYT ad-buying buddies.

Also, the most vociferous voices are not taking over the online discussion, those so-called vociferous voice are being joined by even MORE vociferous voices, and we're all saying the same thing. Amazon is not perfect, but Amazon is on the side of the indie writer, and any writer who wants to believe in themselves and their own talent.

My favorite bit was the last part. (Slightly paraphrased....)

"I know people in the industry! And they're not mad!"


If the people Preston knows are not mad, it just means that the people Preston knows are not mad; Preston's conclusion is a blatant fallacy. His little circle of literati is made up of people who agree with him, is all. And, by the looks of things, he only knows about 900-ish people who agree with him. Only 900 writers (friends AND colleagues!!!!) who agree with him, as proven by the extremely alphabatized list of signatories on his little letter.

Whereas, out there in the real world, the Change.org petition represents, as of this moment, 7,573 independent authors and self publishing authors and readers, who don't know each other, aren't influenced by being inside of some super special friendship ring, and they ALL agree that low prices and fair wages are a good thing.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I know that many authors - both new and those who are veterans - believe that publishers give their books more credibility.

Well, actually publishers DO give you a certain amount of credibility, but only among your peers—other currently traditionally published authors.

For most readers it means nothing. Most readers are simply looking for a good book and don't need anyone else to determine what "good" means. They're quite capable of figuring that out for themselves.

Anonymous said...

This quote from Amazon makes no sense on so many levels, especially the level that Joe is working at:

"For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99."

First, when did Amazon become a charity that looked out for publishers and their authors?

If Amazon want to make more money from those publishers, they can let the publishers keep their high prices and just pay them less commission. Simple.

Amazon's strategy is based on dominating the market, not paying authors more.

Second, when did Joe ever sell a book at $9.99? Never. He piles 'em high and sells 'em cheap. So now he's going to start charging $9.99 because Amazon say he'll sell more at that price.

Oh, wait, no you'll only sell more at $9.99 if you are already priced at over 10 bucks. Hmmm. I guess Amazon aren't concerned about bargain basement authors. If they were they'd have a say about Joe's prices too wouldn't they?

Mimi Strong did a great interview on the Self Publishing Podcast this week. And she like some other authors are saying that you can't really trust Amazon. They sell a few books. But that's not the real money maker for them. At any time they can change the rules. And they won't care about leaving indie authors without a way to make a living, just like they didn't care about changing the terms of their audio book business.

I agree with Joe in that the Big 6 are definitely not the good guys. But neither is Amazon.

It's just a business. And if it can screw you to make money, it will.

So be sensible. Use it while it's there but don't expect it to have your back.


Anonymous said...

Another angry guy trying to show us how Amazon is the evil part:
http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/what-amazon-didnt-say-in-its-blog-post-about-hachette

Rob Cornell said...

I've been arguing with evolutionists for over 20 years...

Well, it is a tough road arguing against scientific evidence and rational thought. I'll give you that.

Liz said...

Anonymous 6:09 PM

If you think you can't trust Amazon then don't list your books with them. Ignore them and carry on with your life. But don't sit and be hypocritical about it, like Joe says, and keep selling your stuff on Amazon. It's getting old hearing authors say that neither side can be trusted. Fine, don't list with either one. Sell your books out the trunk of your car.

Trad pub has demonstrably screwed over a lot of authors already so I'll take my chances with Amazon since I've been dealing with them for the last 10 years and have never had an issue. Trad pub can keep raising their prices and pissing off writers until they go bankrupt.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

First, when did Amazon become a charity that looked out for publishers and their authors?

Never. And it has never claimed to be. This is a bullshit characterization to bolster a nonexistent argument.

If Amazon want to make more money from those publishers, they can let the publishers keep their high prices and just pay them less commission. Simple.

Did you read their post? The point they're trying to make is that you sell more books and make more money at lower prices. Amazon is merely giving publishers a lesson in economics based on their vast accumulated data. And from a personal standpoint I can say that they're right. I sell a lot more books, find a lot more readers at a lower price point and ultimately make a lot more money than I would at a higher price.

If ALL Amazon cared about was profit, however, they wouldn't continually reinvest in themselves, be innovating on a daily basis, and would simply sit back and collect cash at the expense of everyone else. Instead, they're trying to forge mutually beneficial partnerships that also benefit their most valued asset—their customers.

It's just a business. And if it can screw you to make money, it will.

Maybe. Maybe not. There are actually businesses that DON'T screw their partners or their customers. Will Amazon wind up being one of those? Who knows?

But it's really immaterial at this point. I keep hearing these uh-oh-watch-out-for-Amazon warnings that seem to completely ignore the wolf at your door who has already chewed off one foot and is hungry for more.





Hairhead said...

IT'S FISKIN' TIME!!!

Anon 6:09 : This quote from Amazon makes no sense on so many levels, especially the level that Joe is working at:

"For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99."

First, when did Amazon become a charity that looked out for publishers and their authors?

Hairhead: Amazon is not a charity. Its distribution system is set up so that, the more money their authors make, the more money Amazon makes. At 1.74 times as many copies at 9.99, WITHOUT AGENCY RESTRICTIONS, Amazon greater opportunity to make more money. Amazon's policies are self-serving -- and they serve authors better than trad publishers.

Anon 6:09 :If Amazon wants to make more money from those publishers, they can let the publishers keep their high prices and just pay them less commission. Simple.

HH: Under the agency system which Hachette and all the other big boys want, Amazon wouldn't have the freedom to pay them less. Not so simple.

Anon 6:09 :Amazon's strategy is based on dominating the market, not paying authors more.

HH: Amazon are attempting to dominate the market, yes; and conveniently, they end up paying authors more. Are you saying that authors should turn down that money? Or that that money is somehow, "not real". Or that that money is somehow "morally bad"? There's a lot here you aren't saying.

Anon 6:09 :Second, when did Joe ever sell a book at $9.99? Never. He piles 'em high and sells 'em cheap. So now he's going to start charging $9.99 because Amazon say he'll sell more at that price.

HH: Joe has sold at 9.99. His compilations -- or do they suddenly "not count" as bookS? As to "piling 'em high and sells 'em cheap", your whole statement is dripping with such vitriol that it counts as mere opinion, not a single fact worth mentioning. What about Patterson -- he undoubtedly "piles 'em high" What about him, eh? Well, it's becoming pretty clear where you're coming from, i.e. - Hatred and contempt for self-publishing in general and JA Konrath in particular.

Continued next post . . .

Hairhead said...

Continued from previous post . . .

Anon 6:09 : Oh, wait, no you'll only sell more at $9.99 if you are already priced at over 10 bucks.

HH: As noted above, JAK and other sp authors regularly sell and have sold volumes at higher prices --- $6.00 and up. Give JA and others a few more years for statistically-significant figures and we can figure out the returns.

Anon 6:09 : Hmmm. I guess Amazon aren't concerned about bargain basement authors. If they were they'd have a say about Joe's prices too wouldn't they?

HH: They're concerned with selling books. And the more they (and their authors) sell, the more money they make. Shocking to say, Amazon is letting "the market" (the readers) tell them the actual value of the books they like to read.

Anon 6:09 : Mimi Strong did a great interview on the Self Publishing Podcast this week. And she like some other authors are saying that you can't really trust Amazon.

HH: So? The implication is that you ought to trust the trad publishers -- who have shown by hundreds of thousands of examples the many and varied ways they screw authors over (and over, and over, and over . . . ). And that's what contracts are for -- you know, page after page of little squiggly marks which represent the physical reality of the promises you and your publishing or distribution partner make to each other? Really, you're like the guy who tells a battered spouse to back to the abuser because, after all, you never know, it MIGHT be worse out there (except for all the evidence).

Anon 6:09 : They sell a few books.

HH: Um, they sell HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of books. And have made thousands of writers self-supporting for the first time ever.

Anon 6:09 : But that's not the real money maker for them.

HH: And what is? C'mon, what's their reall money-maker? Where's the answer, I'm sure you know it, because you've just declared that you. Out with it!

Anon 6:09: At any time they can change the rules. And they won't care about leaving indie authors without a way to make a living, just like they didn't care about changing the terms of their audio book business.

HH: If indie authors can't make a living, they won't publish with Amazon, and Amazon will LOSE REVENUE. There are many other online stores out there to sell and buy books, and many more due to come online. You sound like one of the old record label execs -- you really don't appreciate the absolutely FUNDATMENTAL and PERMANENT nature of the changes in book publishing. The genie is out of the bottle.

Anon 6:09 : I agree with Joe in that the Big 6 are definitely not the good guys. But neither is Amazon.

HH: Amazon is currently a WAY BETTER guy than the big 6. This is provable with facts, figures and numbers. Some day, they might turn around and become the serial killer of digital publishing. But we'll cope with that then. For now, we'll sniff the flowers and eat the candy.

Anon 6:09 : It's just a business. And if it can screw you to make money, it will.

So be sensible. Use it while it's there but don't expect it to have your back.

HH: So far, the only unequivocally true statements you have made in this conveniently-anonymous diatribe.

Why the hell do none of these people who spread such FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) post their names?

Anon 6:09, your arguments are specious, in the main unsupported, and contaminated with personal insults which have nothing to do with the question(s) at hand.

6:09 PM

Anonymous said...

Paper books do not differ at all from cereal boxes- They ship from the manufacturer and Sit on a shelf Until they sell or expire, At which point they are replaced by something fresher. If there is any special snowflake in this industry it is the *story* not the paper it is printed on, not the book.
-Axle Blackwell

Terrence OBrien said...

Oh, wait, no you'll only sell more at $9.99 if you are already priced at over 10 bucks. Hmmm. I guess Amazon aren't concerned about bargain basement authors. If they were they'd have a say about Joe's prices too wouldn't they?

Price elasticity works in both directions. A book that sells 1.74 copies at $9.99 will sell only one copy at $14.99.

Amazon does have a say about all KDP prices. The contract states they can set the retail price anywhere they choose.

Anonymous said...

These people Claim that they want to protect and nurture art, culture and literature, yet they cannot reason, they cannot think for themselves, they cannot draw a valid conclusion from a set of facts. They lie, blatantly, to those they claim to protect and they support the oppression of artists by major corporations. I reject the notion that they are qualified for the job of cultural guardian.
-Axel Blackwell

Anonymous said...

w.adam mandelbaum said...


Do kdp select authors qualify for the pony and the blow job, or is it the pony or the blow job? If it is or, well I wasn't interested in equine quadrupeds anyway.


But the option remains, just in case Chalker decides to self publish and join KDP

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

I have a question. It is pretty well established that trad publishers have used high ebook prices to slow the adoption of ebooks. My question is has anyone ever tried to analyze if it actually works? I am not sure how you could pin it down, but maybe if you looked at the rate of decline of paper book sales (Bookscan data?) over the years before, during and after the time that they had agency pricing. Did the rate of decline of paper sales actually lessen while agency pricing was in effect? Or maybe it did not work to reduce the decline in paper sales. In essence, is it even true that higher ebook prices are effective in slowing down the decline in paper sales? It seems logical, but then maybe it is not actually true. Much stranger things have happened and maybe there is actually little overall effect on people's choice of how they read. It would be especially interesting to see if any effect was great enough to directly offset the reduced profit from ebook sales, or is it possible that publishers could have been selling more ebooks all along without worrying about their paper sales?

Someone over on Passive Voice shared how Ballantine tried releasing both a hardcover and paperback version at the same time for a while in the 50s and had success doing so. They only stopped because the other publishers froze them out of the distribution channel. So maybe delaying the paperback does not actually increase hardcover sales, but nobody even knows because nobody since has dared to try. And maybe reducing ebook sales through higher prices has no effect on paper book sales, but no one has ever thought to check.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I must not have been paying much attention to when I watched the SPP (Self-Publishing Podcast) the week Mimi was on. Because "Don't trust Amazon" wasn't the message *I* got...

William Ockham said...

@Nirmala

I am trying to discover the answer to the question you raise. There is no definitive way to answer it. We have to create statistical models and make some assumptions. The biggest single complicating factor is the collapse of the Borders chain. Losing that many retail outlets for paper books during the agency period complicates the analysis. When agency started, Borders had 500+ stores in the US. That number went to zero. It is easy to show that caused a decline in paper book sales. Which was partially offset by an increase in ebook sales. But we don't know how things would have gone if Amazon had been able to set ebook prices during a period when a huge number of customers were up for grabs.

Anonymous said...

that would have been Ian Ballantine who opened a PAPERBACK house named after himself. It was a rare hardcover Ballantine pub'd until the early 1990s. "Someone over on Passive Voice shared how Ballantine tried releasing both a hardcover and paperback version at the same time for a while in the 50s and had success doing so. They only stopped because the other publishers froze them out of the distribution channel."

Other publishers could not freeze any other publisher out of the distribution channel because they are not the middlemen distributors. The middlemen who eventually became New Leaf and Ingrams were the only ones to be able to do that, as they do today, freezing out indie author POD books along with some cooperation from large chains like BAM and BN.





























































Jim Self said...

Joe,

You're ignoring the facts again. Amazon is competing in an unfair, monopolistic way. That's why we have antitrust laws, but unfortunately they don't work as they should in the digital age. We need new laws that specifically deal with the emerging internet marketsll. Following that, we need laws like in Europe that enforce book prices, to make sure that no one is able to conduct business unfairly. I think Mr. Preston would agree with me that it would also be a good idea to pass a law that regulated book sales so that there is a more fair distribution of sales among titles, with more sales naturally going to proven writers such as himself. Lastly, we need legislation that replaces all human brains with publisher-approved chips so that we'll actually enjoy Big X books rather than the awesome new indie titles we're discovering every day. While we're at it, we badly need a law to help us all undergo plastic surgery so as to have the exact same appearance and set of genitals. For fairness.

I don't see how this is unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Hairhead said:

>HH: Amazon is currently a WAY BETTER guy than the big 6. This is provable with facts, figures and numbers. Some day, they might turn around and become the serial killer of digital publishing. But we'll cope with that then. For now, we'll sniff the flowers and eat the candy.<

That's where you're wrong.

If Amazon become the serial killer of digital publishing, then you're the victim. You'll have no market other than Amazon.

Amazon has done many great things for indie publishers. But it just shows a complete lack of business sense to side with them in everything that they do.

Amazon think long term. So should authors.

Eat the candy now. But avoid thinking that just because Amazon is hammering the Big 6 they are on your side. They're not.

Don't get all wrapped up in the Amazon flag because one day they might just dictate terms you don't like. And, like Hatchette, you'd be wise to have another way of selling your books.

Steve Peterson is right, "Go into any of these deals with open eyes."


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

"My question is has anyone ever tried to analyze if it actually works?"

Perhaps you should have a look at foreign markets for that. In Europe, there are other factors at play, like a greater density of bookstores than in the US, but there are also laws fixing ebook prices in some countries like France, and as a result, the ebook market share is much lower than in the US.

Ebooks are gaining ground in Europe, but more slowly. And the dogma of books being a special snowflake is very vivid in Europe.

Besides this argument, I don't think a company like Amazon would be wrong to think cheaper ebooks is better for its business, and that higher ebook price slow down the adoption of ebooks. They have all the data necessary to draw conclusions, and if they didn't were right in their conclusions, they would not be a successful business.

antares said...

@Steve Peterson

Why did Scalzi offer his opinion? His publisher is Tor Books. He has no dog in this fight.

For years I made my living crunching numbers. Scalzi is wrong. The 1.74 factor may not apply to him, but if he has sold a large number (more than 1500) of copies of books, it does. It certainly applies to Hachette.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

@William Ockham:

Yes, I thought about it some more and I can see how difficult it would be to actually show any direct correlations. Keep us posted on what you do discover.

Nirmala (free spiritual ebooks) said...

@ Anonymous

I should probably have tried to confirm the info before quoting the other poster about Ballantine. Thanks for your perspective.

Alan Spade said...

To clarify my point, I should add that in my opinion, the agency model has the same results than the price fixing laws.

Hairhead said...

Hey Anon@7:11, you quote mined me, and not in a particularly clever way. You took this quote from me: ">HH: Amazon is currently a WAY BETTER guy than the big 6. This is provable with facts, figures and numbers. Some day, they might turn around and become the serial killer of digital publishing. But we'll cope with that then. For now, we'll sniff the flowers and eat the candy.<

You replied: "That's where you're wrong.

If Amazon become the serial killer of digital publishing, then you're the victim. You'll have no market other than Amazon."

You foolishly forgot, or didn't bother to read my earlier remark, specifically: If indie authors can't make a living, they won't publish with Amazon, and Amazon will LOSE REVENUE. There are many other online stores out there to sell and buy books, and many more due to come online. You sound like one of the old record label execs -- you really don't appreciate the absolutely FUNDAMENTAL and PERMANENT nature of the changes in book publishing. The genie is out of the bottle."

Anon: You didn't disagree with that statement, because it's true. Publishing is fundamentally changed. Amazon is currently way better than trad, which you didn't dispute. I even agreed with your statement that they are a business who will screw you if they can. I will note that a number of writer-poster here have said that they have not gone kdp and MAKE MONEY using several different avenues of electronic distribution.

Your essential message is a continuous barrage of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You encourage writers not use Amazon, not to publish under better terms, not to become more aware of their rights and advantages as creators of content.

And, most tellingly, you don't offer a single critique of the status quo of legacy publishing.

This is an active disservice to writers, an actual harm. This clear subtext to your message brands you as, if not an apologist for trad publishers, then a paid shill for those who are currently treating writers worse than Amazon does.

What does you get, personally, out of sowing such fear, uncertainty, and doubt?

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon is competing in an unfair, monopolistic way. That's why we have antitrust laws, but unfortunately they don't work as they should in the digital age

Apparently they've found an antitrust law loophole, and will soon control the world. Bwahahahahahaha!

Or maybe you don't know what a monopoly is. Which is why you offered zero evidence to back up your claim.

We need new laws that specifically deal with the emerging internet marketsll. Following that, we need laws like in Europe that enforce book prices, to make sure that no one is able to conduct business unfairly.

Down with net neutrality. Down with capitalism.

Yeah. Good luck drumming up support for that in the US.

Alan Spade said...

I'm grateful the "laws like in Europe" doesn't exist in the US, otherwise the ebook market would be much less profitable for the indies in the US .

I've recently made a promo with Ereaders News Today, and sold 35 ebooks in a single day, while my record in France was seven or eight books in a single day with the same ebook on Amazon.

So yes, major difference, there.

Anonymous said...

Hairhead said:

>And, most tellingly, you don't offer a single critique of the status quo of legacy publishing.<

I think Hairhead makes the mistake of thinking that one extreme or another of an argument must be correct.

The point is that neither extreme is correct. Not Amazon. Not the Big 6. To shout for either without thinking of your own interests is naive.

I love Hairhead's Fisking. Extremism excepted, that guy is sharp.

This blog does make me wonder how Robert Fisk would view all this fisking? His name gave rise to this technique when someone tore apart one of his newspaper articles line by line. He is noted for reporting on war zones. He'd fit in very well here.


Jim Self said...

Joe,

I was trolling you a bit up above. I tried to make the end of my comment ridiculous enough to make my sarcasm obvious, but apparently I annoyed you away.

BTW, what do you call it when you regurgitate something that was BS to begin with?

Joe Konrath said...

Apologies, Jim. You caught me when I was in defensive mode and I missed the obvious sarcasm.

It's called Poe's Law. That's why emoticons were invented. But you were over the top enough that I should have spotted it. :)

Tom Simon said...

Anon @5:55 am:

that would have been Ian Ballantine who opened a PAPERBACK house named after himself. It was a rare hardcover Ballantine pub'd until the early 1990s.

Incorrect. Ballantine did, in fact, experiment with hardcover publishing in the 1950s, but discontinued the practice. The first big-selling Ballantine hardcover was Executive Suite, by Cameron Hawley (1952). It was published simultaneously in hard and soft cover.

Other publishers could not freeze any other publisher out of the distribution channel because they are not the middlemen distributors.

The customary method is to put pressure on the distributors by threatening to pull your own products. If one publisher does this, it will probably fail. If the whole cartel does so, it will almost certainly succeed. Of course, publishing being a business heavily dependent on an old boys’ network, the threat was probably implied rather than expressed, and social pressure brought to bear on the distributor who dared to break with established practice.

The hardcover publishers had another way of putting pressure on Ballantine. They could also refuse to license paperback rights to his company for the books whose trade editions they controlled. I have not seen any direct evidence that they did so, but it would surprise me if they had not.

My rationale: Hardcover publishers at that time normally kept the trade edition of a new book on the market exclusively for a year, after which they licensed a paperback edition as a subsidiary right. The hardcover house customarily kept 50 percent of royalties paid on subsidiary rights, including this one. So they had a year to profit from the trade edition, and kept half the author’s royalty on the paperback thereafter.

Ballantine’s innovation threatened both of these revenue streams. They pretended that this was because hardcover books would not sell if a paperback was also available; their real fear was that they would not be able to sign authors on their preferred terms if combined hard/soft deals from houses like Ballantine became the norm. The history of publishing in the 1980s and 90s shows that this fear was fully justified. It was during that period that the trade and MMPB publishers became fully vertically integrated for the first time, creating the corporate ancestors of today’s Big Five. Only a vertically integrated company had the capacity to offer combined hard/soft deals, and the most profitable authors demanded such deals once they became widely available.

The middlemen who eventually became New Leaf and Ingrams were the only ones to be able to do that, as they do today, freezing out indie author POD books along with some cooperation from large chains like BAM and BN.

They do this to preserve their good standing with the Big Five publishers and the lesser members of the traditional trade-publishing cartel – just as they did with Ballantine. The hardcover distributors would not carry Ballantine’s books, because they did not want to jeopardize their business relationship with the major hardcover houses. For public consumption, they professed that Ballantine’s way of doing business could not possibly work; and by their private efforts, they made certain that this became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Source: Frederik Pohl, The Way the Future Was: A Memoir, pp. 196–198. (New York: Del Rey, 1978. The page numbers, by the way, refer to the Ballantine hardcover edition. Ballantine did eventually break into the trade-book business, but on the second attempt, they did not try to buck established practice by doing the trade and MMPB editions simultaneously.)

You’ll pardon me, I hope, Mr. Konrath, for responding in your combox at such length. But it pains me to see someone dismiss genuine information in favour of facile half-truths.

Jim Self said...

From now on, I'll make sure my sarcastic comments sound stupid from the very beginning. Fixed?