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 Lagardère 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.