Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Thoughts on the Amazon Debate

My last blog was about the debate I was about to engage in for Intelligence Squared, on the topic of Amazon is the Reader's Friend.

If you haven't watched it, here's the video:

Yes, I'm wearing a Three Wolf One Moon tee shirt.

If you're adverse to watching it but interested in what was said, here's the link to the transcript and the radio broadcasts (edited and unedited).

According to those voting in the audience, my side (Amazon is for readers) lost 43% to 50%. According to the online poll, we won by an overwhelming majority, 72% to 28%.

Winning or losing didn't matter to me. I knew I would lose before I even accepted the invitation. More on that later.

And for those who are wondering, I found Scott Turow to be smart, personable, charming, and a nice guy. If he disliked me he hid it well, and I certainly didn't dislike him. Considering all the shit I've been giving him on this blog for years, it was a surprisingly jovial meeting.

That said, he's still wrong about a lot.

I'm very tempted to go through the transcript and fisk the points he made during the debate that I didn't get to respond to, but I'm going to limit myself to Turow's closing statement.

Scott Turow: I do not judge things on the basis of what's good for me. In point of fact, I spent 20 years trying to get my first novel published. I was Joe Konrath and that experience never leaves me. And I am concerned about what is good for authors in general, not what's good for best-selling authors.

Joe sez: Scott may not judge on the basis of what's good for him. But I do it all the time. I believe what's good for me is good for writers in general. However, I was never the head of a huge writing organization, and when I make a statement it isn't picked up by the media and touted as fact to millions of people.

Turow spent 20 years trying to get published. I spent 10. I was rejected more times than Scott, and wrote a lot than he did before finding any sort of monetary success, but I can believe that he knows what it is like to labor in obscurity and that experience is still with him.

Here's the thing, though: he may have been Joe Konrath, but I have never been Scott Turow.

There are lots of authors who have been Joe Konrath, trying to sell a book. And by "lots" I mean "the majority". But a very minuscule, teeny-tiny percentage ever had the success Scott did. While the legacy publishing industry is capable of producing a huge hit like Turow, it's as rare as winning the lottery. But you aren't even allowed to by that particular lottery ticket unless the gatekeepers allow it.

Anyone can self-publish. Though the majority won't ever have the success that I've had, at least there aren't any barriers to entry. When presenting an argument for the masses, you shouldn't for a side using the ideals as examples. You should argue using the mean (or median) data. Most writers won't attain my success. Fewer will attain Turow's. But, as has repeatedly shown, more writers have a chance to make more money via self-pubbing than attempting the legacy route.

That is what is good for authors in general.

Scott: Amazon wins. We all have to become entrepreneurs. The best-selling authors are the people who will prosper most in that situation, because it's an undifferentiated mass. People whose names are already known would be the winners. But I know -- I know that the system we have now -- yes, great, Joe, good. I really and truly am happy that you have found an audience.

Joe: Thanks, Scott. And I truly am happy for your success. Why wouldn't I be? This isn't zero-sum, and envy is senseless and petty.

But even when I did land a legacy contract (in fact I landed 4 of them) I still had to be an entrepreneur in order to keep my head above water. I signed at 1200 bookstores and did blog tours and visited 42 states and dozens of conferences, book fairs, and libraries. I did all of this because I wasn't picked to be Scott Turow with millions in coop and advertising.

Except for a few handfuls of mega-bestselling authors, we all have to run our careers like a small business, no matter how we publish. We all use social media and the Internet. Many of us make personal appearances. Many of us advertise. It's part of being an author. Amazon's market dominance hasn't effected that.

Scott: I want every author to find an audience who deserves one. But the system that has perpetuated that is that of traditional publishers. And remember that these gentlemen do not deny that Amazon's ultimate goal is to describe -- is to destroy traditional publishing, to force every author to become an entrepreneur, his own marketer, his own editor, and we will lose good writers in the process.

Joe: On the surface, a good closing with a rousing emotional appeal.

But it's easy to pick apart.

Just because the old way of reaching an audience involved legacy publishers doesn't mean it is the best way. It was the only way, so the point is redundant. For the majority of human history, the only way to make fire was with sticks and stones. Millions of successful, life-saving fires were started that way. That doesn't mean I reach for two chunks of flint when I want to light up my bong.

And equally poor point is conflating those companies who publish--either Amazon or the legacy industry--with writers. Writers are the ones who actually write the books, not editors or publishes or distributors. And as I've pointed out ad nauseum on this blog, it makes little sense for middlemen of any kind to get the lion's share of the profits.

Amazon's goal may be to destroy legacy publishing, but legacy publishing has been rendered a value-added service. They were once essential, now they are middlemen who command a hefty price.

Amazon may kill all the legacy publishers, but there is no direct correlation between that happening and authors no longer writing books. That isn't the argument we debated (Amazon is the reader's friend) and it isn't the argument I've made on this blog (legacy publishers are bloodsuckers and Amazon's goals are currently aligned with the goals of authors). It's a straw man to represent the debate as "Amazon will destroy legacy publishing, and then good writers will stop writing", and beyond being an informal fallacy it's just plain wrong. I'm not with a legacy publisher, and I didn't stop writing. I did more self-promo and spent more time and money on marketing when I was with legacy publishers than I have self-publishing. And I make 20x the amount of money self-pubbing than I did legacy publishing, and reach many more readers.

I can't stress that enough. I was one of the lucky sods who landed publishing contracts, and made about $40k a year writing professionally. That's better than the majority of legacy authors. But that pales next to what I'm doing now.

Turow, however, would likely never reach his current income and readership without legacy publishing. But he's the uber-rare minority.

Even though he stated the contrary, I believe Turow is judging on the basis of what's good for him. I can understand that. You dance the with person you brought to the party, and stick up for them when they're being attacked. Fair enough, but when you say alarmist stuff like this you can bet some people are going to buy it (like the audience did). And when writers hear it, they can make career decisions based on what a respected and famous author says, and in doing so they are playing a carny game instead of possibly paying some bills.

Though he didn't close with a straw man, Turow's debate partner, Franklin Foer, ended on this note when prompting the audience to vote against the topic "Amazon is the Reader's Friend":

Franklin Foer: Your stand is cost-free in one regard. It's not going to bring in any government regulation. You're not going to put anybody out of business. But you have a chance to send the message to Amazon and say, "Look, be careful, guys. You're dealing with precious cargo. We're watching you. You have a lot of power right now. Your power is probably going to keep increasing. Don't abuse it."

Joe sez: Those among you who know your religious philosophy will recognize a variation of Pascal's Wager. What is the possible gain vs. the possible loss yada yada. It was a clever way to end, but fallacious. The topic wasn't "Use your vote to make sure Amazon plays fair", and that emotional appeal is likely the reason they won the in-house debate. Or maybe it had something to do with the debate being in New York, home of the legacy publishing industry, but that sounds like sour grapes.

Only you philosophy majors will give a whit about what I say next, but I'll posit that Pascal's wager is a form of emotional extortion. Coercing people to believe in a deity by claiming they have everything to gain and nothing to lose is a veiled threat to get others to agree with you. But I've always preferred the honey approach to the vinegar approach (praising employees gets them to work harder than threatening to fire them) so I don't truck with appeals to paranoia. Tell your spouse you want a divorce unless they try harder? If you're happy and just bluffing, it's nonsense. I'd wager the only people in that NY audience who were unhappy with Amazon were those in the legacy publishing industry. The readers were happy. How couldn't they be with lower prices, instant delivery, and more choice than ever in history? But to tell them that they'd better not let Amazon become complacent, because one day Amazon may do something that won't make readers happy, is nonsense. That's worrying about the asteroid some day hitting the earth and destroying all life. That's worrying about the tiger who may eat you next year, which is irrelevant because right now that tiger is giving you 2 days shipping and the lion is the one gnawing on you at this very moment.

But it was effective nonsense, apparently. Saying "trick or treat" gets you candy without you every having to make good on your threat of a trick, just like sending an anonymous threat to Amazon in the form of a vote doesn't mean you'll actually have to stop being a Prime member. And, after all, it'll keep Amazon in line. If you can try to get something at no risk to yourself, why not? Logic and altruism be damned.

But I expected it. Earlier I said I knew I was going to lose this debate. I said this to the IQ2 folks when they called. I said it to my debate partner beforehand. I said it to several close friends I discussed the debate with in the weeks leading up to it. So why did I agree to do it?

Just as my sidetrack on Pascal was only interesting to philosophy buffs, the following might only have interest to psych majors, so feel free to stop reading here because it is less about publishing and more about my motivation for being an activist.

I accepted the invitation to this debate for the same reason I've been blogging for ten years. (It has been a full decade, and I've done about 1000 posts.) This blog was originally started by me to inform other writers about what has and hasn't worked for me. It was my way of giving back after attaining a small degree of success. My road to publication was difficult, and nobody helped me. There weren't any publishing blogs. There wasn't anyone I could correspond with to get advice. So I began to blog to pass along what I've learned. Sharing my views in a forum that allowed comments meant I could also learn from others.

When I began to self-publish in 2009, my goal shifted. Information by itself is interesting, and potentially useful. But informing with the intent to persuade is different than teaching and the resulting discourse. An open exchange of ideas can be meaningful. Proving your ideas are useful ultimately leads to debate.

My blog went from trying to inform, to trying to persuade.


Because back when I was started, I was sharing information that writers needed, like how to find an agent and self-promote, because there was only one path to success: legacy publishing.

Amazon's invention of the Kindle, and invitation for authors to self-publish, changed the game. When I began to inform writers of this change, many of the status-quo didn't want to hear it, or believe it, because they wanted things to remain the same.

My viewpoint was ignored for a while, by the publishing industry, its veterans, and those who sought the key to the executive washroom. When ignoring the elephant in the room was no longer possible, writers who found some success in self-publishing were called outliers and anomalies by the media and the spokesmen of Big Publishing.

As anyone might have predicted (but few did, even though there was ample precedent in the history of disruptive technologies, including the closely-related music industry) self-pubbing began to gobble up market share. Many writers converted. But some dug in and continued to spout harmful nonsense.

So discourse became debate, and debate lead to a sort of evangelizing. I had no dog in this fight, no horse in this race. What other writers did with their careers didn't harm me or help me. But the impetus that made me want to blog is the same impetus that made me want to share this new way for writers to succeed. When contrary viewpoints arose, I felt the need to analyze them. When proponents of legacy publishing spread misinformation that I found to be harmful, I fisked.

Now, in 2015, self-pubbing has shed much of its negative stigma and has become de rigeur for many authors, back when I started with Amazon it was risky. I was committing career suicide, ensuring no legacy publisher would ever offer me a deal again (and none have, even though I've sold a million books on my own). So much has changed in six years. And it will continue to change, for the betterment of writers everywhere. But the word still needs to be spread.

I'm relating all of this to give the newbie reader a sense of how much has changed. In early 2009 I was 100% for legacy publishing, and 100% against self-pubbing. When the Kindle started gaining traction, I remained a skeptic until I saw the potential with my own career. The more I shouted (and by this point I wasn't the only one shouting) the more the mainstream media had to start paying attention. We weren't preaching to the self-pub converted; we were preaching to those who were entrenched in legacythought and legacyspeak in order to save their souls form eternal damnation.

Okay, not really. Unlike dogmatic beliefs that relied on convincing others because the preacher was unsure of his own faith and wanted safety in numbers, I had actual proof that self-publishing was not just a viable alternative to legacy, but a preferable one. I didn't need others to sing in the choir with me to convince me of my faith; I had facts and numbers.

But the desire to help and educate and--when needed--debate and fisk, remained strong.

This led to my having the opportunity to debate the former president of the Authors Guild, whom I've been critical of for quite a while.

Those who read this blog regularly know I haven't done any public appearances in the past few years. This debate lured me out of my self-imposed seclusion, even though I knew we were going to lose. I said so when IQ2 first made contact with me, repeated it when I spoke with my debate partner for the first time, and said it to all of my close friends.

I wasn't in this to win. I was in this to show I was right. Whether the voters agreed with me or not didn't matter. What mattered was having a public debate that could inform writers who haven't heard the message yet.

Something else also mattered to me, something that viewers at home probably weren't privy to. We greeted some of the audience during pre-debate walk-through, and there were about thirty high school students there on a field trip. I sat and talked with them, before and after, and it drove home the point that I wasn't there to be a soulless PowerPoint presentation. I had teachers like that in school, and hated them. The ones I liked were the ones who made an effort to keep me awake.

Public speaking isn't a monologue in an empty room. It's a dialog with an audience where you do most of the talking. I've always believed that an essential part of that give and take is to be amusing if possible. I took the debate seriously, but that didn't mean it couldn't be fun.

Now some may say that my main motive and Turow's are interchangeable; ultimately, we're both defending the companies that helped us make a lot of money. But the company I'm defending has no barrier to entry. The company I'm defending has the potential to make more writers more money, rather than make a few writers super-rich while the majority eek out a poverty-level existence. The company I'm defending allows authors to keep their rights, set their own prices, and publish at their own speed.

I can leave the company I'm defending at any time, and take my books with me.

It comes down to having freedom and control in your career, or allowing someone else to run your career. It's obvious to me which is preferable. But so many writers have been indoctrinated and brainwashed by the legacy system. Decades of beating beaten over the head with how to write query letters and find agents and land a publisher, along with decades of stigma about the worthlessness of self-publishing, amplified by industry professionals and the media, means some people still reject self-pubbing and pursue the legacy option.

That's fine if you want to make that choice. But make sure it's an informed choice. And be aware that is is, indeed, a choice we didn't have until very recently.

So why haven't I blogged for a month?

Been busy doing something cool. I'll make an announcement very soon.

And it involves Amazon. You can probably guess that from the new link on my sidebar above.

That link doesn't work yet. But it will. And it won't be what you're expecting. I love trying new things, experimenting, being a beta tester for new ideas. And this new idea has been in the works for six months.

Read about it here:


T. M. Bilderback said...

Wise words, Joe. I was quite proud of you during that debate, and after!

Tess Oliver said...

I missed you, Joe. Mornings weren't the same without you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,
I listened to the debate as it happened. I feel like there were actually 2 debates going on. There was the "Is Amazon good for readers?" debate, but also "Is Amazon good for authors?" debate at the same time. I really appreciated you and your partner trying to keep it focused on readers. If it matters, I didn't think Scott and co. made any case of how Amazon isn't good for readers. I heard a lot of fear mongering in their responses. Amazon is bad for all authors, they said, because 'zon would do something terrible to indies and the traditionally published authors would have their publishers to stand up for them. Still, I don't see how it's bad for readers.
Sorry for the ramble. Thanks for helping ALL authors stay informed about the publishing industry.

Donna White Glaser said...

About damn time! Good lord, I was about to send out rescue dogs. Missed you!

Alan Tucker said...

Of all Turow's comments, I think holding up The Goldfinch as an example of big publishing's worth was the one that irked me the most. Saying that book wouldn't have been written without an advance from a publisher is pure hogwash. The publisher did not give Ms. Tartt money for that book 11 years ago and pat her on the head, saying, "Go create your art, Dear." She took 11 years to write the book because she wanted to take 11 years to write the book. I've watched interviews with her and she freely admits to enjoying writing at a sentence level more than the work as a whole. I'm happy for her that she found enough success with her first works to be able to write as she enjoys, but to say the book wouldn't have been written without a publisher's advance? No. Books gets written before the advance (except sometimes in the case of non-fiction).

Proclaiming big publishing to be champions of literature and art is like proclaiming the Big Bad Wolf a champion of building codes and structural integrity.

Glad to have you back, Joe. I was concerned that fallacy of a debate had caused you to mic drop and leave the stage for good ;-)

Anonymous said...

When you argue with 'cheerleaders for government intervention' in any circumstance you are going to lose every time. Especially with rich boys like Turow suffering from a case of white guilt/privilege.

Those types of folks are quite heavy on the unsubstantiated emotional pleas while the general public is conditioned by the media to be highly susceptible to just such a scam.

Apparently 'survivorship bias' only applies to indies, not trad pubbed superstar billionaires. Only trad pubs can nurture such a brilliant career; Amazon and readers cannot. Etc. Hypocrisy galore.

What nonsense, but quite common these days - recall 'you didn't build that' - that it takes government intervention and support from a village of middlemen to make it in this country. Amazon flies in the face of this faulty premise. That is why they hate it.

There are only 2 types of people in this world; those looking for opportunities and those looking for excuses. One is Joe. The other is modern day Turow.

Joshua James said...

Great to meet you in person finally, Joe, and I really enjoyed the debate, tho' the audience was indeed stacked...

Joseph Ratliff said...

Joe, you lost the debate because I think it was framed the wrong way.

"Amazon Is The Reader's Friend"

Amazon isn't ANYONE's "friend." It is in business for one reason, to make a profit. Anyone should know this, and I think everyone does.

But there isn't a single "for profit" company that is anyone's friend. So framing Amazon into the debate under the context of "friend" immediately made it almost impossible to win from the side you participated on.

That is on the surface.

All you have to do is look a little deeper than the surface to realize that Amazon could be a consumer's monetary friend ... because of their price, delivery, and general service.

Publishers don't want to be a consumer's friend, because then they can't treat their books as something "special." Publishers have to treat books as commodities, which they are and always will be.

(I don't think the story inside the container of a book "has" to be turned into a commodity, but that's for another comment)

All of that said, holy smokes, Scott Turow and Franklin Foer need to relax a bit. If they think for a minute they will alter Amazon's course in our corporate-dominated culture and economy ... they are smoking something.

celtgirl68 said...

What I find funny is that they argue that writers will be lost but never seem to want to tackle the issue that most writers, if they go the legacy route, will never see the light of day, won't find themselves a readership, and won't make a dime. I know their rebuttal to that is that those writers don't deserve a place at the table, but it's simply not true and Amazon opening the gates to we unwashed masses has proved that. I can see many writers giving up on writing after pounding their head against those locked legacy gates for years and years, but not giving up when there is an alternative that makes it simple to reach their readers, which is all most of us want in the first place- the ability to find our audience. None of these 1% guys ever want to discuss what happens to the mid-listers either. They are really only arguing from the top of their extremely privileged mountain where the view is incredibly limited.

Joseph Ratliff said...

Matt Yglesias brought up the most salient points in this debate. Until the closing statement, where Mr. Konrath killed it with the "free books" availability for the reader (the whole point of the debate).

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

I second Michael Bilderback. And I think it says something that you were invited to debate publicly, when for so long, our side hasn't been really acknowledged.

Stan R. Mitchell said...

Really enjoyed the debate. I thought both sides made their arguments quite well.

And btw, Joe, I owe you because you helped me tremendously toward becoming a full-time writer -- something that finally happened a month ago.

Thanks so much for all the wisdom and inspiration you so regularly (and freely) share with younger writers, such as myself.

Alan Spade said...

"Joe, you lost the debate because I think it was framed the wrong way.

"Amazon Is The Reader's Friend"

Amazon isn't ANYONE's "friend." It is in business for one reason, to make a profit. Anyone should know this, and I think everyone does."

I think Joseph Ratliff has a great point, there.

As far as I'm concerned, you didn't lose the debate, Joe.

But I think that if you lost the debate with those voting on the audience, it's because you let Turow corner you in saying that publishers should disappear.

You let Turow suggest the audience that we self-published authors are full of hate and resentment towards the publishing industry.

Turow has stated that he was pleased with the self-publishers' success, so he appeared like the most moderate almost benevolent.

Yes, Turow played with the emotional appeal. He knew that emotion would win the day, especially with a debate framed the wrong way as it was.

We all know that in fact, Turow is tolerant towards self-published authors the way the society is tolerant towards beggars.

Alan Spade said...

Sorry for the typos.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe - good to see you posting again; I've missed your snark. Do you have any feedback on KU? I know you mentioned a while ago that you were pulling some/all of your books to see what difference it made to your bottom line. Any feedback yet? Conclusions? Am always interested in your take on all things indie.

Joe Konrath said...

Do you have any feedback on KU?

Hi Alan. I stuck them all back in. My Zon numbers have picked up since Xmas, so I'm sticking with KU for another three months.

Alan Spade said...

Regarding Amazon and KU, I think that by changing the algorithms so that every downloaded ebook in KU counts as a sale, even if 10% of the ebook haven't been read, doing that very thing increases the pressure on indie authors who publish on multiple platforms.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm feeling this as a threat: "either you opt in KDP Select, or your ebooks won't be visible any longer."

Scott Nicholson has an excellent blog about why exclusivity is bad, with a hilarious conversation with Walmart:

And I don't think Scott is suffering from Amazon derangement syndrome, it's just a reality check.

Peter L. Winkler said...

" I can leave the company I'm defending at any time, and take my books with me."

And take them exactly where, Joe?

You yourself said that Amazon has made your sucess possible, and continues to do so.

Fact is, complete independence from some corporate entity is impossible for any commercial writer.

You either tie up with a traditional publisher, Amazon, or someone else.

As Janis Joplin once sang (lyrics by Kris Kristofferson), "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." said...

Intelligence Squared should be commended for inviting you to speak Joe, but judging by who's on their American board of directors, these are people with a vested interest in not changing the way publishing is run.

I think it was another moneybags named Rockefeller who said "Competition is a sin."

My guess is that the audience was stacked, and that had the debate been fairly conducted, you'd have come out easily on top.

Have you noticed that whenever big publishing concerns feel threatened, they resort to macabre allusions-- as though they're the victims of some sort of massacre? There's something about denying the good that Amazon is doing for so many people that smacks of blaming the victim. Keep up the good work you're doing for all of us. Thanks, Joe!

John Ellsworth said...

I picked up my own copy of the t-shirt in solidarity with you.

I'm just glad to hear your voice again.

Anonymous said...

" I can leave the company I'm defending at any time, and take my books with me."

And take them exactly where, Joe?

His own website? Another platform, such as Kobo, Apple, Google, and so on.
Amazons not the only player in the game, just the best at the moment.

Tom Keller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SpringfieldMH said...

Interestingly, Kobo reports that only 44% of British readers who started The Goldfinch finished it.

I came away from watching the debate via the Internet convinced that Joe and his partner won. Despite being pro Amazon, at least for now, I was really disappointed by what I took to be a very poor showing by Turow and partner.

As for Joe's recent absence... I was becoming concerned that perhaps he had lost his way after finally facing off with his great dark whale Turow.

Good to have you back Joe. Thanks.

felixmagestermilitum said...

Whoa, I'm glad you're still around. I was checking nearly everyday last week and was seriously wondering what had happened to you!. Glad to see you're still there and doing what you've always done. I thought the debate was really interesting and that both sides came across well in their own way. Well done to all of you for having a mature discussion and not resorting to mud throwing. Great to have you back Joe, and keep doing what you're doing.

Harvey said...

I just have to say self-publishing (or independent publishing) is indeed the writer's AND reader's friend, and traditional or legacy publishing definitely is not. That's mega-easy to see if you just read any current traditional publishing contract. That being said, being EXCLUSIVE TO Amazon (shutting out other indie avenues like B&N, Smashwords, Kobo et dozens al) is NOT good for either writers or readers. Thanks.

HStanbrough said...

And Alan Spade's link earlier didn't go to Scott Nicholson's blog but to Nick Stephenson's.

T. M. Hunter said...

Right there with you on the fact that we have to do what's right for us. I had two books with a small press, and had mediocre success (in terms of sales numbers). When I started out self-publishing in 2010, I had the same amount of mediocre success, but was doing the same amount of marketing and self-promotion as I was with the small press, but making quite a bit more money.

So I then chose to go self-published exclusively for my future works, and have ever since. How could I not?

Tom Keller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Keller said...

Sorry about this repost, had to fix a bunch of typos SO much for my typoing skills late at night!

Fantastic debate! I think you did a great job, Joe!

As to who's the readers best friend? I think Amazon and its Kindle and eBooks in general have opened up the reading world for a lot of folks. Especially as far as price is concerned. And let's not forget all those books now in reader's hands that otherwise would have never seen the light of day. That in itself benefits all readers.

As to friendship, Joseph Ratlieff got it right, Amazon's a business, but that doesn't mean we can't have a friendly relationship.

But I understand Joe's passion for what Amazon has helped him accompish. Because for a lot of us self published authors, Amazon, and the fact that it does have such a large market has made it possible not just to bring our works into the readers hands but actually have a shot of being successful at it.

Peter L. Winkler likened Joe's comments to Freedom and quoted a Janis Joplin lyric. I'd rather think of Amazon more in the way that Captain Jack Sparrow thought of the Black Pearl. Amazon gave me the freedom to publish my books with a decent royalty and offer them to a large audience, without the pile of rejection slips that just seemed to getting bigger. Nobody ever said there'd be smooth sailing or even that the wind would blow. But without a ship, well, it's kinda tough to start the journey without one.

Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire wo'ld. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom.

Tom Keller said...

My typing skills in the morning aren't much better I see. Better find my reading glasses...

J Q Rose said...

Enjoyed the whole debate. I can't believe how quickly and respectfully done. Kudos for capitalism. Think there's a lot of jealousy cause amazon knows how to position themselves. Glad you and Yglesias tried to keep the debate on point. Maybe that crowd was not the beer drinking wife joking type with a sense of humor so you lost a few points? I had to admit I chuckled at your earthy presentation. Thanx.

Ron Edison said...

Whenever your blog goes dark for more than a week or two, I imagine you gagged and duct-taped to a chair in the basement of one of the Big 5 headquarters. Good to have you back.

Nirmala said...

I am intrigued by what you might be cooking up. Any idea of a launch date, or do we all have to just keep checking for when the new links go live?

Gretta Curran Browne said...

Damn me if I can find the link on the sidebar that gives me even a HINT of what you are up to now! But my curiosity is buzzing.

Judith said...

It's the fourth link at the top - Kindle Worlds. So, I guess it will have to do with writers being able to create fiction with Joe's characters. Something like that.

Walter Knight said...

The debate focused on economic power, but I'm also concerned with power over our culture. New York gatekeepers controlling what gets published is as bad as the old cartel that controlled what we were allowed to hear and see on mainstream media news. Amazon allows the freedom to publish all political opinions, not just New York elitist opinions. That's the real reason liberals are getting upset about the power of Amazon, but it's not being discussed.

Joe Flynn said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Thanks, Joe. I made the switch from trad pub to KDP soon after starting to read your blog. Since setting out on my own — with enormous help from my multi-talented wife — I've never had so much fun writing.

The money hasn't been bad either, six-plus figures the past two years.

Meb Bryant said...

I missed you.

Alan Spade said...

"And Alan Spade's link earlier didn't go to Scott Nicholson's blog but to Nick Stephenson's."

Sorry for the confusion. Yes, it's Nick Stephenson's blog ( )

I'm glad someone noticed, though. :)

Luke 2Feathers said...

Welcome back. I'll bet you got a lot of writing done.

Anonymous said...

You look like Artie Lange.

Martin Rouillard said...

Welcome back Joe. I really enjoyed watching the debate and I'd actually like to see more in the future.

One point that I feel was left answered is Franklin's remark and Amazon's search function and how the first results displayed are usually those who paid the highest for this spot. Now, I don't know id they really do that, but assuming Franklin's right and they are, then Amazon is no different than any other retail store in America, including bookstores.

Most grocery stores now get a large portion of their profit from selling shelf space. How high you want your product displayed determines how much you pay, with either a plain check or an extra discount. There's a premium for aisle ends and spots near the cash registers. Same goes for drugstores and large "depot" type stores.

Bookstores are no different. Here in Quebec, there is a chain that introduce a program where they place a heart sticker on books they "love". Of course, the sticker goes on books for which the distributor or the publishing house paid a fee. It's their version of "aisle end" or premium spot.

So in that regards, Amazon is no less the readers friend than anyone else.

Martin Rouillard said...

There was also a few instance where Scott Turow mentioned said: "In THAT instance, yes, Amazon is the reader's friend."

One of these instance was following a question form the audience, asking if Amazon was the reader's friend when you finish a book at the beach and want to start another book from the same author right away.

This exemple can be broaden to any other similar situation. You're in the subway, stuck with the family for Thanksgiving, on your lunch break, etc. Basically, any situation where there is not a bookstore right next to you, that also happens to sell the book you are looking for. I don't know about you guys, but I rarely find myself next to a bookstore when I finish a book.

So my question to M. Turow is: when exactly is Amazon NOT the reader's friend?

William J. Thomas said...

I might be crazy, but that Kindle Worlds link was working on your web site last week or the week before. I read all about the rules for writing in the JD and other universes of yours. Wonder what you are tweaking now or if it should not have been active yet?

lindabanana said...

Oh, I don't know: friend, shmend; all I know is I fucking enjoyed that debate more than - who am I kidding? I've never succeeded in coming to the end of 'any other debate I've ever attempted to follow'.

It's made me 'follow/friend' you - and Turow, too (I've read his books but not yours, I'm afraid. I've heard of you, though.) The whole ethos of the internet as writers and readers use it, thus makes you both winners.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Glad to have you back, Joe! I was afraid you had decided it wasn't worth arguing about any more... because self-publishing has "won" in the sense that it's at least accepted as a reasonable (not desperate, not for losers) route to take.

Thanks for all you have done and continue to do. I'm a best-selling indie author in part because of you.

Iain Rob Wright said...

Wow! You have great charisma, Joe. I was enthralled.

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks all for the kind words. But not for the Artie Lang comment.

I was afraid you had decided it wasn't worth arguing about any more... because self-publishing has "won" in the sense that it's at least accepted as a reasonable (not desperate, not for losers) route to take.

You're right, Patrice. I don't need to argue it anymore, because even though my opponents still command the media limelight, they're on the defensive.

Self pubbing needs no defense. Legacy publishing does. And as more writers learn this, my opinion will be less valuable.

T. M. Bilderback said...

And as more writers learn this, my opinion will be less valuable.

I disagree with this completely, Joe. You are the voice of wisdom in the publishing world, be it traditional or independent. And, as such, your opinion is always going to be valued and valuable. Never doubt that.

Don't MAKE me come up there...LOL

Mickie Kennedy said...


As someone who works in helping indie authors with publicity, I'm behind your stance of 'Amazon is the reader's friend' 110%.

Great talk.

Mickie Kennedy

Craig Hansen said...

Nice to see you back, Joe!

Anonymous said...

A coincidence that Turow looks a bit like Voldemort? I think not.

Laura Resnick said...

Given that the media tends to simply transcribe Turow's comments about Amazon without questioning his assumptions, let alone rebutting him, I was keen to see an actual debate. I have found his statements about Amazon (and publishing) to be consistently illogical and fallacious, but since he's a very experienced writer and was a successful lawyer (a profession in which arguing your point is a very important skill), I thought it possible he'd make a better impression in a debate format. Instead, he made a worse one.

I had never before heard of Franklin Foer, and I thought, if anything, he made an even worse impression than Turow.

Given that they are both accomplished, successful men, I was surprised--to put it with bald honesty--by how unintelligent they seemed here. Their comments were very poorly reasoned and poorly informed. Foer, in particular, said a number of things that were so absurd, I laughed out loud. Both of them said things so skewed and untrue that I talked back to the screen. They kept stating fantasy, supposition, and fabrication as if it were fact. They deceptively parsed your and Yglesias' comments several times to "make" their argument and ignored the corrections voiced about this. And their arguments were based in emotion rather than information--and the emotion was fear.

I had also never heard of Matthew Yglesias. By contrast to Foer and Turow, he made such a good impression that I immediately bought his book (on Amazon), interested in reading his work. He came across as logical, informed, clear-thinking, articulate, civil, and well reasoned.

Kayci Morgan said...

I can't believe this is actually a debate. No, Amazon is not our friend. And no, publishers are not our friend. Both want our money, and if they could get that by putting us in chains and beating up with rubber chickens, they'd do that instead.

Watching this was like watching: "Whose our friend, Darth Vader or Boba Fett?"

Well Darth Vader cared about educating his son (in the ways of the darkside).

Well Boba Fett donated his genes to science!