Friday, July 17, 2015

Douglas Preston's Fail-A-Thon Continues

In his continuing press junket to prove to the world he's a one piston shy of a two-stroke engine, Douglas Preston did a brief interview with the American Booksellers Association. Same old nonsense, but I had some new thoughts. So a fisking I shall go...

Bookselling This Week: Why do you think there is such overwhelming support for the Authors United appeal to the DOJ among booksellers, authors, and author reps?

Joe sez: Way to load the question. The only thing overwhelming is the blind hubris of organizations like the Association of Authors Representatives and the Authors Guild, who have worn out their usefulness to a whole new generation of authors.

You folks deserve the slow, lingering spiral into obsolescence that you've brought upon yourselves.

Douglas Preston: Amazon has used its dominance of the book market in ways that harm the interests of America’s readers, impoverish the book industry, and hurt authors.

Joe sez: Indeed. Amazon is harming readers by offering a huge selection, low prices, and great customer service.

Tell me something, Doug; if an author or publisher chooses not to sell books through Amazon, are they harming the interests of America's readers? Shouldn't it be mandatory that all books are sold on Amazon, no matter the wishes of the author or publisher? Or is it only retailers whose wishes we aren't supposed to respect?

In that case, if a bookstore chooses not to sell certain titles, are the harming the interests of America's readers? Shouldn't we force them to sell everything, even if they don't want to?

If someone painstakingly explained to you, over and over, why 2 + 2 = 4, and you continued to ignore it, would you call that person ignorant, stupid, or a liar?

Everything you say about this issue has been refuted many times over, and yet you keep repeating it.

Hmm. I wonder why.

Remember when you said this about readers, Doug?

Douglas Preston: “The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said Douglas Preston, whose novel “Impact” reached as high as No. 4 on The New York Times’s hardcover fiction best-seller list earlier this month. “It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.”

Joe sez: We know you want ebook prices high. We know that's your agenda. So you keep popping up in the media, spouting bullshit and trying to convince people you're helping them.

But that isn't the truth, Doug.

Preston: By interfering with the sales of books, Amazon deeply alienated many authors whose careers were damaged.

Joe sez: Interfering with the sales of whose books? Can you name a single title where Amazon did that? A single one?

No, you can't.

Enough, Doug. It's embarrassing.

Preston: By free-riding on bookstores, and by selling millions of books below cost to acquire customers for other lines of business, Amazon put hundreds of neighborhood and community bookstores out of business.

Joe sez: The number of indie bookstores has risen 27% in since 2009.

Preston: How can bookstores compete with a company that sells books at a loss, to acquire customers with “good demographics” in order to sell them other stuff, like TVs and diapers?

Joe sez: The number of indie bookstores has risen 27% in since 2009.

Maybe if I keep repeating the statistic, it will sink in.

But the fact is, even if the number of bookstores were shrinking, the blame should be placed on readers, who vote with their dollars. You know, that group who don't want to pay the real price of something, according to your above quote.

Preston: By extracting an ever greater share of the cost of a book from publishers, Amazon has reduced the amount of funds available for publishers to take risks with new authors or controversial ideas, which has silenced many voices.

Joe sez: This isn't true, Doug.

Your publisher, first through illegal collusion, then through prolonged contract negotiation, forced Amazon to accept the agency model. That model earns authors less money over the previous, wholesale model.

Also, your publisher, Hachette, made a deal with Amazon to take 30% of the price it sets on ebooks. That's the deal Hachette wants. Authors get 17.5% of that price. Publishers get 52.5%.

Let's put that in bold:




Who is really reducing the amount of funds to authors, Doug?

Hint: Amazon gives the full 70% of a book sale to self-pubbed authors, and those authors can set their own price. Which means I'm earning more on a $3.99 ebook than you are on a $9.99 ebook.

Unless, of course, you've signed an NDA with Hachette and can't reveal that you're making higher royalties than the underpaid peers you claim to be championing. That's a thing, according to the Authors Guild.

Some bestselling authors have managed to obtain a 50% e-book split, though they’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep these terms secret.

Is that you, Doug? If so, since you're so worried about the funds your publisher has available, perhaps you should give the money back? Aren't your big advances and higher royalties taking money from your publisher, which prevents them from taking risks with new authors, which has silenced many voices?

Can you comment?

Or has your publisher silenced you?

Let's talk about authors being silenced, since you brought it up. Which voices have really been silenced, Doug? How about the 99.9% of authors rejected by your publisher, and other publishers?

See, that's what silencing really means. Preventing books from reaching readers.

Amazon doesn't prevent books from reaching readers. But the Big 6 have done so for decades. Every book they rejected, they killed. It never made it into print. It never got into bookstores. It never found readers.

That's what silencing means.

I gotta be honest here, Doug. I'm really starting to dislike you a little bit.

Preston: It’s important to point out that Authors United is only part of this broad initiative. The Authors Guild is a full partner in this effort (I’m on the board of that organization). The Guild — the staff and council — provided crucial help with legal advice and drafting the letter.

Joe sez: That letter is embarrassingly bad, and everyone involved with it should feel a deep sense of shame. Not only is it letter poorly done, but what you're calling for is abhorrent. Forcing retailers to do what you want to, and then trying to paint yourself as an altruist, is disgusting.

Preston: We worked together on this for almost a year. ABA and its CEO, Oren Teicher, have also been fantastic and effective supporters.

Joe sez: Wow. Now my dislike has turned into pity.

That letter took a year? That's just pathetic. A year? Really? For that piece of shit letter?

How many eyes were on it? How much input did you get? Didn't anyone with an IQ higher than the atomic weight of potassium take a look at it?

I weep for my fellow authors if they are, indeed, this stupid.

You don't need to worry about Amazon staving the "free flow of ideas" or the "marketplace of information", because your collective intellectual well is dry.

Instead of collaborating on nonsense like this, perhaps your time would be better spent taking some sort of adult education class.

I don't want to be rude here. I'm concerned.

BTW: Since Monday’s announcement, what kind of feedback are you receiving?

Preston: We’re getting overwhelmingly positive feedback from authors and booksellers. Out of maybe 700 e-mails I got [on Tuesday], I did get one nasty one, from Amazon champion Hugh Howey, who called me “disgusting” and “sad” and “bonkers.” That relieved me; I was getting worried that the usual critics were staying so quiet.

Joe sez: Oh, Doug. Your critics are still here. My recent posts have over a hundred thousand views. Just Google your name, see what comes up.

And is that the treatment authors can expect if they email you? For you to publicly reveal things said in private?

I won't say it privately, Doug. I'll say it publicly.

You're a disgrace, and a loser, and an idiot. Hugh has reached out to you to help, because you are clearly off the deep end, and you use it as an opportunity to cherry-pick a few words from a personal correspondence and air them to the public?

That was a real dick move, Douglas Preston.

Hey! Internet! Don't email Doug Preston! He'll parse out anything critical you said to him privately and post it to the world, without any context or permission!


BTW: How is the landscape of the book business different for readers, publishers, and authors in today’s world, compared to when you first entered the scene?

Preston: There have been huge changes, and many for the better, particularly from new technologies in electronic publishing and retailing. We’re not Luddites against technological change, as some Amazonians would have you believe.

Joe sez: I'm the one who called you luddites. So you DID read my blog, and ignored it.


And nice work proving that you aren't luddites by...


By... uh... saying you aren't.

Brilliant deflection, Einstein. I also recommend the "I'm rubber, you're glue" defense used in Oxford style debates so often.

Preston: But new technologies can become instruments of monopoly and reduced competition if our laws and regulations fail to prevent the concentration of power they make possible. One set of rules can ensure that a new technology promotes competition and diversity in the marketplace.

Joe sez: Please, enlighten us with your business strategy. Tell us of these rules that ensure tech promotes competition and diversity. Invent something and then freely share it with others.

Preston: A different set of rules can allow a single firm to wield that same new technology in ways that amass profit, control and power in itself. This is what is happening with Amazon.

Joe sez: Amazon, the firm that invented the online shopping experience people flock to, and the ereader people prefer, through entirely legal means.

Hey! Here's a fun idea! I'm going to publish all of your novels under my own name! Why should you be rewarded by the fruits of your labors? We need a set of rules to ensure that intellectual property promotes competition and diversity in the marketplace.

Maybe I'll write the Assistant Attorney General and tell him about your monopoly on your own IP.

I'm kidding, of course. I'd never sign my name to your books. I like my readers, and my fans have taste.

BTW: How do you respond to critics who say that Amazon is simply a successful model of free-market economics, of ongoing business evolution, at work?

Preston: Amazon is indeed a successful company, convenient for consumers, and it presents a friendly face to the public. It’s hard for people of good will to see past that to the real issue: There isn’t a single instance in American history where a vast concentration of power in a single corporation has been good for the American consumer.

Joe sez: And yet, Amazon has been voted #1 in consumer satisfaction for nine years in a row.

I see what you did there, Doug. I can do it, too.

Other than earth, there isn't a single planet in the universe where we've discovered life. Ergo, there can be no possibility of life, ever.

Of course, any thinking person can recognize this as a fallacy. Funny that I referenced Green Eggs and Ham the last time I fisked you, because your "It's never been done so it must be bad" mentality is about that remedial.

Preston: Never in American history has a private corporation achieved monopoly control over a vital marketplace of information — not in telegraph, radio, newspapers, television, or (most recently) the Internet. This is deeply troubling, even if the corporation in question were benign.

Joe sez: Amazon isn't a monopoly, no matter how many times you say it is. Amazon doesn't have control over the marketplace of information, no matter how many time you say it.

Repeating a lie over and over doesn't make it a truth.

BTW: In what ways does Amazon fit the role of a monopoly or a monopsony? What are some examples of how its actions have affected the free flow of information?

Preston: Amazon’s share of the book market is about what Standard Oil’s was in the petroleum distribution market before it was broken into 34 companies. It is a monopoly by any standard.

Joe sez: How long ago was Standard Oil broken up? Over a hundred years ago. Don't you have any more recent examples?

No? Maybe because US anti-trust law has evolved in the last century?

Funny you should mention oil, though. Because until Amazon came along, the Big 6 have acted like a cartel, owning an oligopoly over book distribution.

I think that's the next step. You want to whine to the DOJ about Amazon? I'll get a few friends together and write two letters. In the first letter, I'll explain why your letter is full of shit. In the second, I'll focus their attention on your publisher, Hachette, and the other major publishers, and their unconscionable treatment of authors for the last fifty years.

And it won't take us a year.

Preston: To pressure publishers over the past 11 years, Amazon has abused that immense market power. It has blocked and curtailed the sale of millions of books by thousands of authors. As the New York Times documented, Amazon appears to have engaged in content control, selling some books but not others based on the author’s prominence or the book’s political leanings.

Joe sez: The NYT has shown no such thing.

Preston: Amazon, by retaliating against those who oppose it, has generated a level of fear among authors that I have never seen in all my 40 years in publishing.

Joe sez: They discounted your book as one of their Prime Day sales and sold a whole lot of them. You must be quaking in fear, you poor thing.

Preston: Taken together, this has affected the free, vigorous, and unfettered flow of information in the book market.

Joe sez: The ABA website doesn't allow public comments about your stupid interview. Isn't that affecting the free, vigorous, and unfettered flow of information in the book market?

Or are they allowed to do what they want to do, even if it sucks and squelches public discourse, because of, you know, that Constitution thingy?

BTW: Do you think the United States’ new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, will change how the Department of Justice looks at Amazon and its business model in the book industry?

Preston: Yes, I do. I have a lot of admiration for her and I believe she will take a fresh look at some of these issues that were neglected by her predecessor.

Joe sez: The DOJ investigated Amazon before. They found no wrongdoing. But maybe if a bunch of entitled crybabies whine loud enough, they'll investigate again.

Good luck with that.