Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Mr. Patterson, for a while now we’ve been watching you use your enormous fortune, celebrity, and influence to speak out against, and demand that the US government “do something” about, Amazon (without ever stating what "something" is). 

Perhaps in doing so, you believe you’re standing up for the little guy.

But we’re here to tell you: we are the little guy. We, the indie authors who publish on Amazon.

So we'll put this to you nicely:

Stop trying to fuck with our livelihood.

Before Amazon, there was only one way to reach readers -- the legacy publishing route that has worked spectacularly well for you. It took Amazon to make digital books a mass market and self-publishing a viable option. And now, thousands of authors are using Kindle Direct Publishing and other new platforms to make a living from their writing, many for the first time in their lives. Tens of thousands more are paying bills with their Amazon income. And the majority of them are doing this having been turned away by legacy publishing, or after watching helpless as their legacy books went out of print.

Self-pubbing is their only recourse. Amazon has given these authors the opportunity to make some money, and to reach readers, when they didn't have that chance before.

How can that be a bad thing? You're calling for action and outrage against Amazon while purposely disregarding all the good they've done for authors? Books aren't in danger. They're thriving. You're spouting nonsense, and getting the attention of the media, and completely ignoring all of the authors who are benefiting because of Amazon's policies, innovations, and platform.

Of course, it isn't a juicy sound byte to say:

"Amazon is helping more authors than any company in the history of publishing, and more books are being published than every before, with prices at an all time low, but these books all suck and only a handful of elitist gatekeepers in New York should be responsible for what constitutes "culture" and "American literature." So the government should force Amazon to allow these gatekeepers to set their own prices (like $14.99 for ebooks and $30 for hardcovers) even though that violates the very nature of capitalism, a market economy, and a free price system."

But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Stop publicly whining about Amazon being unfair to bookstores and publishers. Many bookstores won't stock our self-publishing books. Do you see us whining? Many publishers have no interest in working with us. Do you see us asking the government for help?

Yet you keep defending publishers and bookstores, as if they're the only link between books and readers.

Publishers and bookstores are middlemen. Middlemen who take a big cut.

Amazon KDP treats authors better than any bookstore or publisher. Amazon offers us the highest royalties. Amazon pays monthly. Amazon's accounting is transparent. Amazon doesn't take our rights for our lifetime plus seventy years. Amazon doesn't have non-compete or first option clauses. Amazon doesn't strip and return our books. Amazon stocks us and keeps us stocked. Amazon offers equal shelf space. Amazon lets us control price, cover art, and book description, and change them with a click of the mouse.

If we went back to the days where bookstores and publishers decided what readers could read, it would hurt many tens of thousands of indie authors, and millions of readers who enjoy our books (and our ability to make our books affordable.)

Can’t you make your $94 million a year the way you do, without also trying to crush the first kind of publishing that’s enabled authors like us to make a few bucks, too?

If Amazon is indeed doing so much to destroy literature and all the rest, if the situation is so dire that the US government needs to pass laws to fix it, may we ask why your books are still available on Amazon? How can you condemn a company’s evil, monopolistic, culture- and livelihood-destroying ways... while continuing to make hundreds of millions of dollars working with that company? If you really do believe all your rhetoric, why haven't you demanded that your publisher pull your backlist from Amazon and stop publishing your new books there?


Publishers aren’t in “pain and stress;” they’re making more money than ever, most of that money because of record ebook profits. But if you're so worried about publishers, perhaps you should ask Hachette to reduce your own royalty rates and advances. Isn't $94 million a year a lot to take from your publisher? Couldn't you get by on, say $30 million? Or, when you negotiate with Hachette, do you try to get the best deal you can for yourself?

Maybe the government should step in and stop YOU from bullying poor, helpless Hachette.

More hypocrisy.

Independent bookstores overall aren’t closing; new ones are opening every day and they are thriving. Amazon is not a monopoly. The actual monopoly (or, if you prefer, quasi-monopoly or cartel) in the publishing business is the Big Five in New York (there’s a reason they’re commonly referred to collectively -- it’s how they function).

Amazon doesn't force readers to buy books on Readers prefer it. They want Kindle ebooks. They want a wide selection. They want low prices. You should be blaming readers for buying on Amazon, and not blame Amazon for out-competing other bookstores.

"Culture" and "American literature," concepts constantly invoked by you and other anti-Amazon bestsellers like Richard Russo and Scott Turow, are not created by editors in New York. They’re created the authors who write books, and by the readers who love them. Culture and literature don’t need gatekeepers. Readers are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what they find important and valuable. To suggest otherwise is aristocratic, paternalistic, anti-democratic, and even unAmerican.

Let us try to make a living. No one is trying to stop you from making yours. Enough with your nonsense.

James Patterson, stop the stupid.



Susan Paturzo said...

Wow. All I can say is, Amen!

Bob said...

If Patterson was really serious about backing up his words with actions here is what he can do:

First, he can't change Amazon. So he needs to focus on where he has leverage, which is his publisher.

1. Insist Hachette immediately stop selling his books through a company he abhors. That would make a statement.

2. Rally all the others of the Elite 5% of authors into doing the same.

Every dollar, though, that Patterson gets via Amazon makes his words worthless. He hides behind Hachette's skirts, while reaching a hand out to take Amazon's money.

I've found authors who in the Elite 5% all eventually lose touch with the reality of overall publishing. They start believing every author gets treated the same way they are. And most are scared to death of the power structure that supports them so well being challenged.

Too late.

Alan Tucker said...

Maybe the government should step in and stop YOU from bullying poor, helpless Hachette.

Nearly spit my drink all over my keyboard. Well said, Joe.

Alexander Mori said...

The government SHOULD spend its limited time and resources on:

a) fixing healthcare system that is overpriced and doesn't work

b) ending wars that kill Americans and costs the American Taxpayers trillions of dollars

c) foster energy innovation so we can address climate change that is negatively affecting the entire planet

d) improve education system so that high school graduates can compete for jobs (I teach at a junior college and many of my students cannot write in complete sentences. Or read my syllabus)

e) STOP Amazon from letting those pesky indie writers tell great stories to hordes of readers because Patterson believes American culture will suffer inexorable decline

Hm. Definitely E, right?

hollis shiloh said...


You totally just bitch-slapped him. I doubt he'll respond but seriously, man, seriously. That was *fierce.* :D

Anonymous said...

Until he completely pulls all his books--ebooks and print books--from sale on Amazon, he needs to STFU about Amazon being the evil monopolistic behemoth. Or he might as well tattoo "Big Fat Rich Hypocrite" on his forehead

Come on, Mr. Patterson. PULL THOSE BOOKS, demand it from your pub. Do it today. And never sell on Amazon again.

Unknown said...

This reads almost exactly like a blog post I made last week about Patterson, but with a lot less cursing.

Elisabeth Zguta, Author said...

Mr. Patterson is not even playing the same game. He spends millions on commercials and advertising, hires out ghost writers and then says he speaks for "authors". I am glad he wants kids to read - (we all do) and applaud the program he promotes, but he is not an average writer trying to squeeze a living like most of us. I am glad he made it big but don't pretend - it just causes division. He is in another world from the average author, and the gap is not measured by talent - but luck that someone at the gate liked him.

Anonymous said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, every sale of my little 80,000-word YA sci-fi novels is a sale he lost. I understand how I am the bad guy now. How foolish I've been.

I am ashamed that I am stealing money from James Patterson.

Anonymous said...

James Patterson, stop the stupid.

I think it was the great philosopher Ron White who said, 'You can't fix stupid.'

Unknown said...

You are reminding me of Sports Night with this post. I don't think you'll bring him around, but if you did, it might go something like this.

Joe as Jeremy, James as Natalie.

I'd stop after 2:30 or so though unless you want a rather unusual mental picture.

Jill James said...

Okay, that got my motor revved up to go write some more books to help me pay my bills. Thanks!!

Unknown said...


Thanks once again for using your big ass platform for speaking up for all us fledgeling pen monkeys that the Patterson novel factory would happily run over.

I'm one of those authors you are defending. 20 plus years ago I served my penance thumbing through the Writers & Artists yearbook, wasting months sending queries to agents, being rejected because Action & Adventure books are too 1970's, 'men don't read books', 'you're writing is good, can't you do something with Vampires or an alcoholic scottish detective?'

After a career at the sharp end, I started writing again. Why? I read your blog. I read Bob Mayers blog. Stephen Leathers. Russell Blakes. I realised that thanks to Amazon, there was actually a market for books outside Vampire teenage erotica. So 6 weeks ago i published my first little SAS Novella. See how it goes I thought. 10 sales the first day. Not huge, but a nice start. Following week, they price matched it to free. 250 downloads. a few days later and its' number 1 free in its genres, front page of the pop lists, alongside Bob Mayer, Stephen Leather, ahead of Lee Child and Patterson... a month later 6000 downloads. ALL AMAZON traffic, no promotions, no money spent on advertising. Second book out. 150 downloads on Amazon UK in less than a week. Into the bestseller list. 6 weeks after starting I have 3 novellas out and sales every day.

Turns out there was a market for Action & Adventure, and Amazon helped me connect with those readers, and helped them discover my books. And you know what? They enjoyed them. I know that because Amazon lets them review them and lets me know what they thought. I get real time stats that cheer me on to keep writing. And i actually get paid in the same year they were sold.

3 Novellas that publishers would not have published because they were too short, in a genre they wouldn't have published because men don't read books and Action books don't sell and I've sold more copies this month than many trad published bestsellers, 6 weeks into my publishing career.

This is the death of literature according to the Patterson novel factory. The evil plot of Bezos the Bond Villain, connecting readers in genres with writers who enjoy them.

Now why would Patterson REALLY want to stop that? Perhaps he has realised that without his stranglehold on bookshelves with his novel factory, readers might actually enjoy the choice of not reading the latest Patterson factory book. it might actually cost him sales. He might have to start laying off his domestic staff.

Can't have that. Much better to kill it. Then people HAVE to buy his books.

I read Barry's op ed in the Guardian, it's nice to see a counter-voice. Some of us can't afford to buy our political spin doctoring with full page newspaper ads, if I could i'd put a full page advert out in the New York Post with a big picture of Jeff Bezos, captioned.

For saving the diversity of literature from being monopolised by Pattersons novel factory.

So big thank you Joe, and Bob, and Barry. Thanks for standing up against the Emperors desperately trying to hang on to their kingdoms, as the literature republicans tear down their ivory castle walls.

And as for Amazon being Evil? You know what, there was a issue on my account. a KDP representative fixed it within 5 minutes of my email. Try getting that sort of service as an author out of Hatchet or Simon & Shyster.

I'm perfectly happy being in control of my life, doing business with Amazon and putting out books that my readers are enjoying, i see Pattersons 'donations' for what they are - co-op fees to keep those bookstores racked up with his books.

I suppose one thing, at least if they don't sell they can burn them to keep warm.

SM Barrett said...

I just have to say thanks to Josef for the term "fledgeling pen monkey".

A great turn of phrase in an excellent comment.

JA Konrath said...

I just read your blog, Jason. You hit some points I missed. Nice work.

Angry_Games said...

I tweeted and also added a #YouDontSpeakForMe hashtag.

(Just to be clear, heh, Patterson = doesn't speak for me. Mr. K does)

Unknown said...

Thanks, Joe. Looks like we both zeroed in on the same bullshit he was spewing. I like how he tries to paint book chains and publishers as the little guy. It's such a flip flop from the 90's when B&N was the devil on the block.

Drives me nuts hearing about these Big Pub circle jerks whenever someone calls Amazon evil.

10, 20 years from now, Amazon will be crying about someone kicking them in the ass. I'll have as much sympathy for them as I do for Hachette.

Unknown said...

I've found authors who in the Elite 5% all eventually lose touch with the reality of overall publishing.


Exactly, Bob. He's no longer in the trenches, and that's fine. But for him to speak as if he's protecting us...

Unknown said...

In random conversation with my boss the other day (relating to my wife's ventures) the subject of James Patterson came up. My boss at work is a reader in the sense that he usually has a Walmart/Airport book somewhere at hand and probably gets through 5 or so of them a year. He knows almost nothing of the publishing industry.

His comment:

"Patterson used to be good but he isn't writing his own stuff anymore. You can tell. Besides another author's name being on the cover, they just don't read the same. I stopped reading him."

Is it possible Mr. Patterson knows something we don't about his sales?

Unknown said...

But Evil Amazon might siphon away the writers who actually write his books! Something must be done! Amazon must be stopped! Before the republic falls! Before the sun explodes! AAAAH!

If Patterson stops talking shit, that just gives Scott Turow more media space. Something to think about . . .

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

I have the biggest smile on my face right now.


Terrence OBrien said...

This is the sound of significant market share moving from traditional publishers and authors to independents. Follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if this is Patterson trying for some "legacy", some permanent mark he can make and leave on the world. Wish he wouldn't. Such attempts tend to leave damage that can take generations to recover from.

Peter Brandvold said...

Here's my take on it: "James Patterson and the Pool He Peed In", with a nod at the end to you, Joe:

M.Grant said...

Yep. I am one of those authors. Two simple ebooks that would have never had a chance in the old world of publishing but have sold almost a thousand copies in less than a year.

Amazon has worked great for me.

Kathryn Meyer Griffith said...

I agree with you 100%. I'm one of those poor authors who NEVER made a living with all my traditionally published books. I started out getting 4% royalties in 1984; then 6% and until I self-published, 18%. Terrible. I've been published over 30 years and had 16 books out when in 2012 (because of your blog...thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) I self-published my 17th, and then 18th, and now my 19th and 20th books myself with Amazon Kindle KDP. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY 42 YEAR WRITING CAREER I AM FINALLY MAKING A LIVING; MAKING MONEY. I am in heaven!!!!! It's changed my whole life and outlook. Long live Amazon, self-publishing and you, Joe. Author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Unknown said...

Shatzkin spoke up today, also demanding that the government step in to deal with Amazon.

It's like we're watching union thugs crying foul, who don't have the hutzpah to go on strike (pull their books). It's so... insincere.

Kiana Davenport said...

"To be a traditional publisher today is to be Bush League. The Walking Dead. They gave it all away"

See MIchael Wollf's take on Amazon vs. Hatchette.

He doesn't love Amazon but he acknowledges their smarts.

PS Until Patterson pulls all his books from Amazon his fatuous spoutings are pure, horse manure. thanks, Joe!

Kiana Davenport said...

Whoops! Here's the link for Michael Wolff:

David L. Shutter said...

Colbert (who I love) a well paid Hatchette author, just blasted Zon on his show with a fellow Hatchette author talking about evil monopolies and putting every other publisher out of business.

Nothing about price fixing, collusion, agency demands, indies doing well, etc...etc.

And they want a Zon boycott, because "authors" are the victims. Sooo...we'll hurt other authors then?


Joseph said...

Is Patterson even counted as an author anymore? Does he still write his books?

Broken Yogi said...

I keep thinking about this line everyone seems to quote from Jeff Bezos, explaing why he's going after the Big Five's high margins and record profits on ebooks:

"Your margin is my opportunity."

What I don't understand, is why isn't that huge margin on ebooks a great opportunity for authors to demand higher ebook royalties? Why does Scott Turow and the Author's Guild sit around defending Big Publishing, rather than going after that fat paycheck just waiting for authors to cash in on? What good is an Author's Guild if it doesn't try to capitalize on opportunities like that to squeeze something from those margins for the people its supposed to represent - authors?

I really don't get it. Why is this Jeff Bezos' opportunity, and not ours? So now, maybe Amazon can take something of that for itself, but why should it be Amazon's to take, when it rightfully should belong to the authors who write the damned books? At least some of it, fer chrissakes.

Terrence OBrien said...

If authors want some of that margin, they have to do it themselves. Nobody is gong to do it for them.

They can complain about publishers, or put their books on Amazon KDP themselves.

A significant portion of publishers' market share is being transferred to independents. That is how they get some of the margin.

Rightfully has nothing to do with it.

Cathy Keaton said...

This is just.... I am applauding!

Broken Yogi said...

"If authors want some of that margin, they have to do it themselves. Nobody is gong to do it for them"

DO you mean individually, or as a group? Because individually, authors have very little power unless they have major sales. And then they only have power over their own contracts, not the industry as a whole.

That's why we are supposed to have these things called unions or guilds. You know, like the Writer's Guild? By organizing as a group, writers can wield real power and negotiate to get a piece of that margin.

Sure, they could refuse one at a time to sign contracts with the Big Five, and self-publish instead. But that's not pooling power into a block that has real heft to it.

Please remember that neither Amazon nor Hachette or any of the other Big Five negotiate as individuals. THey negotiate as giant corporations with thousands of employees and shareholders wielding great collective power. That's why individual authors have such a hard time getting good contracts from them. They collude against authors, and have been doing so for decades.

So why shouldn't authors collude together against publishers, and even against Amazon when it's warranted? There is a legal form of collusion for workers in this country, called unions and guilds. We could be using the high publishers' margins as our opportunity. You know, rather than sitting around whining about it all and hoping whoever wins these battles takes pity on us and throws us a few bones. Or imagining that each of us as individuals can fight these giant corporations all on our own.

Anonymous said...

Indie Authors to the Big-5:

Your market share is my opportunity.

Richard Stooker said...

In many Alex Cross novels Patterson thumbs his nose at even simple facts. They aren't even internally self-consistent.

Since ignoring reality works so well for him in his fiction, why shouldn't he also ignore the relevant facts when attempting to sway public opinion?

Alan Spade said...

"So why shouldn't authors collude together against publishers, and even against Amazon when it's warranted? There is a legal form of collusion for workers in this country, called unions and guilds. We could be using the high publishers' margins as our opportunity. You know, rather than sitting around whining about it all and hoping whoever wins these battles takes pity on us and throws us a few bones. Or imagining that each of us as individuals can fight these giant corporations all on our own. "

That's the great weakness of authors, the one that allowed the system to exploit us: we are individualists.

KDP, in some ways, already act as a union for authors, as well as competition for legacy publishing.

If one day the margin of indies falls, the need for a real union will emerge stronger than ever before.

As individualist as they are, indie authors are in communication with each other, and moreso than ever before. That's a good point, a real strenghth.

Maybe that union should exist right now, but precedent like the Author's Guild do make indies wary.

Sue said...

This made me laugh! It was the mental pic of the government stopping JP from bullying Hachette and making him take less than his current bazillion deal! Good job, Joe.

HJ Blenkinsop said...

Like Elisabeth Zguta says - “Patterson is not even playing the same game.” No he isn’t! And I agree with Josef Black, there’s a market for all kinds of books not currently considered popular enough by the big 5, or any traditional publisher for that matter. What they want is something so broad that it is guaranteed to sell millions which means as readers, what we can get our hands on is limited. No good! As a writer, Josef Black gives me hope. And thanks for the term "fledgeling pen monkey". Love it!

Unknown said...

I compare the traditional path to what the music industry was in the late 1970's. Record producers were blocking new talent and just regurgitating their existing artists, like Styx, Foreigner, Boston, Kansas, etc. Nothing wrong with those artists, but they were the ONLY thing available. So of course, those artists did well, because they had a captive audience.
But the audience wanted more, wanted something fresher, and New Wave and Punk bands were published on independent and even underground labels, and that was the vital shot in the arm the music industry needed, but they were too protective to realize it. Once the independent publishers started outselling the ivory tower main labels, they finally woke up and started signing groups like Blondie, the Clash, Iggy Pop, The B-52s, etc.

The point is the bean counters are incapable of understanding paradigm shifts and will scream bloody agony the whole time.

I applaud Patterson's ability to make lots of money, but If not for Self-publishing, I would not have written my humble 3 or 4 books and counting, that have found an audience, get good reviews, and make me a tiny bit of money. I don't see how I'm a threat to mr. Patterson in any way.

So here's my message: there's room for all of us, and the reader benefits. you know, the READER... you remember the reader, right?

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for standing up for us! If I ever meet you I will buy you a drink. I've been legacy pubbed with 18 mysteries. I'm not one of the heavy hitters, multi-sellers like Patterson or even you. I'm just a normal writer - mid-list. Since I dropped my agent and struck out on my own, I'm able to make as much money (which admittedly isn't a ton, but it's there) selling to way fewer people than I ever did with legacy publishing and selling to a lot!

I listen with horror to NPR reporters all saying they're going to 'boycott' Amazon. I shudder! They do not have the full story.

Please do not stop your rants, and I will not stop tweeting and Facebooking them and mentioning them in my blog and to every writing group I'm a part of.

Walter Knight said...

As for Patterson, duct tape won't stop stupid, but it will muffle the sound.

Ha! Another use for duct tape.

James said...

/seems like common sense
/if I hear Patterson mention the "New American Way" one more time when describing the dictionary definition of capitalism, a system that seems to have worked just fine for him, I will introduce him to how the system works, one undercutting hitman at a time.

TM said...

Ditto what Susan says. Patterson's spouting makes me ill.

David A. Todd said...

How typical that it's the rich who petition the government for redress of their grievances, to the detriment of the poor and average.

Rick G said...

It makes me cringe whenever someone tries to prop up an industry in need of change by spreading FUD. As if the world will run out of books anytime soon or that people will stop writing them.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Instead, couldn't we have amazon take over the government? It might be nice to get refunds, excellent customer service, quick deliveries on products, and discounted prices. I for one would vote for Jeff Bezos for President. Konrath for Author General of the US. I'm holding out for myself for Attorney General.

Unknown said...

I think a mass of indie authors should all go together and purchase a full-page newspaper ad to counter Patterson.

Laura K. Cowan said...

I wasn't focusing on the gloriously stupid Patterson ad (thank you!), but I had something similar to say about the Hachette situation today, aimed at readers who may not know exactly how this effed up (but not for long!) industry works:

Jenny said...

As Elizabeth Zaguta said: "He is in another world from the average author, and the gap is not measured by talent - but luck that someone at the gate liked him."

Love this.

Anonymous said...

I sense that Patterson truly believes he is protecting the future of American literature.
Can he honestly think for one moment that he has contributed ANYTHING but yet another tsunami of mindless pap to this cause? Can he possibly believe that HIS airport kiosk time-passers are anything but a way to get from Point A to B without having to think about anything of worth?
Can he be that deluded?
I fear that he is. Why would he care if another mountain of pablum is deposited on top of his OWN pile?
He might lose a buck? it's all too funny. keep it coming, JP.

Terrence OBrien said...

So why shouldn't authors collude together against publishers, and even against Amazon when it's warranted? There is a legal form of collusion for workers in this country, called unions and guilds.

Go for it. Fine with me. Good luck.

But to be effective, one needs a way to keep authors who are not members of the guild out of the market. Otherwise, the free agents will simply undercut the recommended guild prices.

Why should retailers deal with a bunch of high-priced suppliers when there is another bunch with lower prices?

The proposed organization must have control over market entry to succeed. We might call them The Gatekeepers.

Broken Yogi said...

But to be effective, one needs a way to keep authors who are not members of the guild out of the market. Otherwise, the free agents will simply undercut the recommended guild prices.

This doesn't apply when talent is involved. As Major League Baseball players have shown, you can't just replace talented players with the untalented and expect the public to pay for the entertainment.

If enough writers banded together and refused to publish through any specific publisher or retailer that didn't give them fair royalties, good luck to that publisher or retailer finding suitable replacements.

Hollywood has both an actor's and a writer's union that negotiates contracts with the major players, and goes on strike. Why not book publishing?

Alixjune said...

Bob, that's my experience too. It's like the 1% who can't understand why those old poor people don't get plastic surgery so they can look better.

I was at a conference where three authors who had made it big twenty years ago and lived off the proceeds ever since (a couple of them just one one book that went to the movies)were giving advice to several hundred aspiring writers. It wasn't even just that they had no clue that outside their charmed circle, authors actually had to knock themselves dead to even get a query looked at by an editor or agent. It's that they didn't notice the whole industry had changed. After all, they were still getting their million dollar royalty checks for books they'd written right after college, so what could be wrong? And just as always, any book they wrote was gratefully accepted and promoted by their publisher. As far as they could tell, the industry was going great!

And they thought their experience was normal. The only difference between them and us was quality. If we wrote fabulous books like they did, we'd be living in the Ritz on book tours too.

I really do think Patterson's publisher treats him GREAT. I'm sure that's true. (The publisher ought to-- made enough money from him.) But the fact that he decides to make a big gift of money and sends it to .... booksellers... kind of indicates he doesn't think authors count. Or maybe he thinks they're all rich like him.
Weird. But it's the usual thing-- you can talk really loud if you can buy the megaphone.

Alixjune said...

>For saving the diversity of literature from being monopolised by Pattersons novel factory.

Word, Josef.
Diversity is exactly what Patterson isn't fighting for.

Terrence OBrien said...

This doesn't apply when talent is involved. As Major League Baseball players have shown, you can't just replace talented players with the untalented and expect the public to pay for the entertainment.

Of course it applies to talent. There is no reason to presume talent means one joins a guild. There are lots of talented writers who wouldn't be interested.

And Hollywood. I'm sure someone here knows better than I do, but I think one has to belong to SAG or Actors Equity to get hired on a production in many places. That is control of entry to the market. GateKeepers.

But, like I say, go for it. You can't hold up prices without limiting supply.

Broken Yogi said...

My point is that unions of talent are inherently different than unions of ordinary workers, skilled or otherwise. You don't have to monopolize all talent, or exclude non-members or those breaking in. As with the Hollywood Writer's Guild, you just have to negotiate contracts with the major publishers that says if they want to work with top talent, they have to meet union guidelines.

That doesn't mean that no writers can publish anywhere unless they belong to a union, just as there are lots of non-union writing and acting jobs on independent productions. But it means that the established talents demand that the major publishers abide by their contract standards for anyone they decide to publish, and that those they publish also have to join the union as a part of that contract. Pretty simple, really. Standard labor law.

At this point, such a union would be more oriented towards the legacy publishers, but as more and more authors self-publish, it would apply there as well, especially as self-publishing becomes a strong player in the industry as a whole.

What I'm surprised at is how the current Writers Guild doesn't do anything remotely like this. They haven't done anything to help writers get better contracts from publishers. They seem to merely be some sort of vanity organization serving no real purpose. What exactly is the point of their existence if they aren't fighting to get better royalties, better terms on copyright, and fewer restrictions such as non-compete clauses?

Terrence OBrien said...

The Writers Guild doesn't do what you suggest because they know they do not control supply. They have no power. That means anyone can undercut them. Publishers have no incentive to make deals. The supply of writers is so large they can get whatever they want.

Established authors bargain for themselves. They aren't going to bargain for everyone else.

And established labor law? It applies to employees, not free agents. Authors are not employees.

Independent authors don't want some group to tell them how they have to price their work. Why should they? Sounds like something to oppose.

What are you going to do if an independent makes a deal contrary to your wishes?

Gatekeepers will try to rise up in many different guises.

Broken Yogi said...

No union or guild controls supply unless it can convince its members to collectively bargain. I admit that convincing authors that it's in their best interests to collectively bargain is hard, but a lot of them are waking up to the fact that legacy publishers have been colluding against them for a very long time, and it's only getting worse. The advances are getting smaller, the royalties lower, the demands for copyright stronger, the non-compete clauses tougher. Authors are getting so squeezed its hard for them not to notice.

On the one hand self-publishing has at last given them an outlet away from traditional publishing, as an option for a better way to earn a living as an author. But it has also given them a powerful bargaining tool to get better deals with. And that means that collective bargaining can have real teeth that it never had before, because a genuine Writers Guild whose members decided to collectively bargain could threaten to self-publish instead of signing legacy contracts. They could use that threat to create new "industry standards" for author contracts. And do so not just through "market forces", but through collective means.

You say that established authors aren't going to bargain for others. But most established authors aren't getting good contracts on their own, which is why self-publishing has been growing and thriving. A lot of them are waking up to the facts of how legacy publishers have screwed them over. It makes sense for all but the most successful writers to pool their power so as to give it an actual industry-wide impact. James Patterson is never going to join a Guild, but at least he can be seen for what he is - someone who is not interested in promoting the interests of authors, but in grabbing all he can for himself.

The goal is not to exclude anyone from publishing, but to create new industry standards that publishers have to meet. And that eventually even those offering ebook self-publishing have to meet. Even a lot of talented, successful authors can see the value in that, and may lend themselves to such an effort, even if they don't need it personally. It wouldn't hurt them to be a part of such a Guild, because it's not about establishing a cap on contracts, but instead creating minimum standards.

Publishers might even eventually see this as an advantage for them, as a way to stave off the flight to self-publishing. If they can create reliable, attractive standards within the industry for authors, it will act for them as a bullwark against the disintegration of their world, which depends entirely on the loyalty of authors to the legacy publishing system. So it could be something that publishers themselves might come to embrace as a way to institutionalize their relationship to authors in a changing world. If they were smart, they'd realize this. But that may be the real stretch here.

Terrence OBrien said...

If an author has to join your union to have his work published, then that is control of entry to the market.

Suppose an author refuses to join your union and makes his own deal with publisher or retailer? Does your union allow that?

As you describe it, your union is very close to what is normally called a union shop. Nobody works unless the union allows it.

No thanks. I prefer being an independent entrepreneur. I don't need you or your union.

Broken Yogi said...

Terence, you're being paranoid. The union or guild can negotiate any sort of arrangement they feel works for authors. Why would they bar entry to new authors? It's not my union, it's the author's union, so they decide, not me.

I very much doubt that authors would want to create some sort of universal union shop. On the other hand, with major publishers, they certainly might negotiate a deal that says that any author who makes a deal with that publisher, automatically has to join the union. That's how the screenwriters and directors and actors guilds work in Hollywood. But because they run those unions so well, most people are very eager to join.

However, that would not stop authors from publishing their work with non-guild publishers or self-publishers. If the union fails to make itself attractive to authors by negotiating really good terms for its members, it would deserve to fail. But if it did get better terms for authors - say, a 40/60 or even 50/50 split on ebook royalties, rather than the current 25/75, authors would be very happy to join that union in order to publish through those publishers.

As with everything in life, you get what you pay for. If authors want to change things, they should stop being passive whiners or libertarian dreamers. Collective action has done tremendous things for publishers and other corporations over the years. It can do good things for authors also.

Terrence OBrien said...

But it means that the established talents demand that the major publishers abide by their contract standards for anyone they decide to publish, and that those they publish also have to join the union as a part of that contract. Pretty simple, really. Standard labor law.

You describe a union shop. Anyone who wants to sell their book has to join your union. Gatekeeper.

That is not standard labor law. Authors are not employees. Unions represent employees. They do not represent the people who sell products they own.

What would your union do if some author wanted to sell their product below union rates? Keep him from doing so? Gatekeeper.

Unions could represent writers who are employed by a company. Then they would be employees.

What you describe is a cartel, where producers get together to fix prices.

It is similar to publishers getting together to set the royalties they will pay.

Gatekeepers are always looking for ways to exert control over others.

Broken Yogi said...

It doesn't matter what you call, it. If you like, use the word "Guild".

I'm not sure of how labor law would work for this sort of thing. Maybe it wouln't work in the standard way.

And yes, one way that an author's guild could work is by making major publishers into union shops. But that's not the same as being gatekeepers, since anyone could still sell their book to a publisher. They would just automatically become members of the Guild when they do so. WHich means that some small portion of their advance would go to pay guild dues. And in return they would be guaranteed all the protections of guild contracts. They could negotiate with the publisher for more than that, but not less.

So let's say RH becomes a guild shop. They want to sign a new author to a contract, and nothing stops them from doing so, they sign the author, pay him an advance, and a small fee goes to the Guild. Like they do in Hollywood when you sell a screenplay to a major studio.

This doesn't stop people from selling their book to a non-union publisher, or self-publishing. So again, there's no gatekeeper.

It's only setting minimum prices and minimum contract terms for the members of the Guild. It's entering into a voluntary agreement with publishers in which they gain access to guild members and their wares, in which they make an exclusive contract with the Guild that goes both ways.

How exactly all this would be characterized by labor and contract law I don't know. An actual labor lawyer would obviously need to figure this out. There certainly might be a better way to organize this kind of collective action than I've broadly outlined.

It's not a cartel, however, in that it couldn't possibly control all books or authors. IN fact, since it is controlled by authors themselves, it doesn't control anyone. It merely says to certain major publishers that these authors won't do business with you unless you agree to our collective terms. Which is no different than what is already going on between Amazon and Hachette and publishers and retailers and so on. WHy exactly is it that these giant corporations get to negotiate using the vast collective power they get as corporations, while authors can't negotiate collectivelY? THere has got to be some kind of legal entity they can form to negotiate collectively with publishers.

And yes, of course publishers already have gotten together to set the royalties they are willing to pay, and the rest of the contract terms. Why can't authors do that also? It's not about controlling authors, it's about authors using their collective power to negotiate with these huge corporate powers. Authors are already being controlled. And insisting that they can't act collectively is another way of ensuring they continue to be controlled by those giant collectives we call corporations.

Unknown said...

James Patterson is putting out so many books with other writers that you know damn good and well that he's whoring out his name and fame to help the big publishers. The man's willing to sell his soul to save the publishing industry from us evil indies who are just trying to make a living.

The big publishing world is a scam. Most editors long to be literary agents so they can put as many fingers into the pies of authors and make a living off of them. So, the editors make sure only the agents "gatekeepers" are allowed to send them manuscripts. They have to keep up the status quo.

And the New York Times best sellter list? ANOTHER SCAM! At a writing conference several years ago, agents at the literary agent panel told us that the New York Times reporter goes to 10 bookstores in NYC and ask, "So, what's selling this week?" The bookstores give them a list & so they draw up the best selling list and publish it. THEN those books really do become bestsellers because the public believes they already are bestsellers and buy the books that sold well at those 10 bookstores in NYC and not necessarily in the rest of the country's bookstores.

The agents told us with a narrowing of their lizard eyes, "And wouldn't you like to have one of your books in one of those 10 bookstores? But you need us to get your book in there." Of course, then they confessed it was a big secret what those 10 book stores are. Now, I guess there's only 10 bookstores left in NYC and it's those 10.

Anyway, another lie perpetuated is those tables in the front of of B&N when a potential reader walks into the store, thinking those books must be really good since they are taking up prime real estate.

Well, some literary agents at another hellish conference I attended before I saw the light of indie publishing, told us that that prime space at Barnes & Noble is purchase by the publisher who pays rent for its books.

Amazon does not participate in such shady practices as the big five and their gatekeepers.

Amazon is honest, unlike James Patterson and his precious Big 5 Publishers and gatekeepers who have always tried to dictate to readers what they should and shouldn't read and tried to second guess what the public wanted by shoving books down their throats until they choked. You know the, "Oh my, we want no historical fiction. Readers don't want to read anything historical!"